We Love A Wife Beater, We Do

by Lynne Miles // 21 April 2005, 1:23 pm

So apparently it\x92s okay to hit your wife, as long as you\x92re a lovable rogue with it. And, let\x92s face it, if you write a book about it afterwards saying how terribly remorseful you are, we\x92ll probably even shower you with plaudits.

G8, the wife-beater-formerly-known-as-Gazza (and now variously known as \x91brave\x92 and/or \x91troubled\x92) has won the prize for Sports Book of the Year at the British Book Awards. He broke down in tears when accepting the reward last night.

The book, which was ghost written by football writer Hunter Davies, is apparently heavy on the self-flagellation over his battle-with-drink-and-drugs, his erratic on and off pitch antics and his traumatic childhood, but is described by one reviewer as "shamefully" glossing over his beating of his then-wife, Sheryl.

My Name is Rachel Corrie

by Jess McCabe // 20 April 2005, 1:58 pm

Guardian journalist Katherine Viner and the stupendous actor Alan Rickman have co-written a play about Rachel Corrie, the American activist who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer when she was protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes.

My Name is Rachel Corrie is based on her own diaries and emails.

Reuters has a good round up of how the critics saw the play.

Women’s votes?

by Jess McCabe // , 11:54 am

For anyone agonising over how to vote in the upcoming elections, the Fawcett Society has put together a neat booklet comparing the main parties’ policies on issues of concern to women.

The news is good (a bit), with all of the parties offering some policies aimed at addressing women’s concerns. However, only one party makes any mention of violence against women (Labour), and no party mentions cutting women’s poverty. Also, no party has pledged support of compulsory equal pay audits for all employers.

So, the white smoke has puffed out of the holy chimney, the bells have rung, and the world’s 1 billion Catholics have a new pope.

I for one am already worried. The German Joseph Ratzinger is a hardline right winger, so we should expect more of the same when it comes to contraception and abortion. The last pope was an obstacle to efforts to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, something which increasilyaffects women more than men.

And now a nun has come forward to say that the new pope has a ‘limited’ understanding of women.

Apparently: ‘He thinks of feminists as man-hating and as seeking division between men and women rather than full equality between men and women.’

Further assault on reproductive rights of US women

by Lynne Miles // 19 April 2005, 6:29 pm

Pursuant to recent attempts by the evangelical Christian right in America to outlaw abortion, reports have been coming through recently of pharmacists refusing to complete prescriptions for the Morning After Pill (MAP), and even the contraceptive pill where it “goes against their religious and moral convictions”.

There are reported incidences of pharmacists refusing to return a pill prescription, preventing women from obtaining the pill elsewhere.

The growing controversy is prompting state legislatures to consider whether pharmacists should be compelled to supply the MAP when presented with a doctor’s prescription. Arizona has recently legislated in favour of ‘the pharmacist’s right to choose’, whilst Illinois has ordered pharmacists to dispense prescriptions “immediately and without question”.

Unlike in Britain where over-the-counter sales of Levonelle (the morning after pill) have been legalised, in America a doctor’s prescription is still required, limiting the impact of individual pharmacists’ actions. However, if pressure to allow on-demand provision of the MAP is successful, pharmacists may have significantly more scope to impede women’s access to emergency contraception.

This story has rolled on for a very long time now (there were similar reports last year during the US Presidential elections) but I find it deeply worrying that the issue is gaining increasing momentum in Middle America – and maybe even Middle England.

Opponents of the MAP argue variously that, as it is can cause a very early chemical abortion, it is immoral, or that it encourages reckless behaviour by women. In the UK, 55% of Daily Mail readers polled online believe that the MAP “encourages casual, unprotected sex”.

This is an issue to watch with concern in America, and we should pay particular attention to rumblings in this country along similar lines. Where America leads we are all too frequently swift to follow. For better or for worse.

Woman attempts gruelling army training

by Jess McCabe // , 9:01 am

A 23 year-old from Birmingham is to attempt one of the most gruelling training regimes in the world, in a bid to become the army\x92s first female Para.

Lieutenant Jenny Hands said in the Scotsman “I am looking forward to it in a perverse sort of way. I hope I do myself justice.”

Apparently, ‘Among the punishing trials ahead of her are a frantic one-minute boxing match known as “milling”, an aerial obstacle course and a 20-mile forced march in five hours carrying a 35lb pack and rifle.’

Unbelievably, having proved herself by living through all that, she will still not be able to serve as a Para.

Today’s Gender Transgressors

by Catherine Redfern // 18 April 2005, 11:39 pm

I just realised why I stopped reading the METRO; it’s guaranteed to make any commute more infuriating. For starters, Page 3 of today’s issue highlighted the apparently newsworthy fact that at the Bafta TV Awards, David Walliams from Little Britain was wearing nail polish. The headline read: “Of course I wear nail varnish, I’m a laydee”. According to the METRO, this made him look “as if he had just steppped off the set as ‘laydee’ transvestite Emily Howard.” In actual fact, he’s wearing a smart black suit and just happens to be wearing black nail polish too. Hardly Dame Edna Everage. But he’s a man! Shock! Horror! Well, this the beginning of the post-Beckham backlash, I guess.

More seriously, later on in the paper there was an example of their subtle juxtapositioning of news items to make some kind of point. There was a story about poverty-striken women in Eastern Europe being paid to give up their aborted foetuses to be used in beauty salons as a treatment for wrinkles (?! I know…); next to this just happened to be a box about how “increasing numbers of British women want ‘buttock augementation'” (?! I know, I know!). They do this a lot: they always seem to put scare-mongering articles about abortion next to ones about how fulfilling having babies is.

To change the subject completely: Paula Radcliffe won the London Marathan. I don’t know what’s more astounding: the media giving so much attention to the fact that she peed; or the fact that she peed in front of the nation. Wow!

Bam Bam and Celeste

by Jess McCabe // , 10:24 pm

Fans of the unstoppable Margaret Cho will be excited to know that filming has just wrapped on her first self-written movie, Bam Bam and Celeste.

According to the press release, “In Bam Bam and Celeste, Celeste (Margaret Cho) and Bam Bam (Bruce Daniels) escape their Midwest hometown on an epic road trip to New York City. There they take on their high-school nemeses \x96 now the dictators of the world-famous Salon Mirage \x96 and discover that true beauty lies within.”

If the plot doesn’t get you going, this will (assuming that you’ve heard/seen Cho’s standup. If you haven’t you really should.) “Along with Celeste, Margaret also plays Mommy, the impersonation of her own mother cherished by Margaret\x92s fans.”

If only it wasn’t aeons until the thing hits the UK’s cinema screens.

Madeleine Bunting’s recent Guardian article, The Price of Pleasure, rightly draws attention to contraception’s failure to break the link between sex and reproduction. But is it really true that such a link is “wishfully ignored”? We are, after all, talking about a society that continues to put contraceptive services under the umbrella of Family Planning, labels heterosexual people who haven’t had potentially reproductive sex as “virgins” and also describes the kind of sex that can make babies as “going all the way” and the varieties that don’t as, at best, foreplay or, at worst, oddities or even perversions.

If anything, it seems to be our capacity to liberate ourselves from the link between sex and reproduction that is being ignored. The reproductive capabilities of women’s bodies are so bound up with sex as we know it that it is hardly surprising that so many people find it easier to ruthlessly take risks than to challenge the idea that this link is inevitable.

The promise of sex totally free of reproductive consequences is not a “myth.” There are obviously plenty of ways to have sex that do not involve a pregnancy risk (regardless of the gender of the people you happen to do it with) so surely such freedom is only out of reach if we believe in the absolute inevitability and necessity of coitus during heterosexual encounters? I’m not disputing that society should continue to do everything it can to make sure this act can be enjoyed with as few unwanted or negative consequences as possible. I just think it’s important that such progress doesn’t become the last word in sexual liberation and “better sex.”

Considering why so many abortions should be necessary -while obviously still unequivocally supporting the right to have one- is a step in the right direction but a sexual culture that overtly promotes pleasure need not do so at the expense of responsibility. I’d say the next vital step is for society to stop dismissing heterosexual sex that is not potentially pro-creative and start taking it seriously as a valid form of sexual expression.

Girls still not getting a fair deal in school

by Jess McCabe // , 11:51 am

UNICEF is set to release a report today showing mixed progress in getting more girls into school around the world.

According to the report, there are now the same number of girls as boys in school, world-wide.

However, there is still an unacceptably wide gap between the number of girls and boys in eduction in some regions.

There would need to be a ‘quantum leap’ if the world was to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2015

However, UNICEF’s executive director Carol Bellamy, still managed to be upbeat. She said: ‘A goal of universal primary education with equal opportunity for girls and boys is realistic. It\x92s affordable, it\x92s achievable and what\x92s more, it\x92s our children\x92s birthright.’

Palindromes – choosing sides?

by Jess McCabe // 16 April 2005, 8:36 pm

Todd Solondz is a director who provokes strong reactions. From ‘Welcome to the Dollshouse’ to ‘Storytelling’, Solondz thrives on controversial, whacked out, grim and gritty stereo-type busting.

So it should come as no surprise that he has entered into America’s fraught debate over abortion in his latest film. In Palindromes, Solondz fiercely resists being boxed into a pro-life or anti-choice position. The story concerns the disabled, 13 year old cousin of Dawn Weiner, the heroine of Dollshouse.

Aviva gets pregnant. She wants the baby, but she is co-erced into having an abortion by her liberal, loving mother. It looks to be a plot set up to invoke the support of pro-lifers. But, in this interview with Matthew Scott Keleman for AlterNet, Solondz describes the film as ‘anti-anti-choice’.

And the film promises to be interesting beyond it’s provocative subject matter: Solondz has cast eight different actors to play Aviva, including Jennifer Jason Leigh and one man.

Palindromes is showing at the Raindance East Film Festival.

The Dove Effect

by Catherine Redfern // , 3:43 pm

Dove have recently brought out a new wave of adverts under the banner of its “Campaign for Real Beauty“.

Feminists have been divided over the ads. Some expressed concerns over the term “real women”, the emphasis on selling “firming products”, or were suspicious of the Company’s motives. Others praised the campaign for bringing publicity to the body image / beauty myth debate.

Back when the ads were first launched, Dominic Mills made a persuasive argument in the Telegraph. Dove is owned by Unilever Lever Faberge, he explained, whose product range includes Lynx and Pot Noodle. “Could you imagine a Dove woman in a Lynx ad?” he wrote, hitting the nail on the head. “Hypocrisy might be too strong a word, but despite what Lever Faberge might have you believe, market pragmatism, not principle, is the driving force here.”

Maybe so. But is it possible that small steps forward, whatever the motive, are better than nothing at all?

Vive La Similarite!

by Catherine Redfern // , 2:36 pm

I always thought it was really cool when a close male friend would drop the phrase “male intuition” into conversation. “How’d you guess?” I’d say, and he’d shrug nonchalantly: “Male intuition”. It made me smile, and I appreciated the anti Mars/Venus sentiment.

Turns out he was on to something. A recent internet experiment involving 15,000 people demonstrated that “women are not more intuitive than men: they just think they are“. The experiment showed that women are no better than men at spotting which smile is a fake, and which was sincere. Men and women scored equally on the test.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, John Gray.

Andrea Dworkin 1946-2005

by Lynne Miles // 15 April 2005, 11:11 am

Many of you will have already heard about the untimely death of Andrea Dworkin last weekend. She died in her sleep, aged 59.

You can read a biography of Andrea (which she prepared before her death) on the Women in London website. G2 carried a good obituary and accompanying article. You can also find a respectful obituary in the Financial Times, a somewhat snarky one in The Times (“With probability-defying regularity, she herself fell victim to the violence, misogyny and bias that supplied the primary theme of her speeches and more than a dozen books”) and one in The Telegraph which, whilst a bit contemptous in places, has some great quotes from Andrea.

She was a truly inspiring character and probably one of the most maligned of all major feminist activists and thinkers. We need more voices like her, and she will be sadly missed.

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