Thursday, October 27, 2005

Definition of "moral"

Well my dictionary says "Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character: moral scrutiny; a moral quandary." Now of course goodness is a matter of individual viewpoint in a lot of cases. However I find it very difficult to relate the actions of the pharmacists of Arizona to the term "moral" in this article.

Have a read and see what you think. Now I know some pro-life people are going to turn round and say that they thing the morning-after pill should be allowed in cases of sexual assault, just not in other circumstances. However, I would raise the point that only one in five rape cases is reported to the police in the UK*. If we only offered the M.A.P. to women who had been sexually assaulted we would have to ask them to prove it and we'd exclude 80% of the victims of rape.

If it was available over the counter it would save a lot of worry and a lot of unwanted pregnancies.

The other half of the story is more complex. The contraceptive injection is being promoted by the NHS as the miracle answer to teenage pregnancy. Now the usual suspects are on their high horses shouting about how it'll lead to a collapse in the moral fibre of our youth! Seems like they have all forgotten that people have minds of their own and the right to use them. If the only reason they're not having more sex is fear of pregnancy then perhaps we should take that fear away and let them have more sex. So at one level I think we should just offer it to anybody who wants it, end of story.

On the other hand I speak as somebody who's tried a number of different contraceptive pills and hated every one. Pumping hormones into your body every day isn't a very natural or healthy way to live and I've never managed to stick with one for any length of time. The injections last three months but there's no way of stopping them if you don't like them. I think it's not a very good idea to push them in the way that the NHS seems to be doing. It also promotes the idea that womendeal with contraception and men don't have to think about it. I think these things need to be a two-person thought process, just like the rest of the relationship and having kids, etc.

And the miracle solution to teenage pregnancy... actually I do know what it is. Of course I do! The number one factor which will predict a high rate of teenage pregnancy...? Poverty. So more money going into education and better benefits for those on low incomes. Obvious really.

*The remaining 80% may have rightly figured out that it is a total waste of time to do so when only 6% of reported cases result in conviction. Good news for rapists - only 1% of rapes result in convictions in the UK.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

What's wrong with Lad Mags?

The Guardian Weekend (Saturday's paper version, sorry no link) boldly claims that feminists aren't really bothered by the proliferation of so-called Lad Mags. They haven't actually interviewed any feminists, nor have they cited any sources of this conclusion. Strangely only the other week they were quoting feminist statements from the Cru-bog on their very pages so they are clearly aware of the existance of my blog and it's slant. You would think it would be a straightforward exercise for them to take a peek and see that I've published several articles complaining about different aspects of such magazines. I've never written anything specifically about them as a genre though - I thought it was obvious we all abhorred them. So to set the record straight here are my views:

1) Porn degrades women. I covered the backbone of my reasons for believing this here.

2) Lads Mags often claim that what they show is merely "titilating" and not actually "porn". Wrong! Women in a state of undress deliberately photographed and displayed for the purpose of sexually exciting readers IS porn. The average lad's mag has around seventy SEVENTY topless photos per issue. That's actually more than Playboy, etc.

3) Furthermore many magazines claim to be "soft core" porn. By which they mean they don't actually show cunts*, just tits. Well I don't think we should measure "soft" versus "hard" in purely anatomical terms. The images shown often allude to violence - women tied up, etc and often allude to sodomy. Articles such as "How to talk your girlfriend into having anal sex" and "How to hypnotise women into bed" re-inforce the allusions. In any case I think soft porn degrades women too.

4) The articles and text that come along with the photos are generally very heavily drenched in terminology which objectifies and belittles women. Articles routinely refer to women as though they were animals or non-human. For example in the context of "how to train your girlfriend" and refering to breast augmentation surgery as "a refit", breasts as "air-bags", etc, etc. The notorious "Win a boob job for your girlfriend" feature I have covered in greater length here. Articles standardly refer to women as poor drivers, incapable of performing simple DIY tasks, indecisive, irrational, excessively talkative and obsessed with their appearances and shopping.

5) These magazines go to great lengths to give the impression that a large majority of women are little short of desperate to appear in them. Articles such as "Street Strip Challenge" where women are recruited as topless models on the street and photos sent in by women. The message being sent out is that if you don't wish to participate in the degrading circus you're in some way abnormal, prudish, etc.

6) The celebrity women interviewed are never offered a platform of any sort for their achievements beyond the superficial and titilating. Their views on politics/business/culture/etc are glossed over in favour of innumerable questions about whether they've ever had a threesome/lesbian experience/etc.

7) These magazines are not "top shelf", they're not available only in brown paper bags from shops with dark shutters, they're available in ordinary newsagents, on flights and trains and doctor's waiting room tables. The arguement that if you want to you can ignore them is invalid. Every woman who leaves her home to work or socialise runs the risk of seeing these magazines every day. They have single-handedly (in every sense) legitamised porn for public consumption. Their readership extends to boys as young as 10 to 12 years old. Of course amidst all the sexual imagery there is little or no mention of (1) contraception (2) STDs, (3) unwanted pregnancy or, heaven forbid, (4) responsibility for other's feelings int he context of relationships.

So yes, on balance I would say that, as a feminist, I am VERY bothered by the latest generation of so-called "Lad Mags"...

* In case anyone is thinking of proposing that I'm being sexist/offensive/unconstructive using this word, it's my term of choice for three reasons (1) It comes from the old English for "triangle" while vagina comes from the Latin for sword-holder, I don't like to think of mine as having a primary purpose as a recepticle for a weapon, (2) I think the vagina is a small part of a full on triangle (or as I call it "cunt") of key anatomical-parts: clitoris, labia, etc and (3) certain people get really pissed off when I say it, usually the kind of people I really want to piss off, i.e. misogynists.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Not got time for the whole story but...

...article in today's Guardian Weekend section (paper edition) interviewing the editors of the "major" lads mags - Nuts, Loaded, etc. Anyway the article dismissively claims that "feminists" don't seem very bothered by the proliferation of degrading images of women and sexist jargon that fills the pages of these nasty magazines. As usual no feminists were interviewed in the making of this article. I'm very bothered by the situation and so are all my feminist friends. I'd be very happy to be interviewed and indeed to write an extensive article about the issues, many of which I have addressed in previous posts on this blog. Most notably:

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Totally circular arguement

Following on from the announcement earlier this week that the first state-funded Hindu school in the UK has been approved to open (see Cru-blog below), Margaret Hodge has said she wants faith schoools to open up to children of other faiths... She doesn't mention what atheist children should do. Her comments included the remark "cultural practices such as forced marriages that are unacceptable within Britain must be banned".

Now I don't want to make any direct connection between Hindu-ism and forced marriage, because I think that arranged marriages (which are considered socially acceptible as long as you've thoroughly brain-washed your kids in advance into believing they shouldn't make a fuss) are more of a cultural than a religious thing. However I would be prepared to bet pretty good money that kids sent to secular schools with a mixture of religions, including Atheists and Humanists, etc, Pagans, Animists and Jedi knights, are a lot more likely to stand up against their parents on these kinds of issues than kids sent to a specialist Hindu school where I'm guessing 100% of the students will be from the same cultural background.

Two major rip-offs

Firstly I went to Birmingham last night (to perform at the fantastic Glee Club, which is not a rip off at all but a really lovely comedy club...). However due to not checking out times and prices in advance I had to go with Virgin trains. Return from London Euston to Birmingham... £100! Seriously, and that's standard class, not business or first or whatever! Surely government watchdog people checking train fares shouldn't be allowing that sort of thing? Then on the (two and a half hour last train) journey back the intercom system was broken and every 30 seconds there was a deafening "PING-PONG" noise as if an emergency announcement was about to be made. So no chance of sleeping or concentration on my paper. Just made me really irritable, grrr...

The other incident which I was able to laugh at was that the drinks trolley came round and I asked for a cup of tea to which the woman replied "I haven't got any stirrers so if you want sugar I won't be able to stir it". Fair enough but she said this deadly seriously while the train was rocking about from side to side like a rollercoaster. "I don't think stirring is going to be a problem", I replied clinging for dear life to the arm rest. She looked at me blankly and poured me a tea.

Rip-off number two though is the new identity cards... £30 for the basic card and £93 for the accompanying passport. Even the lower £30 is a lot of money for people like elderly women receiving a fraction of the already pathetic standard pension. And without the card they won't even be entitled to healthcare... There are a lot of more worthwhile causes I can think of who would really be able to put this money to good use.

On top of this no-one seems to be quite sure what the point of the cards is. Clearly they'll do little to combat terrorism since all the London bombers were British citizens. And they open up carte blanche for would-be identity thieves to simply steal the card and not need to bother with learning the signature and figuring out the pin numbers, proof of address, etc. I don't want to pay £30 (or more likely £93 if I ever want to travel) for the right to be arrested and randomly locked up if I mis-place my card. I don't much want my irises scanned or fingerprints taken either thanks. It's totally intrusive.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Pointless out-of-context science "fact" of the day

According to the Guardian "Girls less likely to use condoms than boys " - that's the shocking headline. The implication is clearly that contrary to what "we" would all expect, actually girls are the irresponsible ones, tut tut tut. I'd like to see how exactly a girl is supposed to use a condom without a boy present!?

They then offer a breakdown of the 3,300 students interviewed... "...aged between 12 and 17 in the Midlands and the north-east England. One in four was said to be sexually active with half the active girls having sex without condoms, compared with 42% of the boys. " Thats all the numbers we get.

We really don't have enough information here though to form any actual conclusions. We need to know (1) what % of teenage girls versus boys are sexually active, (2) the age ranges of their partners, (3) the breakdown of heterosexual and homosexual relationships within these brackets and (4) the nature of the relationships they're in - marriage, casual sex, etc. I fail to be shocked that lesbians get through less condoms than gay men, which in theory could fully explain the discrepancy. Some of the girls may be married to men in their late twenties and thirties, we just don't know. All we know is that yet again we've got sensationalist headlines along the same-old, same-old "women should be locked up" lines from jounalists and sub-editors who don't appear to have actually understood the research in question.

To add insult to injury the remaining paragraph does exactly the same thing for racial breakdowns of the students: "The study also revealed that black boys were more likely to suffer from sexual health problems than their Asian or white classmates because they lose their virginity at an earlier age.". No data, no explanation. I guess black boys must be almost as awful as girls, eh...?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Our Father who art in the classroom

Isn't it obvious that the state-funded proliferation of single-faith schools is going to do absolutely nothing for race and inter-religion relations in the UK? Today the first state-funded Hindu school was approved. This will, in the long-term, take 240 students out of mixed-faith and secular schools and segregate them from the rest of the community. The remaining schools in the area will be deprived of some of their cultural diversity. Who is this good for? Well it's good for the religious leaders who want the chance to really drill their religious doctrine down the throats of young people...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Welcome to the increasingly famous Cruella-blog!

Thanks to a few people for pointing out to me and getting me copies. The Cru-blog was featured in the paper edition of the Guardian on Saturday 1st October for my comments on the Elizabeth Lloyd article they'd published a few days earlier.

Possible typos in the word of God...

Fantastic article in the Times, highlighted to me by fellow blogger Stephen Newton. The church has decided to let people know that it thinks there are a few minor errors in the text of the bible. You know the bible? Yeah the book their whole religion is supposed to be based on. So don't read the book, just listen to us and we'll tell you which bits we think apply. The word of God is all very well but you'd be better off listening to the word of a bunch of self-appointed "holy" men.

Anyway here are some of the key points:

1) Good news for women, we are no longer to be "ruled over" by our husbands. Bad news for generations of women before us who were taking that bit literally when God really wanted them to be liberated. Of course we're still not ready to be ordained, but progress is progress eh?

2) Creationism, that's not true any more. Neither version. All that un-scientific nonsense is to be scrapped. Good news all round.

3) The virgin birth and the physical resurrection from the dead of Jesus. These are apparently true still. So some un-scientific nonsense is being kept. The earth isn't flat any more and it wasn't made in 7 days but God can still raise the dead and impregnate virgins.

4) The ten commandments. We're keeping those, in spite of their inadequacies. For starters they're totally contradictory. "No other Gods but me" and "Honour thy father and thy mother". What if your parents are Muslim/Hindu/Shinto and want you to worship their God(s). Or indeed "Respect the sabbath and keep it holy". What if they're atheists who run a Post Office and want you to man the till on a Sunday? Also the fact that God never bothered to include one about not playing noisily with your Game-Boy on public transport...

5) Sermon on the mount. That's still true. The meek are still getting the earth. Go the meek! I'm not sure the meek want the earth.

6) Revelations. All false. The whole thing's rubbish apparently. Lakes of sulphur, horsemen of the apocalypse, all that fun stuff is going. Wonder why we ever had that book in the first place. They must have had some real good hallucinogens back in those days.

Speaking of Revelations. I was at a pub quiz a few month back and one of the questions was "Who are Pestilence, War, Famine and Death?" and my mate suggested "The Queen's corgis?". Hahaha.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Modern art

I know a lot of people like to loudly claim that they "don't get" modern art, as though stupidity were a virtue. Could they make it more obvious though than these religious zealots in Russia. I haven't even seen the piece but I can't help thinking that a sculpture of the Virgin Mary in caviar is probably going to be intended to make people think about the contradictions between extravagant lifestyles and religious belief. Probably, if anything, the correct response from religious people is to campaign against those who dine on caviar while outside on the streets people are starving to death. No, no, no though, down with art. Yeah I guess pointing out the ridiculous contradictions between what people profess to believe and what they practice in real life could be construed as inciting religious hatred...

...and the good news is that it'll be illegal here in the UK too soon. Artists, musicians, performers, comedians, secular activists and free-thinkers watch your backs!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Busy weekend and bit of fun

Well I spent last night in Wells, compering at the Long Paws Comedy Club. Britain's youngest comedy promoter, Ben Williams (16!!) had put together a really brilliant line-up (Simon Evans, Will Hodgson and Chris McCausland) for me to introduce. Made my job very easy indeed. Got back about 3am though, dzzzz.... You can read all about it on the club's website.

And that came right on the heels of compering at Amused Moose Soho on Saturday night with another fabulous line-up: Addy Van Der Borgh, Hal Cruttenden and Topping and Butch. Recently I have spent a lot of time compering new act nights so it feels like a bit of a luxury to be introducing acts who I just know are all going to be great. Long may this trend last...

And next Saturday (Oct 7th) I'm compering a music show at the Rhythm Factory. All the info is on the website. Looks like that'll be another late night, and I may have to dust off my old 60s black-and-white dress too! There's no guest list but please come along and have a boogie if it sounds like it's your bag.

Meanwhile if you're really bored you can express your views on the Tory party and have a bit of a laugh at the Pimp My Party website (note: not MY party, THEIR STUPID party...).

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sorry guys but word verification is now on...

Seems like every time I log on now there are 300 messages saying "interesting blog, why not come and have a look at my blog about penis enlargement drugs". While Cru-blog has the deepest sympathy for those less well endowed in the trouser department, we suspect that there are plenty of internet resourses available to those who wish to buy the new v!agra or to consolidate all their existing loans into one "easy" payment... So if you wouldn't all mind just doing the copy the word into the box thing that would be cool, I love comments whether you agree or disagree with me or want to ask question or have a laugh but I can't be doing with spam spam spam all day. It will make the blog easier to read for you all anyway. Ta.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

How much are we really doing to help?

A few days ago we read that a brothel in Birmingham had been raided and a number of victims of human trafficking found working under duress as prostitutes. They had been brought to the UK on the false expectation of legitimate work. They had had their passports stolen, had been forced to remain under the supervisoin of brothel owners 24 hours a day. There was even an electric fence out the back of the building. On top of this of course, they were forced to have sex against their will repeatedly.

Amnesty International commented at the time that "there [is] no protection in law for victims of trafficking, who are usually classed as illegal immigrants and deported. Most are deported without any care or support or assessment of the risks they face if sent back. Communities might not want these women back if they know what has happened to them and there is evidence of people being re-trafficked." The police responded by saying that these women would "be treated as victims".

Todays new shows a slight shift in story. This report says that "six of the women removed from the premises have been handed over to immigration officials". So just shipped straight back to communities where they will likely be unable to reintegrate. There clearly hasn't been time for them to have received proper medical attention since they have been released from the brothel. At best they return to the same situation which led to them being trafficked in the first place. At worst they might well be excluded from their families and communities.

What sort of country do we live in? Surely in the circumstances the women should be given proper medical care, a few weeks/months in safe houses to recover from their extended ordeal with appropriate counselling and rehabilitation, the opportunity to engage in training or education to improve their employment prospects and reduce the risk of repeated trafficking, the right to choose for themselves which country they wish to stay in and support to enable them to do so. Surely we owe these women that much.

Also I would like to see a proper police search for the men who were using the brothel. The sex trade exists because people pay money for it. It is illegal to visit a brothel in the UK. We should seek out people who do and prosecute them in the normal way. This might reduce the number of people who go to these places and in turn make it less financially profitable to run such places. Isn't this obvious?