exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

always chasing men

by Jen at 8:49 am on 27.09.2011 | 1 Comment
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, rant and rage, this sporting life

it’s not that difficult to rile me up pre-coffee in the mornings, but few things have had me seeing red like the article i read this morning, where the IAAF (the governing athletics body) have decided to completely strip the current women’s world marathon record holder of her achievement. that’s right: back in 2003, Paula Radcliffe ran the London marathon faster than any female has ever run 26.2 miles… but that’s no longer considered the world record.

why, you ask? what could have possibly come to light to require such a drastic move? what did Paula Radcliffe do? what rule could she have breached?

well, none. it’s just that the IAAF have decided, with the benefit of eight years of hindsight, that it was too easy for her – because it was a mixed race, you see, and she *got to run behind a man*. that was clearly an unfair advantage. and so they’ve taken that record away.

“you know that race you ran 8 years ago, where *you ran faster than any other woman in the world*? that race that has defined your career and your international standing? … PSYCH! not a world record! ha ha!” -IAAF

also: if you want to set a world record and you’re a woman? from now on, you’d better find an all women’s race to do it in, because otherwise it doesn’t count. so New York, Boston, London, Chicago, Berlin marathons? no need to do your best there anymore, ladies. apparently the IAAF think you just breeze along to the finish line… because obviously the men will have already done all the hard work of pacing the race.

(but wait: the men in a race have male pacers, don’t they? why yes – yes, they do. but for a woman to have a male pacer is unfair.


i suppose i shouldn’t be surprised by this unbelievably transparent bid to completely discredit women’s achievements out of hand. after all, this is *what the patriarchy does*.

the other day, the king of saudi arabia decided to allow women saudis to vote (four years from now). how very fucking beneficent of him, eh? women all over social media were hailing this as some great achievement. but let’s be clear: it’s not. what it is, is a male dictator who has decided to let women be just a millimetre less oppressed than they were yesterday.

this is what the patriarchy does. it sets the rules. it changes them at whim. it giveth… and then it taketh away. it is always reminding us who’s really in control. it keeps women off balance, and hungry, and grateful for every crumb they are thrown. after all, 2012 will be only the 8th time women have even been allowed to race the olympic marathon! shouldn’t we still pleased as punch about that?

no. no i’m bloody well not. i’m tired of having to fight tooth and nail to simply be *less oppressed*, and i’m tired of the two-steps-forward-one-step-back dance that’s designed to serve as a constant reminder that no matter how far we advance, we are still, and will always be, behind. it is a methodical form of continual humiliation to remind us that we still have to have our rights and achievements accredited by men in order for them to truly count.

so even if you run the fastest marathon in the world, it means nothing unless *they* decide it means something. the message here, ladies: as in the rest of life, no matter how hard you work, no matter how hard you fight, you’ll always just be seen to be chasing a man. and don’t you dare forget it.

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why babies in bikinis is not the problem

by Jen at 5:37 am on 5.06.2011 | 2 Comments
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle

so david cameron is launching a campaign to purportedly help protect children from exploitative, hyper-sexualised commercial targeting by retailers, advertisers, and various media forms. the “let children be children” measures will include:

• Retailers to ensure magazines with sexualised images have modesty sleeves.

• The Advertising Standards Authority to discourage placement of billboards near schools and nurseries.

• Music videos to be sold with age ratings.

• Procedures to make it easier for parents to block adult and age restricted material on internet.

• Code of practice to be issued on child retailing.

• Define a child as 16 in all types of advertising regulation.

• Advertising Standards Authority to do more to gauge parent’s views on advertising.

• Create a single website for parents to complain to regulators.

• Change rules on nine o’clock television watershed to give priority to views of parents.

so for the sake of simplicity, let’s set aside the problems about using “morality” campaigns to divert attention from things like service cuts and the floundering economy (taking a page out of U.S. Republicans’ playbook there). and let’s set aside the idea that for someone who derided the “nanny state” that Britain had supposedly become under Labour, this is pretty direct government intervention in the arena of parental control.

what is most problematic about this initiative is this: it does absolutely nothing to address the root cause of the problem, and in fact, only amplifies an existing hypocrisy. this whole thing is just a big red herring. because the problem is not that children are being targeted for “sexy” clothing, or exposed to too many pelvic thrusts before 9pm (and if that doesn’t smack of “Elvis the pelvis” 1950s retrogression, i don’t know what does).

the problem is we’re not talking about children – we’re talking about *girls*. and the reason we are talking about girls, is because as a society, we expect girls to become gender-conformant and gender-performing women. women who must learn to be sexy, but not actually have (or god-forbid enjoy) sex. women who should wear high heels and padded bras and makeup, but never be seen as teasing or provocative, lest they incite men. women who must demonstrate sexuality, but never use it. women who must learn to measure their value by their perceived attractiveness, because that is what they will always receive the most reward and attention for. women who must never rebuff lewd remarks or glances from strangers on the street, even when they feel intimidated or violated. women who must aspire to look like the photoshopped plasticine images used to sell beer and cars and diet sodas, even if it’s physiologically impossible, and if they can’t achieve that, they are defective or deficient in some way, so they must never stop trying even if it requires surgical modification or starvation. women who must learn not inhabit their bodies, because their bodies do not belong to them – their bodies belong to the advertisers and pornographers and media to manipulate and sell for profit.

it takes a lifetime to learn to walk that fine line, even with the continuous bombardment of cultural reinforcement on a daily basis reminding us of what a sexy woman should be, what a woman must and must not do. we cannot possibly hope for young girls to understand the multitudinous nuances that society will expect of them as they mature. and god knows, the boys must learn it too – otherwise, how else will they know how to help the girls conform?

you see where i’m going with this, i’m sure.

the problem is, always has been, and still remains: until we stop sending this insane message, until we stop wrapping women’s worth in a tangled mess of conflicting and impossible sexual mores, until we stop valuing females based on their appearance and perceived availability as sexual objects, girls will never stop having to try to learn it and live it – and advertisers/media/entrepreneurs will never stop trying to sell it.

but people rarely stop to think: if it’s a problematic message for children, why isn’t it a problematic message for adults? it’s easier to pretend we can censor it, or control it, until kids are “old enough” to learn to handle it.

so my question is: at exactly what age is any of that bullshit appropriate?

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on the hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day

by Jen at 6:30 pm on 8.03.2011Comments Off
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle

… i am most grateful for:

- my childhood copy of “Free to Be You and Me”. it was my first exposure to feminist and in a million subtle ways it would shape my view of my life as a woman-to-be.

- my local library for stocking it, and letting me check it out over and over and over again.

- and my mom. who modeled equality and capability for me every day. and still does )

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#mooreandme – more on why rape matters

by Jen at 9:22 pm on 22.12.2010 | 1 Comment
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle

so in case you’ve never heard of #mooreandme, here’s the background: lots of “progressive” people in the u.s. media have been involved with discrediting and dismissing the rape allegations against julian assange.

one of them was michael moore. he went on keith olberman’s left-wing talk show, and the two of them laughed at the rape charges. they said it was just about a “broken condom”. (which it definitively is not.) moore called them “hooey”. he went on the bbc and did the same.

and sady doyle (who’s been pretty much the only feminist blogger i regularly read any more) took them on via twitter. she launched a campaign via the #mooreandme hashtag. she kept people tweeting at them (and donating to rape crisis centres) for seven straight days.

in a medium which is as fleeting as twitter, in a medium where hashtags regularly feature insulting misogynist crap, she kept thousands of feminist tweets flying at the brick walls for a week straight. day and night i would check the hashtag and see people from all over endlessly asking olberman and moore for public corrections and apologies, to acknowledge the seriousness of the allegations and the way in which they dismissed them. and when it came to light that michael moore would be interviewed by feminist and progressive television journalist rachel maddow, she began tweeting at her to enlist her help in getting moore to acknowledge the issue.

and sady not only got them to acknowledge it – she got them enlisted as allies. michael moore went on the rachel maddow show and said:

“Every woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted or raped has to be, must be, taken seriously. Those charges have to be investigated to the fullest extent possible,” Moore said. “For too long, and too many women have been abused in our society , because they were not listened to, and they just got shoved aside. . . .So I think these two alleged victims have to be taken seriously and Mr. Assange has to answer the questions.”

keith olberman said:

“Assange attacks the women (in a “tizzy”), prosecutors, compares himself to victims of anti-semitism: http://bit.ly/guvMSJ (AFP): “In an interview with The Times (of London) on Tuesday, Assange compared WikiLeaks’ ‘persecution’ to that endured by Jews in the US in the 1950s.” Actual Times piece is behind Murdoch paywall. Way to burn away more of your support and make yourself look like a misogynist at best, Pal. And no, the irony of ME tweeting this is not lost on me, #mooreandme”

they have *come around* to understand that when the question is (as rachel maddow put it):

“Can your suspicion about the forces arrayed against Julian Assange and Wikileaks — your suspicion about the timing and pursuit of these charges — coexist with respect for the women making these accusations against him and with a commitment to take rape allegations seriously, even when the person accused is someone that for other reasons you like?”

the answer must be yes. the only answer is yes. because to do otherwise is to contribute to the pervasive culture which makes it harder for all rape victims everywhere to report their rape. and when you are a prominent media journalist, when you consider yourself a political progressive, when you are a caring human, you have an obligation to avoid doing that.

sady doyle, at the considerable personal expense of death threats and rape threats and online harrassment and defamation, kept us all going with her persistence and passion for truth in the face of so many lies, so many obstacles, because:

“This happens, this happens OVER and OVER and OVER again, EVERY TIME. It’s not about Julian Assange. He isn’t a special exception. The way this case has been treated is not even unusual. This happens EVERY TIME a woman reports to the police that a man with a lot of fans and a lot of people in his corner has raped her. EVERY FUCKING TIME. They bully her, the people in charge bully her, his fans bully her, the media bullies her, until she agrees to fucking go away, so people can keep pretending that it never happened. So that it can disappear. So that women just agree to SHUT UP and MAKE IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO RAPE US AND GET AWAY WITH IT.”

this isn’t about julian assange. it’s not even about michael moore, or keith olberman. it’s about the women who report rape and are made to shut up and go away, and the ones who are too afraid of being told to shut up and go away to report it in the first place.

thank you, thank you, thank you sady. you’ve personally restored a little of my faith in humanity today. rape matters. it matters to women, and it should matter to the media too.

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stfu, stephen

by Jen at 3:16 pm on 31.10.2010 | 1 Comment
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle

“If women liked sex as much as men, there would be straight cruising areas in the way there are gay cruising areas. Women would go and hang around in churchyards thinking: ‘God, I’ve got to get my fucking rocks off’, or they’d go to Hampstead Heath and meet strangers to shag behind a bush. It doesn’t happen. Why? Because the only women you can have sex with like that wish to be paid for it.”

Fry, 53, continues: “I feel sorry for straight men. The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want,” he said. “Of course, a lot of women will deny this and say, ‘Oh no, but I love sex, I love it!’ But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?”

so sayeth mr. stephen fry. (and also here) now, i have no personal affection for mr fry, unlike much of britain. nor do i think as a public persona he is required to be infallible.

but i find his continued perpetuation of this stereotype of women as frigid to be insulting (and even potentially dangerous) for a few reasons:

a) it’s just flat out archaic – what’re we, in the 1950’s?

b) he’s a gay guy, speaking on something he knows nothing about

c) it insults women everywhere by implying that we only have sex either passively or manipulatively

d) the implicit passive role of women in sex is something we have fought long and hard to overcome – women have a right to their god-given built-in sexuality, including enjoyment, exploration and initiation of sex. reinforcing lazy stereotypes undermines that message, and diminishes the work of sex-positive feminism.

e) viewing women as undesiring, apathetic, or averse to sex *as part of their biological makeup* undermines the power and necessity of women’s active, engaged, willing consent as part of sex.

and if society don’t take women’s “yeses” seriously – how do we expect them to take our “noes” seriously?!

women have enough messages out there about how they can’t/shouldn’t/mustn’t enjoy sex. we don’t need another clueless voice added to the chorus.

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let’s get one thing straight

by Jen at 4:50 pm on 25.07.2010Comments Off
filed under: blurblets, like a fish needs a bicycle

okay, i’m all riled up because i’ve been hearing some otherwise smart women saying some very dumb things, so i’ve just got to get one point off my chest:

women being in positions of power is not feminism – even if they got there on the back of feminists, and even if they appropriate the term “feminist”.

feminism is, at it’s heart, about ensuring equality for *all women*. there are two fundamental principles which must be central to embedding equal opportunity for all: the ability to control one’s body, and protection from discrimination on the basis of sex. feminists may debate many other factors and values around oppression and inequality, but without those two core rights, feminism as a movement, essentially has no meaning.

so you can be a powerful woman, and you can be independent, driven, educated, successful, capable, and equal to any man… but unless you act in ways which advance, at a minimum, those two fundamentals, you are not a feminist, no matter what you choose to call yourself.

to paraphrase jessica valenti: i can call myself an astronaut – that doesn’t make it true.

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thinly veiled

by Jen at 5:15 pm on 13.07.2010 | 2 Comments
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, rant and rage

“france’s lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban wearing the Islamic full veil in public.”

i’ve mentioned here before numerous times that i live in a largely muslim neighbourhood. every day i step out my front door, i see many women in some form of traditional Islamic dress – most often that’s just long sleeves and hijab, but a niquab, or even full burqua, is not terribly uncommon. as an atheist feminist, i’m the first to admit that it makes me uncomfortable to witness, both the disconnect from the westernised culture we both live in, and what such dress represents about a woman’s place in that socio-religious context. it’s something i find symbolically oppressive, even when it is the woman’s fully informed choice to dress that way, as i believe it tacitly condones those (patriarchal) frameworks which exclude choice for so many other women.

but what makes me even more uncomfortable, is the idea that any (largely white, largely male) government should think they are entitled to dictate what a woman does or does not wear.

if i’m feeling charitable, i’ll ascribe these actions to some benevolent impulse – but what all those well-meaning lawmakers miss is this: that to proscribe a certain form of religious dress by specific law, is just as dictatorial as any religion proscribing westernised dress. the attempted imposition of westernised mores on women by telling them they cannot wear the veil, is just as oppressive as any religious requirements telling them they cannot show their hair. because when it comes down to it, the rationale may sound different, but the motives are the same: both embody an attitude of moral superiority, and a belief that society not only has the right to, but an obligation, nay, an *imperative*, to “protect” women through dress code.

when you put the religious clerics and the lawmakers side by side, they all think they know what’s best for the women, who are viewed through a lens of passive participation in their own lives and closets. and whether it’s through religious dictum or democratic law, women are stripped of any agency to *choose what is best for them*.

do some women choose to electively wear the veil? i’m sure many do, even as many do not. is it a choice i would make or agree with? not at all. but under no circumstances would i believe the have the right to tell them that they shouldn’t – just as i don’t believe they have the right to tell me i should. even worse, the targets of this law are people who are already (in many cases) dispossessed of the ability to exercise their will – and yet the lawmakers have banded together and singled them out for special attention and regulation. would any of them dare to dictate what a westernised woman could not wear?

established democracies must be committed to upholding freedom of religious expression, even if it’s an expression we find intensely uncomfortable. in a free society, we must uphold the right for women to make choices, even if those are choices we disagree with – otherwise we engage in perpetuating a power imbalance where women do not decide for themselves. i acknowledge that in some religious contexts, many women may not decide for themselves, and that continues to be problematic – however one set of clothing commandments does not, and cannot cancel out another. we may all feel better not having to see women wearing veils, but it doesn’t change a damn thing that’s going on behind them.

in the end , we cannot change people or their religion simply by changing their clothes, and it’s foolish to try. i think that if we want women to opt out of a religious mandate which views them (and requires them to dress) as lesser beings, we can only hope to incite change by exemplifying freedom, choice and tolerance ourselves.

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what’s wrong with this picture?

by Jen at 6:30 pm on 18.05.2010 | 4 Comments
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, rant and rage

so a week ago, the conservatives and the liberal democrats agreed to rule the country as a coalition government under david cameron as prime minister. it was heralded as an unprecedented change.

coulda fooled me.

the new government? looks suspiciously like a lot of old government – read: almost exclusively white, upperclass, male.


the number of women in the cabinet (not to mention ethnic minorities) is not only completely unrepresentative, it’s completely *insulting* – talk about tokenistic.

columnists and feminist bloggers have, quite rightly, been taking our new overlords to task over a leadership profile that looks like something out of a 1950s sitcom. and much of the commentary response has been along the lines of, “well that’s who people voted for!” and “if there aren’t as many women and ethnic minority members of parliament to choose their cabinet from, that’s not their fault.”

bollocks. it’s a sad fucking state of affairs when the ‘old boys network’ in power expects to lay the blame at the feet of women and ethnic minorities for not being invited to the party in the first place.

it could not be clearer: if your party representatives are almost exclusively white, upperclass, male, that’s because your party is *exclusive*. if you don’t have women and people of non-white backgrounds representing you in parliament, it’s because your party doesn’t represent women and people of non-white backgrounds. if you can’t get women and non-whites to stand for you, it’s because of what you stand for.

in other words, not having a pool of women/non-white members of parliament to choose from, doesn’t let you off the hook for not engaging and involving them in your government. in fact, what is does is point out only all-too-clearly, that the way in which you develop your party policies and politicians is sorely, sorely lacking. anachronistic. retrograde, even.


do something *real* about the gender wage gap. do something *real* about police profiling. do something *real* about urban crime rates. do something *real* about the midwife shortage. make real progress on the multitude of real issues that face women and ethnic minorities, and i guarantee you, you will have absolutely no shortage of them willing to get involved in politics at the local and national levels on your behalf.

because not having a representative leadership does not allow you to just throw up your hands and whimper, “well there’s just not a large enough pool of women and minority mps!”, because if that’s the case, it just means you’re not trying hard enough. nor does it exempt you from responsibility for actively striving to represent all your constituents – including the 50% of the country that is female, and the 10% that’s non-white…

…and even the ones that didn’t vote for you.

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she loves to be one of the girls

by Jen at 1:04 pm on 8.05.2010Comments Off
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle

while i was home visiting my family, i got to spend a lot of time with my niece p, who is rapidly approaching the ripe old age of 5.

she’s got a lot of toys – not nearly as many as most kids these days, but a lot nonetheless. i guess once you have a kid, these things seem to multiply of their own accord – toys are gifted, handed down, left behind accidentally.

and being that my niece is a five year old girl, she is at that age where she has a plethora of pretty pink plastic princess toys. these computer-chipped, pepto bismol coloured, tacky disnified toys. much to my sister’s chagrin, i couldn’t seem to keep my mouth shut. part of me thought they were hilarious in their grotesqueness, the other part of me thought they were noxious – sexist and consumerist in the extreme. this one in particular, was the most odious.


it’s a disney princess cash register/till. disgustingly pink, it features all the stereotypically sexist disney princesses (snow white, belle, ariel, cinderella etc.) and buttons which say things like “cosmetics”, “toys”, “shoes”, “handbags”. it apparently also comes (when new) with plastic credit card and makeup.

it says this:

i think my sister felt i was critiquing her parenting by criticising these toys. “if you don’t make a big deal out of them, they’re not a big deal jen!”

and to a large extent, i know that that is true. after all, there are few well adjusted adult women who expect to life to replicate a disney fantasy.

but think about how many women who epitomise shopping as a feminine hobby, or who expect to be “treated like a princess” by a man, or who profess a love of all things pink – not an insignificant number. when these are the kinds of behaviours little girls find attention and reward in, it gets harder to dismiss these kinds of toys as being innocuous.

yet they are almost impossible to avoid – even i, a non-parent, can see that. even if my niece’s life were to be purged of all this consumerist pink princess crap, it’s what her friends play with at their houses. it’s in television and movies, it’s in the books and dvds at the library. it’s postitively insidious, creeping in from every angle. so why wage a war against something you can’t win?

i understand that. i do. and i’m not criticising parents, who are essentially helpless to prevent this invasion.

i’m criticising the corporations. it’s infuriating that so much of a little girl’s childhood is for sale – that there are people who make money by specifically targeting an avalanche of consumer goods at little girls which tell them in a million different ways they are most valued, most feminine when they conform to stereotype. that there are people who get rich by making sure little girls are tied up with a pink ribbon – it’s crass and amoral and, yes, damaging. because if you’re a little girl, the stereotype that you are being continually assaulted with is that all little girls like pink plastic princesses, and their parents like little girls who like pink plastic princesses, and therefore you must like them too.

it’s enraging that little girls and their parents have to battle these messages at all. and it’s disheartening to know so many of them won’t.

my sister says if you don’t make a big deal out of it, it’s not a big deal, and i want to believe that. sure, today my niece’s favourite colour is (predictably) pink. but maybe tomorrow it will be purple or green. she has that putrid pink princess register, but rarely plays with it – one of her current favourite toys is a wooden workbench. and if indeed, the most direct influence on molding and shaping a young girl is the role model of her mother, then my niece is one extremely lucky girl indeed.

i only wish all little girls could be so lucky.

pretty in pink – the national

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whereupon i alienate 99% of mothers

by Jen at 6:22 pm on 7.04.2010 | 5 Comments
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, mutterings and musings

the other day i turned on the television to one of the “women’s” network cable channels that i never visit, only to stumble upon a show called “a baby story”. that’s right, a whole show dedicated to someone having a baby. i was intrigued to see what kind of plot twist there would be: perhaps this was a special messianic baby, or the birth was complicated in some way? but nope – this was just a garden variety birth, thoroughly sanitised, without even any bloody bits or drama. ordinary at best, dull at worst. and yet here was some middle-class lady with her legs in stirrups, eager to share her ordinary birth experience, presumably with some clamouring audience that had an overwhelming desire to watch almost nothing of note happen. but the gushing, glowing accolades about motherhood after the baby was born? well they were just unreal – you would have thought she was the first woman to ever successfully procreate.

it got me to thinking: when did motherhood get to be such a big deal?

now i’m not saying that it’s not individually a big deal for each mother. of course it is, and rightly so. i have a mother, we all came from mothers. mothers are important, we love mothers. i totally get that.

no, what i fail to understand lately, is the elevation of all things mother-related to near-sainthood. it’s become a cult of motherhood – one where all mothers are revered. all mothers are idolised, and mothers-to-be are feted. everything mother-related is viewed as being enveloped in a golden halo. motherhood itself is seen as the highest calling any woman can aspire to. mothers of multiples are practically worshipped (see: “Jon and Kate Plus 8″, the “Octomom” obsession, and anything and everything to do with the Duggars). society is obsessed with mothers. there are faddish “yummy-mummies”, and mommy blogs, and doom-laden warnings about postponing motherhood, and television shows, and acronyms for “SAHM” or “WOTH” mothers, and “soccer moms”, and “mommy wars”, and “helicopter moms”, yadda yadda yadda.

mothers sacrifice, mothers are wellspings of giving and devotion, mothers toil uncomplainingly and unendingly. giving birth is a miracle, nourishing a new human inside and outside one’s body is the ultimate act of creation and caregiving. raising a child is the most rewarding thing you will ever do.

all of which is true… but so what? 99% of all women will become a mother – why all the media hype?

it didn’t used to be this way. when i grew up in the 70s, mothers were just… mothers. (ooops, did i just say that?)

and yet we’ve fetishised it of late. and i would argue, we’ve done so to the detriment of both mothers *and* fathers alike.

(yeah, fathers. remember them?)

these days the cult of motherhood is so all pervasive, so all consuming, so all-idealised that there is overwhelming pressure on women to be something they can never be: the perfect mother. i know several smart, strong, capable women who’ve been reduced to a quivering mess because they fear “doing it wrong”. because attachment parenting doesn’t work for them. because they didn’t breastfeed long enough. because they breastfed too long. because they didn’t breastfeed at all. because they didn’t get their “pre-baby” bodies back as quickly as the next person. because they don’t have the wherewithall to enroll their child in private school. because they (*gasp*) can afford to stay at home, but don’t want to, and feel guilty about it. because they *do* want to stay at home, but can’t afford to, and feel guilty about it. because they let their child watch television. because they let their child eat sugar. because they got their kids vaccinated. because they didn’t. because they only have one child and their kid will be lonely. because they have a few kids and they don’t all get individual attention. because they spend too much time on the internet. because their kid doesn’t hit developmental milestones fast enough. because they don’t eat organic. because they don’t cook enough. because they buy their kid’s halloween costume at a store instead of hand-sewing one. yadda yadda yadda.

because they are under the weight of a society’s gaze that is all-idealising, all-critiquing, all-consuming, all-motherhood-all-the-time. and they are bound to disappoint. society has raised the bar so high, painted the halo with such a wide brush, that no one can possibly wear it.

and remember the fathers? in a society that is all-motherhood-all-the-time, they are relegated to the sidelines as ostracised bit players. we exhort men to be more equal, involved partners in parenting – but only mothers get the recognition.

and with a culture that is so skewed towards mothers, is that a healthy message to pass on to the children in this equation?

it seems to me that we have turned motherhood itself into just another obsessive pursuit of the unobtainable female ideal – just as damaging as any photoshopped model in a magazine. instead of viewing the “normal” and “ordinary” as worthy of quiet respect and appreciation in their own right, we obsess over and venerate a hyper-glossy and warped version of the female form, until women everywhere are killing themselves to conform.

and in doing so, we miss out on recognising the work of everyday mothers, doing everyday mothering. not extraordinary, perfect mothers who only exist in the careful editing of reality television shows. not sainted, virgin mothers who birth the son of god. just everyday mothers – who do it all without the limelight and veneration…

…and sometimes with a little help from a father.

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and it’s all your fault

by Jen at 7:17 pm on 10.02.2010 | 3 Comments
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, rant and rage

i pass this poster every day, twice a day. plenty of people see this and think it’s a sensible advert.


i see it every day and it makes me irate.

it reminds me of this wonderful advert that the police put out at holiday time:

it is not my job to make sure unlicensed mini-cab drivers don’t rape me. that is the job of the *fucking police*.

funny, i don’t see any drinking or mini-cab adverts aimed at warning men. and if there’s an expectation that men should be safe drinking, and taking cabs, and can do so free from assault, then shouldn’t we hold the same expectations of safety for women?

we don’t make people or society safer by telling women they shouldn’t do what men do. you know, drink. and take cabs.

in a nutshell, this is the problem with ads like this: you *cannot* make women reponsible for “protecting themselves” without also implying that the corollary is then also true – namely, that if you *don’t* “protect yourself”, then you are somehow responsible if something happens.

it does not make sense on any logical planet to say, “we’re not victim blaming… but just in case, you should avoid becoming a victim”.

even worse, trying to scare women into never taking cabs or never drinking *does not make us safer*. it does not put rapists behind bars, and it does not innoculate us from harm.

i’m sick of seeing horrible, sad depictions of women who “should’ve known better”, crying with regret and shame because they didn’t heed the warnings, and now have been raped. (after all, don’t they know if they’d just been more cautious, they would’ve been safe ? but they were too brazen! and now look – they’ve been violated instead! look at them scream!)


no. what i want to see is rape conviction rates that make it into the goddamn double digits. what i want to see is women who are unafraid to do the same things men do – walk the streets at night, drink (sometimes too much, even), take cabs alone. what i want to see is a society that no longer tells women they need to protect themselves from potential rapists, but that demands laws and policing that truly protect *everybody*.

take every last penny put into “sensible” victim-blaming adverts like these, and put that money towards stopping rape.

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blog for choice 2010

by Jen at 12:01 am on 22.01.2010Comments Off
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle

(see here for my blog for choice entries from 2009, 2008, 2007)

blog for choice

“This year, we are dedicating Blog for Choice Day 2010 to the legacy of Dr. George Tiller. Dr. Tiller often wore a button that simply read, “Trust Women.” As we reflect on Dr. Tiller’s contribution and the current state of choice, our question to you is this: What does “Trust Women” mean to you?”

this really resonates with me. last year, in the wake of dr. tiller’s horrific murder, i found myself arriving at some surprising conclusions – that “trust women” extends far beyond the issue of abortion rights.

to live in a fully realised egalitarian society means that we must trust women:

-to control their own lives
-to control every aspect of their own bodies
-to make decisions that are right for them
-to make decisions that are right for their families and relationships
-to exercise the same kinds of autonomy, freedom and choice that are afforded to men

..and trust that doing so will lead to stronger societies for us all.

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marching on

by Jen at 11:47 am on 22.11.2009 | 5 Comments
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, rant and rage

last night, my friend amity and i attended a reclaim the night march, as i’ve done off and on since university. it’s a way for women to demonstrably protest the culture of sexual violence which makes the streets unsafe for women.

so we’re marching along in the rain through the centre of london streets. several hundred women, surrounded by dozens of police escorts, chanting, holding placards, drawing the attention of tourists and onlookers. there are guys who feel the need to boo or mock us – which is par for the course, really. some mentally unstable guy spat. whatever.

and then, out of nowhere, in the middle of leicester square, some guy cuts through the crowd, walks up to my friend amity next to me, gropes her breasts, and slips away into the crowd. in the middle of hundreds of women, in the middle of dozens of police.

after the initial shock wore off, i found myself getting really emotional.

it was a massive fuck you. more so than if he’d made some snarky remark (like some men did), more so than if he’d booed (like some men did), more so than if he’d laughed (like some men did).

it was a bold statement: you think you’re safe, you think you can fight back, you think you can reclaim the night… well i’m going to prove to you that i can do whatever i want to you, whenever i feel like it.

you are never safe.

it really shook me. i nearly abandoned the march at that point. after all, if a guy can do that anytime he wants, just because he feels he’s entitled to – then what the fuck is the point?

but as i continued clomping along in my wet boots and bedraggled hair, my sodden sign wavering, my voice having escaped me…

i began to get angry. i mean white hot fury. that “fuck you” was *supposed* to completely dispirit us, make us feel vulnerable.

i will not let that happen to me. not ever. and certainly not because some fucking arsehole managed to momentarily catch me off guard.

fuck you, motherfucker. if you meant to scare us, you failed.

still – if there was ever any doubt that we still need to reclaim the night, that was a perfect example of exactly why it’s so important. why i will continue to participate even when there’s rain, or in-fighting amongst feminist groups, etc.

because until that culture of sexual entitlement changes, nothing will change. until every single person is free from sexual assault, none of us is.

until the streets are free of those who would mock us, or undermine our safety, i’ll keep marching.

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the problem with pornography

by Jen at 2:07 pm on 20.11.2009 | 5 Comments
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle

i’ve been thinking a lot about pornography lately. it’s a topic i find hard to grapple with because it’s something that i’ve always had a difficult time reconciling with my particular personal brand of feminism. my brand of feminism, i guess if i had to describe it, is based in a largely pragmatic view of the world at large, but with my efforts funnelled towards those causes i think can have the greatest impact. in my personal brand of feminism, i don’t like to spend a lot of time railing against everything (though one might not guess that from some of my posts here!), but there are key changes needed which i believe are fundamental to the advancement of women’s equality. i believe that, like all fights for rights, the war is a long one, and change is slow, so you have to pick and choose your battles, and wisely consider where best to invest your energies.

pornography is a thorny thing for feminism in general. there are credible arguments from feminists that porn is empowering for women. there are also credible arguments from feminists that porn is truly harmful for women. which leaves me (and others) feeling somewhat stranded between a rock and a hard place.

as someone who has viewed and enjoyed pornography before, i have a hard time condemning porn outright. i’m not a prude, and i don’t have any particular objection to men or women taking pleasure in watching sexual acts, as part of a wide continuum of sexual expression. additionally, i am not an idiot – pornography is nothing new. from the early days of human representational art, sex has been depicted visually in various forms from religious to erotic. film and photographic porn is, in some ways, simply an extension of this.

in other words, porn is not, in and of itself, bad.

the difficulty for me arises from the fact that modern pornography is created, marketed and sold within a particular context – a context from which the end product cannot be extricated or innoculated. a context which is problematic in many ways.

the first and most obvious difficulty is that women involved in porn usually arrive at a place where they are getting their kit off for money because there are not exactly a plethora of other options available to them. in a nutshell, no little girl thinks “i want to be a porn actress when i grow up” – they just don’t. that’s not to imply that women in the porn industry don’t have free will – because many do participate willingly. but selling one’s body as a means to earn a living is not usually someone’s preferred choice of career. for many women, their socio-economic status still restricts the opportunities for earning a living wage. so pornography is an industry which makes its profits off of women who, via various paths, have come to see their bodies as a commodity which they sell, because at a practical level, it made the most financial sense out of the choices available to them at the time. and no matter how you dress it up with hugh hefner’s smoking jacket or cute little bunny ears, that amounts to economic exploitation. exploitation which there is considerable financial incentive to continue to propagate.

which leads us to problem number two: the reason women come to view their bodies as a saleable commodity is because our society is saturated with messages that reinforce that belief. every advertisment which pairs an image of a sexy woman with either a service being sold, or a glossy inanimate object we’re supposed to want to buy, reifies the underlying subtext that women are something you can either obtain or use for money. much like pavlov’s original experiment paired salivation to a bell, this is precisely what happens in the media and advertising world. women’s images are used to sell burgers, cars, lightbulbs. the overwhelming objectification and fetishisation of women’s sexuality (i.e. “pornification”) as part of our mainstream societal wallpaper is not a new phenomenon, and one i’ve written about before here, so i won’t belabour the point. it is, however, that same social context, where everything and everyone has a invisible pricetag, that makes pornography a viable option for women in the first place.

the third big contextual problem with pornography is that is exists in a society which still tolerates (and in some cases condones) sexual violence against women. this ties in with the pervasive mainstream objectification, because a side effect of the women-as-sexualised-objects culture is that it encourages the women-as-sexualised-objects-for-the-enjoyment-of-men culture. men who are taight to view women as objects lack empathy for them as humans – a detachment which can be dangerous. it creates the potential for a sense of sexual entitlement amongst men who have a propensity for violence. historically, women’s bodies have long been objects for the sexual gratification of men to use as they pleased – something which was long embedded in legal and societal mores in western countries. but even in westernised countries where modern-era women’s rights have been been rooting for 50 years, one in four women will still be victims of gender based violence in their lifetime. set against that horrifying backdrop, the pornography industry, whose model and medium is still overwhelmingly male-dominated-women-subjugated, is, at a minimum, not helpful.

so where does that leave me? as someone who staunchly supports a woman’s right to control her own body as a basic human entitlement, i end up conflicted. on the one hand, i want women to feel free to express themselves sexually, and i would never presume to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do with their body (including monetising it) – whether i agree or not. i want women to be fully empowered sexual beings. yet on the other hand, we have a society which continues to devalue women’s bodies as something to be used and abused. where women feel selling their body is the best of the bad choices. where women are still not free from sexual violence.

in an ideal world, i could support porn… but we don’t live in an ideal world. yet the pragmatist in me knows that pornography is not going anywhere any time soon. i don’t want to demonise erotica as anti-woman, and i don’t want to waste my time trying to eradicate something that will never go away. so i supposed that the best i can do in the meantime is continue to support changing the context. to continue to advocate for women’s education and employment opportunities which give them choices. to fight against the objectification and stereotypes of women which are so prevalent. to work to end sexual violence and hold perpetrators accountable.

and that suits my particular brand of feminism to a tee.

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the view from under the bus

by Jen at 8:38 pm on 13.11.2009Comments Off
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, rant and rage

i’ve held off on commenting on the stupak-pitts amendment to the healthcare bill which was passed by the u.s. house of representatives this week in part because i’ve found it difficult to put my feelings into words, and in part because i feel others have said it sooo much better than i.

(if you haven’t been paying particular attention to the political machinations around this issue in the states, here’s a quick recap:right before this version of the healthcare bill was to be voted on, some right-to-life republicans and democrats [oooh, i accidentally just typed demoncrats - freudian slip?] attached a last-minute amendment which forbids any health care plan, private or public, from offering abortion services if they wish to accept even one federally subsidised customer. since the overwhelming majority of new customers who will be purchasing plans are the soon-to-be-subsidised poor who currently cannot afford health care, this effectively forces providers to choose between any new business, or covering abortions, *and* prevents any poor people from accessing abortion services as part of their mainstream reproductive health coverage.)

the phrase “thrown under the bus” has been tossed around a lot, and that encompasses some of the sentiment that i feel. women were definitely run over here in the name of expediency and pragamatism – those voices that continue to try to convince us that the “compromise” was necessary to get any kind of bill passed.

but what comes closer is this: pure unadulterated ire. how dare you. how very fucking dare you. this was no compromise – a compromise is when you give away some of what you want in order to get more of what you want. the failure here is the lack of recognition that abortion rights do not fall into the “want” category. *rights* are not *wants*. they’re not pie-in-the-sky wishes – they are full-fledged-constitutionally-enshrined-and-protected rights. they are not, therefore, something which can be put into the pot as ante. they are not political capital to be traded away like marbles.

they are womens’ *rights*, damnit, and they are mine and hers and hers, and you can’t just take them away when it suits you. but when only 76 of the 435 representatives are women, i suppose it’s easy for the rest of them to forget.

abortion is the single most common surgical procedure carried out – the idea that health plans not only should not, but *must not* cover it because 64 democrats (62 of whom were men) said so is completely out of touch with reality. are these same providers banned from covering vasectomies because of the religious views of a few? i don’t even need to check to know that they’re not.

the most reprehensible bit is that it is the most vulnerable women that are subjugated to the moralistic dictates of others – poor women who cannot afford their own private-pay healthcare, who likely then cannot afford their own private-pay abortion… yet are somehow supposed to be able to afford to raise a child? the courts have said that a woman’s right to privacy entitles her to primacy over her reproduction. but 64 democrats think as long as *they* hold the purse strings, that right is superceded by their own religious beliefs, fuckyouverymuch. in other words, if you’re dependent on the government for help with healthcare, then we will tell you what their god says you can and cannot do with your uterus.

it’s hostile paternalism of the very worst kind – the kind where games are played with people’s legal rights and doctors are bent to the political will of a few, because a group of 64 representatives think they above all others, know what’s best for women living in america. dangling a woman’s right to control her own body like a playtoy on a string, just out of reach… unless you have the cash to buy an indulgence. rich women don’t have to worry about anyone else’s god but their own.

so really, “thrown under the bus” isn’t the half of it. poor women have been put back under the jackboot of the morality police, and stripped bare of their most basic civil right – the right to control over their body. i’m furious at the newest reminder that my rights and hers and hers and hers, all hang in the balance of just a few elected individuals. i’m angry that once again i’m forced to sit here and stew while hoping that someone else is brave enough to stand up for me and her and her and her. it’s a special kind of torture to have to watch your autonomy twist in the breeze. and that’s not sacrificing women voters for the sake of practicality or compromise – that’s creating a women’s-only fucking abu ghraib.

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how cnn backhanded the heroine at fort hood

by Jen at 10:50 am on 7.11.2009 | 1 Comment
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, rant and rage

kimberly munley is the cop who shot the suspect in the recent Fort Hood tragedy. and instead of just praising her for being a brave *cop* and doing her job in a crisis, under pressure (as she was trained for countless hours to do), the media keep using gag-worthy phrases like “tough cookie”.

really? “cookie”? how sexist can you get?!! and by focusing on her sex as if it’s somehow extraordinary that a woman should be brave, they completely undermine the heroic achievement of a lifetime. in hamhandedly trying to honour her, they completely demean her.

because when you focus on the fact that she’s female (yes, cnn, i’m pointing at you), the implication is that even in 2009, people are still surprised that women (who’ve had the exact same training as any man in that job) could enter a dangerous situation with an armed suspect, and respond exactly as she’s been drilled to: shoot to kill.

the crazed episode itself is obviously newsworthy. the fact that she is a woman is not. can you imagine an article about a man using the word “cookie”? or emphasising his “toughness”? or calling him “aggressive”? no. in fact, what they say when these kinds of articles are written about men are:

they were just “doing their job”.

yet our stereotypes about the “weak woman” are so thoroughly embedded in our social consciousness that we often don’t even realise it. i’m absolutely sure that those people who are calling her a “tough woman” don’t realise that by doing so, they’re actually perpetuating the idea that women aren’t *expected* to brave, competent, steel-nerved cops. that even when they are doing the same risky job as a man, the public don’t expect them to do the *really* risky stuff.

we see it repeated nearly daily in the media – the stories about the women soldiers, and the handwringing over the children they leave behind (as if the fathers are expendable) when they end up killed or hostage. the particular emphasis on “women and children” whenever casualties are counted -as if women and children are somehow equivalent in their innocence and helplessness, but men are supposed to die. over and over, the reification of the subtle but persistent idea that women are the “gentler” sex, that women should be protected first and foremost because they are less able to protect themselves, that women should be shielded from the brutal, nasty, dirty, risky stuff of living.

and now for something that may, at first glance, seem like a complete tangent: this is part-and-parcel of the reason i cannot stand to have a door held for me, or to have people pay for me, or to have people allow me to go first in the queue. it’s all a subtle and pervasive way of reminding me (whether consciously, intentionally, or not), that society still sees me as a less able person than a man. it’s a hard leap for many men to understand – they have often been indoctrinate to show “manners”. they don’t understand how i can see being “chivalrous” as incredibly insulting.

to which i’d say, if you truly respect me, you’d see me as your full equal, and not needing any deference or assistance *simply because i’m a woman*.

so every time a newspaper calls someone a “tough woman”, it’s a reminder that that is somehow surprising or exceptional. and every time you offer to pay for me, it’s a reminder that i’m not expected to have as much money. every time you hold a door for me, it’s a reminder that i’m expected to be weaker. in short, every time you offer me help or protection i don’t need, you remind me of the stereotypes that pervade our entire culture, and which i have to battle against every day.

and every time a woman cop or solidier is hailed as being a “tough cookie”, it’s a reminder that in spite of doing the same job as any man, in spite of being a trained, skilled, focused professional who gets paid to put her life on the line…

underneath it all, she’s still just seen as a “cookie”.

eta: even the ny times falls into the habit: would they ever describe a man as a “ball of fire”? or contrast his ” fierce love of hunting, surfing and other outdoor sports” with tending his garden and playing with his daughter? ugh.

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in katie’s defense

by Jen at 3:37 pm on 20.09.2009 | 1 Comment
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, rant and rage

barbara ellen gets it spot on when she says katie price is like other women who’ve been raped who are afraid they won’t be believed.

If even the revelation that she’d been raped couldn’t do it, one wonders if there is any situation that could lead to people feeling sympathy for Katie Price?

Or is the mood against her so far gone that a plane could fall out of the sky, right on top of her head, and there would still be members of the British media and public muttering: “Well, she deserved it, didn’t she? Publicity-seeking trollop. Look at how she treated Peter Andre!”

Something has to explain the bizarre attitude of some parts of the media regarding Price’s account of being assaulted. Always careful to toss in a caveat (”Anyone who’s been raped deserves sympathy”), too often this would segue into a (surely irrelevant?) diatribe about Price’s character and behaviour, followed by baiting over her refusal to involve the police. Irresponsible, if not downright suspicious, seemed to run the rationale.

Well, not really. If anything, with her fear of involving the police and the courts, Price was behaving like a typical rape victim.

Doesn’t this, the omnipresent culture of automatic disbelief around sexual assault, serve to highlight why Price, and many other victims of rape, are so loath to come forward? Indeed, doesn’t Price’s obvious lack of faith in the legal system mirror the torment of many other rape victims, ordinary women, who fear they have little chance of being believed?

the comments beneath the article only serve to illustrate the point: that we seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to judge the veracity of a woman’s rape allegation based on her dress/comportment/interaction with the media.

it’s the same sort of disgusting stuff which gets dragged into the courts in an attempt to discredit the victim – a variation of the tired old chestnut of “she deserved it”. no wonder she doesn’t feel any desire to prosecute – the public is doing the defendant’s job for them by spit-roasting her at every turn.

the idea that her looks/attitudes/actions have anything to do with “context” in which we should judge her allegation is ridiculous. after all, where’s the “context” for the rapist and his crime?!

once again we focus on the woman, rather than the perpetrator. the anger and disdain is aimed squarely at her instead of the criminal, and we make judgements about her character and her status as a victim based on how likeable she is. somehow it’s her burden to prove to the public that she really was violated, and there’s more outrage about her status in the gossip mags than there is about the fact that there’s a rapist walking around out there.

millions of women do not report rapes to the police. nor do they have to (though i wish they would). they do not do so precisely because they are afraid of the kind of condemnation on full display for Katie Price. the court of public opinion on rape is so often crueler for the woman than the perpetrator. no one seems in the slightest bit bothered that the social environment all but ensures that Katie Price will not believed and that a criminal is possibly going free – they’re too busy reviling her because they don’t like the fact that she makes money by blatantly using her sexuality and from doing interviews with OK! magazine.

the vitriol is, quite frankly, repugnant and depressing. that women who are raped (whether famous, infamous, sexually explicit, or “nice”) still have to overcome the immediate knee-jerk cynicism and critique of their personality, dress, activities, drinking habits, etc. in order to be taken seriously is a gross failing of our society. until we conquer those prevailing attitudes, how can we expect a rape victim to take them on?


PSA: off for another week of holiday, see you when i’m back

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women’s rights are human rights

by Jen at 6:11 pm on 16.07.2009Comments Off
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle

wanted to draw attention to a fantastic article on the challenges of advancing women’s rights globally, and what a staunch and prominent feminist like hillary clinton as secretary of state brings to the table.  a truly worthwhile read.

Hillary Clinton is not our first female secretary of state, but she is our first explicitly feminist one. She’s been an iconic figure in the movement for women’s rights globally ever since she gave her historic 1995 speech at the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing. Denouncing a litany of the abuses to which women worldwide are subject, the then-first lady declared, “Women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” The New York Times said it “may have been her finest moment in public life.”

Clinton’s confirmation hearings offered a clear sign that she intended to prioritize women’s issues. “If half the world’s population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal, and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity is in serious jeopardy,” she said. “The United States must be an unequivocal and unwavering voice in support of women’s rights in every country on every continent.”

Five months into her tenure, we’re beginning to see what that vision looks like in practice.

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the chick and the egg

by Jen at 8:36 pm on 3.06.2009 | 2 Comments
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle

i talk a lot about being staunchly pro-choice on this blog.  in thinking more about the post i wrote the other day, about the primacy of a woman’s right to always have control over her body, including complete control over reproduction, i realised i’ve never fully articulated here just why i believe what i believe.  it may not be of interest to many of you, but it’s important to me to establish here the context in which i have chosen to support abortion rights.

there are, to my mind, two factors in every pregancy – the existing, external life of the woman, and the *potential*, internal life represented by the fetus.  i believe that if at any point those two interests come into conflict, the established rights of the existing life must always take precedence over the potential rights of the potential life.

there are many who would argue that the point at which that potential life can survive outside the womb (around 24 weeks, currently), that it should be legally treated as a baby, and granted all the same rights as babies inherit when they are born, i.e. recognised as an existing life.  i disagree.

i think of it this way:

this is an egg.  this egg may be fertilised.  it may not.  it may, in fact, have a nearly fully-developed chick inside it. but its essence in its *current state* is that of an egg.  it is an egg.  for purposes of decision-making based on what it is right now, it is an egg.

this is a chick.  it still looks a lot like an egg, and could easily be the same egg from the above picture, but its principle nature has changed.  it is no longer an egg, but a chick being born.  there’s no rationale for calling it an egg – it is clearly a chick.

that is to say: in my mind there is something about the act of being born which changes the fundamental status of a thing from a *potential* life to an *actualised* life, and therefore (i would argue) changes the essence of how it should be recognised.  it is no longer in the internal world of things which, (no matter how likely, no matter how close), *might one day be* born as a chick, and joins the external world of the *chick which is*.

so if, in a pregnancy, there must be drawn a bright line of demarcation between whose interests must be considered paramount, whose health and well-being must take priority, whose needs must be met more, the line between being born and unborn is mine.  an existing life takes precedence over a potential life, and the difference between potential and existing is the act coming into being in the external world.

this is not, of course, by any means a perfect analogy.  in fact, it’s not an analogy at all – simply my attempt at representing the way in which i have chosen my beliefs in a world where there is no objective certainty, no absolute moral rectitude.  in a world where one must weigh up all the science, laws and politics, and somehow integrate that with one’s beliefs about things like spirituality, conscience and relationships… in a world in which we are required to choose sides, i choose the woman.  i choose her right to an abortion up to the point of birth.  i choose her needs, her health, her best interests first, foremost, and above all others.  and i choose to support choice – always.


sometimes i even surprise myself

by Jen at 6:30 pm on 1.06.2009 | 14 Comments
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, rant and rage

i’ve been thinking a lot about the murder of dr. tiller today, and the kind of courage of one’s convictions it must take to go to work every day in the face of attempted assassinations and persistent acts of terrorism.  there are few in this world who could do it, i’m sure.

dr. tiller performed late-term abortions – that moral gray area that even many pro-choice voters have twinges of unease about.  the kinds of abortions that are so highly charged and emotive (even being called “partial-birth” abortions) because they stray into the murky areas of “rights”, elusive definitions of “life”, and all sorts of other sticky stuff that ethicists and the law have not yet been able to agree upon.

the reason i bring this up, is because thinking about dr. tiller’s death today, has for me, solidified some views i didn’t even know i had, and made me examine the logic of my own beliefs – with some surprising results.

in thinking about why his death outrages me so, i realised it’s because i think that women *must* have access to abortion up to the point of birth.  i know that’s not a very palatable opinion for most, but i fervently believe that women must have complete and total autonomy over their own bodies at all times.  i believe that until women everywhere have this autonomy (in the forms of contraception, health care, and abortion, *as well as* freedom from all forms of physical and sexual violence or coercion) there will never be true equality for women anywhere.

but in pondering that, i began thinking about the true meaning of autonomy – and that’s not just the ability to be free from harm, but also the ability to use (and even exploit) one’s own body.  which lead me to the first surprise realisation of the day: i guess that means i believe women should have the right to sell their own bodies for others’ pleasure – even if i believe that it undermines other women’s efforts to be free of violence or coercion.  i’ve never been for the legalisation of prostitution before, and never quite grasped the concept of legalising prostitution as a means to empower women.  much like some kinds of misogynistic porn**, i’ve always deplored the fact that there is a market for it, but been resigned to its existence.  however if i truly believe that women should have complete autonomy over their bodies, then that means *i* don’t get a say in what they do with them either.  and further, (following on from my own logic above) in a world where there is true autonomy for all, there will be true equality, and therfore prostitution/stripping/porn will only be entered into by individuals out of genuine free will, and will no longer be acts which demean and objectify people on the wrong side of a power imbalance.

wow.  colour me surprised.

secondly, i was thinking about the characterisation i’ve been reading in some blogs, of anti-abortion groups (such as operation rescue and their ilk) bearing much of the responsibility for dr. tiller’s death.  the argument being, that such groups have deliberately used seditious rhetoric as a means to garner support for their actions, and that by fanning the flames, they incited this man (and other recent shooters) to murder.  they decry the lukewarm disavowals by such groups of dr. tiller’s killing, as being tacit condonation of his murder.

this whole argument puts me in mind of those who, after the london bombings, said the “moderate muslims” did not come out strongly enough against what had happened, or hadn’t done enough to stop it fomenting in the first place.  and as i wrote here before, that just puts a bad taste in my mouth.  i don’t think that people who just happen to be from the same largely-peaceful religion bear *any* responsibility for the acts of a small handful of nutters.  that’s like saying that all christians should bear some responsibility for the the actions of timothy mcveigh – they should have cried out more against his horrific actions, or done something more to ensure he would never kill anyone in the first place.

i just don’t think you can apportion blame solely based on commonalities with someone who clearly has mental health problems.  and that’s what this boils down to: someone with mental health problems made the completely insane connection between their stance on abortion, and gunning down someone they disagreed with.

a sane person, no matter how het up over the abortion issue, could never be goaded into shooting dr. tiller in broad daylight.  and a crazy person who thought they *had* to kill him, could never be dissuaded.

so while it might make me, in a fit of intense frustration and despair, feel better to tar and feather all anti-choice groups with the same bloody brush, it simply doesn’t make sense.  no matter how vehemently i believe their clinic-blockading, abusive tactics and scaremongering to be wrong, i cannot lay dr. tiller’s death at their feet.

and there, in a nutshell, is surprise number two.  i can’t be angry at the pro-lifers over this one.

** i don’t by any means believe that all porn is misogynistic or harmful to women.  but far too large a proportion of it is.

i’m not engaging debate on this one, i’m afraid. i’ll leave comments open for the time being, but reserve the right to delete at my discretion, because i don’t believe this is a topic where anyone’s mind will be changed. certainly not my own.


even more on why rape doesn’t matter

by Jen at 8:15 pm on 21.04.2009Comments Off
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, londonlife

boris johnson, the buffoon mayor of london, made a campaign pledge to fund four rape crisis centres around the city – a resource sorely needed in a city where reported rapes increased by 14% last year alone, yet only 6% of all rapes result in a conviction.  just a year ago he said:

I have made it a key Manifesto pledge that I will use GLA funding to substantially increase financial support to the charity sector working with the victims.   There is currently only one Rape Crisis Centre in London – located in Zone 5.  I will provide the funding for four new Rape Crisis Centres in London, paid for by reducing spending on the Mayor’s personal press officer budget.

today he reneged on that pledge.

in related news, the cab driver who was convicted of a dozen serial rapes over 18 months, (and suspected of attacking up to 85 people back as far as 2002), was sentenced to at least 8 years today.  he went unapprehended for so long in part because the sex crimes unit of the metropolitan police was understaffed and in disarray.

yet boris outlined a new domestic violence strategy in which he says:

For any plan to work we must have the police, local authorities, community organisations, health sector and criminal justice system all working together across borough boundaries. We also need to get tougher. Tougher on the perpetrators of violence, who currently enjoy a ridiculous level of immunity, and tougher on the attitudes that condone violence against women.

no kidding boris.  tell me when you’re willing to get serious about it, instead of just paying lipservice. actions speak louder than words.

women in london deserve better.

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