Thursday, June 30, 2005

Missing the point over and over again

Have a look at this article from the Guardian about discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace! Now I find the levels of discrimination described utterly believable. I have two particular friends who have attempted to work in finance and had three kids each. Both of them have had to get new jobs every time they got back from maternity leave because the job they left has been "changed" and they don't want the job they're given when they get back. They both also had significantly diminished pay as a result of their pregnancies. As the article confirms discrimination is the norm and occurs in at least half of cases.

So why does everybody interviewed on the subject play the problem down? The report itself, we are told, "Though it stresses the discrimination faced by some women, its recommendations bow to the concerns of employers". And Jenny Watson from the Equal Opportunities Commission says "Employers, particularly small businesses, need more help in managing pregnancy at work if they are to reap the benefits of retaining pregnant staff.". What about penalising those firms who persistently discriminate against women who are pregnant? It is supposed to be illegal to do so!

Trade and industry secretary Alan Johnson says "While the report shows that the vast majority of employers understand and see the need for the fair, effective legal protection that already exists". Sorry Alan, but clearly that is not the case. Clearly at least HALF the employers in the UK don't believe women deserve the protection that is offered to them by the law. We know this because they break the law and discriminate against these women.

We then hear from Susan Anderson from the CBI (the employers body) and she says "Most employers are trying their level best to accommodate the needs of pregnant employees, and illegal discrimination is not nearly as widespread as this report suggests.". So the report is false...? And where is the proof for this? Isn't it a bit odd to dismiss it without offering any alternative numbers or evidence?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Still not being taken seriously?

Article on the BBC today about rape. Raises several interesting points:

1) Before we even get to the point of the article there is a sentence which incenses me: "figures show one in five reported rapes in London leads to a caution or charge"... a CAUTION or charge? Who is committing rape and getting away with a caution? Thats very naughty, now don't rape anyone again? If we needed evidence that reported rapes aren't being treated as serious crimes that is surely it in glorious technicolour!

2) Well seems like (and this is the point of the article) depends which borough you're in as to whether or not you are "believed" when you report rape at your local police station. Now they don't tell us the breakdown so maybe I shouldn't comment but I'd like to see where the best areas are and name-and-shame the areas doing worse.

3) "In one case from London, officers said they had lost the evidence". So the campaign to have it taken seriously is going well then...?

4) Now lets hear from Det Ch Insp Osborn... "If one recognises that the vast majority of rape cases are committed by people known to each other, the issue is now over consent and how it's defined.". Thanks for that. I only know one definition of consent. Its pretty clear cut in my mind. I've never been uncertain as to whether or not I've consented to sex. I've never left my partner in any doubt as to whether or not I'm consenting to sex. Shouldn't we be questioning here whether or not DetCh Insp Osborn is a fit person to work on the inquiry into treatment of reported rapes?

5) And here's what he says next: "It's about judges, juries, the Crown Prosecution Service, interpretation of the law and what rape is - as it's no longer the classic definition of stranger rape." I'm sorry, did we EVER think that rape was only rape if committed by a stranger? Do we treat murderers differently if they've murdered someone they know? Or assaulters? Or arsonists? This guy IS symptomatic of what's wrong with the police service in London and why it doesn't afford rape victims the respect and care they deserve and why it consistently fails to garner convictions for those who have committed really horrible crimes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Great news for those opposed to ID cards

In this article on the BBC, Charles Clarke tells us that "There would be no compulsion on anybody to show their ID card in the street." So as long as you live on the street, and sleep on the street at nights, buy your food and drink from street stalls, urinate and defecate on the street, you won't need a card. Cool.

So you won't need to carry it round with you? When will you need it? When you enter or leave the country? Just like we already do with passports? Opening bank accounts and buying houses? Does anyone really believe that the allegedly thousands of evil-doers lurking in our midst won't be able to do these things? And that this will stop them from planning their evil plots?

Think of what we could do to benefit society with all that money, how much suffering we could alleviate. Makes me really angry.

Do these guys really want to be taken seriously?

Yes folks, the search for Pope John Paul II's miracles is on! The Vatican needs to find evidence of at least two miracles which have occurred since his death as a result of people praying to him, in order to make him a saint. Suggestions on a postcard please!

Personally I've been praying to him to make my toast pop out of my toaster with his face burnt on so I can sell it on Ebay. Amen.

Monday, June 27, 2005

An early push...

I'm hosting a charity function next month in aid of Hand in Hand for Asia. They're a group doing lots of great work, but in particular they're sending skilled medical persons into Burma to alleviate suffering. Plenty of people willing to go but we need money urgently to pay for supplies for them...

The show is Sat 23rd July 7pm to 11pm (and you will be fully entertained throughout that time!) at Cecil Sharp House. Tickets are £15 available from Emily on 020 7387 1489. The show will feature:

Ruth Rogers, violinist extrordinaire
The Ornate Johnsons, comedy sketch group
mi-ro, acoustic musical duo
The Lung Busters, brilliant up-beat jazz group
...and me as compere
...and some info about the situation in Burma at present from Human Rights campaigner Ben Rogers
..and a raffle.

Its a huge venue, 400 seats, and we're hoping not only to fill it but to encourage people to dress up a bit for the occassion to make it all a bit special too. I shall certainly be in full regalia! There is a bar there and we will be making room for dancing by the time mi-ro and the Lung Busters are on (you may not be able to help yourselves). The night IS suitable for older children if you want to bring some along (I have promised not to swear!).

I'm really keen to promote this too so if you are London-based and know of anywhere I can put up a poster/hand out flyers/otherwise drum up support then please let me know, would be much appreciated.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Dearly beloved, we are gathered... say R.I.P. to not one but two things...

1) The toe-nail on my right foot, little toe. Gone but not forgotten. The Caledonian Challenge proved too much for it. Apparently I will still be able to play football and go skiing. I may feel mildly self-conscious in open-toed sandals however.

2) My career in finance. Handed in my notice this week and just clearing out the old desk. Time to concentrate fully on the stand-up career. I'll post up dates for up-coming gigs soon and hope some of you can make it along. Should leave me with more time for blogging too I think!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Caledonian Challenge

Bad news for those who kindly offered to sponsor me: My some sheer miracle, I made it to the end. No-one is more surprised than me in fact. In numbers: 54 miles. 22 hours 45 minutes. 7 blisters on my feet, 2 on my hands (from the walking poles). 4 random fellow walkers enlisted to help me along against their will (thanks Rajit, Andrew, Andrew's mate and Pat). 30 miles walked by the time my body refused to keep any more solids down (lived on lucosade after that). 1 enormous thunderstorm walked through in the middle of the night. 1 full day spent in bed recovering. zero chance of me ever doing it again.

The link for belated cash pledges is here. Our team name was katkattom (and, yes, "other kat" and "tom" also finished the course, Bagel the dog made it almost to the 22 mile point although had to be carried for a while after expending too much energy chasing sheep!). All in a whole collection of good causes.

A few points raised

Very interesting article in the Guardian about rape during war-time. There's not much getting round it, basically every major war in history has seen rape used by both sides as a basic modus operandi. And then they tell us that they don't think we should let women fight in the army... Does anyone think maybe we shouldn't let MEN fight in the army? I do. What is also clear here, as though anyone were ever in any doubt, is that rape is not a sexual act, not related to frustration and attractiveness but an act of violence and aggression, reflective of an underlying hatred of women. Its about a desire to hurt, not a desire to please. That hatred and desire to hurt women permeate our culture in peacetime too, think of films like the disgusting Boxing Helena or the nasty end of the porn industry, some of the lyrics of popular music, games like Grand Theft Auto where running over hookers is a standard tactic...

Friday, June 17, 2005

Bush and consistency

It's not often that the Cru-blog sees fit to link to the "Adult Industry News" site. And yet I feel compelled to make at least passing comment on this little "tit-bit" (sorry, weak pun...). Porn star Mary Carey has been invited to join a lunch with George Bush. I can't help wondering how her performances in a series of hard-core pornographic films fits with the Bush abstinence-only policy. Although fittingly the series of films she has starred in do run with the responsible adult tag-line "no fake boobs and no condoms". Also as highlighted here in a very witty interview Bush's loathing for all things homosexual seems to be at odds with her appearance in the charmingly-titled "Lesbian Big Boob Bangeroo"...!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

This new religious hatred law...

Was just reading this article on the BBC about children being tortured and murdered for allegedly "being witches". Now how did these kids get labelled as "witches" and who suggested as a result that they should be mis-treated? Well, it was members of the clergy, as described in this article, in which Pastor Modeste Muyulu from the Pentecostal Church of the French Christian Community in Harlesden (north London) says "There are people who are used by the devil to bring a curse or bad luck to other people's lives, even to kill them ".

Now articles on the subject are a mish-mash of lies and conjecture about witch-craft as far as I can make out. There is a significant UK wiccan population, actually I know some British witches and they're a very peaceful, friendly bunch, interested in herbalism, candles, crystals and in spending time outdoors. Much as I generally oppose religion, I think witches are alright. They're often the first ones on the scene to fight against environmental degradation, they are very active promoters of women's issues. They're also practitioners of the UK's original and indigenous religion. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism have all been brought in over the centuries from overseas. And they're a non-evangelising religion, there's no knocking on doors trying to recruit new members, which is a winner with me. Most witches I know are evolutionists rather than creationists. Contrary to popular perception they have very strict rules, such as the wiccan rede "an harm ye none do what ye will" and don't do things to harm others. You can read more about them on the Children of Artemis site.

So can I take Pastor Modeste Muyulu to court for inciting religious hatred against practitioners of wiccanism? I'd really like to cos I think "incitement to torture and murder small children by insisting that 'God' wants you to" should be very much against the law. It even fits with one of my "Seven Big Lies" of religion.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Interesting movie

Ever heard the one about the people who were persecuted for NOT being religious? Actually it happens at a subtle and a less subtle level all the time. And a very interesting movie has been made about a particular case in the US, called Heart of the Beholder. It's being screened as part of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association film festival. Bookings here.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Blogger in trouble

Zach, a young blogger from the US is being sent off to a church-sponsored camp called (horribly ironically) Love in Action to "cure" his homosexuality...! Surely there is a law against this sort of thing? Surely its "unconstitutional"?

The guy who runs the camp is quoted as saying "I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle. In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection; whereas, returning to homosexuality you are yielding yourself to a spiritual death from which there is no recovery."

You can contact Zach himself through his blog, although I suspect he's not being allowed on it during his incarceration in this horrible brain-washing facility. Lots of other bloggers have picked up on it too, I saw it at Alas, A Blog and Tennessee Guerilla Women. Perhaps if it gets some media attention someone will be able to do something about it.

Perhaps I should start a little summer camp to de-program people who've been brainwashed by fundamentalist right-wing nutcase Christianity...?

Who needs Big Brother on TV?

The government's latest plan to impinge on our civil liberties apparently involves watching our three-year-old for signs of criminality! Professionals will be looking for tell-tale signs such as "difficulties respecting boundaries or responding to adults". Isn't that what kids are SUPPOSED to do? And if your kids do this too much they could apparently be taken away from you and put into care! Smells a bit like 1984 to me.

Three recommendations

1) Go and see the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Tate modern. It's brilliant and so is she! I went on Thursday night for the opening (flash, me...).

2) Take your other half on an Eco-retreat in the Welsh countryside. I went this weekend (not telling you who with though!) and it was great. I couldn't really cope with the cold showers (used a bowl of hot water instead though) but the countryside, the walks, kite-flying, finding baby owls in the middle of the night, playing petanque, meditation session, visit to the C.A.T. centre, etc were all just fab. Shame my train back was delayed making me late for...

3) The Babycham Funny Women awards. Semi-final last night. There's another one tonight in Manchester and the final is 4th July at the Comedy Store in London. Of course it would be even better if I was in it, but there is a lot of talent out there, last night's show was great.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A few more steps back

Sex education booklets currently being published will focus on emotions and relationships, rather than the "mecanics" of sex. So i.e. less information about contraception. Who is supporting this? oh its the "Life" (read "Destruction of Women's Lives") Group! They think it's a great idea. They're no doubt looking forward to a new generation of pregnant teenagers they can pressure into keeping their unwanted children, sacrificing their own education and being permanently trapped in poverty.

The "mecanics" of sex may not sound like the sort of thing that we enjoy talking to kids about but that's EXACTLY why it's essential that we do, and essential that schools do to ensure no child is left out of the loop. A child has a right to know in practical terms how their bodies work. I think that's more important than telling them how we as a society have collectively decided it would be best use it. As a promoter of casual sex I should like the right to excuse my children (I don't have any really, a reflection of my sound understanding of the mecanics of contraception) from sex education classes if they are going to promote abstinence, which is undoubtedly the core message of these pamphlets.

Football crazy

I love football, I play it, I watch it, mens and womens, whatever I can access (usually mens). In fact I even play for a mens team (there isn't a women's one near me with places going, although I am not fussy, I just want to play). But I'm not fan of the exorbitant wages the men in the game get. Of course market rates, etc, etc, other aspects of the game would be impaired if we started limiting wages. It rankles though that the women in the game are paid such a pittance and given such a tiny amount of exposure, while the men rank among the country's biggest landowners and property buyers. And its the direct result of (a) the hangover from the FAs banning of women from the game which was in place from 1921 to 1970 and (b) the failure since the ban was lifted of the various bodies to put any tangible effort into promoting women's football.

One glimmer of hope for women's football recently is the latest exhibition at the National Football Museum.

The Seven Big Lies

The government is pressing ahead with plans to illegalise "inciting religious hatred". So if you wanted to incite any, make sure you do it soon.

I'd like to take the opportunity to say that I think ANYONE who believes ANY of the following things is a BLINDING IDIOT and should be barred from working with children, in the media or in any position which offers them an opportunity to significantly influence others:

1) That anybody continues to live after death in any recognisable form.

2) That the earth and universe were created by a god of some sort.

3) That any human being has ever performed "miracles".

4) That there is any religious justification for murder or war.

5) That there is any religious justification for removing any basic human rights or freedoms from any group, such as women or homosexuals, or for treating those people differently from the rest of society.

6) That any religious law which they may choose to follow should be incorporated into national law.

7) That prayer can change anything other than the mind of the person praying.

I think of them as a sort of securlarist seven deadly sins...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Raising money for charity

In two weeks time I am off to attempt the Caledonian Challenge, an easy-peasy wander about in the park type effort, just 54 miles in 24 hours along the west highland way. Training has been going ok but not really well enough to convince me that I can actually do it. Will need some miracle super-human strength on the day. If anyone would like to sponsor me and my team (consisting of me, my housemate Tom and our friend Katalin) then they can do so here by selecting our imaginative team-name KatKatTom! All in aid of the Scottish Community Foundation which does lots of good work in communities up there, especially children and women's groups. Very much appreciated!

On an only slightly related note I was talking to my dear grandma about Live 8 and the latest fundraising efforts and she said (remember she's 85...) that she'd pledge £100 to feed people in Africa if Sir Bob Geldof would "get a ruddy haircut". If anyone else (or anyone else's grandma) would like to pledge money on that basis please let me know and I'll total up the pledges and mail the suggestion off to his team. I imagine a fair amount could be raised on this basis!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Bright idea number 473...

Oh gosh I've had another one... Spent the morning twitching at this article in the Guardian. Lorna Martin, who has just had her ovaries measured to assess her likely fertility in the future, is waxing lyrical about the joys of motherhood. She hasn't tried it.

"I thought the menopause was an ugly but unavoidable metamorphosis that afflicted older women. It never crossed my mind that it might hit me before I'd found Mr Right, married him and we'd created at least three, preferably four, beautiful children." Even the most beautiful children keep you up all night screaming. Even the most "right" Mr Right will argue with you. And if you're going to have kids you can never count out the possibilty that they may have problems, minor or major, mental or physical disabilites or emotional problems. They might even be ugly, you can't do much about it. If you don't realise that, you should really think twice about having kids at all.

"I couldn't ignore it for long. The tick-tock of my biological clock, which had been a constant but distant sound all my life, had erupted into a deafening alarm clock whose snooze button no longer worked." Seems to me that Ms Martin has developed a rather unhealthy obsession with having children. She doesn't even know if she's actually fertile, many women aren't. It's not a good idea to let yourself get so worked up about these things.

India Knight pipes in with a sensible remark: "Many childless women seem to adhere to the notion that babies are pretty much like really sweet dollies"

Then as if we hadn't read the earlier part of the article Ms Martin is back with "I do not regard babies as playthings to be discarded once I'm bored. Nor do I think it is my fundamental human right to have one, perfect or otherwise. But it has been for me, as for millions of other women, something I always thought I wanted." Ok but you did say earlier it had never crossed your mind that you might not have three or four beautiful ones...?

She heads home and then she has a bright idea: adoption "Single women are increasingly adopting children alone. But then came a warning. 'If you are only looking to adopt a child to prevent loneliness, to keep you company, or because you think it might be a good idea, think again.'" If you were going to have a child naturally or by adopting for any reason other than you wish to raise a child, then of course you shouldn't. But this puts Ms Martin off and she decides she needs to conceive and bear one naturally. Presumably, as we've established, for the wrong reasons.

She then remarks that "an increasing number [of women] would trade in their careers to settle down and have babies" Would they? I don't see any data on this or any evidence. It may be true given the lack of progress in narrowing the wage gap and the increasing hours many companies seem to expect to have worked by employees. Seems like a huge unsupported generalisation though.

Then she really starts to go mad, quoting Jools Oliver: " 'All I ever wanted was the babies, the baking and the roses round the door,' I felt envious. That's pretty much all I ever wanted, but I was too afraid to say so." Life isn't like that. Even Jools Oliver admits to tears and anger and that its been really hard at times - and I may only have watched ten minutes of his TV show but I can tell you for a FACT I couldn't live with Jamies Oliver! And "all I ever wanted" seems to imply its not much to ask for. It's a lot to ask for. Before the feminist revolution it is NOT TRUE that all women had this. In fact there were many spinsters and widows and childless couples back then too. The good news is that we have more freedom and more choice now and we should fight to have that freedom and that choice. Jools Oliver evidently wasn't scared to say what she wanted. The women's movement has for years been demanding more respect and support for stay-at-home mothers.

Well my bright idea is that women who don't have kids and want kids should either adopt, foster or volunteer at a childcare centre, women's shelter, after school club or local single mother's group. There are loads of kids out there who could really use the extra support. And for those who feel that they need to raise a child which is biologically theirs I would point out a couple of things: (a) its only 50% biologically theirs anyway and (b) scientists reckon that kids grow up based on 20% nature and 80% nurture.

Certainly my experience from when I used to date a single dad was that his kid learnt loads from me. Her teacher even commented on parents evening that she must have been learning from someone new recently cos she'd made some comment in class about women's rights in the middle east (she was 6 or 7 at the time). Her dad was in stitches laughing cos it was so obvious where she'd picked it up!

If you want to be involved with kids, get involved. If you're having recurring nightmares about an alarm clock timing your likely fertility, you need to stop listening to the unrealistic messages in popular culture and get your head sorted out. A few hours spent minding unruly toddlers will soon bring you back down to earth...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Two links to choose from

Click here to see the pictures from my holiday in Uganda. Mountain Gorillas, Friendly locals, stunning scenery, etc.

Or click here to see a very charming piece from News Hounds (the anti-Fox News guys) in which anti-abortionist nutter Neal Horsley admits thats his "first girlfriend" was a mule...!! Seriously!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Those terrible Williams girls...

If ever I saw an arguement for the pro-choice movement, surely that was it. Since all three girls were under sixteen when they fell pregnant, my basic understanding of UK law would make all three of them victims of statutory rape. Since when were the victims of crime vilified for allowing themselves to become victims? We may tell our toddlers not to accept candy from strangers and warn older people not to carry too much money about, but we don't blame them or refuse to support them when they are the victims of crime. Their mother suggested better sex education in school would have helped them. Wouldn't it be great if schools could genuinely create an atmosphere where victims of statutory rape could report the situation and receive support and confidential advice on emergency contraception as well as termination, adoption and the benefits available to them if they bravely decide to keep the child? While in general I abhor this sort of human interest shock-tactics journalism, it does rather stick two fingers up at the anti-sex-education, pro-forced-pregnancy* movement.

*I don't call any movement that sets out to destroy women's lives "pro-life".