Years ago, back when New Labour were desperately trying to justify the invasion of Iraq, I remember the arguments being compared to a monkey falling from a tree. He clings to one branch (WMDs), but that branch breaks, so then he grasps on to the next (humanitarian principles). The branches keep on breaking but he keeps on believing that this one, the one in his hand right now, will hold firm. Crash, crash, crash. He does not learn from experience because it is not in his interests to learn. It is in his interests to cling on for as long as possible.

I’m reminded of this whenever the topic of male and female brains arises.

The belief that male and female brains are inherently different has been around for thousands of years. The same cannot be said for any proof. We know that there is another possible reason — perceived reproductive potential — for the construction of two social groups, male and female, with one dominating the other. But we don’t like to talk about that reason. It doesn’t seem a good enough justification for what men have done to women over the years. It makes men look bad. It makes women look exploited. There must have been better reasons, right? (more…)

Last week I wrote an article on the discrimination suffered by pregnant women and new mothers. In doing so I wished to stress that such discrimination is rooted not in the nature of pregnancy itself, but in the low status accorded to women as a class. If the rules changed overnight and people of higher status – men – got pregnant, we would treat the whole process very differently. Instead, we live in a world where 800 women die every single day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. This isn’t because pregnancy happens; it’s because it only happens to people who don’t matter. These people we call “women.”

Yesterday I received some feedback on the piece, which I’ve edited below:

Your article rests on two pillars, that A) men cannot breastfeed and B) men cannot give birth. […]. Many trans men choose to retain their breasts and/or genitals and can happily do both of the above.

Now obviously I was expecting this kind of thing, but it is still immensely frustrating. I wonder if anyone would ever dream of writing to someone who’d produced an article on any other form of class discrimination only to say “yeah, but you forgot to validate all the people who don’t believe that such a class hierarchy exists in any meaningful sense.” I am not prepared to compromise on what gender is and how it relates to the exploitation of female bodies if what I’m writing about is pregnancy discrimination (if what I was writing about was favourite sandwich fillings I might take a different approach). I’m well aware that it’s considered polite (at least if you’re a woman) to add some little qualification that undermines one’s whole argument by prioritising gender as brainsex over gender as a murderous hierarchy, but if we’re talking about actual death tolls, I’m not doing it. So that’s it. Much as I’d love to join in which the superficial halo polishing I’m out.


This morning I came across a quiz which purports to tell you whether you have a male or female brain. Obviously it’s important to know these things because reasons. However, on closer inspection of said quiz, it struck me that the questions were somewhat superficial. So I decided to write my own…

Do you have a male brain? A totally scientific quiz.

Do you feel entitled to apply for jobs for which you are under-qualified?
Do you think half the human race exists to meet the emotional needs of the other half?
Do you fail to notice when 90% of news stories don’t quote people who were not born with penises?
Does Loose Women make you feel threatened?
Do you feel entitled to travel unaccompanied without blaming yourself if you are attacked?
Do you experience a glow of self-congratulation when you deign to do the washing up?
Do you think “strong women” in films and on TV are kick ass, feminist and not remotely patronising?
Do you see your own anger as rational, reasonable and invariably provoked by others?
Do you worry that you might “accidentally” have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you?
Do you think your personal view of the world is in fact an objective one?

Now add up your score.
One or more positive responses indicate that you may have a male brain. Congratulations! (NB unless the rest of the world perceives you as male, this will be sod all use, but you know, congratulations all the same.)
Negative responses indicate a female brain. Bad luck (now put on a pink apron and go make me a sandwich).

Please note, this quiz is in no way authoritative or objective because it was written by someone who doesn’t have a penis. It’s just a bit of fun. These concepts and categories never have any actual consequences in the real world, right?

(No, I’m not pregnant.)

I’ve decided, after a period of switching on and off, to leave this blog open for anyone who feels like reading, but not to write for the next three months. It’s for various reasons, mainly to do with my own well-being, my constant sense that I owe people things which I probably don’t, and my need to stop feeling that, in terms of how feminist debate works, I’m never good enough (if only I said it better, people wouldn’t think x about feminists, gender, sex blah blah blah… As if that will ever work!). I need to concentrate on things that make me happy (i.e. wine and knitting, possibly also my children if I can be arsed).

Feminism makes me happy, when it is positive — but not when I feel I am watching women get hurt and cannot do anything about it. I worry a lot about young women not feeling they have a right to speak or to place their experiences in any context nor even to admit they feel pain. I worry about all the same patterns being played out time and again, as women take steps forward and are vilified for doing so, so much so that others watching decide that being “one of them” is the worst thing possible. I have been one of the women who felt this and then I’ve also been “one of them”. Finding the words to get beyond this — persuading women that it is safe to speak and that they will be understood when, to be fair, it isn’t and they won’t — is not something I can do. The fact that it seems no one can is, at the moment, truly heartbreaking.

The reasons I am announcing this is not because I feel I owe it to my legions of fans <grandiose nod to the non-existent masses>. It’s because I rarely stick to things I say I’m going to do, even if they’re for my own good. I felt that if I announced this here, fear of public embarrassment would prevent me from going back on it (like many people, I find embarrassment avoidance far more motivating than concern for my own well-being. And yes, like many people, I may not appear to be someone who cares about embarrassment, but actually I do – I’m just generally crap at avoiding it unless the rules are really obvious).

So anyhow, I’m off, for now (although I may pop up writing for places where I get paid, obviously, what with all the knitting patterns and Soave I have to buy).

Till later :)


What do each of the following have in common:

  • the inappropriate use of apostrophes
  • advertisers using “pan fried” when they could just use “fried”
  • the belief that bulimia is an illness rather than a moral failing
  • the idea that there can be more than one meaning for the word “gender”
  • the notion that people other than smokers, motorists and fox-hunting aficionados can be persecuted
  • having to use the term “African American” when you just want to say “black”

All of these things are, of course, examples of political correctness, about which I am now an expert. (more…)

Zach Braff – did you like him more when he was wannabe arty and desperately unfunny, or wannabe sexist and desperately unfunny? Me, I liked the first version best (although “like” may be too strong a word). To be fair, he makes a better sexist than he does an arty actor/film-maker, but I’m not just scoring on attainment (it’s an arbitrary scoring system in my head and how it works is a secret – that’s just the sort of incoherent thing women do). (more…)

Is there a single collective noun for aunties and uncles? I’ve no idea but anyhow, them – my sons have three. And while I don’t think that’s a terrible number, I still don’t believe it’s enough.

On my partner’s side there’s Auntie Perfect and Uncle Manly. They are a dentist and a doctor, respectively (which is such a cliché it sounds like a joke, but it’s actually true). They have two sons of a similar age to mine and offer my kids an insight into what life would be like if Mummy and Daddy were better organised / richer / less annoyingly liberal (kind of like a very minor version of Blood Brothers, based not on actual wealth but on whether you read the Guardian or the Telegraph). (more…)

If you criticise another person’s use of the word “censorship” does that therefore mean you’re trying to censor them? It’s a serious question. The trouble is, I’m starting to think I don’t understand what censorship means any more. Perhaps I just shouldn’t mention it, only then that would be self-censorship – or would it? Honestly, I just don’t know.

I ought to be better at this since apparently censorship is my “next move”. That’s at least according to a comment I received today, from someone who doesn’t like the fact that I find James Bond films sexist. I mean, yeah, I don’t like them – they fucking well annoy me – but I genuinely didn’t have any further plans. Believe me, I’m not that well organised. Now I’m worried I’ll need to get my censorship plans in place pretty sharpish. Otherwise, come the Feminist Revolution, I’ll only disappoint all the noble sexists lining up to lay down their lives for the right of Daniel Tosh to make shitty jokes. There they’ll be, waiting at the foot of the scaffold, and I’ll be all “what? I just said I didn’t like the jokes! I haven’t even bought a noose or anything!” (more…)

Up until this morning the whole LEGO Friends kerfuffle had passed me by. I knew the product range existed and had guessed it arose from yet another desperately unimaginative attempt to appeal to all girls, ever. Nevertheless the only child I know who happens to want a LEGO Friends toy is my youngest and guess what? He’s a boy (and in case you’re wondering, it’s the Adventure Camper, £36.95 – and no, I’m not dipping into the Shoe Fund to purchase that). Anyhow, I wasn’t particularly annoyed that this range existed. After all, there are a million other crappy toys just like it. Indeed, some of them aren’t even that crappy. Looked at independently, “girls’ toys” aren’t any worse than those marketed at boys. The problem is our failure to think of them simply as “toys”, and the way in which, through marketing, this message then gets passed on to our children. (more…)

So my son asked me to make a Jabba the Hutt cake in time for his fifth birthday and guess what? I said “yes” and then totally failed to deliver. But in my defence, this was only because I’d decided to put it off until his party, which is this Friday. Also, I’d kind of assumed it would be easy to make the cake anyhow. Surely there’d be something I could get off the internet?

Well, there was. Stuff like this and this i.e. ace cakes that I couldn’t replicate in a million years and which didn’t come with instructions anyhow. So I decided to invent my own “lesser” version. One that would basically “do”. And as a way of motivating myself I took pictures so that I could share the experience with anyone wishing to do the same.

This is not a cake for a parent who’s seeking to impress. It’s for someone who has a son or daughter who’d like a Jabba cake and knows that as long as it’s Jabba-like, it’ll just about pass. So anyhow, here’s what you need to do: (more…)

As one of the millions of “ordinary people who work hard and pay their taxes” ™, I have a question for Chris Grayling MP: when exactly will the work I do be reclassified as no longer “wage-worthy” and be funded by benefits alone?

It’s a serious question, and what’s more, I don’t often ask serious questions of this nature. That is because I have a job and don’t want to lose it. Like anyone who is not rich, I am scared. I have seen what is happening around me and I know it could happen to me, too. The use of outsourcing and unpaid internships creeps up and up each business, like a rising flood. Whatever my own skills, I know I could be replaced by someone without a job. At least if I am lucky that person might be me. (more…)

The staff in my local Sainsbury’s are friendly and courteous enough. All the same, it’s not as though I keep a record of how many smiles they give me, or whether or not they’ve used a sufficiently welcoming tone when asking for my Nectar card. The fact is, I don’t have to because someone else – their managers, I presume – are doing this on behalf of customers like me. Right now the shelf-stackers are 100% me-friendly whereas the checkout staff – rude bastards – only come in at 83%.  I know this because it’s on a sheet of A4, laminated and propped up right in front of every checkout worker, alongside a list of values they need to project and behaviours they must adopt (summary: smile till your face aches, then smile just that little bit more). (more…)

On Sunday my eldest child will turn five. To put this another way, on Sunday my eldest child will be halfway to reaching ten. To put this yet another way, on Sunday my eldest child will be one quarter of the way to reaching 20. In short, give or take a decade, my son is practically an adult.

Obviously he’s excited about his birthday, and especially enthused about the Jabba the Hut cake which I have no idea how to make but will somehow magic up in two days. Every day he remind us that his birthday is coming (and, to his younger brother, he will add with particular glee “and yours isn’t!”). As his mother, I have to say I’m less pleased than about this forthcoming event. It’s not because I think he’s missing his milestones (since I haven’t a clue what the “turning five” milestones are). It’s not even to do with the flipping cake. It’s because the older he gets, the more likely it becomes that I will have to cease being Mummy. (more…)

When modern life started getting her down, Jessica Brinton refused to pop Prozac. Instead she decided to get spiritual and went on an energy odyssey.

Sunday Times Style supplement, 12/08/12

It’s been almost a month since I started ‘popping’ Prozac again and I’ll be honest: I have no idea what effect it’s having. I still have feelings that I wouldn’t even want to blog about, but then I don’t know how bad I’d feel without the pills. So I’ll keep on ‘popping’, as it were, while still attempting to make those “positive lifestyle changes which help boost self-esteem” (Step 1: avoid all magazine articles which include the phrase “positive lifestyle changes which help boost self-esteem”). (more…)

This evening I had dinner from our local chippy. The funny thing is, I don’t even like chips. It’s just that the owner recently “came out” as a homophobe and I felt it was important to show my support.

Actually, I’m only joking. I bloody love chips – doesn’t everyone? And as for Mr Simpson’s position on same-sex relationships, well, he hasn’t yet made that clear. Obviously he’ll disclose this at some point. After all, it’s important for all of us to know whether our chip money is being used to add extra bullet points to the Gay Agenda. (more…)

As a Humourless Feminist ™ of many years’ standing, I have grown adept at recognising The Things That Are Sent To Try Us. Jimmy Carr, Heat magazine, Procter & Gamble, Femail, David Cameron … I have seen them all and always sought to offer a suitably Humourless Feminist response. Now, however, I find myself confronted with the sexism-fest that is Olympic women’s beach volleyball, but I will not rise to the occasion. Bikinis? Dancing girls? Benny Hill? I know Humourless Feminist-baiting when I see it, and I’m not going to play along. (more…)

When people do terrible things, it can be hard for external observers to understand why. While it’s easy to rush to judgement, it’s vital to take into account the context in which hateful acts are committed.

Perhaps we’ll never know what was going through the minds of Luke Salkeld, Andy Dolan, James Tozer and Jill Reilly when they decided, in response to the deaths of Ceri Fuller and his three children, to compose an article trawling through the Facebook status updates of the grieving mother left behind. (more…)

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit down. Actually, make that very, very down. Poor, sad, glum, down me. But don’t worry. This morning I headed to the doctor’s and asked for some pills. I got them and now I’m looking forward to feeling much, much better.

You’re probably reading this and thinking “well, that sounds perfectly reasonable”. But in case you’re not – in case you’re my mum, or my friends, or some random person I’ve just met in the street – here are a few clarifications to put your mind at rest: (more…)

Hey everyone! I’m rich, rich beyond my wildest dreams!*

*Actually, when I say “rich”, I don’t mean Conservative Party donor rich. I mean I have £1,000 to spend on clothes at very.co.uk.**

** Actually, when I say “have”, I don’t mean I literally have £1,000. I have £1,000 worth of credit, for which I applied.***

*** Actually, when I say “applied”, I don’t mean I applied for it. I just got given it, subject to credit checks.****

**** Actually, when I say “subject to credit checks”, I don’t mean…

I think you get the idea. Today I bought a dress from Very and uncovered a whole world of exploitative credit hell which I didn’t realise existed.

This summer I am about to embark on another potty training odyssey! Way-hey! The summer’s great for potty training, isn’t it? That’s what everyone says, like it’s one great pastoral idyll where children can run about naked all day long, with not a shitty Thomas the Tank Engine pant in sight. As you may have guessed, that’s not quite how I found it last time around. Still, perhaps I can look upon this summer as a chance to improve on things. In the spirit of this, I have been scouring the Huggies website for some top tips.

I have used Huggies Pull-Ups in the past, whenever they’ve been on special offer and therefore marginally cheaper than the supermarket’s own brand. I always let my son choose which pack we bought and he always chose the pink one with the Disney Princess pants. When I asked him why, he pointed out that the girl on the packaging was wearing fairy wings. I think he assumed if he got enough wees on target, he’d get fairy wings, too (and indeed he did). Some might call that bribery; I call it aspirational pissing. Of course, I kind of knew that we were transgressing the gender boundaries by purchasing the “girl” pants – for a boy! But I figured that what went into them was the same old shit. (more…)

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