Saturday, December 29, 2012

Join me for New Year's Eve!

Hello readers!  Just to let you know - or if you know anyone who lives in or near London please pass this on - that I'm going to be performing at a brilliant fun New Year's Eve show/party.  It's called The Ultimate Intimate Comedy and Sing-Along New Year's Eve Party and it also features some of my favourite comics: Greek whirlwind Katerina Vrana, Chris Coltrane (host of lefty show Lolitics) and cabaret favourite Luke Meredith.  Then after we've done our respective things, including silly games and prizes Luke is going to lead us in a lovely sing-along all the way up to midnight and then the bar stays open til 3am.  The best part is it's a really small intimate venue so EVERYONE will get to be part of the games and fun and it's only £20 a head including nibbles.  Tickets onsale here and strictly limited so book soon!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bigotry double-speak alert

Eww, this is creepy.  The Guardian has published a piece by Timothy Radcliffe sinisterly trying to say, without giving any real reasons, that religious opposition to gay marriage is not homophobia.  It's a cavalcade of nonsense.  Here's why, line-by-line:

"It is heartening to see the wave of support for gay marriages."

Yeah, shame the church is still a hotbed of bigotry.

"It shows a society that aspires to an open tolerance of all sorts of people, a desire for us to live together in mutual acceptance." 

Tolerance and acceptance?  I want to live in a society that does not tolerate or accept bigotry of any kind. Including that kind that comes, as it so often does, from organised religion.

"It seems obviously fair and right that if straight people can get married, why not gay people?"

Yes it does. Because it is.  The article should end here.

"But we must resist the easy seduction of the obvious."

We must also not forget Occam's razor. If it looks like bigotry and it smells like bigotry... it's probably bigotry.

"It once seemed obvious that the sun revolved around the Earth..."

Not wholly true, but it was science that showed the earth revolves the sun, not religion.

"...and that women were inferior to men."

This is still "obvious" to millions of people around the world, and almost always because religion teaches that it's true and that it should be perpetuated by denying women their basic rights.

"Society only evolves when we have the mental liberty to challenge what seems to be common sense."

Yes we should challenge things that seem to be common sense, but we shouldn't reject them outright unless we find compelling evidence. Doh.

"Many Christians oppose gay marriage not because we are homophobic..."

No - thinking gay people should have less rights than straight people IS homophobic.

"...or reject the equal dignity of gay people..."

If people have equal dignity, they probably ought to have equal rights.

"...but because "gay marriage" ultimately..."

Putting it in quotation marks is stupid and offensive. If gay people get married, that is, or would be, gay marriage.

"...we believe, demeans gay people by forcing them to conform to the straight world."

No it doesn't, unless you plan to make gay marriage compulsory. It gives them the option of having what others have and also all the other options straight people have, live living together, dating, being single, having group sex, whatever. And marriage wouldn't be part of the "straight world" if we made it available to all.  And there's no such thing as the "straight world", we live in the "real world".

"Richard Sennett of the LSE argues in Together, the Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Co-operation, that western society fears difference."

All human beings instinctively fear difference because we don't fully understand people who aren't like us.  This is the root of intolerance, we need to overcome it. One of the main barriers to that is organised religion.  Organised religion almost always teaches that anyone who doesn't live a certain way and believe a certain pile of nonsense is going to be punished for it, often violently and torturously.

"Because of growing inequality and a fluid society in which people move rapidly from one job and place to another (if they can get a job at all), we do not learn the art of living with people who are unlike us."

Actually in the West we live in a more mixed culture than at any time in history.

"We are highly tribalised."

No we used to be tribalised. When we lived in tribes. That's where the word comes from. Yes there are remnants of tribal living around still but in general we no longer live in tribes.

"He asserts that "tribalism couples solidarity with others like yourself to aggression against those who are different"."

Not always true in some ways.  Historically tribes would only have been "like-minded" because they were blood-related and because infants were communally raised by elder tribe members who passed on values.  It's likely many people in tribes disagreed with tribe leaders or felt they were different to other members. But often they may have kept quiet because falling out with the rest of the tribe meant great personal risk. It's unlikely they knew how individuals in other tribes felt about issues, and in some cases tribes co-operated and in others they fought or competed.

"The internet enables us to bond with like-minded people."

And yet here I am reading your twaddle Tim! But good - if I can reach out to others who also hate bigotry, I'd like to do that.

"If we disagree, we can disengage in a second."

Which is much better than having a war isn't it?  Would it be better to force people to live full time with people they don't actually get on with?  Also I've never "disengaged" with someone online because of their sexual orientation.  Nor would I.

"Zygmunt Bauman argues that the mobility of modern society encourages "the impulse to withdraw from risk-ridden complexity into the shelter of uniformity"."

Well we certainly can use the internet to find others whose opinions we agree with if we want.  And that's a brilliant thing for people who feel different to those around them and may be being bullied or having their needs and feelings ignored. This would include gay and trans people as well as, for example, those trapped in religious communities who do not believe supernatural nonsense.

"Tolerance means, literally, to engage with other people who are different."

Engage with them by fighting to deny them the same rights as you?

"It implies an attention to the particularity of the other person, a savouring of how he or she is unlike me, in their faith, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation."

Remind me to go round savouring how others are different to me in their ethnicity.  Mmmm, a brown person... How the hell does this work? Or savouring their different sexual orientation.  Mmmm, boy-on-boy action, tasty. Gay men and women don't want to be savoured by creepy old religious dudes, they want to be treated equally by everyone and by the law.  And when it comes to your homophobic faith, excuse me if savouring it doesn't leave rather a bitter taste.

"A society that flees difference and pretends we are all just the same may have outlawed intolerance in one form, and yet instituted it in other ways."

But we are all different - some people want to marry in their 20s, others in their 80s. Some want to marry more than once, some never at all. And some people want to marry someone the same sex as them. We're not pretending everyone is the same, we're insisting everyone should have the same rights. To describe legalising gay marriage as "instituting intolerance" is real double-speak.

"It says, "we shall tolerate you as long as you pretend to be just like us"."

But gay people don't need to pretend to be "just like us". They are "just like us". In fact they are "some of us". Doh!

"We put up with various religious faiths as long as they are confined to the private sphere, or reduced to decorative role."

Actually we go to enormous lengths to encourage religion. If churches paid tax none of the recent welfare cuts would be necessary at all. And we allow religion into our schools and public services, even into taxpayer-funded roles in our hospitals and armed forces. It's disgusting and it needs to stop now, especially since the church persists in pushing it's homophonic agenda in all of these places.

"At Christmas, a tree, and a menorah for Hanukkah."

The tree is pagan by the way and has everything to do with culture and toss all to do with religion, as do the presents under it.

"Religious conviction, if it impinges on the public sphere, is viewed with a mixture of fear and derision."

Well it does impinge on the public sphere. Twenty-six unelected all-male Church of England bishops sit in the House of Lords and influence the laws that affect the rest of us. And yes of course it meets fear and derision because we want our laws to be based on fairness and human rights, not outdated bigoted supernatural nonsense.

"And so it is both true that modern Britain is a model of multiculturalism, and also that we drift around in a fog of mutual ignorance."

While cheese IS NOT chalk, we also note that cheese IS chalk.  We're not a model of multiculturalism, we get it right sometimes, and we're not drifting around in a fog of ignorance, we get it wrong sometimes.  Like for example right now some bigot is writing in The Guardian about how we shouldn't allow gay marriage. And as for "mutual ignorance", yes there are probably a small number of straight people in the UK who are to some extent ignorant about the gay community but I fail to see how there are gay people who are ignorant about straight people. That is the privilege of being the vast majority of the population.

"Cardinal Basil Hume taught that God is present in every love, including the mutual love of gay people."

Well I thought I might be drifting around in a fog of ignorance about the gay community I'd definitely ask Cardinal Basil Hume for his opinion.  That's definitely a better idea than asking someone who actually is gay. And thanks Basil, I'll bear that in mind while I fuck other atheists.

"This is to be respected and cherished and protected, as it is by civil unions."

Respected so much that gay people aren't allowed to use the same words or legal documentation as straight people, nor hold their ceremonies in the same buildings.  How is that "respect"? And why should anyone "cherish" having less rights?

"But to open up marriage to gay people, however admirable the intention, is ultimately to deny "the dignity of difference" in the phrase of the chief rabbi, Jonathan Sachs."

Eww, don't quote Jonathan Sachs at me. I met him once. Horrible bigoted man. (And I think I may have said that!) And "the dignity of difference", really?  The dignity of unequal rights?  The dignity of "not quite the same"? The dignity of "don't use our special word for it"? With all due dignity - fuck off.

"It is not discriminatory..."

Yes it is. Denying equal rights is discrimination.

"...merely a recognition that marriage is an institution that is founded on a union that embraces sexual difference."

Marriage is an institution founded on male control over women.  Historically men could marry several women and have concubines, etc too.  Women had little or no say in the matter. Love was not really a factor in a lot of historical cases, it was much closer to slavery.  The meaning of marriage has constantly evolved for the better. And anyway Christmas trees are FOUNDED on pagan worship, so why aren't you campaigning to bring that back?

"It is not a denial of the equality of the love between two gay people, for all love is of infinite value."

If love is of infinite value then it must be worth more than the church's petty outdated ideas, no?

"A society that fears difference and does not engage with it will ultimately fall into intolerance."

So if we allow gay marriage, this will lead to intolerance. So being tolerant will lead to intolerance. Have you read 1984 Tim?

"Real conversation with people who are different is frightening: it changes how you view your own identity."

Yeah the last time I spoke to a gay person I totally shit myself. Not.

"In his book on Dostoevsky, Rowan Williams quotes Mikhail Bakhtin: "Dialogue ... is not a means for revealing, for bringing to the surface the readymade character of a person; no, in dialogue a person not only shows himself outwardly, but he becomes for the first time that which he is – and we repeat, not only for others but for himself as well.""

Note how directly after he calls for conversation between people who are different he then quotes another straight white bloke's book about yet another straight white bloke. Not one woman, non-white person, gay or lesbian, transperson, etc has been quoted or even mentioned in this whole article.  And you think the rest of us are scared of difference?!!  I guess asking a gay person's opinion would be too frightening huh?  But hey, I'd be scared of gay people too if I was a bigot.

"An easygoing tolerance, rubbing along beside each other without much curiosity, is not enough."

Tolerance is a bloody good start. And equality in terms of marriage is a step on the road to equality. And if your level of curiosity about the gay community is so strong that you sought out the opinions of three straight white men: a Rabbi, a Cardinal and a former Archbishop? I'd hate to see how you do research on dogs, probably by asking cats, or newts. And again you seem to be implying that gay people for the most part just muddle along without interacting with straight people. But they don't, they can't, because straight people are bloody everywhere and run everything.

"We need to recover a confidence in intelligent engagement with those who are unlike us, a profound mutual attention..."

So go on. Ask a gay person if they want to be "equal but different", if they think marriage is "founded on sexual difference", if they want less rights than you.  Hint: they don't!

"...otherwise we shall crush a life-giving pluralism." 

Yes "pluralism", what a lovely word for "inequality". Remember the good old days when South Africa had "pluralism" for black people? No nor do I because apartheid was just discrimination!

"It will not only be gay people who will suffer."

But lets be honest, when gay people have less rights, it is MOSTLY gay people who suffer.

"We shall all be the poorer."

This whole article doesn't suggest one single way in which anyone shall be "the poorer" for living in a society that recognises gay marriage.  The point seems to be that we should reject gay marriage because it might discourage some people from engaging with those who are different to them? On the contrary it will highlight how similar we all are, in that we are all human beings.  Gay marriage will actually lead to more engagement, especially between gay people who love each other! Plus it will make it really obvious which churches (Unitarians, Quakers, etc) are open minded and enthusiastic about being a part of gay people's lives and which ones (CofE, Catholic) are going to continue to support bigotry.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Red tape and red herrings

Wish I had time to write about this at more length.  Maybe later.  Still... This is totally chilling.  David Cameron says he wants to "cut red tape". What he's actually doing is removing almost all of the checks and balances that exist to ensure proposed legislation works properly and doesn't disadvantage particular groups. The loss of equalities assessments means they can now just bring in new policies without bothering to check if they will have a negative impact on certain groups. And getting rid of the 12 weeks of consultation on new policies is frightening.  So they can just steamroller new policy through without anyone who might be affected having a chance to voice their concerns.  It rather begs the question - why would politicians WANT this?  If I was developing new policy I'd want a period of time to listen to ideas and views on it and have the chance to modify it to reflect what is best for everyone.  I'd also want to have a look at the impact of it on disadvantaged groups. Can only think you'd have to be REALLY corrupt to not even want to check that.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A problem called Maria. Or why this government is a DISASTER on women's issues. Line-by-line.

Maria Miller is the government's Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports and Minister for Women and Equalities. Note firstly just how much has been dumped on one persons plate. Presumably she allocates Mondays to her constituents, Tuesdays to parliamentary business, Wednesdays to Culture and uh-oh, appoints an underling to cover Equalities once they've finished the photocopying. Secondly note the horrific contradiction. Sport and the media are two of the areas where women get the roughest deal. The Leveson Enquiry has heard about women's appalling treatment in the major papers and sport these days is another word for a section of the paper aimed exclusively at men. I want a Womens Minister who's going to grab the Secretary of State for Sport by the lapels and not let go til legislative change begins. Thirdly note the order of the jobs, culture first, women and equalities last. Fourthly, yes FOURTHLY, it's that bad, have a look at the article Ms Miller wrote today in the Huffington Post. It's called "The Airy Fairy Generalisations of Women in the Workplace" because discussing how sexism can be overcome is a fluffy subject and all us silly girls who waste our time lounging about spilling yet another bottle of Chardonnay discussing it need a good talking to. Here's what's wrong with every single line of it...

"There's an awful lot of nonsense spoken and written about women and employment."
I know, not least because I sense I might be reading it right now.
"Airy generalisations slug it out with specious stereotyping and the simple reality gets lost in the clatter."
This doesn't really seem to mean anything does it? We have to generalise about problems in the workplace if we are to solve them. Unless she plans on going round every woman in the UK individually and helping them one by one. We have to identify common problems and solve them. Inaccurate (or specious) stereotyping of women is also known as sexism. One thing we need to do it identify that and call it out. None of this is clatter - it's prejudice and efforts to combat it. The reality is not simple at all, if it was we'd have solved it centuries ago.
"Because the truth is, that women are at the heart of this country's economic growth strategy."
Yes. As far as I can tell the economic growth strategy is to rip every piece of support out from under the feet of women (and of course children, the elderly, the disabled and the health service) and spend the money letting mega corporations off their tax bills, right?
"And if we're serious about recovery - and we are - we must to do everything possible to maximise their contribution to the workplace."
Hmm, but women already do more hours of (paid and unpaid) work every week than men. I don't want my contribution maximised, I want my reward for that work equalised. 
"But, although there are more women in work than ever before, there are still real barriers to women entering and progressing in work."
Oh yes, sexism, let go Maria, cut the clatter and call out the sexism.
"And this is not just about focusing on boardrooms, and encouraging more female faces there."
I don't remember anyone saying it was, guess I must have hit the target with the Chardonnay that night! But more "female faces" (not bodies, eww, with their icky vaginas and breasts) in the boardroom is vital to raise the aspirations of women further down the ladder. So we "clatter" on about it for a reason.
"It's just as important to work on how things are in everyday families, and what women are doing to balance their financial needs and career aspirations with family life."
Screech... Stop right there, two things (1) Did we just suddenly jump from what's best for women to what's best for families? Trust me, whatever is best for me is also best for my lodger, my fuckbuddy and that stray cat I sometimes feed. But DO NOT go assuming women = families. Even if I did have a doting husband, 2.4 kids and a golden retriever it is still not acceptable to assume my needs are subordinate to theirs. (2) Another problem word here is "balance", I image you used it because some underpaid intern told you "juggle" was totes last year. Women do not want to balance their needs or juggle their priorities they want to meet their needs and satisfy their priorities. As soon as you say "balance" or "juggle" you imply that women who dare to breed are wilfully putting themselves in a precarious and probably untenable position. Anyone caught balancing or juggling children should be asked to leave the circus.
"Whenever women get together to talk about the prospect of going back to work after having had a baby, it's a fair bet that the one worry that unites them all, regardless of their background or circumstances, will be a single question: what am I going to do about childcare?"
Also whether anyone can get the Chardonnay open with a steak knife cos one of the kids appears to have eaten the corkscrew. Same old, same old. But yes, accepted, this country is crap at childcare, we can do better, onwards, Miller, onwards.
"And I stress the first person singular in this because, for all the advances that have taken place in modern relationships, this remains one question that pretty well always falls to the mother to resolve."
Maybe true. So lets tackle that first up. Paternity leave. Lets make it as long as maternity leave, shall we? Write that down please.
"And if it's not sorted out to the mother's satisfaction, then it very often becomes a show-stopper for the whole return to work issue."
Yeah those crazy women who aren't prepared to leave little Timmy in a disused silo for the afternoon, eh? Whatcha gonna do?
"If a mother can't be as close to 100 per cent sure that her child is safe and well cared for, her chances of working effectively can dwindle to nothing."
Because its a gender thing. Men are able to focus fully on the photocopying while their little darlings are gaffer taped to the wall in the utility closet.
"And for every woman - and there are far too many, I fear - that ends up abandoning the world of work because there are just no childcare options available, other than mum staying at home, there can all too often be another missed opportunity for personal fulfilment."
Lets hope your idea of personal fulfilment doesn't involve making it onto the executive board though, cos we're having none of that!
"Which is not to denigrate or dismiss stay-at-home mums."
No, but it is to very rudely ignore stay-at-home, single, primary care-giver and gay dads. In case you were wondering. You've also completely forgotten to do anything for women who don't have kids. But ho-hum, eh. 
"It's having the choice that makes the difference."
If you're well off that is of course, if you dare to be poor and on benefits your choice to stay home with your kids is out.
"And it's not having the choice that stifles ambition."
Also sexism. The one word Maria Miller can't say out loud. Sexism.
"So a big priority for me as Secretary of State in the government with responsibility for women and equality, has been to see what can be done to address this."
...and you'll get on the case just as soon as you finish criticising women who are promoting other ways to boost women's position in the workplace. I suppose I shouldn't moan, at least you're not in a jungle eating bugs.
"I'm beginning with a new £2 million scheme to provide grants to help people wanting to set up a nursery or child-minding business in England."
Seriously, there are women out there, like me, with a maths degree. That's less than 4p per person in the UK. That's how much childcare matters to you? That's one three thousandth of the estimated tax bill your colleagues have just let Vodaphone off the hook for. It's pathetic, it's so insulting you might as well just write "FUCK YOU" on every single child benefit cheque sent out.
"From next April, grants of up to £500 will be available to help cover things like legal and insurance costs, training, equipment and adaptations to premises."
I strongly suspect this isn't going to be enough to make much of a difference, but I'll humour you on this one Maria, lets assume 100% take-up and success rate (you know, like other government projects have had...).
"This could lead to as many as 6,000 more childcare businesses getting off the ground."
And assuming an ambitious 8 kids per day care, that's an extra childcare place for every 1,292 people in the UK. Better hope the other 1,290 don't decide to have their kid in the same decade as you, eh?!
"And this could be an especially neat win-win, because the businesses themselves will provide jobs themselves, as well as helping to get their clients back to work."
Great news stay-at-home mums, the Minister for Women is here to liberate you from raising your kid on your own to raising eight kids all at once! Now act grateful.
"And the great majority of the new jobs created in the sector will, on past experience, go to women."
So the plan is, seriously, lets not push women into boardrooms, lets have them mop up baby puke for minimum wage? Really? That's the plan?
"Another thing I like about this kind of solution is that it goes with the grain of how people - and not just women - prefer to operate."
Yes that's how I prefer to operate. I like to have someone make incorrect assumptions about me, refuse to do anything about my actual problems and offer me a distant long shot at a pittance in support to do an incredible difficult and important job that I probably don't want for not much money.
"There's no compulsion in it, no externally imposed requirement that puts a burden on businesses which, in many cases, are finding it hard simply to keep their heads above water."
Oh great, lets fight sexism by not actually requiring businesses with demonstrable track records of sexism to do anything about it. After all what if not being an asshole is DIFFICULT or something?
"The grants will complement people's drive and initiative as they set up childcare businesses, and help provide a genuine and much-needed service for employees and employers alike."
But just to be clear it will still be the employees who are paying for this. And the employers will contribute their 4p a head by paying tax. Well they might do, or they might manage to sort that out quietly over canap├ęs at some flash Whitehall function.
"But the wider point here, as I said at the beginning of this piece, is to do with the position that women occupy in our society as a whole and in the workplace in particular."
Wider? Than 4p worth of help each? Oh Maria, you charmer...
"We're serious about this and our childcare business grant initiative comes on top of a package of measures that the Government is taking forward to boost childcare, including extending the right to request flexible working to all employees and allowing parents to share up to a year's leave to care for their new born child."
Yes allowing parents to share up to a year of leave. The same year that women used to get while men got at least a few weeks. I'm all for making it flexible - which, footnote, was Nick Clegg's idea so (1) not your party and (2) probably wont actually happen then - but ultimately you're actually taking away leave, not offering something extra.
"So we're on the way to creating the conditions in which a truly fair and equal society can exist."
We're 4p a head and several weeks less overall parental leave on the way. Excuse me if I'm not skipping.
"There's much still to do, and I can't wait to get on with it."
Here's the next thing I think you should do. Take one large glass of Chardonnay, call a press conference and say this: Sexism exists. Sexism is a problem. Women's issues are not the same thing as childcare issues. The pay gap is real, discrimination is real. Equality is impossible with rape and domestic violence at epidemic levels. We need to stop dismissing discussion of women's rights as "clatter" and start listening to and acting on what experts in the field are saying. This is more important than sports and culture. This is more important than me desperately trying to appease as many people as possible for the benefit of my career. This is so important that I'm going to stand up to Cameron and Osborne and fight for this until real money is committed and real change takes place.
That would mean a lot more to the field of women and employment than this nonsense.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Oh look, racism on the BBC website...

A video sequence showing the history of immigration to the US.  Fair enough.  But check the later part... Daunting heavy-base horror-film type music and they question whether one day white non-hispanic people might become a MINORITY in the US.  As if that's a bad/scary thing. Oh dear.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Speaking out on Free Speech

It never fails to amaze me how often people try to silence me by talking about free speech.  If you believe in "free speech", then say "I disagree with you but I respect your right to hold and express that view". Doh.

Personally I am in favour of free speech as a general ideal.  I don't however think that it is something that should be defended to the exclusion of all other concerns.  If twenty children are standing around one smaller child shouting "ugly little shit", I do not care for their right to free speech - that is bullying and it needs to be stopped and measures taken to prevent it happening again.  If I see a pile of BNP leaflets in my local library I pick them up and throw them away.  Even if they say nothing even vaguely controversial.

It's not about something being offensive because that's a rather meaningless concept.  I can look at a picture of kittens playing with wool and say "I am offended". People around the world have regularly looked at pictures of their imaginary friend (who of course must never be depicted) and decided they are offended.  We can't waste our time sacrificing free speech because somebody is offended.

When people stand outside abortion clinics with images of aborted foetuses I call that bullying, not free speech.  If people want to put those images on websites or campaign leaflets then fair enough (though again if I find them in my library, as it happens, I chuck them out) but outside clinics is harassment. Which is really just a grown-up word for bullying.

I think there is also a temptation to confuse editing or promoting with attacking free speech.  When newspapers edit content, that's not attacking free speech.  Well not unless they edit it so that it changes the author's meaning, or misrepresents what they were trying to say.  They might accept one article and not another, and that is their right.  If that wasn't the case I'd exercise my right to free speech and have a lengthy column in every single newspaper in the UK every day. The one in the Daily Mail would just say "Richard Littlejohn is a total idiot" over and over again.  But they can publish what they like and when I disagree I can write angry letters and if they won't publish them I can put them on other websites or this blog, or Facebook, or whatever.  And if Facebook decides what I've written is not acceptable on their platform they can also remove it, cos it's their website.  Similarly I do not publish every comment made on this blog.  Only the ones that I think are of interest to my readers.  Unless you all want to buy viagra and hear about the ways in which I "deserve" to be violently gang-raped...?

And I am also entitled to a view on what criteria others should use to edit their content.  I'm entitled to say I think the Guardian should moderate comments on it's Comment is Free site more carefully, or that they should include more voices challenging prostitution and less presenting full legalisation as a solution to abuses. I'm entitled to think Nick Griffin shouldn't have been allowed on Question Time. It's about who is given a particular platform.  I think I should get to write for the Mail, but he shouldn't be on Question Time. Those are my opinions. Yours may be different. We can all say them, but not on BBC One unless specifically invited.

I'm also entitled to an opinion about how businesses run and how they are regulated.  If you want to have the world's weirdest sex and invite your friends and neighbours to come along and watch, I fully defend your right to do so (obviously assuming it's all very clearly and carefully consensual).  But I think lad mags should be sold on the top shelf at newsagents and pornography websites (which make large amounts of money from adverts on their sites or paid downloads and subscriptions) should be made to remove violent scenes and make the rest available only to over-18s who have opted in using a verified credit card or proof of ID. None of this is about free speech, it's about how businesses are regulated. I also think supermarkets shouldn't be allowed to sell battery-farmed eggs or products made from them. You might not agree with me - but it's not about free speech and it IS my right to express those views if I want to.

Now a website appeared a few days ago that I caught wind of called Rape Is No Joke. The website tag line says "Campaigning for comedy without misogyny" and they offer a pledge where comedians and comedy clubs can pledge not to tell "rape jokes" and not to put on comics who do.  Now I understood from this that they were asking people not to tell jokes which trivialised rape or blamed victims. I didn't take it as meaning the subject could never be raised onstage. I mean if someone wants to talk about having been raped - wow, give them a mic, what a brave thing to do. And if someone (like me, I do this) wants to make jokes about the poor police response or about the awful things that the likes of George Galloway and Brendan O'Neill have said, again, that's great. I assumed the website was not saying the word could never be uttered or subject could never be raised. I assumed that "rape joke" (especially since they were talking about ending misogyny in comedy) meant the bad sort. So I signed the pledge and posted the link up so others who wanted to could do so.

Suddenly I'm the wicked witch of the west (again!). Apparently firstly I am told I wrote the site. I did not, I don't know who did, but I like them. Apparently (actual quotes):

"Comedy is the last bastion of free speech" - ha ha ha, if that's true we are fucked. Every comedy club in the world has a booking policy, some nuanced and helpful, others arbitrary and stupid. In my opinion. Comedians who do racist material are not as popular as they used to be, most clubs won't book them. Rightly so.

"Implication is that if you don't sign pledge you're seen as not willing to act 'responsibly'" - yeah and if you refuse to say you're not a racist, we might all think you're a racist. But no-one is stopping you from writing your own statement of what you consider responsible and what you will and won't include in your set.

"If we start that where do we end it?" - in a world without rape culture, yeah!

"I would of though of all people to attempt to censor be Kate its very very hypocritical" - I'm not censoring anyone, I'm putting people in touch with a golden glorious opportunity to express their views on rape and rape culture and to choose to express their own commitment to ending it.  You are welcome.

"Rape affects men too you know" - well if it affects men too isn't that DOUBLE the reason not to trivialise it and belittle the victims? And may I be the first to add: Waaaaa what about da menz...

"As someone who works in the criminal justice system, I can assure you that EVERYONE takes rape allegations seriously." - interesting that we've still got a 6% conviction rate then. Also I personally know a number of women who've been to the police to report rape and been ignored and belittled and disbelieved and treated like crap. In fact I don't know any women who've had good treatment after reporting rape.  Not admitting that's a problem would seem to make you a part of the problem. Plus rape culture affects women's decisions as to whether or not to report.  If comedians are making jokes suggesting women are at fault if they are raped, that might mean women don't go to the police.

"This comes across like an attempt at using emotional blackmail to advance your own particular agenda." - yeah that's what I was planning when I POSTED A LINK ON FACEBOOK.  Definitely.

(this is my favourite) "All sounds ominously like loyalty oaths and anti-commie affirmations in 1950s USA" - yes, circulating a link to a website about rape jokes is definitely just like trying to persecute communist 'sympathisers'. No, I mean it, you're definitely right there. Thank goodness you pointed it out, there I was being all McCarthy-ish, suggesting people might want to sign a pledge about violent crime and sexism in stand-up comedy.  One day someone will write something like The Crucible about me. Really. I can hardly wait.

This has nothing to do with free speech.  Clubs have freedom to put the acts they want onstage (again otherwise I'd play a lot more clubs that I do). Acts have the freedom to do whatever jokes they want. If you or your club wants to make a choice not to include "rape jokes" then go for it. If you'd be willing to sign it if the wording was slightly clarified, why not drop the website a line and say so? Or start your own website. Be a part of the solution. And if you don't want to sign it at all, don't sign it.  But don't come telling me that my circulating the link has infringed your right to free speech because I will be exercising my freedom to not listen to you or your probably not very good comedy routine.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Bad Sex

I had a piece about Assange, Galloway and consent published on Huffington Post.  Do go and give it a read.  Thanks!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

In need of a closing ceremony for sexism!

Oh dear, I wasn't planning to watch the Olympics closing ceremony but I rather enjoyed most of the opening ceremony and circumstances have brought me here.  Now during the opening ceremony we saw a piece about the NHS.  It wasn't about big pharmaceutical companies, presumably because while they do distribute some useful and effective drugs they also have a poor track record of pushing drugs on those who don't really need them and charging too much to those whose illness, or perceived illness, may have made them easy targets.  But somehow in the closing ceremony there's a big celebration of the fashion industry.  Does the fashion industry do ANYTHING other than tell women they need more and different overpriced clothes? Does it not just generate need by encouraging people, mostly women, to feel bad about their appearances.  Does this not indeed lead to recognised medical conditions like anorexia and body dismorphic disorder?

Big pharma might be horrifically corrupt but at least they do some good for some people.  Does big fashion benefit anyone?  Third world workers in garment factories are notoriously mistreated. The average Briton has about ten years "worth" of clothes in their wardrobe. It would be better for us all if we closed the whole industry down and transferred those workers to pharmaceutical companies work on developing new medicines and treatments.  Or better still get them working in the NHS, and start properly funding medical research in the UK so we don't leave it all in the corrupt hands of big pharma...  How is this not obvious?

Now of course my outrage has been ignited a bit further by the arrival of Russell Brand.  It's a matter of hours since he (allegedly) horrifically sexually harassed a woman. His track record on the matter is less than great.

...And now two male singers are onstage in suits and jackets next to Jessie J who is dressed in a flesh-coloured catsuit which makes her look basically naked.  I'm all FOR nudity, but lets just have men and women nude please, otherwise it's creepy and presents women as sex objects.

Maybe they were inspired by the sexism of having only the men's marathon winner being given his gold by the big cheese.  Interestingly as the winner was Ugandan, footage must now (I assume, wasn't shown) exist of David Cameron and Boris Johnson standing up for the national anthem of a country where homosexuality is illegal. Much as I lack respect for the Lib Dems, it does make me rather wish Brian Paddick was Mayor of London.

Oh hang on - here's Eric Idle. Brilliant, how fun and cheering.  And nicely atheist too, bit like John Lennon's Imagine earlier.  I'm starting to forgive them. Oh what's that behind him? A row of women dressed as angels in bikinis. Facepalm.

I had better sign off before they get Jim Davidson on!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Another recommendation for my show!

Those highly discerning folks at Scotsgay magazine have listed me as one of the top 100 shows to see in Edinburgh.  I''m number 75, but they're listed in order of time so you don't have to go see the other 74 first, you can just come see me right away!!  They say:

"75. 8:20pm. The News at Kate 2012. Comedy. Ciao Roma/4-25 Aug (not 14). FREE.

The News at Kate used to be one of those shows that seemed far too good for the Free Fringe – then the Free Fringe got really, really good.  Kate Smurthwaite’s annual satirical show returns for another year in which she explores ‘the news, being in the news, and being on the news’."

I'm off to the Fringe very soon so if you want to follow my progress please switch over to my Fringe blog The News At Kate. But non-fringe-y stuff will still be here, it's just so those not coming to or interested in the fringe don't get dozens of posts about shows I'm doing up there (last year 93 in three and a half weeks!).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Bachelor and Me!

I know that many regular Cru-blog readers spotted me this week on the UK TV series The Bachelor. And many viewers of that series have also tracked me down and been in touch. Hello!

Before it was aired I kept pretty quiet about it for confidentiality reasons - obviously the series relies on audiences not knowing in advance who will go through to the next round each time. Now it's been out (and if you didn't see it you can still do so on the Channel Five website and on your TV's "catch-up" service, assuming you're in the UK) I can answer some of the questions I've been bombarded with over the last few days!

1) It's not a very feminist show, is it?

Twenty-four women competing to date one guy? No of course not. There is however (in the US only so far) a sister show The Bachelorette where 24 guys compete to date one woman.  Personally I was pleased withthe show espousing the idea that women can impress a guy by making him laugh and I figured I'd rather the expert comedy teacher shown was a woman than a guy. So when it was offered I said "yes". If it brings a few new people to my work - awesome. One thing that does annoy me about it is that they always refer to the women as "girls". I said "women" to them all the time, which did sound odd to some of them I think, but hey, small steps!

2) What is Spencer like? Did you fancy him? Did he flirt with you?

I didn't meet him, but the crew all said he's really nice off screen (though I agree he comes across a bit arrogant on screen). I could have stayed and watched them doing the actual comedy roast but I decided to go off for dinner instead.

3) Any behind-the-scenes gossip?

Not really. I only met half the women and not Spencer at all so I have no idea who's going to win.  This is the best I can do:

Brandy (as you can tell) really loves comedy. When she gets back to the UK, with or without Spencer, she might come and take my comedy course at City Academy.

Wondering why Helen is interviewed so much? She's the only one who doesn't mind being interviewed without her make-up, so she gets a bit more exposure!

While half the women are preparing for and having their group "date" with Spencer they take the other half out on day trips so they won't get bored. While my "lot" wrote comedy the others had gone to a private beach for the afternoon.

If I had to date one (I doubt they will ever make this show, they couldn't afford the insurance!), it would be Helen, a surprising choice for me as she's religious. But she was a lot of fun to spend time with.

The only one I didn't really click with was Tabby, she seemed a bit shy, or aloof, hard to tell in a short space of time. But then she was the one who won that challenge, so what do I know??!

4) Can I learn comedy too?

Yes sign up for a taster class at City Academy and I'll see you there!

5) What other TV and radio shows have you done?

Loads and loads but usually as a political comedienne and feminist and atheist activist. Please watch this blog or follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter @Cruella1

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bachelor Girl

Strange as this might seem, I will be making a guest appearance on tonight's episode of The Bachelor on Channel Five, 10pm (thats a UK channel, dont know if it'll be viewable elsewhere). Yes really. Do watch if you're curious. I shall be off MCing the Funny's Funny women's comedy competition final at the Empire Casino in Leicester Square. You're also very welcome to that, tickets are £15 from and it's being headlined by Andi Osho who is on the telly a lot more than me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

That internet, eh?!

The sort of weird shit I get on Facebook:

"hey, i saw you on big question and to be honest i didn't really agree with a lot of your points on certain matters. also the way in which you presented your points was very abrupt and aggressive, HOWEVER ... i have this inexplicable, major sexual attraction to you and i have no idea why, seeing as i quite frankly find what you have to say really irrritating most of the time. Yet I seem to find myself incredibly drawn to you. I thought i would tell you this, seeing as  their is nothing to really lose, and would be interested to see if you have this effect on other individuals!


anand gopinathan

p.s. wouldn't you rather not live like their isn't a god, than die and find out there really is?"

Mmmm, you mean give up half a day a week, a proportion of my income and all the good sex I have on the off chance of something so improbable it can be dismissed out of hand? No thanks.  Also there is nothing inexplicable about your "major sexual attraction to me".  I am super-hot. Cheers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Revival Review

Had a lovely review in London is Funny for my Edinburgh preview at the Revival festival last Thurs.

"The only real feminist-heavy thwack came from Smurthwaite at the end with extracts from her topical show The News at Kate. She handles weighty material without ever getting preachy and owns the stage, but is never overbearing. And if her rapport with the lads on the front row was anything to go by, she deals deftly with a vociferous audience too."

Full review here!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Follow Me!

Photographer Travis Hodges took some photos of me a few weeks ago as part of a project photographing popular Twitter users who nominate one another.  Here's the shot he took (I LOVE IT!)
And the whole project can be viewed here. If you're on Twitter and don't follow me already my tag is @Cruella1.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Religion, sexuality, the Daily Mail and me

The Daily Fail is celebrating the jubilee by giving me an excuse to air a little rage.  Even for them this is funny.  It's called "'Promiscuity, divorce and separation are at epidemic proportions,’ warns bishop in Jubilee address".  So here's a little line-by-line for y'all:

"Promiscuity, separation and divorce are at 'epidemic' proportions, a senior Church of England bishop has warned as he called for Britain to use the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as an opportunity to reflect and reassess values."

Yeah people woke up and smelt the secular coffee! Turns out there is no God, and therefore no reason to regard sex for pleasure as a bad thing, nor to persist with relationships after it has become apparent they're not working.

"The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, writing in a Bible Society pamphlet about the origins of the word jubilee, said Britain was now an 'enormously different' society compared to 1952 - the year of the Queen’s accession to the throne - and in 'so many ways' a better place to live."

Yeah a much better place, for example all the jobs which used to be men-only are now open to women too, except the marine commandos and, what's that other one, oh yeah - being a fucking bishop like he is.

"But he said inequality had grown and material progress had been at the expense of communal life with relationships within families, communities and society 'more strained, more fragile' and more broken than people cared to recognise."

Monetary inequality may well have grown but equality for gay and lesbian people is now a legal standard across our society except, oh what's that one thing, oh marriage. And who is is who keeps fighting against gay and lesbian marriage?  Oh yeah - the homophobic churches. Bastards.

"'Literally millions of children grow up without knowing a stable, loving, secure family life - and that is not to count the hundreds of thousands more who don’t even make it out of the womb each year,' he said."

Yes your evil God does cause a lot of miscarriages doesn't he?  Perhaps it's time you stopped praying to him and started paying to have folic acid capsules and other scientifically-proven ways of reducing miscarriages provided to pregnant women?

"'Promiscuity, separation and divorce have reached epidemic proportions in our society.
'Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t be surprised that depression and the prescription of anti-depressants has reached a similarly epidemic level.'"

Yeah we're definitely not as happy a society as we were when we made small children climb chimneys to clean them and half the population had plague.  Or maybe we're a bit more open about mental health problems now that people who admit to them don't get burnt as witches quite so much by, oh who is it, your stupid fucking church!

"In his pamphlet, Dr Chartres said the Diamond Jubilee was not only a time to reflect on the Queen’s 'extraordinary' reign but also a chance to 'rebalance the scales' in society and focus on how we can 'reset' the situation."

Reset the situation?  Do you mean "roll back decades of progress" or do you mean "go back to the good old days when people actually believed in God and your job wasn't a pointless waste of time"?

"Dr Chartres said the Biblical meaning of the word jubilee was a reminder of the need to take the 'long view' and to take into account the environment for future generations. It should also mean an end to the 'crippling debt economy' and a move to living within our means, he added."

Seriously?  The bible is telling us to reduce our national debt?  Which verse is that?  I wonder what his view is on dropping the top rate of tax?  Is our holy mythical overlord a believer in the long discredited Laffer curve?

"Dr Chartres also called for action to tackle 'depressingly high' youth unemployment in Britain.
'The extent of youth unemployment is appalling. The waste of human talent is unsustainable morally and economically,' he said."

Yes I hate to see human beings whose time and effort is wasted in unproductive activity that contributes nothing to society.  I'm going to pray about that.

"We should not simply look to government for a solution but look to our communities for role models and mentors to encourage, challenge and enthuse those who are in danger of losing hope.'"

Yeah we need role models.  How about a guy who deliberately chooses to believe irrational unscientific lies and is rewarded for this with access to our political leadership?  That doesn't really fill me with hope.

"Dr Chartres praised the 'quiet dignity' of the Queen and the way she and her family had reached out to include newly established British communities."

Well yes the Queen has expressed her "quiet dignity" by not biting the hand that feeds her and nodding along with what "her" government does even when it's leaving people in crippling poverty.

"'We have changed profoundly as a country in the 60 years of the Queen’s reign. We have bade farewell to Empire abroad and moved into a new multicultural reality at home,' he said."

Also we invented the vajazzle.  I'm getting the crown jewels vajazzled onto my crown jewels.  What is the point here?

"'The demise of the old world and the arrival of the new has involved sometimes painful adjustments."

Sure thing.  Also quite a lot of really nice holidays though.

"'The quiet dignity of the Queen and the way in which she and her family have reached out to include newly established British communities has provided a focus for continuing but expanding national self-respect and so has assisted the peaceful transformation of our national identity.'"

No the identity of the nation has changed all on it's own, thanks to modern British people.  The Queen has never been at the vanguard of that, she's always been running along behind, trying to keep up with her overtly racist husband.

He added: 'Her Majesty enjoys widespread and profound popularity across the British people, and beyond.

Considering the massive PR machine she is promoted by, she's remarkably unpopular.

"'Not only is she quite simply the most famous public figure on earth but she is also the most respected.'"

Really? More respected than Nelson Mandela? The woman who was queen of South Africa as apartheid was brought in?  How ridiculous.

The truth is while Mandela spoke out about injustice and was prepared to suffer the gruelling consequences, the queen's "quiet dignity" is exactly what has allowed her to keep living a life of outlandish luxury and continues to allow pointless people like this idiot to leap on the bandwagon and use her to promote their own political agenda.  Like dishing out celestial advice on economic policy and criticising people who have and enjoy the healthy and joyous experience that is sex for pleasure!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Article by me on Independent website

I wrote a piece about women in the UK asylum system.  Already the nasty comments have started. Do the trolls never sleep?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My appearance on BBC Radio 4, Four Thought

Was broadcast today.  You can hear it in full here, please give it a listen!

Independent blog fail on religion

Well I must say this piece on the Independent blog really made my blood boil. It's called "Islam and Christianity must renovate religion: Atheists have to stop trashing it." Ugh. So here's my line-by-line:

"In Religion for Atheists, published earlier this year, Alain de Botton suggests that religion has a lot to teach atheists. It is far too important to be regarded as completely redundant, he argues, because it promotes “morality” and “teaches us to become polite, honour one another, to be faithful and sober”. This is all true. Denying the wealth of knowledge and benefit that can be found in religion is hubristic."

"Morality"? How thoughtful of you to put the word in quotation marks. Is that what you call two millennia of rampant misogyny? I agree. Strange choice.

"But religion is also the cause of many of the world’s problems: it’s dangerous. Religious people often accept exoteric, literal interpretations of religious texts, without using their rational faculties. Religion without reason is blind, ruthless and leads to discrimination."

Religion is also the sworn enemy of reason, teaching as a basic tenet from day one in even the most moderate forms that blind faith is a virtue.

"But 21st Century secularists are also guilty; they have dismissed and lost the ethics taught by religion. Contemporary media focus is too heavily weighed on the out-of-date issues which religion appears to have a regressive and pejorative understanding of." 

Yeah you fuck a few thousand children and suddenly everyone forgets how much fun your special ceremony in which wine ACTUALLY changes into human blood can be. Also Hitler was a vegetarian, but the media refuses to focus on it and just goes on and on about the holocaust, eh?

"In an article he wrote in February for the New Statesman, Journalist Bryan Appleyard described how a “neo-atheism” – by which he means “the conviction that science provides the only road to truth and that all religions are deluded, irrational and destructive” – has emerged over the past two decades." 

Science does provide the only road to truth. It also provides the definition of truth. Doh.

"de Botton echoes this view when he writes that when an atheist says ‘I think religions are not all bad’, he or she is subjected to “savage messages” calling them a “fascist, an idiot or a fool”."

I got a lot more hassle from atheists when I implied religious people were idiots than I do if I say something concilatory. But either way, yes, this is the internet, there be trolls.

"One religion, however, is widely understood for its moral benefits. Buddhism – which, by its nature is a much less proselytising faith than the Abrahamic religions – stresses disengagement from worldly affairs and meditation, while it insists on maintaining a healthy relationship with the world."

It's also not really a religion, it doesn't claim a deity.

"It is this kind of emphasis on moral and spiritual benefits that the other faiths need to tap into; dogma, perfunctory rituals and overzealously propagating one’s religion are often a hindrance to their progression. There is nothing wrong with propagating faith, but how about doing it through acts of kindness, smiling and helping one’s neighbours, not through shouting on a pedestal or condemning others."

Well if your faith is one of those "moral" ones that doesn't approve of telling lies then we'd have to agree there is something wrong with propagating faith.

"Two things are clear: many religious teachings are beneficial to humans – and there are a great many atheists who deny this truth. While religion has been in steady decline since the early 20th century, particularly in the West, it still plays a prominent part in many countries and will do so for a long time. So instead of completely rejecting it, we need to work with it and, more importantly, redefine it."

Could you define "clear" and "truth" here? I'm not getting it. Seems you're saying instead of admitting there is no magic sky fairy we should pretend there is one but insist he's mostly interested in peace and love (but not sexual love which is still icky) and no longer wants you to cut girls clitorises off. Good plan.

"The Bible is still interpreted literally by many Christians and, consequently, we have seen the “issue” of homosexuality – which is condemned in the Old Testament – creep back into the headlines in the past few months. Religious leaders, basing their opinions on pre-modern scriptures, often speak insensitively about homosexuality. Why some Christians – even intelligent ones – still hold the Bible as a text that should be interpreted literally is a mystery, and potentially perilous. According to leading New Testament scholar Bart Ehram in his New York Times bestseller Misquoting Jesus, The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, the Bible is far from a divine revelation and has been altered, intentionally and unintentionally, on numerous occasions." 

Yes your magic sky fairy made people and then told them to write a book and told the, what to put in the book and created every single person ever involved in the translation and transcription process, but it does contain a number of trivial typographic errors. Like the bit where it tells you to throw your daughters to marauding rapists to protect your male lodgers. Oops!

"What is needed, however, is the quintessential message of love which suffuses much of the New Testament to override all other hostile attitudes to other people. There also need to be more progressives like Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, who although firm in their faith, are not afraid to challenge scripture."

So progressive he supports sexist Sharia Law?

"Islam, like Christianity, is also failing in the field of hermeneutics; modern exegetes are unable or unwilling to interpret the texts to conform with our current world. This is partly because sects like the strictly orthodox Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia, who are intent on not allowing innovation (which is a grave sin in Islam) into the religion, have a huge say on the Islamic literature disseminated throughout the world."

Yeah the problem with religion is it needs to re-invent itself so it agrees with our modern secular values. And us modern secularists should listen to it more. Once it agrees with us. How I love to sit back and hear my own opinions quoted back at me as if your magic sky fairy invented them.

"Then again, there are Muslims calling for change; in a blog called Contemporary Muslims are in need of spirituality, the Oxford academic Tariq Ramadan claims “Sufi movements have re-emerged” within Islam. Sufism is the inner, mystical version of Islam which places greater importance on asceticism and God’s love; the adherents, Sufis, are generally more liberal. The Sufi movements, Ramadan says, contrast with the “ritualistic traditionalism [and] Islamist activism”."

The mystical version of Islam? Of course, that'd be more in line with the modern world.

"Muslims, according to Ramadan, have lost the essence of their religion which is the quest for meaning and the peace of heart. “The time has come,” Ramdan argues, “for a spiritual and religious emancipation.”"

Remember innovation is a grave sin. Still good luck with the quest for meaning and peace.

"Many Muslims have neglected the inward dimensions of faith and have placed more importance on the outward. In a time when many Muslims’ faith has been shaken to the core, particularly since the bombardment of anti-Islamic sentiment following 9/11, the spiritual teachings of Islam are needed to restore a sense of equanimity more than ever. And none more so than for many intellectuals who see little import in “mainstream Islam”, an anthropomorphised God and other metaphysical concepts which seem farfetched." 

Yes I will always remember 9/11 as being about the bombardment of anti-Islamic sentiment. Not about the bombardment of two buildings full of innocent people with large fuel-laden aircraft. Hijack a plane, then hijack the reaction to it? I felt the reaction to 9/11 was wrong, but wrong because it involved attacking more innocent people, not wrong because it led to questioning of the religion driving the ideology behind it.

"The Muslim discourse on what traditionalism really is has been hijacked by literalists and has been exacerbated by 9/11: instead of Muslims saying what they are, they have become too preoccupied in saying what they are not."

So the way to combat extremist religion is through moderate religion which should not waste it's time criticising extremist religion but should focus on extolling the virtues of religion in general?

"A Facebook page dedicated to the 13th century Sufi poet Rumi who, according to Time Magazine, is one of the all-time best selling poets in the USA – reached 300,000 ‘likes’ last week. Rumi’s vision for Islam is one that is refreshingly inclusive compared to the doctrinal fundamentalist forms which are so often the focus of news media."

 I thought not enough people were talking about moderate Islam, now there are 300,000? Why that's nearly 1% as many as have watched Shakira singing "Waka Waka" on YouTube... Oh hang on, no it's not, it's more like half a percent! "

“Come, come again, whoever you are, come! Heathen, fire worshipper or idolatrous, come! Come even if you broke your penitence a hundred times, ours is the portal of hope, come as you are,” he writes, encouraging people to the positive messages of the faith. While his writings may not conform with everyone’s particular interpretation of Islam, his candid understanding represents the depth and openness with which religion can understood and practised."

What positive message of faith? That even nasty heathens are welcome to believe for no reason in your imaginary friend? That's the best "positive" message of faith you could find? I think the Flying Spaghetti Monster (all hail his noodly appendage) may have said "don't worry, be happy". 

"It is not just inclusivity that is needed but rather a more open and discerning mind that Muslims need to embrace. Debates around homosexuality and evolution as well as the effect that our increasingly sexualised world is having on young Muslims is, to a large extent, brushed under the carpet . It’s as if scholars and exegetes hope that by brushing these issues aside they will not resurface in the minds and daily lives of the Muslim community who are in need of answers."

The idea of a debate around homosexuality is offensive.  It pre-supposes a legitimacy to the "anti-gay" viewpoint. There is none. A debate about evolution has been had, in the 1800s, it's over. And how is our modern world "increasingly sexualised"? The ancient Greeks (and Japanese) built giant phalluses for public display and probably worship.

"But conversely, we cannot underestimate what the four horsemen of New Atheism – Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens – have done to widen the divide between religious believers and non-religious believers. Their articulate presentation of their views and deeply convincing writings shouldn’t blind us to the essence of religion and our need to reinterpret and redefine religious texts. If these leading atheists are really in search for cosmic or absolute truth, instead of incessantly thumping religion, they should encourage religious erudition, contextualisation and reasoning, as some of the answers they may be looking for may be buried deep in these ancient texts."

The essence of religion is that there's a mystic being who created us (in about a week) and now watches and judges us for every minutiae of our behaviour and punishes us if we don't stick to his (always seems to be his) stupid, self-serving and contradictory rules. This is not what Dawkins and co are looking for.  They're looking for the opposite of this, the truth.

"We often condemn religion as something simple and backward but we treat philosophy and science as pursuits of rigorous and profound study. Perhaps the reason why Dawkins et al. fail to see the profundity in religion is because, as Plato said, an individual can only master one art. The four horsemen are all leading experts in their respective fields, and indeed know more about religion than the masses – but, ultimately, they are pseudo-experts on religious texts. Sam Harris, for example, loves to talk about Jihad as if the term is linguistically synonymous with fighting and war; it’s not: Jihad means ‘struggle’, and the highest form is to struggle against one’s innate, evil tendencies. What’s so wrong with that?"

Yes that's the real problem, Sam Harris's understanding of linguistics.  I remember the victims of the twin towers tragedy screaming "use a dictionary!". There's nothing wrong with struggle, so if you mean struggle, say "struggle". End of.

"Islam, according to American convert and intellectual Hamza Yusuf, is suffering from a crisis of authority, as he elucidated in a debate at Oxford University with Tariq Ramadan, entitled “Rethinking Islamic reform”, in 2010. Christian Catholics have a leader, the Pope, Tibetan Buddhists have the Dalai Lama, but many Muslims are demanding a leadership of their own, the caliphate."

The Pope, yes, the world needs more people like him, out announcing that condoms don't work and that their use is immoral, and Jihadding (it means "struggling", right?) to keep women from clerical office and bodily autonomy and gay people from marriage and child adoption.  And how very handy that suddenly Buddhism gets mentioned again in an article about Christianity and Islam. Buddhism is a bad example and actually the Dalai Lama is not the super-hero he's sometimes made out to be.

"So who are the right people to lead their respective religious communities? Many of the religious leaders and old establishments that are in place today clearly aren’t fit for the purpose: child abuse has been found to be widespread among Christian leaders and too many Muslim leaders in this country can’t connect with the young – indeed, 97% of Imams in Britain are foreign, mainly Urdu-speaking Pakistanis."

Love religion, hate foreigners? Grrr... I feel your pain. And before we find new, appropriate leaders shouldn't we get rid of the child abusers and their defenders? Cos the Pope is still there and he thinks its a job for life.

"Christianity, Islam and the other world faiths shouldn’t be completely disregarded. Many of the ethics they teach – and the faith, and in turn, the security which they offer believers – are far too valuable to ignore; what needs to change is our understanding. It is up to the intellectual religious leaders, who have the ability to engage with the intelligent as well as the uneducated, to renovate religion."

The benefits of having blind faith are a nonsense. And if people need security, we should provide it through adequate housing, healthcare, welfare and peace.  In fact you know this because you're calling for people to pick and choose which bits of religion we keep "many of the ethics". Sadly blind faith would keep ALL of the ethics including stoning adultresses and throwing your daughters to marauding rapists.  If intelligent religious people can pick and choose the good ethics of religion, intelligent atheists can do better. All we need is for Islam and Christianity to give up and get out of the way.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Daily Mega-Fail

Yesterday's Daily Mail: Brave woman speaks out about child sex abuse.

Today's Daily Mail: Wa-hey, look at this sexy fifteen-year-old!

Seriously.  How do they sleep at night?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Heavyweight Smurthwaite

I LOVE this cartoon made about me by Lucas Black.  Thank you!! Do go and read more on his blog here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ultimate gig

Just a very quick blog post for the benefit of those who don't follow/use Facebook or Twitter. Tonight and tomorrow I'm hosting two of the most awesome comedy shows of the year in central London. If you've been thinking about coming to a show for a while or wondering when is a good time to come to a show - this is it!

If you're a leftie, atheist, awesome comedy fan this is the time to grab a ticket and come along. Lee Camp is an American political comic (look up his online "Moment of Clarity" vlogs) who only visits the UK a couple of times a year. He's on both nights, as is Jason Rouse, a Canadian act who is notoriously dark and twisted and outrageous and also a really talented skilful comedian with it, not just a generic shock-jock. Fans of free speech, don't miss out! Tonight the opening act is Paul Sinha who like me spends most of his life on the BBC arguing with idiots from Jim Davidson (not very far to) the BNP. Tomorrow the opener is Hal Cruttenden, another must-see act with political leanings and a tendency to outrage.

Oh and I'm MCing too. It's all at the Empire Casino in Leicester Square, doors half seven show at 8pm. Tickets are (unbelievably) only £10 and that even includes a free glass of bubbly after the show. You can get them online at the Soho Comedy Club website. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Career Girls. This really needs a line-by-line.

I don't know which to feel sorry for the most - my head or my office wall, for there is no doubt that the two will be making repeated thumping contact over the next half hour or so. The Daily Mail has decided in it's infinite wisdom to explain why women only want careers because they're unable to get themselves a man. Yes, really. So here goes:

"Do girls only want a career because they can't attract a man? Provocative study casts high fliers in a new light

Well lets see shall we? Are there any women who are ALREADY IN A RELATIONSHIP who still want careers? Yes, loads. But what a horrific insultory headline! Implying any woman who works hard at her job is desperate. Fuck off!!

"Forget ambition, financial security and that first-class degree."

I do whenever I see a pair of uncomfortable shoes...

"A controversial study has concluded that the real reason women pursue careers is because they fear they are too unattractive to get married."

Hang on - lets test this hypothesis further: do you know any unattractive married people? Yes, lots right? And are there any attractive people who are unmarried? Again loads. So even the notion that you have to be attractive to get married is absolute crap.

"The research team, made up of three women and two men,"

Well why are we reading this research then? We know the female researchers are only doing it for the chance to date a lab technician.

"said that when men are thin on the ground, 'women are more likely to choose briefcase over baby'."

Personally, I prefer my men both thin and on the ground. But that's another matter. Are we really surprised that women who aren't raising families are more likely to decide to have a serious career? You're not choosing career over family if the option of "family" isn't really there. You're choosing career over daytime TV and having no money.

"And the plainer a woman is, they claim, the more she is driven to succeed in the workplace."

They will have measured this on the official SCIENTIFIC plain-ness scale right? The only possible way to rate attractiveness is to ask others to judge. Everyone will judge differently. Are you asking straight guys to judge? Or other women? And then we will also have to adjust for whether she's trying to make herself look professional for the office or whether she has loads of free time to get her hair and nails done, right?

"Central to their argument was the idea that women have evolved to become homemakers and men, providers."

Yes the parallels between hunting buffalo and being an accountant are overwhelming. Similarly those between building a fire pit and ordering groceries online. And lets look at our nearest relatives the chimps and bonobos. They DON'T HAVE homes!! They just build a new (individual, usually) nest each night. So we're left wondering what evolutionary principles we're working from here.

"They said this means that when men are scarce in a particular area, women, and particularly less attractive ladies, may decide they need to provide for themselves with a well-paid career."

That's not evolution. That's fact - if you haven't got another source of income - you have to get a job. In other news - hungry people tend to congregate around supermarkets and restaurants.

"The researchers carried out several experiments to come up with their startling argument."

Clearly none of these experiments involved looking up the word "startling" in a dictionary.

"The first looked at the number of eligible men in an area, which they called the 'operational sex ratio'."

How exactly are you defining "eligible"? I hope you had a group of sexy young women in the street shouting "Phoar, look at the operational sex ratio on that!"

"After collecting data from across the U.S., they found that as the number of eligible men in a state decreased, the proportion of women in highly paid careers rose."

So with less men around, women had better jobs. Ooops! I think you just discovered workplace gender discrimination.

"In addition, the women who became mothers in those states did so at an older age and had fewer children."

So with less men around, less women got pregnant? Quick ring the press!! Oh, you already did. Seriously?!

"To prove that a lack of men was behind the trend, the researchers then carried out practical experiments."

Removing the men from a series of small towns? Or maybe just rendering them "ineligible"!! Sounds like the sort of thing I used to do in my late teens...

"These involved showing women newspaper articles"

Hmm, well lets hope they weren't Daily Mail articles, since all you guys publish is a load of sexist dross.

"or photos that gave different impressions of the sex ratio in an area"

Photos? Of the queues for local speed-dating events? Stranger and stranger.

"and then quizzing them about which was more important – work or family."

Stand AMAZED at the magic of SCIENCE! Really? Aren't there people working on a cure for cancer out there?

"When they were led to believe that men were scarce, they were more likely to prioritise career over family."

Wow amazing. Of course there's no way guys would be less interested in their work when there was a sexy woman around. No way.

"However, when questioned, the women didn't believe the shortage of men would lead to more job openings for women. Instead they thought there would be more competition to find a husband."

Was there a tick box for "both"?

"The final experiment tested the researchers' suspicion that less attractive women would be more interested in careers because they might find it difficult to secure a partner."

So they had a suspicion about a correlation AND they had already pre-decided what the causality between the two would be? When is this research up for peer review exactly?

"The 87 young women were given mocked-up newspaper articles describing the sex ratio in nearby university campuses and were asked about their views on family and career."

87 young women? No room for statistical error here then? And remember statistically we would expect 8-9 of these women to be lesbians. So that might slightly skew the husband-seeking activity spectrum?

"They were also asked how attractive they believed themselves to be to men."

Oh THAT totally objective measure. Was Samantha Brick surveyed?

"Those women who saw themselves as being less desirable than average were highly likely to be career-orientated."

So women tended not to say "I'm great at work and totally gorgeous", almost as if they didn't want to come across like Samantha Brick. Or maybe smart women don't see such big advantages in beauty and prefer to play it down? And maybe less educated women lacking job prospects are more likely to feel their looks are important and have built their self esteem on them?

"Researcher Kristina Durante, from the University of Texas at San Antonio, said: 'Does the ratio of men to women in a local population influence women's career aspirations? Real-world archival data and a series of laboratory experiments suggest that the answer is yes.'"

Yes of course it does. More shagging equals less working. I hardly think this is a gender issue.

"In Britain, there are slightly more younger men than women. However, females aged 36 or older are in the majority. And at universities, female undergraduates now outnumber males."

Is this one of those fake newspaper articles intended to trick me into wanting a family? What impact can we expect this "slight" imbalance to have? Maybe a "sight" one. One not worth ringing the papers about. Call me when there's an international man shortage, I have heard the Daily Male suggest this a million times and yet somehow despite it all, I am still getting laid. Who knew?

"Economist Ruth Lea said that on a basic level it made sense that women would have to support themselves if the odds of being supported were low."

Yes on a basic level, it does. I can't help thinking that men will have to support themselves if others don't do it too. That's rather the cruel nature of our free market economy, no? Unless this is a sneaky trick to show Daily Fail readers how important it is to a generous welfare state in place.

"However, she said many factors, from aptitude to ambition, played a much larger part in a woman's career path."

So a better, less misleading, headline would have been: Availability of hot men doesn't have much impact on women's career choices.

"And agony aunt Pam Spurr said:"

Oooh here comes the next bit of science - an anecdote from an "agony aunt". Dear Pam, I've got these strange pimples on my frou-frou and I'm worried I caught them from sleeping with my teddy between my legs after he fell down the loo. Also I can't find anything else to write in my stupid misogynist article and it's only half a page long so far. Love Fiona xxx

"'I often find that women who were getting on well in the workplace will in private conversations with me, express wanting to settle down.'"

Women who have one thing also want another? It's like they're HUMAN! Alert! Alert! Conclusion of article contravenes Daily Mail's official editorial policy! Alert! Alert!

"The study, which was carried out by U.S. and Dutch researchers, is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology."

I must subscribe. It sounds great. In next months issue: People with ear wax problems buy more of those sticky cotton buds things that you're really not supposed to stick in your ears but it feels really fucking good when you do EXCLUSIVE.

There is honestly not a single iota of newsworthiness in this whole article. It is just the Daily Mail randomly deciding to attack women by suggesting that successful, ambitious ones are ugly. Well Fiona MacRae - you wrote it and lookie lookie, your name is up there in big letters in a big national newspaper. Don't go getting too near any mirrors huh?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

BNP irony overload

You may have noticed that BNP's candidate for mayor of London is, erm, how do I put this...? Well, the guy, he's, erm, he's foreign. Seriously, born in Uruguay to Spanish and Italian parents. Of course I think foreigners should be allowed to naturalise in this country and should be allowed to run for office. It's just the BNP who don't. He's their former head of policy.

He and I have a little history. He doesn't like me very much after I completely trashed him in a debate on a Russian TV station.

And so he wrote a piece on his blog about me called "Kate Smurthwaite and the Third Reich", in which he accuses me of basically being a Nazi. Argh! The irony! I can't take any more! His "point" (in the loosest sense) is that I support the work of Marie Stopes who a very long time ago were involved with eugenics. Of course I don't actually support eugenics (surprise Melanie Phillips and interesting how you and the BNP can only come up with the same transparent arguments eh?). I don't make the assumption that anyone who eats Kellogg's cereal is an anti-masturbation campaigner, though again there is a historic link. A strong one actually.

There is however a serious point here. We are widely aware of the BNP's very very unpleasant attitude towards anyone who isn't white-British. We can forget sometimes that they're also horribly horribly sexist. And yes they have female members and candidates but as we've seen they also have members and candidates who aren't white-British. One of their stated policies last time I looked (their website is down today, sorry fascism fans - try the Conservatives site instead) is that any single mother who wears a short skirt should have her children taken away.

Footnote: When I agreed to do the interview Russia Today did NOT tell me I would be up against a BNP guy. They said it would be a religious anti-choice person. I don't particularly have a strong view on when one should and shouldn't "no platform" an organisation like the BNP, I was live on air when I found out who I was debating with and made the snap decision to carry on. Love to hear views on whether that was the right choice or what you-all would advise if it happened again another time...?