21 April 2008

The Right to be Grumpy

Why do men think it is acceptable to shout things at women on streets? The other day, I was walking through Bath, and a Big Issue seller told a woman walking in front of me, who had, incidentally, very politely refused the magazine, to 'Cheer up, you might be quite pretty with a smile.' Why on earth did he think he had the right to say that? Any intentions I may have had of buying the magazine myself were instantly quashed; it is absolutely that woman's business why she was not smiling, and it was in no way his place to comment on her appearance in any way.


Apparently, "bosses weigh up pregnancy risk" prior to employing someone, and only 5% would employ someone if they knew that they were already pregnant.

At the moment, I am too angry to blog about this (although its hardly news, it still makes me mad). Hopefully later I'll have calmed down enough to write something sensible.

20 April 2008

Pasta Bake

Ok, so I know that its just a bog standard student dish, but it is just so comforting on a cold and rainy night!

Ingredients (for 2 hungry people)

2 rashers bacon, chopped
1 large chicken breast, in smallish cubes
1 big leek, chopped finely
1 onion, chopped finely
5/6 mushrooms (depends how much you like them, I, for one, absolutely love them!)
3 big tomatoes, sliced
Generous handful of grated cheese
100g pasta shapes (penne/fusilli always good)
Heaped teaspoon of flour
A dash of milk
Some hot water


Soften the onions, seal the chicken, soften the leeks and then add the bacon. Fry until the bacon is cooked but not browned, then add the flour. Stir until you can't see any floury bits, and add the milk. Meanwhile part boil the pasta, until al dente. Add the hot water to the meaty bit until it is thick and creamy, but not too runny. Drain the pasta, and stir into the sauce. Pour the whole lot into a baking dish, and place the tomatoes on top so that the pasta is covered. Sprinkle the cheese lightly on top, and cook in a hot oven for about 15 minutes, until the cheese is browned and the tomatoes cooked. Serve with a green or mixed salad. Delicious.

Mmm...Greek salad

Thats what I had for dinner last night. I really like how all the flavours really compliment each other.

Recipe (for 2)

I Romaine lettuce
4 inches of cucumber (how do you quantify cucumber in general?!)
12 cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion
1 red pepper
olives (I prefer green, but black is more traditional)
Feta cheese (I use the pre-cubed Apetina stuff, and its pretty good)

Mix all the ingredients together after chopping/washing etc. I used french vinaigrette on mine, which is not very purist, but you could use whatever you wanted. Waitrose sell a yummy sweet balsamic and red pepper dressing which goes well with it.

I served mine with warm olive ciabatta, because I can't live without carbs. Delicious (and very easy!)

18 April 2008

Abortion as art?

Bitch PhD has written about an art student who, for a period of nine months, artificially inseminated herself frequently, and then took abortifacients in order to induce miscarriages. She has used the blood from the miscarriages in order to create a piece of artwork, and has also created videos of herself having miscarriages in her bathtub, which will be displayed as part of her exhibition.

The Yale Daily News carries the story in full.

I really don't know how to feel about this. On one hand, I feel that it demonstrates that women can - and do - have abortions, and are able to continue to live their lives without regrets. It shows that abortions and miscarriages are events which happen to women everyday, and they don't have to be the big deal that the press makes them out to be. However, it does make me feel uncomfortable, and I'm not sure why. I am quite a squeamish person, and perhaps thats why.

I am an advocate for women having full control over their own bodies, and I guess that Aliza Shvarts (the artist) has taken this argument to its ultimate conclusion. The YDN carries a couple of comments which include;

Sara Rahman ’09 said, in her opinion, Shvarts is abusing her constitutional right to do what she chooses with her body.

“[Shvarts’ exhibit] turns what is a serious decision for women into an absurdism,” Rahman said. “It discounts the gravity of the situation that is abortion.”

I disagree - if you have a constitutional right (or in the UK, perhaps a Human right) to do something with your own body, then by definition, that means that you cannot be abusing that right, even if you use that right in ways which some people disapprove of, or if it is an unconventional use of that right.

I think that what makes me uncomfortable about this, is that it will just fan the flames of prolifers who want people to believe that women only have abortions for "frivolous" reasons, or are too stupid to actually know what they are doing. I don't think that there is actually a "good" or "bad" reason for having an abortion - I trust women to make the right decisions for themselves, but this is an extreme case, and is almost certainly not going to be well-received by the mainstream press.

I'm still thinking about this one, and hopefully I'll be able to read some more opinions on this.

Update: Feministing report that the University have said that Shvart's art was a hoax. However, the artist herself has rebutted this, and insists that she did artificially inseminate herself, and take herbal abortifacients.

I really, really don't know what to think about this.

Update 2: Amanda Marcotte and Majikthise have got some very good reasons why this art project is a hoax.

Sanctimonious Monsters...

...is an excellent way of describing both Pope Benedict and George Dubya Bush, as this post by Phrayngula describes.

The hypocrisies inherent in George Bush's version of Christianity, alongside his actions as President of the US, never fail to amaze me. As for the Pope, well I think that reading Feministy's post about his reactions to the sex scandals to the rapes committed by priests within the Catholic Church gives you a good idea of what sort of a man he is.

17 April 2008

Fascinating video about the effects of a stroke.

I really really can't do this video, or Dr Jill Bolte Taylor justice. She provides a fascinating, moving, and completely new analysis of how our brains function, and how the two hemispheres interrelate to one another. Watch it!

h/t Feministing

Dispelling myths about feminism

OK, so I'm feeling a little lazy about blogging today!

This is what a feminist looks like!

Who knew?

Who knew the Surrey Comet had such a diverse and passionate group of commenters?

via Alas, A Blog

Idiot of the day: Silvio Berlusconi (again)

Second time in a week! This time, he has criticised the Spanish Parliament for being "too pink". The Telegraph reports that he went on to say that;

"Zapatero has formed a government that is too pink, something which we cannot do in Italy because there is a prevalence of men in politics and it isn't easy to find women who are qualified for government."
Firstly, I assume that by calling the Spanish Parliament "too pink" he actually means to refer to the fact that Zapatero has appointed equal numbers of men and women to his cabinet. A prevalence of men in politics is a problem, but I'm not sure that Berlusconi sees it that way. He appears to be using the fact that there are a lot of men in Italian politics as a reason why women are not, and can't be, represented. Not excusable Mr Berlusconi. Just because someone is difficult to find, doesn't mean that they are not there. Perhaps women in Italy who are suitably "qualified" for politics are few and far between, but as a member of a privileged majority in Parliament, you should be seeking out these women, and actively encouraging them to become part of the political life of Italy. Only when everybody feels enfranchised and represented will you enjoy genuine democracy.

One quibble with the reporting of this in the Telegraph;

Mr Zapatero has championed equality since he first rose to power in March 2004 and consolidated his position as self-confessed feminist with his choice of cabinet in his second term, saying: "I feel very proud that there are more women ministers than men."

Emphasis mine. Why is feminism something we have to "confess" to? That implies that there is something wrong with Zapatero being a feminist, which in my opinion, there certainly isn't!

via F Word

16 April 2008

Yet another sickening angle on the Iraq War

Reading Raving Black Lunatic's blog about female US Military workers being raped in Iraq, and the links he posted, actually made me feel nauseous.

Obama fear

from Salon

Idiot of the day: Boris Johnson

No actual particular reason why I have said this today. This link on The F Word demonstrates what a nasty piece of work he really is. Don't let the bumbling buffoon act fool you.

A sample of some of the disgustingly offensive things he has said over the past few years:

Conservatives: ‘accept that material inequality is inevitable, and
that trouble comes from too zealous an attempt to change
this.’(Lend Me Your Ears p126)

‘We seem to have forgotten that societies need rich people,
even sickeningly rich people, and not just to provide jobs for
those who clean swimming pools and resurface tennis courts.’

‘When I shamble around the park in my running gear late at
night, and I come across that bunch of black kids, shrieking in
the spooky corner by the disused gents, I would love to
pretend that I don’t turn a hair…

If there is anyone reading
this who has never experienced the same disgraceful reflex,
then - well I just don’t believe you. It is common ground
among both right-wingers and left-wingers that racism is
“natural”, in that it seems to arise organically, in all
.’ (Lend Me Your Ears p210)

(taken from the F word)

Sex and the City

After reading Feministy's post entitled 'How to be a Feminist Boyfriend' a couple of days ago , and then finding this article on the Guardian website this morning, I have been thinking about what it is I want from a relationship. I have been single for a very long time now, and have never (yet!) had a serious relationship. This is not because I can't get a boyfriend - I have probably been asked out more times since being at University than most of my female friends put together, and have been out on lots of dates with a variety of different men. I realise that the reason I am still single is actually very simple; I haven't found a man I want to be with, yet.

I think that Feministy's list of things that a thoughtful and caring man should consider on a reasonably regular basis is very perceptive. So many men that I have met over the years take so much for granted. I am not saying for a moment that this makes them bad people, or automatically unsuitable for me as 'boyfriend material', just that it is so easy to be thoughtless. I spend a lot of time worrying about a whole spectrum of different things, and I suppose I would like someone who shares at least some of my concerns.

The article in today's Guardian asks the question "Is it the case that a strong women can't desire a husband?" Obviously, for me this is a long way in the future, but I really think that a strong woman can desire an equally strong man in her life. This question, to me, is the first step on the path to that old feminist 'man-hating' stereotype. Of course it is possible to want to have a steady, secure relationship with a man.

Having such a relationship does not mean forfeiting your feminist beliefs. As Feministy says, what is important is that you have that relationship with somebody thoughtful, who respects you. I suppose that if I were to have a relationship with a disrespectful, egotistical and misogynistic man, then that would be forfeiting my feminist values. But I can't believe that I would feel secure in such a relationship, or remotely happy. Being a feisty and intelligent young woman, I would not last long with someone who tried to push me into an old fashioned 'female' role, which would not suit me for a moment!

So, in conclusion, I suppose what I am trying to say is that while I would very much like to find myself a boyfriend, it is not something I am going to rush into. Reading Feministy's post on Monday made me feel better about this decision, and I feel that, as a strong woman, I should stick to my guns.

Pope really worried about the damage rape scandals have done to the Catholic Church

The Prada Pope made some revealing comments, which were reported in yesterday's Guardian, revealing his true concerns about the priests who committed countless rapes in the States during the nineties.

"It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the Church in general and for me personally that this could happen," Benedict said aboard a special Alitalia airliner, nicknamed Shepherd 1.

Yeah, because when I read about priests raping little kids, my primary concern is for the Church and for the Pope. My heart is bleeding for those guys. Fuck those whingeing victims who have cost us so much money in compensation, and damaged our reputations!

But he does have a point, the child abuse scandals did damage him personally, as there is an increasing body of evidence which suggests that he was involved in trying to cover up the scandals.

14 April 2008

How to be a feminist boyfriend

Feministe feedback had a really interesting thread the other day, answering the following question:

Your most recent entry - on what a feminist relationship looks like - is primarily pitched at female feminists. I, as a well-intentioned but nonetheless male participant in relationships, would really like to know the answer to that question. i don’t commit the obvious sort of mistakes that non-feminist guys do, or at least i hope i don’t. Nonetheless there are certainly crimes of ignorance, so to speak.

In fact, you should write a book answering this question - “how to be a feminist boyfriend.”

There were loads of really great responses, and you should go and read them for yourself, but it reminded me of a conversation I had the other night about privilege with The Boy. He is definitely the most non-confrontational man I have ever met, and certainly strives to be fair and egalitarian, not just in our relationship, but in other aspects of his life too.

However, I sometimes feel that he doesn't examine what male privilege does for him on a daily basis. He generally doesn't analyse himself too closely anyway - thats not the person that he is - but I tried to impress on him that we all have a duty to be aware of our privileges (for example, in my case, being a well-educated, white, middle-class, straight, cis, woman), how they have smoothed our paths, and how the experiences of other people differ based solely on factors which they have no control over, including gender, race, sexuality, gender dysphoria, and a million other different things which can affect out experiences, and our treatment by others.

So, in order to be a feminist boyfriend, or indeed, a person who cares about others, here are some things which I think that The Boy should think about when he goes about his daily life:

  1. I am lucky that my genitals look how I want and expect them to look.
  2. I am lucky that when I do something badly, people don't put it down to my race, gender or sexuality.
  3. I am lucky that when I get turned down for jobs, I don't have to wonder whether it is because of my race, gender, or sexuality.
  4. I am lucky that people take it for granted that I can do things well, and competently.
  5. I am lucky that when I turn on the TV/look in a newspaper or magazine/watch a film, I find many people or characters represented who I feel I can relate to because they are the same race, gender and sexuality as me.
  6. I am lucky that my combination of race, gender and sexuality is so well-represented in the Houses of Parliament, the judiciary and other instruments of the state
This is obviously a far from exhaustive list, and if you want a far more exciting and complete list, Ampersand at Alas, A Blog has more. My point is not to write a full list of the privileges that white, straight, cis, males enjoy, it is to point out that thinking about these things, and incorporating this awareness into the way that you think about the world, can make you a better feminist ally, and of course, a better feminist boyfriend!

Where is my Babydaddy?

The Guardian reports today that the Fatherhood Institute has published a report stating that 7 out of 10 people believe that fathers should be able to stay in hospital overnight to support the mother of the child, as well as develop a vital early bond with their baby. The NCT and NHS have both approved the idea in principle, but point to practical difficulties which could result in this idea not being introduced.

I think this is another way in which men can start to assume greater and greater roles in caring for children. I think that it is vital that men get all the opportunities that they can to take an equal role in the upbringing of their children. In my opinion, having the early chance to bond with their child, as well as to help to support their babymama, can only be a good way of furthering this aim. What do you think?

13 April 2008

Maths? But thats a boys' course!

That is a reaction with which I am all too familiar, as a female Maths undergrad. And you know what? A small part of me believes it. And a little bit more of me believes it every time I struggle with work, but my male friends appear to be sailing along. Despite the fact that at most good Universities in the country, and I suspect across the world, the number of female Maths undergrads equals that of the males, sexism remains unbelievably prevalent when people consider the subject of Mathematics. A particularly gobsmacking example is that of the views of Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University, outlined in this article. I am incredibly glad I am not studying there!

So why do people cling on to this outdated view that women are more talented verbally, and men more talented mathematically? Why can both men and women not be good at both? I consider myself to be verbally talented, but believed my real talents to lie in the more scientific arena; despite the frequent misogynistic attitudes I encountered. The single best and most inspiring lecturer I have had, a Cambridge Mathematics graduate, was female. So was she just some mad exception that proves the rule?

I believe the struggles I have with my studies not to be gender related, but genuine difficulties with a very tough course. I also think that many boys find the course as difficult as I do, but have been trained to think very differently; if a boy says to someone that they will be reading Mathematics at University, the reaction will be, in general, very different to the reaction I get.

I don't know why I have such issues with self belief, whether it is a gender stereotype related problem or whether it is something more personal, but I strongly believe that women studying and working in all of the sciences, not just Maths, need much more encouragement and support than they are getting. It is no good having equal numbers of boys and girls starting scientific degrees, if the women are only going to get disheartened and depressed by the misogynistic attitudes of their peers.

11 April 2008

Female apprentices earn less than male

Perhaps I should stop reading the BBC News website so often, but it just provides such good fodder for blogging!

In the latest, female apprentices earned £147 compared with the £186 per week that male apprentices could expect to receive. In yet another example of brilliant investigative reporting, the beeb suggests that this is because;

The difference is mainly due to the fact that female apprentices tend to work in lower paid sectors than males.

Hairdressing apprentices earned £109 a week while apprentices in electro technical posts earned £210 weekly.

Those in early years posts earned £142 a week compared with £189 for those in engineering and manufacturing, the research commissioned by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius) said.

However, they don't take it upon themselves to investigate why it is that we seem to value - and therefore reward - traditionally male occupations so much more highly. Particularly telling of our screwed up values system is the low wage which is attached to early years care. Why is this not more highly paid? Either we do not as a society think that being able to access high-quality childcare is especially important, or we have found that we can get away with paying the (predominantly) young women who do significantly less than what they could hope to get if they chose to work in other sectors.

Actually, I think it a combination of those two factors. Firstly, patriarchy has a general impression that childcare should be free - after all, women did it for years without being paid for it. Why should the uppity bitches expect money for it now? Secondly, it does seem as though the people who actually do these jobs accept their low wage packets as part of the deal. Perhaps this is because, as with nursing (another female-dominated low wage profession), there is an element of altruism which means that the people entering the profession do so for more than financial gain. However, just because someone does something with the best of intentions does not mean that they should not be adequately compensated for their time and effort. Traditionally female jobs, such as those within the "caring" professions, should have their salaries brought in line with jobs from other sectors which have similar levels of skill required.

As a final note, I actually think that, as society could not function as it currently does without people filling these roles, and taking care of the more vulnerable members of society, their pay should reflect that. However, at the moment, I think that at least increasing it to the levels of other similar jobs will have to do!


Nothing really to say about them, apart from Sharwood's Chili and Cumin ones are YUM!

Groundbreaking research of the day!

The BBC has discovered that boys and girls choose to play different musical instruments to each other! What I really love is that the article makes statements like
"And it's somehow easier for a girl to cross over into 'boys' territory and play a trumpet than for a boy to take up the flute."
Hmm, I wonder why this could be? Perhaps because basically the worst thing to be called/associated with/likened to in our culture is a girl. Gendered insults like "slag", "pussy" and of course, "cunt" demonstrate this. However, it is easier for women to emulate men because there is a general assumption that they are the "norm", and women are somehow deviant from this. Therefore, it actually upholds a patriarchal values system when women express a desire to engage in similar activities to men, because it maintains the assumption that what men do has inherently more worth and value to society, than what women do, which must be regularly derided, and absolutely not emulated.

What is really sad is that children as young as 6 are able to pick up on these cues, and choices which they make are guided by these prejudices.

10 April 2008

Knives Out

Reading this article concerning the epidemic of male violence against women earlier this evening reminded me of a rather horrible experience I had on a train from Cornwall to Bath last Friday. A very scary drunk man threatened me, and, although I was oblivious to this particularly nasty aspect of the encounter, he had a knife. He slashed his throat in the buffet carriage before being carted off the train in Bristol by 4 policemen, presumably armed. However, before the train got to Bristol, he was seated right across the aisle from me. He didn't harm anyone else on the train, although the women he had shouted obscenities at and otherwise threatened were undoubtedly, like me, rather shaken by the experience.

The niggling thing, for me, is this; at what point would it have been reasonable to consider him a very real threat? At what point should action have been taken? Looking back, I was in very real danger for that whole train journey. It was extremely easy for that man to be on the train and cause so much trouble - and he was left totally to his own devices. What can we do to increase the safety of people in a confined environment, such as a train?

c'mon Italy, join us in the 21st Century!

Ok, I know I had a go at Berlusconi yesterday, and I have to say that I actually love Italy, but clearly the Italians have got some work to do on women's rights. This article comes up with the shocking statistic that just 46% of Italian women have work, because women are considered to be less good candidates than men. People who say that sexism doesn't exist in the western world anymore: what more proof do you need?

09 April 2008

"get your tits out for trafficking"

I did not come up with the title of this post unaided, it actually comes from the excellent article written by Julie Bindel highlighting the fact that more and more charities are using highly sexualised - and sexist - images of women in order to further their cause.

What really bothers me about the actions of charities like Peta is that it is never OK to subjugate the rights of one group in order to further the interests of another. I don't accept the argument that "the women volunteered/agreed" or whatever. We can all be agents of our own oppression. Just because someone has agreed to something doesn't make it not sexist.

I wish that these charities would think up some ways of appealing to the masses (which they must obviously do) which doesn't simultaneously objectify and alienate a whole group of people by likening them to animals, and perpetuating the sexist vision of women which a great deal of society sadly has anyway.

Feministe has more.

Idiot of the day: Silvio Berlusconi

Apparently, Silvio Berlusconi has really hit the left where it hurts; left-wing women are ugly! Why is it that when right-wing politicians or activists are feeling threatened, they find it appropriate to compare the relative attractiveness of their female supporters? Says a lot about the values of the right.

As an aside: Berlusconi has pledged to appoint 4 women to his cabinet if he is elected at the next election! Wow! That will be so amazing and representative! Thank you Silvio Berlusconi!

07 April 2008

Abortion in Nigeria

I read this article on the beeb with tears in my eyes. I can't bear to think of women dying so needlessly in Nigeria, because a procedure that is relatively straightforward in the west is denied to them. However, the reason I particularly wanted to highlight this article, is because of the way that it ends.

Two attempts to change the law were stopped by conservative women's groups.

They say a change in the law would promote promiscuity, and weaken the moral fibre of Nigeria.

"Making more abortions available is not the answer," says Saudata Sani, a female member of the House of Representatives for Kaduna state, in northern Nigeria.

"Women need to be educated about their rights over their body and given opportunities to plan their families, but it must be done in a way that protects public morality."

Other medical specialists say that the law is just a part of the picture.

"Even if it was possible to get a legal abortion, many women would not be able to get a safe one," said Dr Francis Ohanyido, the president of the International Public Health Forum.

"Medical facilities vary widely and it is almost impossible to guarantee quality."

Cultural taboos mean even if there was a clinic in their town, it would be impossible for most women to go there, he said.

Firstly, making abortion illegal apart from to save the life of the mother, which is the current situation in Nigeria I believe, clearly and obviously does not prevent women from seeking abortions. It does, however, create a climate in which women find it increasingly difficult to access the care that they require. Furthermore, they are frightened of going to seek medical attention if they start to experience severe pain or bleeding etc after having received an illegal abortion because they are worried about the consequences for them, and for their families. This is costing women their lives.

Secondly, I wouldn't want to presume that I know how to solve all of the problems facing women in Nigeria, when it comes to their reproductive rights. I can fully accept that simply legalising abortion there will not put an end to unsafe practices, and the death of many women. That is why I view it as a first step. Just because something is difficult, does not mean that we should not attempt it in the first place.

My First Post

So this is my first post...feminism and food, two things which really interest me!

06 April 2008

It's a Jungle Out There

I am in the middle of reading the hilarious and down to earth offering by Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon. I will write a review when I'm done, but at the moment, it gets 10/10!

Back to blogging...

I am in the middle of the craziest law course in the whole world, but I am going to try to start blogging more regularly again. Watch this space!