April 2007


Garden Tools (allposters.com)Ariel and I mowed the lawn. That’s twice this year! After that and some shopping and some lunch (see, very productive day already) we slept for TWO HOURS this afternoon. Goddess, I needed that.

We then did great things in the front garden. – I say that as though we have acres. The “front garden” is probably smaller than my very small car.

I’ve been working on clearing the weeds, starting with the tiniest of the two small sections either side of the path – which was considerably more weedy and more out-of-control than the other section, which occasionally gets mowed by my neighbour – whether out of helpfulness or irritation I’m not sure. So today we cleared away the weeds and remnants of lawn down to bare earth and worms. (“Worm, don’t touch Ariel’s leg! Worm, go away!”)

I’ve got some “eco-weedmat” to put down and bark chippings to go over that. We’ve put the mat and chippings down on one side – the hardest side, which involved moving a really heavy planter – and just have a little bit more mat and chippings to do now. The rest will be a bit fiddly since I have to work round a drain-hole cover but even then it shouldn’t take too long. That’s pencilled in for Wednesday morning.

(I’m also starting to have enormously grand plans for the other, marginally bigger, part of the former front lawn but I am at least aware that my ambition here exceeds the skill, energy, time, strength and determination that I have available.)

After that, I was about to heat up some soup to eat when a friend took me by surprise by appearing with takeaway Chinese food. Luverly. This was in fact prearranged but I had forgotten all about it in the 24 hours since we fixed it up, so it was a happy surprise for me…

And finally, as they say on the news, Ariel went to bed after that without a bath leaving me with no option but to have one on my own. Oh! Bliss! The water just as hot as *I* want it. Staying in the bath for just as long as *I* want to – no more, no less. Having the whole bath to myself, uncluttered by Ariel’s six plastic ducks, her two waterproof books, her two empty shampoo bottles, her micro-steamer insert, her yellow jug, or her.

Does life get better than a day like today?

Who says feminists are humourless?

This is absolutely HILARIOUS! (via Grace).

Edinburgh, Bus Queue on Princes Street

I’ve got all the sex stuff off my chest for now – see here for post list – and readers may be either relieved or disappointed, depending on their proclivities, to learn that (with the probable exception of continued rants on the subject of our nation’s pathetic handling of sex crime) my foray into the World of Sex has been completed.

Expect a return to my former prudish ways, in which my basic position on the subject of sex is that frankly I’d rather not talk it to death, thanks.

Because, essentially, the only reason anyone is so interested in sex – who is doing what to whom, and what it all means – is because the world is all about sex rules: who is or isn’t in the sex class; what behaviour is or isn’t “sexual”; what sexual behaviour is or isn’t allowed.

Yet, if people were expected merely to behave decently towards one another and to treat one another as human beings deserving of basic respect, these rules would fall away.

What would it matter if you were or weren’t in the sex class, if you were entitled to expect decency and humanity regardless? And if it didn’t matter whether you were in the sex class or not, then the very existence of a sex class would fall away.

What would it matter whether behaviour was sexual or not, as long as one was entitled to expect that everyone’s behaviour towards each other would be decent and respectful regardless of whether it was also “sexual”? And, again, if it didn’t matter whether behaviour was sexual or not, the very distinction itself would fall away except perhaps as a medical or anthropological term to describe copulation and its associated rituals.

And if all that you demand of a person’s behaviour is that it should merely be respectful and decent in all things, why should anyone lay out detailed rules for specifically what behaviour is “allowed” in the sexual arena? It wouldn’t matter. The very rules would give way to basic principles of decency and would remain, if at all, only as a quaint system of correct conduct, akin to table manners or queuing etiquette.

If all these divisions and rules and taboos fell away, if sexual morals became no more meaningful or important than the question whether it is quite elegant for a person to eat with a fork in her right hand instead of her left, where then would be the fascination in talking endlessly about sex and sexual manners? It would be as interesting to talk for hours about how properly to offer your assistance to a person who is struggling to board the number 16 bus, somewhere in Princes St, Edinburgh.

Girls Shorts setBoys shorts

Now that good weather is more or less upon us, I have been looking out for some shorts for Ariel – a couple of last year’s pairs still fit but she needed a few more pairs.

Thus, I have “discovered” that:

  • Little girls don’t wear shorts, on the whole. They wear dresses and skirts. It is surprisingly difficult to find shorts at all in the girls section.
  • Such shorts as there are for girls, unsurprisingly, are all pink and frilly and not very practical or even very funky at all. They are just: pale, cute, disarming. Did I mention pink?
  • You would NEVER find a nice practical, hardwearing pair of shorts like the ones in the second photo above in the girls section. Not never ever no-how.
  • Also, girls shorts are SMALL. I mean, a pair of shorts in “age 2-3″ for a girl is absolutely TINY compared with a pair of shorts in the same size for a boy*.

[* I have noticed the same for other clothes too. Recently I bought Ariel, in the same shop and from the same range, a girls T-shirt in age 3-4 and a boys T-shirt in age 2-3. The boy's T-shirt was bigger.Why is that? Is it because girls are supposed to wear skimpy, cute clothes while boys get comfy, practical ones? Is it because little tight t-shirts and little tight shorts, and more revealing clothing generally, are more appropriate to the sex class? Whatever the hell. They really screwed that one up, anyway - for surely these days no appearance-conscious toddler can look or feel sexxy in shorts so small that her nappy bulges out through the leg holes!?]

Fortunately, I am not shy of wading into the boy section to buy plain denim knee-length shorts and a multi-pack of baggy cotton ones in bright colours. Blue, red green – no pink though – although, you know, if these styles came in pink, that would be funky too.

I have nothing against dresses. I have nothing against pink. I will go so far as to admit that I actually like the colour pink. I even like getting a bit girly sometimes, if we’re in the mood – so does Ariel. We like our pretties!

Proof: the other day I spent actual money on a rare find in town – a nice pinafore DRESS (albeit in a sensible hard-wearing fabric and an unadorned non-puke-making beige colour) which Ariel wore today with a pink – yes, PINK – stripy T-shirt. So, no, it isn’t always boys clothes – just in case you were wondering.

But I really resent the lack of choice; and I like plenty of other colours too. It’s the lack of CHOICE that ticks me off.

Toros y Toreros, PicassoTake: 3 sausages – chorizo-flavoured from the local butcher; olive oil; 1 onion; 2 fat cloves of garlic; a little black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, stock powder and any herb(s) of your choice; a mug full of arborio rice; a can of pulped tomatoes; a good pinch of saffron (important!!); a good lot of frozen peas and sweetcorn; water.

1. Cut the sausages into chunks and fry them in the olive oil, using a large pan*, while you peel and chop the onion and garlic. Then turn down the heat and add the chopped onion and garlic to sweat. (*Or, if you are being fancy, a paella thing.)
2. While all this is cooking, add the pepper, WS, stock and herbs. Stir and stir. Then, once the sausage is browned and the onion is soft, add the rice. Stir and stir, frying the mixture for a minute or two.
4. Add the tomatoes, stir. Add the saffron, stir. Add the peas and sweetcorn, stir. Add about 2 mugfuls of water, stir. Now leave it to cook for a bit.
5. Periodically check, stir and add more water as necessary. Test a grain of rice to check that it is properly cooked. It will probably take 15-20 minutes.

Makes: loads. (Ariel and I each had 3 helpings and there is another meal still in the pot!)

ETYMOLOGIST’S TIP:
This is called “Picasso Paella” partly because it is (very!) loosely based on what was apparently Picasso’s favourite dish but also because the experience of cooking and eating it so colourful – the dish is red before it cooks, and slowly turns to yellow as the saffron works its magic, and the rice swells up, and then there is the bright green of the peas, too, which fades to a gentle ochre green on the plate. You feel like you are witnessing art in motion. And then you eat it. And it is good.

PURISTS’ DISCLAIMER:
Yes, I know you are supposed to use arborio for risotto and, ideally, bomba for paella. But I only had arborio, OK? And it does actually work, so there.

No imageI have been wondering how to write this post.

A lot of my recent posts have been about rape specifically and sexual violence in general. I have even renamed my series “Judges on Rape” to “Justice and Rape” because the scope of the series galloped out of control beyond a narrow focus on the conduct and prejudice of judges.

But how to sum it all up? How to convey, in one post, what I think it all means? There is too much to deal with. Too much material, too much pain, too many different aspects to this deep and seemingly irreconcilable problem. And then there are questions about the importance of sexual violence as a feminist issue: Is it absolutely THE crucial problem for women to resolve? Or is it only one of the worse symptoms of some other problem? How, in any event, do we deal with it? Whose responsibility is it to deal with it in the first place? Or should we all just stop going on about it because, egad, we might be perpetuating a victim mentality? Isn’t it better to focus on something positive instead?

So I don’t have a coherent post here. The topic defies it. I just have what Inga Muscio called a WOMANIFESTO:

I believe that if a man attacks a woman, he is her attacker and she is his victim. She can have whatever mentality she likes. She is his victim and he is her attacker. Since when did being a “victim” become inherently blameworthy?

I believe that since men are (in the overwhelming majority of cases) the ones who rape, and commit other sexual crimes, since men are the ones in power, they are the ones who can stop rape. They can stop it by understanding women as human, and by demanding that their friends and brothers and sons and entertainers understand women as human.

I believe that since rapists are the ones who rape, they are the ones who can stop rape. They can stop it by not raping. They can stop it by not assuming that a woman consents. They can stop it by not coercing women into sex. They can stop it by understanding women as human. They can stop it by NOT RAPING.

I believe that women can rise up and demand that rapists stop raping and that men stop rapists from raping and from thinking that rape is OK. We can only do this together, en masse. But, even then, it is doubtful whether this will make any difference if the men don’t listen, and hear, and accept, and act. If this makes us seem relatively powerless then it is because, under patriarchy, when it comes to rape – we are relatively powerless. It stinks. But we are.

And I am inspired:

  • “you cannot separate the so-called abuses of women from the so-called normal uses of women. The history of women in the world as sexual chattel, makes it impossible to do that.”
  • “as sex is currently socialized and existing in our society, men can’t have sex with women who are their equals. They’re incapable of it. Right? That’s what objectification is about.”
    (Andrea Dworkin. Swiped from Luckynkl’s.)

And, because Dworkin is right, I believe that sexual violence against women will never stop until women acquire fully human status.

Within “sexual violence” I include not just rape but all violence that is perpetrated against women because they are women, which is a hate crime against women as a group. I include – rape; incest; indecent assaults; sex with young girls; the hate speech that is pornography; the buying, trafficking, selling of women’s bodies; domestic violence; wife murder; female genital mutilation; the stoning of an adulteress; sati and its glorification.

In fact, I go further. Because Dworkin is pretty much right, because on the whole men CANNOT have sex with women who are their equals, most “normal” sex is about violence, and is a form of sexual violence. It is about domination and subordination; it is about power and coercion; it is about who controls whom, who submits to whom, who does what to whom, and why. It is conquest, it is victory, it is a score. It is misunderstanding.

When it runs so deep, how can it end?
I believe that it can end only with a revolution. With a liberation.

When women are free, when we can do WHAT we want with our bodies, WHEN we want to and in any manner we choose, sexual violence might stop. As long as we exist even partly as the object of male pleasure rather than the subject of our own, sexual violence will go on. And on and on. And on.

When we are equal in spirit and granted full agency and full dignity and full respect, sexual violence might stop. As long as we exist within the narrow confines of femininity, we will be subordinate, and sexual violence will go on. And on.

And I believe that I will be dead long before the revolution starts.
And I believe that this is no reason to stop my resistance.

And I fantasise.

What would happen if we were all to go on strike? I mean all of us. I mean you, and me, and all our friends. I mean Cherie Blair, and Jordan, and Sheryl Crow, and Hillary Clinton, and Catherine Zeta Jones, and the Queen, and Mrs President of Here-or-There. I mean Anna, and Mandy, Alix and Jade, Chantal and Henrikka, Marlene and Suki and Hortense and Rupinder and Talya, and just – you know – everyone.

We can say no. Not just – “no” to one man, one act, one occasion. We can say NO! To it all. We can withdraw our consent, en masse. We can make sure that we are clear about our lack of consent. We can teach our daughters to be clear about their lack of consent.

What then? Would men’s genitals shrivel off and drop to the ground? Would their balls explode? Would there be a population crisis? What would they do if they were “denied sex (through no fault of their own)” in this way?

Would they suddenly get that they are NOT entitled to sex? That sex is not a human right? That it is not a thing without which they cannot survive?

Would they suddenly get that women CAN say no, and mean it? And stick to it? And not be “persuaded” otherwise? Would they get that we are HUMAN and we have RIGHTS and when we say no it actually means something?

Would we, at last, be freed?
Would sex, at last, be freed?

Would men reach a point where, new rules established, strike called off, they stop assuming that we consent and start asking?

Hachez Cocoa De MaracaiboChocolate Facts:

This is a milk chocolate with 55.5% cocoa solids. Other ingredients are: cane sugar, cocoa powder, soy lecithin, vanilla, whole milk powder.

Hachez is a German company which uses Venezuelan chocolate for this product. (See the website, all in German!) I believe I bought this bar in the Chocolate Dream shop, although it may have been somewhere else as I’ve seen it in other places since.

More importantly, how yummy is it?

I’d almost given up on the idea that even great milk chocolate could be anything other than much-of-a-muchness – sweet, creamy, munchable, yummy, delicious, but no more than that (what, she wants MORE?!) What I mean is, I haven’t previously found a milk chocolate that struck me as really distinctive. However, this Cocoa de Maracaibo was different to the run of the mill. It had a richness, a spiciness, a depth not often found in run-of-the-mill milk chocolate. Very, very yummy.

Conclusion – Just the sort of thing to seduce an All-Darks fan into giving milk chocolate another look…

Faith Ringgold, Woman Looking in a MirrorHeart has posted a great article on menopause:

“The biggest and most important — and best kept secret, it seems to me — is that post-menopausal life is GREAT! It’s the BEST! In so, so, so many ways, it’s a revelation, a time of new beginnings, deepening strength, greater vision, a new and greater capacity to connect and make sense of things, much greater self-awareness, and, for women, importantly, a greater determination to act out of one’s own beliefs and views, as well as out of one’s own self-interest, without feelings of wanting to please people or put them at ease, make them comfortable at one’s own expense. There is also a deepening of compassion and empathy, or there has been for me, without any accompanying difficult-to-handle emotional anguish or upsets of the kind which drained my energy and confused me when I was younger. Why don’t we hear about these very positive aspects of this dreaded “change”? They are not unusual. I have never taken a single dose of “hormones” or “hormone replacement therapy” and I never will. Neither did or will my mother, and she’s doing great. Same with my grandmothers.

Male heterosupremacy LIES about menopause like it lies about few other phenomenon– and that’s saying something, given how much male heterosupremacy lies about almost everything! I love it that feminist women are rising up and naming the lies for what they are. No woman should grow up as we did, fearing this dreaded “change” that amounts to nothing at all — so long as a woman stays the hell away from doctors as much as she can.”

Personally, I am nowhere near menopause and don’t have many personal friends who are near or through it. So I don’ t have much of a clue about what the menopause is like, but still I could instantly relate to what Heart was saying – because it is just the kind of thing that I often say about singledom. (For example – see here.)

In fact my first thought was that you could say exactly the same things about singledom:

“The biggest and most important — and best kept secret, it seems to me — is that post-menopausal single life is GREAT! It’s the BEST! In so, so, so many ways, it’s a revelation, a time of new beginnings, deepening strength, greater vision, a new and greater capacity to connect and make sense of things, much greater self-awareness, and, for women, importantly, a greater determination to act out of one’s own beliefs and views, as well as out of one’s own self-interest, without feelings of wanting to please people or put them at ease, make them comfortable at one’s own expense. There is also a deepening of compassion and empathy, or there has been for me, without any accompanying difficult-to-handle emotional anguish or upsets of the kind which drained my energy and confused me when I was younger in relationships. Why don’t we hear about these very positive aspects of this dreaded “change” being “on your own”? They are not unusual…

Male heterosupremacy LIES about menopause singledom like it lies about few other phenomenon– and that’s saying something, given how much male heterosupremacy lies about almost everything! I love it that feminist women are rising up and naming the lies for what they are. No woman should grow up as we did, fearing this dreaded “change” the single life…”

Of course, my first thought was in fact wrong.

Because you do see images and hear stories, albeit few and far between, of strong independent happy single women. Yet Heart’s post was the first thing that I ever saw that talked about menopause as anything other than a change to be got through and dealt with. Her post was the first thing that I ever saw that talked about “after the menopause” in a way that shows post-menopausal womanhood to be not just bearable but rich and powerful.

But just because the one case may be more lied-about than the other, does not mean that there are not parallels. I think that the same attitudes underpin both lies, the lie of loneliness and the lie of HRT.

In heterosupremacy, the ability to reproduce the (male) line – or, preferably, evidence of having already reproduced, ideally combined with evidence of submission to / allegiance with the semen donor – is the one thing women have which is acknowledged to have value.

Thus, single women are bad because they are not reproducing. They can be forgiven only if they show that they are genuinely trying to get a man, that they want babies – or at least they must concede that they are single because they are in some way damaged or defective. Proudly, happily SINGLE women are unacceptable, because they seem to revel in their status instead of pining for a man – and getting busy in the quest for Mr Right.

Thus, post-menopausal are bad because not only are they failing to reproduce they are completely unable to reproduce. They are past it, and no fertitlity”treatment” is going to make them any better. They can be forgiven only if they show that they regret their fertility, and concede that their “condition” is the heavy price of unwelcome aging. Proudly, happily OLD women are unacceptable, because they revel in who they are instead of pining for their lost youth – and taking replacement hormones to recover it.

Thank you, Heart. I can’t say that I was “dreading” the change before now, because it is so far in the future for me that it wasn’t even on my radar. But I might have done, were it not for your post and for other women (such as Germaine Greer and Sandra Coney) who, like you, speak out about being a proudly, happily post-menopausal woman.

[Pictured: Woman Looking in a Mirror, by Faith Ringgold - who, incidentally, has an interesting section on her website about a completely different kind of change...]

Peter Shotton The factsPeter Shotton was a 55 year old primary school teacher who sexually abused children in his care. he was convicted of offences in relation to three allegations by boys that he had committed various indecent assaults, including trying to force one boy to fellate him.Conviction and sentence

Shotton pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was convicted of sexual assault on a child under 13, causing a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, and indecency. He was acquitted on a further count of indecency with a child and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on six further counts of the same offence.

He was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment.

Source: BBC report dated 17 April 2007

The FactsLinda Jones was a 34-year old with two children whose husband had recently left her. She had a “consensual” sexual relationship with a boy of 14. They had sex 3 times, and she became pregnant, later losing the baby.Conviction and sentence

Jones pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual touching and was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment: “the least sentence that the judge could impose.”

Source: BBC report dated 21 April 2007

Linda Jones
Haverford Castle
(Edgecombe appears to have escaped having his picture on the Internet. In his place, I give you Haverfordwest Castle, for this particular rapist is a son of Haverford West.)
The facts:Liam Edgecombe was a 20-yr-old man convicted of raping a girl aged 10. Sex was “consensual” and indeed apparently initiated by the girl. She was a person who was in care and had run away.Edgecombe had apparently asked the girl her age, and she had replied “Does it matter?” Despite this rather obvious clue, Edgecombe claimed to believe that she was in fact at least 16. The judge accepted this, and agreed that the belief was reasonable. The rape conviction was based on the legal incapacity of a 10-year-old girl to consent rather than any actual lack of consent.

Conviction and sentence

Edgecombe pleaded guilty to rape and received an 18-month conditional discharge.

Source: BBC report dated 4 April 2007.

[HT: Sparkle and friends.]

BlossomJust to prove it’s not all grim and grumpy around here, I’d like to tell you about my lovely day!

Highlights include:

  • Setting up swingball in the garden and “playing tennis” with Ariel. (I’ve left the middle section of the pole out, so that it is only about Ariel-height and I’ve knotted the cord so the ball hangs at the right level. This means I can play tennis sitting on the ground – who says exercise has to be gruelling?)
  • Walking through falling pink blossom, like spring snow.
  • Eating chips with Ariel in the cathedral gardens, just enjoying the sunshine.
  • Ariel telling me that she needed a poo while we were out and about, finding one, waiting for the person inside to come out, being allowed in first by the other person who was waiting to use it, getting Ariel’s shorts down and nappy off to find – NO POO! And then, Ariel doing a poo in the Big Toilet without her Special Seat… Yay! (Ahem. Sorry dearest, if you are reading this in 10 years time and blushing…)
  • Going to the park and just playing with Ariel, enjoying the carnival atmosphere. A circus is camping in the park right next to the playground and we arrived about half an hour before the afternoon show, so the place was like a festival.

And then, the following conversation with Ariel after she spotted, whilst riding around the carpark on her bike, a very small and seemingly most uninteresting twig on the ground:
HER: What’s that?… Piece of wood!
ME: Yes it is.
HER: Not a cat?
ME: A cat? No. Not a cat.
HER: Oh. Not a cat. Piece of wood!

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