Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Women writers article in the Guardian.

Having read this article I have written the following letter to the Guardian...
I'm so angry I could scream!

1) Why should "women" writers be considered a single
genre? Do we ever generalise about "men" writers?

2) The writers you name were writing a long time ago.
Many people find old literature dull or boring.
Thomas Hardy and William Wordsworth hardly wrote
thrill-a-minute, action-packed, up-beat works.

3) Women's lives historically were predominantly spent
heavily involved in domesticity. I don't think they
had the experience to write about air-sea rescues.
They wrote about what they knew and thus provide us
with a facinating insight into how our ancestors

4) Can't a domestically-based novel be exciting?
Thousands of great novels about family groups have
been written. Very few novels are set in an
accountancy office.

5) Have you ever heard of any of these people: Toni
Morrison, Maya Angelou, Agatha Christie, Margaret
Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, Kate Chopin, Daphne
DuMaurier or Anais Nin and Pauline Reage or even JK
Rowling (the most successful author of all time). I
refer to books about everything from ghosts, slavery
and liberation, global travel, flying wizards and
future worlds to stacks of steamy sex. What exactly
do you want from women writers?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I'm going off Kylie

I used to like her. Not her singing really so much as her general upbeat attitude and gumption. I did like that song she did with Nick Cave though and I thought "Can't Get You Out of My Head" had a certain charm. However she's now getting a bit older and has reacted firstly by taking so much botox in her forehead she's starting to look like a cert for the next Tefal advert. And now, secondly she's apparently decided to cram her previously perfectly gorgeous 23 inch waist into a 16 inch corset.

Top reporter Lucy Barton in the "gender" section of right-on paper The Grauniad comments:

Kylie having set an irresistible challenge, I find myself in Rigby and Peller's central-London store"
Yes, breathing is tricky, laughter impossible, yet I feel curiously emboldened."
there is something about women and corsets."
beneath the ebb and flow of fickle fashion, we harbour a constant, low-lying throb of affection for the corset."

Then she admits, with reference to the historical use of corsets:

The effect, after all, of all that lacing and whaleboning and thick metal rivets was an array of physical problems that one might broadly describe as 'squishing the innards'. Tales abound of welts, fainting, even of unborn foetuses crippled in the womb."

Now having read that I must admit I'm not really feelin a low-lying throb of affection for the corset. I'm feeling DISGUST and OUTRAGE.

She continues:

And yet still fashion salivates over that hourglass silhouette..."

KILL FASHION then! But no...

The corset seemingly freezes the female form into a perpetual state of being in flagrante: the arched back and heaving bosom, even the state of breathlessness"

Breathlessness, my dear Lucy, is NOT GOOD. Then she says some feminists claim its good for you to wear a corset. If it was good for you - men would do it. Next she goes on to suggest that corsets have been replaced by plastic surgery (so why does Kylie want both?) as if the 70s never happened and feminism has been some sort of side-show to the centre-stage quest for more glamourous underwear.

But in conclusion...

all the collagen implants and surgical sculpting money can buy cannot really compete with the irresistability offered by the corset: it is the thrill of the unknown, the gift to be unwrapped. Cinched and breathless in a shop fitting room on a grey Monday afternoon, even I have to concede this to be true."

What exactly do you mean by "even I" Lucy? You seem to be implying that you're really not the sort of silly person who goes for this sort of thing, despite the fact that your article, which wouldn't look out of place on the pages of FHM/Loaded, is full of praise for the joys of corsettry. Are you sponsored by the lingery industry? Or by the Daily Mail?

Any kind of plastic surgery, including "minor" treatments like botox injections is dangerous. So is trying to cram your waist into a girdle thats 7 inches too small for it (try it now - put your hands round you waist, now squeeze in seven inches... hurts a lot doesn't it?). We have to break out of that kind of culture. I'd like to see this rubbish taken out of the papers and Kylie kept off our screens before someone stupidly tries to copy her and does themselves an injury.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Domestic Violence in the UK

Anyone who has ever thought that domestic violence is a small problem, something that happens to a small minority, or is more of an issue overseas than in the UK might benefit from reading this article in the Guardian. The fact is its a huge issue in the UK and the government needs to focus on it. Personally I would advocate compulsory lessons on the issues surrounding domestic violence in schools as part of social education. But at very least, lets make it an election issue... I might write some letters...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Remember, women don't really have brains!

So Michael Howard (a Jewish dude) thinks the UK should lower the limit for abortions from 24 to 20 weeks. Some Catholic dudes agree with him. There is an article in the Independent called Abortion: The Facts. It talks about viability (the age from which a foetus can survive outside the womb) and about consciousness and the ability or otherwise of a foetus to feel pain. It doesn't mention the pain felt by the woman involved.

If people have religious reasons for not having abortions then that's fine. Those people shouldn't have abortions. Others have religious reasons for not eating pork or going to church every week. Bringing these things in as law seems a bit much. We can hardly jail all those who covet their neighbours wife can we? Poor Jeffrey Archer(!) would never get out of prison.

Secondly catholicism is a minor UK religion. It has six million UK adherents. There are another 36 million other Christians, 9 million stated Atheists, 1.6million Muslims and 390,000 Jedi Knights.

I don't like to see a load of over-bearing men passing laws about what women can and can't do to their bodies. I'd like to see some input into the debate from women who have had abortions (although due to the shame associated with abortion and the risk of death-threats from the inappropriately-named "pro-life" movement this is pretty unlikely). And I'd like to see real options given to women facing that decision. Quality benefit packages for single mothers, full-time specialist care available for disabled children, creche and child-care facilities, confidential advice available to women of any age concerned about pregnancy and free contraceptives widely available. The fact is that even small steps in any of those directions would do a lot more to cut abortion rates than the law change Mr Howard is proposing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Gordon Brown, texture like sun...

Well here's that prime ministerial manifesto (sorry budget) in full (ok in brief) folks...

...and here's my quick comments on it:

1) Stamp duty threshold raised: good. Still won't help anyone trying to buy anything bigger than a kennel in London but hell, its an improvement.

2) £2,000 to encourage single parents to return to work. I think cheaply available quality childcare would do more to help. I think in general single parents do need more support but I'm not convinced this is the best way to do it. Will lead to more unsupervised kids, street crime, etc. Why can't we support those who want to stay home?

3) New rules to encourage incapacity benefit claimants into work. This panders to a right-wing minority (technically known as Daily Male readers) who believe the DSS offices are full of benefit fraudsters pretending to be ill cos they're too lazy to work. Annually corporate fraud costs the country a lot more than benefit fraud. Lets clamp down on some of that!

4) Free local bus travel for pensioners. Good idea in principle, works well in London but in other regions which have tried it there's been a problem with the buses all being full of old folks who just think its nice to see the sights from the top of a bus. Nothing wrong with that per se but I think regions should reserve the right to charge them during rush hour. Otherwise it can discourage the rest of the population from using the buses.

5) £2bn savings from cutting back on the civil service. Thats quite a lot. You have to ask how they failed to notice where that was being wasted in the past. On the other hand what has been cut? Does include consumer and trading standards and food inspectorates. Mooooo-ooo.

6) Extra £400m for defence. Why would we need this? Who are we invading next?

7) Tax breaks if injured troops stay in the forces. Thanks for volunteering to have your arm blown off, now you can save yourself some cash if you don't mind having the other one done too. And the worst the injury, the bigger the payment, the more you can save. Well we know there's a troop shortage out there, whatever next? Tax breaks for single parents and the long-term disabled to join the para-troopers. This is noxious.

8) Debt reduction deals with 19 of the world's poorest countries. No dude, not enough, we should cancel the debt.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The divorce courts and journalistic standards

The Guardian has an article today about how long-term co-habiting partners are to be granted some of the rights currently extended to married partners when they split up. Personally I'm not too strongly in favour of this. If people want to offer full financial support to one another then they have the options of getting married or transferring money into one anothers accounts at the requisite level for the support they wish to offer. If people wish to live together without financially supporting one another, why should the government have any right to meddle with that situation?

The truth is, I suspect, that they think it will be a nice way to reduce the amount of benefits they have to pay out. Mothers (or fathers) deserted by their partners will be told they can't claim benefits because technically they own half of the over-mortgaged house they live in, have a right to half the value of the furniture in there, the car he/she ran away in or the money in the bank account he/she is rapidly spending. Or worse that they can't receive benefits until they have legally established what their ex-partners are worth (very little in several senses I suspect).

The Guardian however has thrown its weight behind the plan, citing three cases of wealthy middle-class unmarried couples where the woman was left unexpectedly penniless after a split-up or the death of her partner. What about some couples where the women earn more than the men? And what about the practicalities of implementing the scheme?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Hurray for Ken

...and people wonder why he wins the mayoral elections by such a landslide! Have a look at his article in the Guardian today about Israel and Palestine. It's so spot on it really cheered me up.