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.
Has feminism failed the working class?
We asked our readers for their thoughts. They replied - and here’s two picks:
As a single working mother with a 13-year-old daughter, I couldn’t really not be a feminist. Seeing the pressures my daughter will face as she progresses into adulthood makes me realise we all have a way to go. But it’s not feminism that runs the world, it’s money. The media, Guardian included, tend to fixate on the number of women in boardrooms, or whether some neoliberal rightwing politician is a feminist, rather than looking at the reality of working life. I’ve also been quite shocked at the hostility shown to parents, mothers especially. Some of the comments found on this very website have a real venom to them; there is at times a sense that if you are a mother, and especially a working-class mother, then by default you should not have embarked on parenthood at all.
I don’t think the issue is about how feminism represents working-class women at all, it’s how the media and politicians choose to portray them. It’s not feminism that has the power to control what advertisers, the music industry and the media tell us; if anything, feminists tend to be the ones pointing out how damaging it can be.
I come from a white working-class single-parent family. I was a soldier and a teacher, and I worked with working-class white boys in the penal system. I would see myself in the third wave of feminism. I am sick of the second-wave dinosaurs who are currently in power, lecturing me on my undeserved privilege, berating me as an oppressor, excluding me for being male – when by and large I am sympathetic with the majority of their goals. I just don’t like the way they have turned what should be the greatest civil rights movement in history into a single issue lobbying movement which furthers their unearned privilege as wealthy white western women, ignoring everyone else who has suffered from patriarchy (including working-class men).
With my work, I saw working-class boys being treated as disposable war assets by the government, or as disposable criminal problems by the penal system. If eight times more women than men were in prison, it would be a feminist issue. If three times more women killed themselves every year, it would be a feminist issue. The lack of support in men’s mental health is terrible; my (male) doctor does not even know who to refer a male patient to for support. This impacts me personally, but these issues impact all female family members too. There is so much more we can achieve as a team.
Cambodia’s women activists are redefining the housewife
By leading a sustained campaign of nonviolent protest against forced evictions, Cambodian housewives are changing the country’s political map. Excerpt:
Western feminists should not lose sight of the fact that in many countries around the world, women’s role as wife and mother remains central to their family and societal status. When homes are threatened with destruction, it is women who are disproportionately affected. While women are commonly framed as defenceless “soft targets” in forced evictions, Vanny and her fellow housewives complicate this assumption. Harnessing softness as a strategy rather than a hindrance, these women have committed themselves to a sustained campaign of nonviolent protest. Worried that involving men would only encourage violence, “turning men into goldfish clashing with each other”, they are using their positions as wives and mothers to co-opt riot police through their songs of suffering and to morally shame them when they are publicly beaten.
Photograph: Erika Pineros/Demotix/Corbis
A dubious Paul McInnes writes:
This week, 210,000 leaflets encouraging the dobbing in of drug farmers will be posted through the letterboxes of the English regions. Normally they might blend indistinguishably into the other metric tonne of bumf in our letterboxes, from takeaway menus, to two-for-one buffalo wing offers and appeals to call Susan the Mystic, who might just be able to help you with that terrible swelling. With the addition of scratch and sniff technology, however, everyone will pick the leaflet up, not just to see what blooming marijuana smells like , but also to gaze like the ape from the film 2001, at the remarkable technology that is scratch and sniff.
Steve Bell on the budget … Hic!
Not saying Quvenzhané’s name is an attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to step around and contain her blackness. Yes, sometimes black people have names that are difficult to pronounce. There aren’t many people of European descent named Shaniqua or Jamal. Names are as big a cultural marker as brown skin and kinky hair, and there’s long been backlash against both of those things (see: perms, skin bleaching creams, etc.). The insistence on not using Quvenzhané’s name is an extension of that “why aren’t you white?” backlash.
It is easier to be colorblind, to simply turn a blind eye to the differences that have torn this nation apart for centuries than it is to wade through those choppy waters. And Quvenzhané’s very existence is enough to make the societal majority uncomfortable. She is talented, successful, beautiful, happy, loved, and adored–all things that many people don’t figure that little black girls with “black” names could, or should, be. Their answer? Let’s make her more palatable. If she insists on not fitting the mold of the ghetto hoodrat associated with women with “urban” names, let’s take her own urban name away from her.
Refusing to learn how to pronounce Quvenzhané’s name says, pointedly, you are not worth the effort. The problem is not that she has an unpronounceable name, because she doesn’t. The problem is that white Hollywood, from Ryan Seacrest and his homies to the AP reporter who decided to call her “Annie” rather than her real name, doesn’t deem her as important as, say, Renee Zellwegger, or Zach Galifinakis, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, all of whom have names that are difficult to pronounce–but they manage. The message sent is this: you, young, black, female child, are not worth the time and energy it will take me to learn to spell and pronounce your name. You will be who and what I want you to be; you be be who and what makes me more comfortable. I will allow you to exist and acknowledge that existence, but only on my terms.
Brokey McPoverty, “What’s In A Name? Kind Of A Lot,” PostBourgie 2/26/13 (via racialicious)
this is fantastic. :)