Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Visit from Auntie Flo.

So, it's that time of the month.

You may wonder why I'm posting about that, but it's because it's such a helluva thing to hit my body. It's so significant in my ability to move around, walk, go to places and do things, that it merits an entry, even if it does make someone squeamish.

And if it does make someone squeamish, it'll probably be a bloke and he really should learn to deal with it.

So, my period started this morning. Since then, I have taken plenty of kapake and anti-inflammatories, and been hooked up to a tens machine all day.

I have lost my balance numerous times and properly fallen over three times.

I have cried numerous times and writhed around in pain for longer than anyone should.

I have been in significant pain all day, and felt exhausted, ill, sick, dizzy and drained.

I get some joy from the prettiness and comfort of my washable san pro, which are infinitely preferable to even the most non-chlorine bleached and organic papery things.

I have been unable to stand or walk for several hours of the day.

I know that this is how it is for at least another 2 days, possibly more.

A lot of this is because I have endometriosis. That's a chronic, incurable and immensely painful disease. It bloody wrecks my life several days a cycle.

(Because I also have PCOS, the length of that cycle can be quite variable!)

I track my cycles on cyclespage.com, which helps me keep an eye on what is happening - whether my cycle is getting longer, or shorter, or disappearing altogether. It has been somewhat better in the last year or so than it ever has been in my life, as it has kind of, in the loosest sense, following a monthly-ish pattern. Ish.

I never even had that when I used to take the pill!

I want to love my men/gynstruation.

I want to embrace this beautiful symbol of womanhood and growth and nature and the moon. (Using beautiful, handmade reusable sanitary towels actually does help with this a lot. It's amazing to use such sensitive, gentle fabric in this way, and 'dealing with' the towels is a very grounding way of keeping in touch with my body. Not to mention the good it can do for your houseplants ;)).

I want to love, embrace and celebrate it.

But it really, really, really hurts.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Academy Awards.

I wish they'd shut up on the news about tonight's Oscars.

I've heard so much about them I'm starting to actually care :-S

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Friday, February 23, 2007

In Bits. That's the post (and me).

So, it's been a while. It's been an awful time in my real life and struggle has been the defining word of the last few weeks. I've wanted to post here but have been in that particular state of mind where nothing I could ever say was worth the effort, and certainly I shouldn't imagine that others would want to read it.

I'm here, mainly referencing others' stuff, of which there are some really amazing sights and sites.

I'm trying to be well. I'm trying to feel ok. I'm trying to 'get it together'. I'm trying. And if you say 'yes, very trying' I will probably cry.

Anyway, on to the more interesting bits of this post...

Excitement of the week ---> hippie blog indirectly linked to from Time Magazine - you can read the article in question here: A Time Limit on Rape.

  • Hoohaa in US over Monologues play:
    Stage play The Vagina Monologues has been renamed at a theatre in Florida after a complaint about the title.

    It will be known as The Hoohaa Monologues - a child slang word for the female organ - after a woman in Atlantic Beach complained.

    Bryce Pfanenstiel from The Atlantic Theatre told local TV station Channel 4 the woman said she was "offended" when her niece asked her what a vagina was.

    The TV network claim the play's director is not happy about the change.


    The Vagina Monologues is being staged by a group of law school students who plan to donate all the proceeds to charity.

    Eve Ensler wrote the first draft of the play in 1996 after interviewing 200 women about their views on sex, relationships, and violence against females.

    Each monologue somehow relates to the vagina, through themes including sex, rape, birth and mutilation.

    In 2004 the production was banned from the southern Indian city of Madras, as police there thought some of the script was "objectionable".

    After premiering in the basement of the Cornelia Street Cafe in New York, its popularity has steadily increased.

    It is now performed all over the world with a vast line-up of celebrity participants, such as Sharon Osborne, Trudie Styler, Kate Winslet and Jerry Hall.
    (read more...)

    Newly spotted websites:
  • Enough! - End the Israeli Occupation - Justice for the Palestinians

    Other hippie blog updates:
  • I unfortunately had to remove one of my flickr badges which was in the right sidebar. Something about it has been stalling the rest of the page from loading. I don't know why, and it hasn't been consistent, but for now I've taken it away. You can see my photos anyway though :)

  • Ditto ZoomClouds.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

How to *really* prevent rape.

A while ago, those of us sick of being sent emails about how to not be raped (no ponytails, girls!), posted and emailed a lot about those awful 'rape prevention advice' emails which go round. My response at the time is here.

I was very glad to be sent a link to the following article today. We need more of this stuff.

One violent crime and the female victim by Emily Maguire.

If you're a woman, chances are you've received at least one version of the "how to not get raped" email. Even if you haven't, you will be familiar with the contents, because it's the same stuff you read in the newspaper whenever there's a known sex-attacker on the loose. It's the same stuff the women's magazines publish under headings like "How to stay safe".

Again and again, women are told that we can avoid rape if we don't go out alone, don't get drunk, carry our car keys as a weapon, take self-defence classes, don't dress revealingly, don't talk to strangers, and on and on. We get it. We live it. And we still get raped.

Women get raped sober and drunk. They get raped when they're out and when they're home. They get raped wearing short skirts and wearing burqas. They get raped by men they know and by men they don't know. If one woman avoids rape by using her self-defence skills, a woman unable to defend herself gets raped instead. Whatever women do or don't do, men continue to rape them.

Here's a radical suggestion: direct the rape prevention message to men. Write emails and advice columns that say: don't rape. Don't rape drunk women, solitary women, sleeping women, flirtatious women, any women. Seriously, just don't.

Men who rape may be in the minority, but that's no reason not to direct the message to all men. Not a single woman has caused her own rape, not ever, and yet women are bombarded with advice that can do nothing except cause our would-be rapist to find a different victim.

Rape is a male crime. There are female rapists but they are so rare as to be statistically insignificant. Acknowledging this in no way minimises the suffering of their victims, nor does it excuse the perpetrators. It does, however, stop us from pretending that rape is a gender-neutral crime and thus allows us to confront those responsible for most rapes.

There is a culture of acceptance about the rape of women. This becomes clear when we think about the way male-to-male rape is perceived. Male-to-male rape is seen, rightly, as a horrific, unprovoked crime. The victims are never blamed for putting themselves in harm's way by getting drunk or walking down a street alone. Men are not lectured on how to behave so as not to attract rapists.

Consider why rape is thought to be more serious if the victim is a straight man or a female virgin. The thinking is clearly that a person who has sex with men willingly in other circumstances shouldn't be so upset at "having sex", albeit unwillingly, in another circumstance. The huge misconception here is that rape is just a rougher form of sex. It isn't. Rape is to sex what being beaten unconscious is to peacefully falling asleep. It is an act of violence visited upon a person's body and it is as traumatic for a sexually active woman as it is for a virginal one or a man.

This same misconception about rape-as-sex is evident in discussions over consent. Rape, by definition, cannot be committed with the victim's consent, yet this question comes up again and again. When a woman is raped she must prove she has not consented. What did she do to stop her attacker? Did she fight hard enough, say no often enough, scream loud enough? Wasn't she dressed like she wanted to be violently penetrated? Didn't her drunkenness indicate she was up for anything? The answers to these questions are often used in lieu of evidence to determine that an alleged rape was just a big misunderstanding. If only the woman had been clearer about not wanting to be raped…

Am I arguing that women shouldn't be held responsible for their behaviour? No. If a woman drinks to excess then falls over in the street, loses her wallet and vomits all over herself, she has only herself to blame. But rape is not a consequence of getting drunk. It's a consequence of a man deciding to rape someone.

Likewise, if a woman commits a crime while drunk - driving a car or assaulting someone, say - she should be held responsible. But being raped is not a crime; raping someone is. In no other situation do we hear the victim being told to take responsibility for the criminal's actions.

Telling women they're responsible for rape doesn't keep them safe; it just keeps them scared. It also lets rapists know they can get away with their crime as long as they pick the right victim - one who "makes herself vulnerable" by refusing to live according to the edicts of a rape-tolerant society.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

To Shave or Not To Shave.

Shazia Mirza, a comedian who has long made me giggle, was on Woman's Hour yesterday, talking about her decision to stop removing her body hair. You can listen to the interview here for a few more days at least.

She is not doing this for overtly feminist reasons, she is tired of all the time it takes to maintain unnaturally hair-free legs, underarms, and anywhere else. Not to mention the money - the amount she said she had previously spent on all this was quite obscene!

One of the weirdest arguments against women having body hair is that it is 'not natural' and 'not feminine'. Well, it *is* natural - it's the shaving and waxing and bleaching and dissolving that adds the somewhat unnatural element to things. Similarly as to whether it's 'feminine' or not (whatever that means anyway), if feminine means how women are supposed to be, then, well, read the previous sentence again.

I stopped shaving various bodily areas some years ago. Partly for 'raar' feminist reasons, partly because it seemed an awful lot of effort, partly because having so many razors around me wasn't so wise at that time, and partly because I just wanted to. I had always thought that not shaving underarm hairs was 'unhygienic' which is, of course, bollocks. I haven't shaved for years now, I can't remember the last time I did. I don't feel masculine, nor have I ever done. I feel like I am living in my body as it is supposed to be (at least in terms of having hair, it's hardly a conventional body by any stretch of the imagination...!).

Richard Madeley apparently said that body hair on women makes him feel sick. Well, we know already that RM is an annoying idiot, and anything which might encourage him to go away or shut up, I fully encourage.

I have no need at all to get rid of these leg hairs. They don't worry me. I like to think I'd be as determined if I was a skirt type-of-person, but as I virtually always wear trousers it's not even much of a political statement. How can it be, if noone sees?! But I don't have to do things just to make a feminist statement (I'm growing up, see?!), I can do them because they feel right, they fit in with the rest of my life, philosophy, and body.

I enjoy my Lush baths, and I'm glad that I don't have to waste part of the totally luxurious experience with a razor in hand and, if I remember rightly, always missing some kind of thin streak of hairs up the back of my calves anyway. I don't have to rinse away chopped off hairs. I don't have to have grim accidents with old razors, and I don't have to be subjected to sharp objects every time I go into my bathroom!

I also just have no desire to make any parts of my body look pre-pubescent, yanno? I've been there, done that, when I actually was pre-pubescent. I was so glad when puberty was finally over that there's no way I want to mimic that time again ever. And if I had a partner who desired me to look that way I would be very concerned indeed. So, you want me to look like I'm 9 years old? Fuck off then. Freak.

I'd be very happy if more and more women stopped shaving various parts of their bodies. I've certainly no intention of doing otherwise.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Things You Need to See.

From my email:

* Petition to allow people on psychiatric wards to smoke.

* 17th May - International Day Against Homophobia
International Day Against Homophobia


UK campaigners are gearing up for the 3rd International Day Against
Homophobia on May 17th. Last year there were over 40 events in the UK
to mark the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed
“homosexuality” from its list of mental disorders. Internationally, 50
countries are now involved in the campaign for LGBT rights to be
recognised as human rights across the globe. IDAHO organisers are
asking all those who support the campaign to organise events on and
around May 17th.

One of the themes of this year’s campaign is “No to homophobia-yes to
education”. Students at the University of the Arts in London will be
designing two sets of posters that focus on challenging homophobia,
and celebrating LGBT people, both contemporary and figures from
history. The four winning posters will be displayed at a major event
in Central London on IDAHO day. While in Manchester several key
organisations have come together to support a campaign called
“Exceeding Expectations” a three year initiative which will reach more
than 12,000 education professionals and provide resources training and
advice in combating homophobia-information about IDAHO and
international homophobia will be a central feature of this campaign.

IDAHO’s main focus internationally will be its campaign for a United
Nations Resolution to decriminalise homosexuality. This campaign has
received massive support around the world and the petition on
www.idahomophobia.org has now been signed by over 5,000 people. Ben
Crouch, UK North West Coordinator said “The positive effect that a
resolution of this type being approved at the United Nations will have
on the global LGBT community will be equivalent in gay rights terms to
the discovery of creating electricity. For all those who have faced
persecution in the world, for all those who have faced death, torture
and imprisonment because of their sexuality, this resolution is for

Alongside this vital campaign, there will be many opportunities for
individuals and organisations to challenge homophobia. The IDAHO UK
website on www.idaho.org.uk has been designed to share information,
provide a forum to promote events and activities, share ideas and
access resources. Suggestions for involvement are organised around 4
strategic themes of “Being Seen, Being Heard, Being Well and Human

Following a highly successful event in Sheffield last May, organised
by the Centre for HIV and Sexual Health in partnership with the SHOUT
centre, IDAHO organisers are encouraging major cities and towns in the
UK to take on the challenge of organising a minutes noise against
homophobia. Many LGBT people throughout the world have to suffer
intolerance in silence, and this minutes noise provides those of us
who have the freedom of speech without reprisal to SHOUT out on their
behalf. IDAHO UK is also encouraging people to lobby their local
councils to fly the rainbow flag on IDAHO Day, as many did last year.
Councils can also pass resolutions supporting IDAHO as Brighton did in

Derek Lennard, IDAHO-UK Coordinator said “This is a chance for us to
demonstrate that we are not smug about advances made against
homophobia in the UK, and at the same time we can not stand idly by
while LGBT people are persecuted, criminalised and slaughtered around
the world. IDAHO is a network with no bureaucracy to speak of, created
by activists. So our question to all those interested in equality is
stark and clear. As we state on our poster ”International Day Against
Homophobia, 17th May 2007-“What are *you* going to do?”.

From BBC Ouch!:

Save money, seek out disability concessions
So as a disabled person, do you know about all the concessions you get? Are you too embarrassed to ask for them? Let Ouch come to your rescue with our list of the top ten disability concession tips - from half-price angling licences to free directory enquiries, talking phones to toll exemptions on bridges and tunnels, and more!

There's a new campaign just starting up, which aims to collect 1,000,000 EU citizens' signatures to combat discrimination in all aspects of the lives of disabled people in Europe. And it's called One million for Disability.

Why 1 million - apart from it being a nice, big, round figure, of course? Well, in the draft European Union Constitutional Treaty, it's stated that the EU must respond to the call of at least 1 million citizens.

The campaign started yesterday and runs until 3 October 2007. The day after, the signatures will be officially handed over to the European Commission and Parliament.

Sign Up Here

From The Guardian

Love in the time of phone porn.
Boys and girls see sexualised images of females at every turn. Issues such as body image, eating disorders, self-harm, depression, teen pregnancy and pressure to have sex trouble many girls, and the signs are that both sexes are struggling to make sense of what it means to be female.

Last week, a 16-year-old boy admitted making indecent images of a child after using his mobile to film his friend having sex with a 14-year-old girl and sending it to five of her classmates. In May last year, two 16-year-old schoolboys were arrested for making a porn video of a 14-year-old girl on a mobile phone and circulating it around their school in Perth, Scotland. In August, it was reported that the headteacher of Helston school in Cornwall had asked bebo.com, a website popular with teenagers, to remove the school's entry after complaints that children as young as 13 had put soft porn pictures of themselves on it. The pupils had set up the school entry.

Children who have grown up with the internet, email and mobiles are exposed to porn at a much earlier age. Both girls and boys are under immense pressure to pass it off as harmless fun. And if you don't like it, you don't like sex. Or you're gay.

"Both my daughters were subjected to porn as soon as they went to secondary school, aged 11," says Helen Browne, a mother to two teenage girls. "They had to toughen up to it pretty quickly so as not to seem prudish."

It seems that children are not learning enough about positive body image, respectful relationships and how gender roles are stereotyped. Among the criticisms levelled at sex education comes a new claim: that young people need a sex and relationships education (SRE) that counters the damaging messages of porn.


Kate, a 15-year-old who goes to school in Shropshire, says: "Practically all lads look at Zoo or Nuts and that lot. The ones who are 14 and 15, I mean. I'm not sure whether boys younger than 14 read them - they probably do. It's a very normal thing and no one thinks anything of it." Kate says she hasn't come across porn by accident "apart from on lads' phones. And too many of them have Jordan as their background."

Pressure group Object is campaigning to have lads' mags regulated in the same way as recognised porn. FHM has a "puppies cam" feature that encourages readers to take pictures of unsuspecting women's breasts. Object asks why magazines read by teenage boys aren't subject to the same regulations as those for teenage girls.


Last year, an NSPCC survey found that incomplete sex education in schools is leaving children confused about what is illegal or unacceptable, with 93% saying that their sex education lessons did not include any information about sexual abuse. The charity has called on the government to ensure 14- to 16-year-olds are taught about sex in the context of relationships, peer pressure and the law.


Those working in gender violence prevention would like to see this kind of sex education begin much sooner. Damian Carnell is a development worker at TRI (Training, Resources and Information), at the Nottinghamshire Domestic Violence Forum. "We're at a very dangerous point, with porn in all its guises being more socially accepted, sneaking into all kinds of consumer products and on to TV," he says.

"We'd like to see domestic violence awareness and positive relationship promotion, including gender respect and awareness projects, in all school year groups from year 5."

The charity Womankind Worldwide is piloting an education programme - Challenging Violence, Changing Lives - in schools across the UK, to raise awareness about male violence against women. It has a component on pornography and prostitution in year 11. Lis Martin, the creative director, says: "What teachers are saying is that younger girls are vulnerable to approaches from older, sophisticated men from outside school. Porn is used in chatroom grooming. Yet girls are also visiting porn sites to find out what they need to do to please boys. They aren't questioning abusive relationships."
Read the whole article here.

* Not a service like any other by Julie Bindel
It is a year to the day since the publication of Paying the Price, the Home Office review into prostitution - but women selling sex, and the organisations providing support for them, are still waiting for action from the government. One of the recommendations that came out of the review was the setting up of projects dedicated to assisting women out of the sex trade. Another was to tackle the demand - the punters, who keep prostitution alive. While nothing was being done, five women working in street prostitution were murdered in Ipswich.

Supporters of legalisation argue that women would be safer working in saunas and massage parlours. They also want tolerance zones, where women could work without fear of arrest. This would mean, they say, that the women would take fewer risks. But there isn't a scrap of credible evidence that women would be safer if we made the state a pimp, which is what legalisation would mean.

The former adviser to the Home Office, Katharine Raymond, recently alleged that plans to legalise prostitution were suppressed because of a fear within the department that the rightwing press would leap on it. Not so. I also worked alongside the review team, and got the firm impression that proposals to legalise were shunned because of emerging evidence from countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and Australia that legalisation has been a disaster.

In these countries, legalisation of brothels and toleration of street prostitution have resulted in an increase in trafficking, no reduction in violence towards the women, an increase in demand and an increase in illegal brothels; it has not broken the links between organised crime and the sex industry. It has normalised prostitution in the minds of the citizens, so that children are growing up seeing it as just another service industry.

Of course the women, and men, involved in prostitution should not be regarded as criminals. They are the victims of pimps, punters and the brutality involved in selling sex. But we should not just leave it at that. Let us do as the Swedes have done, and criminalise the buying of sexual services. Not only have they decriminalised the selling of sex: the Swedish government has made significant resources available to help women leave prostitution. Beside this radical legislation is a public education campaign to debunk the myths and lies about prostitution - for example that it is a career choice, and an equal exchange between buyer and seller.

Drugs workers in Ipswich say that many of the women working the streets have "pimps and boyfriends" who put them under pressure to sell sex. Legalising brothels or "tolerating" street prostitution effectively legalises pimping. Supporters of such measures often cite the fact that there has not been one woman murdered in a tolerance zone, either here or abroad. But if a man wishes to harm a street worker, he will simply drive her away from the area.

In 1999, I was involved in setting up the first UK re-education programme for kerb crawlers, in Leeds. In partnership with West Yorkshire police, we piloted a scheme with the intention that police would shift their focus from the women to the men who create the demand. The police offered the men they stopped a choice - either go to court and get your name in the paper, or attend a one-day course on the realities of prostitution.

Did the men who attended the course change their minds? I doubt it. However, if men grow up being given a clear message that prostitution is the abuse of women, and a warning that they will be in court if they pay for sex, we may go some way towards eradicating demand for sexual services. That coupled with helping women to leave the industry, might see an end to prostitution, and the murder of women caught up in it. Imagine that.

From the blogosphere:

* Action against sex shops from CharlieGrrl.

* Woman Prosecuted for Attempting to Induce an Abortion. This is terrifying - the full story is here, but Feministe's analysis is definitely worth reading. Also covered here at Women's Space and here by Sparkle*Matrix.

* As if Literally, A Weblog (a blog dedicated to the wrongful use of the word literally) wasn't good enough, there is now also lowercase L, dedicated to the annoying habit of some net users and sign writers to CAPITAlISE everything except the lETTER l.

* UK Law and Rape - in the name of football and follow-up, both from Sparkle*Matrix.

* FINALLY, I have been tagged with a meme to reveal five things about myself, so here goes.
- Z and I had our third anniversary last Wednesday. This made me very happy.
- I recently sold a broken mp3 player on ebay for nearly £25. I was very glad I hadn't just chucked it!
- I am going to be 30 this year. I am not a big one for being bothered about age, but this is ever-so-slightly freaking me out.
- I cried in town yesterday when I unexpectedly came across a funeral. It was quite embarrassing but I couldn't stop. I then had to hide in the Church the funeral had just come out of until I calmed down enough to carry on with whatever I was doing.
- I love watching birds eating from my bird feeder.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Movement Photography Assignment.

Passing Traffic

Zooming to Hospital

Ghostly People

Morris Dancers

Fire Spinning

Seagull Takes Flight

The six photos I submitted for my Motion Photography college assignment.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Blog For Choice Day.

Today is Blog for Choice Day, as organised by Bush v. Choice annually. This year they want bloggers to post on this day, telling readers why we are pro-choice.

I wasn't always. A very Catholic upbringing and much emotional blackmail sucked me into the belief that abortion was very, very wrong. It was so drilled into my head that abortion kills babies that how could I *not* be against it? Who wouldn't oppose killing babies?!

In school they showed us a film where we saw abortions taking place, we saw the 'products of conception' (in Catholic-ese, the unborn baby) in bin liners, and we were told and showed the full goryness of terminations.

Strangely though, watching that awful film was where I first began to question my 'pro-life' beliefs. I wondered why the filmmakers had to show us those things, to prove their point. Was argument and discussion not enough? Sure, there was blood and gore, but opposing abortion on the basis of it being gory and making you feel a bit squeamish would make you fundamentally opposed to tonsillectomies, open heart surgery, appendix operations, and any and every other surgical procedure which exists.

I thought, surely they should want people to oppose abortion because it's wrong, not because it might make you feel a bit sick...

I also, at this stage, was beginning to for the first time in my life, have good friends who were not Roman Catholic. I remember watching a news report about (the then new) IVF, and commenting 'that's really bad'. The friend I was with said, 'No, you must be mixing it up with something else, it's really good, it helps people have children when they couldn't otherwise'.

I was confused! They'd said at Church how bad it was, the Catholic Pictorial (yep, that's the name!) had front page headlines about how evil it was. But if K was right, that it helped create babies, then why was I supposed to be against it?

The big thing was that I had only ever heard 'pro-life' arguments. (I put 'pro-life' in quotation marks because I now believe that being anti-choice and being pro-life are quite different things. However, at that point in my life, I did believe I was pro-life, and so use that term here). I had heard that there were pro-abortion arguments, but only in the context of 'how to argue back'.

So, I had my SPUC leaflet where they rubbished pro-choice principles and points of view, and I had no reason not to believe it.

I knew all the arguments against all the arguments!
But more planned children are abused than unplanned ones!
But women virtually never get pregnant after rape!
But even if the Mum is going to die, she's had a chance of life, the baby should have the chance over her!
But even if the woman was raped, don't punish the baby for its father's crimes!
But the woman will be so traumatised after an abortion, and will never forgive herself!
But even if she doesn't want the baby, she should give it up for adoption and make a childless couple happy!

And so it went on. I believed this stuff! I didn't know any better.

Thankfully as I became an adult and left home, Catholicism's influence declined, and real women in real situations became part of my real consciousness. A woman I knew had an abortion and I was stunned that afterwards, she was predominantly relieved. This made me question everything - all I had ever been told was that women who have abortions will be depressed and grieving forever, and here was C, breathing a sigh of relief, with no doubt that she had made the right decision.

I realised that even when the anti-choicers were pretending to be on the woman's side (women shouldn't have abortion because they always regret it, and they may never have any more children / may get breast cancer / whatever bandwagon is currently being jumped on), they really, really weren't.

So if that one argument wasn't true, what about all the others??

I realised that women aren't 'murdering' their 'babies'. I realised that life just doesn't work like that. I realised that women getting pregnant needed to have absolute and total control over their own bodies, and that being pregnant when you don't want to be is terribly detrimental to a woman's health, soul, mind and life.

Things just aren't as clearcut as the anti-choice lobby like to suggest. The fact is that a woman should never, ever be forced to carry and give birth to a baby when she does not want to. The fact is that women in this society are vilified no matter what they do (have a termination, become a single mother, work, don't work...). The fact is that the men involved in unwanted pregnancies can, and so often do, happily run away and take no responsibility for their actions. Women are forced to take responsibility because this thing is inside their body, making them throw up and feel exhausted and be terrified of what on earth they are going to do, what is going to happen.

Because the consequences of unwanted pregnancies are a million times bigger for women than for men, women must be able to make a free and informed choice as to what she is going to do. No woman should be forced to carry and give birth to a baby they do not want. No woman. Ever.

The physical and mental trauma of unwanted pregnancy on a woman is massive. And what a welcome for the kid when it is born!

If a woman knows she does not have the stability / finances / good health / desire / whatever to give birth to, or to bring up a baby, we need to respect her wishes on that. She knows best! It is her body, after all. It is her life, after all.

Because the thing is, a woman having an abortion is not killing her baby. And nor is the doctor who carries it out. Nor the nurse who assists. Nor the friend who takes the woman to the hospital. Nobody is killing anything or anyone.

There are cells inside the woman's womb which, given the right conditions may have developed into a baby. But at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, whatever date, it is not actually a baby. It lives off the woman's body and nutrients, and without her it would not exist or live. Even the later abortions, which certain politicians are determined to ban, on the basis that a tiny proportion of babies born at 24 weeks can live, are not evil because of that fact. Most births of wanted children at 24 weeks are unfortunately doomed, and in any case, abortions up to 24 weeks are very rare, and should not be affected by those rare statistics. Just because one baby born at 24 weeks may survive, it does not mean that a woman pregnant with a foetus of that same duration should be forced to endure the remaining 16 weeks of pregnancy, and birth.

Many of the women who need such late abortions are in a very vulnerable position. Often it is younger women who may not have known they were pregnant, or who may have been in some degree of denial about their pregnancies. Or women who discover that they are at risk of a severely ill baby and know they could not cope with that, or do not want to put a baby born naturally through the pain which could occur.

As a disabled woman myself, I am of course wary of calls for all potentially disabled kids to be wiped out in a eugenics-type fashion, but this is not, not NOT happening! Women must have the right to choose whether they remain pregnant or not, whether they have a child or not. It must be ultimately their own decision. It has to be!

Those who are anti-choice are anti-women. There is much misogyny within the anti-choice arguments and organisations. They do not believe that women are capable of making up their own minds, or mature enough to, and certainly shouldn't be trusted with such decisions about their own bodies. More importance is given to what is (sorry SPUC, but it really is) a collection of cells inside a womb than to the woman whose womb that is.

There is a myth that here in the UK we have 'abortion on demand'. That's not true. It can be pretty bloody tricky to get a termination, and even more tricky to get one on the NHS. Many women end up having to pay for their terminations. Women are made to have ultrasound, so-called 'dating' scans, which force the image of the embryo into a woman's consciousness and seem purely there to invoke guilt and regret and a change of mind in the woman. NHS abortions are often very much pushing the 12 week limit because of delays, and indeed on the news today, the BBC reported that despite the recommended 3-week waiting time for a woman who has requested a termination, many women are having to wait 7 weeks for the procedure. Now, given that it may be some weeks before a woman realises she is pregnant, she will either be forced to pay for a private operation, forced to undergo a more traumatic later abortion, or forced to have an unwanted child.

Women must always be given the right to choose what happens to her body. It's as simple, and as complicated, as that.

I leave you with a quotation from a wise woman (don't know who, unfortunately).
How can you trust me with a baby if you can't trust me with a choice?

Good Links:
abortion clinic days
Bush v. Choice - the pro-choice anti-Bush action centre

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Art in the Dark Park.

Last Sunday, Z and I went to an Art in the Park event in Weston Park.

After creating funky illuminated flowers we went round the new Weston Park Museum, and then I did some photography for my current assignment.

We returned to Art in the (now) Dark for what was by far the best bit of the day - a fire spinning performance. More fun photography was done, as you can see.

Lots of good learning about shutter speeds and aperture sizes ensued. Loving my camera :)

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Thursday's Throng.

Blog posts to read:

A Weighty Matter from Shakespeare's Sister. The article she is discussing is very US-centric (so what's new on this 'ere interwebnet?) but SS's comments are fabulous.
It remains a radical act to be fat and happy in America, especially if you're a woman (for whom "jolly" fatness isn't an option). If you're fat, you're not only meant to be unhappy, but deeply ashamed of yourself, projecting at all times an apologetic nature, indicative of your everlasting remorse for having wrought your monstrous self upon the world. You are certainly not meant to be bold, or assertive, or confident—and should you manage to overcome the constant drumbeat of messages that you are ugly and unsexy and have earned equally society's disdain and your own self-hatred, should you forget your place and walk into the world one day with your head held high, you are to be reminded by the cow-calls and contemptuous looks of perfect strangers that you are not supposed to have self-esteem; you don't deserve it. Being publicly fat and happy is hard; being publicly, shamelessly, unshakably fat and happy is an act of both will and bravery.

Rare indeed is the fat chick who manages to find contentment in her own skin, because everything around her is designed so that she will not.
(read more here)

Right on, sister!

Hairy Armpit Wars from Echidne of the Snakes.
The history of the armpit wars is an interesting one. To understand why feminists focused on the womanly body hair requires first understanding how absolutely necessary it was deemed for a woman not to have hair except on her head and in her genital region. All other body hair was deemed as masculine and unnatural. Which is really weird, because women in fact grow hair on their legs and arms and in their armpits.

Now that I re-read the above paragraph I realize that the armpit wars are not at all over. Indeed, they have intensified, because now the only place where women can legitimately have hair is on their heads. The genital area is supposed to be waxed to look like that of a little girl or a porno star.

It is all very weird, because women do naturally grow hair on their legs and arms and in their armpits. The body does this, even in a good wingnut woman, and usually it is the wingnuts who argue that women are ___________ (insert some negative female characteristic here) naturally, biologically and unavoidably, and that the Bible decrees it so, too. But when it comes to the perfectly natural and possibly god-given body hair on women, these wingnuts and many other Americans go bonkers.
(read more here)

River bend talks about the Saddam Hussein execution. She is an amazing Iraqi woman whose blog is stunningly enlightening to those of us watching at a distance. I discover more from an occasional River Bend entry than I do from hours and days of BBC News.

I haven't blogged about the execution of Saddam Hussein, though it affected me profoundly. I found the whole thing horrifying. I wasn't expecting to be too upset actually because, while totally against the death penalty, I didn't have much sympathy for the guy. But the closer it came, and the reaction afterwards illustrated vividly to me that there was a lot more to this than killing the guy. The American and British armies and governments gained so much, they gained legitimacy for their evil and brutal war, they gained moral superiority, and it convinced me that Saddam's execution was certainly part of the US/UK war plan, rather than any kind of quasi-justice for Iraqi Kurds and others.

The event itself was also immensely disturbing. Seeing the footage of the rope going round his neck, wondering why on earth they put something to 'protect his neck' (as the interpreter described it) when they were about to kill him, by breaking his neck. You know, that black cloth thing. Why? The shouting, goading, secret filming, laughing, made it more distasteful and, well, brutal.

One of the court officials said the goading was so bad he 'almost postponed the execution'. Can you imagine??! Standing there with a rope round your neck, thinking that you are thinking your final thoughts, then someone stops it and reschedules?! Fuck!

Evil as the man was, this execution reinforced absolutely for me that a state killing someone, to demonstrate that killing people is wrong makes no sense. State-sanctioned murder is not something to aspire to, to praise, or to encourage. And, in the case of the USA, to practice yourselves! How many times were we told at school that 'two wrongs don't make a right'? So adding to the torture and distress of a country by carrying out yet another killing is just not the answer.

Her previous entry, too, is vital reading.
A day in the life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs and attempting to keep track of which family members have been detained, which ones have been exiled and which ones have been abducted.

2006 has been, decidedly, the worst year yet. No- really. The magnitude of this war and occupation is only now hitting the country full force. It's like having a big piece of hard, dry earth you are determined to break apart. You drive in the first stake in the form of an infrastructure damaged with missiles and the newest in arms technology, the first cracks begin to form. Several smaller stakes come in the form of politicians like Chalabi, Al Hakim, Talbani, Pachachi, Allawi and Maliki. The cracks slowly begin to multiply and stretch across the once solid piece of earth, reaching out towards its edges like so many skeletal hands. And you apply pressure. You surround it from all sides and push and pull. Slowly, but surely, it begins coming apart- a chip here, a chunk there.

That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The 'mistakes' were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.
My only conclusion is that the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq, but would like to leave behind a full-fledged civil war because it wouldn't look good if they withdraw and things actually begin to improve, would it?
(Read more here)

Old but must read:

1 in every 40 Iraqis has been killed since invasion. How did I miss these statistics when The Guardian printed them last October? One person in every forty has been killed?? When, oh when will we stop?

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

US Bombing Somalia...

Trust blogger to be 'undergoing maintenance' when this info really needs to get out.

According to channel 4 news, The US [has been] 'bombing Somalia since Sunday'.

Just as I write, the Pentagon reveals that the US has been bombing Somalia since Sunday. But so remote and unreported is the corner of this part of the Horn of Africa where they have been dropping their stuff it has only come out now due to a US department briefing.

As with so many targeted assassinations, in this case the target was two alleged al-Qaida operatives claimed to have been responsible for the bombings of US missions in east Africa, there are often innocent civilians caught up in the violence. We just don't know what the "collateral" damage is on this occasion.

In the fighting overall we have no way of knowing how many have died there but the new US backed government in Mogadishu says it may have been several hundred, among them people with European and Canadian passports.

Watch the noon report with reporter Nima Elbagir, one of very few western journalists in Mogadishu, here.

How can the world not have known until now that Bush has been bombing Somalia for three days? How can he ever, ever think that 'thou shalt not kill' (which is, let's face it, a founding basis of his religion) actually means 'kill, kill, kill (as long as it's not a foetus, idiot).'

As for him adding yet more troops to the Iraq chaos, why oh why oh why oh why does he think that's a good idea. We need to end the occupation, things will never, ever improve until we do. God only knows what will happen after that, but at least people won't be fighting occupiers and may be able to focus on rebuilding their country which we have been systematically wrecking for years.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Fallout.

To whoever found hippie blog by searching for how can i find a pussy shot of spears without the spot shadow?, I am dumbfounded! As if seeing her genitals here, there, everywhere and everywhere else wasn't enough, you want to get rid of a shadow?? For fuck's sake, what do you think you are doing? Is your life really, really no more fulfilled than that?

Why do you feel this desire to ab/use women in this way, to expose more and more and more of them for your pleasure? Why do you think this is ok behaviour? Bastard.

I guess you might find it the answers here, perchance ;-)

I have been meaning, for a few weeks, to draw attention to a post from reSISTERance blog: British Soldiers Cleared of Rapes in Kenya.

She refers to a Times online article about the 'investigation' and report. Basically, 2187 Kenyan women reported that they had been raped by British army servicemen training there. The Royal Military Police has now reported that not one of those cases was genuine. Not one!

That's what happens, I suppose, when the army investigates reports against itself! Are they really, truly asking us to believe that 2,187 women have lied about this. All of them? More than two thousand?

I am as furious about this as I write, as I was when I first read the ReSisterance post. What better example of patriarchy and misogyny upholding its own rules do we need?

We *know* that the army uses rape as a weapon of war. We *know* that soldiers are more violent to their female partners than non-soldiers. We *know* that these people are being trained in aggression, in violence, in combat. Rape is part of that. We know this so well!

But the bare-faced cheek of these investigators, saving their colleagues' backsides by reporting that there are 2187 lying women, and that the blokes in the army were examples of perfection and never, ever, ever lie is just blatantly ridiculous.

The investigation by the Royal Military Police (RMP) has concluded that there is not one single case to answer out of 2,187 reported rapes. A team of 12 to 18 investigators spent ten months in Kenya between October 2003 and July 2004 and interviewed all 2,187 claimants, most of whom were Masai and Samburu tribeswomen from some of the most remote areas, where about 3,000 British servicemen train every year.

Working with local interpreters, the investigators deemed only 281 cases worthy of further examination. These fell apart on closer scrutiny and during follow-up interviews with other local people and former members of the Army in Britain.

“No corroborative evidence which will stand up in a UK court of law, and which might lead to a successful prosecution of any named individual, could be found to support any of the rape allegations,” a source linked to the investigation said.

Today’s report also exonerates senior British army officers who were on duty in Kenya at the time and to whom the claimants alleged they had reported the incidents. “There are no grounds to believe in any institutional acquiescence,” the report states.
(my emphasis). From: British soldiers cleared of tribal rapes after £3m inquiry finds forged records

Oh no, no grounds at all. Just the whole bloody report!

And do you know what else, the only place I heard about this was on reSISTERance. This was a case I was aware was ongoing, but nowhere else that I have come across has even mentioned that the Military Police have accused 2187 Kenyan women of lying. I've not heard it on BBC news or seen it elsewhere. Is this not worthy of publicity?

To the women in Kenya: I believe you. And you're not alone. Neither alone in having been raped, nor in having not been believed. It's part of the whole patriachal plan, you see, to be disbelieved and ridiculed boosts their power and their ability to do it again. The more women are disbelieved, the more they can get away with. But you are really not alone.

Newly Noted Blogs

As the Tumo(u)r Turns - a surprisingly light-hearted blog detailing a woman's dealings with cancer and cancer treatment.

Trollbuster - Patrolling the radical anti-pornstitution feminist blogosphere and pulling trolls up on their rudeness! Marvellous!

one salford feminist - great blog, and also notable for being by another Pippa!

friedaquilter musings - Frieda is an amazing textile artist and I am lucky enough to own some ATCs by her, and we are on some of the same ATC groups.

Entries of Note

Body Impolitic's Guide to Sane Holidays

Not a blog post, but a post to the misogynist lads' mag Nuts message board. Subvert their media!

"Feminist" Rape Apologists.

Men face jail for rape if women are too drunk to consent - Sparkle*Matrix subtly deconstructs an appalling Daily Mail article on this new proposed legislation.

Daily Maybe 100 best green bloggers - some great links here, and hippie blog is #40!

Why I Speak Out - inspiring reading, also refers to this Fear of White Panties post.

Exceptional Comments

The "Rape" of Mr Smith


Carnival Against Child Abuse 7.

Carnival Against Sexual Violence #14, including a link to my Ipswich post.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Night Photography

The six photographs I submitted for the 'night photography' assignment in my course.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I emailed The World Tonight:
I listened to your programme yesterday evening in frustration. Please stop referring to the women killed in Ipswich and Suffolk as 'girls'. I presume this is because they are in prostitution but there is no need for this patronising and offensive term. These are not children, they are women. Please call them that.

They replied:
Dear Ms Willitts,

Thank you for your email and your interest in The World Tonight.

There has been a lot of discussion among both our editorial teams and our audiences about the use of language in relation to the murder victims in Ipswich.

As a whole, BBC News decided they should be described as 'women' on first reference and where relevant we also say they worked as 'prostitutes' or were 'sex workers'. 'Girls' is clearly inappropriate and we have reminded reporters and presenters to avoid this description when they have done so.

Thank you again for your email and your interest in The World Tonight.

Yours sincerely,

Alistair Burnett

Editor, The World Tonight

BBC News

With a nod to The Shouty Woman's post, To the Journalists Covering the Ipswich murders.

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I emailed The World Tonight:
I listened to your programme yesterday evening in frustration. Please stop referring to the women killed in Ipswich and Suffolk as 'girls'. I presume this is because they are in prostitution but there is no need for this patronising and offensive term. These are not children, they are women. Please call them that.

They replied:
Dear Ms Willitts,

Thank you for your email and your interest in The World Tonight.

There has been a lot of discussion among both our editorial teams and our audiences about the use of language in relation to the murder victims in Ipswich.

As a whole, BBC News decided they should be described as 'women' on first reference and where relevant we also say they worked as 'prostitutes' or were 'sex workers'. 'Girls' is clearly inappropriate and we have reminded reporters and presenters to avoid this description when they have done so.

Thank you again for your email and your interest in The World Tonight.

Yours sincerely,

Alistair Burnett

Editor, The World Tonight

BBC News

With a nod to The Shouty Woman's post, To the Journalists Covering the Ipswich murders.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

A few days' catch-up.

You may be able to download most of the Christmas CD I made for last year. It may equally not work, I've no idea. Do let me know.

I've had a stressed and not entirely pleasant week, but with a few high points. Including bumping into, and hearing from, several people who I thought were totally lost from my life years ago. So, so good.

Things to read:
Maggie O'Kane investigates violence against prostitutes - while I don't agree necessarily with her conclusions, she tells us some useful and disturbing facts, figures and information.

Marksman called in to kill Kingston's Pigeons - not for the article itself (fascinating though it is), but for the most fabulous string of comments below. Love it.

Ministers deny it, but the truth is out there my Mary O'Hara, about the cuts to mental health services, and how they have been disproportionately affected.

Things to see:
150 worst album covers, discovered thanks to slow afternoon.

Special mention to Heino, there.

The 29th Carnival of Feminists - many amazing links to follow and new women's writing to discover.

About U - free online courses.

30 essential pieces of free and open software for windows.

National Drunk Blogging Day 'because there's a day for every single thing else'

PornFest let's keep it in the news!

Newly discovered blogs:
The Shouty Woman.

FeminisTIC, a bilingual (French - English) feminist blog.

Comment is Free: Julie Bindel - not entirely strictly a blog, and I don't agree with all she says and does, but some good stuff there.

Dead Men Don't Rape - a blog which has already caused controversy with its very name. Pippi explains the name. My comments on it are there and hopefully there, should that second one get approved.

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Nearest Book Meme

I was tagged by v at reSISTERance:

apparently this works by:

1. Get the nearest book in your reach and turn to page 123.

2. Go to the fifth sentence of that page.

3. Copy the next three sentences, then tag three people.

He spent his days making me tapes and writing love letters. He spent the family's money developing the photographs we had taken and telephoning England long-distance.
At the airport, his big hands pressed against the glass.

from Strangeland by Tracey Emin

I tag: McBeth, Anne and Yehovah Yireh.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Who are the mad ones?

So, the news is that £7 million is going to be cut from the budgets of mental health services in Sheffield. To 'balance the books', of course.

Losing 1/4 of the inpatient beds doesn't sound like a good plan to me. I intend to never be an inpatient on a psychiatric ward again, and I wouldn't wish it on others, but the wards are always chock full and people on 'leave' come back to the ward to find their bed has gone to someone else. Admission over. People who may want or need to be on a ward already can't always get a bed. And by my calculations, a quarter of the beds means one of the four acute wards. Closing one ward within two years, when all four are virtually always overfull, is ridiculous.

And, as if it wasn't ridiculous enough,
Proposals include reducing the number of hospital beds for mental health patients by a quarter, whilst at the same time delaying investment in community-based services intended to avoid expensive treatments such as hospital admissions.

So, get rid of an inpatient ward. THEN get rid of the services which try to help people stay as well as they can, as a way of preventing admissions.

So... fewer beds. Less help to services which help to avoid filling beds.

So... more beds needed. More beds needed.

If they are going to get rid of acute inpatient beds, then the services which can help to provide preventative, or respite, or community day-to-day support (which can help keep people out of hospital) need to be increased, bloody idiots, not cut. Oh, sorry, delayed investment. Hmmm.

And, all of this is happening when the government says it is focussing on mental health as a priority. When the government wants to throw disabled people into poverty, aka get people off disability benefits and into work. With no care and support, right? Yeah, that'll work.

Outcry over £7m mental health cuts
By Kate Lahive
HEALTH chiefs are at loggerheads over plans to slash £7 million off mental health service budgets in Sheffield, it is claimed.
Plans have been drawn up for a series of financial cutbacks over the next two years, which could result in the number of hospital beds for mental health patients being reduced and investment in community services being delayed.
The Liberal Democrats are accusing Sheffield Primary Care Trust, which holds the purse strings, of forcing the savings on Sheffield Care Trust, which delivers mental health services.
Proposals include reducing the number of hospital beds for mental health patients by a quarter, whilst at the same time delaying investment in community-based services intended to avoid expensive treatments such as hospital admissions.
Health bosses say discussions on the finances remain underway.
Councillor Ian Auckland, the Lib Dem's shadow cabinet member for adult services, said: "In targeting mental health services, a vulnerable group is being attacked through cuts imposed by the Labour Government.
"This disagreement between local health bodies is a direct result of the NHS cash crisis brought about by government reforms. These cuts, which are being forced through, will be bad news for local service users and will have a detrimental effect on local services."
Kevan Taylor, chief executive of Sheffield Care Trust, said discussions are continuing.
He said: "This week we have received some very detailed proposals from Sheffield Primary Care Trust regarding their funding proposals for mental health in the year ahead. We are now carefully considering these proposals before making a final response."
In a statement Sheffield Primary Care Trust said it needed to reduce its spending by around five per cent over all its service areas, including mental health, and it has a duty to achieve financial balance.
But it says the reductions in the Trust's budget are in proportion to the overall budgets.

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