Saturday, 14 March 2015

12 petitions with fewer signatures than the Jeremy Clarkson one

Jeremy Clarkson, bastion of high waisted jeans and good old fashioned British racism is in trouble again. And I mean beyond the general spiritual trouble one is in if one is besties with David Cameron and the one with the cheese from Blur. Allegedly, there was a bit of a bust up over a burger at the BBC, Jezza punched a guy and he liked it. Allegedly. The BBC were not quite so keen on man-on-man fist action, and suspended him. Because it's not cool to go around punching people at work. Allegedly. Unless you are a boxer.

A petition has been started in order to help Jezza get back to work as soon as possible. As I write, this petition has 888,475 signatures. That's getting on for a million people who think either a) it's cool to punch people at work or b) Jeremy Clarkson provides a calibre of banter that puts him in an 'artistic genius' category and thus above the normal social mores of us mere mortals. 

Either of these is a startling proposition.

But I get it, sometimes you just really want to sign a petition. SO, to help out, I have trawled and found 12 prime specimens languishing behind the punchy (allegedly) man's. You are welcome.

1) 'George Osborne: stop taxing periods'
Because Jeremy Clarkson is more important than anything that's going near our vaginas. Actually, Jeremy Clarkson's net worth means he could probably pay for several menses of biblical proportions. Petition Jeremy Clarkson: start paying for our periods!
Currently at 205, 073 signatures.

2) 'Death: Reinstate Terry Pratchett'.
Sobs. I think Terry Pratchett would have loved this, but has enough trouble changing taxes, the other big Unavoidable is unlikely to bend. But hey, Death, if you're listening, we could do a straight swap. Allegedly.* 
Currently at 23, 983 signatures.

3) 'Disney: Jar-Jar Binks Movie'
Ah, the tragic underdog-space-creature-thing , in so many ways (read: no ways at all) like Clarkson. Destined to be spurned by geeks and the liberal lefties who run the BBC.
Currently at 8 signatures. No-one loves Jar-Jar.

4) 'National Apology to Punk Rock in Parliament'
'The punks were right and the media establishment really were a load of dirty bastards.'
Well, exactly. Actually this petition not only calls for an apology but for the day of apology to be made into a national holiday, called National Punk Rock Day. THIS WOULD BE EXCELLENT, WHY HAVEN'T YOU SIGNED IT ALREADY?
Currently at 13 signatures, what is wrong with the world?

5) 'Bring down the age of smears to 18'
Well, yes, but if Jeremy is more important than tampons, he's almost certainly more important than cervixes (cervii?) too.
Currently at 70,921 signatures.

6) 'David Cameron: stop the 11% payrise for MPs salaries'
... and give it to the hard working staff at your local library instead. *bats eyelashes hopefully*. I think this petition would have garnered more signatures, but they made a tactical error with the photo. Cameron looks hungover so the public are either feeling sorry for him or sadistically aiming to maximise income and therefore hangover potential for him and his cronies. 
Currently at 355,826 signatures.

7) 'Redheads should have emoji too!'
Yeah they should! Look how adorable that flame-haired bunch of pixels looks! Plus...
Currently at 5705 signatures

8) 'The Taco emoji needs to happen'
... people get surprisingly ideologically attached to the form of small pictorial communication symbols...
Currently at 30,488 (!) signatures.

9) 'Release a Pi emoji', really attached...**
Currently at 54 signatures.

10) 'Make a Papaya emoji'
('Sometimes when I need to use a Papaya emoji to prove a point, I have to settle for a pear and that is honestly unacceptable.')
Currently at 30 signatures.

11) 'Pay NHS staff fairly! #NHSpay
Let's be honest, if (allegedly) punching at work is going to become acceptable for colleagues as well as time cards, we're going to need the NHS.
Currently at 164, 665 signatures.

12) 'Replace Jeremy Clarkson with Julian Clary as presenter of Top Gear.'
*resists any and all gear-stick-based innuendo*
Wouldn't that be nice though?
Currently at 5334 signatures.

All of the screenshots have been taken from so if you fancy rebalancing the world a bit, go forth and sign! 

*You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. - Ed.
** also. highly amused by the thoughts of a little Pi symbol bound in chains and straining furiously to be free. YOU CAN'T CAGE the mathematical truth guys.

Friday, 13 March 2015

6 happy things

6 happy things flower

Because celebrating the little things means that I get celebrated. Also it's March, and we're still living in a damp cotton wool world. Also, I just opened a post by talking about THE WEATHER and therefore I need to cheer myself up.

1) Having butterflies on my head.

Some gorgeous butterfly hair clips fluttered into my life courtesy of Joss' sister. However, since the world seems intent on drizzling on me like a scorned lover until at least July, my hat is at the moment firmly welded to my head. SO the butterflies have taken pride of place on its brim, until such time as hatless weather appears. They make me feel a bit ( a lot) like Carmen Miranda, and my hat gets endless compliments on its new occupants, which always puts a spring in my step.

2) Having a litter tray with a lip on it

DON'T worry, I'm not going to foist a picture of my cat's litter tray on you, no matter what its sanitary state. Let me paint you a picture with words instead. You lucky things. Kitten is a very fastidious cat. That means he can spend hours (literally hours) of an evening, arranging each grain of litter just so in the tray. Previously this also meant decorating his vicinity liberally with litter that didn't make the cut. BUT NOW! We have acquired a litter tray with a lip round the edge, which means that Kitten can make his bathroom arrangements without covering the corridor in the process and this makes me ridiculously happy. Seriously. I never thought I'd get this much joy out of anything plastic.

3) Swimming

It's really annoying, isn't it, that the perky women with the shiny swinging ponytails are often right. They're right about drinking loads of water. They're right about the magical properties of peppermint tea. And they're right about the exercise. I'm at the moment trying to go swimming semi-regularly after the following conversation with my body:

Body: I want to be free!  I want to be chasing prey across sun baked plains and feeling the kiss of the wind on my face!
Me: Body, this is all very well but unfortunately we are built on roughly the same morphological lines as a Shetland pony. The only prey we can reliably outrun are snails, and they do not make good eating. Also,  we live in Scotland. The kiss of the wind is in reality a full blown snog that ruffles our hair and whacks us out of equilibrium for the rest of the day.
Body: buut that's not fai-
Me: I'll tell you what, I'll take you to a watering hole where you can thrash up and down and listen to the warbling of your fellow beasts. It's almost like being free, but with added blue plastic pool shoes.
Body: that'll do, ego. That'll do.

And it does make me feel a bit like I've been filled with liquid sunshine afterwards. They're right again. Damnit.

4) Peanut Hottie

Ahh this stuff is delicious. It's a hot peanut-butter drink and about 500 times better than that sounds. It's kind of slightly savoury and with quite a thick consistency and it still doesn't sound as wonderful as it is, but if you like peanut butter you need to try it. Also, I can drink it at night time and not worry about being up until 2am. Which is a winner.

5) Spring flowers

So at my Mum's house, seeing the snowdrops popping up when everything was grey and dreich was one of my favourite parts of the year. I have this theory that the reason time feels faster and faster is not just cos I'm getting old (sob) but also because living in a city, you don't see those great sweeping changes in your surroundings through the seasons. They're still there, just more subtle and sometimes hidden behind buildings. Anyway, Spring flowers popping up in the parks is one of those little reminders of the Earth dancing round the sun. I love that, and I love their little colourful faces nodding at me like I'm Alice in Wonderland instead of Anna on her Way to Work. There's a reason Lewis Carroll ditched the latter working title.

6) Crufts

OH MY WORD I bloody love Crufts. I do this *slightly* creepy thing sometimes where I go to the Park to watch all the doggies having fun with their humans, because dogs having fun is one of the happiest things in the world. Crufts not only legitimises this experience but brings it into my living room! All of the beautiful dogs to look at, and Clare Baldingses as well! Not only that, but the programme is endearingly batty, with some camp guy running around the stalls and trying on collars between the flyball classes. And the runner up flat coated retriever had his rosette in his mouth and looked like he was having the BEST. DAY. EVER. and I kind of wanted to be a flat coated retriever. If a programme can leave you envying the life of a dog and yet still leave you uplifted, you know it's a good un.

Go forth and be happy!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Living in a rape culture

Trigger warning: sexual assault.
Some people may find the contents of the following blogpost upsetting. I wasn't sure whether to put it up but then I remembered that I have nothing to be ashamed of and if I can help anyone by writing this then it's worth it.
One night I was coming home from a Halloween party and I was attacked. I was followed to a quiet road and then stopped by a man I didn't know. I fought as hard as I could but I was slow. It felt like my blood had turned to treacle in my veins. And a small ridiculous part of me worried about making a fuss. A taxi drove past, but the passenger saw me struggling and made the driver reverse. The man ran off. If that taxi had not gone past or if it was carrying a less observant passenger, I don't know if I would be able to tell this story. But I had a lucky escape. My mum sent the passenger flowers.
The police were sympathetic but ultimately there was nothing they could do. He hadn't had a chance to leave any DNA on me, thanks to my rescuer. My account was doubtless so muddied and narrowed by fear that it was of little help. They had other things to get on with. Near misses like mine probably happen all the time. They gave me a slip of paper with a phone number for counselling on it. I never called.
Afterwards I was anxious and sad. I was anxious about all sorts of things. Going out, the clothes I wore, the dark. I was sad mainly about one thing: the realisation that there are people in the world who want to hurt you for no reason. I literally didn't know what to do with myself, didn't know how to feel normal again.
But when I spoke to people, I realised that I was not alone. So many women have gone through some form of sexual assault or harassment. Those stories aren't mine to tell. But every woman is touched by it to some extent. And this is in the UK, ostensibly an equal society.
A wee while ago, I was standing in the queue in a co-op (in the middle of the afternoon) and some lads behind me started shouting about how they would 'F*** me like a rat'. Charming. I should have turned round and belted them but I didn't. I wanted to believe that it wasn't happening, and I didn't want to make a fuss. What they were doing was the same as the man in the alley. They wanted to feel powerful at the expense of another human being.
My story is unusual in that it fits the fairytale mould of assault: dark alley, menacing stranger. Most women will suffer at the hands of someone they know. Living in a rape culture is like walking unguarded through a jungle. You know most of the time you're safe. But you never know if a tiger might attack. And if it does, will it just scratch you? Or will it take more? You might not be able to see the tooth marks it leaves but that doesn't make them any less real. Oh, but add to that the fact that most tigers wouldn't dream of attacking you, and share your lives and your homes. Abs you worry about seeming to stridently anti-bad-tiger in case it upsets the good tigers in your life.
I worry about the young women I know. I don't worry because I think they are fragile. I worry because I know you don't need to be fragile to be hurt. But being hurt makes you fragile. It's hard not to be a little more brittle and a little more suspicious of people.
I hope that they never have to go through any assault on their dignity. But if they do, I hope that they are gentle on themselves, and I hope the world is gentle on them. I hope they know it doesn't make them any less.  I hope that they feel confident in blaming their attackers and not themselves. But mostly I hope they know they're not alone, and we can fight rape culture with everything we have.

Monday, 2 March 2015

On being body positive

I love people, so long as they either shower regularly or make good use of well ventilated areas. I love it when people love themselves, mostly. I mean, I don't get on with everyone, the human brain is not set up that way, but the good thing about liking yourself is that you're starting off with at least one ally. I can't begrudge even my worst enemy the power and pleasure of standing in their own corner.

So, it won't come as a smack-that-gob-shut-the-front-door surprise that I think the body positive movement is... well... a really positive thing. Being Kind, I think, is an underrated virtue. And being kind to yourself can sometimes seem impossible. But in the long run, it's much easier than fighting yourself every step of the way. As Queen Ru says, if you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?

if you can't love yourself gif
Gif via

I figure that if the internet gives us 24/7 access to the thought processes of Katie Hopkins, it might as well act as a force for good too. If you search #BodyPositive on instagram then you get literally thousands of pictures of people (mostly women, it has to be said) loving themselves. No. not like that. Loving themselves in a way that wouldn't get you picked up by the police if you tried it on the streets at 9am some Tuesday morning. It sure beats filtered photos of avocados. And I really like avocados. 

As a movement, it has detractors. Of course it does. See above on human brains. We can't agree on anything. If everyone in the world had to decide where we were going for breakfast we'd probably end up either a) going hungry or b) giving up and going to Starbucks for a muffin sauced with tears and disillusionment. People say it glamorises obesity, and being fat just isn't healthy damnit! 

Now, let's stop for a moment. Yes, if you are obese then you are likely to have health problems, and you are more likely to develop health problems in the future. But are we prepared to accept that confidence is the preserve of the healthy? If we're going to force all unhealthy people to be miserable, then we are going to end up with several thousand truckloads of miserable people, stuffed to the gills. Which I'm not sure our roads could cope with. Never forget that obesity might be a visual indicator of poor health, but it's not as reliable as you might think and most bodily processes happen under the skin. Until we have X-ray glasses, it's probably best not to make judgements about how healthy a stranger is. And once we do, I can personally think of far better uses for them.

In my slow stumble towards confidence, I've learned several things. First, it's not an on/off switch. You don't just 'get' confidence, like a tattoo. It's more like a fancy watch, which you have to remember to put on every day, and sometimes leave beside the sink after you wash your hands. You have to keep working on being kind to yourself and if posting a picture on the internet helps you with that (and, equally importantly, helps others be kind to themselves) then go for it. There are enough conventionally beautiful bodies selling soap, cars and exercise DVDs that the overall image isn't going to skew to quirky body positivists any time soon. 

The second important thing about confidence is this. The more confident and comfortable you feel in your skin, the easier it becomes to treat your body properly. If you think you're worth looking after, it's much easier to see fruit as a treat rather than a penance. So ironically, shouting for the shame and invisibility of 'unhealthy' bodies is going to end up with more unhealthy bodies to hide.

Taking control of how you feel about yourself is one of the most powerful things you can do, whoever you are. Power makes people uncomfortable, so some are going to disapprove if you put yourself out there. But you're the only one who can take that power, so go forth and take it in whatever way feels right*.

*And is legal. Preferably.