New Statesman: Cristiano Ronaldo’s approach to fatherhood is a victory for male supremacy

So, is he or isn’t he? Cristiano Ronaldo, 31, chose to keep mum while training for Real Madrid last week. The Portuguese heart-throb has been coy about rumours abounding ever since he was spotted flaunting a football-sized bump in a recent match against Celta Vigo. The unlucky-in-love national captain has been brazen about his desire to embrace single parenthood for a second time. Is he set to exchange 4-4-2 to become a 2-by-2? Will the broody forward, who’s spoken of his desire to have five or six little Cristianos, become international football’s answer to Natasha Hamilton and Ulrika Jonsson? Watch this space!

Wrote no one, ever (apart from me, just now).

We don’t write about one half of the population having babies in the same way we write about the other half. This is because babies are gestated by people who have wombs, not people who have penises. An obvious point to make, perhaps, but an increasingly necessary one. No matter how much the world changes, the fact remains that not everyone has the innate potential to carry a child to term. A person with a womb probably does; a person with a penis definitely doesn’t. This matters.

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New Statesman: Is it up to Jamie Oliver to say whether women should breastfeed?

Imagine if feeding your newborn baby were no more complex than following a Jamie Oliver recipe. Right, this one’s dead simple, all natural ingredients, you can rustle it up in a jiffy. Take one lactating tit – can be engorged, bleeding, mastitis-ridden, you name it – give it a bit of a squeeze then just whack it in your hungry tot’s mouth. Quick as you like, takes zero prep, how’s that for instant infant tucker?

Unfortunately, just as fighting poverty involves more than encouraging the poor to get rid of their “massive fucking TVs,” breastfeeding requires more than having a celebrity chef tell you it’s “easy” and grant you permission to do it “anywhere [you] want.” It’s all very well to say “we have the worst breastfeeding in the world” when the “we” means something very different depending on whether one is a lactating mother or not.

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New Statesman: Period positivity and treating women’s bodies as the norm

According to the writer Jay Griffiths, “the much maligned paramenstrum (defined as the two days before a period and the first two days of it) floods you with insight, with surges of instinctual thoughts, with demanding intensity, with burning innerness, thinking at full feeling”. This may be something you recognise. Alternatively, like me, you may find it a time for donning your ropiest pair of pants, stuffing your face on Wispa Duos and curling up in bed, nursing a hot water bottle and a sense of grievance that set in when you were 11 and has never gone away.

Just how the modern woman should approach menstruation has yet to be defined. Should it be something we celebrate, boldly, in defiance of age-old taboos that have held the female body in check? Or should we all just admit that periods are pretty rubbish, really, and bond over a monthly misery shared? Either way, the one good thing is we can be open about their existence. It wasn’t always like this.

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The Pool: Joan Bakewell’s comments about anorexia were harmful, but not surprising

Sometimes I look back on my youth and wish I’d had more problems. Been raised in a war-torn country, sent scavenging for food on the streets. That way, whatever else I’d endured, at least I’d have avoided suffering an eating disorder. As it is, I’m stuck being the kind of narcissist who wastes decades of her life on anorexia and bulimia (still, unlike some I know, I’ve not yet been self-centred enough to starve to death).

At least, this is the impression of eating disorders given by Joan Bakewell in a recent interview, in which she suggested that anorexia among young people “arises presumably because they are preoccupied with being beautiful and healthy and thin”. “No one,” she argued, “has anorexia in societies where there is not enough food. They do not have anorexia in the camps in Syria. I think it’s possible anorexia could be about narcissism.” Thanks, Joan. Good to know we only put ourselves through it because we’re worth it.

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New Statesman: Trousers for all: Why are girls still being required to wear skirts for school?

Who wears the trousers in your relationship? In my case, it’s definitely my partner. I’ve always been a skirt and dress person. Unnecessary cloth-based leg separation just isn’t my thing.

Nonetheless, while I question both the practical and stylistic merits of trousers and shorts, I will defend to the death the right of other women to make their own sartorial choices. For this reason I am broadly in favour of Trousers for All, a UK-wide group campaigning to give girls the option of wearing trousers as part of their school uniform.

While most schools already permit this, there remain a number who do not. This week, as part of The University of Manchester’s social justice festival JustFest, academics Dr Katia Chornik and Professor Claire Hale will argue that this is in breach of the Department of Education’s School Uniform document and The Equality Act 2010. “Both documents,” says Chornik, “emphasise the need to avoid uniforms which are expensive and which treat one sex less favourably than the other. In our view the practice of banning trousers for girls is gender discrimination and prejudice against females.” But is it really?

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True liberation needs to keep maternal bodies in the picture

Recent news reports have described the way in which a photograph of two men holding their newborn baby has been used, without their or the photographer’s permission, in an Irish politician’s campaign against same-sex surrogacy. Condemnation of this has been widespread and, I think, absolutely correct. The picture tells us absolutely nothing about whether same-sex couples are less equipped to raise children than heterosexual ones (they’re not). Even so, every time I see that photo there is something that seems to me not quite right.

It’s the face off to the side that bothers me. Is that the woman who has just given birth? How does she feel? Is she hurting? Is she still struggling to deliver the placenta while the camera clicks away? Does she feel a desire to touch and hold the baby, too? Hopefully she is fine, her pregnancy, her labour, all gifts freely and joyfully given. But would anyone care if she wasn’t? Would they have refrained from taking the picture in that case? Would they even know? Continue reading