Friday, 28 January 2011

Hyperbolic lies.

(N.B. This post was originally to be titled "Everything Tom Utley says is wrong and he deserves to be torn limb from limb by dwarf hamsters". Apparently that's too long, so just bear in mind that's what I'm calling it in my head.)

As you may or may not recall, the other day, the Mail printed an utterly charming and in-no-way-fallacious story about a recent (very narrow and long overdue) ruling by the Supreme Court entitled "Shout at your spouse and risk losing your home: It's just the same as domestic violence, warns woman judge". I covered it here.

Today, Tom Utley, esteemed Mail columnist, offered his delightful take on it. It's titled "Like every weedy husband, I don't shout - I sulk. But how long before a judge says that's domestic violence?". There are not enough faces, and not enough palms, in the entire world to adequately express my feelings upon reading that headline. It is like the complete zenith in the era of facepalmery. It's like a million monkeys did a million facepalms and then were given a typewriter and came out with that headline. Or something.

Anyway, dangerously overstretched similies aside, all this article does is to propagate the same hyperbolic lies that were made in the original article.

It is too shockingly bad to be dealt with adequatley by picking quotes out, so I will post the whole article here, with my comments in red.

"My wife and I have dear friends whose marriage has been one long shouting match since the day they went to the altar some 30 years ago.

The slightest thing sets them off, screaming blue murder at each other, whether it’s a mislaid corkscrew (‘where the hell did you put it this time, you stupid woman?’) or a dispute over who should make the tea (‘won’t you ever get off your fat a*** and do something yourself for once, you insufferable man?’). Sounds... charming Tom. Not really anything to do with the case in point though, is it? Given that they shout at each other equally.

I well remember one occasion when the four of us arrived late for a wedding in the country. With no time to book into the hotel where we were to stay, we had to change into our finery in the church hall, where catering staff and other guests were milling about.

He started the fight this time, letting out a mighty roar that made everyone stand stock-still and look round: ‘You’ve forgotten to pack my tie, you bloody idiot!’

Matching him decibel for decibel, and completely unselfconscious among all those strangers, his wife gave him her reflections on whose responsibility it was to pack his own ruddy tie. 

Warming to her theme, she touched upon other failings she’d identified in his ­character, appearance and conduct over the years, a pretty comprehensive list, while he answered in a similar vein about hers.

To those onlookers who hadn’t met them, they must have sounded like a couple heading straight for the divorce courts. But we had known them long enough to appreciate that this was their way of ­coping with the everyday stresses and strains of marriage, and that it signified nothing whatever to worry about in their relationship. Great. Remind me again what the point of this delightful anecdote was? Since it's absolutely and in no way similar to a person in a relationship undergoing emotional or verbal abuse.

Indeed, I reckon this perpetually warring couple are among the most devoted of my acquaintance, whose union will last long after many more outwardly lovey-dovey spouses have split up. Good for them. Even more reason why it's ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE JUDGEMENT IN QUESTION.

In what strikes me as an extraordinary judgment, with worrying implications for the way we’re governed, Lady Hale said the ­meaning of the word 'violence' had moved on since Parliament passed the Act in 1996. Actually Tom, they were discussing whether it had moved on since the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 (s.1(2)(b)). This Act was consolidated with other housing legislation into the Housing Act 1985 (s.58(3)(b)).When the Housing Act 1996 came into force, it merely transposed the original meaning of the risk of domestic violence (i.e. "violence from a person with whom he is associated, or threats of violence from such a person which are likely to be carried out") to section 177(1) of the 1996 Act.

Anyway, I thought of our friends immediately when I read Wednesday’s ruling by the Supreme Court that men and women who shout at their partners are guilty of domestic violence, and liable to stiff penalties including eviction, while those who get shouted at may have the right to be rehoused at the taxpayers’ expense. We're back to my overstretched primate-based simile here, aren't we Tom? OK. Firstly, it's not about people shouting at their spouse, it's about systemic emotional abuse. That's... just slightly different. Secondly - "liable to stiff penalties including eviction"?! I want you to say these two words after me: STARE DECISIS. I'm going to guess you don't know what they mean, so I'll explain. Stare decisis is one of the most important (and basic) legal principles. It means that like cases should be treated alike. It stops judges just making their own law to suit their own principles (no, really - it does! Not that you'd guess that from most tabloid media.). Now. The case we're discussing here hinged on whether Mrs Yemshaw made herself intentionally homeless under the Housing Act 1996 when she left her husband. That's it. That's all it applies to. Slippery slope arguments are not how the English legal system works.

A panel of five judges, led by Lady Hale, had been hearing the case of Mihret ­Yemshaw, 35, who said that she was a ­victim of domestic violence and, therefore, entitled to a new home under the 1996 Housing Act. Officials in Hounslow, West London, had turned down her claim after hearing that her husband had never hit her, nor even threatened to do so. This is killing me, it really is. She wanted to secure accomodation because her and her two infant children were homeless because of her husband's abuse. She didn't just swan up to the council offices one day because she felt like a change of scenery!

It all came down to the meaning of the word ‘violence’. Yes. It came down to a modern interpretation of the nearly forty-year-old definition of the word 'violence'. Let's just remember it's only twenty years since it was ruled that marital rape was still rape.

Mrs Yemshaw told the court that her husband — a 40-year-old bus driver born, like her, in Ethiopia — had shouted in front of their two children, failed to treat her like a human (whatever that may mean) and hadn’t given her any housekeeping money. She also said she was frightened that he might take the children away from her. Does this amount to violence? Lady Hale thought so. AARGH! OK. 1) So what if they're Ethiopian Tom? So fucking what? 2) I think, apart from you apparently Tom, we can all imagine what "failed to treat her like a human" might entail. 3) Not just Lady Hale, but THREE OTHER OF THE MOST SENIOR JUDGES IN THE COUNTRY. It's not an easy job to get Tom! It's not like you can send off three cereal box lids and join the Supreme Court!

In what strikes me as an extraordinary judgment, with worrying implications for the way we’re governed, she said the ­meaning of the word had moved on since Parliament passed the Act in 1996. *headdesk* SEE ABOVE.

Violence, she said, ‘is capable of bearing several meanings and applying to many different types of behaviour. These can change and develop over time’. Yes, like, for example,the phrase "eligible to vote" has changed and developed over time (as much as you might not like it Tom).

Now, I can imagine that in some relationships — and I exclude my dear friends — it must be pretty miserable to live with a loud-mouthed, domineering partner (although Mrs Yemshaw’s ­husband protests that he ‘never even screamed or swore at her’). He probably would, wouldn't he? Still, I think she's overcome enough legal scrutiny for us to be pretty damned sure he did. Also - it went a bit beyond being "loud-mouthed" and "domineering", didn't it?

So the last thing I want is to make light of it. REALLY?!?!??! But the point is that when our elected representatives passed the Housing Act 1996, they were aware that there are degrees of unpleasant behaviour in a marriage or partnership, ranging from mild carping or nagging, all the way up through shouting and swearing to actual, physical violence. It's like he's not paid attention to anything I've said, isn't it?

They had to decide at which point on that scale of unhappiness the State, in its mercy, would offer victims of ill-treatment the statutory right to a separate home. And since large sums of public money were at stake, they set it high — at the point of ‘violence’ or the credible threat of it. NO! This did not happen at all! You made it up! She doesn't have "the statutory right to a seperate home"! She has the right to be recognised as homeless after she left an abusive partner!

The rot started with the Human Rights Act, ­enforcing in British Courts a European Convention so loosely worded that it offers endless scope for judicial lawmaking on the sly. Excuse me? WHO mentioned the HRA? No one? Thought so.

As Lady Hale seems to accept, they meant physical violence. After all, if Parliament had intended to offer new homes to partners who’d been shouted at or denied housekeeping money, wouldn’t it have said so? *deep breaths* See. Above.

But this argument cuts no ice with m’lady, who has got hold of the curious idea that when a word shifts its meaning, so too does the law. Isn’t this a thoroughly dangerous notion, in a world in which ‘wicked’ is so rapidly coming to mean ‘good’? I'm horribly inclined to believe he's serious here. Please tell me he isn't. And please tell me he didn't just try and use "m'lady" in a patronising moment. Please, please do, because otherwise my head might actually explode.

Mind you, I don’t believe that violence really has changed its meaning in the blink of an eye since 1996. It seems to me that Lady Hale, out of the softness of her heart, simply wishes that Parliament had been more generous with your money and mine when it decided who should and who shouldn’t be rehoused. YOU'RE ON TO HER NOW TOM!

So she and her fellow judges have taken it upon themselves to invent a law, redefining violence to include non-violence. True, I must make an honourable exception for Lord Brown, who voiced ‘profound doubt’ about the majority ruling. Nope, you're completely right. The gays, the judges, the feminists and the muslims got together and decided that MORE MONEY HAD TO BE SPENT. We did this just to piss you off Tom.

But as for the rest, Lewis Carroll put it well in Through The Looking Glass: ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

Or as Lady Hale put it in a similar tone: ‘It is not for government and official ­bodies to interpret the meaning of the words which Parliament has used. That role lies with the courts.’ Or as Tom Utley and the Mail said, "Fuck it, let's just make shit up now, they'll probably buy it". A judge's role in court is to interpret the words of the statute. That IS their job. It's what they're trained to do!

Well, up to a point, m’lady. But in my respectful submission, like so many judges, you’re going far beyond that fuzzy line between interpreting the law and making it up as you go along. Of course, the rot started with the Human Rights Act, ­enforcing in British Courts a European Convention so loosely worded that it offers endless scope for judicial lawmaking on the sly. He. Did. It. Again.

But the judges’ opinion of their role has become even more inflated since the ­inauguration of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in 2009.

Flattered by that imported title, they seem to believe they’re as august as the Supreme Court in Washington, which stands at the pinnacle of the U.S. Constitution. EH?

In fact, there are myriad differences. Not least is the intensive congressional, judicial and FBI scrutiny that American judges have to go through — examining and re-examining every aspect of the cases they’ve tried, their politics, business dealings and family lives — before they can be admitted to the highest court in the land.

Here, democracy doesn’t get a look-in —and it’s pot luck whether we get a toughie or a softie, an arch Tory or a staunch Labour supporter. Is this any way to run what is becoming a legislature, in all but name? Unlike in America, where judges are appointed because of their political beliefs, and woe betide those who don't agree.

Oh well, I suppose we’re saddled with Hale’s Law for the foreseeable future — and no doubt there’ll be queues of aggrieved partners, fed up with being shouted at, demanding their right to new homes. Yeah. In fact, even though I'm single and childless, I quite fancy this lark. I'm off to get my free house now.

I can’t help wondering where this will leave my shouty friends, if they ever get sick of each other (which I doubt they will). Each will have a cast-iron case against the other. So who gets to keep the house? Plenty of lucrative work for the lawyers there. If he mentions the eviction myth one more time, I swear I will scream.

As for myself, I have nothing to fear from Hale’s Law, because I’m not much of a shouter (and I’d never dare yell at Mrs U if she failed to pack my tie). Even though she'd deserve it, right?

No. Like so many of my weedier fellow Englishmen, the weapon I prefer to use on the battleground of marriage is good old passive aggression: the martyred look, the sigh, the over-elaborate apology for the most minor offence; the faux-meek ‘Whatever you say, dear’.

I know, I know. It must make me hell to live with. How long before Lady Hale ­classifies me as a violent criminal?"
Unfortunately for you Tom, I've just classified you as criminally facepalmable. Sentence? A GCSE in Law and community service in a domestic violence refuge. You absolute lying twat.

Just because I know you're all masochists when it comes to this, the top rated comment, at midnight on 29/1/11 is on 142 green:

"Actually you would be surprised what they can class as DV in the family courts nowadays and also where children are concerned that old chestnut 'emotional' abuse. Why do you think both men and women have been campaigning to change this 'grey' area into a written explaination of facts, here's a clue, social services can take children into care for little more than the child missing a dental appointment, it 'may' cause the child harm, they argue. The key words in these laws to look out for are 'can' lead to- 'may', lead to, and 'could' lead to. Now I can 'kill' someone, I may 'kill' someone or i 'could' kill someone under these rules, but it doesn't mean i'm 'going' to- am 'likely' too or 'would ' kill someone. The law is an ass, especially when it's open to interpretation by idiots." - michelle, herts, 28/1/2011 3:31

The lowest is on 17 red: 

I think this says it all.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

My response to Giles Coren

Today, Giles Coren has written a shockingly whiny anti-women article at the Mail (I know - an anti-women article at the Mail? SHOCK OF THE CENTURY).

The article is entitled "So why is it all right for women to be sexist about MEN?". It starts off by making a few hyperbolic predictions about what will happen in the aftermath of the Sky Sports sexism fiasco, but quickly descends into "Waaahh! I hate everything with a vagina! All women are lying whores!".

Here it is, with my responses in red.

The two Sky Sports presenters who were caught on tape making disparaging remarks about women earlier this week are a pair of daft old duffers, and no mistake. It is important for me to say that first, before I get to the business in hand. I'd go with something a little bit stronger than 'a pair of daft old duffers' here. 'Nasty, vomit inducing bigots' maybe. Never mind though.

Andy Gray and Richard Keys are a couple of dull, flabby, middle-aged football bores and are just the sort of doddering old clowns you would expect to relax off camera by swapping ancient prejudices and poking fun at women — in this case a female linesman — for not understanding the offside rule. Yep, with you here Giles - but, for the eight zillionth time, the term is ASSISTANT REFEREE. Kudos on not using the utterly reprehensible 'lineswoman' though.

You shouldn’t pass unflattering remarks about women behind their backs because it is not a well brought-up thing to do, and they needed to be told. I would never do it myself. Not because I am a feminist, but because I am a gentleman. What's wrong with being a feminist? Given that in its modern usage, it merely denotes someone who is in favour of equality for men and women? Oh, that's right - there's still the rest of the article to explain why you're not a feminist.

But while Gray has now been sacked, I don’t expect that will be the end of the matter. No, neither do I. I expect we'll have a lot of whinging little issue-laden misogynists writing stupid and hypocritical columns about it.

We will hear an endless shrieking to ‘kick sexism out of football’; a PE teacher will be fired for telling his goalkeeper to ‘stop crying like a girl’; and a hapless League One manager will be deported for describing a fight between players as ‘handbags at dawn’. Uhm. OK. Firstly, what is actually wrong with wanting mainstream football to be less sexist? I'll do you a favour and ignore the use of the word 'shrieking'. The rest of this paragraph is as ludicrous as it is hyperbolic. I highly doubt that even a PE teacher stupid and backwards enough to use such a pathetic phrase would get fired for it - they'd probably just get told to stop being such a moronic 70's throwback. (LOVE the assumption that all PE teachers and goalkeepers are male, by the way). The same goes for the hypothetical manager.

There will be the endless apologies, public soul-searching and self-flagellation. And as usual the rest of us men will be expected to atone as a sex for a couple of remarks by two fat, superannuated fools on the telly, and to grovel for forgiveness with every snivel and cringe of our waking lives. Well, yes. Gray and Keys should issue a proper apology. Not that I'd believe one word of it, but it might force them to realise that they can't live their lives like it were a Benny Hill sketch. I can't see why all men should be expected to atone though, or that they will. Us feminists are a teensy bit more mature than to lump all members of the opposite gender into one stupid stereotype. This might be something you'd like to try yourself.

Not that that’s anything new. To be a man in this country is constantly to have to apologise for oneself and to be ever so very careful about every sentence we speak or write which contains any reference at all to members of the opposite sex. Really? You've failed miserably at this then, given some of the horseshit that you come out with in this article.

While at the same time, and this is the shame of it, we ourselves are fair game for women. While sexism from men is the outstanding social crime of the modern world, women can say absolutely whatever they like about us. Hm. Not sure I'm with you on this one. Mainly because it's the same load of rubbish that always gets trotted out by people who have no arguments left in defence of misogyny.

For make no mistake: sexism is alive and well in this country and applauded in all quarters — as long as it is practised by women. And they are allowed to say the most terrible, terrible things. See above.

Only last week, for example, Jo Brand, the newly crowned Best Female TV Comic at the British Comedy Awards, was on Have I Got News For You and replied to the question ‘What’s your favourite kind of man, Jo?’ by saying: ‘A dead one.’ Oh, how the audience fell about. And the other contestants, all male, chortled away too. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the reason Jo Brand was crowned Best Female TV Comic is because she's practically the only bloody female comedian allowed on TV.

I’m not saying it wasn’t funny. I’m just saying we live in a world where the thorough-going awfulness, uselessness and superfluity of the male sex is such a given, that a frontline television comic can get big laughs by saying she’d prefer it if we were all dead. Firstly: IT WAS A JOKE. The humour derives from expecting one answer and getting another! Ha-bloody-ha! Secondly: Jo Brand's comedic persona is that of a misandrist, it's hardly fair to compare that to the real life personas of Gray and Keys.

And I’m trying to imagine a world in which I am on that show and they say, ‘What kind of women do you like, Giles?’ and I reply: ‘Dead ones.’ I just don’t think it would get the same laughs, do you? No, probably not. Mainly because I'd be terrified you were serious, given the tone of this article.
A note on misandristic (or should that be msandristic?) humour though - it's usually seen as more acceptable because institutional sexism on the part of women towards men is not and has never been a problem in society, but vice versa is.

Here’s another of Jo Brand’s (excellent) gags. ‘What’s the way to a man’s heart? Straight through the chest with a kitchen knife!’ Again, not unfunny. But predicated on the idea that killing men is hilarious. Whereas killing women, as we all know, is a very serious affair and not to be joked about. See earlier points on Jo Brand's comedic persona, how the humour is derived and misandristic humour please, I'd hate to have to repeat myself.

It’s not just Brand, it’s all women. ‘What do you call the useless flap of skin attached to a penis?’ they joke. ‘A man!’ they all reply, and clink their chardonnay glasses and chortle till dawn. How on earth did this get to be OK? That's some.... really broad stereotyping there. Like, wow. Also, given your earlier point about Gray and Keys relaxing "
off camera by swapping ancient prejudices and poking fun at women", am I to assume that this is what all men do? Because, y'know, every member of a gender must behave exactly alike? 

I'll tell you how. It is because pretty much from birth women are schooled by their mothers to deride men. They are sugar and spice, we are slugs and snails. I'm pretty sure that rhyme has been kicking about for a bit now. My mum didn't teach me to hate or deride men, she taught me to hate and deride idiots, irrespective of gender.

They are reflective and sensitive, while we run around kicking balls and shouting. And then as girls push towards puberty their mothers take them aside and tell them: ‘Boys are only after one thing!’ I think trying to mock gender sterotyping by indulging in gender stereotyping is just a teensy bit flawed, really.

The great lie. All men want is sex. Not so. If anything, it is women who think only of having it off. Girls on average lose their ­virginity much younger than boys and have more sexual partners in youth. OMG THE HORRIBLE GIRLS ARE GETTING LAID!!!! Seriously though, no. It's not true that all men want is sex. It's also not true that all women want is sex (I mean, just a second ago you were talking about how all we think about is being mean to other women - pick a ridiculous stereotype and stick to it please). Girls tend to lose their virginities earlier because they tend to have older boyfriends. So what if girls have more sexual partners? It hardly proves that they "think only of having it off".

As a teenager, I was ­terribly shy about sex and yet girls were trying to do it with me all the time. I used to run, literally run, from their bedrooms when they tried it on. And yet women are allowed endlessly to harangue us with our supposed lechery. Oh boo-fucking-hoo. You didn't want sex as a teenager. So what, this is supposed to prove that all women are lecherous whores?

And the prejudice festers. Harriet Harman says that men caused the banking crisis, and the ­harridan legions nod their heads. ‘If women ruled the world,’ they cry, ‘there would be no wars.’ No, bankers caused the banking crisis. Yes, most bankers happen to be male, and the risk-taking behaviours that caused it are stereotypically male. Given your definition of the "harridan legions" is pretty much "any woman not as misogynistic as I", I'd happily be a proud member - but I don't agree with that.

What nonsense. Women are far meaner, more brutal, aggressive, small-minded, jealous, petty and venal than any man. I'd consider this article to be an excellent example of all these attributes. I'm not even going to waste my time pointing out how utterly pathetic this sentence is. You can't say "we have to apologise for all men but we're not all like that", and then start saying all women possess the same bad characteristics.

If women ruled the world ­countries would be invaded because ‘she’s always been jealous of my feet’ and because ‘she looks down on me for going out to work’.
Yes, because our teeny tiny wee brains can only focus on shoes and personal vendettas. Politics? Best left to the men while we bake cakes and simper at children, we simply couldn't handle it. Yeah, newsflash, dickhead - a lot of countries are governed by women, and have been for some time now. Number of wars started over lipgloss? Zero.

Millions would die, torture would increase. If women ruled the world there would be carnage. See points above about stereotyping whole genders and female leaders.

And what sort of an insult is it anyway to suggest that most women don’t understand the offside rule? It’s true, for a start. Most women don’t. And most of them declare it proudly. It's an insult to suggest that a PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANT REFEREE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE OFFSIDE RULE BECAUSE OF HER GENDER. So what if some women don't? They're not being paid to.

Most of them use football as an example of one of their favourite gags, the one about how men never grow up, about how we’re all just children — most often manifested in the one where a mother-of-two says ‘I’ve got three children’, you raise an eyebrow, and she nods towards her husband. Hilarious. Yes, it's not funny. Hardly excuses Gray and Keys though, does it?

And nor are men, in this female narrative, merely puerile, aggressive and underdeveloped. They are hypochondriacs, too. "female narrative?" Oh yes, because all women think exactly alike, despite all hating each other.

‘He’s got a touch of man flu,’ say the ­womenfolk and titter. But what nonsense is that? It is women who make a big fuss about mild ­discomfort, not men. Again, MASSIVE GENDER STEREOTYPING ALERT.

I have never had so much as a cold in my life, nor claimed to. I even suspect sometimes that the whole palaver about the pain of childbirth is a conspiracy to ride roughshod over men. Damn! He's onto us! Coren, when you can push a pool ball out of your urethra, we'll talk about this again.

My own mother, a ­consultant anaesthetist herself, has always claimed that giving birth was a breeze but that she pretended it had been painful to build bargaining chips with my father. Which means all women are horrid liars! Yeah, we've all been pretending childbirth was really hard so our devoted, but idiotic husbands would buy us some new shoes!

You look at shows like Loose Women and you wonder how on earth they get away with the ­terrible things they say about men. I went on once and it was horrific. I wanted to die.

No male-hosted show could treat women the way those outsized harpies treat men. I'll refer you to my thoughts on Loose Women here

I don’t especially want to throw my hat in with Dominic Raab, the slightly bonkers Tory MP who has called for an end to legislative ­discrimination against men, but there is no question that women today have it all. I'm struggling to believe this hasn't just been published for the sole purpose of winding me up.

They retire younger and live longer to such an extent that minor inequalities in pay levels are obliterated when you consider whose money pays for those 25 years of retirement. And it just isn’t fair that they are allowed to be so vile about us. Except legally, men and women retire at the same age, because of a little thing called equality. Look it up, you might like it.

I suppose, in a way, British men are like white people were in Nineties South Africa or young Germans after the Second World War.

We are expected to go through a period of atonement for the sins of our fathers. To be treated worse than we merit because of crimes previously committed in our name: in this case the crime of feeding, protecting, loving and nurturing women in accordance with our biological imperative. I swear that above you were talking about how all men had to apologise for two bigoted idiots. Now you ALL do those things for women? I tell you now, the second I let a man feed and protect me according to his biological imperative will be the same second you see four skeletal horsemen cantering over the horizon.

They don’t want that any more. They want to be linesmen. And so we have to let them tell us endlessly how they wish we were all dead. Yeah, stupid, horrid women, wanting equal rights and all that rubbish!

If that’s not off-side, I don’t know what is. I can explain it with two pepperpots and a pea, if you want?

By the way: check out this absolute victory for women's rights from Quentin Letts for more feminist lulz.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


The original Mail story to deal with this issue was covered at Atomic Spin and Angry Mob/Upon Nothing.

Background: Supreme Court issues judgement that says that a victim of emotional/psychological abuse who flees their home has not made themself 'intentionally homeless' under s.177(1) of the Housing Act 1996. The judges in this case were Lord Hope, Lord Rodger, Lord Walker, Lady Hale and Lord Brown. Lady Hale gave the leading judgement, with which Lord Hope and Lord Walker agreed, without need for further judgment. Lord Roger agreed and added his own comments, and Lord Brown dissented. This was the result of a test case, the object of which was to bring the Housing Act into accordance with the definition of 'violence' under other UK laws. The judgment in full, is here (PDF). The Mail originally reported this under the headline of "Women entitled to a council house if they move out because their partner shouts at them, top judges rule" - a story which was covered by the links at the top of the page. You might think this was bad enough. But no. Apparently, that headline and article weren't quite offensive enough for the Mail.

Instead, they're now going with the headline: "Shout at your spouse and risk losing your home: It's just the same as domestic violence, warns woman judge". No really, they are.

In the interests of comparison, here's the Mail's original story:

"The Supreme Court ruled that women whose partners shout at them persistently can claim they are effectively 'homeless' - and will be entitled to a council house. In a test case, the judges ruled that Mirhmet Yemshaw was the victim of ‘violence’ at the hands of her husband even though she was never physically attacked. Her local authority had earlier ruled that she was at low risk of being physically attacked by her partner.
 The decision could have wide-ranging implications for councils across the country. If a couple split and the ‘abused’ partner is shouted at they will potentially be entitled to be handed a new home by their local authority.
In August 2008, Mrs Yemshaw fled the flat she shared with her partner and two children - a girl aged six and a boy who was eight months old. She sought the help of the housing authorty in Hounslow, London, as she had nowhere to live.

In interviews with the housing officers Mrs Yemshaw said she was scared and complained that 'her husband hates her and (she) suspects that he is seeing another woman. '(She) is scared that if he confronts him he may hit her. (However her) husband has never actually hit her,' the judgment said.

Mrs Yemshaw complained that her partner did not give her money for housekeeping and was scared he would take the children away. She was told by officers she could not be classified as ‘homeless’ under the Housing Act as her husband had not threatened her with physical violence. A review panel found that it was reasonable for her to continue to live at the matrimonial home.

Today a panel of five justices in the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that she could be classed as 'homeless' as the shouting could be construed as 'violence'. They referred the case back to the housing authority. If a person is without a place to live then the council must give them accommodation - unless they left their previous property voluntarily.

Lady Hale, giving the lead judgment, said the definition of domestic violence must now include not only physical and threatening or intimidating behaviour but any other form of abuse which may give rise to the risk of harm.
Mrs Yemshaw had told the housing officers that her husband, who rented the property in his sole name, shouted in front of the children and did not treat her ‘like a human’.

Lady Hale said that ‘violence’ can also include ‘strength or intensity of emotion, fervour and passion’.
She said the legal understanding of domestic violence had moved on ‘from a narrow focus upon battered wives and physical contact’.

The Justice of the Supreme Court said the meaning of ‘violence’ under the 1996 Act should be brought up to date in line with modern thinking. Lady Hale added: ‘The essential question is whether an updated meaning is consistent with the statutory purpose. ‘In this case the purpose (of the Act) is to ensure that a person is not obliged to remain living in a home where she, her children or other members of her household are at risk of harm.’

Lord Rodger said he could see no reason why Parliament would have intended the position to be any different where someone will be subjected to deliberate conduct, or threats of deliberate conduct, that may cause her psychological, as opposed to physical, harm."
Again, go read the links at the top of the page for the analysis of this version of the story. 
Here's the new version:
"Men and women who shout at their partners risk being thrown out of their homes under a sweeping ruling by judges yesterday.

Raising your voice at a husband or wife, or a boyfriend or girlfriend, now counts as domestic violence under the landmark Supreme Court judgment. The decision also means that denying money to a partner or criticising them can count as violence and bring down draconian domestic violence penalties from the courts.

The Supreme Court made its decision in the case of a woman who left her husband’s council flat and then demanded a new council home. She said she left because she had suffered domestic violence – even though her husband had never harmed her.

Lady Hale, leading a bench of five justices, said the definition of violence must change so that a range of abusive behaviour now counts in law. The decision will affect domestic violence and family law which has given the courts powers to throw someone out of their home if their partner accuses them of violent behaviour. Until now violence has always had to mean physical assault.

The judges were hearing the case of Mihret Yemshaw, 35, who said she had been subjected to domestic violence and was entitled to be rehoused under the 1996 Housing Act. Officials in Hounslow, West London, turned her down after hearing that her husband had never hit her nor threatened to do so.

Mrs Yemshaw told them he had shouted in front of their two children, failed to treat her like a human, had not given her housekeeping money, and she was scared he would take the children away from her.
Lady Hale said the meaning of the word ‘violence’ had moved on since Parliament passed the Housing Act.
The word ‘is capable of bearing several meanings and applying to many different types of behaviour. These can change and develop over time’. The judge added that ‘it is not for Government and official bodies to interpret the meaning of the words which Parliament has used. That role lies with the courts.’

Lady Hale said that according to the dictionary, violence means physical attack, but can also apply to extreme fervour, passion or fury. One judge, Lord Brown, said he had a ‘profound doubt’ as to whether the domestic violence provisions were ever intended ‘to extend beyond the limits of physical violence’.
The judgment means that Mrs Yemshaw will now have her case reconsidered by Hounslow. It will also apply to a wide field of legislation, including the 1996 Family Law Act which allows people to be ejected from their homes if their partners complain of domestic violence.

The decision comes at a time of growing concern over the powers of senior judges and their willingness to alter laws made by Parliament. Family law expert Jill Kirby yesterday drew a comparison between the ruling and the Humpty Dumpty character in Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking-Glass, who said words meant whatever he wanted them to mean. She said: ‘The judiciary are taking the Humpty Dumpty view, and it risks undermining confidence in the legal system.’

Mihret Yemshaw’s husband told the Daily Mail last night he had never been violent towards his wife who, like him, was born in Ethiopia. They married in London ten years ago. Samuel Estifanos, a 40-year-old bus driver, claimed she left the flat where he still lives because she was ‘unhappy’. He added: ‘I never hit her and I never even screamed or swore at her.’"

I have highlighted the particularly offensive parts of this article, and will now go through them.
  • "shout at their partners" - This is what Lady Hale gives as the actual definition of domestic violence: 
    “The term ‘violence’ itself is often used in two senses. In its
    narrower meaning it describes the use or threat of physical force
    against a victim in the form of an assault or battery. But in the
    context of the family, there is also a wider meaning which extends to
    abuse beyond the more typical instances of physical assaults to
    include any form of physical, sexual or psychological molestation or
    harassment which has a serious detrimental effect upon the health
    and well-being of the victim.” (at para 21 in the judgment)

  • "sweeping ruling" - The main principle of judicial precedent is that of stare decisis - i.e. like cases should be treated alike. Legally speaking, this case only has to be followed if another case arises with exactly the same facts.
  •   "denying money to a partner or criticising them can count as violence" - What actually happened:   "her husband hates her and [she] suspects that he is seeing another woman. [She] is scared that if she confronts him he may hit her. [However her] husband has never actually threatened to hit her.” She went on to complain of his shouting in front of the children, so that she retreated to her bedroom with them, not treating her “like a human”, not giving her any money for housekeeping, being scared that he would take the children away from her and say that she was not able to cope with them, and that he would hit her if she returned home." 
  • "draconian domestic violence penalties" again, stare decisis applies - this case only means that women in the same circumstances as the complainant will be eligible for council housing.
  • "demanded" - just a pretty humiliating word to toss out there when you're talking about a scared mother who has just fled her home with two children aged six years old and eight months old and nowhere else to go.
  • "even though her husband had never harmed her" - Even though the ruling accepts that he had.
  • "said the definition of violence must change so that a range of abusive behaviour now counts in law" - All Lady Hale did not change the definition of 'violence'. She merely agreed that the Act in question should use the same definition of 'violence' as other Acts do.
  • "given the courts powers to throw someone out of their home if their partner accuses them of violent behaviour" - I will only repeat this one more time. STARE DECISIS. You simply cannot just assume that because one case with limited facts has gone one way, that others, to do with completely different laws will follow!
  • "Lady Hale said that according to the dictionary, violence means physical attack, but can also apply to extreme fervour, passion or fury. One judge, Lord Brown, said he had a ‘profound doubt’ as to whether the domestic violence provisions were ever intended ‘to extend beyond the limits of physical violence’" - Yes. Lady Hale did say that, in order to give her judgment some context. Yes, Lord Brown did say that. However, Lord Brown was the only dissenting judge in the case. He was the only one to disagree - what he said means nothing to the judgment as it now stands in law.
  • " It will also apply to a wide field of legislation, including the 1996 Family Law Act which allows people to be ejected from their homes if their partners complain of domestic violence" - Honestly, now, it's like they're trying to test my patience. STARE DECISIS!!!!
  • !like him, was born in Ethiopia. They married in London ten years ago" - Yeah, and so?

All this is is another absolutely repugnant and hateful argument by the Mail, which shows their hatred for women and lack of any knowledge to do with anything that they voice an opinion on.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Arguments against Gray apologists

Since Andy Gray, Sky Sports pundit and occasional sexist bigot was fired for having an insulting and sexist conversation about a female assistant referee, Sian Massey, with his colleague Richard Keys and behaving in an obscene manner towards another colleague, Charlotte Jackson, a lot of people have been questioning the decision and labelling it as 'unfair' for one reason or another. The most common arguments I've seen so far have been:
  1. "Lots of people in the football industry are sexist and don't get fired"
  2. "The conversation about Sian Massey was just banter, they didn't know they were being recorded"
  3. "Charlotte Jackson didn't look too bothered by what he said"
  4. "Loose Women is sexist too"
  5. "It's just because of a media frenzy"
  6. "IT'S PC GONE MAD!!!"
  7. "Well he's good at his job"
  8. "It's because he's suing the News Of The World"

I'm going to take each of these arguments in turn and explain why they don't mean that this hideous misogynist should still be in employment. I can't explain why Richard Keys still (at the moment) is, by the way, I think he should have his sorry arse slung out too.

EDIT: Keys has quit. *Does feminist victory dance* Achem. Also: I know that Gray was technically fired for the Jackson thing, but I'm just responding to the arguments I have seen, and most of these seem to centre on the Massey incident.

1. "Lots of people in the football industry are sexist and don't get fired".

Well, yes - this may be the case, but this doesn't mean that Gray shouldn't have been fired. Imagine you employed thirty people and knew that some of them were stealing from you. You eventually got proof of one of them stealing. Would you let them keep their job because you couldn't prove anything against the others?

Another reason that this argument is flawed is because it's essentially saying that if enough people say discriminatory things, then it's OK. It's like an EDL member trying to defend saying something racist 'because other people say racist things too'. Just because more than one person shares a disgusting point of view does not legitimise it.

Hopefully, now that we have evidence that so-called professionals at a football match are unable to accept someone who is clearly capable of their job based purely on their gender, and they have been publically rebuked for their abhorrent point of view, this will mean that we can move forward and start making changes to rectify the situation.

2. "It was just a bit of innocent banter, they didn't know they were being recorded".

Firstly, I don't think that what was said about Massey was innocent banter. To me, it sounded like vitriolic misogyny. However, apparently some people don't agree with this, so I am not going to argue this point.

What I will argue though, is that there is a time and a place for banter. You banter when socialising. You can't use the 'banter' defence at work. If you said something that offensive or discriminatory about a colleague at work  - even if you were joking - and were overheard by your boss, you'd find it hard to justify yourself to them by saying "Woah there! Calm down! Just lads being lads!".

The above point also applies to them not knowing they were being recorded. So what if they didn't know? The fact is, they were at work. They shouldn't have been saying them in the first place - it's irrelevant whether they knew that they would be heard or not.

A final point is to consider what would have been said if they had been saying that an assistant referee was incapable of doing their job because they were a member of an ethnic minority - would people have tried to justify racism as banter? I highly doubt it. Sexism is just as unacceptable as racism - it's discrimination on the grounds of a physical characteristic of a human being that is intrinsically and historically linked to oppression of those with that physical characteristic.

3. "Charlotte Jackson didn't look too bothered by what he said".

Personally, I do think that she looked bothered by what was being said to her in the video. However, I'm aware that that's my personal interpretation of her expression and I may be wrong.

So, assuming I am wrong, and she looks like she's OK with her colleagues saying this kind of thing to her, there's two points I'd like to make. The first is that there's the possibility she may have just been putting on a brave face. I work in an environment where, occasionally, someone will make a disgusting comment to me. Usually, I'll stand up for myself, but you quickly learn that there are some kinds of men who will only use this as a reason to continue doing it, and the best thing is to not rise to the bait. The second is that even if Jackson genuinely wasn't upset by what he said, that doesn't matter. She's not his boss.

4. "Loose Women is sexist too".

Yes. Loose Women is horrible. It's a foul programme, and yes - I do think it's unacceptable and should be stopped. The fact that bosses at a different TV channel haven't fired them doesn't mean that Gray shouldn't be fired though. That's like someone saying they shouldn't be prosecuted for a crime in England because the same activity is not a crime in France.

A further point to make about Loose Women and other examples of 'female sexism' is that it's usually seen as more acceptable because institutional sexism on the part of women towards men is not and has never been a problem in society, but vice versa is. It's like why we can have groups like the Metropolitan Black Police Association, but not the Metropolitan White Police Association (Philip Davies, take note).

5. "It's because of a media frenzy".

The only reason there was a media frenzy is because what Gray and Keys said about Massey was so clearly unacceptable! Frankly, I can only hope that there are more 'media frenzies' like this, if it results in more horrible bigots being exposed and losing their jobs.

6. "IT'S PC GONE MAD!!!"

*facepalm* Right. This argument's so very clearly stupid, all I'll say is this: Political Correctness did not force Gray to be a nasty dickhead in his place of work, he did that all by himself.

7.  "Well, he's good at his job"

Again, another clearly ridiculous argument. I have no idea about what makes a good football pundit, or what Gray is like as one. It certainly seems to be a divisive issue. That aside, all I have to say is - do you think if someone who was consistently employee of the month walked up to their boss one day and punched them in the face, they would keep their job?

8. "It's because he's suing News Of The World".

Whilst if this is the thing that pushed Sky to fire Gray after his shameful actions then that's clearly the wrong reason for Sky to reach their decision. However, this does not mean that the wrong decision was reached. A decision made without due process can still be the right decision to make, just a decision that is reached via the wrong methods. Basically: yes, it's dodgy as hell, but it doesn't mean that Gray should still have a job.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Mail, you owe me a new bullshit-detector. Mine just exploded.

We all know that the Mail's headline writers have a somewhat... uncomfortable relationship with reality. So when I saw an article entitled "Gay messages built into maths lessons for children as young as FOUR", my bullshit-ometor immediately went into hyperdrive.

These are the first two lines of the story: "Young children are to be taught about homosexuality in their maths, geography, science and English lessons, it has emerged. As part of a Government-backed drive to ‘celebrate the gay community’, maths problems could be introduced that involve gay characters".

Oh, and look - there's a big picture of two men holding hands, with the caption "Same sex: Geography lessons will explain why homosexuals move to cities and language classes will teach gay vocabulary (picture posed by models)".

Right, that makes it perfectly clear what's going on then, doesn't it?

Oh, wait. This is the Mail.

What this story is actually based on is the fact that Schools Out, a LGBT pressure group, are to offer free downloadable lesson plans that mention LGBT people, as well as so-called 'normal people' for use in schools, to coincide with LGBT History Month.

Because Schools Out received some money from the Training And Development Agency For Schools (TDA) to help develop these lesson plans, and the TDA are a non-departmental public body (FYI Mail, nobody calls them 'quangos' any more), that makes these plans "[g]overnment backed".

I read the TDA's PDF file about their role and remit, and how they hope to implement it, by the way - and at no point is any plan along the lines of  "Step 3: Indocrinate small children into becoming morally-degenerate, godless deviants by letting them know that not all families are headed by two heterosexual WASP parents, thus facilitating the downfall of the UK" mentioned. Just so you know.

Of course, the Mail then go with the traditional contradiction of the headline, when half-way through the article, they admit that it's all bollocks: "Although the lesson plans are not compulsory, they are backed by the Department for Education and will be available for schools to download from the Schools Out website.
Sue Sanders, from Schools Out, said: ‘All we are attempting to do is remind teachers that LGBT people are part of the population and you can include them in most of your lessons when you are thinking inclusively.’ David Watkins, a teacher who is involved in the scheme, said: ‘When you have a maths problem, why does it have to involve a straight family or a boyfriend and girlfriend? Why not two boys or two girls? It’s not about teaching about gay sex, it is about exposing children to the idea that there are other types of people out there,’ he added." (Sensible parts emphasised)

Of course, the rest of the article is like a Mail reading bigot's wet dream. For no reason whatsoever to do with the story, it mentions
  • 'And Tango Makes Three', which for some reason, they view as 'the Left's' version of 'Mein Kampf'*.  
  • A frothing soundbite from their favourite rent-a-gobs, the Tax Payers Alliance, as John O'Connell popped up with this little pearl of knee-jerk stupidity: "‘Parents will wonder if this is a right use of funds and time, particularly when we keep hearing how tight budgets are". 
  • "British schools tumble down international league tables in maths, English and science". 
The article also contains lots of lovely phrases like "[t]hey will also mean youngsters are exposed to images of same-sex couples", a line which is so full of both stupidity and malicious bile that it made me wince upon reading it.

The comments aren't a pretty sight either. At 07.15 on 24/1/11, the best rated comment was this:
"Over my dead body would that subject have been taught to my son when he was four. That's too young, sex in any form has no place in the minds or the environment of young children. They'll have time enough in their lives to have to think about it, they should be allowed to have their childhoods in peace." - Rose, Ireland, 23/1/2011 22:35 (375 green arrows). You have to applaud Rose's commitment to ignorant-twattery that she managed to miss the entire story in the article by a country mile, really.
In fact - the six worst rated comments, all with a minimum of 80 red arrows, were all people pointing out that the story is bullshit. Think about that. There's at least 80 people who read this article online and either a) failed to see the glaring contradictions in the headline and article, or b) are that opposed to acknowledging the existence of LGBT people to children, that they're prepared to ignore it.

*Seriously, they hate those damn penguins.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Misogyny at the Mail

It's no secret that the Daily Mail hates women. Look at it any day (if you can bear), and you'll find evidence of misogyny spread all over the paper like fake tan on Katie Price.

On Tuesday, they pushed their anti-feminism agenda one step further by printing a story entitled "The high fliers with the ultimate status symbol - wives they can afford to keep at home. So whatever happened to feminism? (You now have five minutes to fall to the floor laughing at the fact that the Mail are asking what's happened to feminism. Back? Good.)

Well, as we will see, the Mail's not exactly fighting the case against being a housewife. If I'm completely honest, all I can see when I read this article is yet another example of the Mail denigrating working women and portraying housewives as superior, whilst also promoting their usual 1950's style ideals, however unrealistic they are for most families. Yes, they may have the faux-horror in the title and first line, but all this article does is talk about how fan-sodding-tastic it is to either have, or be, a "kept woman". In the third line of the article, we're told that "[h]ere, three husbands describe their perfect lives - and their wives explain why they're happy to stay at home". This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the article - men being given their 'perfect lives' by little wifey, and anyone who doesn't do everything at her husband's beck and call is depriving him of the chance to have a perfect life, the foul harridan!

In the first paragraph of this article, it is claimed that "nearly 70 per cent of women admit that they'd rather be kept by their husbands, according to a recent survey". That's it on the survey. No further details were given, so I can't chase them up. They didn't even mention any company which may have commissioned it, so I can't check any vested interests or dodgy stats work.

After the first paragraph, this article is entirely made up of descriptions of life in a breadwinner/kept woman relationship from three different couples. For all the Mail's mock-outrage, it's overwhelmingly positive. By the time I'd finished reading it, even I had a flicker of an urge to let my brain slide out of my ear, put on a Cath Kidston apron and start making gluten-free muffins for a child with a ridiculous name in my Aga, whilst wearing a beatific, heavily made-up grin.

All joking aside though, this article both saddens and angers me so much, and for so many reasons. Firstly, the concept of 'women belong at home, men do the work' is just so utterly demeaning, and hopelessly outmoded. What on earth does the fact that one of your chromosomes lost a leg have to do with your ability to provide for a household? What does the fact that it didn't have to do with your ability to cook and clean?

Secondly, how can the unified lack of ambition shown by these obviously well-educated women be viewed as anything other than thouroughly depressing? Especially given the government's seeming intent to make sure that few young people will be able to experience such opportunities in the future.

Another thing that upset me horribly about this article was that these couples are the parents of five children, two of them female. To see gender myths that should have died sixty years ago be promoted to children in the year 2011 is profoundly disturbing. Where on earth will these young girls get any ambition other than to snare a rich husband? Surely they deserve more?

I could rant forever about how patently ludicrous it is to believe that being a housewife is a valid 'career choice' for any woman, let alone the ones with the opportunities obviously afforded to the women in this article, but the point has been done to death by far greater writers than I.

Now comes the time when I delve into the article proper:

So, first up, we have Jon and Rebecca, from Kingston upon Thames. They have two lovely boys, aged four and one, who (if we're lucky) will turn into raving misogynists, just like mummy and daddy!

I'll just pick out a few choice quotes from Jon.

   * I feel quite smug when I hear work colleagues say: ‘I have to rush off now because I’ve got to pick up the children from school.’
    * I can think of only two occasions when I’ve had to leave work and go home — once when Rebecca locked herself out of the house, and once when all three of them came down with an awful bug
    * There’s little conflict in our relationship, because we are not competing about who is the most tired, or who does what around the house. 
    * Rebecca never complains about having to cook my dinner or wash my clothes. She even lets me play cricket on a Sunday, although we try to make it a family affair and bring the children, too, for a day out. 

What. A. Charmer. So Jon hates his children, and considers them nothing but an inconvenience that stops wifey from doing things for him, or his playing cricket. I mean, it's almost like he's straight from heaven! I practically swooned when I read that!


Now, the wifeling is trusted to speak:

   * Every week I go to a life-coaching class with other like-minded women, to keep my brain active. I studied Classics at university, and being at home with children you can feel as if you are losing sight of yourself. 
    * I read lots of books and news­papers, because I would hate to think I have nothing to talk about but the children and the home when Jon comes back from work.
    * Where I live, there are quite a few other young mothers who are housewives, and we’ve formed an informal group. Our ­children play together and we get a chance to chat.
    * I think my university education has served to make me a better ­companion for my husband. I am here to listen to him, and he often talks to me about work and asks my opinion. I make a very good ­sounding board for him, and I am quite happy in this role.

....Yeah, she sounds happy and fulfilled. Stellar job there, Jon!

Seriously though, how can anyone think that sounds good? She has to read things to have conversations about with her own husband because her day is so dull.

Next up, we have Scott and Sam. Scott's a millionaire, and they have two houses. One of them is a five bedroom townhouse in South London, the other a villa in Marbella (c'mon, it's the Mail - when did you think they wouldn't do the property-porn meme?). They have a boy and a girl, aged 14 and 11.


    * Every morning I wake up to a neatly ironed shirt. My wardrobe is full of immaculately pressed suits and even my sock drawer is perfectly arranged.
    * I don’t have to think about anything domestic, such as whether there’s milk and food in the fridge. I haven’t the faintest idea how the washing machine works
    * She buys all my clothes, and makes sure that when I am at home, I can totally relax.
    * Sam never calls me with problems at work — she knows not to disturb me. She sorts out all the household bills, too, and she books all our ­holidays. I just turn up. I love all the little things she does for me, such as organising my wardrobe.

Organising his wardrobe? Sam! You saucy minx! (Seriously though - is it just me that got the vibe that Scott likes things a little too organized, if you know what I mean?)

Wifelet's a corker in herself though:

   * I think a lot of women are secretly jealous — I know they think I have a lovely life.
   * I adore being at home. I love ­poring over fabrics and wallpaper choices and deciding how to decorate. We shop mostly at ­Harrods and Selfridges, and a lot of things for the home are bought at John Lewis.
   * I have a cleaner, and I am free to make the house perfect for Scott and do all the things that he appreciates.

You read it correctly. This one's so bored and unfulfilled that she lives her life in a continuous cycle of redecorating. Sorry Sam, but no. I'm not secretly jealous, and I don't think you have a lovely life. Unless since I checked this morning, the definition of 'lovely life' has changed to 'an endless horizon of ennui, spreading forth until the end of time (or until Scott has a mid-life crisis and runs off with the cleaner)'.

Last but not least, we have Matthew and Laura, and their infant daughter (22 months).

Here's Matthew's view on what makes a wonderful relationship in 2011:

   *I can be quite difficult, but she knows me well and takes care of my quirks. I’m fussy about things like dry cleaning and having pressed shirts.
   *I think the fact that she has had a high-profile job herself means she understands the ­pressure I am often under...she was a sales-trader with a first-class honours degree from ­Trinity College, Dublin.
   *To have both husband and wife juggling highly demanding careers must be so hard, and it must cause a huge strain on relationships.

Oh... bless. That's so... sweet. It doesn't at all make me want to tear my own skin off with rage Matthew, honest.

So, over to Laura. Surely one of our wives can say something that sounds appealing to a woman with a brain in her head, right? Uhm...

  *Occasionally, I miss the buzz of the trading floor and seeing a deal through. But these days I get as much of a thrill over Madison learning a new ballet step

Sorry Laura, my mistake.

I'd just like to remind everyone that Madison is not even two. What on earth they have her doing ballet for at that age is quite beyond me. Unless she is some kind of freaky ballet-prodigy, in which case I take all the sarcastic things I just said back.

So, there you have them. Our three perfect, well balanced, proper couples, courtesy of the Mail.

Yes, I'm fully aware that part of being a feminist is allowing women the choice to do whatever, and this includes the choice to sit around at home while her brain turns to mush to the theme tune from Balamory, but this article just read like a "Good Wife Manual" from times of yore (like so many of the Mail's articles aimed at women), and I find that utterly reprehensible.

Also, I know that I'm usually a lot more serious when I write, but I couldn't do this without making some attempt (however miguided) at humour. There was a good chance that if I'd tried to be serious with this that my bra may have spontaneously combusted.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Nadine Dorries, hypocrisy and EMA

Nadine Dorries, MP is a busy woman. Alongside being an MP, she also spends a lot of time fucking up and refusing to apologise for it. Such fuck-ups have included:
(n.b. This is not an exhaustive list of her fuck-ups, but what I could remember off the top of my head in five minutes.)

Today, she struck another victory for self-awareness, sending out a tweet at approximately 4 p.m. that read "Teacher just emailed me to say that on EMA day, the kids go clothes shopping at lunch time and come back late and disrupt lessons".

Oh. Right. Stop the marches! Halt the protests! Some completely random person may or may not have emailed a self-confessed internet bullshitter saying something that accords with her view! Well, it must be true!

Sarcasm aside, how can anyone see this as anything other than a nasty, vindictive smear against children who claim EMA?

To hammer her anti-EMA point home, a short while later, she posted a second tweet, which said "We also have stdnts who are just at schl to be able to claim ema. They do not want to learn, talk though lessons, use their mobile phones".

This, on the day Parliament are to vote on whether to scrap the allowance or not.

Anthony Painter wrote at Left Foot Forward today about how scrapping the allowance will prove to be a very stupid cut to make. He makes some fantastic and fresh points, and this is a very informative article to read.

In another sparkling example of how much the Tories are in touch with reality, losing EMA means that many teenagers who receive it will have to get jobs to make up the shortfall in their income. This on the day it was also announced that the youth unemployment rate is 20.3%.

Saving EMA would cost about £500 million. This sounds expensive, but let's compare it to the £550 million proposed to be given in tax breaks to couples just for being married (my views on this here). What's more important - promoting education among disadvantaged youth, or giving middle-class people money they don't need, just for the monumental achievement of being married?

The reason I brought Nadine Dorries up wasn't just for her complete lack of tact, compassion or logic when sending those tweets earlier, I'd also like to point out that when she sent these tweets, she was supposed to be in the House of Commons debating the proposal to scrap EMA. People who receive EMA only get it if they have 100% attendance in the week. Dorries' estimated attendance at Parliament voting is around 85%, and she claimed £158,530 in expenses in 2008/09, on top of her basic MP's salary of £65,738.

At about 8 p.m., Dorries sent another tweet. This one read "To everyone.. my tweets re ema were not my words, they were the words of two heads of sixth form colleges". Yes Nadine, which you put on Twitter in order to portray EMA recipients as scroungers.

Personally, I'd like to see these emails, just to make sure they're not something she's made up to "illustrate her point".

I saw two tweets today that affected me as much as Dorries'. The first was from Seema Malhotra, saying "EMA =better grades for pupils in deprived areas = better degrees and jobs = better life chances = social mobility = better Britain". The second, I couldn't find the source for, but read "Why do I get EMA? Because there isn't enough money in my house. Why isn't there? 'cos my parents couldn't afford to go to college".

I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Binge Britain

Today the government announced plans to prohibit shops from selling alcoholic drinks at below the cost of duty and VAT, effectively ushering in a minimum price on alcohol.

Now, there are many arguments in favour of discouraging binge drinking. It fuels violence, means our police and NHS are dealing with drunken trouble-causers every weekend and is incredibly unhealthy. However, I remain convinced that setting a minimum price for alcohol is not the way to go about this. Not only am I not convinced at its claims of efficacy, I am actively opposed to it.

Firstly, this is a measure clearly aimed at the poor. Let's get that out there right now. It's about people who have to make hard choices about how to spend what little disposable income they have, not about people who won't notice that something is a bit more expensive. This makes this proposal extremely patronising, as it assumes that those who will actually be affected by a minumum price on alcohol are incapable of making their own decisions about how much to drink. This is, essentially, the government saying "sorry, but if you're poor, you can't be trusted not to spend all your money on too much alcohol and get all violent and unhealthy, so we're going to make sure you can't". This proposal also heaps judgement on the poor - apparently everything's fine and dandy when the middle class drink to excess, but not those oiks on minimum wage!

Secondly, this is an overly-simplistic and facile argument to make. As if by raising the price of alcohol, suddenly, and magically, everyone will want to stop binge drinking! Well, newsflash: if people want something that's bad for them, the price of it is unlikely to matter. Heroin and cocaine are expensive, that doesn't stop people who want to take them taking them.

Finally, does anybody actually believe that people are that stupid? That someone would wander into a supermarket wanting to buy two cans of lager to drink that day, but see a special offer and buy 24 instead, and then proceed to drink them all in a day? Have they never thought that people could leave alcohol undrunk in their house for another day?

So, what other solutions to the binge-drinking problem can we come to? Some argue in favour of repealing 24 hour licencing laws. I also think that this would be a pointless endeavour, again going back to my point that if someone wants something that's bad for them, they will have it anyway. All that reducing licencing hours would achieve would be to punish small shopkeepers and pub landlords, who can ill-afford it. I believe that all we can really do is to continue to promote education about the negative effects of alcohol abuse. However, as with smoking, we must accept that some people will insist on choosing to do things that aren't good for them, and no amount of puniative taxation or minimum pricing will stop that.

As it happens, todays proposals happen to install minimum prices that are so low as to be completely ineffective anyway - at 38p can of lager, for example. So why are they being brought in at all? Is this just an attempt by the government to look caring? Or in order to pave the way for larger minimum prices in future? That by setting out the framework for the legislation with no real fuss from anyone now, they may amend it later? Is it a cynical attempt to deflect attention from their actions elsewhere?

While I cannot answer these questions, what I can do is state that the introduction of a minimum price on alcohol is yet another example of measures announced by this government which will hit the poorest hardest.

EDIT: In the interests of fairness, I'd like to leave a link to something Sally Bercow wrote at Labour Uncut, since disagreeing her tweets made me write this post. I'd also like to direct you to the comments, a lot of people are also making very good points there.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

So-called "Conscience Clauses"

I could write for hours about people who oppose abortion. I could talk about a woman's right to choose. I could debate when the contents of a woman's uterus transform from being a cluster of cells to being a potential human being. I could lament the plight of women in countries such as Ireland, who - in 2011 - still have no real access to abortion. But I won't.

Today I'd like to talk about Americans on the religious right who oppose abortion. At no point would I call them "pro-life" - they've shown themselves to be utterly undeserving of the title, with at least seven murders and many other acts of terrorism directly attributable to the ideology in the past 18 years alone, not to mention the sickening case of a nun who was excommunicated for allowing a life-saving abortion to be performed on a mother-of-four (a decision which was explained by Bishop Thomas J Olmsted saying "An unborn child is not a disease … the end does not justify the means").

Specifically, I'd like to talk about pharmacists and 'conscience clauses'. Conscience clauses allow pharmacists to opt out of filling a prescription if their (more often than not religious) beliefs mean that they don't want to. It emerged this week that a pharmacist in Idaho refused to fill out a life-saving prescription for a woman who was suffering from heavy uterine bleeding, because the nurse on the phone refused to inform the pharmacist whether the woman had had an abortion or a miscarriage. The pharmacist also hung up the phone when asked for a reference to another pharmacy who would give the prescription. Completely ignoring the fact that it would be illegal for the nurse to have told the pharmacist what had happened to the woman, what was going on in this pharmacist's mind? Would the woman have only deserved to live if she had had a miscarriage? How this case could even come under the conscience clause is baffling - if an abortion had taken place, the 'damage' was already done. All the pharmacist was being asked to dispense was a drug to control bleeding.

Thankfully, this case took place in a large city, and a humane pharmacist was found to fill out the prescription. There is, however, reams of anecdotal evidence of the morning-after pill being refused to people who live in isolated areas and can't access another pharmacist, and even of pharmacists refusing to fill out the prescription for rape victims (and since these prescriptions will have come from the hospital, they know what they are doing).

I find it abhorrent that people can use their belief in an imaginary sky-pixie to justify refusing to do their job properly, to infringe on women's rights to prescribed medication and to obviously and clearly cast moral judgement upon others.

As Louis Kronenberger said: "[t]here seems to be a terrible misunderstanding on the part of a great many people to the effect that when you cease to believe you may cease to behave". Well, I have moral standards too. Because of these moral standards, I do not join the army, as I don't want to kill humans. I do not work in an abbatoir, as I don't want to kill animals. I do not work as a Tory MP because I don't want to kill the NHS, or public services (I can go on, but I won't).

So, my polite suggestion to people who are so wrapped up in their warped, misogynistic viewpoint that they want to restrict medication to women who need it is thus:

Don't be a pharmacist

Thursday, 13 January 2011

One Month Before Heartbreak

One Month Before Heartbreak is a three-day mass-blogging event created by @BrokenOfBritain@Funkyfairy22 and @BendyGirl* , in addition to many others who have helped out. It is designed to increase awareness of the current consultations about reform to Disability Living Allowance, which end on February 14. DLA is further explained here.

(*Links go to blogs and not Twitter pages, but I thought it would be useful to put them here in case you wanted to follow them)

One Month Before Heartbreak will feature blogs, pictures, poems and music about living with disabilities, and what the proposed cuts could mean.

Speaking as a person who is fortunate enough to not have to rely on DLA, or other benefits, due to a random act of nature, I find the proposed cuts repulsive. So for my contribution to One Month Before Heartbreak, I'm going to post some pictures of the current Cabinet, looking like the odious, smirking, hypocritical bastards that they truly are. After I've angried up your blood, I'll post some links to other One Month Before Heartbreak posts that are written by the people who will be affected, and I urge you ALL to go read them, RT them, Share them on Facebook, link them in your own blogs and do whatever you can to spread the word. You might even want to create your own piece. If you do, stick a link in my comments section. I'll be updating the links as often as I can throughout the event, so be sure to check back.

Now, here are 'your' government, in all its rich, smug, glory:

 David Cameron

 Eric Pickles

 Caroline Spelman

 David Willetts

 Kenneth Clarke

 Iain Duncan Smith

 Liam Fox

 Cheryl Gillan

 Michael Gove

 William Hague

 Philip Hammond

 Jeremy Hunt

 Andrew Lansley

 Theresa May

 Andrew Mitchell

 Gideon Osborne

Owen Paterson

Is it just me thinking that the quote of the cuts should actually be "You're all in this together"? Anyway, these are the smirking gits who are making the decisions to screw over disadvantaged members of society in order to satisfy their rich, tax-dodging, greedy mates. Now that you've had chance to reflect on what reprehensible scumbags they are, it's time for you to read the stories of those who will be affected.



You may wonder why I only posted pictures of Conservative MPs above. Well, it's because the Lib Dems can actually look sorry for being such epic gits:

 Danny Alexander

 Vince Cable

 Chris Huhne

Michael Moore

However, when it comes to pictures of Lib Dems looking sick at the vile cuts they've unleashed on the vulnerable and undeserving of this country, Nick Clegg takes the prize:

Right, so have a great time reading all the posts from the One Month Before Heartbreak guys, remember to check back for more links - and PLEASE, let's do something about these awful, awful cuts before it's too late.