Sunday, 22 March 2009

Happy Mothers Day

To be honest, I think Mothers Day is a bit pants. It's just a Christian thing that's been turned into a Hallmark Holiday. Now, being a secular Jew, I don't celebrate Christmas or Easter unless I'm staying with Christian friends, so I don't really see why I should have to celebrate Mothers Day when I'm not even at all close to my mother.

It's just as bad as Valentine's Day, for similar reasons. On Valentine's Day, men are pressurised into buying flowers and chocolates for their girlfriends and wives, which allows them to be as crap and ungrateful as they like on the other 364 days of the year. On Mother's Day, anyone whose mother is still alive is expected to fork out for flowers, chocolates and, bizarrely, anti-wrinkle cream (since when was that "the ideal gift"?) and then they don't have to even acknowledge their mother for the rest of the year, even though she might be a complete saint. "Here Mum, happy Mother's Day, here's somthing for your "deep set wrinkles". Have you ironed my shirt?" Luckily, my boy is every bit as unenamoured of Valentine's Day as I am, so we didn't do anything. We weren't even in the same country that day. In fact, I don't even think we texted one another. I am nothing if not unromantic. My mother however has expressed no interest in opting out of Mother's Day, so I couldn't avoid that one.

The problem is, if you don't get on with your mother, hardly ever see her and are not close to her at all, acknowledging Mother's Day is rather like sending a Valentine's card to your ex-boyfriend, who you sort-of stay in touch with and don't bear any ill will, but who makes you want to slap him round the face with a large fish after five minutes in his company. And don't get me started on Father's Day. If sending a Mother's Day card to my mum is like sending a Valentine to an ex-boyfriend, then acknowledging Father's Day is like sending a Valentine to my abusive ex-husband because of whom I've had to move to another country and assume a new identity.

When I was growing up, my mother was the Bad Mother who chain smoked, swore like a sailor, had crazy hair, wore DMs and didn't come to my concerts. However, despite the fact that she's had just about the most disastrous love life of anyone I know, she did, when I was a child, come out with some really good advice about sex and relationships. You have to imagine the following lines delivered by a woman with mad hair, puffing on a Gauloise, and somehow managing not to look a day over 35 despite the fact that she is in her late fifties and has smoked like a chimney since she was a teenager:

  • Don't ever get married because you want to get married. Get married because you want to be married.
  • Don't ever rely on a man for anything. If he leaves you, you're screwed
  • It is not fair to rely on a man financially. You have the right to work, so work
  • If a man doesn't want you to contribute financially, either he's just being too chivalrous, in which case you shouldn't take advantage, or he wants to control you
  • Money means power, and that is never truer than in relationships
  • Don't ever commit to a man who only appreciates you for your looks - he'll trade you in for a younger model at the first wrinkle
  • Don't EVER have children (erm, thanks...)
  • It's okay, as long as you wash your hands afterwards (can be applied to any number of situations, but yes, she was referring to what you're thinking)

    So basically: Be independent, don't get involved with dickwads, and wank yourself silly. Which is as deserving of a Mother's Day outing to one of North London's finest tea establishments as anything.
  • Saturday, 7 March 2009

    LOLClits...not so funny akshully

    I love b3ta, and sitting down with a cup of tea, or possibly something stronger, to read the weekly newsletter when I get in on a Friday night is an enjoyable ritual. This week, the chaps and chapesses at b3ta linked to LOLClits (NSFW!).

    Now, at first, I thought LOLClits was pretty funny. Then I saw this. Not funny. SOOOOOO not funny. So not fucking funny that I have complained to b3ta, informed the New York Times, which is where the pictures came from, and worried about whether I ought to be giving LOLClits the publicity that this post might generate.

    As well as thinking that female genital mutilation is hilarious, LOLClits also seems to indulge in childish cyberbullying tactics like linking to people who've blogged unfavourably about them, presumably hoping that they'll get flamed, whilst not advertising their own email address on the website. This is kinda like a small child firing at you with a slingshot from the safety of a treehouse. Cowardly, annoying, but not in the least bit scary. They can link to me all they like - I would consider it an honour to be regarded as a threat to anyone who allows shit like that to be published.

    Sunday, 1 March 2009

    Anorexia Porn

    I've always known I have it in me to write books, and that writing feminist books would not be an unrealistic goal. Something I've always thought about is writing a middlebrow self-help manual on how women can get on with their lives in a patriarchal world (because I'll admit it, I often think that people who spend a huge amount of time writing long tracts of feminist ranting need to get a life - sometimes the most rebellious and empowering thing you can do is to stick two fingers up at the patriarchy and simply get on with your life), and it's still something I might do one day, but lately I've been thinking about something else: the possibility of writing a book about something that I find sinister, creepy and disturbing in the extreme: anorexia porn.

    No, not porn sites featuring anorexia sufferers (although these of course do exist). I'm talking about the grim obsession that the media seems to have with anorexia. Last fortnight's issue of Private Eye:


    There was no shock whatsoever today after a fat teenager who died suddenly this week didn't get her picture in any newspaper.

    "If only this poor overweight girl had died of a slimming disease, then we'd have felt duty-bound by the scale of the tragedy to run loads of photos of her in skimpy tops to salivate over," said all newspaper editors.

    - Private Eye, issue 1229, p22

    Gawd, I love Private Eye. Ian and his team have brought into the open something that's bugged me for years: why this complete obsession with anorexia?

    It's a rare women's magazine that doesn't carry an anorexia feature. The "I thought THIS *insert lurid picture of protruding ribs* was FAT" coverline is almost as ubiquitous as "How to please a man in bed", "How to have the best orgasms", "How to lose 10lbs" and "SHOES! We have pictures of SHOES YOU CAN'T AFFORD!"

    Here are the rules for an anorexia story:

  • Photos. There must be photos.
  • There must also be statistics: height and weight at heaviest and lowest points, and preferably in between too.*
  • The disease (and I remind you that this is a severe mental illness with a higher death toll than any other) is presented as vanity gone too far.
  • The victim suffers or claims to suffer** from severe dysmorphia, believing she is fat.
  • The whole thing is presented as simply an extreme form of the dieting and self-hating rituals that a lot of young women go through and that these magazines actively encourage.
  • At some point during her recovery, the victim must get a man who will help her on the road to health and make her realise that she is beautiful and not at all fat.

    Susie Orbach argues quite convincingly that compulsive eating is the opposite side of the same coin as anorexia, so why are women's magazines not lavishly illustrated with photos of women who have eaten themselves into morbid obesity? Or whose bingeing has led them to die of gastric rupture from constant vomiting? Compulsive eating and bulimia (basically the same horribly distressing and dangerous illness but for one minor detail, the presence or absence of self-induced vomiting) just aren't seen as glamorous.

    Having suffered from anorexia is seen almost as a badge of honour. Watch a woman tell another woman she's suffered from anorexia in the past: 50% of the time you'll get either sympathy or a "whoah, you're mental" look, but the other 50% of the time her eyes will glaze over in barely-concealed admiration. Those are the women who devour these stories. Why do they devour them? Why the demand?

    The problems as a direct result of such media coverage are as follows:

  • People thinking that anorexia is a diet gone too far which can be solved by telling the victim that they are not fat
  • Because anorexia is presented as a mere extension of "normal" body hatred, it's seen as something that affects only young women and adolescent girls. Tell that to male sufferers, older female sufferers or the parents of children struggling with the problem.
  • People thinking that anorexia sufferers' bodies, much like fat people's and conventionally-attractive women's, are fair game for public consumption, that it's okay to stare as much as you like and say whatever you want. Essentially, anorexics are presented as freak show acts that exist for public amusement. Hooray - now I have an excuse to link to The Boy With An Arse for a Face
  • People thinking that unless you look as if you're about to drop dead, you can't be anorexic. This one is particularly dangerous: most anorexics refuse treatment, and so intervention by friends and family is paramount. Experts unanimously agree that the later treatment is started, the grimmer the sufferer's chances of recovery. If the friends and family of an anorexic wait until she "looks anorexic" before dragging her to a doctor, it may be too late to avoid permanent physical and mental damage.
  • Essentially, it's completely voyeuristic, offering freak shows of these women whilst glossing over their actual problems.

    So yes, I want to write a book on anorexia porn, exploring the phenomenon of this public obsession with the illness. It reveals so much of the creepy way that a lot of women tend to view other womens' bodies.

    *Websites that help people recover from eating disorders generally have a complete ban on users posting information about their height/weight/BMI because some sufferers find it "triggering"
    **FACT: If you've got an obvious problem, the quickest way of stopping people from asking awkward questions is to tell them what they want to hear
  • Sunday, 11 January 2009

    Goodwill to All Women

    The Blackheath Bugle has helpfully brought to my attention the nauseating KitKat Senses billboard that has been all over the country recently. I hadn't actually seen it as I have been in Germany for the last few weeks merrily stuffing my face with stollen and not-so-merrily going round history museums and concentration camps, but it really is totally eurgh.

    This isn't exactly an original campaign - this sort of thing has been happening for years, from Flake through Galaxy to Mars Delight. Yep, us women are all slavering chocaholics.

    Indulge yourself, go on, you deserve it. Mmmm, creamy and delicious, mmmmm, MMMMMMMM, indulge yourself, fellate it in a bubble bath surrounded by candles because you deserve it, you goddess, you! Go on, indulge yourself, be NAUGHTY, you know you need it because your sex life is shite and you've been eschewing carbs for God knows how long, so what you really need is a quick hit of refined carbs that will cause you to moan in ecstasy. Mmmmmmmmmmmm......

    Creamy chocolate, delicious chocolate, indulgent chocolate, naughty chocolate, sinful chocolate, ONLY 165 CALORIES, yes, yes, YES, YES, YES!!!!

    Take me now, big boy! You know I can't get enough of your raging hazelnuts, fill me up with your hot, throbbing rod of sugary goodness!

    [The rest of this post has been censored. This is a family blog.]