Friday, 30 September 2011

I Don't Know Why I Do This To Myself

Dear reader, I have a confession to make. I'm bored of feminism.

Now, before you all rush to the window to check for four suspiciously thin dudes on ponies cantering across the skyline, let me assure you that I am not bored of the notion of equality among all, but rather having the same bloody arguments time and time again. The reason we can never get anything done is because we spend our entire lives trapped in the same cycle of Arguing With Morons. It's not one of Dante's circles of hell, but it sometimes feels like it. 

You know how it works:

Feminist: "Actually, it would be quite nice if we didn't live in a rape culture." 
Feminist: "Here's a really good article on Rape Culture 101Misandry is a word invented to argue with feministsI'm not hysterical, stop gaslighting me. By the way, I am fucking heeyylarious and yeah, sex is awesome."
MOTI: "Oh, look at you, with your EVIDENCE. It's just part of the feminist conspiracy to eradicate men. You just want to be sat on your arse eating bonbons while men toil away and you deny them sex." 
Feminist: "I think you're thinking of what we call 'Imaginary Feminism'." 
Feminist: *sighs* *realises rape culture will remain in place another day* *wanders away from the internet to make tea and read the SCUM manifesto*

So, yeah. If I could actually add up the time I have spent trying to engage with people who have decided that I'm a man-hating hag for suggesting that it might be nice if women were offered the same opportunities as men, I would probably try and drown myself in a vat of cookie-dough ice cream. And the thing is, it's not just stopping the progress of the feminist movement, but actually harming it. When an editor of a usually-reputable newspaper announces a new policy of  massaging statistics on rape to shut up MRA trolls, well, that's BAD.

It's stopping me saying what I want to as well - a couple of weeks ago I was asked by a website that I really like to write a piece about gender representation on Mock The Week, and I had to turn it down because I knew exactly what the comments would look like before I'd even written a single word. Thankfully, it's been covered by women braver than I herehere and here.

I don't know what these people want. I swear, baby fucking Jesus himself could toddle down from heaven, inhabit the body of Gibbs from NCIS (the most authoritative person in the history of humankind) and present them with gold-plated evidence written by the University of SCIENCE and still they would come out with the same boring, tired, privilege-denying arguments. And I am tired of it.

Last week, I suggested to someone on Twitter that his idea that any man who didn't picket the women's-only fringe event at the Labour conference was a "gender traitor" made him a bit of a cock. I tried to explain that if women were adequately represented in the main conference, then it wouldn't be necessary to have a fringe event for them. Apparently this made me a 'fascist Jim Crow-style seperatist who hates equality and men'. When I tried to question him about this, he got all huffy and blocked me, claiming I was "swamping him" with my "abhorrent views". Our full exchange may be viewed here.

So, does anyone have any ideas about how to deal with people like this or am I just to stick with my usual recipe of cigarettes, facepalming and punching a pillow as I pretend it's the face of the patriarchy?

(For anyone who doesn't often delve into the murky world of Being A Feminist On The Internet, while looking for the link on gaslighting, I found what can only be described as The Stupidest Waste Of Pixels I Have Ever Seen - the comments seem to nicely sum up what we're fighting against.)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Regular readers to this site might remember that about a month ago, I had a little bit of a shameless beg for donations. Well, you were AMAZING. In less than 24 hours, you wonderful, astonishing, brilliant people donated enough for me to pay for a deposit on a new place.

I've now been living in Bristol for a week, and have already got involved with the Bristol Feminist Network (Reclaim The Night is coming up in November) and seen lots of lovely people, and done a lot of reading, writing and planning for my future while I look for employment down here. I'm still poorer than a church mouse with a nasty crack habit, but hopefully my benefits payments will be sorted soon!

So, thank you all from the very bottom of my heart. I still can't quite believe how generous people were, but I appreciate it so, so much. You are all AWESOME and I would like to hug each one of you individually. Hug you RIGHT IN THE FACE.

Nat x

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Mini-Review - Living Dolls and Sexuality

Yesterday I finally got round to starting to read Living Dolls by Natasha Walter. I have been very impressed with it thus far, her insights into 'Lads mag culture' and the pressures on young women to be sex objects has been truly enjoyable and enlightening to read. I am personally planning on buying my younger sister a copy of it for christmas, even if I have to resort to Clockwork Orange-style tactics to get her to read it.

However, I feel very let down by Chapter Four. This chapter is about young women's attitudes towards casual sex. Walter discusses a modern promiscuity, but during doing this, she seems to descend into some sort of 'slut-shaming' attitude, which left me totally cold. The chapter features interviews with several women around my age - half of them are interested in, and have, casual sex, and the other half seek more emotional bonds with the people they wish to copulate with. Instead of using this divide to acknowledge that everyone's sexual experience is different and that people should do what makes them happy (obviously with regard to the fact that choice does not exist in a vacuum and so on), Walter dismisses the opinions and experiences of the self-confessed 'promiscuous' ones with a kind of "well it's what they think they want, but I know better" attitude. She only considers that the opinion of the 'chaste' girls (that sex should only come about as a result of a strong emotional tie) to be valid, using Anais Nin's diaries to back up her viewpoint.

Well, I'm sorry, but no. Without going into too much detail (hi mum!), by patriarchal standards, I am a slut. I've had long-term monogamous relationships (five years), I've had short term flings, I've had sex with friends, I've had one-night stands and pretty much everything in between. I'm not ashamed, and although I am currently in a monogamous relationship, there is nothing to say that I wouldn't do it all again. I only tell you this to assure you that I know what I'm talking about.

I firmly believe that while sex with someone who you are emotionally bonded with can be great, it is not the be-all and end all, and saying that it is is not a message we should be sending to women. What are we, Ann Widdecombe?

I believe that Walter makes this distinction because she sees the promiscuity of some of the girls to be a symptom of the 'hypersexual' culture she (brilliantly) rails against, and seems to think that the reason they are promiscuous is because they are willing participants in said hypersexual culture. What she fails to realise is that correlation does not equal causation. I identified with a lot of what the interviewed girls said ("I met this guy in a pub the other night. We had sex once and... he says, are you going to sleep with other people? I thought, who are you? Why are you asking me this? Of course I'm having sex with other people."), but I do not consider myself to be part of the 'Living Doll' culture. I don't shave, I'm usually to be found wearing bovver boots, I don't wear make up and I dye and cut my own hair. My promiscuity is to do with a liking for sex, not a search for an emotional connection. It's because putting other people's bits in your bits feels good. If you can have strong emotional connections without sex, why can't you have sex without strong emotional connections?

I think a much more positive message to send to young women should be "Do what makes you happy.  Take pleasure in pleasure and don't feel you have to justify your sexuality. Just always be safe, and don't let yourself be pushed into anything you don't want to do".

Sometimes, people just want to fuck because it feels good. We should not add any caveats to that.

I will review the rest of the book when I have finished it, I just had to get this little rant off my chest.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Help Save The NHS

The Health and Social Care Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons today, by a majority of just 65. This means that the next stage of this bill is for it to be debated in the House of Lords. If it passes in the House of Lords, it will become law, and our NHS will be sold off piecemeal to the highest bidder. So, here's what I want everyone to do: 

1: Go to Going To Work and adopt yourself a peer. It's like having a Tamagotchi, but they don't die if you forget to feed them. Now, isn't that lovely, you have a new pet! And no litter trays to clear out!

2: Copy and paste this letter into the email form:

Dear [Peer's name],
I am writing to you today because I would like to highlight some concerns I have about the Health and Social Care Bill which you will shortly be asked to debate.
The organisation 38 Degrees consulted solicitors at Harrison Grant and the specialist barristers Stephen Cragg and Rebecca Haynes about two provisions of this bill - specifically, the impact of the removal of the Secretary of State's duty to provide or secure provision of NHS services, and the impact of competition and procurement law on the NHS. Their full findings may be found at, but I would like to reiterate the main fears surrounding this bill.
Firstly, I fear that the removal of the Secretary of State's duty to provide or secure provision of NHS services will have one of four effects:
1. There will no longer be a National Health Service
The duty, that Parliament has given the Health Secretary, for ensuring that the NHS provides the service that people need will be lost and the NHS will from here on in simply be little more than a series of quasi-independent commissioning entities and providers, basically free to get on with the job.
2. A loss of accountability - the government will wash its hands of the NHS
Removing the Secretary of State's legal duty to provide or secure provision on health services, and introducing a "hands-off clause", significantly reduces democratic accountability for the NHS. The responsibility for securing the provision of healthcare services will lie with unelected commissioners who will only be accountable to an unelected national quango. The bill will make it impossible for the Secretary of State to direct that certain services are available and difficult for the Secretary of State to step in if these groups deliver poor healthcare to the local community. These changes would shift the main responsibility to unelected officials, representatives of private companies and GPs.
3. A loss of accountability - Local representatives and health watchdogs lose their right to appeal
Because the government is removing the Secretary of State's duty to ensure the NHS delivers an appropriate service, appeals from locally elected council bodies and health watchdogs will no longer be decided by the Secretary of State but - if any rights of appeal survive - a national quango.
4. A 'Postcode Lottery'
Because of changes in the bill there is a real risk of an increase in the “postcode lottery” nature of the delivery of some NHS services. The power to choose what health services are closed or improved in a local area will be passed on to local unelected bodies with little scope for the government to intervene. This will mean patients can no longer expect the government to ensure a consistent level of healthcare regardless of where they live.  
Secondly, I fear that opening the NHS up to Competition Law may also have pernicious effects. The Bill contains a number of measures which will increase competition within the NHS at the expense of collaboration and integration and/or make it almost inevitable that UK and EU competition law will apply as if it were a utility like gas or telecoms. This includes:
 a) Giving Monitor the duty to eliminate so-called “anti-competitive” behaviour
 b) Removing the limit on the amount of income NHS hospitals can earn from private health services
c) Handing significant new procurement responsibilities to the new Clinical Commissioning Groups
d) Permitting these new groups to outsource commissioning work to private companies
e) Writing additional rules on competition into the law and making Monitor enforce them
This could have several effects:
1. Exposing the NHS to UK and EU Competition Law
Taken together, these changes increase the likelihood of NHS services being found by the courts to fall within the scope of UK and EU competition law. The likelihood of this is further increased by other government NHS policies, for example the extension, announced in July 2011, of the right of Any Qualified Provider to be given a contract to deliver health services. 
2. Create costly and complex procurement procedures
The new commissioning groups will be subject to EU procurement rules whenthey commission local health services. This is likely to be costly, given the likely larger numbers of commissioning groups as compared to PCTs now and our Counsel warns that it appears the government have not planned for this significant increase in cost. Furthermore, it is not clear that the commissioning groups have the necessary procurement expertise to deal with the complex procurement process and to avoid legal action from disgruntled private healthcare providers. This could mean that the NHS ends up spending a lot of time and money fighting legal action instead of investing in patient care. Or worse, it could mean they are reluctant to commission any services for fear of being sued. 
3. Create fertile ground for private health companies (and their lawyers)
Companies that bid unsuccessfully for NHS contracts will be able to challenge commissioning decisions in the courts. Private health providers have far more expertise and legal capacity than either public bodies or charities, and so are likely to be best placed to exploit these laws. Litigation could be time-consuming and costly for commissioning bodies. 
4. Open our NHS to private companies -  and thus create privatisation by stealth
These plans will lead to a system geared heavily in favour of private companies. The legislation does not currently contain measures to stop: 
 a) private companies being contracted to provide commissioning services to consortia and therefore profiting from spending multi-million-pound health budgets, or
b) private companies poaching services in a way which undermines the ability of the NHS to deliver essential services like Intensive Care Units, A&E, emergency cover, teaching, training and research.
 I wholly believe that this bill is not just unnecessary for the future of the NHS, but actively puts it in danger, and I would like it if you could step in where the Other House has failed and halt this bill in its tracks.
The NHS is one of our proudest achievements as a country. It was created at the end of a war, at a time when our country could have been in ruins. Instead, we banded together to create something wonderful and give everyone, no matter their background, an equal opportunity to live life. 
I would like to implore you, one more time, to put a stop to this bill and to allow us to remain proud of one of our country's crowning jewels.
Yours, [your name]

3. Print that letter off and post it to your adoptive peer.

4. Go donate some money to 38 Degrees to show your appreciation

5. Have a cup of tea and a sit down

6: Go to step one, and pick a new pet Peer!

We can beat this if we fight hard enough. Never give up.

Nat x


Thursday, 1 September 2011

Public Service Announcement

This is a public service announcement (unfortunately, without guitar) for anyone who has a Facebook profile.

Yesterday, I was Googling my own name (got to check what potential employers might see), when on the second page, I came across a link to "my profile" on [NSFW, and I wouldn't advise clicking on it anyway]. This is a profile I did not set up.

ThankYourWank is a 'hilarious' new 'social networking' (or 'netwanking'?) site, which enables you to
"Find out how many people wanked to you, thank those you wanked to by clicking +1 on their profile, get instant alerts for mutual wanks, create a list of your favourite wanks (may also be used as a to-"do" list), and see the most wanked to people on earth!"

How... delightful. And not at all disgusting, creepy and objectifying.

As a commenter on this Jezebel post about the website says:
"It also strikes me as a power play, in the same men ordering women to smile on the street is a power play, but instead of "I want just want you to know that you are lesser than me and I have a right to order you to behave in ways I find appealing," it's "I'm fucking you in my brain and there's nothing you can do about it." Basically yet another way to remind women no matter who they are or what they've accomplished in life, they are nothing but a set of holes for men to fuck and they should never forget it." 

Anyway, I soon found out that it's not just me. If you have a Facebook profile that's in any way public, you're probably on it too. Seems our friends at TYW have been helpfully giving anyone they could find a profile, without regards for the consequences. How thoughtful of them!

So, it says on the site that the only way to remove your profile is by logging in using your Facebook details and clicking 'delete'. Well, fuck giving them my details. Thanks to a friend, I found out that the best thing to do is to go to their Facebook app page and click 'block' on the left hand side. This should revoke all access, but Google might take a while to update.

Other than that, I'm not sure what to do. I found out that the site is 'based' in India, and the domain name provided by GoDaddy (yeah, these charming misogynists). I called GoDaddy yesterday to put in a complaint, (this website is in violation of their ToS) and received this back:
I do apologize Natalie, I was in the process of creating and sending up this issue but it appears the site is not hosted with us.  Because it is hosted with another company we would not be able to take anything down, what I would advise doing is going through and doing a who is search and find out who is hosting the site by looking up the nameservers and contact that company, they would be the ones who would be able to get this issue taken care of for you.
 So, now I'm a bit stuck. I'm not sure what to do, other than to urge as many people to revoke access to their profiles and hope this hideous site dies the death it so clearly deserves.

Tell your friends.

As an aside, I was very much amused that this was the picture on my profile:

Thanks to all who helped me find the information for this post.