My 100% original, totally spiritual Caribbean voyage of self-discovery and stuff like that

I am 37 years old. I have two children, work full-time, am permanently stressed and wonder where I’m going in life. I am a mid-life crisis waiting to happen. So what better thing to do than visit a far-flung country, sans kids, in order to “find myself” with a little help from some patronizing cultural stereotypes?

So I’ve been in Barbados for a week now. Here are the things that I have learned about myself: Continue reading


Blogging break

Here follows a self-important announcement of little relevance to anyone but me: I am taking a break from blogging, for 10 whole days. Is it because:

  1. I am finally sick of the sound of my own virtual voice going blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?
  2. I’m trying out a passive-aggressive tactic to see if I can get more hits?
  3. I’m too upset to carry on now that my favourite troll has lost interest in me?
  4. I am leaving my partner and kids behind and pissing off for an all-expenses-paid week in the Caribbean?

To maximise the annoyance factor of this blog post, I will now reveal that it’s Option Number Four. It is a business trip – but given that my business trips in recent years have been to Corby, Chipping Sodbury and Walsall, it’s a pretty sodding unusual one. I mean, I’m pretty sure it’s the real Caribbean and not just a conference centre in Dudley that happens to be called Barbados, but we shall see. To be honest, I still can’t believe it, although I’ve known for a couple of months.

Obviously everyone around me is taking the piss out of the very idea that this is “work”. It is, mind – but it’s in the fucking Caribbean! And every night I get to go back to a hotel room – in the Caribbean! – with no kids to put to bed or anything. I will miss them, of course, but I also can’t bloody wait! I don’t think I deserve this trip – it’s just something that happened due to an accident of project distribution – but I’m gonna really, really appreciate it.

If the WIFI in the hotel is crap (and I’ve heard that it is) I might have to go without twitter, too. And I will miss people there. I was having a ponder about it today and realised that I’ve been blogging and using twitter for seven months now. In that time I’ve encountered loads of people who are not only lovely, but who have challenged me and changed my way of thinking. I think *soppy bit* it is making me a more tolerant person. Although *less soppy bit* it is also making me a rude, antisocial person who just stares at her phone and ignores actual people in her presence. Swings and roundabouts, eh?

Anyhow, enough of a rather boring but uncharacteristically positive post from me. I’m *cough* pissing off to the Caribbean! I’m outta here! Will really miss people but, um, yes … it’s the fucking Caribbean!

*swans off*

The yummy mummy debate, round two: Now kids in cafés are rubbish as well

Earlier this year my partner, kids and I stopped for tea in a Little Chef.* For reasons I cannot explain, my boys were being exceptionally well-behaved, so much so that one of the waitresses came over to compliment us, the parents, on this. For further reasons I cannot explain, my youngest then decided to hold his chicken nugget aloft and pronounce “I’m like a dog eating poo off the floor”. I can totally see him as a future Sunday Times restaurant critic. He has that way with words. Back then, however, it was less than impressive. Thankfully the waitress took the feedback in far better grace than it deserved.

There are times when my kids have been total sods in cafés. Real little fuckers annoyances. I mean, they’re ace and everything – this morning I even over-egged the positive parenting pudding by calling them “the best little people in the world” – but now and then they turn to the Dark Side. And when that happens, there’s no reasoning with them at all (okay, I tell a lie – there sort of is. But it’s the kind of reasoning that ends with someone going “waaaaaahhhhh!” and it’s not always me). Continue reading

Creating the illusion of enthusiastic consent

Wouldn’t it be nice if men – by which I mean “proper” men, of the red-blooded, heterosexual variety – had a safe space in which to lust over women who weren’t so busy being  human? If you could supply, on tap, women who weren’t so hung up on social interaction and expressing their own likes, dislikes, disgusts and passions? If you could have a place where your rather mundane sexual fantasies seemed to gain universal endorsement and approval? Men (“proper” men, that is), I have found such a place! It is called your imagination.

The imagination is an amazing thing – and, when it suits you, really bloody filthy. I’m not going to share all the highly offensive/ridiculous scenarios mine’s come up with. I promise you, it’s an acquired taste. Suffice it to say that mine never lets me down (apart from at those frustrating moments when an unwelcome voice butts in with  “hang on! I seriously think the laws of physics would prevent him/her/it from holding that position for that long”). Continue reading

Chantelle’s baby weight: Look, I know you’re interested really

It has come to my attention that Chantelle Houghton is struggling to lose her “baby weight”. Chantelle – the woman famous for not being famous, and hence a postmodern symbol for something or other – features on the covers of New! and Now, looking like a normal person with a stomach and therefore totally rubbish. New magazine even quotes her as saying “this is the worst time of my life – I can’t stop comfort eating”.  If, like me, you happen to clock this headline while on your way to purchasing something far more serious (such as cheesecake), you’d be forgiven for thinking “well boo sodding hoo! Some of us have real problems” (such as the absence of cheesecake). In the grand scheme of things, Chantelle’s belly is a non-issue, so why am I still thinking about it at all?

Magazine covers such as these ones really piss me off. They’re sexist, spiteful and bullying. They’re also meant to be trivial, yet they don’t feel trivial to me. There’s something deeply wrong with an environment in which these images and headlines are peddled as entertainment. Moreover, the effect such magazines can have on the self-esteem of young women can be appalling. I think all this yet I don’t bother to say it very often. Mention it and you just get dragged into a debate about the legitimacy of caring at all. Continue reading

The women’s vote: Has anyone tried shoe bribery yet?

You could call it sexism fatigue, but I’m finding it terribly hard to feel remotely bothered by the whole Mitt Romney “binders of women” kerfuffle. It’s vaguely amusing as a collective noun, but try as I might, I can’t summon up a sense of outrage. It’s hardly a surprise that Romney thinks like this. Plenty of people in power do, including many who, unlike Romney and Ryan, aren’t actively setting out to limit the choices of the women both in binders and out. Moreover, the focus on a relatively minor, if dishonest, slip seems disproportionate within the context of a breathtakingly sexist political culture on both sides of the Atlantic. Continue reading

Equality: The Mothercare Trousers Conundrum

When I’ve been pregnant, I’ve always found it hard to get clothes that fit. It’s not that I’m oddly unaware of the existence of maternity garments – I’ve seen enough “Baby on board” slogans to last several lifetimes – it’s that I’m much shorter than the average person. And when short people get pregnant it’s just too weird. How can you possibly be two “abnormal” things at once? Isn’t that just taking the piss?

It would appear so, not just in relation to pregnancy wear. And whereas with that I can understand the reasoning – the short and pregnant form too small a market so you might as well just leave them to adjust their own over-bump trousers – when it comes to equality ideals, I don’t get it at all. It seems to be decreed – by people who are usually only one “weird thing” at most – that everyone else is only permitted to have one “issue”. Anything more would just be greedy. Continue reading

My new campaign: Feminists For Yummy Mummies

I’m launching a new campaign to support much-maligned sector of society. Everyone, I give to you: Feminists For Yummy Mummies!

Now it might sound like I’m being sarcastic but actually, I’m not. I’m deadly serious. If there’s one group which suffers due to a very specific form of sexism which is rarely identified, let alone challenged, then it’s … Well, to be honest, there are many such groups. But well-kept upper-middle-class SAHMs definitely form one of them. It’s about time we did something about it. Continue reading

John Pilger, allow me to femsplain

Two days ago someone explained the verb “to mansplain” to me. To be fair, it was a woman who explained it, so it’s probably wrong. All the same, that word’s been annoying me ever since. I don’t want to use it – it sounds silly and snide and it’s not even a proper pun – but I now keep finding examples of it everywhere. It’s as though all of a sudden, all the time, men are telling women what women should think. Is it just me? Has this always been happening? If we come up with another totally rubbish verb – “to femsplain”, for instance – will it even up the balance? Surely that’s gotta be worth a try.

In the meantime, today’s Guardian features John Pilger telling misguided feministas everywhere that Julia Gillard is no feminist hero, despite her much-celebrated righteous fury directed at opponent Tony Abbott:

Misogyny is an Australian blight and a craven reality in political life. But for so many commentators around the world to describe Julia Gillard’s attack on Abbott as a “turning point for Australian women” is absurd. Promoted by glass-ceiling feminists with scant interest in the actual politics and actions of their hero, Gillard is the embodiment of the Australian Labor party machine – a number-crunching machine long bereft of principle that has attacked and betrayed Australia’s most vulnerable people, especially women.

Thanks, John. Misogyny is indeed a blight. Indeed, it’s just the kind of thing which might make you dismiss women who are merely pleased that a woman in power is publicly calling out sexism as “glass-ceiling feminists with scant interest in the actual politics […] of their hero”. Because it’s not as though challenging sexism within power structures is relevant to “actual politics” anyhow, is it? It’s not as though feminists are capable of distinguishing between a woman being right about one thing and wrong about another. It’s not as though such a protest is so overdue and so rare that, regardless of who’s making it, it remains A Big Deal. Continue reading

Debating porn: Is it “just like stacking shelves”?

Young women with low-paid jobs in retail are dead useful, aren’t they? I don’t mean just for stacking shelves and beeping stuff through the checkout. I mean as a debating device for the middle-classes, people who’d never dream of finding themselves on their hands and knees in Asda, making sure the Moshi Monsters tinned spaghetti hadn’t got mixed up with the Third & Bird wholewheat pasta shapes.

When I was growing up, for instance, the threatened penalty for not working hard at school was “ending up on the sweetie counter at Woollies”. Whereas to me this would have meant strawberry laces on tap, to my parents this meant only misery and failure. It’s only in a post-Woolworths world that we see how much worse it can get; if the pick ‘n’ mix counter were open today, it’d be run by staff receiving only JSA for their troubles. Continue reading

Mehdi Hasan and abortion: So tell me, is this the right response?

I can assure you that no other lefty will dare touch this subject given the response I got today

tweet from @mehdirhasan, following responses to at his anti-abortion piece in the New Statesman / Huffington Post

Dear Mehdi Hasan

As someone who, like you, would describe themselves as “on the left”, I’m dreadfully disappointed that fellow lefties have let you down so badly following your groundbreaking piece Being Pro-Life Doesn’t Make Me Any Less Of A Lefty. You have been called “evil, a dickhead, sexist, misogynist, a dictator and the enemy”, and “a self-righteous little prick”. Worse still, bloggers have come up with virulent pieces such as this and this, which go so far as to accuse you, if not of being the type of person who fetishises “selfishness and unbridled individualism”, then at least of being in the wrong. I’m not surprised you’re upset and feel that the other side “effectively dominates and closes down the debate”. Well, sod them. You don’t have to listen to what they say – don’t they realise they’re just meant to listen to you? Continue reading

David Cameron’s hard-nosed, hard-luck tales

I’ve heard it said that every person has a novel deep inside them, just waiting to be written. To be honest, I can’t remember who said it or in what context, but this doesn’t really matter, what with it being total bollocks. Take me, for instance. If I were to try writing an extended work of fiction it would be breathtakingly awful. I can’t do plot, would get bored midway through and am so self-absorbed that every single character would, essentially, be me, except for some token additional detail (having different colour hair, for instance, or a third nipple – no, wait, that’s still me).*Anyhow, the truth is, while I don’t believe everyone on the planet is a secret Charles Dickens (finger on the pulse, yet again), I do think there’s one literary capability which we all share: all of us, each and every one, could pen a “tragic life stories” autobiography. I’m not kidding – I seriously think we all have that potential (apart from Andrew Collins, but then that was the whole point of the rather wonderful Where did it all go right? He’s the only person, ever, not to have several tons of crap from childhood just waiting to gush forth). Continue reading

Censorship, free speech and Matthew Woods

Now and then, if I’m in a particularly boring meeting or social situation, I find my mind begins to wander. And before long, I get round to wondering what would happen – what the actual, practical outcome would be – were I to do something completely random and offensive. It might be to do with nudity, or sex, or swearing, or just being a total prick. I don’t spend long dwelling on what I’d actually do. It’s the outcome that interests me. It’s not because I secretly want to do such a thing. It’s just thinking of it creates a little frisson when you’re bored out of your mind. You find yourself getting slightly scared – what if I forget and actually do it? It’s like standing on a high balcony and getting ever so stressed  that you’ll have a “mad moment” and jump off. You sort of know you won’t, but you could and therefore you still just might. All it would take would be for me to say one word – just one word – and I could quite possibly destroy my whole career. Once you start thinking that it’s quite hard to stop (or perhaps it’s just be? Either way, I’ve been this way ever since 1980, when I used to fantasise about shinning up the climbing frame and yelling “bloody hell!” in the middle of assembly). Continue reading

The real abortion debate

So, where do you stand on the real abortion debate? I don’t mean the one about whether or not women should be able to have abortions. I mean the one about whether or not men should be able to say stuff about abortions. I hadn’t realised it, but apparently a man’s right to express anti-choice views is under greater threat than a woman’s right to choose not to continue with a pregnancy. Clearly this is disturbing stuff. Whatever happened to a man’s right to pontificate ad infinitum?

Following health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s declaration of support for a halving of the abortion time limit, the Spectator blog has run a piece by Freddy Gray which articulates this far more serious threat to human rights:
Continue reading

Abortion: Bridging the compassion gap

“Bigot” and “hypocrite” are words I don’t use all that often, but all the same I probably use them too much. They don’t say an awful lot about people, other than that I find their views hateful and/or morally inconsistent, yet none of this is terribly productive. There are always people who’ll claim that it’s bigoted to label other people bigots in the first place. And since we’re probably all hypocrites in one way or another, it no doubt is hypocritical to call another person a hypocrite. In fact, it may be far safer just to call anyone who annoys you a fucking annoying fuck (but bear in mind that that’s still rude).

That being said, there is something about Republican Scott DesJarlais that continues to make me want to scream “hypocritical bigot!”. This could be the fact he is a Republican Congressman who stands on an anti-abortion platform, yet nevertheless encouraged a woman with whom he had an affair to have an abortion (as an added bonus, DesJarlais – a doctor – first met the woman while treating her as a patient). This all happened ten years ago, of course. Since then DesJarlais has declared on his website that “all life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life”. It’s really quite a turnaround for someone who, when his back was against the wall, was recommending to his ex-lover that they “get it over with so we can get on with our lives”. He’s since got on with his life, that’s for sure. Continue reading

Feminism resources for schools: I’m not cross, just very disappointed

Many feminists are very NEGATIVE about the society we live in and always see the BAD in everything. […] They want to generalise their ideas about males and females to the whole of society.

AS Sociology resource website

I am a feminist. I am also a miserable sod. Usually I assume these two things to be only loosely related, but perhaps I’m wrong. In any case, I’m blaming the menz.

I’m not a sociology teacher. I don’t know how you’d teach a Key Stage 5 sociology course. I am, however, quite surprised to learn that in some places it is being done through the medium of 1970s stereotypes (my own specialism is in languages, hence I eagerly await the day when intercultural understanding is covered by “French people wear ONIONS round their NECKS” and “TWO world wars AND one world cup” – no idea what’s going on with the capitals there, but if it’s THE latest thing in pedagogy, I’m going WITH the FLOW). Continue reading

Jimmy Savile in the news: Saying everything and nothing

I decided not to watch that Jimmy Savile documentary. All the same, I’ve probably seen it all, bit by bit, in stills and reports in the days since it was aired. I’ve probably seen more than was originally in it. There’s a creepy momentum that drags you in, every detail so tremendously believable even though you tell yourself it isn’t.

In a meeting this morning a colleague demonstrated his iPad to me. Flicking through news pages, he paused as a photo of Jimmy, cigar in mouth, leered up at us. It felt, oddly, as though one of us ought to make a joke, although neither of us could. So he passed over swiftly to Justin Lee Collins. Continue reading

Depression and the questionable value of telling stories

Hey everyone! Yesterday it was the turn of Caitlin Moran – today let’s all flame India Knight! These female Times journalists don’t half ask for it, don’t they? (Meanwhile, Rod Liddle treads the same old hate-filled path because, well, he’s just Rod Liddle. Funny, that.)

I have a feeling that Knight wrote something deeply offensive about mental illness in yesterday’s Sunday Times. This is just a feeling, though, since I’m not about to subscribe to the bloody thing to find out. All the same, I’ve seen the “taster” paragraphs and it doesn’t look promising: Continue reading

On Caitlin Moran and “giving a shit”

Earlier today I wrote a rather furious post about the whole Caitlin Moran twitterstorm. To summarise: asked whether, when interviewing Lena Dunham about the TV series Girls, she’d raised the issue of race representation, Moran responded by claiming not to “give a shit”. When pulled up on this, Moran became increasingly defensive, linking accusations of racisim in Girls to “saying I’m currently being racist by not having someone Chinese in my house” and arguing that “you wouldn’t insist boys had to always have black characters in their projects”. Unsurprisingly, many people were offended by this, so many people blogged about it, myself included.

I am white and I have never watched Girls, hence am not in a position to condemn or defend the show. Nevertheless, what dismayed me about Moran’s tweets were the following things:
Continue reading

How to over-interpret a puddle of wee

This morning I woke up in a puddle of wee. Not, I hasted to add, my own (a situation to which I guess there are pros and cons). It was one of my children’s. He’d got into bed with us for a cuddle and, most unusually, had ended up having an accident.

I am worried about him. While I’m very much aware of the practical consequences of wetting the bed, I have only vague ideas about what causes it. For some people I imagine it’s just “a thing” (the technical term). But when it happens out of the blue, I can’t help associating it with some kind of trauma or distress that wasn’t there before. More specifically, I worry my son is not happy at school. I worry he might be being bullied. I worry he is having problems making friends. Continue reading