Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Slutwalk is coming to London. It was originally scheduled for Saturday the 4th of June but apparently it’s been moved to the 11th. This is an anti-rape protest first started in Toronto, Canada.

I am troubled with Slutwalk as a movement. At first I found it difficult to put into words why this was. It made me uneasy. I consider myself a feminist, of course I am against violence towards women and I’m a fan of protesting. Protesting something we disagree with is important, we shouldn’t just accept the status quo. So when a law officer in Toronto said that women should avoid dressing ‘slutty’ to avoid rape I was pleased at the uproar.

However, as the protest movement picked up speed and organised into the ‘Slutwalk’ phenomena spreading across to the U.S.A., U.K. and Australia I became increasingly uncomfortable. And I’m not alone. People all over have been voicing concerns such as this critique by Meghan Murphy and this blog post on the f-word. ‘Reclaiming’ a negative word doesn’t automatically take away its power. It may seem empowering to call myself a slut but by doing so I am buying into the rhetoric of the word to begin with. If someone uses it against me with malice it’s negative power holds true.

Not all negative words should be reclaimed.

I think we just need to get away from describing what people wear as slutty. It’s not the clothes. After all what is thought of as ‘slutty’ changes depending on the time, the country and the person. Rather than embracing the word ‘slut’ and making friends with it I think we would do better to attack it, chopping it off at the roots. As fun as it is making a sign shouting ‘I’M A SLUT’ better, I think, to shout ‘THERE ARE NO SLUTS’.

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Mastering the masters

A masters is like a black hole that you throw your time and life into. What month is it? December? How did that happen? What happened to November? All I know is that I have two more deadlines for next week. And then a further two a few weeks after that.

This first semester has gone so so fast. The whole year is going to be a blur I can tell. Hopefully at the end I’ll be found in fancy hat, masters degree in hand, smiling knowlingly, and not in a gibbering wreck under a desk somewhere. As it is I am quite tempted to build some kind of fort out of all my books and articles and have a little nap.

How do academics survive? Is it always like this?

I need to buck up and grab this thing with both hands. I’m determined that I will master the masters.

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The dilemna of sperm donation

A big problem sperm donation has in the UK is the 2005 changes to rules about anonymity. These are that any child created through donated sperm has the right on their 18th birthday to learn the name of the donor. Naturally this has led to a fall in donations as most donors don’t want the risk that in 18 years time dozons of their biological offspring will arrive a-knocking at the door.

These changes also apply to egg and embryo donors.

There’s been lots of discussion on the radio about IVF and a recurring theme is the difficulty of getting your hands on quality sperm/eggs. Most UK couples it seems choose to go to Europe to get IVF.  The current favourite is Spain. The waiting times are shorter than the NHS and the price is cheaper. Also, because Spain pays people for donating they have ample supplies of sperm and eggs.

In the UK the idea the NHS had to cover the shortage of donations was to offer a discount in the price of IVF treatment if women donated eggs. That’s right – eggs from people having fertility problems. Is it any wonder the chance of successful impregnation is so low in the UK, compared to say Spain?

Personally I think the ‘Gathering Sperm Trust’ (or whatever they’re called) should use this cartoon from Dinosaur comics in their advertising material.

The fertility watchdog has recommended that women should be offered payment for donation of their eggs as the most effective way of ending that shortage. In America payment is offered for both sperm and egg donation.

Personally I think I would be unlikely to donate my eggs unless I was offered a substantial payment (this is what critics are worried off, that people like me would risk their health purely for finacial gain, to pay for university etc). It is quite a big needle – right into the ovaries! And I also don’t really like the idea that my genetic material would be just wandering around somewhere. I believe reproduction comes with a great deal of responsibility. Also I am a big advocate of ADOPTION! I have little sympathy for couples who spend thousands upon thousands on IVF instead of adopting.

At a push I might donate an egg (or a syringe full) to someone I actually knew. But I’d have to like them a lot.

It’s a thorny issue. Should the rules be changed back to total anonymity for donors? I feel that would be one of the most effective ways of getting more donations. But when it comes to it there’s still the bigger issue of how much help a couple should be given in creating a baby from scratch.

(sperm and eggs are also used for various experimentations, not even creating babies. Is that more controversial? I don’t think so)

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Moon Landing

I’m going to guess……


That’s right I’m just making my position nice and clear right now. So that later on if it turns out to be true I can nod smugly and say “Ah ha, I always knew it” along with everyone else, only I’ll have documented proof that this was my position all those years ago.

This week NASA  has revealed at a news conference some of it’s digitally restored footage of the moon landing in celebration of the event’s 40th birthday (On an unrelated note has anyone else noticed how Americans in the news these days look like they’re in the 1980’s? Just LOOK at that guy’s suit). The moon landing is all over the news at the moment. Especially as apparently there is a new race to the moon on. This time China seems to be taking up the gauntlet of racing America there.

China wants the glory of a moon landing. And in my opinion America is racing there to try and prevent anyone discovering a suspicious lack of debris from the previous landing. Partly this is wishful thinking on my part. It would amuse me a lot though if it was all fake.

Conspiracy theorists have been juggling this topic around for decades now. They’re been scrutinising the photos, claiming the shadows and lack of stars are wrong as well as unearthing NASA employees who claim it’s fake, and videos of the astronauts ‘practising’ the moon landing in a warehouse.

Wikipedia has much to say about it here.

Basically there are three main avenues of conspiracy theory:

  1. Complete hoax — The idea that the entire moon landing was faked from start to finish. This theory claims the technology was not advanced enough. Especially in mind of crossing the Van Allen Radiation Belt.
  2. Partial hoax / unmanned landingsBart Sibrel has stated that the crew of Apollo 11 and subsequent astronauts had faked their orbit around the Moon and their walk on its surface by trick photography, and that they never got more than halfway to the Moon.
  3. Manned landings, with cover-upsPhilippe Lheureux, in Lumières sur la Lune (Lights on the Moon), said that astronauts did land on the Moon, but that, in order to prevent other nations from benefiting from scientific information in the real photos, NASA published fake images.

If America did manage to fake them then well done to them. It’s a pretty excellent hoax, and a long lasting one. It does seem like something that would be very difficult to maintain. I’m just waiting until the next moon landing. Or until the freedom of information act results in relevant documents being released (although if it hasn’t happened yet it’s dubious).

I’m not entirely convinced either way but I feel the need to pick a side now so I’ll go with my previous Yes, Yes the moon landing was faked.

What do you think?

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Why is it always so hard to find ‘United Kingdom’ in drop down options on online forms? It’s always in a different place! I wish I was Australian. Then it would be easy.

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A few days ago I bumped into an old school friend of mine….and her SON! This may not at first sound like a big deal but I had no idea she’d been pregnant, plus if I was to put everyone I knew from school in a list of ‘Most likely to breed’ she would have been way down at the bottom. I was shocked! Shocked and amazed.

There she was pushing around a person who had been INSIDE HER WOMB like it was the most normal thing in the world.

The world is very deceptive. After a number of years you return to your childhood home and everything looks the same, you’re pretty much the same (truely, I look the same as when I was at school, except I’m now a bit fatter) and when you bump into people you expect them to be the same. But no, they go and drop bombshells on you like ‘This is my son’.

I literally had to bite my tongue to stop myself yelling out a variety of increasingly insane sounding questions. I was a little incoherant with shock as it was. Here is an extract of our exchange, complete with my thought bubbles:

Schoolfriend: This is my son.

Me: Oh wow, gosh really? That’s amazing (Son, son? Oh my lord)

SF: Yeah I know.

Me: Wow, when, um, I mean when did you have it? Him! When did you have him? (Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod you actually had SEX?)

SF: 3 Months ago, I’m now on maternity leave from the *****

Me: Cool. Cool.

SF: Yeah, he was over 10 pounds when he was born. I had a caesarean in the end. I was pushing for like an hour, usually people push for like ten minutes and the baby pops out.

Me: Oh was he late?

SF: Two weeks.

Me: Wow. (You have a soooooooooooon? How, how did that happen??) What’s his name?

SF: ******

Me: Cute. (You had a person inside you?  Argh!!)

Etc. This was much the way it went for a while. I wanted to ask what it was like being pregnant and so on but as her mother was also there I refrained.

Her mother then told me off because I said I wasn’t getting married soon. Which was bizarre. I’m not sure from what angle this shocked her. Obviously I don’t compare favourably with her married, spawning daughter. She actually told me that it was ‘no good’ and ‘disgraceful’.

On a previous visit to Bristol I had been shocked to learn that this same old friend had gotten married. Who knows what she’s saving up for my next visit back. I think it has to along the lines of joining a crazy religion/cult, becoming a punk, becoming a junkie, becoming a man or similiar. It’s gonna be hard to top the baby.

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Remember that they can see you

Yesterday I had a bit of a shock.

A week or so ago I wrote a post about the Hay festival in which I discussed the talks we went to see. Imagine my suprise when one of the givers of those talks replied to my post! Argh! I’d forgotten that this is connected to the magical ‘Internet’ and that anyone can read it. Including the people I’m writing about.

It was like Mr. Beale was watching me through the computer screen. I’m sure there’s some literary essay just waiting in the wings on this circle of realisation. I actually felt embarrassed. I don’t know why, I just was. The thought that people can actually find and read what I write on here was just a bit of a shock.

Let it be a warning to all – the internet is huge, and anyone with access to a computer (with a connection) can see you. Especially people on a hunt for reviews of their public speaking.

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I’m having a crisis of conscience. Ah, crisis crisis!

I’ve just been reading about how bad sanitary products are for the environment. This is something I’ve always known deep down but have been avoiding thinking about because they make my life easy. Also because the alternatives scare me.

The more I think about it now though the more it dawns on me that I’m nothing but a big hypocrite. I claim to believe in recycling and organic farming, yet every month I buy inorganic chemically produced plastic sanitary pads that I then throw into a bin to be thrown in turn into a landfill somewhere. I can only imagine how horrible those landfills must be and will be for a very very very long time.

It’s a  difficult cycle to even contemplate breaking. I am very much a product of my upbringing. I use the same brand as my mother, the brand I first used at the age of 12 when ‘auntie flo’ first started visiting (I have no problem saying the word period but I heard this phrase the first time the other day and thought it was hysterical).

I’m tentatively considering buying some reusable pads, such as lunapads. They’re re-usable pads made of fabric. After you’ve used them you wash them. It all sounds potentially very messy. Hum.

Another alternative are Natracare products which claim to be ‘chemical and additive free, and biodegradable and contain only organic and natural ingredients sourced from sound ecologically managed producers.’ That sounds a little less scary. Maybe I will go for them as a first tentative baby step to being a better person.

I found a good looking site where you can investigate all kinds of reusuable and biodegradable pads here. They also sell mooncups and menstrual sponges.

I will definately buy some from here but the question is which am I brave enough to try?

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I got a phone call earlier today from Amnesty International reminding me that my membership runs out in less than 2 weeks!! Shock horror!

The dude on the phone didn’t tell that immediately though, oh no. First he congratulated me on the success of their no violencing women campaign. Apparently 175 women in the UK get raped everyday. And the UK government has just signed….something….  to start taking the whole matter more seriously. I was pleased but confused that amnesty felt the need to phone me personally about this. After all I HAD written to my MP about it but they neither knew this nor could I see it having made THAT much difference. But then ‘Dave’ cleared it up for me by asking for money.

Oh he really wanted me to set up a direct debit. I refused, mainly because I can’t guarantee my account has money in each month. Also because there was no way I was giving my bank details over the phone to someone who had phoned me. How did I know he was really from Amnesty etc? This is paranoia, but I don’t think unreasonable paranoia.

When did charities get so pushy? I support amnesty, I think they’re great, they don’t need to phone me to remind me. In fact if anything after the phone call I’ve started wondering why they need the money at all. I can’t really see that anything they do really needs money. They don’t give money to anyone. They seem to mainly rely on letter writing. As a member they’ve never given me any free stamps or writing paper or anything.

Charities are just getting too pushy. I feel like I’m being stalked. Not only do I get stopped constantly in the street (I obviously look studenty enough) but they come to the house and phone and NOW the ones I DO support are clammouring at me for even more attention too. It’s too much. It’s like an overly possessive lover who just won’t let you out of their sight! They constantly guilt trip you into doing what they want.

Sorry Amnesty but I do see other charities too. Just because I haven’t sent you any cash recently doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten you. I have enough love in my charity bag for more than one but maybe not enough in my wallet. It seems that charities these days value money above all else. Which is a shame as I think money is the least (though easiest) I have to offer.

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The problems of anonymity

When I started this blog I decided that I didn’t want to use my real name.  This was for three main reasons:

*Secret identities are fun

*I didn’t want psychos randomly trawling through the internet to know who I am

* If I put my real name then the people I’m close to and write about could also be identified and that’s unfair on them

The problem with putting your real name on a blog from the start is that you can’t take it back later on.  It’s fine if you’re already in the public sphere but if you’re a little nobody like me then I have to think carefully before doing it. Who knows what the future may bring. I might want to be a politician later on. Considering that this blog is just me blurting out whatever is in my head on each day it seemed better in the long run to use an alias.

Anonymity in short seemed a sensible way to go.

However some problems have arisen. I want people to read this blog. When I first started it I excitedly told several close friends and my parents. So it’s not 100% anonymous. And then my parents have also told people. Sigh.

My father mentioned in passing the other day that my grandparents thought the blog was weird and not like me at all. I didn’t tell them about it, he must have. That’s fine but I’m becoming increasingly aware of who my audience is. Should I tailor what I write about because of this? I’m beginning to yearn for the freedom real anonymity would have given me.

My mother told me my post about a dream I had (where I was setting C up) was too personal. I don’t think so. It was only a dream.

The dilemma came to a head the other day when Amnesty International invited me to a conference in London for survivors of Tienanmen Square to talk about their experiences. It’s media only and I’ve been invited because I signed up to their ‘Blogproject’ which is a series of e-mails about important issues they want people to blog about.

This spun me into indecision. It was ‘invitation only’ and so therefore presumably I’d have to give them my name. I ummed over it for a while and replied with my real name. Now I have to decide if I should go, should I start a better more ‘amnesty-minded’ blog, or continue as I’m going? It’s a conundrum.

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