Nov 27 2012

Egg freezing – for the woman who can never win

Latest Comment is free piece on my genuine concern for a dystopian future of egg harvesting women.

Nov 9 2012

University Challenge: I’m glad someone knows about the Grand Duke of Finland

My eulogy to University Challenge and Only Connect contestants.

Oct 15 2012

No, you cannot be left-wing and pro-life

What Mehdi Hasan’s article in the New Statesman did was lay bare exactly the problem that some left-wing men have with women’s rights. They see them as optional extras, auxiliary rights and the women who demand them as being individualistic and selfish. In fact, what we are doing when we campaign for sexual and reproductive rights is campaign to be considered full human beings. And that campaign starts with our bodily autonomy.

Those that reduce pro-choice campaigning to the level of “fetishistic choice” are those that see human rights as being default male. No left wing man would call freedom of expression the fetishisation of free speech. Instead they would see how that right upholds a free society. How censorship is part of the mechanism of an authoritarian state.

So too with access to abortion. Sexual and reproductive rights are not a smorgasbord of women’s rights that you can just pick abortion out of and still enjoy the rest. Instead when you remove or restrict abortion you endanger women’s health and rights. Every country with heavy restrictions or bans on abortion have high maternal mortality – women die without it. No country that restricts abortion respects women; provides adequate access for women and girls to education, work or political office. They are countries where women are second class citizens and where ethnic minority women and poor women are 3rd or 4th.

When I campaign for access to abortion and sexual and reproductive rights (for I do not separate them) I am not just campaigning for a medical procedure or change in health policy. I am campaigning for my bodily autonomy. Without that, I cannot be considered an equal human being to a man.

It is not the Y chromosome that makes men less qualified to talk about abortion. It is your lack of a womb and a vagina that makes you less qualified. You do not have to be confronted with your fertility every day. You do not bleed regularly. You do not risk pregnancy whenever you have sex. You do not have to ever carry a foetus to term, to give birth, to breastfeed, to take time off work, hamper your career, risk poverty and ill health due to pregnancy. You do not have your internal organs turned into a public place for people to debate over, legislate over and pronounce over. Therefore you find it very easy to see abortion as a optional extra for this “other”, these women. And you then see women  as selfish or individualistic for making these demands for rights you don’t need.

For women, our fight for equality starts very viscerally with our bodies and the very space we can take up in the world. Our bodies are our battleground; the fight for control over our internal organs, what we put into our bodies, what we wear, where we walk, freedom from harm within our homes, our schools and our workplaces. For women, our rights are personal and visceral as much as we all fight for our freedom from torture. And if you think freedom from torture is alarmist in the debate over abortion, I would refer you to the case of Nicaragua, where their total ban on abortion in all circumstances has been taken to the UN Committee Against Torture.

To view women’s rights as simply desirable rather than essential, as an optional extra rather than necessary for our mere survival, is what allows us to negotiate with the Taliban for peace in Afghanistan. Peace is important but peace for women and girls can wait no matter how many 14 year old girls are shot in the head for wanting an education. It is the idea that women’s rights will be achieved AFTER other “more important” “male” rights are achieved. It allows people on the left to think that women’s right to justice for allegedly being raped and molested are not as important as an imaginary global conspiracy to jail a darling of the Left. The Left have a long history of postponing women’s rights until their socialist revolution has happened, their war has been won, their peace declared, their poster-boy has defeated capitalism. But of course it never comes. There is always another reason why women have to wait for their rights and why they are being selfish for having the temerity to fight for them.

We can have the arguments about time-limits and viability, about the public health reasons for access to abortion, about how “emotional” we all feel when we see an ultra-sound or how “inevitable” it is that women earn less and are treated worse because they happen to have children. But all of this counts for nought if you do not see women’s rights as fundamental human rights and women as being equal human beings.

So no, you cannot be left-wing and pro-life. You cannot be left wing and “progressive” if you think half of the world’s population can hang-on or sacrifice or just stop being so bourgeois for demanding that they are treated as equals. To fight for equality is at the very least, to acknowledge the biological difference that keeps women oppressed and fight to overcome that. Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are part of our struggle for survival and will not be trivialised or ignored by men who claim to fight for equality.

Sep 14 2012

Is sex really so disgusting for women? Only when it involves mayonnaise

Amazing illustration for this piece by Mary Anne Cooke


New Comment is free piece on sex and mayonnaise here.

Aug 14 2012

Guardian G2: A pint of beer is every woman’s right

Another blow against patriarchy… the right to beer.

Jun 23 2012

Guardian: You can stick your feminine hygiene product ads up your hoo haa, Femfresh

Jun 21 2012

Vaginas aren’t dirty, even in Michigan

Me on Comment is Free.

Feb 29 2012

Women popping the question. Careful now.

The British Isles started the tradition of women only being allowed to propose to man on February 29th of a leap year. Interestingly, particularly for these austere times, if the proposal was met with a refusal, then it was traditional for men to pay a fine to the woman in the shape of £100 or a silk gown or – as in Denmark – 10 pairs of gloves.

So if you could do with the cash, have a tendency to lose gloves or genuinely have found that man or woman that you are prepared to exclusively have sex with for the rest of your life, then here are some tips for women on how to do it.

Public proposals

Whether it’s printing “Think of the Tax Breaks!” on a billboard or taking the opportunity at half-time during the football, you must be sure that you are going to get a positive answer. A public forum does not necessarily mean your beau will be embarrassed into saying yes as this painful film demonstrates.  If you are still unsure of which answer you will get but you really want those gloves (bear in mind the refusal fine is not legally binding) or you are really OK with being humiliated in front of thousands of people, do bear in mind that the only football teams playing tonight are Sheffield United, Scunthorpe, Ayr, Ross County, Arbroath, and Airdrie. That doesn’t bode well now does it?

Flash mobs (or any variation on singing and dancing your proposal)

Do Not Do This Under Any Circumstances. To arrange a flash-mob to encircle your beloved and perform an awkward zumba class will reveal yourself to be a despicable human being. If, in fact, they would enjoy such a ghastly experience, then they will show themselves to be without shame and therefore likely to climb on a table during the wedding reception to perform their John Prescott impression with their buttocks. You have been warned.

The Engagement ring

This is incredibly difficult area when a woman is doing the proposing. If you are proposing to a woman you’ll still need to fork out for a diamond while heterosexual men in Britain rarely wear engagement rings. Thus when you are on bended knee to a man, what are you going to proffer? They might appreciate a slice of cake, but this hardly has the symbolism of a ring. So try to find something ring-like that says “man”. My heart is telling me cock-ring but my head is telling me “your heart has the sense of humour of a 12 year old”. Also in capitalism’s rush to make us buy useless things, engagement rings for men are now being marketed as “management rings”. Only propose with one of these if you met your partner at a strategic business procurement conference because you’re clearly made for each other.

On bended knee

It is convention that you propose on bended knee which both discriminates against the arthritic or those who cannot sit down or stand up without making an “ooft” noise. Also, there is a high chance that a loved one may misconstrue the action of a woman kneeling down in front of them as the start of a sexual encounter. If you hear the sound of a fly being unzipped you have got perhaps 10 seconds to get through your proposal, so make it quick.

Don’t be too creative

Some people chose to propose while bungee-jumping or jet-skiing or somesuch. Presumably, they are under the impression that your potential betrothed will be so petrified they will say yes. But even something as simple as dropping a ring into a drink can result in your romantic gesture being delayed by the digestive tract of your loved one. No one wants their engagement to begin with searching for jewellery in their own faecal matter. Keep it simple; Hand Them The Ring.

Use desperation

All of the old cartoons of women proposing on a leap year depict ugly desperate women running after poor freedom-loving bachelors . Uphold this honoured tradition by clawing at their legs while you pop the question and sobbing. Why not wear your already-bought bridal gown? And entice them by taking pictures of yourself in the dress and photo-shopping your soon-to-be fiancé in? Nothing says “there’s no going back” like a tattoo of their face under an “I Love My Hubby” t’shirt. You’ll get a yes or a restraining order, either way your relationship will finally be legally defined.

Alternatively, women save yourselves embarrassment, rejection, expense and awkwardness by blissfully living in sin.  We can then use 29th February for other things that we are not generally allowed to do; such as being a government minister.

Feb 1 2012

Guardian: Slogan T-shirts that help you spot a moronic misogynist, from Uni Lad

Writing a humourous piece still will not save you from being called humourless. But at least I get to make the point in the comments that I’M GREAT AT PARTIES. *proudface*

Dec 11 2011

Guardian: Is the Muff March such a cunning stunt?

I have now set the bar for number of fanny euphemisms you can get in one article on the Guardian. *bows*