Friday, 31 July 2009

Another article on female muslim dress

OK, so I'm not going to dissect this article because time is rather short, but regarding the first point in which the author says (of the women who wear the niqab): "They dress in everyday clothing; they get their hair done, go on holiday and even buy lingerie!"... Well, gosh! How lovely. For me, that really isn't the point. There are many academic points about and around which it is possible to build an argument against the wearing of religious dress. For me, this is not about religion, or culture. It is about equality, as I have said numerous times.

The whole problem with expecting women to cover up, dress 'modestly' and all the rest of it is that is something that has been developed by men to subjugate women. To separate them and declare them different from men. If all Muslim people, male or female wandered around with family relative chaperones, wearing the niqab, then I would be far more accepting. But this just isn't the case. As for the part about 'going on holiday'. Well, perhaps they do, but they don't go swimming, that's for sure. Unless it’s at a female only pool session of course.

So the myth that the author is trying to dispel here, in point one, that 'The niqab is a symbol of female subjugation' falls down at the first hurdle.

Because of course it fucking is. It only applies to ONE GENDER.

If people are going to maintain that the niqab has a place in society, could they at least stop pretending that it isn't hugely humiliating and derogatory, and come up with some other reasons for wearing it? Like 'because I have been indoctrinated by my religion to think this', or, 'because I gave it some thought and even though there are valid arguments against it, I decided to wear it anyway', or more likely, 'because I was told to'?

Because whilst I believe everyone has a free choice to believe what they want, and dress how they like, pretending that there are 'good' and religious and fair reasons for it is absolutely not a requirement and simply makes an out-moded point of view an offensive one.

Monday, 27 July 2009

It's not mother's day, but nevermind....

What I want to be
When I grow up,
Is just like you.

Not exactly the same,
That’s just daft,
Of course.

But to be
funny and silly,
and to talk to the animals.

I wonder if I'll ever be
A proper adult like you.

You do get cross
Too easily.
And sometimes, you
have the funniest views.

But what I really want,
When I grow up
Is to be just like you.

Do you think,
One day
Ill drive a tractor too?

To believe in fairies and spirits,
And witches, pixies
And magic.

And have an eye
like a magpie.

I hope when I am an adult
Ill understand people
In the way that you do.

To care for others
Without getting cross,
But still want to work in a morgue.

Im not sure
if this makes any sense
to anyone else.

But what I really want
When I grow up,
Is to be just like you.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Advertising Cancer

I was watching TV the other night (I have to admit that it was the new show on LivingTV called 'Four Weddings' where four brides get to attend each others' weddings and then slag them off afterwards. It was HILARIOUS, mostly because of the narcissistic gay 'bride' who was the biggest bitch I've ever seen making snobbish value judgements about the other contestants)... I digress... and an advert came on for Cancer Research UK, or CRUK as we call them in the trade.

And I had few thoughts about it. Firstly, due to the seriousness of cancer and the impact it has on peoples' lives, I feel I should mention again that I work for a cancer charity and that my thoughts aren't a reflection of the devastating impact cancer has on people but how we should talk about and view people living with cancer.

The start of this advert is pretty good. I think it reflects the fact that cancer really can affect anyone - and it’s pretty positive too. My issue lies with the last 15 seconds when the whole tone of the advert changes and we're reminding that it’s not a battle everyone wins. Now, I am not suggesting we gloss over the fact that more people are diagnosed and that many, many people still die of cancer or its knock on effects, but there was a clear distinction between 'those who live' and 'those who die'. Those who live look healthy and empowered and hirsute. The two women at the end with bald heads or scarves were clearly meant to represent those people who die as a result of their cancer.

I did find it frustrating that the 'non survivors' were represented by the stereotypical bald cancer victim. No one else in the footage had hair loss, only those telling the audience that many people still die from cancer - with the clear message that this might apply to them. Of course this is harrowing and very likely true for these women - and I was deeply moved for them - but I felt almost patronised at the sharp contrast drawn between the two groups represented within the advert.

There are a number of issues with the way this is represented. Firstly, many people diagnosed with cancer do not suffer hair loss, including many who receive chemo as part of their treatment. Secondly, for me it equates hair loss with terminal illness, which hardly seems fair on those in remission and perpetuates the confusion that it's cancer which causes hair loss and not the treatment. Why are none of the 'survivors' depicted with hair loss? Thirdly, does it really 'do' these days to show a bald teenage girl representing the masses of people diagnosed with cancer, who may indeed not survive, but who are far more likely to be older and not necessarily bald?

Having a hard hitting message is necessary in direct marketing campaigns, but playing on the emotive nature of the young 'victim' is not something which I think does the battle for cancer equality (and fundraising) any favours. It is perfectly possible to hit home the significance of cancer and the need to research into it without resorting to this.

Perhaps I wouldn't have minded if one of the 'survivors' had been bald? Perhaps I wouldn't. It would make the whole thing seem less calculated somehow. I feel that we can't talk about empowering people living with cancer whilst continuing to represent them in this narrow minded and rather old fashioned way.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Highbury Fields

We sat down in
Highbury Fields,

about 7pm
on a Wednesday.

I watched the dogs,
you poured the wine

and we both wondered
what to say.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Tuesday night, in the kitchen

Woman 1: “Look, don’t worry about it- you know you’re right, I know you’re right and so if anyone else thinks differently, they can just fuck off”

Woman 2: “I know, I know, but it’s hard not to worry that people will be all ‘nerr’ about it behind my back – I know they won’t but you can’t help but worry if you’ve opened your big gob AGAIN”

W1: “stop worrying about it and drink your wine… Where are the mushrooms?”

W2: “In the cupboard on the left of the oven. So, what EXACTLY did the email say? Was it like ‘I’m asking because I’m interested’ or ‘I’m asking because secretly I just want to know what’s going with her because I’m a nosey bitch’?”

W1: “ No no no, it was really nice and just out of concern for you. Honestly. … argh, where’s the fucking pepper… ah here it is. Literally, they can just bugger the shit off if they think you’ve done it wrong. Work-people are always a nightmare anyway, so just don’t worry about it. ”

W2: “Well, its not like I’ve paraded it around or anything, or rubbed it in anyone’s face, or pissed anyone off knowingly, so I sort of feel like its not really anyone’s business, you know? I wonder if I should email the group and say something like ‘thank you for being so concerned about me, but its all ok, and I got the promotion and no one minds blah de blah’ to shut them all up? Where’s the rest of the wine?”

W1: “fridge”

W2: “cool, fags?”

W1: “table”

W1: “It’s like what happened to me with the whole ‘sarah-moving-departments’ nightmare, and its all fine now, you just find out which people are twats and which people you know you can rely on next time. And if they’re twatty about it, then whatevs man. Stuff like that always comes out in the wash and the people who were horrible always come out worse off. Just play it calm and nice”

W2: “Fine, you’re right. I know that really, I just want to punch people in the face when they react so badly to stuff like that… Do we want to put chilli in this, or shall we just stick to garlic and stuff?”

W1: “ooh chilli, good idea… yeah, I know, but just remember you’re the one who got it, you deserved it and you earned it fair and square. If anyone wants to say different, they can suck your balls, you know?”

W2: “fair point. SO, more wine? And tell me about what that bloke said when you bumped into him on the tube the other night.”

Friday, 3 July 2009

To keep the surname, or not keep the surname?

'Should women take their husband's surnames' is the topic of this article. I would like to make it clear from the outset that I only read the Daily Mail for the CELEBRITY GOSSIP and nothing else. However, when my eye caught this, I got dragged in to reading it.

It’s fair to say that I am a bit of a hardliner when it comes to feminism, and I appreciate now that I am a little bit older and less angry/ shouty that not everyone has the same opinion as me (it’s just that they're wrong.... I'm joking....). But, I do still wonder why this tradition pervades when its origins are so crap. So I’ll consider the origins first.

1. Your husband used to own you in marriage, and all your possessions. You did not count as a separate entity.

2. Women were/ are handed over by the father into the hands of her husband, much in the way that fathers walk their daughters down the aisle today. The word 'husbandry' is used when we talk about farmers caring for animals. Nice.

3. Taking of the name meant that the woman wasn't the responsibility of her family anymore. They pretty much had no rights as heirs, and even if they were the only sold survivor from a family, the money would go to the husband anyway.

I know that nowadays this isn't the case, so much of the stuff that used to happen as a result of being married off isn't something to worry about now, but the symbolism of all this is very much based in ownership.

OK, so what are my arguments against taking your husband's name?

Firstly, there is the issue of tradition, which most of the points above refer to. Tradition is never a good reason to continue doing something if it doesn't stand up to decent scrutiny. There are a lot of things we don't do anymore because they seem dated, like keep slaves or dog fight, or bare knuckle box. We don't have to take our husband's name 'just because'.

Secondly, the other thoughts that go through my head are - ‘Why the hell do I have to take YOUR name? Why not you take mine? Why am I compromising who I am? Aren't we meant to be a team!?’

But for me, ultimately, the bottom line is that it just isn’t EQUAL. And, people, I'm all about the equal.

If, when we got married, the tradition was for the woman to pay the man £5,000 for the benefit of marrying him, would we be so happy about it? What about if you had to build him a house first? Why are we entering into a contract where we must pay consideration in return for no discernable benefit? Unless you have a super sexy rock star surname I'm not sure that 'getting a new name' can really be considered a true offer in the tradition of a binding contract...

Ok, so....

What are the arguments in favour of taking your husband's surname rather than keeping your own?

1) You hate your name
2) You love tradition
3) You haven't ever thought not to
4) you're under familial pressure to do it
5) You just want to...

These are all perfectly fine reasons, and if any of these reasons are important enough to you, then ignore me. I can't think of any more, but I would be keen to hear anything anyone else has to add.... When I considered these different reasons, I realised that all of them are really just 'subjective personal points of view'.

The problem with this is that there isn't really a place for that kind of argument in a semi-academic debate. The whole point of taking an accepted custom and questioning it is that you put your personal point of view to one side and consider only the arguments left after that...

A question for me, then, is whether I believe in marriage at all, then, since I seem to have a problem with so much that comes with it. The thing is I REALLY do.

I define marriage as:

Two people entering into an agreement which states that they will work together as a team, becoming united in their goals of happiness and health, and to share all material possessions equally.

With the recent foot-stamping going on about massive divorce payouts, the 'shared material possessions' stuff is more important than ever. This part of the agreement is unbreakable, meaning that if you decide you want to get married, part of what comes with it is the agreement that you will split everything fifty fifty FOREVERMORE. For that reason, I actually think the law is complicating things for itself by allowing pre-nups to leak slowly into the English legal system.

If you're determined to get back exactly what you put in to your marriage should you break up, then don't bloody well get married. The one remaining purpose of marriage these days is to split everything down the middle - it is no longer about sex, children, religion or gender, so if we allow pre-nups then we undermine the one thing keeping marriage an institution and blur the distinction between marriage and co-habitation further.

I believe there are good reasons for co-habitants and married couples to remain separate, we can't simply go around contractualising co-habiting relationships in order to protect people who aren't married without their permission, for a start.... but this debate is for another time.

I am pro-marriage, pro-unity, pro-two people in love promising to split the good and bad times in half, FOREVER.

However, I am not 'pro- taking another person's name' because I don't see how two people can enter into something together, equally, if one must give up something so closely tied to their identity. This is how I feel. But not how many people feel. It could certainly be argued that the whole thing is an academic moot point, because if it isn't important to the individuals concerned then it isn't important at all.

I know many happy couples who took the name of their husband and are of course not in unbalanced, oppressive marriages! I would never suggest that to be the case. I just happen to feel that what it stands for historically doesn't make me feel comfortable and that it’s outmoded enough for us to ditch it altogether. And I will of course say here, that if you want to take your husband's name, for whatever reason you decide, that is your free choice and I wouldn't ever judge someone for making that decision. The universal top trump card with all these things is, of course, good old personal choice.

There are alternatives to doing it though (pushy pushy...)

- You can double barrel (though slightly pompous sounding depending on the names.) or you can merge two names together and create something new. This gem also solves the issue many people have about their children not sharing a surname with their parents.... you could pick a totally new new name and BOTH change your names....

Or you know, you could go totally mental and just keep your own name. The one you were born with.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Core Temperature

This is like dipping your toes in a hot bath.
Inch by inch, I’m easing my way in
To water which feels like embers on my skin.

This is like burning your hand on kettle steam.
It doesn’t seem to hurt that much, initially,
but then that stinging feeling grabs on to me.

This is like an ice cube from the freezer.
Stuck hard fast and cold to my fingertip.
If I pull too hard on you, I think my skin will rip

This is like a lesson in basic chemistry.
If I turn you up or cool you down
You might burn off, or I might drown