Monday, July 31, 2006


I’ve grieved the end of Smash Hits!, wept as Simon left Popworld, and now have to cope with the end of Top of the Pops. Not really a feminist issue as such but nevertheless TOTP was pretty important in my childhood. I was a massive Madonna fan when I was tiny and watched it every Thursday, dancing along to the routines, and it was watching Alisha’s Attic on that very programme which inspired my life long love of piercings (you remember the lady with the bindi and the nose stud?)! Ah well, TOTP you will be sadly missed.

Anyway in more music related news, the Women in Tune festival has been brought to my attention. It’s a women only music festival in Wales between the 23rd and 29th August. I’ve become pretty disillusioned with the attitude of the male dominated alternative music scene and am finding this event very tempting. I’m going to try to sort out some time off work, and if I can I’m definitely going to make it there at some point. Is anyone planning on going this year? Or if you’ve been in previous years it’d be good to hear a bit more about it…

Friday, July 21, 2006

Big Bro update

I haven’t written much about BB lately, mainly because I have had a pretty love/hate relationship with it this time around. However hats off to Aisleyne (and Pete) for upholding a woman’s right to own her own body. And as I’m feeling in such a good mood, hats off to the producers as well for not editing it out!

For those of you angelic enough to resist the horrible temptation that is Big Brother, Aisleyne is a pretty typical contestant – surgically enhanced, long peroxide blonde hair, prances around in thongs all day long. Earlier in the week as she sunned herself in aforementioned thong bikini another housemate (the famous woman-hating Mikey) bit her on the bottom. She was, understandably, upset, and left the garden. In the edited evening show we then heard her conversation with Pete expressing how violated she felt, and later Pete was heard in the diary room emphasising that other housemates should appreciate that it is her bum and nobody has the right to touch it regardless of what she is wearing. Last night Aisleyne explained to other housemates how people often believe that because she wears skimpy clothes she is somehow inviting sexual advances and touching. She emphasised that this is not the case.

I say hats off to the producers because they didn’t have to show any of this. They could have simply shown the biting and then Mikey’s later, rather inadequate, apology. It may only be a drop in the ocean for BB but it’s good to see these points made on the programme. Furthermore the police have been contacted and will be talking to Mikey when he leaves.

We are all familiar with this kind of behaviour, and I empathised with Aisleyne. Whether or not you can be a feminist in a miniskirt and bikini is an argument I am fed up with, but putting that to one side it is so obvious that regardless of what you wear no-one has the right to touch you without your consent. How arrogant to think that you can just bite someone on the bottom like that? All too often the flirtatious and sexual behaviour in BB can go too far and people get carried along, doing things they may not be comfortable with. Good on you Aisleyne for speaking out.

Results day...

And I passed! In fact I passed my Graduate Diploma in Law with a commendation! So the rest of the day (apart from when I am at work) will be spent celebrating, because a law degree in a year is the hardest thing I have ever ever had to do and it's over woooooooo!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

To ban or not to ban...

The papers reported today that a Dutch court has refused to ban the Brotherly Love, Freedom and Diversity Party (PNVD). Anti-paedophile campaigners brought the case in an attempt to prevent the party (which supports the legalisation of child and animal pornography and would allow violent porn to be shown on television) from running in the next general election. However the court refused to ban the party, stating that “it is up to the voter to give a judgement on the arguments of political parties”.

The reports that I read were fairly neutral in tone, but it was interesting to note that it was the child pornography, the animal pornography and the (obviously) violent pornography that were causing problems not your ordinary run of the mill porn pornography. I’m not suggesting these aren’t wrong but surely if one type of porn is wrong all porn is wrong or is that just naïve? I wonder if there would have been such an outcry if they had simply been campaigning for porn on daytime telly without the rest of it, and to be honest I’m not sure there would have been.

These are pretty contentious issues, and I empathise with the campaigners who wished to see the party outlawed. However I can’t help thinking that ultimately the court’s decision was the right one. Banning political parties has the effect of making them appear more serious, a genuine alternative. By allowing them to run in the election it is to be hoped that they will prove themselves to be a joke and thus contribute to their own defeat.

Monday, July 17, 2006


I’ve spent the last few days at Wakestock in Pwllheli sunning myself on the beach in the morning and listening to music in the evenings which was rather nice. There were a few problems with camping at the site but on the whole I’d recommend Wakestock to anyone who is fed up with the big festivals (although don’t camp on site - it’s expensive and your stuff will get wrecked and stolen!)

However I have to say that this was one more in a long line of cultural events totally dominated by men. The only female musician I saw all weekend was the fabulous Abi Harding, saxophonist with The Zutons. A couple of times we were tempted into tents by female voices only to discover it was a band of prepubescent male rockers! I do find this frustrating. I love my music and get fed up by the amount of effort it takes to discover female bands and musicians. However if the marketing moguls and publicists don’t think that women sell unless it’s pop then I guess I am going to have to keep on making this effort.

I’ve noticed this trend in a lot of the blogs that I read – a desire to consume female produced cultural products alongside genuine frustration that they aren’t more easily obtainable. It is frustrating. We make up pretty much 50% of the market but are so frequently sidelined. I was a little too young and naïve to be aware of the riot grrl movement when it was at its peak – old enough to like Hole and Verruca Salt I was definitely not aware of anything less mainstream. I love the influence it has had on some of the bands that I listen to now and really wish I had experienced it.

The female bands/musicians that I listen to are pretty disparate - my latest splurge on HMV dot com included Lily Allen (obvious but fantastic nevertheless), Robots in Disguise (I was persuaded to try them by a friend of a friend of a friend – jury still out), and Metallic Falcons (yet to arrive but destined to be fabulous). Where is the sense of community? I feel that if I choose to listen to female bands then I become socially isolated with no focal point, and this is such a shame because one of the greatest things about music is its capacity to unite. However whenever I attend a gig or a festival I feel isolated in a different way. Gigs aren’t female friendly. I love being in a pit as much as the next person but not if it means having unwelcome fingers in my pants or people desperately grabbing my tits. Some of the lyrics my favourite musicians write are pretty vile and I end up having to choose - is this music good enough to excuse the words? It seems that there isn’t any way to conclude this post, I’m eternally frustrated by the one thing I love most in the world and I don’t see the situation changing any time soon.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Brief update

Flat hunting in Bristol has put the brakes on me finishing the several posts I've got going but just a note to say the first issue of Subtext magazine is now available to order online :)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Dwa zywiec Prosze

One of the real pleasures of reading blogs is spotting the memes that pop up – reading different perspectives on the same issue, or discovering that others are thinking about the issue you have been contemplating. Spotted Elephant has recently blogged about her plan to learn Spanish because “we should be encouraging Americans to learn more than one language.” This is a problem that also persists in the UK, where choosing to study a second language at GCSE (age 14-16) is no longer compulsory. On holiday in Poland I became painfully aware of the privilege of speaking English as a first language. All the signs, menus, and museums in tourist areas are displayed in Polish and English. When sitting at a café we heard an Italian couple ask a Polish waitress in English for an English menu. And I have to say we felt embarrassed. We did attempt to communicate in Polish, although our repertoire only really extended to hello, goodbye, thank you and two beers please. On the whole we found that unless we tried to speak Polish, service would be pretty surly – and quite right too.

As an English speaking English citizen I unquestioningly expect other people to speak English to me. Where do I get off thinking that? I was in Poland – I should be speaking Polish not waiting for them to speak in my language. I’m clearly not going to be able to speak the language fluently but to fail to attempt it at all is unbelievably disrespectful.

This has got me thinking about the other languages I could potentially learn and the reasons for learning them. I’ve had a quick look at the Birmingham council site and the National Statistics site and was surprised to discover that data relating to language is not collected in the census. This demonstrates the level of language blindness that exists in the UK at the moment – how can any services be accurately provided if nobody is certain which languages are being spoken? A website that I have found helpful was the National Centre for Languages which lists a load of sources for discovering which languages are being spoken (although the sources very London-centred). Unsurprisingly Bengali, Punjabi and Urdu come out as key languages again and again, alongside other European languages.

It seems there are many reasons for learning a second language. Firstly there is the pleasure it can give – I speak passable French and it feels fantastic when I can have everyday conversations in France. Necessity is another reason, but in all honesty there is no need for me to learn another language. Despite living in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country it is massively segregated. I am white and middle class and I just don’t come across non-English speakers very often. I’m not advocating this as a good thing but it is the reality of the situation. Attempting to become a more active participant in this community despite a lack of pressing necessity would be beneficial but then there is the problem of which language to learn. My dad, who works at the Citizens Advice Bureau, says that the diversity of languages his team uses is so great that there is little or no benefit to singling one out. In this situation an awareness of what is being spoken is perhaps more important than in depth knowledge.

I plan to become a commercial solicitor and from a business sense English is the main language for communication. However in recent months the papers have been full of the need to recognise China as the massive market that it is, and from a commercial perspective it seems Mandarin Chinese is the way forward. The UK is also part of the European Union, and a second European language is always beneficial both in business terms and practical terms because of the free movements allowed by the Union. According to Wikipedia there are globally as many native Spanish speakers as there are native English speakers (and there are plenty more Chinese speakers than that).

Having thought about this more I’ve begun to realise how much I am actually missing out on by only speaking one language. I read so many books in translation, and although great translation is an art in itself I am sure I would gain something from reading these works in the original language. As I only speak English I really lack confidence in tackling other languages when I go on holiday – and I am limiting myself in terms of the local cultures that I can experience. All in all I’m shocked by how closed minded I have been about language without even realising it.

This seems to be part of the general British mindset. So much news coverage is dominated by thinly veiled racism directed at the language skills of immigrants and refugees, and less disguised racism towards other European countries. Languages do not take priority at school. I didn’t start studying French until I was 12, and studied German for only one year. The general unspoken view is that everybody else speaks English so we can sit back and be complacent. This may or may not be the case but the result is a sense of linguistic superiority that has little or no grounding in reality. We fail to appreciate the privilege our native language gives us, which inevitably leads to an insular and nationalistic society.