Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Freshers' Week Sexism: It is that bad.

The Guardian recently had an articleabout 10 types of sexism experienced by female students at university this year. Many of the 'types' actually have more than one example; fifteen specific examples are given.
The response to this from many however is '' it's not that bad.''.

Stop right there. 

Fifteen examples of, at times quite repulsive, sexism directed to female students. Any single one of these happening once would be ''that bad''. That at least fifteen clearly defined incidents have occurred to fifteen individual women is definitely ''that bad''. And, we know from some of these examples that these attacks (and they are attacks) are not happening to individual women, they are happening to groups. That groups of women are suffering this means it is ''that bad''. Further more these are just the examples being talked about.
These are just the examples which have come to light and been made public instead of grimaced at quickly or cried about in private.
Why do people dismiss these things as 'not that bad'. Just because you didn't experience them personally, why dismiss the upset and discomfort of so many others. Yes, when they are gathered into one short article it can seem more dramatic that when it is spread over an entire degree course, but does that make these instances any less real, despicable, misogynistic or distressing? No it doesn't. Sexism in British universities really is that bad.

Let me pose to you an analogy:
You are searching for a hotel online. You find somewhere which may be suitable for your needs and decide to look at the customer reviews and notice that since September (since the beginning of the academic year) there have been a dozen negative reviews citing bed bugs, mould in bathrooms, food poisoning from the breakfast, stained sheets, rude and obnoxious staff – every bad experience you could imagine in a hotel. But there is a positive review in there that says 'It's not that bad.'.
Personally, unless that was absolutely the only option, I would look for a room elsewhere. I'd presume, that at some point health and hotel inspectors would be swooping down on the place to do something about it, because surely it shouldn't stay in operation with so many hazards.
When it comes to misogyny in universities I want the same response. Just because not every student there has experienced these issues (and that is some small relief) doesn't mean there isn't a major problem that needs to be addressed.
Just as I would expect our fictional hotel manager to look at the complaints and invest in new linen and deep cleaning, I would expect university deans, presidents and SU leaders to take a very close look at what they permit in their institutions and what steps they are going to take to stop these things happening. The problems are there, the complaints are being made and it is long past time that corrective action was taken. No female student should be made to feel unwelcome in a class. No student should think that her classmates think rape is a joke. No student should be given the message that submitting to unwanted sexual contact is the safest and expected option.

Other comments on the Guardian piece state that they don't worry about sexist university society initiations and dubious T-shirts when there are bigger issues of women entering a male dominated workforce, continued job inequality and major gender divides in academic subjects. If I am honest, I am somewhat baffled by this argument. Perhaps I am naive, but I am simply unable to see the examples in the Guardian as a separate issue from employment inequality and pervasive gender stereotyping. As I see it, the two are intrinsically linked. As long as female students are being treated as nothing but sex toys, there for the amusement and domination of male students then they are being seen as less. As long as female students are being devalued and treated as jokes or out of place on campus then their education, ability and worth in the wider world is also being devalued.

It perpetuates the culture where women are not as valuable and equal in business or academic arenas. It teaches the male students that when they are in the working world they can look at their female colleagues as lesser. Women are treated as sex objects, jokes and targets in fresher's week because society teaches that women are of less value than men and need to be firmly put in their place as subservient. Women continue to be undervalued in academia and professional circles because group after group of graduates have just spent three years accepting that male dominant behaviour is acceptable and normal. It is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken at every opportunity.

Saying 'It is that bad' when we hear examples of overt sexual harassment and discrimination in university is a step toward breaking that cycle.
Saying 'It is that bad' to tutors, presidents, deans, leaders and above all students is a step toward breaking that cycle and demanding a change.
Just because it could be worse is no reason to maintain the status quo.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

13 Things a Pie Can Do to be More Attractive

You are probably all to aware of the many, many articles on the net and in print that instruct a woman how to be better, usually for reasons of pleasing a man. A lot of these are written and phrased in fun friendly ways; they just want to help you! Who doesn't want to be a better person after all?!
Some of them however, are written by angry middle aged white guys with some very definite ideas about women. They are aggressive, condescending and of course, deeply misogynistic. I could link to the specific 'article' that inspired this post, but I shan't. If you want to give that page views and read it for yourself, Google it. I'll give you a hint, just replace the word pie with woman. You won't be short of search results.

1) Stay 'healthy'
A good pie will be neither too fatty nor lacking in the things that taste good. Nobody wants a pie that is one of those 'super lean, fat free, health' pies, but we don't want to be dating lumpy starch and fat pie either. Be careful when choosing ingredients though, no body should now you were considering this careful balance. Just make it work.

2) Lay of the pie decoration
Pie eaters gravitate toward a natural pie crust, tasteful and coverable patterns (if any at all) and latticework that isn't out of control and all over the place.

3) Provide your own flavour
When it comes to flavour, pie eaters couldn't care less if you have a whole lot, but you need to have enough that they don't use up all their syrup. If you are more flavourful than their syrup, great, just refrain from rubbing yourself in their face. Nobody wants to be called pieface.

4) Be PIE
Pie eaters like PIE, not cake with a crust.

5) Be easy to eat
This overlaps with being PIE. Some people think of being easy to eat as a negative, like you will just be eaten up quickly with no thought or consideration. Heaven forbid you make yourself easy to eat so as to please the pie eater. Personally I think some peoples views on PIE have made eating pie a battle. Make yourself into bite size morsels, give him a surprise flavour, don't have a filling that gets everywhere. A Good pie eater will let you know they are pleased with your efforts.

6) Your availability
A pie eater wants a pie that has clearly been taste tested and is known to be tasty, but they don't want a pie that is available in every corner shop. We get it, you want everybody to be able to taste your filling and think you have a right to be eaten anywhere. Remember though, there's a difference between being gourmet and 4 for a pound.

7) Be clever
No pie eater wants a pie that can't show of a clever technique or two.

8) Be fresh!
This is kind of the not-so-secret secret. Pie eaters don't want left over pie, nor do they want the ultimate pie shame of eating another pie's filling. This goes double if the leftovers are from more than one pie or are bi-flavoured. It doesn't matter why there were leftovers the bottom line is, you have leftovers and it doesn't belong to any of the 'elligable' pie eaters out there.

Fun Fact!: In many pie eateries, if you like the leftovers, and then try to leave, they will make you pay the bill anyway!

9) You should be home baked most of the time.
Apparently the domesticity of being able to feed somebody has deteriorated. Don't be a store bought or frozen pie.

10) Put down the gadgets
We don't need any of this new technology. Step away from the digital thermometers, electric blenders and food blogs. A good pie knows when to sit quietly and politely. You definitely don't need to show off another photograph of your delicious crust. When I got to a bakery with other pie eaters, We all place our gadgets in a neat pile on the counter and pretend for a moment we are in a Ye Olde Pie Shop.

11) Easy up on the glaze and food colour!
It's bad enough that the egg glaze and food dye industry is a billion dollar industry hell bent on telling pies they aren't good enough. To top it off most of you come out looking like a joke pie! Maybe you could go without glaze and just try and do an appealing shiny crust naturally.

12) Stop being rough
Coming from somebody who is a United States Baker, It is really not attractive to have a pie that looks like it just came off a boat. Smooth off those edges if you really want to be a pie.

13) Stop having pie eating friends.
9 out of 10 of your pie eating friends just want to eat you anyway. Pie eaters now how other pie eaters think. The first one to come and comfort you after I've questioned your flavour will also be the one to say 'he doesn't really like cherries.' in order to sabotage my chances of eating you. And then he'll be the first one to take a dessert fork to you. It's not about trust. It's about me getting the pie I want.

Well that got creepy. And now I'm hungry.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

It's all relevant

It may have come to your attention via some social media or indeed conventional media that River Island sold an offensive novelty item and then removed it from their stores when the public kicked up a stink.
The novelty item in question was a toy ball gag fashioned out of a plastic football and some elastic. It was sold with the name 'The Domestic Anti Nag Gag' which, to quote the BBC article ''urged men to 'gag' nagging women ... ''. Though clearly a novelty item, the gag wouldn't stand up to any real usage, the message behind it was clear: 'women talk to much, men should make them stop.'.
It additionally built on the stereotypes that women are over talkative harpies who only care about domestic issues ('It's your turn to do the dishes' and 'pick your clothes up off the floor' screeches the woman to be gagged on the packaging) and men are only interested in watching the footy and other such blokish activities. The notion that perhaps men and women might share domestic duties, or engage in a dialogue or even *gasp* watch sports together isn't even considered.

So that is the item that started it all. But this post isn't about the item directly; it is a response to a facebook post that claimed that people were wrong to be offended by this, that it was trivial and should be dismissed as a joke. Not because it wasn't sexist but because it was small fry in comparison to the current kidnappings in Nigeria, world starvation and, child abuse and that we shouldn't be offended by a novelty item whilst these other things going on.

I would offer a counter opinion: we should be offended by a novelty gag because these other terrible things are going on. I would also pose that a sexist novelty ball gag (and my offence) are not a separate issue from Nigerian kidnappings, starvation and child abuse (and my horror). They are linked, and fighting one is part of fighting the whole.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

You're missing the point.

from Living With HipsterGirl & GamerGirl

The above strip from webcomic Living With HipsterGirl & GamerGirl came across my Facebook feed the other day with a number of comments along the lines of 'women judge men by their looks to.' and 'male superheroes are not good aspirational figures either.' First of all this piece is not about the writing or quality of LWHG&GG - I only know it in passing and don't feel inclined to critique. This article is about some of the arguments that this strip references and spurs.
The argument made was:
  • Women dislike how female characters in comics are presented as they can not 'aspire' to possibly look like that. 
  • Additionally that women do not like that these characters can be the object of male fantasy or desire.
  • That this is hypocritical because women like to look at attractive male characters.
  • And finally that men are equally distressed because male superheroes are impossible to aspire to.
My counter argument is that this is largely missing the point. These arguments and the comic strips that illustrate them (as shown above) are ignoring the real issue and, in extreme cases, wilfully subverting the argument in order to stop any progress on the issue.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

1940s Short Hairdo

I wanted to share this because I found there was a dearth of information about short hairstyles from the 1940s, especially about how one would achieve such a style.

The early and mid-1940s favoured slightly longer styles, with gentle waves, soft curls and rolls. Shorter hair was seen as a little more unusual or old fashioned (harking back to the early 1930 or 20s). That wasn't to say women didn't have short hair. Hair doesn't become long over night and for health or hygiene, to say nothing of personal taste some women may have favoured a shorter cut.

Costuming though is all about recreating that quintessential style; something iconic and easily recognisable. For the 1940s that means curls and rolls no matter what your hair length is.

After some research I came up with this wonderful video tutorial from Vintage Dorris. She has slightly longer hair than me but it gave me something to work with and a bit of hope that  could achieve something approaching a classic 40s 'do.

So I bought some rollers and a bottle of  setting lotion (all from Sueprdrug) and bravely set to. Want to see how it went in my super short hair?

Thursday, 22 August 2013

NIN, Belsonic, Belfast 21st August 2013

Last night I went to NIN's first Belfast performance as part of the Belsonic festival. The fact that it has taken 25 years for NIN to perform here despite their world wide acclaim tells you something about the Belfast music scene but that's a ramble for another post.
What it meant was that this gig was something a little bit special; this was a gig that people had waited for. That puts a lot of pressure on a bad to say nothing of the organisers and show producers. The crowds that gathered in Belfast's Custom House Square had expectations that were felt well beyond the apartment walled auditorium.

I love going to gigs. I love the waiting and the build up. Last night was no exception. Getting on the bus and eyeing up fellow passengers who looked like they might have the same destination. Walking from bus stop to venue and seeing that the prevailing direction of travel was with me, and that it had a certain look and image to it; it was thrilling, a rising swell of anticipation and excitement that this was something we were going to enjoy together.

Crowds make a gig, and this crowd was an indication of how good a night it was going to be. A band with a career stretching over 25 years draws a broad range of followers. People dressed in plain jeans and football shirts stood next to the more stereotypical NIN fan clad in black, with piercings and partially shaved heads. Parents who had fallen in love with Trent in the early 90's stood with their teenage kids with matching expressions of anticipation and excitement. Belfast was ready this.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

fada beo Béal Feirste

Google translate tells me that the title of today's post is the Irish translation of Long Live Belfast. I'm hoping it's accurate. It might not be.

I love this city. I really do. I have lived here for four years and seven days and I can honestly say that it has been one of the most enjoyable places I have lived. Most of the time. You may have seen recent reports about rioting, protests and contentious marches. These news reports and indeed the events that spur them come up several times a year, most of the time, clearly scheduled around 'historic' dates so that we all know when to expect it. Friends that I have spoken to in he past few days will know that as well as irritated with the disruption, these marches, the arguments, riots and protests leave me tremendously sad. 
I want to tell you why they make me sad; It is because that is not an accurate portrayal of Belfast, Northern Ireland or the vast majority of the people who live here. I fell in love with this city, and it was in spite of the horrible attitudes and violent nature of some of the people. It was because of the many glorious things that are at the heart and soul of the place.

Today I went to St Georges Market in the city centre. St Georges Market perfectly condenses the things about this city that I enjoy, and I believe is a true reflection of the country and the city in particular. Let me walk you through some of the things that Belfast and Northern Ireland have to be proud of, the bits and pieces which really make up its identity.

This is me, right in the centre of Belfast, happy, content and not on fire.