I lived in Cambridge for many years and I’m proud of my old home town today. Congratulations to Jenny Bailey. Not so proud of the BBC’s headline, but I guess we take small steps forward…


Read this now


You have to read this from Sylvia. Truly brilliant, truly beautiful.

What she said


See this post by Ms Jared. I too am an ignorant fool.

On blinkers…


First off, apologies for not blogging at all for three months. I could give you reasons, but a lot of it was sheer laziness.

I’m currently suffering with an evil head cold, brought on by a long-haul flight from the other side of the world. It’s making me feel like shit, but has given me time to catch up on the feminist blogosphere’s latest controversy.

Jessica Valenti of Feministing.com, who is also an occasional contributor to the Guardian, has written a book, Full Frontal Feminism. And many people in the feminist blogging world are not happy about it, no sirree.

To some extent, the backlash against Valenti’s book was entirely predictable. As soon as I heard Jessica was writing a book, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop – the Shoe of Criticism, if you will. Like it or not, Jessica is the “face” of Feministing (no matter how unfair that may be to Samhita, Ann, Vanessa or anyone else who writes there), partially because of the “boobgate” thing. There are always going to be some people who will be jealous of the fact that she has been picked to represent the world of feminist blogging by writing a book or who will be angered that she is the one whose views on feminism are published in the mainstream media (and that the article is so very simplistic, but that’s another story). In short, people are people. Maybe that was why some of the “big bloggers” got it so wrong – they were expecting a backlash from people who wanted some of that limelight for themselves.

And yet that’s not what this was about…

The furore over whether Valenti’s book was inclusive of women of colour (apologies to fellow Brits – we just don’t use that phrase here, but I’ll use it rather than any of the Brit alternatives) wasn’t about jealousy over not getting a book deal, personal issues with the author or the rest. It was about an accusation that has been made about feminism since the very beginning: that feminism is largely a movement for well-off white women talking amongst themselves and that issues of importance to non-white women are systematically marginalised. This is a HUGE issue, and the response from many of the WoC bloggers out there shows that it is one that strikes a chord with them. Saying that it’s not important is simply not an option when there are so many many women out there telling you that it is.

As feminists we hate it when left-wing men tell us to suck it up about our issues because talking about them is “divisive”. Why can’t we white feminists get that it’s just as patronising and just as wrong (Steve, I do mean you) to ask non-white feminists to shut up about their issues?

So, I did a LOT of reading yesterday (haven’t yet done any talking, but only because my head is so fuzzy I’m not sure I could take part in any conversation properly). Started with Piny’s post at Feministe, which had a lot of good links, went to Ilyka Damen (by the way, I just LOVE Ilykaread her!), then from there on to Blackamazon, (LOTS of Blackamazon), Sylvia at The Anti-Essentialist Conundrum, Magniloquence, Donna, Brownfemipower at Donna’s place, Nezua, Belledame and many others, finally returning to Jill’s follow-up post on Feministe. While I was there, I simply read and listened to what these bloggers had to say. I’m not trying to say I deserve a cookie here for simply not acting like an asshole – going to blogs and reading what people actually think without jumping in and derailing the conversation is the bare minimum of research and politeness. What did strike me was how some of the bloggers I admire (Jill at Feministe, Amanda at Pandagon – although Jill’s follow-up post did go a long way to correcting that) didn’t seem to be willing to do that.

Chris Clarke wrote a great post for Pandagon back in April as a guide for men (written in response to the Kathy Sierra online harassment situation and the way in which it was dismissed by Kos, one of the big liberal blogs). I can’t imagine a single feminist who won’t have read it and nodded along:

I see there are some kind, helpful men who are taking pains to make sure emotion doesn’t run rampant in the discussion, that unfair accusations of misogyny or characterizations of harassment statistics get spread in an understandable emotional response to a few very upsetting instances of harassment by piglike men who fall far outside the norm. Surely, these men reason, we mustn’t let these nasty experiences color our judgment of the actual events involved. Surely it helps no one to make wild and baseless charges without looking, in uber-dispassionate detachment, at the actual statistics and methodology and margin of error of the studies that show women get harassed more than men. Come, let us reason together calmly, they say. References to Salem and the McMartin pre-school and such come unbidden to their lips.

I’m a big fan of dispassionate, rational, fact-based discussion of the issues myself, and it is in that spirit that I offer, to my brethren who’ve taken it upon themselves to be a shining light of dispassion on this topic, these fraternal words of guidance:

Shut the fuck up.

As Chris finishes:

And when you shut the fuck up, two magical things happen:

1) You’re no longer actively contributing to the very problem you’re discussing;
2) It’s easier to listen to what the women are actually saying.

You know what, everyone? Shut the fuck up. Listen to what fellow feminist bloggers are telling you. They feel marginalised and ignored in a movement whose goal is equality and whose members are quite able to spot a man exercising his privilege at a thousand paces, yet somehow can’t see how a white feminist could be doing the same thing.

It’s hard not to put on the blinkers when a friend is being criticised. It’s even harder when it seems like you are being criticised. But we ask men to do this all the time. We say “it’s not about you – you don’t have to identify with the people who happen to have the same chromosomes as you but who act like assholes“. So take off the blinkers, listen and learn. If we can’t do this for our friends and allies amongst non-white women, how can we expect men to do it either? We owe it to ourselves but, most of all, we owe it to the women around us.

Updated to add:

Belledame has linked to my post at Fetch Me My Axe (I am incredibly flattered!) and one of her commenters, Sara E  Anderson, points out:

I don’t think the “don’t identify with the assholes’ model really is very helpful, since we’re talking about a lot of unconscious and inadvertent behavior here. I could just start to ignore anything that makes me uncomfortable, because I get to think, “Well, it’s not me that’s doing racist thing x, phew.”

She’s absolutely right and I should have made it clear that “Well, I’m not a xxxx-ist asshole so I don’t need to question my behaviour at all” doesn’t get us off the hook that easily! We all have subconscious/unconscious prejudices and we need to think about them if someone points out some aspect of our behaviour to us. However, we don’t have to choose to be offended, upset or angry if someone points out a way in which we are taking advantage of our privilege – we can react like people whose friends are pointing out things for our own good, which is what is happening nine times out of ten. I hope that makes things clearer.

Warning: there will be spoilers for the CSI episodes already shown on five so far in this article.

What on earth has happened to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation? The fourth episode into the new series on five, and CSI has dramatically jumped the shark. I had my suspicions after the end of the previous series, where Sara and Grissom were shown sharing an intimate moment in a hotel room (good grief, crack-monkeys* writers – they might be drawn to each other, but getting them together is a terrible idea), but things have gone from bad to worse.

There was a time when CSI was slick, compelling and quirky. Its team of gorgeous oddballs were science geeks who just happened to look like supermodels, but who had obsessions with entomology and the Discovery channel and were barely able to form functioning human relationships. But now there are signs of a creeping decline into CSI: Stupid territory.

Chief among the betrayals in this series is what they have done to Gil Grissom. Once an introverted, intelligent, compassionate man who seemed more comfortable with his collection of insects than with people (unless they were deaf, little people or dominatrixes), Gil is showing signs of Horatio Caine syndrome and morphing into a pompous, judgemental, moralising blowhard. Grissom was the man who could be counted on to not to judge the more freakish aspects of Vegas culture the CSI team ran up against every week. The more of an outsider a suspect was, the more Gil identified with them, treated them as people and refused to give a knee-jerk response. But now we are subjected to scenes like the one in the second episode of the current series, where Gil suggests that a man whose wife may or may not have killed herself could be prosecuted for assisting a suicide. The Grissom they have built up over the previous series as compassionate man who refuses to make up his mind until all the evidence has been gathered and analysed would never have suggested something so brutal.

Once resolutely about the science and the evidence, CSI has cast all that out and replaced it with shallow stupidity. The second episode, where the dead bodies in the morgue sat up and talked to each other in between a quartet of thin stories about their respective demises, cavalierly cast out CSI’s former devotion to the physical evidence. Was it supposed to be whimsical? Moving? If so, it failed spectacularly. Seeing the dead bodies sitting up and talking to each other broke the real-world (if an incredibly well-funded and glamorous real world) feel on which CSI has always relied. It changed the rules.

No, now it’s all about the CSIs. So far Greg, Catherine and her daughter Lindsey have all been victims of crimes, and we’re barely into the first half of the season.

In the first (double) episode, Catherine was drugged in a club and woke up in a strange motel room. Suspecting she had been raped, she performed her own rape kit, something we saw in wince-inducing detail. It transpired that she had been drugged and her daughter kidnapped for leverage over her father, Sam Braun, an old Vegas-style casino boss. At the end of the episode, Sam (a long-running character, whose prickly and morally confusing relationship with Catherine has always been interesting) was shot and killed. The death of a major character was squished into five minutes at the end of the show and has barely been referred to since. They may be setting Catherine up for a major breakdown, but there’s no sign of it yet, and some of the questions a regular viewer would want answered (does Catherine inherit Sam’s casino empire?) have been completely ignored.

Next, in the fourth episode, Greg became the victim of Kevin Federline and his gang (da kidz aren’t all right), who were happy slapping (called “fanny smacking” in the show – dear god…) unsuspecting Vegas tourists for kicks. Greg, trying to stop out a down-home cowboy type from being beaten to death, got kicked around the set for no discernable reason, except to liven up an otherwise thinly-plotted episode. The show had no shades of grey – Grissom even compared da kidz to a “swarm” in order to plot their movements. Equating criminals with animals (Federline played a character called “Pig Man” and wore a pig mask) is about as reactionary as it comes.

Nick’s character has always been an interesting take on a type of masculinity. Square-jawed, Texan, conventionally handsome, in another show he would be the all-American hero. In earlier seasons of CSI he has consistently been shown to be vulnerable – crying (and not in a macho way – in a really scared way) when a gun was drawn on him, being kidnapped and buried alive in the Tarantino-directed finale of season five, and having been molested as a child. Nick more often finds himself the damsel-in-distress of CSI than any of the female characters. He has also been presented as empathetic.

Nicky held at gunpoint:

So when Greg was beaten, it was entirely out of character for Nick to hit one of the kids who were taunting the CSIs as they worked the scene, but yet again the writers threw years of character development out of the window to show some reactionary, “justified” brute force.

Tonight’s episode (Double Cross) was an unholy mess. A pregnant singer crucified in a church. A suspiciously silent priest and a garrulous car salesman. Andi from Dawson’s Creek in a minor role as a nun. Turns out the priest, the car salesman and the singer were old high school friends. The singer and the priest had been a couple back in the day, and the car salesman had been sleeping with the singer since the priest threw her over for God.

The story meandered along, stretched out by Brass’s sudden inability to perform even a perfunctory interrogation. Finally the old friend, the car dealer, confessed to killing the singer. She was leaving him for the priest. So what gets through to this stone killer, so cold that he is able to crucify the woman he supposedly loves? The baby she is carrying is his. This is enough to break the man down and he begins to cry. The important thing is he killed his own baby. Not that he killed the woman he loved, the one he had been friends with from childhood, in an appallingly cruel way. No, it was the foetus baby that got him. Well, thanks, CSI, for that reminder that adult women are less important than babies. At the end, the killer told the priest that he should have been man enough to come to him as a friend and tell him that he and the singer were planning to marry. Man enough. Once upon a time CSI would have made it clear how deluded a killer was who said that kind of thing. In the new, reactionary CSI, it passes without comment.

Sadly, I think it’s time to close the curtains on CSI. Once darkly funny, conventional yet subversive, all about the science and cracking good entertainment, it has lost the things that made it special. The evidence is in and the conclusion can now be reached – CSI is guilty of becoming just another blowhard cop show.

*With apologies to Demian at TWoP.

I turned over to ITV1 tonight, unusually for me, because I wanted to watch the Tonight programme’s edition on anorexia and the pro-ana sites on the internet.

Unfortunately the programme spent a mere 23 minutes on anorexia, choosing to cut it short for an update of their programme on whether your council tax band had been wrongly calculated. It was a shame, as the stories of the young women with anorexia and the parents of those who had died were moving and saddening, and this programme marked the start of national eating disorders awareness week.

According to beat, the new name for the Eating Disorders Association, anorexia is the third leading cause of death amongst teenagers after car accidents and suicides. It’s the deadliest form of mental illness. And it seems that the healthcare system is failing anorexic patients, with far too many healthcare practitioners writing signs of anorexia off as “fad diets” or part of growing up. It is hard to find places for young anorexics in specialist eating disorder units, but these are the places where they are most likely to get the help they need.

It’s easy to forget that there are growing numbers of young men who suffer from eating disorders too, and that they receive even less recognition and treatment than young women – doctors who fail to recognise the symptoms of eating disorders in young women are even less likely to find them in young men.

Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are serious mental illnesses, and deserve to be treated with the same seriousness as physical illnesses. The victims are disproportionately young people whose lives are ruined, shortened or ended by their illness. More specialist help is needed and it is needed now. If you can, make a donation to beat today.

(Photo by .S at Flickr.)

I should have posted this on Thursday, but didn’t have time. So it’s a bit out of date now…

I just can’t keep away from the Mail this week. It burns my eyes, and yet I can’t not look.

The paper of choice for homophobes, petty racists and MRAs today has no fewer than two stories involving false allegations of rape.

The first of these is regarding a woman, Abigail Gibson, who alleged four different claims of rape and was sentenced to two years. Note how the headline refers to her as a “church minister’s daughter” – yes, ladies, our fathers still own us even when we’re 22.

Continue reading ‘False allegations of rape not as common as the Mail would have you believe’