Friday, 20 July 2012

Feminine Hygiene

Ok, so some of you might have heard of This little Controversy, and I have a little $0.02 to chip in here.

It seems to me that there's 2 different issues here; the ability to call a spade a spade (or a vagina a vagina) and the question of feminine hygiene products in the first place.

The first point, ok, yes. It's a vagina people, let's not turn it into another 4 letter word. Calling it a Frou Frou or Mr Fluffy like it's a tiny annoying handbag rat between your legs is a little degrading, and I for one am all for the demystification of all things OB/GYN. But that said, it's not like Femcare is the only culprit for being silly about naming names. If the general public mostly rely on euphemisms in conversation, then can we really expect advertisers to do any different? They've just picked some damn stupid euphemisms this time around.

But as to the second point... I actually don't see anything in the Femcare ad copy that's shaming women for being women. The usual objection to vaginal washes (this isn't a douche, I hasten to point out, which is a completely different issue, as they are harmful to women) is that they suggest that the normal odour of vagina is smelly and horrible and you should wash that smelly thing because you smell, smelly woman. I don't think I need to explain how utterly wrong-headed that is.

But actually, like the rest of your body, you do need to wash your vulva occasionally. Not because it smells horrible or anything (unless you have Bacterial Vaginosis or something, in which case you might want to get your GP to check that...), but because that's just good hygiene. Especially if you ordinarily have a lot of vaginal discharge, or are menstruating, it can be refreshing to be able to give your vulva a quick clean up. And it's also the case that your usual shower-gels can be too strong or too heavily scented, and can cause disruptions in your vaginal flora which can lead to infections like thrush (which is likewise a whole heap of No Fun.). So I actually don't see that there's a problem with companies marketing  Ph balanced washes and wipes so that you don't accidentally traumatise your vagina while staying clean and infection free. And if you actually look at the Femcare advertising copy, it's entirely centred around the health issues. It's not saying "Wash your disgusting bits out, smelly woman!" it's saying "Wash carefully because your vulva and vagina are worth looking after." 

And I can't see what's wrong with that.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Double Tap

And one comment - in reply to who knows what - which made me punch the air. This is what I have wanted to say to every single de-railing little mansplaining PHMT shit I have ever met or had to argue with.

No, you "just shut up". You come in here and tell a room full of women that they need to stop fighting for their own rights and pay more attention to the poor mens. Fuck the poor mens. Feminism isn't about bringing men down, you illiterate fool. It's about raising women up to the level of men, to the point where we are all equal. - Grimbitter

Friday, 9 March 2012

Cause and Effect

Ok, so it's been a while.

But it is International Women's day... sometime this week maybe... so there's been a lot of things floating around that are relevant to my interests.

Firstly this.
If you don't believe we still need feminism, just take a look at the tweeted horror stories. The sheer numbers of them, all showing the same damn themes, is horrifying. This is not isolated cases, this is all women, everywhere. And these are just the ones who live in the English speaking part of the world that has twitter.

Secondly, I'd like to call your attention to this video.

It's a great video. And provides some good ideas for how girls can try and change things.


We're talking about teenage girls here. And personally, I don't think it's fair to off-load all the responsibility for their mental wellbeing in the face of crappy media stereotyping on to them.
a) It's not their fault they're being bombarded with images that destroy their self-esteem.
b) They can isolate themselves from some of this harmful crap, but not all of it by any means, and there are certain parts that they can't isolate themselves from if they want to have a social life. Unless all the girls in your school aren't concerned with image and fashion and what was on TV the other night, you're going to loose out socially for not being into all of that stuff as well. And bang goes all that self-esteem.
c) They're teenage girls, ffs. That's a hard time for either gender, trying to find your place in the world is bad enough without having all the responsibility for changing it on your shoulders too.
d) This can only work as a collaborative effort. As long as society remains the same, all girls can do is damage control. Which is not to say that the suggestions are bad, or that girls shouldn't do them, just... it can't be the only thing we do.
It's a bit like those "rape awareness" campaigns that focus on what the victim "should" do to stay safe. Yes, it's sensible to not drink too much, yes, it's sensible to avoid bad areas, yes, it's sensible to use a buddy system, BUT; that kind of thing puts the focus on the victim, when it should be on the criminal, it can't prevent all rapes (though it might help one or two women. Might), and it should not be the way we tackle rape prevention. This is the same. It can only be damage reduction, and occasionally help some girls. Unless society changes, and stops forcing self-esteem destroying stuff down our throats at every turn, we're not going to solve the problem of their being too few female leaders by telling young girls to be role-models and stop reading fashion magazines.

Just to highlight my point, here are a few of the comments posted under this video on youtube...

there's a low percentage of female leaders for a reason, it's called evolution. - leakeg

by a woman's touch, do you mean it needs tidying up and some sandwiches? if so, i agree! - gnglulz

This is what happen when women go out of the kitchen - xmadxlamerx

Well as a guy, all I know is this: women are naturally emotional, sensitive, sympathetic and moody. So with these traits in mind, you can say, women are better off as a lovely worm mother than a great iconic leader.
But I already said, I don't deny that women can manage things well, but not the whole way up to be a leader. - AbuSaa

I don't deny the fact that women can manage things, but I'm against women to be in power. Thats all. - AbuSaa

Women are not meant to be leaders. - AbuSaa

Ok, so three of those are from the same person (though they aren't all that he said) and were (thankfully) opposed by more than one commenter, but when even something so positive and affirming can be hi-jacked by dipshits arguing - not over how we can encourage more women into leadership roles - but even if they should be allowed there in the first place... is it any wonder that girls are being put off? They know they'll have to slog through this negativity for the rest of their careers if they choose that path, and it won't go away, even if they achieve their goals. Looking good according to today's standards might be just as difficult to achieve as success in any other field, but when it's the one field where women are going to get some sort of approbation for getting there, can you blame girls for choosing that road?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Horror Stories

Ok, so a lot of people have been posting about the Mississippi Personhood Amendment, which is pretty damn sickening in itself, but I've just come across another utterly horrific piece of legislature under consideration in the states.

That would be the H.R. 358 Bill, which, among other things, overrides something called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. Under EMTALA, hospitals must stabilize a pregnant patient who, for example, is facing an emergency obstetric condition or life-threatening pregnancy and either treat her--including an emergency abortion--or if the hospital or staff objects, to transfer her to another facility that will treat her.

Even the staunchest anti-abortion people that I know (or have argued with on the internet) will make exceptions for situations where the mother's life is at stake. And yet this bill is attempting to overturn current legislature which guarantees that.

Quite seriously, if this bill were to become law, it would be completely legal to leave pregnant women in labour to die, rather than perform an abortion that would save their life.

I'll let that sink in.

Now try this one: This bill has PASSED in the house of Representatives.

It has not yet gone before the senate, and Obama has (quite rightly) said that if the bill lands on his desk he will be exercising presidential veto, but the fact that this bill has, not only been proposed, but has gone this far is an enormity beyond words.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

All just a little bit of History Repeating...

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Julian Assange v2.0.

Or should that be Polanski v3.0?

Yet another story about how if you're powerful or rich enough, you can get away with... well, not actually murder, but certainly rape. Which is at least a similarly heinous act.

This guy is described - even by this woman's *mother* as "otherwise warm, sympathetic and extremely talented"... honestly, this guy tries to rape her daughter, and she still thinks he's a decent guy for the most part? It's just sickening, the whole idea that only "good" people can be raped, and otherwise "good" men can't be rapists. News flash, people - rapists are not some special kind of person who can be easily identified because of their stench of evil and horrible behaviour at all times...

Dear God... I'm half tempted to draw up a bingo square of cliches surrounding rape, and see how many this case checks off, just to keep from banging my head against my desk in despair.

The whole thing is another (as if we needed another) example of how victims of rape are pilloried - or at the very least disbelieved.

People who go on about how a charge of rape ruins a man's life should take heed. When a) someone brings up as a reason for not reporting a crime that they, not the criminal, will be branded with the stigma of association forever, and b) the threat of being reported for rape has no effect at all, we really need to take a good look at our preconceptions here...

I'm sorry this post hasn't been as coherent as usual, but I'm very tired of having to bang the same drum again and again and again and again ad nauseam. This has got to stop.

Oh, and I would have posted this link on my facebook while I was having a discussion about these issues earlier, but I think I would have ignited a flame war from people who wouldn't appreciate its tongue-in-cheek-ness, and its value as a thought experiment.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

I know this trick

Wait, where have we seen this before?

I have a horrible sinking feeling that what's going to happen here is much like a trick that an unspecified person I knew used to play on her parents as a young teenager.

What would happen is she would go to a clothes shop with her mum - who was somewhat conservatively minded - and pick out the worst thing she could see in the shop. Her mum would immediately go balistic; "you can't wear that! That skirt is too short/ neckline is too low / that's far too expensive / you'll look like a street walker!" at which point said friend would look crestfallen, reply with an "ok mum..." and then would bring out the clothes that she actually wanted. And she would get them. Because, ok, the skirts were still a bit too short for Uber Conservative mum, but at least they weren't as bad as the first lot, and she felt guilty enough that she couldn't say no a second time.

I have a horrible feeling that the NHS reforms are going to do something similar. There's been massive outcry with what's been proposed, so, ok, they decide not to do that... but what are they going to propose next? And are we going to have to like it or lump it, because they've already changed it once, like we asked, and we ought to be happy because they've done what we asked - despite the fact that they may well just make it worse.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Not. Enough. Expletives...

What the FUCK!!!???!?!?!?!?!?!?!



Ok, let's take the caps-lock off for a minute, and look at this a little more sanely.

Academics are said to be furious (YOU'RE DAMN RIGHT THEY'RE FURIOUS - THEY HAVE BLOODY GOOD REASON TO BE!!) over the fact that the AHRC funding - which any PhD student will tell you is like gold-dust made from hen's teeth at the best of times - is now only contingent on academics researching what the government wants - ie this Big Society BULLSHIT to try and give it some sense of legitimacy. THAT'S FUCKING BLACKMAIL!!
Seriously, Camoron (BASTARD, FUCKING BASTARD) and his cronies have "clarified" - yes, the Guardian are using scare-quotes here - a major piece of principle (The Haldane Principle) which says that they aren't allowed to dictate what research money is spent on. And by "clarified" we mean "trashed".

In the words of one Cambridge Academic (professor Peter Mandler):

"The government says they have rewritten the Haldane principle but they have junked it, basically. They say it is now their right to set the priorities for how this funding [is] distributed. They have got the AHRC over a barrel and basically told these guys that they cannot have their money unless they incorporate [these] research priorities. Willetts was negotiating nominally, but the word is that it has come down from the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, Vince Cable. Almost everyone who hears the story is upset about it."

And in the words of another (A principal at an Oxford college, who did not want to be named) :

"With breathtaking speed, a slogan for one political party has become translated into a central intellectual agenda for the academy."

I just... I'm so angry I can't even speak coherently.
This is not, as one individual who is not going to be named, has said "the government's money" - if it were, I would have less of a problem with this. I would be happy to see David arsewipebastardshitforbrains Thatcher Camoron digging into his own overly-deep pockets and providing funding for whatever research he likes, thus keeping people in much needed employment, but that's never going to happen. This is taxpayer's money he's wielding like the sword of Damocles. And how DARE he. He - and this government, quite frankly - is wreaking havoc upon our society, with no fucking mandate to do so. How long before he starts attacking democracy itself, so he can stay in power? It would be a supreme irony to have helped out in Libya, all the while not noticing our own little home-grown fascist bastard of a leader.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Ethnic Minorities Can Wear Wellies as Well...

I was going to do a big old post about this debacle - but I think most of what's wrong with True-May's statement has already been adequately covered by the article.

I just want to add one little thing.

Culture and "the media" plays a massive role in, not just reflecting societal norms but creating and enforcing them. The images we see around us every day help to form our attitudes and prejudices. If we see a sleepy little English village on TV, and the Kumars on the corner and Mr Smith the (black) GP, are an integral part of it, then we are going to start seeing this as normal - and crucialy as acceptable. And can't we all agree that this is a good thing? Ethnic minorities are, and have been for a long time, part of England, and valuable contributers to this country. They have as much right to be a representative part of it as closeted, bigoted, middle-class, white dudes.
I don't care if the countryside is still mainly white* and MM is "just" a reflection of this - The Media has the opportunity to challenge social norms and the duty to be inclusive.

It all comes down to this: Do we want to challenge racism in our society? Yes? Then include non-white people in our culture to the extent that we want them included in society.

*Actually, I do care; I would love it if rural England was seen as welcoming to people of all colours and creeds, but that wasn't my point...

Friday, 25 February 2011

Boys will be girls

Ok, I have to admit that this worries me.
Not because I have any problem with transvesticism or androgyny; I'm a supporter of both, and I think on many levels it's a great thing that Pejic is able to express that side of himself in his chosen career. I have no problems with what his success means for men - quite the opposite - but I am concerned about what this means for women.

Statements like " Pejic has captivated designers, with his build regarded as nearly perfect for modelling high fashion looks. Couture wear is made for the tall, twiggy and flat bodies that most women, even models, don't have. Essentially, the clothing is quite suitable for a lean man or even a boy" are a stark admission from the fashion world that female beauty is not good enough. That women aren't "the right shape" to model clothes, because they are women. Because they have hips and breasts and it's a rare woman who can manage 5'11''. (I'm the tallest woman of my aquaintance and I'm still only 5'10''. Plus I have hips like a cello and thighs a baby elephant could be proud of.) Those things that make women women, and not men or children, are the things that the women's fashion industry can't stomach.

And that is a very damaging trend to be encouraging, not least because it encourages the dangerous dietary habits that have seen models actually starve themselves to death, and promotes a fashionable ideal of beauty that is damaging to the self-confidence and self-image of over 90% of women exposed to it, but also because of the latent mysogyny it exposes. I don't even think mysogyny is the right word, because this kind of admission seems to betray such a hatred and loathing of women's bodies that in order to make them palatable they have to be shorn of everything that makes them distinguishable from a pretty boy, and I think that goes a step or two beyond what I feel the word "mysogyny" encompasses.

People wonder why there aren't so many women designers in the fashion industry - I want to say that's because the industry isn't about women any more. It's about men, designing clothes - really - for other men.