Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Morning

I feel so down today. Just thinking about Abir Hamzah, the war in Iraq, the bombings in Mumbai, Israeli action on Lebanon, kidnapped Israeli just goes on and on. I want to DO something more than I do now. But where to start?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Youth Work Training Evening Gets off to a Bad Start. Again.

After the male police officer had handcuffed his guinea pig, he pushed her head down and made stupid jokes about fucking and showed us how very easy it was to control the woman whose body he was using. He made jokes about dicks and length and truncheons and "tugging", he was suggestive and lewd and gross and I called him on it. I said, after some minutes where I was frightened of sounding stupid or reactionary or aggressive: "I will rip yours off if you mention dick again, there's only so much penis I can take in an evening". Then I went silent. Feeling a bit silly because people laughed and because it came out wrong and a bit "Carry on Matron", I wished I hadn't said anything. Later, I went to the guinea pig ( a feminist who I have respected and admired) and apologised for my outburst (I still often have a need to do this, but I will get over it); I explained that the copper and his omnipresent prick had triggered my rage. She patted my shoulder and told me that never mind, he's a great guy, always joking around, that's just his way. Amazingly, I felt better about the whole thing. If that's just his way then he needs to be challenged and belittled until it stops being his way. Its not fucking good enough to be always joking around, especially when that joking around looks like sexual assault.

What Not to Wear?

There is a mini debate starting to boil over in the letters section of the Independent (I know, I should stop buying it). The argument is about Muslim women who wear various forms of veil/covering dress.

There are those who are arguing against women wearing full or part burqa in Britain; they say it demeans women and oppresses them. They say that there is no place in this country for such control over women's dress and behaviour. I agree.

There are those who argue FOR the veil, jilbab, burqa etc. saying that the type of dress commands respect and makes women safer from some forms of abuse. That may well be true.

There are those that have said that the sight of a veiled woman is much less degrading to women and less offensive in general than the sight of a half-naked, drunken woman staggering the streets. This is just reactionary; I think that its too easy to put these two particular images in direct opposition, as if women are necessarily either one thing or the other, but that's another argument.

Here's what I think: I don't think it is freedom when women are routinely wearing lashings of make-up, starving themselves, shaving themselves, sticking on long false nails and pouring chemicals on their head. To me, it all amounts to much the same thing as purdah: women have to mask their real appearance before they go out in public. It is wrong to think that women in Britain have a free choice about how we dress; we might THINK that we are free to choose but we all know that we have been socially and culturally coerced into thinking about body and dress the way that we do. It's become just too easy to point to Muslim traditions and criticize, all the while feeling smug about alleged Western freedoms.

I wanted to go out to the shops today wearing my khaki shorts and a t-shirt. It took me over half an hour to decide whether or not it would be A) appropriate for a woman of my size and B) worth the harassment that goes along with it. I decided that the answer was yes in both cases. I am determined to make actual choices about my clothes. I am utterly sick of being told what to wear and how to wear it. I want to control my own appearance and identity. It's a lot to ask.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

And then it just gets worse...

Heart at Women's Space/The Margins has this astonishing post about Iraqi women up today. I link to it but warn you, it will upset you. But you need to read it anyway.