New Statesman: Leap Day love: Once every four years, women are allowed to propose to men

You know the trouble with heterosexual relationships? One party desperately wants marriage and babies while the other doesn’t, and the lengths to which the former will go to tie down the latter are frankly staggering.

We all know, for instance, that straight marriage doesn’t offer women as much as it offers men. Getting married boosts men’s health and income, while the only thing boosted for women is the number of pants to wash. Women are more likely to initiate divorce and less likely to suffer ill-health as a result. Recent research has suggested that single, childless men want babies more than their female counterparts, hardly surprising given who pays the highest price in health risks, workplace discrimination and domestic drudgery. So is it any wonder that poor, needy men have been forced to come up with elaborate schemes in order to snare independent, commitment-phobic women? Otherwise what straight woman in her right mind would ever end up walking down the aisle?

For the full post go to the New Statesman

Married Couple’s Tax Allowance: Let’s talk about sexism

Of many things that annoy me about Tory plans to introduce a Marriage Tax Allowance, one minor irritation is that my partner and I, who’ve been together for thirteen years, wouldn’t even benefit from it. To be fair, I’m not sure I even want to benefit from a policy with which I so wholeheartedly disagree, but if it’s going to happen anyhow … Well, that’s a moot point anyhow. Married or not, we’d gain nothing. We’re both in paid employment so our respective tax allowances are spoken for.

This morning, however, something crossed my mind. I might lose my job! In fact, for reasons I can’t go into, there’s a distinct possibility that I will lose my job! And if I do lose my job, providing we’ve tied the knot, then it’s Tax Allowance a-go-go! Way-hey! Thank you kindly, Mr Cameron!
Continue reading

Enough of the bride-bashing!

This morning I found myself reading a blog on the Independent about a very ungrateful bride, who mocked a wedding guest for sending her a personal gift rather than money. Or rather, that’s how the blog started off. Following on from that particular tale of selfishness and greed readers were treated to first, a rather weak attempt at observational comedy (“why weddings are crap if you’re a guest” sort of thing) and second, a full-on sexist rant about the sheer horribleness of brides, or bridezillas, to give them their properly sexist name:

The mistake too many brides make is to think that their wedding is a gift to all those invited and therefore they deserve remuneration. Their addled brains think their finely-tuned bonanza of self-indulgence is every bit as meaningful and exciting for her guests as it is for herself. She forgets that most of those attending are only there because it would be rude not to turn up; that if they had the choice they would be in the pub or at home watching TV with a pizza; that the only real draw to the reception is the free food and booze and the chance to see old mates.

Oh, just sod off, Andy West, and take your difficult transitions from the third person plural to the third person singular with you. Yes, weddings can be a pain, but guess what? Brides are not wholly responsible for all of the materialistic, trivial-yet-high-pressure expectations that surround them. Bride-bashing might seem like a bit of fun but in a pink-blue world where little girls are still encouraged to hold out for taffeta and handsome princes it’s not fair to then castigate them for vanity and self-indulgence. They’re trying to do what’s expected, even though they’re damned either way. Continue reading

Bigotryphobia: The real social evil

Like most right-thinking people, I want to come from a country where intolerance is tolerated. Live and let others not let live, that’s what I say. If tolerance means anything, it’s allowing others not to be tolerant, providing of course that I’m not the one who’s not being tolerated. If there’s one thing that’s worse than intolerance of intolerance, it’s intolerance of intolerance of intolerance of intolerance. Seriously, that’s just intolerable (providing it’s not intolerant of me to say so).

According to Simon Jenkins, writing in today’s Guardian about the vote on equal marriage, “the true test of tolerance lies in its treatment of intolerance – and we failed that test”. That’s rather damning, isn’t it? I’m not exactly sure what he’s referring to – has the Daily Mail now been outlawed in an effort to pacify the raging bigotryphobes? – but it all sounds pretty serious. Surely we want everyone to feel included, even those who won’t feel included unless other people are excluded. Of course, this then means that we can’t include everyone, hence it makes sense to include only the intolerant people. The only alternative would to include those who are intolerant of intolerance (what used to be known as being “tolerant”) and that wouldn’t be right. After all, intolerance of intolerance is intolerance squared, or at least I think that’s how it works. Continue reading

The no-housework way to keep your man

Married ladies! Are you still labouring under the illusion that cleaning the toilet is a joint responsibility? When your husband picks up a dishcloth, do you leave him to it rather than rush forth, Cath Kidston pinny all a-billow, gasping “wait! I’ll do it!”? Does your man put his own underpants in the laundry basket rather than toss them, Christian Grey-like, to the floor? If so, are you aware that you’re risking divorce?

A Norwegian study has revealed that “couples who share the housework are more likely to divorce”. Ha! And there was you, naively assuming it was safe to let your man loose with the Fairy Liquid. Alas, you’ll be heading to splitsville quicker than you can say “decree nisi”. Of course, the press have latched upon this finding with liberal horror, and not the slightest trace of sexist glee. “So much for equality!” squeals the Daily Mail, while the UK blog Divorce Online offers a not-particularly-tongue-in-cheek “ladies, know your place and save your marriage”. Well, that’s you told. Continue reading

Consultation on same-sex marriage: Essential guidance for bigots

Being a homophobe must be exhausting. All that time spent fretting about how far down the Gay Agenda “they” might have progressed, and then wondering what hedonistic AOB they’ll have planned for afterwards (plus I bet, if any of the agenda items are bullet pointed, they’ll have gone into “customise” and made sure the points are love hearts rather than straight black dots). With all this worrying, you’d have no time to construct a cogent argument as to why you object to same sex marriage, even though you obviously do. And right now the government’s asking you to contribute to a consultation on the issue. Enough already! Talk to the hand! (Or some other phrase – ideally one that sounds a bit less camp.)

Thankfully, the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child have put together their own set of sample answers to help those too “busy” to think of their own. Quite what denying women dominion over their own bodies has to do with preventing same-sex couples from calling their marriage a marriage is beyond me. But hey, w/evs. All bigots together. Still, the thing that worries me is, how will homophobes necessarily know where to find the sample responses? They might be too absorbed in fighting the gay mafia to make the necessary link with hating women who have abortions? You never know, they might just randomly happen on some feminist mummy blog by mistake. It’s a concern, isn’t it? And so, because I firmly believe that everyone should have their say, even total tossers, I’ve decided to provide some sample answers of my own. They’re just like the SPUC ones (apart from being completely different, which is purely an issue of copyright and not one of wanting to treat other human beings with a basic degree of respect).

Question 1: Do you agree or disagree that all couples, regardless of their gender, should be able to have a civil marriage ceremony?

Suggested response: Disagree (NB when selecting “disagree”, it is essential that you choose the option which DOES NOT include the prefix “dis-“. Otherwise your answer will be a stupid, mean-spirited, utterly self-centred and heartless one)

Question 2: Please explain the reasons for your answer, limiting your response to 1,225 characters (approx 200 words).

Suggested response: I believe marriage should, by definition, serve as the union of a man (or a woman) and a woman (or a man). To summarise, I do not not not disagree with same-sex marriage.

Question 3: If you identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual would you wish to have a civil marriage ceremony?

Suggested response: Yes (don’t worry, this IS the right answer. Of course you would wish to have a civil marriage ceremony if you were one of “them”, which you’re not. But that’s only because if you were, you’d be perverted, which again, you’re not. It’s always good to make it clear that you know what “they” are thinking).

Question 4: If you represent a group of individuals who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual would those you represent wish to have a civil marriage ceremony?

Suggested response: Yes (again, as for Question 3, it’s good to show you know what “they” are thinking and, in this instance, also what their leaders/corruptors have planned).

Question 5: The government does not propose to open up religious marriage to same-sex couples. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?

Suggested response: Agree – religious marriage should not be opened up to same-sex couples (NB when selecting this option, please ensure you choose the version of “agree” which DOES include the prefix “dis-” and that the sub-clause does not include “not”. This is VERY IMPORTANT).

Question 6: Do you agree or disagree with keeping the option of civil partnerships once civil marriage is made available to same-sex couples?

Suggested response: Don’t know (do we want to maintain a two-tier system, which could, potentially, put pressure on gays to exclude themselves voluntarily from our social structures, but which might also give them extra options, options that we, the Master Race, don’t have? Just skip this one. It’s a total headfuck.)

Question 7: If you identify as being lesbian, gay or bisexual and were considering making a legal commitment to your partner, would you prefer to have a civil partnership or a civil marriage?

Suggested response: Civil marriage. Because you know they would. They’d do it just to annoy us (or at least the men would. The women would probably prefer the civil partnership option, what with being all butch and stuff. But they don’t really count anyhow)

Question 8: The government is not considering opening up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples because we have been unable to identify a need for this. However, we appreciate that there are a number of views on this issue. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?

Suggested response: Agree – civil partnerships should not be opened up to opposite-sex couples (but please bear in mind the rules regarding “dis-” and “not”, as outlined for Question 5).

Question 9: If you are in a civil partnership would you wish to take advantage of this policy and convert your civil partnership into a marriage?

Suggested response: Yes. As in, you would if you were gay, which, as we have already acknowledged, you are not. But the gays will do anything for an extra knees-up.

Question 10: We would not propose introducing a time limit on the ability to convert a civil partnership into a marriage. Do you agree or disagree?

Suggested response: Disagree (see rules regarding “dis-” outlined for Question 1).

Question 11: Do you think there should be an option to have a civil ceremony on conversion of a civil partnership into a marriage?

Suggested response: Yes, there should be an option. That way, we could organise vigils outside, holding up placards mourning the death of “real” marriage.

Question 12: If you are a married transsexual person, would you want to take advantage of this policy and remain in your marriage while obtaining a full Gender Recognition Certificate?

Suggested response: Yes. Just say yes. Otherwise they might get suspicious and think you’re a man or a woman in disguise, or whatever the hell all this means. It’s hard to tell these days, what with women having short hair and being allowed to wear trousers.

Question 13: If you are the spouse of a transsexual person, would you want to take advantage of this policy and remain in your marriage whilst your spouse obtained a full Gender Recognition Certificate?

Suggested response: Yes. Again, it’s the safest option, or they’ll start asking questions about Betty’s M&S slacks/ Brian’s “red but looks pink in certain lights” jumper.

Question 14: [Some stuff on tax and benefit rights blah blah blah]. Do you have any comments on the assumptions or issues outlined above?

Suggested response: I do like Elton John, though. And that nice David Furnish.

Question 15: Are you aware of any costs or benefits that exist to either the public or private sector, or individuals that we have not accounted for in the impact assessment?

Suggested response: What about the fetuses? Tell me about the fetuses, George!

Question 16: Do you have any other comments on the proposals within this
consultation? If so, please provide details, limiting your response to 1,225 characters.

Suggested response: Was Freddie Mercury really one of them? My mum always thought he looked quite virile and manly. She’d have married him.

To submit your responses, please go here. Remember, it’s important. If you don’t do it, “they” sure will.

Switching beds

During the nineties I spent several summers working in a luxury hotel on the edge of the Lake District. Compared to the jobs I’d had before (service station; cheap, pack-em-in hotel; silver service for boozed-up businessmen) it was idyllic. I’d drive over early in the morning to witness the sun rising over Ullswater. I’d watch the reflection in the shimmering waters, so immersed in self-conscious poetic musings that I’d almost crash the Mini Metro. Then I’d pull over by the side of the road, have a fag (since I still wasn’t allowed them at home), and continue on my way, anticipating a peaceful morning of setting up the breakfast room and serving a tiny number of high-paying guests, before going upstairs to hoover and polish a handful of plush bedrooms.

There were high points, such as serving breakfast to Jarvis Cocker, and to Robert Powell (who played the lead role in the 1977 film Jesus of Nazareth, meaning I can legitimately say I’ve served tea and toast to Jesus). There were low points, such serving porridge to the portly man in Room 11, who took room service in his underpants, and winked disconcertingly at the end of every sentence. There were simply confusing points, such as dealing with a couple who both had alzheimer’s and had no idea where they were, but seemed to be having such a wonderful time together you had no idea whether to feel sad for them or not. And then there were simply shameful points, the worst of which was making a gay couple feel unwelcome in a hotel they’d paid a fortune to stay in.

Every morning we’d go into their room and find the twin beds pushed together, with the duvet covers arranged horizontally, one above the over, so that each covered both beds at once. And every morning the other chambermaid and I would push the beds apart, make up each separately and push a bedside table in between them, as if to keep them permanently divided. Every night the men would return and dutifully rearrange the room they were paying hundreds to occupy, push the beds back together again and adjust the bedding so that they could lie together beneath the same covering. They never said a word about it. I never said a word about it, despite the pitiful shred of decency that at least made me wonder whether this was right. It was just the way we did things. I look back and I feel appalled at myself, and at an environment in which a couple could be so beaten down by discrimination that they wouldn’t complain, not even in a situation where they had the money and, supposedly, the power. We would not have treated a heterosexual couple in the same way. I know this because occasionally heterosexual couples stayed in twin rooms and we had no issues with any rearrangement of the beds. We’d offer to help them with it. But things were different for same-sex couples. Or rather, non-couples. The message to them was clear: you pretend you’re no more than friends and we’ll deign to take your money. Your relationship is unworthy of an establishment such as ours.

Writing all this I feel incredibly ashamed. I’ll regale people with the “serving toast to Jesus” story, but I tend to forget the “treating fellow human beings like shit” anecdote. The thing that reminded me is this piece by John Sentamu in the Guardian. It’s the same old, same old about how gay marriage isn’t necessary because we have civil partnerships, and how, actually, allowing gay couples to marry would damage marriage, which is “built around the complementarity of the sexes”:

Defining marriage as between a man and a woman is not discriminatory against same-sex couples. What I am pressing for is a kind of social pluralism that does not degenerate into a fancy-free individualism.

Sentamu doesn’t bother to tell us what “the complimentarity of the sexes” actually offers or achieves. Presumably it’s something to do with childbearing, in spite of the fact that heterosexual couples can marry regardless of whether they are fertile, have any intention of having children or are still within childbearing age. Yet even if we could regulate marriage law to exclude the unforgivably barren, it is unclear why we’d want to. And then there’s the fact that gay couples can have children with others, or adopt. If all this sounds a bit muddled, it’s because I’m genuinely confused. What is the value of this “between a man and a woman” bollocks? What is this special thing for which we need a special word? As a woman in a relationship with a man, I don’t see this “complementarity”, I don’t recognise it and I don’t want it. Yet I’m still allowed to get married and same-sex couples aren’t. Once again, their relationship is unworthy of an establishment such as ours.

Sentamu recognises that being denied access to the same rights as others (or, to use the proper, gay-friendly terminology, access to “fancy-free individualism”) will make some gay people sad :(. But hey, it’s complicated:

If it was a question of justice, what injustice would result from not turning civil partners into married couples? I suggest: no injustice.

Well, John, I suggest: a great deal of injustice, in addition to a great deal of pain. Because I could look back on one summer in 1994 and claim that what it all came down to was the same pair of beds, the same pair of duvet covers, the same room. Everything was the same. The only thing that was different was the positioning on the floor. And what difference does that make, really? None at all? I think it makes a lot of difference. It’s a question of love, respect and the humane treatment of others. John Sentamu may not be able to see it, and as a naive, selfish nineteen-year-old, neither could I. But surely all of us have to grow up at some point and recognise the importance of our words and actions. It’s not just a label, or the shifting of a bedside table. It’s a gesture that can make all the difference in the world.

Link to Home Office Equal Civil marriage consultation.