Sunday, February 12, 2006

Moving house

As you can plainly see, something majorly weird has happened to my site, and I don't have a clue what to do about it. So I'm moving here. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Random Collection III

03/02/06: Hospital notes
There is no privacy in a hospital, but I guess that's obvious to everyone. I can hear exactly what is going on with the lady in the next cubicle, and I feel embarrassed for unintentionally eavesdropping. When they draw the curtain back and hurry out and fetch something, I look in a different direction so that I'm invading her privacy as little as possible.

A Weight Watchers advert on Yahoo! depicts a box of heart shaped chocolates with the heading 'A box of chocolates is sweet. Losing weight is sweeter'. The ad is pink, and filled with obvious associations with Valentine's Day and thus, with sex and love. Why would a Weight Watchers' ad have a picture of 'bad' food on it? Why would it wish to torment those who feel the need to diet? Because that's how they make their money. The diet industry keeps its customers by playing on their bodily insecurities, by making them feel the need to punish themselves should they enjoy so much as a heart-shaped chocolate.

'Losing weight is sweeter'. For everyone? For every woman? Is there a point when losing weight becomes sour? Is it really 'sweeter' than enjoying one's food? What does it mean to put a picture of a sweet treat in order to inspire first temptation, then guilt? What intense emotions that picture must inspire for Weight Watchers to use it! 'Eating something nice is sweet. Depriving yourself is sweeter'. This is not an advert aimed at warning people of the health dangers of obesity. Rather, it is aimed at every woman who might like heart shaped chocolates for Valentine's Day, at every woman who will then feel guilty at wanting/ eating such a gift, to tell her that she would find it 'sweeter' to deprive herself.

It reminds of me of that TV show, You Are What You Eat. Dr Gillian would make a huge display of all the food that a family had eaten in a week as a sight to horrify and disgust. Food as a fetish, as a spectacle to put people off eating, to dismay them into self-punishment, as the scarily thin and pale mistress looks on.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Laurelin In The Ward II

Yesterday I was rushed to the hospital with an allergic reaction after collapsing outside the London Eye. We think that the reaction was to, um, pomegranate. Yeah, weird, huh? Anyway, they pumped me full of liquids and drugs and gave me injections and oxygen, and I had the loveliest most kind doctors and nurses. They 'observed' me for a few hours and then discharged me. I got some steroids to take for the next few days to kill the eeeeeeevil pomegranate seeds.

'Scuse the bad grammar. I'm still shaky and weak. I think I will have to put blogging on hold for a while, until I'm back to my nonaphylactic-shock self.

Pomegranates suck.

Hopefully the comments section will work this time!

Laurelin In The Ward I

ETA: Something's going all screwy with my comments section on this post, I promise I didn't delete your comment Lost Clown! For some reason it will only allow one comment at a time and it won't show them, so I'm going to repost this post above to see if that helps.

Thanks for your concern guys, it's heartwarming xxx

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Notes on 'male sexuality', culture and nature

The inimitable Times reports on yet another survey that will tell us The Truth About Male Sexuality. After all, it's not like we've ever heard anything about it before.

Well, in a way, we haven't. The problem with science is that it often considers itself to be objective and without influence by cultural norms, and the data it produces about a subject such as 'male sexuality' are taken to prove what male sexuality naturally is, rather than how it is expressed culturally. It ignores the social and political milieu in which men express sexuality and refuses to accept that what is cultural is not the same as what is natural.

The first assumption made when studying male sexuality is that Y chromosome (sp?) holders have a sexuality which is intrinsically different, even opposed, to that which XXers have. That this sexuality is untainted by cultural variables and is programmed into male genes. That somehow having different genitals means that men and women must have different brains too, and that any difference in their thinking is a result of nature demanding that it be that way.

In this article, however, the researcher uses the terms 'normal' and 'abnormal' rather than 'natural' and 'unnatural'. A 'norm' can refer to a biological standard, but it can also suggest a cultural one, and presumably is used here to avoid the implicit judgement of 'natural'/'unnatural'. However, there is no discussion in the article as to what precisely is implied by 'normal/'abnormal', and at least one of the rationales for using the term is to get men to admit to sexual fantasies that are violent, under the reassurance that they are 'normal':

An estimated 35 per cent of men admit to fantasising about rape. Waterman says: “If someone fantasises about rape, or forced sex, and does nothing about it, then to argue that that fantasy is abnormal has to be seen as controversial because the literature suggests that rape is a common fantasy. But if a person acts on their fantasy and rapes someone, that’s considered deviant.”

Is 'common' the same thing as 'normal'? Or more to the point, does something being 'common' make it acceptable/ natural? If 35% of men really are fantasising about serious acts of violence then it is essential to look at the culture that surrounds this. That culture is one in which sexualised and submissive images of women abound, where women are deemed 'sexy' when they are wearing restrictive and painful clothing, where sex is considered an act of domination by man of woman.

Sexual thoughts about children are another controversial area. Between 4 and 9 per cent of men report sexual fantasies involving children, with the age of the imagined children usually unspecified. Men are known to prefer younger women, because, as evolutionary theory would have it, youth represents fertility.

This theory makes no sense to me. Children aren't fertile. Young girls aren't fertile. Women are fertile, however, for a long period of their life; fertility does not begin and end in the space of a few years.Women with shaved legs are no more fertile than women with hairy legs. Not all sexual fantasies include the possibility of impregnation. Note the wording 'men are known to prefer younger women'. Men (generic) in patriarchal cultures are known to prefer younger women; this cannot be proven of men outside such a culture. Patriarchal culture consists of hierarchical structures in which the stronger rule the weaker, and in which men-as-a-class control women-as-a-class. This control finds it easiest when women are vulnerable, submissive and physically weaker- that is, more like children.

In our patriarchal culture, force is eroticised to the point where rape is confused with sex, and is then interpreted as being 'natural'. This 'natural' image of men as dominating aggressive beasts and women as submissive masochistic dolls is an insult to the humanity and soul of every man and woman. It dehumanises the sexes. It must be fought.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Why we do all we can

Senators Obama and Biden have criticised the use of the filibuster as a tactic for blocking the nomination of right wing nutcase Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court.

According to Obama:
We need to recognize, because Judge Alito will be confirmed, that, if we're going to oppose a nominee that we've got to persuade the American people that, in fact, their values are at stake

Yep. So tell the American people what Alito stands for, what a danger he poses, and do everything you can to block him, then.

There is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers...There's one way to guarantee that the judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court are judges that reflect our values. And that's to win elections.

Aside from the fact that the evidence suggests that the Democrats did win the 2000 election, and that the voting irregularities in Ohio and elsewhere made the 2004 election result highly questionable, throwing up your hands in despair and not using every weapon within your grasp to protect civil liberties and women's lives is not going to help. Does anyone else hear 'We didn't win [sic] so we won't try' in Obama's wailing? You're a Democrat, it's your job to protect those who voted you in from these attacks; it is your duty and if you are not prepared to do it then resign.

Cue Senator Biden:
I think a filibuster make sense when you have a prospect of actually succeeding.

No. A filibuster makes sense when you see that the potential consequences of not acting are hideous. A filibuster makes sense when you want to be able to stand up to the scrutiny of the vulnerable, and the scrutiny of your own conscience when they ask you 'Did you do everything you could?' A filibuster makes sense when a very dangerous man is about to be given life-long powers which will threaten the wellbeing and freedom of your fellow human beings. If a filibuster is all you have then use it. It may be against the odds. It may well not succeed. But we don't only fight when we know we're going to win; we fight because it's the right thing to do.

To those Democrats who oppose the filibuster: if Alito gets in, and you did nothing to stop it, you bear responsibility. If Roe is overturned, the blood of women who die from illegal abortions is on your hands, because you did not act. If a woman does not have the right to her own body, then she has nothing; if you fail to act to preserve those rights for her, you are to blame.

Support the filibuster.

Update: 31/01/06
Senators Obama and Biden did in the end vote to support the filibuster. Good for them. However, they were in the minority and now Alito's confirmation looks certain. Jen has a list of who voted for what so you can see which senators do not value civil rights and women's right to physical integrity.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Rules of Engagement

Thinking of posting a rude and/or patronising comment on Laurelin In The Rain? Here are some helpful tips to make your commenting experience the fun-packed adventure it should be!

If I ever mean to say ‘all men do/think X’ or ‘all women do/think X’, then rest assured I will say it. I doubt I’ll ever need to, as there is very little likelihood that I will come across something that all men/ all women do/think. To make sure people are clear on who I’m talking about, I add words to show which group of men/ women I am referring to. To take an example completely out of thin air, if I write a post about men who use prostitutes, and then say ‘these men do/think X’, rest assured that that I am referring only to those men who use prostitutes, and I am not expressing some bizarre, irrational hatred of every male who walks on this planet.

Just to clarify, I will quote Biting Beaver in saying that ‘If you are NOT guilty of the things I post about then I'm NOT fucking talking to you.’.

If you wish to disagree with me, there are polite and respectful ways to do it. I suggest 'Laurelin, I do not agree with you about X because of Reason Y'. Saying 'you are delusional/ wrong/ hate-filled/ stupid/ evil' just won't cut it. The best way to not get deleted is to address me respectfully and state what you disagree with and why you disagree. I may or may not respond, depending on what I feel is most appropriate. Some criticisms I leave unanswered for the other readers to mull over; some I reply to because I feel I have an immediate point to make. Simply said: be sweet or I'll delete.

While I accept that people have the right to call themselves Anonymous, if you're here to argue you will make a much better impression if you put a name. I take full responsibility for what I say, and I expect the same from you.

If you have come to tell me my blog sucks consider going and getting a life.

I'm a control freak. I'm very protective of my blog space, just as I am with my physical and emotional space. So I am delete-happy if you piss me off. This is my blog, and I get to decide what stays here. Simple as.

There are no bad names for feminists that I have not heard. So don't bother. Oh and I know I am obnoxious, opinionated, stubborn, self-righteous and sarcastic so don't bother pointing it out.

Fan mail is always welcome. And I accept apologies.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wonderful reading for all!

There are times when you feel like you're continually banging your head against a brick wall, and that any words you say against what is considered The Standard Order of Things are whispers in the wind. Then you read the many brilliant, outspoken feminist bloggers, and you realise that those whispers are in fact screams, and that you are surrounded by fellow screamers, and that the problem isn't the wind or the wall, but rather people with their fingers stuck in their ears singing 'We like it this way. This is natural. This is how it's meant to be. La la la la la'. Despite that unpleasant chorus, you realise that you are not alone.

A couple of links:

Thank you to Lauren at Feministe for her wonderful work compiling the Carnival of Feminists which, as you may have noticed, extended my Blog Roll so that it is now so long it touches the floor. In her latest post Lauren explains how she's leaving the blogging world. Lauren, I'll miss you.

In today's Guardian, Katharine Viner has written a badly needed and insightful piece on the links between patriarchal capitalism and prostitution. Two choice snippets:

[P]rostitution is booming and official Britain has now acknowledged that the buying of sex is not just a fact of life but an expression of men's power over women, which would not exist in a free and equal society.

In many ways, the increasing acceptability of prostitution reflects our sacrifice of morality and equality on the altar of capitalist ethics. Sex has been resolutely commodified, and it is hard to argue against anything if you are making money, since the making of money has become an acceptable moral justification in itself.