Thursday, November 28, 2013

Holy crap - I did not think I could get any angrier.

I've made a point on here before about (1) why the Huffington Post has a special section on "divorce" and (2) how that section is full of very bad and ill-considered advice.  This latest piece however is offensive and incredibly dangerous so it's unsurprising to find it was written by Laura Doyle, author of "The Surrendered Wife" - a whole book about how to improve your relationship by shutting up and pretending you like it. Vom. Again vom. Hold it. Hold it. Ok one more. VOM!!!

This article has the charming 1950s-theme title "Women: Five Reasons Your Divorce Is Your Fault"* and here's every last appalling word shredded as hard as I damn well can. How dare she?

"I teach intimacy skills, but not to couples and not to men."

From the title of your piece I'm guessing your target audience is only allowed out on day release.

"I only teach them to women because we are the ones who have the power to make our relationships intimate."

Yes one person, on their own, can make a relationship intimate. That definitely works.

"When a woman learns intimacy skills, her relationship becomes passionate and peaceful in about two weeks."

Firstly - this reads like an advert. Secondly - if it is, it needs reporting to the advertising standards authority because it's bullshit.

"Clients often say, "I feel like I have a new husband.""

Ok listen up ladies. There is only one was to feel like you have a new husband. That is to get a new husband.

"But he's not the one who changed -- she did, and then he responds to her differently."

How irresponsible is this? Whatever he does, however cruel, violent, indifferent, dishonest, unpleasant... it's her fault. Vom. (There's gonna be a lot of vom I think.)

"That's how it always is when a woman has a good guy."

Oh a "good guy"? Remind me where the label is, I never can find it.

"Of course, not all guys are good guys."

Actually it is rude and offensive to men to imagine there are just "good guys" and "bad guys". In fact men are a bit more varied than that.

"If your husband is actively addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling, or is physically abusive, or not capable of being faithful, yours is a divorce I endorse."

So physically abusive, I can leave but mentally abuse it's my fault. V... v...

"Safety comes first and you're not safe in those situations because his compulsion will always come before you."

I am honestly offended that she even pretends to have the safety of women at heart. Abuse takes many forms, it's not as simple as physical violence, addiction and infidelity. And even without abuse of any kind, if a relationship isn't working and you feel it's time to leave you can and you should. You do not need this evil woman to "endorse" your divorce. I endorse it. Go ahead.

"But if he doesn't fall into one of those categories, he's a good guy -- not a perfect guy, but one you can have a wonderful relationship with when you learn the skills that contribute to intimacy."

Yeah I mean if he just steals from you and calls you fat and stupid, he's one of the good guys. Yeah?

"Below are five ways that women unwittingly sabotage their marriages, along with the proven remedies for restoring the love and closeness you once shared."

Silly women, ruining their marriages, all on their own, with absolutely no help from their partners.

"1. Rejecting his efforts to make you happy"

Sorry where does it even say he makes efforts to make you happy?

"Husbands and wives bring different strengths and desires to marriage."

All men are alike and so are all women. Remember reading that in those science journals?! This is probably why it's impossible to have a relationship with two men or two women.

"For women, feeling cherished and desired is vital."

Ain't that right girlzzz?!! You know it...

"For a man, respect and sex are of utmost importance."

Hold up! I get cherished and desired and he gets respect and sex? I think I might be a man. And I also think that people have to earn respect and that you shouldn't have sex with anyone you don't want to.

"Men also have a powerful drive to make their wives happy -- it contributes to their feeling of success."

Some of them have a really funny way of showing it. Shouting, leaving all the housework to you, spending more time with their mates, for example.

"You might think that your husband is the exception -- that he doesn't care about delighting you -- but he may just be discouraged because he doesn't feel that he can please you."

Yes he may be. Or he may not.

"You have the power to transform your relationship by becoming pleasable, which means showing appreciation for his efforts instead of rejecting or dismissing them -- and by extension, him."

Whatever he does - act pleased. "Oh honey, I see you've left your dirty pants on the floor as a gift! You're so kind."

"When you reject his efforts because they aren't what you had in mind (e.g., a present that isn't what you want, cleaning that's not to your standards, or a compliment you don't agree with), there's nothing he can do to improve the situation, but there is something powerful you can do: receive graciously."

There's lots he can do to improve the situation. Exchange the gift, clean more thoroughly and be more thoughtful in what he says. And remind me, what exactly should I do if he doesn't bring me presents, clean or compliment me?  Oh that's right - blame myself, yes?

"Remedy: Try an experiment for the next two weeks: However small or imperfect his efforts, receive what your husband offers when he is trying to please or help you."

Within two weeks he'll have decided you're perfectly happy with shit all over the bathroom floor and box set of a series you don't like for your birthday. That'll make your relationship better eh?

"Thank him for his thoughtfulness."

Thoughtfulness would mean getting the present I actually wanted.

"Notice how quickly this creates more intimacy as you practice the skill of receiving graciously."

Ah yes, the vast improvement in intimacy that comes from lying through your teeth. Well known that.

"2. Taking the same approach at home as you do at work"

Well lets see, I'm a comedian. The usual way I interact with people at work I talk to them through a microphone, they sit in silence and laugh and if they interrupt me to talk I take the mickey out of them for doing so. All these years I've been coming home and replicating that. Was it a mistake?

"We women can create a gratifying culture of intimacy, if we know how."

Is she talking about starting a lesbian commune...? Interesting idea.

"If all we've ever been taught is how to get ahead in school and career, but not how to foster intimacy, it's pretty hard to change hats when the work day is done and we want a loving, supportive home."

Is that all women have been taught? Amazing the pay gap's still so big then eh?

"At work we have to manage projects and staff, move the bottom line and get that promotion."

No at work I have to tell jokes. Women. Not. All. Same. Capiche?

"At home the goals are different; we want to feel appreciated and wanted and get more help around the house."

Get more help around the house? Who says housework is a woman's job and the best she can hope for is for a guy to "help"? I don't want a guy to help. I want him to take responsibility for at least half of it. Hopefully more. I'm busy.

"But if you treat your husband like an employee, he will rebel."

You better hope he doesn't unionise. Also he's only an employee if you are the one who manages the home. And that doesn't have to be your job. If he acts like an employee, waiting to be told what to do - and then doing it badly - you have a problem.

"Respecting your husband by saying what you want instead of telling him what to do gives him the opportunity to make you happy in a way that no amount of managing ever will."

Great advice - be passive aggressive. Don't ask him to do things directly, just sit around dropping hints. "I really want that litter tray to no longer contain cat faeces." (roll eyes upwards, whistle)

"Remedy: For two weeks say what you want, but not what he should do or how he should do it."

For example say "I want a clean bathroom floor". But remember when he only wipes the taps you have to act thrilled even though the bin's overflowing and there's something that looks like shit on the floor.

"Be patient and allow him to find his own way of pleasing you."

Sit around in a relationship that doesn't work and pretend it does...?

"Remember, he wants to. Let him, and he will."

That's the big problem, eh? All these guys out there dying to be better husbands and us awful women just not letting them. Thank goodness Laura Doyle is on hand to set us straight. Ok, trying to resist but... Vom.

"3. Withholding sex"

Vom, vom, vom. If you don't want to have sex - don't.

"Most men need sex more than women to feel intimate."

Where's the science on this? The idea that men want more sex than women is not supported by science. It's a dangerous myth that leads to hyper-masculinised culture and feelings of shame and inadequacy on all sides.

"You are his only source for that vital form of connecting, and when you withhold -- whether to punish or because you're exhausted -- you miss a chance to receive the intimacy that you both crave."

What about if he's the one who doesn't want sex? Or does every relationship fit your brain-dead one-size-fits-all model? Because all men are horny all the time and all women are horrified by this, right?

"Remedy: Over the next two weeks as you start experiencing more intimacy, consider making yourself available for sex at least once a week in support of your mutual goal of connecting."

Has anyone EVER advised men to improve their relationship by "making themselves available for sex"? The whole phrase makes it sound like sex is something men do to women, who just lie there and put up with it. If this is how it works in your relationship - that is a problem.

"4. Initiating divorce when the problem isn't insurmountable"

If the other person doesn't want to address the problem - the problem is insurmountable. Unless you're in one of those one-person marriages.

"Women initiate between 66% and 90% of all divorces."

Thank you science. What does initiate mean in this context anyway? Maybe sometimes men initiate by being a pain in the backside and women relent and admit there's a problem. The evidence also shows at least 75% of women say they are happier one year after divorce, so on the whole women were right to initiate.

"You might think that's because men do things to make marriage untenable -- like cheat or hit them -- but I hear about women divorcing because he didn't help with the baby, he was emotionally unavailable, or because they grew apart."

Hands up everyone who wants to spend the rest of their life with an emotionally unavailable guy who doesn't help with the baby?  Also it's not "helping" with the baby - it's his kid too and his job too to take responsibility for the baby.

"Countless women tell me they divorced because their husbands weren't capable of meeting their needs."

And you tell them sorry, no bruises? Then this helpful counsellor can't endorse the divorce. You need to try pretending to be happy and having sex when you don't want to.

"When the women I work with learn intimacy skills, it changes the way they see a previous marriage."

Yes when you tell women their relationship problems are all their own fault it probably does make them feel like crap.

"Some women tell me that they realize they were married to a good guy, but divorced because they lacked the skills to have a happy relationship."

Some people believe your bullshit? What a shame.

"Sometimes it causes them enormous grief."

Then don't say such horrid untrue things if you know it's going to upset people. It's called bullying.

"It is heartbreaking to see marriages end because of a simple lack of skills."

It is and that's why home economics, cooking and cleaning should be on the national curriculum for both girls and boys.

"It's no different than seeing someone try to drive a car without a single lesson: A crash is inevitable, but it's preventable."

It's very different. Many people who have never even heard of your advice and indeed think it's utter bullcrap have happy and successful relationships. And I'd also bet some people do exactly what you say and it makes them really miserable.

"Remedy: Consider taking divorce off the table just for the next two weeks, keeping in mind that intimacy needs safety to thrive."

So to recap - you wanted to divorce this guy because he gets shit presents, doesn't do his share of the housework or the child care, says thoughtless things and demands sex all the time when you don't want it. And her advice is to pretend you don't want a divorce, not challenge him about the housework or child care, pretend you like the presents and the weird compliments and give him sex whenever he wants? Well I'm sure he'll love that but what exactly are you getting out of this? Aside from exhausted?

"In my experience, any woman who has a good guy can bring her marriage back from the brink of divorce and transform it into a happy, loving relationship by practicing the intimacy skills."

Pretending to be happy when you're not really shouldn't be called an intimacy skill. If anything it's an acting skill.

"You can do the same."

Yes you - you with the guy who steals your money. You with the guy who's just realised he's gay. You with the guy who screams at you and calls you a bitch. All you have to do is say "thank you for the compliment" and do all the housework yourself.  Even if this shit worked, at best it would create the fake appearance of a happy relationship. A good relationship means you get to ask for what you want.

"5. Waiting for him to improve"

So mistake number four is initiating a divorce and mistake number five is waiting? And doing either of these things make the relationship mess your fault? Of course!

"You might wonder why there's no article for men explaining what they can do to improve their marriages."

I think it's because you're a nasty evil misogynist Laura. Anyone else?

"Even if there was, you couldn't make your husband read it or do what it says. "

Are you in a relationship with a guy who would refuse to read a newspaper article if you told him it was important to you that he did?  I will not date this guy. He's a tosser.

"You can change yourself, and he will respond to you differently."

Yes - change yourself. Vom. Just be someone else. Someone who likes shit on the bathroom floor and crap presents.

"Remedy: Instead of pleading, criticizing or demanding that your husband change, try the remedies above for two weeks."

Yes don't try to change things by directly challenging problems or talking to him like an adult. Instead sneak around lying to him in the hope that you can manipulate him into changing.

"To learn how, get the free 17-page e-book Six Lessons for Lasting Love at"

Yes this is a line in an ARTICLE on Huffington Post. They should admit they're no longer about journalism, they're just a blog for marketers. Creepy misogynist ones.

"If you want peace in your marriage, then let it begin with you."

If you want anything in your marriage then both of you have to have a frank talk about it and agree on a plan. If you don't do this fairly regularly anyway there's not much hope for you.

Bottom line is this - the message that "the problem is you" and "I'm just reacting to you" is EXACTLY what emotionally abusive partners say to retain control. And just because a guy isn't violent or on hard drugs doesn't mean he's a "good guy". In fact maybe this article is all a clever trick. Show it to your man, if he thinks it makes any good points, dump him - he's an emotional abuser.

To suggest that women and women alone are responsible for making relationships work, that housework and childcare are the woman's responsibility, that divorce is always a bad thing which must involve blame, that men are all the same and women all the same, that gender roles should be strictly adhered to. These are attitudes from a bygone era. And then, and now, they're bollocks.

PS Dear Laura, while I was writing this my boyfriend has cleaned out the cupboard under the sink of his own volition. I have no idea what my husband was doing, he hasn't lived here for nearly two years. Please remind me what I'm supposed to feel bad about, it's so confusing.

*Do not adjust your clock, it is still 2013. I know.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

36 Facts About Divorce - Corrected Version

Why exactly the Huffington Post thinks it needs a special section on the subject of divorce is beyond me. I never turned on the news to hear "And after the sports headlines we'll be getting a brief update on global divorce news". And for the record I don't think sports are news either!  Today a particular piece caught my eye and ire. And I do have some experience in the matter so here's a corrected version of "36 Things I Wish Someone Told Me About Divorce".

"1. It's nothing at all like when your husband was away on business and it was nice to have the bed to yourself. That gets old. You get lonely."

1. Once you're divorced you can sleep around guilt-free.

"2. He's not going to be there. Ever. Never again in the way that he was. He's gone. For good."

2. That was the point. If you wanted him around you wouldn't have gotten divorced.

"3. Don't rush things unless you are in an abusive situation."

3. Don't waste your life putting up with something that isn't right and doesn't make you happy.

"4. You may want to hide when you are first going through divorce. You won't want to talk about it with anyone."

4. Yes you may feel this way. Or you may not. You may want to go out and enjoy yourself. That's ok too.

"5. You will have to remind yourself that you are not a failure. That the relationship simply ran its course, it had an expiration date."

5. If anyone tries to suggest that divorce is a sign of "failure" stop being friends with them and don't go to their church.

"6. You may never feel truly sure you made the right decision particularly if you have children together."

6. Or you might be confident that this is the best thing for you. And the best thing for you IS the best thing for your kids, they don't want to be raised by two people who don't want to be together.

"7. There is going to be an in-law situation and you won't know how to carry on your relationship with them."

7. You can stay friends with the in-laws if you want. You don't have to. Mine are lovely, we hang out.

"8. When your kids are sick, you are the only one home to care for them and he's not there to ask him for help."

8. You might need childcare support. The absent parent should help with this, financially or practically.

"9. When you are sick, he is no longer there to care for you."

9. Lets hope your hot new boyfriend knows how to stick a Lemsip in the microwave.

"10. You will miss his cooking, even if he isn't a good cook, but simply because there was someone else there to make meals and it isn't all on you. And if he was a good cook, it's going to be even harder."

10. If you had a long day - you can order delivery food. Or just have a sandwich.

"11. You still may call him by the pet name you had for him and it slips out when discussing a matter and it hangs there in the air and hurts."

11. If you ever called him "snugglewumps" in Starbucks you are weird.

"12. If you thought talking about money with your husband was hard, try talking about money with your ex-husband."

12. If it was always a problem talking about money, you were right to consider divorce.

"13. There will be no more "stay here with the kids for an hour so I can run out to do errands.""

13. You can say "stay here with the kids for an hour so I can run out to do errands." to neighbours, friends, relatives, that hot new boyfriend or your lodger. Also you can drop them off with an absent parent and have a spa day.

"14. It may feel natural to reach out to hold onto his arm when you go out for coffee to discuss the kids, but you aren't supposed to hold onto his arm anymore."

14. Missing out on intimacy? Buy a dildo.

"15. You will miss your wedding ring... feeling it there on your finger and what it represented."

15. Your wedding ring represented a relationship that wasn't working. Take it off.

"16. Your wedding album is like a ghost."

16. Why are you sat around flicking through old photos? Go out and get laid.

"17. You won't know what to do with your wedding dress."

17. The only people who ever get to re-use a wedding dress are divorcees.

"18. If you knew what you knew now, you wouldn't have spent all that money on that wedding dress. Instead you should have banked it to save for couples' therapy."

18. Couples therapy is usually overpriced.

"19. You might have to politely ask your parents to take down your wedding photo they still have hanging on the wall in the living room because it hurts too much to see it."

19. If your parents keep some photos up it should save you all that time spent flicking through old albums.

"20. It's not easy. Not even if you are the one who wanted a divorce."

20. Being in a relationship that doesn't work is exhausting. Making some meals for one is not so bad.

"21. You'll wonder if he's dating someone new and if he's thinking she's better than you."

21. You'll start dating someone new. That'll take your mind off things.

"22. When he gets serious with another woman, dealing with that woman being around your children is going to be harder than you could ever imagine."

22. Great news, if he starts seeing someone else she can help look after your kids while you run those errands. Plus kids benefit from relationships with a wide range of adults.

"23. After all the hurt subsides, you remember all the good things and sort of forget the bad and the hurt starts again but in a different way."

23. The relationship ended for a reason. It wasn't working.

"24. What if... there will be lots of these."

24. What if you meet someone great? What if you get a job on a tropical island?

"25. You will look at your kids, that are his kids too, and wonder how in the world are you going to be able to make it through all these holidays for the rest of your lives and still figure out how to be a family that is no longer living together."

25. Your kids will grow up. Then they can choose where to spend Christmas. As can you.

"26. You may notice it feels weird to still have the gifts he's given to you over the years, even if it's something as mundane as a toaster. And you may start having nostalgia about the toaster."

26. You may need counselling.

"27. You might fondle the silverware gifted to you at your bridal shower and feel bad that all your friends and family gave you all these wonderful gifts for a marriage that didn't last."

27. Who the hell fondles silverware? Get a vibrator.

"28. You may worry some of your friends might be thinking about those gifts they gifted you."

28. Anyone more bothered about the gift they bought you than about your wellbeing is not your friend.

"29. You may lose some friends."

29. You'll have more time to spend with your friends. You may gain some friends, reconnect with some old ones.

"30. Some of your family may not understand why you are getting divorced and that can be very challenging to deal with on top of dealing with divorce itself."

30. If your family are unsympathetic, divorce them too.

"31. There will be a bit of pain when you refer to him as "Daddy" to your kids, but that's his name and how he's addressed, so you must deal."

31. Use whatever term you're comfortable with. Your kids will adapt.

"32. You are going to want to confide in your ex because you are so used to doing so, but you have to learn how to stop doing that."

32. You're going to want to spend more time with friends. That'll be nice.

"33. It may take a long time for you to be "friends" -- whatever that means. It may never happen."

33. You can stay friends. You don't have to.

"34. There will be a time when your kids will wonder how the two of you were ever together in the first place. They may never even remember a time when you were together."

34. Your kids will grow up. You will wonder if they were ever small. You will be glad you didn't raise them in a house full of arguments.

"35. You remember what it was like to fall in love with the man you married and you truly wonder how in the world did it all fall apart."

35. You might wonder how you hung in there so longer.

"36. The above makes you terrified to ever get married again."

36. Next time you get into a serious relationship you'll probably do things differently.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

WOW, in every sense

Yesterday for International Day of the Girl I took part in a mentoring session on the London Eye with some teenage girls from Tower Hamlets. This was being organised by the Women of the World/WOW team at the South Bank Centre (in case you thought I had just hijacked the London Eye). And here's a lovely photo of the rainbow that showed up halfway through to remind us about the importance of gay rights or that God sometimes needs to drown people.

One of the conversations I had shocked me to the core. A thirteen year old girl told me that when she grows up she wants to be a physicist. Awesome, right? Then she asked me about GCSE choices. I said "do all the sciences". She explained that her school only lets a few students do all three sciences, and she doubted they'd pick her. So I suggested writing to her head teacher, talking to her science teachers, generally making a fuss, etc. At this point her teacher who was monitoring the mentoring stepped in and advised her to "pick which two sciences she liked best". The girl said physics and biology. The teacher advised dropping chemistry.

I jumped back in to the conversation and said if you want to be a physicist you need to do chemistry GCSE too. The girl said she wanted to do chemistry, but it was the science she found the hardest so they wouldn't let her do it.

Then I asked both of them, the girl and the teacher, what other GCSEs she would do. The teacher replied "everyone does English, everyone does Maths and everyone does R.E."!

A thirteen year old girl from a deprived inner city area who dreams of being a scientist is being forced to study religion instead of chemistry?

I am going to turn green and smash things.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Angela Epstein again. Line-by-line

I think Angela Epstein just gets up in the morning and thinks "what can I do to set women's rights back a decade by lunchtime?". Or maybe she thinks "what would really piss Kate Smurthwaite off?". Well her latest effort "Why it's every wife's duty to make other men fancy her"is a spectacular success on both fronts? Here's how:

"Standing in front of the bedroom mirror, I give my reflection one last appreciative glance. I’ve got a night out with some female colleagues at a swanky new bar, and I’m determined to look my very best."

Determined? In spite of all the odds stacked against me? Determined to battle every obstacle like the Indiana Jones of the Boots cosmetic section. Well good for you. I usually do my make-up on the bus to make time for an extra glass of prosecco, but you have it your way.

"Arrogant as it may sound, I’m happy with what I see: freshly blow-dried hair, carefully applied lipstick, a pair of leg-stretching killer heels and a dress that manages to be both sexy and elegant."

Both sexy AND elegant? Stop press! Well lets hope there's no human rights abuses going on in Syria today cos we are not going to have time to write about them!

"All that’s needed is a final spritz of perfume — just enough to entice, not too much to overpower — and I grab my clutch and keys and head for the door."

She's like Carrie Bradshaw isn't she? I keep my keys already in my rucksack. The last thing I do before I leave the house is have a piss.

"Tonight, I want to attract a man. Not because I’m some predatory divorcee out to bag a scalp, nor because I’m a mistress-in-waiting looking for a little extra-curricular activity."

Sorry - is there some law against divorced women dating? Most divorced women I know like going to the cinema and a little light S&M, I don't know any who eat their date and put his head in a bag.

"No, I am a happily married woman, with no interest in any man other than my lovely husband of 20 years, Martin, the father of our four children."

Phew! For a minute there I thought it was my job to hate you, but no, you're sticking to the official rules of the patriarchy.  And really? No interest in any other man? You should watch more Ryan Gosling movies.

"But that doesn’t stop me from making sure that whenever I’m 'on show', be it at a social event with Martin, a work engagement or — in the case of tonight — out with a few girlfriends, I dress in a way that will attract male attention."

When you're "on show"? What is this? Crufts?

"A recipe for trouble? I don’t think so. It’s critical for a married woman, however happy she is, to make herself desirable to other men."

Other men who you have no interest in?  Well since you have so much free time, why not apply for a job you don't want or enter a competition you don't want to win?

"And before all those sour-faced, school-run mums with their hands up a chicken or their elbows in a twin tub start hurling their curlers at me, let me explain."

Yeah I hate women who cook or do laundry for their kids, don't you? And what do you think those curlers are for? They're to make your hair look curly. Presumably so random men will fancy you.

"Some women dress to impress other women — so they’ll pass the brutal, look-you-up-and-down appraisal routine practised by all judgemental ladies."

Yes judgemental people are awfully judgemental aren't they? You might want to get new friends, cos my mates don't give a hoot if I show up for a party in my pyjamas.*

"But I’m not interested in what other women think. Men are the barometer by which my attractiveness to my husband can be measured, ensuring I never take his interest in me for granted."

So you value men's opinions but not women's? You are SO writing for the right paper.

"It’s easy, after years of marriage, to assume your husband will fancy you no matter how you look. And at the end of a busy day, with four children to take care of, it can take a lot of effort to — well — make an effort."

Yes raising four children must be very hard work. I suggest afterwards put your feet up and have some wine. Stop beating yourself up. Perhaps your husband could try being grateful for all the work you do and supportive?

"Bad habits set in... not bothering with make-up when you both go to the cinema (who’s going to notice your sallow complexion in the dark?)... ditching your contact lenses for your pebble-thick glasses if it’s just a quick supper at the local gastropub..."

How are these bad habits? Being ugly is not "bad". And being ugly in the dark definitely isn't bad.

"I see married women all the time in their ugly shoes or with their badly concealed baby weight, tagging alongside an uninterested spouse."

What would be the point of dressing up fancy for someone who isn't interested? And presumably he's in hot pants, right?

"These women are, I’m afraid, inviting their man to stray."

Anything that doesn't start "darling I've heard about this great swingers party...", isn't an invitation to "stray".

"For, reprehensible as it is for any man to cheat, a woman who no longer values her own sexiness is compounding any potential weakness on her husband’s part."

How can you value your own sexiness? You're a woman so you consider your own opinion invalid!

"The way to keep him interested is to make him insecure — show him that other men are interested in you, so he’d better value what he’s got."

Ah yes, the key to all brilliant marriages: insecurity. Here are some other top tips: why not paint spots and wrinkles on him with make-up while he sleeps and start a rumour on Facebook that he's a sex pest. Who's he going to leave you for when all the other chicks in town think he's a pervert with bad skin?

"I realise that mine isn’t a popular view. The other evening, I went for a drink with a female work friend. I was in tight-fitting jeans, full make-up and high heels; her notion of dressing up was to take off her apron."

What was she wearing under the apron? Lingerie? Maybe she doesn't care what you think. MAybe you were being judgemental. Maybe she's having a tough, stressful time and wanted a drink with a sympathetic friend. Oooops.  And we all know you HAVE to wear high heels Angela because of your awful cankles. Also what was achieved here? Even if all the men in the bar were queuing up to offer you a drink and their business card, you would have to have gone home and told your husband about it to deliberately try and make him jealous. Making you weird.

"I explained my theory, only for her to snarl: 'If my husband’s seen me give birth, he can cope with me in an old top and jeans.'"

Wow, why do these smart people hang out with you? And is "snarl" just tabloid speak for "said while being ugly". And do your friends know you talk about them like this?

"But that’s precisely the point. Your spouse remembers only too well watching his beautiful bride transformed into an enormous, foul-mouthed harpy on the delivery table."

Hopefully he remembers the magical day he became a parent and the brave woman who went through all that pain. Maybe you date different guys to me.

"He knows how you look in the morning with last night’s make-up landsliding down your face and hair matted like the bottom of a cat basket."

Of course he looks great in the morning with a hangover and his make-up everywhere! (Or doesn't he bother wearing make-up when you go out? Uh oh, license to stray alert!!)

"If that’s all you ever show him, it’s simply inevitable that he’ll take you for granted."

You have quite a dim view of women. And quite a weird life if you are only ever hungover or in labour.

"Sure, he may love you — but when you stop showing him your desirable side, his attraction to you will become as tired and routine as the weekend shop."

Love is, of course, not enough. He needs to be horny all the time. And what about him? What alluring ensemble has he plumped for? Jeans and a faded polo shirt again? Ooops.  It's like he's begging you to shag every guy you meet.

"That’s why you have to remind him that other men find you sexy — otherwise you dent his delicate male ego by suggesting he’s not worth scrubbing up for."

So you scrub up for other men to remind him that you're willing to scrub up for him? No doubt he understands your message loud and clear!

"Remember, if he married you, he must have fancied you (once)."

Maybe he could help, maybe over breakfast he could occasionally mutter "you used to be quite attractive"... You could return the favour by peering up for your Cheerios and whispering "I used to want to have sex with you".

"I’m a hard-working, multi-tasking, mother-of-four battling encroaching age and fatigue."

Guess who is eventually going to win in the gripping battle between you and age? Yup, not you. And wouldn't it be more useful to put your top battling skills into battling for better childcare provision and more support for working parents? Then when you make some progress you can treat yourself to a spa day...

"I would describe my looks — without some clever M&S upholstery and a load of cosmetics — as utterly ordinary."

Oh I see, so sorry, this article wasn't intended for me at all - I'm gorgeous.

"But that just makes me work even harder."

If you want to "work" on improving your relationship - spend time together, do something you enjoy. Don't act like it's your wifely duty to pile on make-up for every trip to B&Q.

"My husband is, at best, bemused by my theory. The other night, as I was wiggling up and down the bedroom in a clingy cream frock and fretting over which heels to team it with before we headed out to a charity do together, he commented: 'Does it really matter? Who really cares, apart from me?'"

And you value men's opinions, not women's right?  So you listened to him.

"Ah, but at the function, when one of the male organisers told me I looked 'rather hot', he bristled and threw a proprietorial arm around my shoulder. Hurrah! Result!"

This is more important to you than the fact that, by your own admission, he loves you?  Maybe he just thought the guy was being creepy and was trying to help you shake him off.

"Working hard so other men notice you triggers a Neanderthal response in your man." 

Ah - science! Could you please refer me to the journal and article in which this research was published for peer review?

"It takes him back to those bygone days when males, high on pheromones, would prowl round for potential mates."

Are you talking about the 80s?

"Nothing is more guaranteed to drag him away from checking football scores at a party and place him firmly back by your side than the appreciative glance of a lusty competitor."

Sorry - I thought you wanted to stop him sleeping with other women? Now you want to stop him finding out the football scores?

"And the greater the status of the man who notices you, the greater the impact on your other half. It will reinforce his pride in the fact that you are his."

And remember the higher the status of the guy who fancies you - the more cows he's likely to offer as a dowry. Oooops - wrong century!

"It works the other way, too. Nothing reignites my interest in my husband more than the flutter of another woman’s eyelashes in his direction."

Very grown up - I don't want him unless somebody else does. Have you considered therapy?

"I buy him beautiful clothes for his birthday, even though they might court the sort of female attention that I know raises my hackles. It’s all part of keeping the spark alive."

Is there anything you and your partner like about each other that isn't physical? What a weird relationship. You dress him up, encourage other women to oogle him, then this angers you and you want him. Really? And if so could you just role play this at home?

"Does it get me into trouble? Occasionally, yes. There will always be men for whom a reasonably-presented woman will seem fair game."

So someone fancies you and you're not interested and this constitutes "getting into trouble?" or do they refuse to take no for an answer? In which case we're talking about "sexual assault" which is not your fault.

"This is why turning heads has to be done with a restrained hand. Men are simplistic about smoke signals."

Most men don't understand smoke signals at all. But they're not bad with English I've found. And how is looking "your very best" using a restrained hand? Surely you should go for "looking your second best".

"If you’re heavy handed with the hair-flicking, pouting and skirt-hitching they automatically assume this is semaphore for 'there’s a Travelodge around the corner'."

Most men also don't understand semaphore. Nor why you would want to use it to alert them about local landmarks. What is it with the smoke signals and the semaphore? Or maybe you mentioned somewhere else that your social circle is predominantly Native Americans and air traffic controllers.

"When I sense there is any danger of that, I can’t get back to my lovely man fast enough."

I thought you were only interested in him when other women were pawing at him?

"Ultimately, I still fancy my husband and want to do everything I can to ensure he still fancies me too."

So do that. But don't go telling the rest of us what to do like it's a "duty", and blaming us for infidelity and relationship breakdown. If we needed any evidence that dressing up fancy doesn't magically make your relationship last look at all the glamorous celebs getting divorced every year, while frumpy old Mr and Mrs Baggins on your road are probably celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. If there's one thing we know about great relationships it's this: they're not built on superficial attraction and petty jealousy.

"But even if he put a ring on my finger, it doesn’t hurt to keep him on his toes too."

Yes it does - deliberately making people insecure is a crappy way to behave. By all means dress up when you want to, flirt if you enjoy it, because you're a human being and you've every right to go out on the town and enjoy yourself.  But don't go pretending you're doing it for anyone's benefit but your own.

*That's "turn up to a party" (at someone's house, or a bar) "wearing my pyjamas". There is no party in my pyjamas. Sorry for the confusion.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Anna Soubry: Feminist Icon. Line-by-line.

Arggh!! Sometimes I think the Tories have an evil masterplan to disenfranchise women. Slashing benefits for carers and single parents, destroying public sector jobs, etc, etc. Then I realise their plan goes even further than that. They're actively trying to break down the credibility of women in the public eye by appointing the most stupid ones they can find to the highest offices they can spare.  Witness Anna Soubry. Weep.

"I've noticed that every public health minister has been a woman"

Great observation. Have you noticed anything else? Like your government auctioning off our healthcare service to the highest bidder? Mega corporations force-feeding junk food to children? An obesity crisis?

"and it's been seen as the soft, girly option."

I'm sure some people out there think jobs done by women are easy. That's probably because they (a) don't do those jobs and (b) are misogynist tossers. Don't let them influence your use of language here.

"It's bloody well not, it's one of the most important jobs."

Indeed it is, so you might want to think about doing it well.

"To be quite frank, when the PM said to me: 'I want you to do public health,' I thought: 'Oh boss, I respect you so much, but I'm the only woman here and I get public health – I hope there's no connection there.'"

You were the only woman at the meeting and you suspected the person who called the meeting might be behaving in a sexist way?  No shit sherlock. Amazed he didn't pat you on the bum and ask for two sugars.

"Maybe I can make people realise that this is not a soft bloody girly option, it is a big serious job."

Girly does not mean easy.

"I'm a huge fan of our prime minister … but I did sit there in the cabinet room and think: 'Boss, you do know what you've just done? You've given public health to the girl again"

Who is this "girl"? I want my government run by sensible adults though frankly I can think of some toddlers who could do better than this lot.

"except I'm not a girl, I'm a tough old bird.'"

I'm a tough old bird who loves to use sexist language to describe myself. What is wrong with "woman"? I never hear David Cameron describe himself as a "boy" or a "tough old cock".

"I came into politics to fight lefties …"

Were you drunk when you gave this speech? You came into politics to "fight lefties"? Not to make people's lives better or to serve the nation...? No, fighting them goddarn rootin tootin leftie scum. And which ones? Us lefties are constantly falling out over stuff, when we're not too busy growing organic veg and being gay.

"That's where political fighting goes. The Tory party must learn from its own history that when we fight each other, you can guarantee to lose."

And also win. Confucianism 1.0.

If you want to do something useful Anna - how about signing up to the Leave Our Kids Alone campaign? I think it's brilliant. And it would definitely be a positive for public health.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Me on Channel Five News

In case you missed it: me on channel five news debating page three. Check out Neil Wallis's patronising back pat at the end of the clip!  Eww.  ***takes Brillo pad into shower***

I seem to be their guest of the moment lately, here's me from a few weeks back discussing the Delhi Rape case with the much more sensible Sunny Hundal:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mehdi Hasan makes me really angry.

Well, correction, the people who allow and probably even pay for him to share his transparently stupid views in public make me angry. So here's the line-by-line, if I can get through it without breaking something...

"“You believe that Muhammad went to heaven on a winged horse?” That was the question posed to me by none other than Richard Dawkins a few weeks ago, in front of a 400-strong audience at the Oxford Union. I was supposed to be interviewing him for al-Jazeera but the world’s best-known atheist decided to turn the tables on me."

Seems like a reasonable question.  I mean we need to know if we're being interviewed by someone rational or not don't we. Especially since you were no doubt about to ask him some questions about atheism.

"So what did I do? I confessed. Yes, I believe in prophets and miracles." 

We'll get to the prophets and miracles later.  Lets just rewind here - the winged horse? In order to believe in the existence of a winged horse you'd have to throw out everything we know about zoology and evolution.  I'm pretty sure the laws of aerodynamics are getting a thrashing too.  It's ridiculous and ludicrous. So what a brilliant question from Dawkins - exposing you as completely irrational. I guess you felt pretty stupid, hence why you're still going on about it.

"Oh, and I believe in God, too. Shame on me, eh? Faith, in the disdainful eyes of the atheist, is irredeemably irrational; to have faith, as Dawkins put it to me, is to have “belief in something without evidence”."

Another brilliant point from Dawkins.  Wonder if anyone else totally brilliant has ever said that?

"This, however, is sheer nonsense. Are we seriously expected to believe that the likes of Descartes, Kierkegaard, Hegel, Rousseau, Leibniz and Locke were all unthinking or irrational idiots?"

Yes and Aristotle and Plato supported slavery and considered it "natural". Great thinkers can be wrong. Otherwise the first time someone showed up with an IQ over 120 they'd have got everything right and there'd be no more debate about anything.  And in defence of all these people (1) they lived a long time ago before science had reached the modern era, (2) many people nod along with religion because it helps them in their careers, etc and (3) none of them ever EVER said they believed in the existence of a flying horse.

"In trying to disparage “faith”, Dawkins and his allies constantly confuse “evidence” with “proof”; those of us who believe in God do so without proof but not without evidence. As the Oxford theologian (and biophysicist) Alister McGrath has observed: “Our beliefs may be shown to be justifiable, without thereby demonstrating that they are proven.”"

Proof and evidence are not the same, they're highly related concepts though. Proof is enough evidence to draw a conclusion beyond reasonable doubt. And if you have any evidence at all on the flying horses issue, call me,  I think New Scientist would be really interested in an exposé. I'm pretty sure that one is neither proven nor justifiable.  Footnote: neither Dawkins, nor me, nor anyone needs to go around "disparaging" faith so long as you keep telling people about the flying horse. Really.  We'll just get some popcorn and watch while you do the job for us.

"The science bit"

Does this not feel like a shampoo advert?  Now here comes the "science"...

"Those atheists who harangue us theists for our supposed lack of evidence should consider three things. First, it may be a tired cliché but it is nonetheless correct: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I can’t prove God but you can’t disprove him. The only non-faith-based position is that of the agnostic."

The only reason that it appears you can't disprove God is because the definition of God is so vague and constantly being changed by religious folk!  If we take the approach of nailing down God (pun intended lol) it's easy to disprove Him/Her.  So (1) if we can agree that "God" means a being who knows and cares about human life and has the power to change things on earth. Then look at the fact that child rapists continue to exist, that good people often suffer painful illnesses, that famine and drought affect whole communities indiscriminately. This proves that He/She either doesn't care or can't intervene. So that God doesn't exist. And (2) if we can agree that this deity rides around on a winged horse, theres the whole of zoology and evolution and all the rest sat there disproving His/Her existence.

"Second, there are plenty of things that cannot be scientifically tested or proven but that we believe to be true, reasonable, obvious even. Which of these four pretty uncontroversial statements is scientifically testable? 1) Your spouse loves you. 2) The Taj Mahal is beautiful. 3) There are conscious minds other than your own. 4) The Nazis were evil."

On the contrary evidence can be presented for all of these things.

1, 2 and 4 are just about definitions.  We can't prove "love" unless we define "love". We could define it based on brain chemistry and then test for the relevant chemicals. We could define it more prosaically on (for example) willingness to perform an unpleasant task on someone else's behalf. Either way as long as we agree on a definition, we can test it. We can define beauty based on the percentage of viewers who consider a sight pleasing. Or we can use definitions based on complexity and symmetry. We could even again look for the chemical balance of a typical brain when it reports identifying "beauty" and then test for it. Evil is fairly neatly defined as deliberate abuse of human rights. We can demonstrate that that occurred.

3 is a strange one.  Great leaps and bounds in progress are being made around consciousness. We may soon have a much neater scientific understanding of it and be able to thus define and test for it.  But there's plenty of evidence for others being conscious by some definition or another. In fact you posing the question suggests to me that you're conscious, although your believing in flying horses suggests only just.

"This isn’t just about metaphysics, aesthetics or ethics: science itself is permeated with unproven (and unprovable) theories."

None of them are about the existence of flying horses. And nothing is unprovable, things may be unprovable with current methods and equipment, but science moves on.  We might once have wondered how anyone would ever prove the earth wasn't flat, but now with space travel, everyone accepts it.

"Take the so-called multiverse hypothesis. “It says there are billions and billions of universes, all of which have different settings of their fundamental constants,” Dawkins explained to a member of the audience in Oxford. “A tiny minority of those billions and billions of universes have their constants set in such a way as to give rise to a universe that lasts long enough to give rise to galaxies, stars, planets, chemistry and hence the process of evolution...”"

Yeah it's a theory. I don't think Dawkins is suggesting it's a fact.

"Hmm. A nice idea, but where’s your evidence, Richard? How do we “prove” that these “billions and billions” of universes exist? “The multiverse theory may be dressed up in scientific language,” the cosmologist Paul Davies has admitted, “but in essence it requires the same leap of faith [as God].”"

No, it's a theory.  One day we may discover wormholes and travel to other universes. Maybe in one of those universes there are flying horses.  Cos there sure aren't in this one!

"Third, there are plenty of good, rational and evidence-based arguments for God. You don’t have to agree with them, but it is intellectually dishonest to claim that they, too, like God, don’t exist."

No there aren't. There aren't any. If there were scientists would evaluate them.

"Take the Kalam cosmological argument – first outlined by the medieval Muslim theologian al-Ghazali, and nowadays formulated by the Christian philosopher William Lane Craig as follows:

1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2) The universe began to exist.
3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Whether you agree with it or not, it is a valid deductive argument, a genuine appeal to reason and logic."

But it's a total nonsense. Firstly because the term "begin" implies there was a time when it was not here, and then a time when it was here. And that only makes sense if we think of time as something that already existed, before the universe. But time, without a universe, is meaningless. Time, and thus beginnings, only starts to exist as the universe comes into being.  Secondly this argument builds a huge huge HUGE paradox. The universe exists so something must have created it. Lets call that thing God. So if God exists something must have created God. Lets call that thing super-God. So if super-God exists...  Incidentally this is a fun game to play if you're having trouble sleeping or don't like the other people at a dinner party.

"Or how about the argument that says the universe, in Davies’s words, “is in several respects ‘fine-tuned’ for life”? Remember, the late Antony Flew, the atheist philosopher who embraced God in 2004, did so after coming to the conclusion that “there had to be an intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical universe”. To pretend that Flew, of all people, arrived at such a belief blindly, without thinking it through, “without evidence”, is plain silly."

If the universe wasn't fine-tuned for life, we wouldn't be here.  That's like the person who wins the lottery saying "God made me win", forgetting that many of the millions of people who didn't win also prayed to a God.  In fact the fine-tuning of the universe is one of the reasons behind the multi-verse theory.  Currently no scientists are debating fine-tuning in the context of the flying horse theory.  And isn't it rather weird to imagine God spent ages fine-tuning universal physical constants to create galaxies, stars, planets, moons, black holes, supernova and life on earth and then looked round afterwards and went "oh, I'll also make a flying horse".

"For Muslims such as me, faith (iman) and reason (aql) go hand in hand."

Yes and then faith blindly throws reason out of the window.

"The Quran stresses the importance of using science, logic and reason as tools for discovering God."

Yes - not as tools for finding out if God exists or not, for "discovering God.  Which is a bit like using crayons to make an omelette. Also in 4:34 the Quran says it's ok to beat your wife.

"“Will you not then use your reason?” it asks, again and again. But hasn’t the theory of evolution undermined Islam? asks the atheist. A few years ago, Dawkins accused British Muslims of “importing creationism into this country”. He has a point. These days, the vast majority of my coreligionists see Darwin as the devil."

Of course they do.  Darwin's work showed for the first time in history that there categorically wasn't and never had been any such thing as a flying horse! What fools they must have felt. Why the next thing someone will tell them the moon isn't really a crescent shape. Ooops.

"Yet this is a new phenomenon. Many of Islamic history’s greatest scholars and thinkers were evolutionists; the 19th-century scientist John William Draper, a contemporary of Darwin, referred to the latter’s views as “the Muhammadan theory of evolution”."

Yes and I've heard people refer to you as a journalist, yet here we are Mehdi, churning through all this nonsense.

"As I pointed out on these pages back in January, “one of the earliest theories of natural selection was developed by the 9th-century Iraqi zoologist (and Islamic theologian) al-Jahiz, 1,000 years before Charles Darwin”. And almost 500 years before the publication of On the Origin of Species, the acclaimed Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun wrote his Muqaddimah, in which he documented how “the animal world then widens, its species become numerous . . . the higher stage of man is reached from the world of the monkeys...”"

Impressive. Now lets play a fun game called "whose religion stopped those ideas becoming widespread, being tested and then used as a basis for further research?"  You go first.

"Stages of man
There is, indeed, nothing in the Quran that prevents Muslims from embracing evolution."

No, nothing at all. Nothing except WHHHRFFF WHHHRFFF what's that, nothing in the Quran that WHHHRFFFF WHHHHRFFF prevents Muslims from WHHHRFFF WHHHRFFF oh I'm so sorry I can't hear what you're saying - there's something landing behind me over here WHHHRFFF WHHHRFFF well fuck me it's that flying horse of yours Mehdi. Now, what was your point about the compatibility of the Quran and evolution again?

"In his recent book Reading the Quran, the Muslim commentator Ziauddin Sardar notes how creation is presented “as a dynamic, on - going phenomenon that is constantly evolving and changing”. Sardar points to verse 14 of chapter 71, where “we are specifically asked to reflect on the fact that ‘He has created you stage by stage’ ”."

Evolution definitely doesn't show that human beings were created in stages by a deity.  Also you might want to be honest here and admit that the Quran also claims the old 6 day Extreme Makeover: Universe Edition version of creation.

"Yet the theory of evolution, whether Muslims accept it or not, doesn’t explain the origins of the universe, the laws of science or our objective moral values."

No, it explains the evolution of humans and other animals, plants, etc.  Hence why it's called the theory of evolution. Other scientific theories explain those other things.  And what objective moral values? The ones, once widely believed and today still practiced in much of the world about how it's ok to beat your wife? See ... the Quran (4:34).

"In short, most of us who believe in God do so not because we are irrational, incurious or immature but because He is the best answer to the question posed by Leibniz more than 300 years ago: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

So here we are.  The New Statesman is now publishing an article espousing a 1400-year-old answer to a 300-year old question?  And that answer is: something exists, so something else (of unknown origins) must have made it, I imagine He probably rides about on a flying horse. I weep.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Daily Fail and Faking It

Oh dear, according to the Daily Mail men (remember you're all straight) like to look at women's faces during sex, not because it's wonderfully romantic or increases communication and intimacy but because they're trying to work out whether we're faking our orgasms or not.

Let me help you all out here.  Here's how you can tell if your (female) partner is faking her orgasms: she always has one.  Even when it's just a quickie or she's had a bad day or is feeling a bit unwell.  The best way to tell she's not faking is if sometimes she says "ooh, not quite, here, try this".

Seriously, good sex = communication. If you don't have the guts to talk about it, should you really be doing it at all?

You are welcome.