Thursday, 22 October 2015

Living with Wolves

The other day I stumbled across this article by Caitlin Moran*, and it got me thinking.

Her second point - that women are tired all the time - could fill an entire book (has filled several) so I'm going to leave that for another day, but it was the first point - that women are scared of men - that struck a chord.

"Try imagining that you could only date a half-bear half-lion. 'Oh - I hope this one's nice!' That's being a woman." 

See, I don't think she's** quite on the nail about that. I think there's a better way of putting it.

Men are dogs.

I don't mean that in the disgusted, only-after-one-thing, American street slang kind of way, or even in the barely toilet-trained, always wants feeding/walking, please-stop-humping-my-leg kind of way. I mean it in the way that is summed up by this quote from Good Omens,***:

"There are some dogs which, when you meet them, remind you that, despite thousands of years of man-made evolution, every dog is still only two meals away from being a wolf..."

I love dogs. They are wonderful creatures: loyal, intelligent, affectionate. You can have life-long, very fulfilling relationships with dogs. They make excellent companions. Some people's lives are empty without dogs. We invite them into our homes and love them and care for them, and they love and care for us. We trust them to look after us. I have nothing against dogs.

But every woman is aware that some dogs can't be trusted. Some dogs you can't let your children play with - some dogs you wouldn't play with yourself. And in every dog, even the nicest, sweetest, most fluffy looking Toy Poodle in the world, somewhere in there is a wolf. And they could snap at any point.

It could be something you said, or something you did that just rubbed that dog up the wrong way. Sometimes it's just a really mean dog that was never loved enough as a puppy. Sometimes that dog has just had a really bad day. Perhaps no-one ever taught it "No" or "Sit" or "Stay". Whatever the reason, that dog is now a wolf. And we are fucked. We are Little Red Riding Hood, and no-one's coming to save us.

And that could be any dog. A German Shepherd might sit there and take all the abuse you throw at it, might never even snap at you, might be the most loving creature in all of existence. And a little Chihuahua might go for your throat as soon as look at you. You can't tell just by looking at them which dogs are really wolves. In fact, they're all wolves - just some of them it'll never come to the surface.

It's the not knowing that's the hardest part. Because most of us love dogs, and we want to trust them completely, we want to feel safe around them all the time. Breed or background are no indicators; any dog - any dog - could become a wolf in an instant, we just don't know. So we shy away every time a pack of strays comes whooping and howling down the street after dark, having fun. Some of us take courses on dog-handling and self defense. Some of us don't go out without a friend, or a dog that we trust, to protect us. Unless we are super-confident, or in a space where we feel safe, we moderate what we say or do around dogs so we seem less threatening, less likely (in our minds) to provoke a wolf response. It's exhausting sometimes.

That's what it's like as a woman living with men.

We're not scared of all of you all the time. If we thought like that we would go crazy very, very, quickly. And we don't talk about it much to you either, because you tend to get defensive - "but look at me! I'm a Labradoodle! I'd never hurt you! How can you say that?" - and we know it's a bad idea to provoke a dog in case it becomes a wolf.

We live with you every day, we work alongside you, we love you... But we are still aware that you are potentially dangerous, We are often reminded of the fact that you, just like a dog, could snap, and if you did that, it would be like being alone in a room with a wild beast ready to rip out our jugular. And there, Moran is on the money.


I'm not saying that we should blame dogs for having a bit of wolf in their DNA - we understand it's not something you can control. It's just something to be aware of. And maybe next time, when we argue for better muzzle control or obedience training, don't jump down our throats.

*originally published in the Times Magazine
** or rather, Louis CK, who she's quoting at the time.
*** By Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It's a good book. Go read it :)

Friday, 15 May 2015

How Labour Screwed it up

Just one link today. This one. I couldn't have said it better myself, so I won't even try.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Just Conned

Ok guys, I'm back.

Sad thing to say, is so is David Bloody CaMoron and his cronies, and this time there's no Lib Dem buffer to cushion the blow.

The last week has been traumatic, painful and argumentative - and I find myself yet again in need of somewhere to bleed out the frustrations, because like fuck am I taking this and swallowing all this bile.

I've got quite a few rants in me at the minute, so this may be the first of several in the days and weeks (and God help us, probably years) to come.

But there is one thing that's really getting on my tits at the moment, and that is this. The idea that we on the political left are "bad losers" because we're getting angry about being condemned to another 5 years of slashed welfare, corporate excess, child poverty, food banks, the housing crisis, economic illiteracy, rising debt and the slippery slope to privatised healthcare*.

Some things, such as the death of human beings, governmentally instituted corporate slavery (which is what the workfare scheme seems to have become), the attempt to rip up the Human Rights Act, and policies that have forced many into abject poverty are things I will always oppose, no matter who proposes them. When we have reached this state of affairs, I feel it goes beyond petty party divisions.

Perhaps it depends on if you believe in objective truth and moral absolutes. And there has been a stunning tendency of late to fall into the fallacy that just because everyone has the right to an opinion that all opinions are therefore equally valid.** Spoiler: they aren't. (If you're interested, Ben Goldacre has a lot to say on that topic and how it relates to science reporting, but that's a topic for another blog post.)

People are talking about "shy" Tories - I'm not surprised. Wouldn't you rather stay silent about supporting a party who condones policies that have caused this country - especially the poor and needy - so much suffering, while lining the pockets of the corporate and rich? Oddly enough they're arguing on tone and blaming the Left for being too vocal and threatening, rather than having the courage of their convictions to defend their point of view with evidence...
And yet they whine when it's the Left that chooses not to engage with them.

Don't get me wrong, I'm with Voltaire in that I may vehemently disagree with everything you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it***. But please recognise the irony, and in some cases downright hypocrisy of what's being said. "You're not allowed to tell me that my opinion is wrong-headed! And you're not allowed to not let me tell you why you're wrong!" Oh please...

My views on the matter are fairly neatly encapsulated in this comic from xkcd. Freedom of speech is not, and should never mean freedom from criticism. Yes, there is no law to say you can't be an asshole (or vote for them), you can be an asshole if you want. But by the same token, I have the freedom to tell you when you're being an asshole, (at length and in depth, should I wish,) and to speak up about assholes in general, and the terrible things being done in the name of assholery. You still have the right to be an asshole. What you don't have is the right to be an asshole and not be criticised and judged for it. You can walk away. You don't have to listen. You don't even have to change your attitude (though I'd prefer it if you did). But freedom of expression goes both ways. Don't be surprised if there are consequences to your actions, and if you don't want people to think you support some of the more abhorrent policies that the Tories have implemented and will be implementing, don't fucking vote for them.

Having said that... as many people have pointed out to me, stating this view openly and loudly on Facebook does end up being rather divisive. And that most Tory voters aren't mustachioed villains, twirling their canes and giggling about all the poor people they're going to stomp on. Most Tories aren't assholes****.Well, yes that might be the case. But what is the alternative? Keeping silent about my own politics? Bowing to peer pressure, instead of speaking out for what I believe is right? All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. And I refuse to do nothing.

Yet still, while I still struggle to understand why so many voted conservative*****, unless it be from ignorance, fear or prejudice, I want to believe that people are basically good at heart. I wont close down avenues of discussion, unless they become abusive.

And that, ladies and gents, is why Galactic Teabag is back up and running.

*Yes, I know Labour started that one. Yes, I know they fucked up, especially with PFIs. Let's not pretend that it's not going to be exponentially worse with the current lot.
** There's a post in that with my old friend Barthes...
*** Oddly enough, in protesting against certain policies, that is exactly what I'm doing.
**** Some of them are though.
***** and will probably be posting more on that subject as well, soon enough

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.