Monday, 28 February 2011

DOUBLE-POST DAY: No! Sleep! Til feminist utopia! The story of Brian McFadden and my quivering quim

I think we can all agree that there is nothing sexier in this world than a washed-up ex-popstar trying to get us drunk enough that we are unable to resist his fumbling attempts at the sex.

Rape: having taken over the world of stand-up comedy, it is now the edgy choice for pop song topics! Welcome back to my world, Brian McFadden!

Controversy has, unsurprisingly and completely unintentionally, arisen over this delightful ditty's chorus:
I like you just the way you are / drunk dancing at the bar / Can't wait to get you home so I can do some damage
I like you just the way you are / drunk in the back seat of my car / Can't wait to get you home so I can take advantage
 My knickers are so wet that I am stuck to the seat right now. Which is a tragedy, because I need to run to my nearest Woolworths to buy this single instantly.

Oh sorry, for a moment there I thought it was 1999!

In his predictable defence he claims that he "wrote" the song (I know! Stop laughing at the back, it gets better!) about his fiancée, which frankly worries me: not just that he thinks that getting someone hammered is a logical prerequesite to sex, or that "do some damage" is a particularly hot way to describe The Act Of Lurve, or even that he thinks "but it's about my girlfriend!" is a defence against the charge that his song is seriously rapey (dude, maybe in a world where women weren't most likely to be raped by a friend or partner!) ... no, what worries me is that they are stuck in some frightening alternative abysmal erotic fiction universe, where
Your sex comes crashing into sight breathing lustful thunder
is a line which actually turns someone on.

Step away from the banjo, Brian. Step away.

Sometimes even my bookshelves make me cry

After a long day, a long bath, and a very speedy supper, I came back into my bedroom: I thought about all the things I really should be doing - burning the latest 30 Rock and Parks & Rec for lunchtime viewings; putting a clothes wash on; plucking the hairs out of my chin; hell, even blogging - and thought, "nah, real life is just not as interesting as reading the next chapter right now", and curled up under my duvet to return to Fever Pitch for the sixth time like the sleepy little obsessive I am.

And the next chapter, of course, was Nick Hornby's treatise on how women are just not as obsessive as men.

I wish, maybe more than anything, that people who don't know a lot about biological essentialism and the nature/nurture debate and gender roles and the complex interplay between hormones and expectations and brain lateralisation and kids' tv and muscle distribution and parenting styles would have the common decency to just shut the fuck up on this kind of thing. Sod off, Nick. Big kids are talking.

The flat-out, unabashed, blazingly obvious misogyny rarely fills me with such despair as the casual sexist who can lay whole fields of academic research to waste with the classic, unassailable line: "Men and women are just different, though".

Sunday, 27 February 2011

My society's bigger than yours

You know, in some ways I'd be a fabulous poster child for Shiny Dave Cameron's Big Society, if it weren't for the inconvenient facts that I have an instinctual, gut-level revulsion for the Tories, and think it's a fucking stupid idea. By day, I work for a giant financially self-sufficient mega-charity; by night I tweet for choice (amongst other things) for a charity so small we meet in the children's area of the Royal Festival Hall.

The thing about the Big Society is, it's not a bad idea, on first glance, if you don't think about it that hard. But to work properly it needs centralised direction and massive amounts of government funding - which raises the question of why we need to take these things out of government control in the first place. Which can only be explained by the government's ideological conviction that Government Is Bad. Yeah, easy target, but come on.

The charities I work for (Abortion Support Network and an organisation providing support to ex-service people) are stop-gaps. I want to live in a world in which Irish and Northern Irish women can access a safe, legal abortion in their own countries, without having to rack up ridiculous bills for travel and private medical procedures. I want to live in a world where people who've quite literally risked life and limb for their country - regardless of whatever shitty war they were sent to fight in - don't live in poverty because the government that asked so much of them suddenly forgets their names when they've left the front line. In an ideal world, the world I want to live in, we wouldn't have to exist.

We don't live in that world. Which is why I work for groups which plug the gaps left gaping wide by governments on both sides of the Irish Sea. And it's only those governments that can create the world I want to live in: a world where ASN and the RBL are just not needed. No Big Society is ever going to be Big enough for that.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The state of contemporary masculinity

Is something which interests me greatly, and also something I am patently unqualified to pontificate on! But when has that stopped me? So, two observations.

1. "German engineering... for your hair."
Make-up is girly. Bubble bath is girly. Caring about your appearance, or anything that foams but is not beer, is girly. But... guys' hair gets greasy too, and more importantly, we could be making so much more money if we made 100% of the population feel physically inadequate without our shiny products. DILEMMA!

The solution: razors marketed as surface-to-air missiles. Making soothing shaving balm - that is totally not moisturiser - in bottles that bear a passing resemblance to WD40 (the REAL MAN's lubricant!).  And now: shampoo that is as close as possible to being a car, without the pesky copyright issues of just flat-out calling it Vorsprung durch Technik.

2. "But Peter Crouch is really hot!"
Watching the Milan v Spurs match with three very straight, relatively laddish gentlemen, who spent a good twenty minutes discussing whether Fernando Torres is more attractive than Niko Kranjčar. With no self-consciousness whatsoever.

If we can avoid getting blown up, drowned, hurricaned or globally warmed, it's moments like this that make me think humanity will probably be alright.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Not the church, not the New Statesman, women will decide our fate... man

What was that I said about this becoming a blog entirely about football and feminism? (A Game of Two Sexes! A Striker's Right To Choose... Chelsea! No.) Oh well, things could be worse. The New Statesman's Helen Lewis Hasteley, though, thinks otherwise - apparently enjoying football is fundamentally incompatible with being a lefty feminist. Huh. I thought I was doing quite well.

"A culture of disrespect for women permeates football," she writes, and so she prefers to spend her time watching films, reading books, working as a journalist (including her last gig at the Daily Mail) - all of which are completely free of sexism because they exist in a hermetically-sealed bubble outside the reach of the patriarchy, right? OH WAIT. That's the point of the patriarchy: it's fucking everywhere. A culture of disrespect for women permeates our entire society, but - separatist women-only states aside - we have no choice other than trying to fix it.

Liking the things that you like and doing the things that you do, regardless of what patriarchy dictates you should like and do, is a feminist act. I'm pretty sure medicine, for example, was permeated by a culture of disrespect for women in the 19th century - happily, though, that didn't put Elizabeth Garrett Anderson off. This is how we change things: by rolling up our sleeves and diving in, not clutching the smelling salts and skittering away from the horrid coarseness of it all.
Occasionally, they might instal a favoured waif in a mock-Tudor mansion and give her the obligatory Range Rover and small dog but she's less a wife and more a maitresse-en-titre. Show me a football marriage that even vaguely approaches a partnership of equals and I'll show you a look of profound surprise.
Sorry, what was that about disrespect for women?

Hey, Helen, my gentleman dance partner used to be a footballer. Fancy coming over to assess our partnership on its level of equality? You could get us to fill in questionnaires on who does the tidying up (him), who wields the screwdriver (me, and no that's not a euphemism), and who buys the tiny dogs (no one, because fuck off). Other than the fact that I work for a living, pay my own rent, and live in Tottenham, it's exactly like being the King of France's official mistress!
Every time you buy an absurdly overpriced ticket, every time you buy a dubiously sourced replica shirt, every time you cough up for that Sky Sports subscription, you are propping up this whole edifice. You are using your spending power to say that the misogyny, the homophobia, the rewarding of people for a fluke of genetics rather than a worthwhile contribution to society -- that's all OK.
So if everyone to the political left of Shiny Dave Cameron - and anyone who gives a flip about ladies' and LGBT rights - started boycotting matches, merchandise, and Sky Sports (which, I hear, shows sports other than football! They are very dull, though.) would the world be any less misogynistic? Football sure as shit wouldn't be, because all the people who don't think women are only valuable for their tits would have gone. The principle of kicking a ball about a field is not inherently sexist; football, like everything else, is as sexist as the people involved in it.

Hold on a sec, can we go back to "rewarding people for a fluke of genetics"? Am I to assume that your skills as a journalist are entirely the product of your own hard work and privileges, with no innate natural ability in the slightest? In the same way that footballers spring fully-formed from the loins of Pelé with rules, tactics, formations and skills genetically fluked onto their brains? Yes, it's a dreadful idea to reward people for things they're good at. We should really stop that at once. I'll be quitting my job, now, because it requires that I be at least partly human, which - let's be honest - is just a genetic fluke. I'm being rewarded for not having been born a jellyfish.

Oh, and just a minor point of order - female commentators are unlikely to be "chosen for their cup size", as you so respectfully put it, given that commentators don't actually appear on screen. It's things like this that give me the feeling that you don't really have ever so much experience watching the game.

You know, I'm starting to lose the will to live, or at least the will to rant. But that's okay - you shouldn't be talking to me anyway. You should be talking to Marta. Go tell her that "football is a man's game".

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Knitting needles will take down the patriarchy

Not like that. God, what kind of abortion-crazed uterine maniac do you think I am?

Women! They are so much less creative than men, don't you think? (Well,  why haven't there been any Great Women Artists?)
Their brains just work differently, they can't mentally rotate 3D objects. (But I was gonna be an engineer...)
They're so rubbish at maths. Adding up, multiplying, calculating ratios... it'll never happen.

To which I shall now say: imagine, design, and knit that, motherfucker.

Monday, 7 February 2011

And the beat goes on

When I first told my dad that I was involved with the Abortion Support Network, his face lit up in recognition: "Josie used to do that," he said, about an old girlfriend of his. In the early 70s, when abortion was illegal in France, she was part of a group which helped women to make contact with 'friendly' doctors in Paris, and supported, hosted and funded them throughout their journeys.

(He then told me the story of The Greatest Shit Of His Life, atop the Pyrenees while hitchhiking back from a trip to Portugal to celebrate the Carnation Revolution. "It was just after dawn, a crisp and freezing morning, the steam almost glittered in the sun's first rays..." Shortly afterwards, Josie left him for a Basque terrorist.)

I never met her, but hearing this - and reading Ann Rossiter's Ireland's Hidden Diaspora - gave me such a happy. A feeling of peace and optimism, and continuity: the knowledge that people have been doing this for decades, for centuries, and will carry on doing whatever's necessary long after I'm gone.

I read the Daily Mail so you don't have to

Oh, it's a compulsion. Sadly, a new and improved stabbing pain in my right scapula is impeding normal blogging activity, so I haven't got the spoons to give you the full Femail run-down right now. Instead, I shall simply share this key question:

46% say yes! Good afternoon, chaps: the Man Rules have officially been codified, and if you're not into eating sausages (which look NOTHING LIKE PENISES, WHAT ARE YOU IMPLYING) you will never get lay-lady-laid! All hail the all-encompassing theory of sex, power and performative gender, as originally brought down from the mountain by Katy Perry.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

At the risk of this becoming a blog entirely about feminism and football...

...I'd just like to note that there is one upside to the departure of the marvellous Fernando Torres: maybe now people will stop hinting that I only support Liverpool because I fancy his lovely Spanish face.