Wednesday, 26 October 2011


In the absence of anything meaningful or constructive to say, I would just like to share this ace post by Seaneen Molloy with you fine people.

This picture, also by Seaneen, made me cry frustrated, helpless, not-dead-due-to-NHS-intervention tears (triggering as all hell for self-harm, just so you're aware):

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Abortion: it will break everything

Me, October 3rd 2011: Could Sons of Anarchy be the first show to portray a character having an abortion, and not have that decision wreck her or her family's life? How awesome would that be? How brave, in the deafening anti-choice roar currently engulfing the US? What a positive message it would send to unhappily-pregnant people everywhere, that abortion might not give you misery death cancer! Can they do it? Will they do it? Can it be true?

Sons of Anarchy, October 18th 2011: No.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Anti-capitalist lesbian nurses who eat children while disrespecting the elderly

What has feminism done for us? It may have given you "legal equality" in some countries, "the right to vote", and all that jazz, but it also gave us divorce, single-parent families, and Loose Women. It "encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians". (My Gay Best Friend has that quote written on her bedroom wall.) According to James Naughtie, the voice of my alarm clock as Radio 4's breakfast show host, it has also led to the death of politeness.

Basically, it makes us uppity. Uppity child-murdering lesbian witches, who are rude while they're destroying capitalism.

But you knew all this already.

In other news, the Quality and Care Commission has reported that half of all elderly patients in NHS hospitals are receiving substandard treatment, speaking of a lack of "kindness and compassion". The details are horrific - there are stories of plates of food left in front of people who cannot eat without assistance; incontinent patients left unwashed for hours; people being given the wrong medications. They evoke a widespread lack of respect for patients' dignity and wellbeing.

Various explanations have been put forward for how such a toxic culture can have evolved. Too great a focus on targets; excessive paperwork leaving little time for patient care; budget cuts and short-staffing, among many others.

But we all know what the real reason is.

You do know, right?

If you didn't guess "feminism", lose ten points and hand in your Misogyny Bingo Card.

Damn you, feminism! You have made nurses "too grand to care"! You have made them believe that a traditionally female occupation is in fact a highly skilled job, requiring years of academic study as well as intense practical training - so now they think they're too fancy to "skivvy"! Whereas in fact they should be well aware that "nursing is not a job, but a vocation", best exemplified by the great Florence Nightingale, and performed through a "sense of duty ... rather than any self-interest". So, rich girls should do it for the goodness of it, I guess, not because they need to do anything as worldly as earn a living. Only in the 80s, says the delightful Ms Philips, did dirty feminists start trouble-making, suggesting to nurses that "caring was demeaning".

In Deathmatch CQC: Feminist Nurses vs The Elderly, you will notice that there are only two groups of people in the whole world. You will notice that The Elderly are never feminists; that feminists are never caring; and that disrespect for elderly people in no way draws on wider narratives about the low importance placed on vulnerable and disabled people, which is definitely not critically analysed by the social justice movement which encompasses feminism... you will notice, basically, that Melanie Philips is totally right and that feminism is to blame for literally every single thing that has ever happened in the world. Ever. The end.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A funny word: BOOBS!

Scientific progress is a wonderful thing. It has given us radiotherapy, solar power, flatscreen TVs, and a weekly excuse for the Daily Mail to tell you that it's okay to eat chocolate - it'll probably cure cancer!

And now, brand spanking new research, straight out of a white-coaty laboratory, has brought a shocking revelation down from the mountain: contrary to overwhelming popular belief, women are not in fact genetically incapable of humour.


Not only can women be funny - not only can they be paid for being funny, in a job so damn manly that they had to make up a special word for it when women got in on the game - but they can be physically attractive at the same time. Go read for yourself; I couldn't believe it either.
Anna Faris, Mila Kunis,  and Olivia Munn all combine funny bones with bangin’ bodies.
And the world stood in awe, standing in mute amazement with open jaws as this unthinkable truth was handed down to them.
Joining the lineup is Carrie Keagan, [who said an in interview] “At the end of the day, funny is funny, and the antiquated boys’ club mentality is sooo last year’s Prada. People are realizing that you don’t have to have a penis to tell a joke about one. The mentality that funny and sexy can’t go together is on its way out, because trying to be sexy is pretty damn funny!"
1. Fact. Also, handbags! Which girls like!
2. Fact. Also, penises! Which bad girls like!
3. Fact. I hope this will lead to lots of jokes about the inherent ridiculousness of performative gender.

But Keagan et al didn't come out of nowhere. Some of our favorite “old-skool” sitcom stars like Jennifer Aniston, Jane Krakowski and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have transformed themselves in recent years from somewhat awkward to stylish sex symbols.
Of course I had The Rachel Cut. Like you didn't.
Because we all remember what a minger Jennifer Aniston was on Friends, right? She didn't spawn a million haircuts or a trillion wank fantasies? Comedy Central's rerunning of the entire series (Friends: will it ever end?) will give you ample opportunity to recall how Rachel was always portrayed as the shrewish unsexy one. Bleurgh, we said, whenever she came onscreen, wearing her trademark boiler suit and scowly demeanour.
 “For women, frump isn’t funny any longer. The new female comedian has to be the sexual aggressor, sexually provocative, dominant and successful," says entertainment expert Patrick Wanis.
Oh good. That definitely sounds like progress.
Wanis also says funny women who aren't all that sexy may struggle in the new comedy landscape.
As opposed to in ever other landscape in showbusiness, or indeed the world, where being sexy has never been a requirement for women.
“Rosie O’Donnell and Janeane Garofalo will be relegated to playing the female versions of Chris Farley. Hollywood doesn’t want a woman that is not sexually enticing like Rosie; it wants the sexual alpha female."
What does this mean, though, for the future of 30 Rock? After all, it's been trading for a full five seasons on the fuglitude of its lead character, Liz Lemon - it's so funny how icky she is! Which is why she will die sad and alone! Because of the ugly!

Similarly, let's just pause for a moment to appreciate the unbearable grotesquitude that is Janeane Garofalo's hideous, man-repelling, un-sexually-enticing face.


While all stereotypes are irritating, damaging, and often dangerous, there are some that completely flummox me with their sheer preposterousness: like, I don't believe that women are inherently more 'nurturing' than men, but I can sort of see the link between 'cis women can bear children' and 'cis women are therefore good at looking after people'. But humour? How does that work? Women, with their slightly higher proportion of body fat - that known laughter-killer! - maybe it surrounds the funny muscle and inhibits its growth? As opposed to gentlemen, with their abundance of testosterone: the 'haha' hormone!

All this brings to mind that line about women's greatest fear being that men will kill them, while men's greatest fear is that women will laugh at them: if you can convince the ladies that they're just not funny anyway, maybe they won't try.

Call me contrary, but I'd say that women - and anyone else outside the richwhitecisabledhet mainstream - have a lot more to laugh about. Humour is often based on the ridiculous, and there's nothing more ridiculous than systemic oppression. It's a pretty standard 'gotta laugh or you'll cry' situation, so go make yourself look pretty while you watch last week's Parks & Recreation. Remember, with comedy, as with everything else, if you're not hot, you're not doing it right.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Sean Paul and the homogeneity of the British high street

On the way to the tube this morning, I saw a man drinking from a Cafe Nero cup. It took me a second to twig why this surprised me so much: because where in hell would you find a Cafe Nero round here? Or a Starbucks/Costa/Pret/blahblahrubbishcoffeeblah? Nowhere, is where.

After work, I walked for half an hour down a busy, bustling, vibrant high street, and the only national chain represented was William Hill. No Boots - two independent chemists, though. No Tesco - but one butcher, two bakers, six greengrocers (though sadly no candlestick makers). No Supercuts, but four hair salons, one of which I have never seen closed at any time of the day or night in six years. (I'm trying to decide if it's a cover for gun-running, because who really needs a haircut at 4am?)

A colleague of mine is very concerned about The Increasing Homogeneity of the British High Street, and with good reason; it's always depressing visiting a new city to find it's full of exactly the same boring national chains as the place you just came from. Everywhere might look the same as everywhere else, with any individuality or local quirks stamped out, but at least you know you can always get the same tasteless sandwich from John O'Groats to Lands End. Thing is, though, she is also greatly exercised about The Perils of Immigration and the Politically Correct Multicultural Fantasy. (Her words.) Homogeneity, it is bad! Diversity, it is.. err.. bad, but for a different reason!

This contradiction is all part of the bizarre conservative love of the imagined golden past, where the butcher knew your name and hadn't heard of this 'halal' fad; where the grocer bagged you up half a pound of pears and would probably have you drowned as a witch if you asked him for a mango. Where the hairdresser was a dab hand at a blue rinse but wouldn't know what to do with African hair if her life depended on it.

You don't fix problems by going backwards. Love your country, and let it breathe.

As Sean Paul would say.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Obvious truth is obvious

Within ten minutes today, two things happened:
1. I found out that today is World Mental Health Day.
2. A man uttered the immortal words, "Well, I can see you're not disabled."

Well gee, mister, want to see my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Want to see me having a nap every lunch time, and collapsing every day after work, unable to move or think or speak for an hour or more? Want to see how much every little movement hurts, how I feel like I'm wading through an endless viscous hangover, how my brain is so full of exhaustion and frustration and uselessness that I forget how to form sentences?

Or, more topically, let's take a photo of my depression! The bright pink bulbous lack of motivation, the disconnect between "want to do x" and "doing x". The polka-dot lack of self-worth and fluffy green anhedonia. Say cheese, guys!

It is ridiculously easy to make snap judgements about people's lives from a swift glance over them. Thinking my god, how lazy are you when you see the women take the lift one floor - only to feel like a shit when you notice she's using a crutch. And if she didn't have a crutch? If she was suffering from CFS or fibromyalgia and couldn't face the idea of those steps, all fourteen of them looming in her mind like insurmountable mountains made of hell? (Or, god forbid, if she just didn't fancy walking today and had the temerity to take it easy.)

Invisible disabilities: they are a thing! Thus ends today's inspirational message.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Heart Tottenham

There seems to be a new project in town, exhorting local residents to Love Tottenham and Support Local Traders. Which I do! I love the crap out of Tottenham, and I support local traders so much that they reach for my preferred brand of cigarettes as soon as I walk in the shop. I'm not sure, however, that Carpet Right qualifies as a local trader. I'm not looking to set fire to it or anything, but just because a gigantic multinational corporation has a branch in one's endz, it does not get to demand the same level of loyalty as the radical Turkish cafe-bookshop or the chirpy Polish deli.

I'm told Haringey tops the national league tables for fly-tipping. Apparently some people think this is a bad thing? As opposed to Freecycle, which is a noble endeavour? In six years here, we've gained one sofa (currently occupied by our pet foxes), a lovely dinner service, and one small television. In return, we've donated four mattresses, a different sofa, and a computer. None of which stayed on the street for more than two hours.

Call it fly-tipping, freecycling, or occasional impromptu street furniture.

Love Tottenham.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Freudian shoes, I mean slip

The Daily Mail would like you to know that women are, in fact, being harder hit by the recession than their dudely counterparts. Which is nice: thanks, The Daily Mail, for recognising that poverty and oppression tend to go hand in hand! (That's not exactly the spin they put on it.)

The headline for this piece, though, gets my vote for Best Typo of the Year:

What 'mancession'? Study shoes women recovering from recession significantly slower than the opposite sex

Study shoes?

Think women, think shoes. It's the Femail way.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Accidental feminism? Sons of Anarchy and the platonic White Guy

Things that have happened since last we spoke:

1. A dude at least three pay-grades above me literally talked to my chest instead of my face. It's been a long time since that happened. It was a bit like being in Mad Men, with sadly less smoking.

2. A dude thought I was pregnant. I'm not: I am, apparently, fat. Over the years I have, due to depression and being a lady under the patriarchy, hated literally every part of my body and everything about my personality, but the classic "does my bum look big in this?" body weight worry has, happily, passed me by. But no more! I am now ridiculously self-conscious but also very aware that full-fat dairy products are one of my chief pleasures in life. (Which is not to imply that all fatty obese epidemicoid fatsos are fat because they just can't stop with the doughnuts and calories in calories out JUST DO SOME EXERCISE, because COME ON; this isn't about "how do I lose weight!!" but about "do I want to become the kind of person who denies herself pleasure because she thinks it makes her ugly", or "am I big and strong enough to accept myself as-is in the face of overwhelming disdain". Or something.) Resolution has yet to arrive - until then I have named my food baby Cherry. Short for Cherry Pie.

3. I have watched Sons of Anarchy in its entirety. Near the beginning of this marathon, I heard that it was written solely for white guys.

What, then, do white guys like? White guys like your basic escapist (and sexist) fantasies: they want to imagine what it would be like to be bad, to be fearless, to live in a hyper-masculine world where Men Are Men who Take Care Of Their Women and also have sexy ladies on tap; where you run around looking mad cool with guns and leather jackets and beating people up if they get between you and your way. They like hilariously unnecessary shots of Unnamed Stripper's Bottom that really define the word "gratuitous".

White guys identify with characters who are pretty sexist, but not "raping people and pummelling sex workers" sexist. White guys are okay with casual racism, but not "neo-Nazi Aryan supremacist swastika tattoos" racism. White guys can take a bit of critique of characters' bigotry, and maybe even notice that there is a difference between portraying misogyny and perpetuating it.

White guys also like women, apparently, even women with faces and personalities: as Thomas details on Yes Means Yes, the female characters are fucking awesome; strongly written, believable, rounded characters; protagonists in their own right rather than adjuncts to the dudes. And, refreshingly, not just vehicles for misogynist stereotypes. (Except maybe the "menopausal woman breaks her husband's floozy's nose with skateboard" plot. Which actually isn't as bad as it sounds.)

White guys can be interested in a woman who is sexy, maternal, ass-kicking, menopausal and vulnerable, all at the same time; a woman who wears reading glasses to hotwire a car, who deals with the aftermath of being raped in the most believable, nuanced and in-character way I've ever seen - rather than going straight for the broken victim / castrating fury stereotype.

White guys even believe that women who work in porn are actual people, with personalities and storylines worth exploring. They seem to understand that sex work can be just a job, not the sole defining feature of an entire person; they even see that if one's partner has issues with one's porn career (as opposed to his own eminently respectable employment as an arms smuggler), maybe one's partner is being kind of a dick.

White guys apparently haven't had enough of the age-old "I'm having an abortion! Although actually I'm not, SURPRISE!" storyline. I, a White Not-Guy, have, but Tara's decision to continue her pregnancy rang true, as did her initial desire to end it. And while I love that Lyla went through with her abortion, I love that she gave her name as Sarah Palin ten times more. It's also interesting that - so far at least - there's been zero fall-out from her decision: Friday Night Lights was rightly feted (by us. Not by The Moral Majority.) for showing a character terminating a pregnancy, but that act began a catastrophic chain of events including the whole town finding out, protestors staking out the school, and the principal losing her job. Which does a nice job of showing the virulent opposition to choice US women have to face - but also makes abortion out to be a bigger deal than it inherently has to be. If SoA manages to show a woman making a decision not to continue a pregnancy without that decision destroying her (or someone else's) relationship/career/life, I will be one happy little camper. But my opinion doesn't matter: WHAT WILL THE WHITE GUYS MAKE OF THIS?

There are a lot of signposts in SoA that are there to let you, the not-white not-straight not-disabled not-guy, that This Is Not For You. You're allowed to watch, sure, but you're not allowed to complain, because It's Not For You: it's for the advertiser's beloved white guys, and if they're happy, everyone's happy. (Everyone who matters, anyway.) But I manage to zone them out - because if I took that hint every time, what would be left for me to watch? Sex and the bollocking City? We live on the margins. We know that nothing, really, is meant for us. Mainstream culture is designed with someone else in mind, even if only Kurt Sutter's willing to say so. And as much as finding something that is, actually, designed for someone a bit more like me is a huge relief... there's also a pleasure in turning the white guys' show to fit my own needs. Taking the boys' toys for our own game. Hammering swords into ploughs, turning neck massagers into vibrators, that sort of thing.

I might not be welcome, but I'm still here. Either I'm more like Sutter's platonic white guy than I thought, or that white guy is more savvy than we're giving him credit for.