We middle-class feminists bicker, fret and “check our privilege”; we criticise each other’s feminist credentials the way we used to taunt each other about our frocks. Sometimes, it seems, calling oneself a feminist is a personal act of vanity, with no wider resonance – witness Louise Mensch the feminist, Theresa May the feminist and, most fantastically, Margaret Thatcher the feminist, even though her supporters will happily tell you that the woman stood for no one but herself. For the majority, the revolution has stalled. The word means nothing.
— Tanya Gold, Feminism now seems ubiquitous, and irrelevant. That’s the test for `Spare Rib.
'The fact is, rape is utterly commonplace in all our cultures. It is part of the fabric of everyday life, yet we all act as if it's something shocking and extraordinary whenever it hits the headlines. We remain silent, and so we condone it…Until rape, and the structures – sexism, inequality, tradition – that make it possible, are part of our dinner-table conversation with the next generation, it will continue. Is it polite and comfortable to talk about it? No. Must we anyway? Yes.'
— Desmond Tutu, ‘To protect our children, we must talk to them about rape’
Everyone’s favourite dieting guru and carb-botherer Gwyneth Paltrow came under fire this week, but surprisingly it wasn’t for putting her children on an elimination diet (do you feed your offspring eggs, wheat or deep-water fish? Can you name a deep-water fish? No? Shame on you!) but for selling a bikini designed for pre-teen girls on her alluringly named website, Goop. [Read more]
If the young lads from the rougher parts of town who are being offered a better outcome are predominantly black or Asian then that’s the kind of patronising, intrusive nanny-state social engineering that I can get right behind. That educational experience was a game-changer for me. It’s very difficult to imagine quite where I’d have ended up if I hadn’t been offered it. And if anyone’s asking me, which they’re not, I think chances like that should be given to a lot more young people. Only then will they get invited to the kind of cocktail parties where they can win the “race to the bottom” game. And every kid deserves to be a winner at something.
— Michael Moran, discussing John Cherry’s ‘racist’ comments on the prospect of children from ethnic minorities being educated in West Sussex
Those in the know have been curling their lips at fascinators for years already, of course. But with the twin evils of Aintree and Ascot close at hand – not to mention wedding season gathering pace – it’s a relief to be able to speak it aloud. The fascinator is dead; long live headgear that doesn’t look like you made it at home with a glue-gun
- Harriet Walker, ‘The fascinator is dead…long live proper hats’
I’m not in the habit of bearing grudges against five-year-old boys I don’t even know, especially when I haven’t so much as spoken to them, but merely observed their behaviour from a distance of several metres. It can’t be psychologically healthy to develop a burning dislike of someone you could easily hurl over a small building using just one arm if you were so inclined. Kids are blameless, albeit often annoying. But last week – last week …
— Charlie Brooker, ‘Q: How do you spoil a five-year-old for ever? A: Buy him a convertible’
'What irritates me most about the reporting of this trend is the suggestion that young Scouse girls are getting their nipples tattooed because of pressure from their boyfriends. I can't see it. It's not as though my fella's ever turned around during an amorous moment and whispered “cracking tits babe, but you might want to make your rose pink nipples a little duskier” (and if he did he'd be in for it),' says blogger Scouse Bird, Nipple Tattoos? Don’t pin this ‘craze’ on us Scouse birds
Women of colour, likewise, when they call white feminists “colour-blind”, are not saying every conversation about misogyny must start and end at the point where it bisects racism, rather that battles white feminists assume to be over have merely been shifted elsewhere… And that’s the better reason to “check your privilege” – not from some restrictive idea about how authentic you are, or whether you’ve endured the hardship to qualify as a progressive voice, but because not all prejudice is extinguished – some of it is just displaced. If someone else is taking the flak you would have got, in eras past, that flak is still your problem
— Zoe Williams, Are you too white, rich, able-bodied and straight to be a feminist?
'It's easy to make fun of Paltrow – I've just done it for 450 words without breaking a sweat – but I've begun to think that, actually, she might be a genius. True, genius is not really a word that one associates with a 40-year-old who has a penchant for boasting that she has “the butt of a 22-year-old stripper”, or announcing ”I would rather die than let my kids eat Cup-a-Soup.” But it has become increasingly clear to me that Paltrow is brilliantly trolling the world’ - Hadley Freeman on Gwyneth Paltrow
Steve Bell on Margaret Thatcher’s memorial service
Louise Mensch tweets her objection to Tatler’s feature on the best posh breasts. Today on Cif Alexandra Jones argues that the magazine has not gone tits up.
There’s nothing wrong per se with paying more attention to tragedy and violence that happens relatively nearby and in familiar places. Whether wrong or not, it’s probably human nature, or at least human instinct, to do that, and that happens all over the world. I’m not criticizing that. But one wishes that the empathy for victims and outrage over the ending of innocent human life that instantly arises when the US is targeted by this sort of violence would at least translate into similar concern when the US is perpetrating it, as it so often does (far, far more often than it is targeted by such violence).
— Glenn Greenwald, The Boston bombing produces familiar and revealing reactions
My life as a Viking
As the History Channel airs its new show Vikings, Erica Stratton writes:
Between 1994 and 1998, my dad and I dressed up as Vikings on the weekends.
The interest was mostly driven by my dad, who worked days as a geologist but spent almost all his free time feeding his fascinating but time-consuming hobby in an effort to “get closer to history”. He bent his own bows, brewed his own mead and sewed his own Viking shoes (you can see pictures here). As members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA for short), we’d camp out with 2,000 other people in a Pennsylvania field, living out of a Viking-style tent that folded up as easily as a camp bed. Later, my dad joined the Longship Trading Company, an amateur group dedicated to sailing and maintaining modern-built Viking longships. While other kids my age went to amusement parks, I’d be sailing on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay in a clinker-built ship, learning just how hard it was to row in synch with 11 other people, returning to shore happy and slightly windburned. As a teen obsessed with fantasy novels, I saw these excursions as adventures, even though I wasn’t always clear on their exact historical significance.
Naturally, when the History Channel started to air its new show Vikings, I felt nostalgic. Loosely based on the legendary saga of the Norse hero Ragnar Lothbrok, Vikings has moments of surprising historical clarity mixed up with a lot of HBO-style sex, mainly between Lothbrok and his wife Lagertha. It inspired a lot of online debate, particularly centred around how accurate the costumes are – which I found amusing, since Ragnar is a figure about as historical as King Arthur. For example, both men and women in the show wear eyeliner, something that’s actually been recorded by Middle Eastern visitors to Norse encampments, but the outfits vary in quality – from Lord Of The Rings rejects to something you’d see at Norstead, a mostly accurate recreation of Leif Erikson's encampment.
Read the rest here
10 lies we’re told about welfare
Comedian Rick Tomlinson writes:
Welfare reform, my arse. Has Jim Royle parked his chair, feet up, telly on, in the corridors between the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions? Employing him as adviser can be the only explanation for the utter rubbish that boils forth from this government on welfare.
Who else could have dreamed up the bedroom tax, a policy so stupid it forces people to leave their homes and drag themselves around the country in search of nonexistent one-bedroom flats?
That one has to be the result of too many hours in front of Jeremy Kyle (no offence) with the heating on full and a can of super-strength lager. It seems as if that is how this government views ordinary people: feckless and useless – poor, because they brought it on themselves, deliberately.
Maybe the cabinet is confused. Twenty-three millionaires in the one room can get like that. But do you know what, enough. Let’s call this government’s welfare policy what it is – wrong, nasty and dishonest.
Off the top of my head, I can list 10 porkies they are spinning to justify the latest stage of their attack on our 70-year-old welfare state.
1. Benefits are too generous
Really? Could you live on £53 a week as Iain Duncan Smith is claiming he could if he had to? Then imagine handing back 14% of this because the government deems you have a “spare room”. Could you find the money to pay towards council tax and still afford to eat at the end of the week?
2. Benefits are going up
They’re not. A 1% “uprating” cap is really a cut. Inflation is at least 2.7% . Essentials like food, fuel and transport are all up by at least that, in many cases far more. Benefits are quickly falling behind the cost of living.
3. Jobs are out there, if people look
Where? Unemployment rose last month and is at 2.5 million, with one million youngsters out of work. When Costa Coffee advertised eight jobs, 1,701 applied.
4. The bedroom tax won’t hit army families or foster carers
Yes it will. Perhaps most cruel of all, the tax will not apply to foster families who look after one kid. If you foster siblings, then tough. But these kids are often the hardest to place. Thanks to George Osborne and IDS, their chances just got worse. And even if your son or daughter is in barracks in Afghanistan, then don’t expect peace of mind as the government still has to come clean on plans for their bedroom.
5. Social tenants can downsize
Really, where? Councils sold their properties – and Osborne wants them to sell what’s left. Housing associations built for families. In Hull, there are 5,500 people told to chase 70 one-bedroom properties.
6. Housing benefit is the problem
In fact it’s rental costs. Private rents shot up by an average of £300 last year. No wonder 5 million people need housing benefits, but they don’t keep a penny. It all goes to landlords.
7. Claimants are pulling a fast one
No. Less than 1% of the welfare budget is lost to fraud. But tax avoidance and evasion is estimated to run to £120bn.
8. It’s those teenage single mums
An easy target. Yet only 2% of single mums are teenagers. And most single mums, at least 59%, work.
9. We’re doing this for the next generation
No you’re not. The government’s admitted at least 200,000 more children will be pushed deeper into poverty because of the welfare changes.
10. Welfare reforms are just about benefit cuts
Wrong. The attack on our welfare state is hitting a whole range of services – privatising the NHS, winding up legal aid for people in debt and closing SureStart centres and libraries. All this will make life poorer for every community.
Some call these myths. I call them lies. We are being told lies about who caused this crisis and lied to about the best way out of it. But I know one thing to be true: this government’s polices will make millions of people poorer and more afraid. To do that when you do not have to, when there are other options, is obscene. That’s why I’m backing union Unite’s OurWelfareWorks campaign in its efforts to help highlight the truth about our welfare state.