Dec 23, 2010

Yeah, pretty much out of nowehre, with extra asking for money on the side

God, how I hate the meme about "having an abortion is a difficult decision that no woman takes lightly". I know it's supposed to be a defense against the vile misogynist assumption that women are thoughtless, irresponsible children who callously have unprotected sex and then resort to abortion as a means of rectifying their own cock-ups (pun totally fricking intended, so suck it up). But still. Seriously? An outpatient procedure that expunges a tiny clump of cells from your body - something that is less invasive and painful than having a mole removed - is a difficult decision?

And don't nobody come along wringing their hands in mock concern about late term abortions and the little handses and the little feetses. Bullshit. The overwhelming majority of abortions are sought within the first 8 weeks. Mine was on literally the first day that abortion was medically allowable (6 weeks). You know why? Because women - have a look above - are not thoughtless, irresponsible sub-beings, and they want to deal with unwanted pregnancy as quickly as possible once they realise something unplanned has happened.

Anyway, abortion schmabortion. That's a difficult decision? What about becoming a fucking parent? How's that for a difficult fucking decision for ya? Cause hey, two hours in a clinic with your legs up in stirrups is so much bigger a deal than a lifetime of care, responsibility, heartache, expense, love, illness and conflict, right?

Or even forget about that. Forget that the hateful slutty "women" who have abortions and the saintly pure "mothers" who raise children are the same fucking people (literally - most women who have abortions already have at least one child). What about pregnancy? Is the decision to have someone scrape or vacuum your insides for a few minutes really that much "bigger" than the decision to carry something in your abdomen for nine months and then push it out through your pelvis at great risk to yourself, or maybe undergo major abdominal surgery if things go wrong? Seriously, who should we be encouraging to "really think about it" - the person who's popping in to their GP for a quick referral, or the person who has some kind of abdominal mass and just leaves "nature" to take it course?

But what about post-abortion syndrome, Marina? What about all those poor, poor women who were bamboozled, bamboozled I tell you, by evil child murdering feminists into having an abortion, and are now suffering from mental illness because of it? Well, to start with, it's a fucking invention. A mean, cruel, sadistic make believe condition, the only purpose of which is to make women feel like shit about themselves. Because guess what? If you keep telling people that they should be ashamed and traumatised, they're just that much more likely to be - you got it - ashamed and traumatised! Isn't it great the way social conditioning works?

Mountains of propaganda - up to and including terrorist attacks against abortion providers - will not prevent women from seeking terminations to unwanted pregnancies. And anti-woman activists like Nadine fucking Dorries know this perfectly, perfectly well. Their mission in life is not to save teh cute little babbies. It is to make the lives of women as miserable as possible, whether through forced pregnancy or through imposing a myth of guilt and shame on them for the self-care they show through taking control of their fertility. It is to make the lives of women so miserable that they forget about their own dreams, their own aspirations, their own desires, and spend their lives entirely in submitting and conforming to the gleefully torturous demands of those who have nothing better to motivate them in life than hatred for the idea that women are human.

So don't give me all that about abortion being a difficult decision. It's an easy fucking decision, as easy as any other decision about our health and self care. But oh wait, we're not supposed to have the right to health and self care! That's why the Tories are slashing Well Woman clinic budgets[1]. That's why Nadine Dorries is wasting Parliamentary time trying to lower the abortion limit from 24 weeks. That's why her crazy-ass co thinkers are importing US-style tactics into the UK, trying to shame and intimidate women who choose to have an abortion.

And that is why, I guarantee you, there will be more challenges to women's rights to control this body within the life of this parliament. Just you wait and see. And when you do see, remember that this rhetoric about abortion being "a serious and difficult choice" is sand in your eyes, thrown to disguise a mountain of hatred of women and disgust of their bodies.

Anyhoodle. Go give your money to this awesome charity that is trying to make up their funding shortfall (this one the Tories really are cutting) in order to educate people in the UK about abortion, and to help British women to be safe, healthy, and happy. Go on, shoo. I know you've just spent a fortune on X-Box games for your squeeze or kids, so you can afford a fucking tenner here, people.


[1] OK I totally made that one up - but they would, wouldn't they? If you fell for that, that's proof that you, too, subconsciously believe that the Tories hate women.

Dec 8, 2010

Ceci n'est pas une post about Wikileaks

I just want to make something super clear from the start - this is not a blog post about whether or not Julian Assange is guilty of rape, or about whether or not wikileaks is a good thing. In fact if this post is about anything to do with Wikileaks at all, then it's about how those two hypotheses do not exist in opposition to each other. Look at the name of this blog. Now look at me. Now back to the name. Now back to me. Assange's personal behaviour doesn't change anything about the inherent value of Wikileaks, and Wikileaks itself does not imbue Assange with any saintly or devilish characteristics. In a non-zero sum universe, both, either or neither can be good, bad or indifferent. I am ambivalent about wikileaks in exactly the same way as Clay Shirky is, but since he expressed it much better than I could, why don't you read his blog and leave me alone on the subject.
No, what this is about, as Cath Elliott wrote on Lib Con a few days back, is how quickly all pretensions to feminist sympathies give way to a "bros before hos" attitude among men on the left once one of their own is in the dock (though in fairness she expressed it with more class). It's easy enough to march at the back, mumbling feminist slogans out of time because you don't quite know the words, when it's some sleazy capitalist or smarmy Republican in the firing line; statistically, it's more likely to be one of those guys in some jacuzzi showgirl snorting scenario, anyway.

But one of ours? Julian Assange, fearless defier of the Keystone Cops wannabes that are US officials trying to wipe the egg of their faces? Courageous snook cocker at misspeaking power-drunk bank functionaries? Heroic exposer of all that is ignoble and slightly ridiculous about contemporary diplomatic statecraft? Impossible! It's a conspiracy! A politically motivated witch hunt! A miscarriage of justice! A honey trap! Fame seeking! Misuse of Interpol resources!

I think I've read, heard or extrapolated almost every one of the above theories about this whole sorry business but one: that the two complainants are telling the truth and that there is a case to be answered.

And you know why that pisses me off? No, not because people trivialise rape and assume that, when it comes to sex, women are all lying bitches out to bring a good man down. People assume that every day, so yawn, basically. Actually I'm delighted that the Swedish authorities are taking sexual assault charges seriously enough to put the wind up a bunch of windbags who are bricking it at the realisation that sexually criminal behaviour is not something that is easily shrugged of, in some places.

No, what's pissing me off about this is that once again, the feminist section of the liberal blogosphere is stuck explaining rape theory 101 (it's not nice, mmkay?) to a bunch of privilege denying dude wannabes, instead of getting our heads down to do some analysis and maybe add, you know, our own thoughts and ideas to the whole Wikileaks conversation. While everybody else is off cheerfully bloviating about the ins and outs of information libertarianism, we're stuck firmly back in the ghetto of "all that feminist stuff", as someone recently said to me, cleaning up the collateral damage left behind by people who just have to make villains, liars, and sluts out of two women who, at best, have had a very bad experience and are still having a really tought time.

I've always been a bit Twisty Faster about the whole "feminist allies" business: basically, men mostly hate you and will throw you under the bus as soon as it fits their psychological or political needs, whatever lip service they pay to liberal values as they relate to women. But sometimes, being an actual thinking person who is open to information about the world, I've doubted my own cynicism, you know? People say you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar and all that, and it's true that in everyday life it pays to be polite and reasonable with people.

Stuff like this, though, makes me wonder if maybe I'm not cynical enough.

Nov 30, 2010

The feminist revolution will not be televised

I was at the wonderful feminist book group in Bristol last night, and we were discussing this months' book - the biography of Marie Antoinette. I've always felt kind of sorry for her - she was a rather stupid, reasonably harmless person who just seemed to have become identified with all the depravity and wastefulness of the French aristocracy. But when you start picking in apart by looking at the affair of the necklace or the way she was hounded and plotted against by her own court, and you think, Zounds! how come this rather uninteresting woman, who's not even French, is the first thing we think of when we think of pre-revolution France and its injustices? Someone's done a proper hatchet job on that one and no mistake - and the mud seems to have stuck fast through the centuries.

We got to talking about revolution in general - what with mounted police charging at children in Whitehall today it's very topical - and then I started thinking about feminist revolution, not unnaturally, and that made me think about what it would take to create a similar upheaval in the world of gender relations as the French or Russian revolutions did in land ownership and political institutions.

It seems to me that every major revolution - and by that I mean every revolution that stuck, every revolution that has successfully wiped away the preceding regime and made it impossible to go back, regardless of the moral ins and outs of the old order, the new order, or the route taken from A to B - has had a significant component of misdirected hatred in it.

Of course, there's always a core intellectual elite that is thoughtful and motivated by progressive ideology; but the force of numbers required for a violent overthrow of the state relies on the participation of people who neither know nor care about the details of the theory of capital, but would dearly love to lob a few bricks through the windows of a few shops kept by people they don't like. Or, you know, murder 14 year old boys and bury them in the woods.

But the feminist "revolution", the process of slowly reversing millennia of segregation and discrimination to gradually increase the participation of women in the public sphere, doesn't work like that. No irreversible advance has been made so far; no line has been crossed that it is unthinkable to go back upon. Not the right to vote, not the right to divorce or reproductive freedom, not the right to physical security and freedom from violence.

One of the frustrating things about feminism, as someone at the same book group articulated a few months ago, is that it doesn't seem to "stick" - you make some advances, convince some people of the importance of granting women respect and agency, and then a couple of decades later wham! you're having to do it all over again for a new generation. A new generation, I might add, that is ll young and snide and self important and thinks it knows better than you do why exactly pole dancing is a tip-top feminist activity, or why baking cupcakes is a "choice" that is just as feminist as volunteering at a women's shelter. With, you know, apologies to all the feminist cupcake bakers out there (I don't like cupcakes, so I always pick on cupcake makers, and I'm getting to feel pretty bad about that. Maybe if they all made pie instead I wouldn't be so rude? Alternatively, from now on I might persecute soup-cookers).

Feminists are always being accused of hating men, when of course that is not even remotely true. It has been often pointed out that casting men as mouth breathing knuckle-walkers who are as unable to control their sexual urges and domestic behaviour as a pre-toilet trained infant is actually the slightly, er, less complimentary position. But it doesn't wash - it seems that the changes to the power structures of society proposed by the feminist movement are so frightening that we get tarred with the agent provocateur brush whether the shoe fits or not (metaphor mixing FTW!).

In the end I think this lack of a fulcrum of hatred is what's holding the feminist revolt back. Most of us - heck, let's be bold and say all of us - love our brothers, fathers, sons, partners and friends. We don't want to create feminist Killing Fields where they will be exterminated for their inability to completely identify with our new and glorious regime. We want them to like us, and we want them to see that what we're trying to do is for the good of everyone, and to help. And for that we get called Feminazis, man-hating lesbians, and as someone on a community I used to like did a while back, a "species", like we're animals.

Crazy, no?

Nov 5, 2010

Really, Stephen.

A celebrity (much loved and admired by many, among whom this blogger is happy to count herself) opened his trap in front of a journalist and said something ineffably stupid on a subject of which he has no personal experience whatsoever. So far, so dog bites man.

Where it gets interesting is where said celbrity dedicated the length of a flight to LA and the best part of 3,000 words to explaining how, despite the fact that it was demonstrably his own mouth, operating under no immediate duress, that said this ineffably stupid thing, none of it is his fault at all in any way.

Somebody not a million miles removed from said celebrity once said (in conversation with Nigel Lawson, if memory serves) that self pity is the most unattractive of all personality traits. I've lived my life a little by that maxim ever since, because it seemed like such a good one.

The keenest disappointment I feel about the past week, therefore, is that rather than taking one's foot out of one's mouth, dusting oneself off and thinking of some good jokes about the whole sorry business, we're being treated to justifications, apologia, contextualisation and Twitter twantrums.

I don't believe that Stephen Fry (my adored, admired Stephen Fry, the only man ever to have been granted a - theoretical - pass to my ovaries) holds the ridiculous, unjustifiable, and common opinion as that women are unable enjoy sex.

I do not need to believe, however, that this episode has contributed to shoring up this hateful stereotype - that is a demonstrable fact. The authority of Uncle Stephen will be forever adding its weight to it, whether in common pub banter or in more sinister rape apology and victim blaming scenarios.

The supposedly instrumental nature of women's sexuality - the lie that we only ever "give over" or "put out" in order to get something, like money or commitment, that we withold it as "punishment", "give it away" to another as revenge, dangle it in front of a man in order to manipulate him, "pussy whip" him with it for control - is a central tenet of the most terrifyingly mysoginist attitudes.

It would be reassuring to think that Stephen Fry cared at least a smidgeon as much about that as he does about his outrage at being “misunderstood”. Yet, not much in the way of discussion of this in the whole 3,000 words.

Maybe a blog post on the flight back, eh?

Aug 31, 2010

It's a feature, not a bug

Laurie Penny writes persuasively in the New Statesman about the interesting dynamics that lead to young women performing better than young men in education and the entry level stages of their careers. The argument is, in essence, a simple one:

  1. Women are taught from childhood to think of themselves as objects, not humans

  2. Employers prefer not to employ humans, as they can get dangerous ideas about deserving things like fair wages and job security. They prefer, on the whole, to employ resources

  3. Therefore employers prefer to employ young women resources, who conveniently prefer to be exploited by employers to being unemployed, because they believe they don't deserve any better and certainly don't have the right to hold out for better treatment

  4. QED

This is, basically, exactly true. Not only are girls socialised to be more docile, more complying, more self-effacing and less demanding, making them model employees for third world sweatshops and first world offices alike, they are also, and importantly, taught to invest the vast majority of their self worth in external indicators. By which I mean to say that there is an exponential list of approval metrics for young women, against which they are supposed to measure their right to exist in the world: weight (which should always be higher or lower than it is), beauty, popularity, numbers of sexual partners (which should always be higher or lower than it is), grades, the explicit approval of teachers and parents, and so on and so forth, for ever.

There is, by definition, no finish line or goalpost at which one can stop and say "I am good enough", for even if one's grades, breast size, boyfriend's income level and smoothness of hair are all exactly compliant with prevailing standards, there's always the possibility of cellulite, visible pores, or the exactly wrong length of skirt to let one down. Striving for perfection is as fruitless as it is mandatory - what Amanda Marcotte called "The Hermione Effect":

When I was in school, I noticed this gender divide. Most of the people I knew who changed majors, took only 9 hours a semester, filled their schedules with blow-off classes that didn’t go towards their degree---and thus took 5 or 6 years to graduate---were male. And most of the people I knew who worked their asses off because their financial support would be yanked if they didn’t were female. The in-between people, who worked their asses off though they probably didn’t have to, were mixed.

Young women are supposed to get serious sooner. This isn’t a mystery to anyone paying attention. Over and over again, we hear about how young women believe they should get straight As, be in perfect shape, be perfect in every way and make it look easy---supergirl syndrome. This also includes graduating college in 4 years. Young women didn’t just collectively decide that this was how it was going to be, you know. They’re picking up on expectations put on them.

Having said that, I think this only covers half of the career Catch-22 that women face. Because, you see, once your self effacing modesty and lack of pushy demands actually gets you the job, you immediately start being punished for being insufficiently pushy and demanding. Unless you're pushy and demanding, in which case you get punished for being too pushy and demanding, but that's another story.

Most companies today operate what they call a "meritocratic" system of employee evaluation and promotion. What this means in principle is that they don't get sued for gender discrimination. What it means in practice is that they define some arbitrary set of positive attributes, then make everyone prove that they measure up. The slight flaw in this set up from a young woman's point of view is that the attributes are usually rigged to be ones that are associated with men (assertiveness, decision making, risk taking, confident presentation etc.), and not having them is exactly the reason why young women get hired over young men in the first place, especially in a recession. So for a given subset of talented young owmen graduating from university today, having a job and being successful in it are mutually exclusive categories. Oh yes.

And that's even before we attempt to tackle the problem of how, exactly, one would demonstrate that one is indeed confident, decisive, risk taking, assertive and ambitious without falling into the following trap:

But then, that would be at least a Catch-44...

Aug 4, 2010

Constructing the "women are women's worst enemies" myth

You want a literary catfight? The Guardian will give you a literary catfight! Wait, you don't want a catfight, of any kind really? Well, tough boogers. You're getting a catfight whether you like it or not, because that's what women do! Even when they're not actually doing it!

DJ Connell writes a pretty straight-up and sensible article about why she dislikes the label "chick-lit" and writes humour under an gender ambiguous moniker. So far so good. There's no big time attack on the content of mainstream chick-lit novels. The word "pink" isn't so much as mentioned. Sophie Kinsella doesn't come in for a bashing.

But still, in a postcript to the piece, the editors in their wisdom offer this bit of forshadowing:
"I write chick-lit and I'm proud of it": tomorrow in part two of the chick-lit debate, author Michele Gorman responds to DJ Connell's criticisms of the genre

Wait, what? Have you actually read the preceding few paragraphs? Cause I did not see any "criticism of the genre", only of the unhelpful and sexist label and the all-too-real marginalisation of female humorists.

But I guess you can't, if you're a national newspaper, go out in public and suggest that women may have nuanced and varied views on subjects close to their hearts; that would be almost as bad as admitting that they're actual human beings with, like, opinions and shit. And we can't have that now, can we? Gotta make sure those caricatures of cat-fighting shrews are upheld!

Jul 27, 2010

Lazy post: Childless by Choice


A few weeks ago, I gave an email interview for an online piece about women who choose to remain childless. It all ended up on the cutting room floor - fame, dear reader, continues to elude me - so I thought I'd share it with y'all anyway. It's easier than writing a whole new post, that's for sure.

Q: Why did you choose not to have children? Was it a conscious choice?

I never wanted children; it's just something that never appealed. I did read "The Handmaid's Tale" aged 14 and was deeply influenced by it, but that could have just made me deeply pro-choice (which I am), I don't think Atwood can be blamed here!

I used to get a vast amount of interrogation and aggression around this subject, though not so much anymore as I get older and more divorced. But in my twenties when I was getting married etc., it was a never-ending barrage of having to justify myself. I played the game, and came up with better and better rationalisations to explain myself: feminist rebellion against biological determinism, the state of the planet, the population time bomb, fear of being a bad parent, inability to take responsibility, relationship issues with husband, financial instability, how selfish and insufferable people (of my class and background) get once they have kids... I even used my Jewishness, saying that I don’t want to go through the dilemmas and struggles of raising bi-ethnic children!

But to be honest that was all just excuses. In reality, the more people asked me “why don’t you want children?” the more I thought “well, do I? Should I?”, and navel-gazed and examined my own desires. And because of this emphasis on wanting, desiring children, the more I didn’t find this burning need within myself, the more I became convinced about not wanting to be a mother. It’s a bit circular, but that’s how it worked.

These days I’m a bit more sceptical about exactly how much of a burning desire having a family is for women, and more in the camp that gender and even class expectations have something to do with it. But the short answer, for me, is that I was warned about my biological clock so much that when I couldn’t hear it ticking, I thought this was a significant fact about myself and that I that should make decisions based on it. Reverse psychology!

Q: Do you think people choosing to be child-free is a good or bad thing for society? Why?

I think it’s fairly neutral. You could speculate that there will be some unforeseen long term consequences from changing the demographic makeup of human societies so drastically, but I think the aging of the population would have more to do with it than the fall in the number of children. If you want to be a bit evo-psych about it, then they used to be just as much of a scarce resource as old people, because infant mortality was at something like 50% for most of human evolution. Anyway, you could equally well speculate (with some basis in observed fact) that fewer children mean that every child will get more care and education and be less vulnerable to abuse and neglect, which could ultimately only be a good thing for society as a whole.

In the short to medium term though, societies like Japan where the birth rate is low but immigration is almost zero will be the most vulnerable to the economic and cultural impact of an older population. The US and Europe, with all of their kvetching and occasional posturing on the topic, will continue to benefit from the influx of skills, enthusiasm and population that you get through migration. And that’s a good thing from start to finish, because it takes demographic pressure off of places like India and Africa that can’t necessarily support growing populations right now and redistributes it to where more economic and social agents are needed.

Will it mean the loss of ethnic purity in some places? Yeah. Will there be some evolution or even disappearance of the current national/regional cultures in the host countries? You bet. So what’s new? It’s not as if the Italian espresso can be dated to the Pleistocene. Or Italian. Or the Italians. I can’t get excited about that aspect of things, which makes me a terrible Jew and a traitor to my entire clan of aunties, but there you have it.

Q: Would you say the class expectations that you mention are middle class expectations?

I'd say where I came from - a working class area in Jerusalem, which is a very traditional city as you might expect - the expectation is that you have a large family because "children are a blessing" and it's what women do, and then you work very hard and make sacrifices to give them what you didn't have in life. Or just work very hard and make sacrifices because it's what you do, even if you don't have class aspirations for your children. It's seen as deeply and bewilderingly strange to not want to have "a family", because family is such a strong social glue in that environment.

In the middle class culture I ended up belonging to as an adult, there's definitely something consumerist about having children. It's dressed up in the language of nurture and sometimes "science", but it's also and economic life stage. It's something to upgrade to - you need to get a bigger house, and change your car to a 4x4, and then there's all the accoutrements like four different buggies and two car seats and a high tech cot and developmentally correct toys and and and. There's endless consumption around the growth of the family, and if you're my age and don't have a large house and a large car there's something wrong with you. I'm struggling to put it into words, but it's almost like if you're my age and living in a small flat and take the bus then you're an economic failure. And if you say "you know, you don't *need* any of this stuff", people immediately say "oh well I do, because I have the kids to drive around and I just couldn't do that if we only had one car". They use their family as a pretext to consume.

There are, of course, also just nice people who love children and have well adjusted normal families because, you know, they love each other and have the urge. And upper middle class people who have the luxury to "opt out" and bake organic home woven birthing yurts. And there are different class dynamics associated with those scenarios. But the above two are the main aspects of my personal experience.

Jul 26, 2010

Why economics is not a science

If you're not familiar with the Prisoner's Dilemma, here's a nice Wikipedia article about it for you. For the purposes of this discussion, all you need to know about it is that it's a simple experiment that has shown, time and time again and all over the world, that people almost never make the choices they'd be expected to make if they were purely rational beings.

Rational choice theory (oh, alright - but do your own Googling next time!) is the theory that says that even though that is patnetly the case, we should still govern our lives (and set policy, and make economic predictions) as if they did. Because it's the right, or more correctly "rational" thing to do. I very much suspect that rational theorists' definition of "rational" is "that which will make our mathematical models work".

Imagine if medicine was run that way: "yes, sometimes people don't respond as they should to treatment, but that's just because they're irrational! Everyone will have penicillin shots and peanut butter for breakfast, because that's what's best for them. Even when it isn't."

Modern economics - mostly microeconomics, but macroeconomics takes some of the former's assumptions and runs away with them, too - just can't be made to work without the assumptions of rational choice theory. And rational choice theory is flat out wrong, in the scientific sense of being incogruent with observed reality.

Which is why we should be very, very wary of anyone who dismisses our objections to, e.g., severe public spending cuts on the basis of economic forecasts and economic theory. Not because it's always and necessarily wrong, but because it is an ideology dressed up as science. So we should evaluate the claims of the current government as ideological rather than evidence-based: not "is it necessary, based on economic forecasts, to privatise GP surgeries and cut housing benefit?" but "is it the right thing to do to expose surgeries to potential bankruptcy and people to potential homelessness?".

Apr 15, 2010

The new Feudalism (and why women really shouldn't vote for the Tories)

OK, so first off, we live in a feudal society. If this is news to you, then: wakey wakey!

Let's anatomize.

A feudal society is one on which the majority give their allegiance, labour and control over their destiny to a tiny minority who amass vast clusters of wealth and power exclusively in their own hands. It is therefore characterized by very high levels of inequality, and by low levels of mobility, as structural obstacles are put in place to prevent the wealth creating majority (people doing actual work, in simple terms) from impeding the enrichment and control of the few by climbing up the socioeconomic ladder.

Two other characteristics of a feudal society are that, first, its laws and justice are applied differently to the many and to the few. The Magna Carta, famously, is a document in which the few are demanding to have legal parity with the very, very few: the barons demanding habeas corpus and other legal rights from the king. Secondly, a feudal society, though politically autocratic, is economically distributed and has weak central controls for things like hunger alleviation, public works etc. It's up to the benevolence of the feudal masters to provide such public services as exist.

Now, it's this last one where the most progress was made during the social and economic revolutions of the 20th century. We have wrested a measure of control from our economic masters (who were, fittingly, also called "barons" - robber barons, to be precise - during the preceding age of laisses faire capitalism and rampant disregard for the working masses) and vested it in a central authority in order that it should centrally provide for some of our basic human needs and rights. A quick comparison of the 20th century NHS versus the 15th NHS demonstrates that this was quite a good idea.

In other areas of comparison between modern Britain and feudal England, just in case you doubt my analogy (and also to show off my historical analysis skills), let me just say that levels of inequality in the UK are at a an all time high, and levels of mobility have been stagnant since the big economic explosion of the 80's. New Labour has done some good work in dismantling one structural obstacle to mobility by widening access to higher education, but this was done in isolation and in an economic climate of rampant consumerist growth (and also, via the medium of loans, cause debt is such a good idea!). Labour's education policy arrested what would definitely have been a post-Thatcher plunge in social mobility in the UK, but it didn't really reverse the trend, which is for diminishing social mobility. The the same time the UK also imported a large and growing underclass of desperate, grey-status foreign workers, who are occupying rungs on the economic ladder even further down from where their British working class predecessors dwelled, and are in many cases literally immobile due to extreme poverty and the vagaries of the Home Office. Needless to say women suffer disproportionately more in these conditions, so perhaps another post on immigration policy later.

So yeah, we're very unequal and increasingly immobile, kind of like our medieval forebears before the Peasant's Revolt, or our Victorian grandparents before the labour movement and the equalizing trauma of WWI. We are also increasingly threatened by a two tier health system, where the wealthy suck away resources into a private shadow system of the NHS; likewise the effect is present in education with the growth in private schooling. Actually, anything you hear that is a "two tier system", it's a red flag for feudalism, because the top tier is always way way smaller than the bottom tier. Another famous two tier system is the justice system, in which money can silence dissent, argument or even scientific debate through our frankly Kafkaesque - but more importantly extremely expensive - libel courts.

And then, of course, we have a two tier tax system. You may think this is a commonplace: of course, there is corporation tax for companies, and then there's income tax for people. Except, guess what: corporations don't really pay taxes. Mostly, when you hear about tax revenues this and tax expenditure that, it's money that's been colelcted from the majority of economic actors actually doing actual work, not fromt he corporations growing and expanding as a result of those efforts. If you think I'm exaggerating, then I urge you – and I really do urge you, please - to check out the following resources:

- The Tax Justice Network
- Mark Thomas on why we should invade Jersey (which is hilarious as well as scary)
- Will Hutton on tax avoidance
- And something from the US, to make us feel a bit better (not)

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

So you see, corporations are our new feudal masters. We increasingly work for them rather than ourselves, each other, or the state, tying our economic destiny to them both individually and at a societal level (as in the case of the banking industry, which is a systemic as well as an unemployment risk and therefore had to be bailed out). They try to decrease our mobility, through benefits that only vest with length of service, or through encouraging us to specialise until we're virtually unemployable elsewhere, in the same way that feudal England (or Russia) imposed penalties, fines, and loss of property on serfs and peasants who wanted to move to another lord's domain. This is especially potent in the US, where employment with a alrge corporation is sometimes the only means of access to basic human rights such as healthcare provision, but the pressure is exerted int eh UK as well.

Corporations do not contribute anything to the world that you see around you - not anything hat is free and aimed at your wellbeing, anyway. Their job is to grow and become bigger corporations - no other return on ivenstment is written into the model. They do "make" lots of shit that you want, and maybe even need, but it's shit you have to pay for. The stuff that's free, that should be free, like schools and transport infrastructure and the economic safety net and the courts, is paid for almost exclusively BY YOU.

Because corporations don't pay tax, you end up paying them twice: you pay them in kind with your labour, and you pay your hard earned cash through taxes so that corporations can continue to have a workforce that is literate and healthy, so that they can have courts of law to carry out their litigation and contract resolution in, so that they can operate in an environment free from the risk of disruption through war, so that they don't have to spend money on getting their workers to work (since they travel on government financed roads), so that they can use the communications infrastructure for their emails and telephone conversations and be connected to the electricity grid and water and sewage in their offices.

If you work in a large company, then chances are that your employer is getting all of the above FOR FREE, like a Baron of old. And that you have, indirectly, paid for it to be able to do so. So I'd got to payroll and demand a rebate, if I were you. (yeah I'm too chicken to do that too)

We know that the pay of the few people at the top is obscenely - hundreds of times - larger than that of even the average person in the middle, let alone the real "serfs". And that extreme lumpiness is not just some bug in the system of rampant capitalism and the corporate idea, it is absolutely at the heart of it, because at heart it is a feudal system.

So how do the Tories come into this?

The short, simple answer is that the Tories luuurve the feudal lords at the top of this particular rubbish heap. In many cases, as in that of Cameron himself, that's because they are both related and married to some of them. And, out of simple tribal loyalty as well as ideological commitment, they will make sure the feudalism will only get worse. Under the Tories the disparity between what the rich put into running the country and what the poor do will only grow. The government will demand a larger and larger share of most of our incomes, but will generate less and less tax revenue (because we are not rich!). It will therefore be to afford fewer and fewer of the essential things we expect a first world country to have, and which increasingly only teh rich will be able to access freely via the private sector.

The Tories will send us back to the 19th century, and in the 19th century women did not do so good as they do now. Just compare the maternal mortality rates under the Victorian NHS. Haha. You get the picture I'm sure. Anyway, this is getting sort of indecently long, so I will break it up and do Part II: Why Women Would be Crazy to Support the Tories a bit later.

Mar 10, 2010

On our own two feet

The 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, with it's theme of Progress, has been marked, among oter things, by a flurry of articles about how "far" feminism has "come", and "how far there is yet to go". The wealth perambulatory imagery fits nicely with one of my many observations on last Saturday's Million Women Rise march in London.

MWR, for those who don't know, is organised to protest and combat violence against women. The emphasis of MWR is on male violence against women, especially domestic battery and rape. This is a subject I feel strongly about and would not wish to trivialise, so let's pause for a moment to consider that the world is, in fact, chock full of the most inhumane, unimaginable violence against women. Women are disproportionately at risk of violence from their partners, their male relatives, random strangers and the effects of poverty, deprivation, climate change and war.

Not only that, but the idea that there is something wrong with all this suffering inflicted on women is incredibly controversial - witness the uproar in the tabloids at the proposed addition to the curiculum of anti-violence education for schoolchildren. We live in a society that simply refuses to acknowledge the human rights of women, chief among those the right to be free from the threat of violence.
While our media are full of narratives of abused and raped women, they tend to be romanticised as "inspirational tales of survival" or "unavoidable tragedies". Cries from the heart about the real, everyday, mundane abuse and violence women experience are met with indifference, contempt or hostility.

Many many excellent feminist writers and activists are writing and talking about this unacknowledged holocaust aginst women, and to be frank I consider myself unworthy to add my voice to theirs. Instead I'll talk about just one, in some ways trivial but in others all-prevasive, form of violence against women: fashion.

The above is a picture of the march as it passed Selfridge's on Oxford Street. I ran ahead to capture this image because to me, it held a lot of dramatic tension between the seriousness of women's plight and the superficiality of a lot of what we are encouraged to care about - outward appearance, passing fashions, the economic and social status inherent in designer labels.

There's also a kind of irony - maybe you had to be there, maybe it's just my sense of humour (feminists are famously humourless, after all) - in a group of dedicated, passionate, brave women making noise outside a place that exists to profit from the desirability of so many things that inflict violence on our bodies: scratchy, stifling underwire bras; skirts so narrow you can't walk in them; makeup full of carcinogenic phtalates; jeans so tight you can't sit down in them; flimsy, revealing blouses most definitely unsuited to the freezing conditions of that particular day; unspeakably itchy bum-floss knickers; handbags so heavy and unyieldy they give you backache; and, most emblematically of all for me, dreadful, deforming, painful, cruel shoes.

Add up all these elements together and you have a person who is so uncomfortable, so cold, so tottering, so encumbered and squeezed, that the last thing they can want to do with their day is go marching through the arctic streets shouting that violence against women must stop. And that, at the end of the day, is also a form of oppression.

So I started looking at what the women marching alongside me were in fact wearing, and apart from the eminently sensible array of wooly hats, warm coats, comfy trousers and cosy scarves what struck me was the wondeful display of what I soon started thinking of as Feminist Footwear. So I took some pictures, and, well, here they are. these are the feet of women decisively rejecting the violence inflicted ontheir feet by fashion. And a diverse, beautiful, funky lot they were, too. Enjoy.

PS My own humble contribution:

PPS I'm really not one of nature's graphic designers, am I? =)

Feb 18, 2010

In all the excitement about victim blaming, good old-fashioned rapist blaming is a sadly declining activity

There's been a predictably large volume of online response to a recently published report about attitudes towards rape, in which close to 2,000 Londoners were surveyed about same, and which threw up the uncomfortable fact that women are more willing to blame a woman for her rape than men. I'm happy to say that the responses have on the whole been intelligent, measured, realistic and insightful. Cara's riposte in the Guardian is my personal favourite, and a bit of an instant classic on the general topic of victim-blaming.

One problem: it's all bullshit. I've gone and read the actual report, and guess what? Despite being called "Wake Up To Rape" (charming) it's not about rape at all. It's about the victims of rape. Here are the headline questions from the survey:

  • Are you keeping safe?
  • What would you do?
  • What have you experienced?
  • Who would you believe and whose fault is rape?
It's the last one that contains the provocative statement that "Women are less forgiving than men". Shocking, right?

Um, wrong. Because there is nothing to forgive. We would not even contemplate asking respondents to surveys about other crimes whether or not they are willing to "forgive" the victims of those crimes. Do people who have their cars nicked need your forgiveness? No. How about little old ladies who are conned out of their life savings? Didn't think so. Children run over by careless drivers? Nuh-uh. What about murder victims? Does the question "in what circumstances would you blame a murder victim for their death" even compute?

(As an aside, I thought the survey was extremely badly designed - by asking repondents to think about what precautions women should be taking against the possibility of attack, it primed them to consider potential reprecussions if the hypothetical woman didn't follow these instructions. In addition to that it concentrated entirely on the vague concept of "blame" rather than on actual culpability. If you asked people "what prison sentence should be given to a woman who gets into bed with a man but then refuses to meet his specific sexual demands" you'd get very different statistics.)

The reality is that it's nonsensical to talk about what any victim of crime can do to stop the perpetrator perpetrating. Short of taking violent action to stop them mid-misdemeanor, it's simply not under your control, because other people are not under any of our control. A survey, therefore, that starts with the question "what are you doing to stop other people from being criminals?" and ends with "how much do you blame people against whom criminals have committed crimes?" is not interested in preventing rape (or "raising awareness" of it, a phrase which has recently fallen flat out of favour with me), it's simply revelling in misogyny, celebrating some of the many subtle and sophisticated ways that women can be humiliated, hurt, degraded and then punished for it. Big whoop.

Well, enough about the survey, and enough about the victims already. Rape is something rapists do because they like to rape, and if they didn't go about doing that, there would be no rape victims for us to either blame or forgive. Simple.

Encouragingly, this seminal post from the excellent blog Yes Means Yes cites two studies strongly suggesting that it is only a small proportion of men (between 4% & 8%) who perpetrate the majority of rapes, which means we don't have to start advocating the preemptive incarceration of all post-pubescent males. (Yet. =))

More research is surely needed in this area, but even at this early stage some fascinating conclusions emerge. For example, each self-reported rapist (both studies asked men to self report about sexual assault without using the R-Word, making the data pretty reliable) raped more than once. On average they raped 6 times. This means that these guys are predators, they enjoy having sex with reluctant or resisting women, and they are pretty good at doing it: six sexual partners for any man is a decent enough number, but six rapes (and the definition of rape in the studies was pretty narrow - there could be more assaults there that didn't get counted) is a lot. Rapists obviously know what they get off on; this is not some drunken one-time misunderstanding of the "why would you want to ruin a nice boy's future" variety, but something almost approaching a sexual preference or a lifestyle choice.

Whicn leads to the second fascinating thing about these results: hardly any of the repeat rapists use violence to rape, many more of them relying on drugs and alcohol. In other words they deliberately orchestrate the circumstances in which they can rape with the highest degree of impunity. They don't want to get caught, and they're not impulsive - again, these are not crimes of passion, in-the-moment misunderstandings, or any of the other myths we're constantly fed about acquaintance rape (which accounts for the overwhelming majority of all rape).

This has interesting implications on at least two aspects of rape prevention: identifying rapists and identifying rape. If the majority of persistent rapists eschew violence, then we need to completely rethink how we investigate rape allegation. Rape kits (to the best of my knowledge, but I am not a rape expert and so don't quote me on this) look for signs of violence, contusions and tears to the vagina etc. Police officers also have a tendency to look for signs of forced intercourse. In which case it is not even remotely surprising that so many rape cases never get anywhere - if you're set on finding evidence that doesn't exist, your investigation is doomed to fail.

What about identifying rapists, though? True, one of the studies did find that self-reported repeat rapists have a high correlation with other forms of domestic violence, but only for the violent ones. What about the other guys, the ones who aren't into punch-ups, but just like to get their rocks off hurting and humiliating women sexually? Well, to be honest I don't know how you would codify that into a police procedure. But in our private lives, YMY has the following advice to give:

Listen. The men in your lives will tell you what they do. As long as the R word doesn’t get attached, rapists do self-report. The guy who says he sees a woman too drunk to know where she is as an opportunity is not joking. He’s telling you how he sees it.


Rape jokes are not jokes. Woman-hating jokes are not jokes. These guys are telling you what they think.

Think about it: do you know any men who don't tell rape jokes? Who don't regale you with hilarious stories about how drunk and passed out the girl they shagged last weekend was? Who don't make a competition out of how many women they've fucked? Who don't think all women are evil scheming bitches? I'm sure you do. I'm sure most of the men you know are not like that. And you have to ask yourself: how come? How come, if it's true that men are these animalistic, uncommunicative, autistic, evolutionarily driven sex automata, are most of them actually not like that at all?

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it doesn't seem outrageous to at least check whether it has a beak. But as far as I know there is no survey out there asking people about their attitudes towards rapists: under which circumstances would you forgive a rapist for raping? How do you protect yourself from becoming a rapist? What would you do if you found out someone was a rapist? What advice would you give them?

As long as we're not asking these questions, there are two injustices being perpetuated: blaming the victims of rape for the crimes of others, and potentially tarring all men with the same brush as only 4%-8% deserve to be painted with. Since it doesn't seem as if anyone but a bunch of feminists is getting too wound up about the former, maybe talking about the latter will help shift some attitudes and delegitimise rape as the calculated act of cruelty it really is.

ETA: Via Pandagon, check out this interesting post about how criminals choose their victims - the research reported neatly explodes all of the myths about the revealingly dressed, extroverted partier being a rape risk.

Feb 2, 2010

Festive Perspective


I haven't really been following the whole Polanski thing recently, because there are only so many articles I can read about the moral ambiguity of ass-fucking a thirteen-year old, without my actual head actually explding; but it seems he's had a pretty good Christmas, no? Skimming the headlines, he's had Johnny Depp come out in his defense[1], he's won damages for violation of his privacy (becuase let's not forget that he's the real victim here), and, while those silly American lawyers are still getting hot under the collar about all that childlish "justice" stuff, got to spend the holidays in his sumptuous home with his loving family. Plus his most recent film was included in the program of the prestigious Berlin Film Festival.

Not bad going for someone who can throw a little girl on her face - twice - and proceed to force himself into her body - twice - while she cries and begs to go home. Hey, Berlin Festival jury: nice going on the whole progressivism thang! We don't want anyone to get the crazy idea that raping young girls is, like, wrong or anything.

Then you've got Charlie Sheen, who celebrated Christmas Day by holding a knife to his wife's throat and threatening to have her killed. As is the case with Polanski and his pubescent girl fetish, this was by no means an isolated incident for ole' Charlie. Mary Elizabeth Williams writes in Broadsheet:

Mueller's statements are remarkably consistent with Sheen's ex-wife Denise Richards' accounts of the actor's behavior, including an incident where he told her "I hope you fucking die, bitch. You are fucking with the wrong guy," and threatened to have her killed. Sheen also served two years' probation for a 1996 assault on then-girlfriend Brittany Ashland. In 1995, he settled a case out of court with a woman who claimed he'd hit her when she refused to have sex with him. And in 1990, in an incident deemed an accident, he shot his fiance Kelly Preston in the arm.

So this dude has a history of hitting women and threatening to kill them. Phew, nasty. You'd think people would find it a little harder to see the funny side in Sheen's onscreen bad-boy character in Two and a Half Men, right?

Wrong! Two days after the alleged assault, ratings for the show skyrocketed. Well done, American Public! Keep up the good work, sending out the message that beating up on women is a fun and rebellious thing to do, not to mention aspirational - punch your own wife once or twice, and who knows? You too could become the highest paid actor on TV!

But then, there was poor Tiger Woods[2]. Oh, poor poor Tiger. While the child raping, wife beating shenannigans were being allowed to go on undisturbed, Tiger suffered a rapid and dramatic decline in his fortunes for the heinous crime of having uncoerced sex with consenting adults. Because duh, how dare he! How dare he get caught doing something that did not physically hurt or frighten women! How dare he confine his indiscretions to nonviolent encounters with women who might actually have enjoyed it??

Never fear, oh great right-thinking, woman-hating citizens of the West. The wonderful world of computer gaming is here to set all to rights. You can now do your bit for restoring the right woman-bashing balance by personally delivering the physical smackdown to the women that Tiger so shamelessly neglected to assault or threaten:

Take, for example, Tiger's Transgressions, wherein the object is to help Tiger knock out blabbermouth "hos" with "well-timed" drives before they reach a news van. As its creator Dominic A. Tocci explains, it's the "most fun and greatest mistress assaulting golf simulator of 2010." There are two levels of play, depending on how "easy" you like your hos. Oh, look, there's one sauntering outside the Sex Addiction Clinic. Take a swing! Miss the shot? That's a "ho hitting fail." So popular is the chick-blitzing game that it's clocked in over 4,600,000 plays since its debut in mid-December, garnering a 91 percent approval rating on Atom.

Read the rest for the unfortunately obligatory disclaimer about how yes feminists can take a joke (when it's funny), blah blah blah. The point I want to make by pointing out the contrast between media/public response to adultery vs. its response to assault and battery is that I'm not imagining it when I say that violence against women is encouraged and glamourised in this society. Other feminists are not pranoid when they talk about the rape culture, or say that rape is practically legal (especially in the UK, where these days you deserve it for merely having sexual fantasies).

Raping a teenager or threatening your wife with a switch blade knife is better for your career than having affairs is. Just you remember that next time you feel like explaining to me that it's feminists with their "all men are rapists" propaganda that are the real villains here.

[1] Oh, Johnny. Oh, oh, Johnny. Words cannot describe how my fantasy life is going to suffer from this news.

[2] On a slightly more serious note, here's why the Tiger Woods thing realy is a bigger deal than the Charlie Sheen/Roman Polanski thing - at least if you are properly committed to the American dream: what Woods did was a direct strike at the heart of capitalism, because it undermined the image of marriage as the stable bedrock of a well ordered society. As everyone from Marx down has acknowledged, the subjugation of women within marriage is not only ideological but also economic: their unpaid labour in the home is the externality that keeps the capitalist fantasy going. So cheating on your wife and having her chase after you with a golf club when you make your money off of feeding this illusion of a perfect marriage is a very naughty thing to do. As against which merely raping or beating women is frankly peanuts, since our bodies don't really count for anything - other than incubation and domestic drudgery - in the eyes of the sort of real capitalists paying Woods's wages.

Jan 8, 2010

Important Announcement to World: Women. Have. Breasts.

So this thing has been making the rounds on Facebook, asking women to post the colour of their bra in their status in order to "raise awareness" of breast cancer. Just to be 100% honest with my readers, I did it - I'm a sheep, what can I say. But having done it, I'm becoming more and more convinced that, not only is it a stupid thing to do on a forum that I share with co-workers, but that cutesy little "campaigns" like this are actively damaging to both feminism and women's health.

The feminist angle has been exceptionally well covered by Jules at Feminazeri, so I'm not going to go into that here too much except to quote the following passage:

Call me a humourless Feminazi if you like, but this email is not about raising awareness of breast cancer. It's about using a disease that has a devasting impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people as a spurious justification for discussing saucy undies. It's about women trying to show that they're uninhibited and up for a laugh by inviting their friends to speculate about them in their underwear rather than to think about them as sentient, intelligent human beings. It's about women objectifying themselves.

There's been a lot of excellent coverage of a number of so-called "awareness" campaigns in the US, where the whole breast cancer industry has branched off from the cloyingly pink mainstream (chronicled oh so excellently by Barbara Ehrenreich - seriously, if you haven't read it, it's a gem) to make a pitch for being a wholly owned subsidiary of the porn industry: here's one example from Bitch Magazine, Jezebel, and Feministing each.

So, at this point it's pretty meaningless to say that we don't need any more breast cancer awareness. Because, seriously, not only can there not be any sentient being within reach of a major news outlet still "unaware" of breast cancer, but most of them have by now probably also been made aware of the fact that we're reaching a critical mass of awareness at which all breasts in the world spontaneously explode from sheer attention overload. We get it. Boobs are important. Enough already.

Anyway, what does "awareness" mean, exactly? Are the pink ribbons away of reminding women to be afraid of breast cancer? Not unlikely. Women living in constant fear of violence/disease/poverty is a feature, not a bug, in a patriarchal paradigm of domination. Is it about making sure men don't forget that women are identified with their sexual organs, and not entitled to actual personhood? Hmm, again, that would be consistent with available evidence. Other than those two, I'm really at a loss to see what the hell point there is in any of this.

What is it about breast cancer that makes it so worthy of awareness-raising in the first place, I wonder? It's by far not the number one killer of women - that's heart disease (which they die of disproportionally, because the treatments and diagnostic tools are all based on how men experience the disease). It's not even the number one cancer killer of women - that'll be lung cancer. What it is, of course, is the number one cause for damaging a part of women's anatomy that men (in the sense of "the patriarchy" as opposed to individual men, as always) actually care about. Once this interloper is spotted, it must be tamed, beaten, wished away, driven out, before it manages to besmirch those precious lingerie filling funbags, interfere with our one-dimensional definitions of femininity, mess up our understanding of how women ought to relate to their bodies (our understanding that they ought not to, that is - that those parts of women's bodies that are sexual are publicly owned and those parts that are not range from irrelevant to unspeakable).

But I digress. We are, we can I hope agree by now, too aware. Aren't we?

Or are we?

Look at this picture, for example - it is the news section from the Cancer Research UK website:

Does anything look a bit wrong to you? No, I don't mean the bit about blaming women for being too lazy and stupid to make time for smear tests. Look again. No?

OK, try this: the following is a quote from the Against Breast Cancer website:

The Against Breast Cancer research programme is looking at secondary spread, when cancer cells travel from the breast to other, often vital, parts of the body to form additional cancers. Through our work we want to improve the care, treatment and survival rates of women with, and at risk of, the disease.

Still nothing? I'll give you a hint. A Google search for "breast cancer cure" returns 46.8 million results. A search for "breast cancer prevention" returns 2.2 million. That's less than half a percent.

In other words, we are aware that women get cancer in their lady lumps. We're aware that they will need painful tests to discover it. Aware that they will have to go through dangerous surgery to remove it. Aware that they'll probably need chemotherapy treatment to finish it off, treatment with such terrible side effects that some say it is worse than the disease. Aware that they will lose their hair, possibly lose parts of their bodies - but that's OK because we can, we're aware, make them replace those lost bits with plastic hair and plastic breasts, to make us feel more comfortable around them. We're definitely aware that buying pink stuff and running in races wearing pink t-shirts will raise money to feed the surgery-and-awful-drugs merrygoround, and since it claims to save lives, we're aware of our moral duty to keep it going round and round.

But are we aware of how to help prevent women having to be in this situation in the first place? Nope. We, as a society, want women to be fixable, especially those parts of their bodies that are considered public property (the sexy and reproductive bits). But we don't really seem to give a damn about them not breaking in the first place. Or not suffering more from the fix than from the breakage. That's the sort of awareness I would like to raise: awareness of the fact that breast cancer awareness is bullshit. It's dangerous, cruel bullshit that helps feed an industry that mutilates and torments women in the name of curing a disease it doesn't know if it's causing (there is evidence that HRT - a treatment designed to "fix" women "broken" by the menopause - is implicated in breast cancer, as well as the radiation-filled mammograms themselves).

Breast cancer awareness is the awareness that once women get breast cancer, it is imperative that they be put back together again with all possible speed, and we don't want to hear anymore about it after that. We don't want to be aware of their pain and anger - so we tell them to keep positive. We don't want to be aware of how their bodies change and evolve because of the disease - so we advise them to have reconstructive surgery and prosthetics. We don't want to be aware of what it is about our lifestyles, industries, medical treatments that make them sick, because that might mean we have to do something about it, and it'll be more painful that merely banning cigarettes in pubs, we're dimly aware; so we drown out these things in a cacophony of pink pap, smug do-goodery and willing self-infantilisation, and call that awareness.

Well, to hell with awareness. To hell with papering over the pain and mutilation the disease causes and calling that "survival". To hell with chuggers and co-workers getting money out of me that ends up going to the sweatshop owners making all the pink plastic paraphernalia or to the drug companies that are so obviously part of the problem (and deeply invested in not cutting off the disease at the root - there is no money in healthy women). To hell with it all. You want my awareness? Fine. I hereby undertake to remain aware at all times of the fact that women suffer, women fund raise, women run, women buy, women wear wigs, women stay positive, women cry in secret, women feel ashamed, women can't find clothes that fit post-op, women hope, women wait - not because of breast cancer, but because of the additional burden placed on them by "breast cancer awareness".