Who, her? What I would like to see for the twelfth Doctor.


Some news you have probably already heard: Matt Smith is hanging up his bow tie for good sometime soon and ceasing being the Doctor. And you know that means? Regeneration and plenty of press speculation about who will be the next Doctor. The question being asked by many is will the Doctor have a sex change and be played by a female. I’ve had some thoughts and have decided to share them with you all today.

When I was little “my” Doctor was Sylvester McCoy.

This guy

This guy

He was the doctor from 1987–89 and came back to show his regeneration into Paul McGann after the series was cancelled and the movie was made. He was something of a bumbling idiot at first, making pratfalls and basically being a bit of a loser, but still kept the Doctors intelligence and knowledge. I don’t really remember him having been born 2 twos prior to the start of his tenure, but my parents watched repeats a lot so I did see my fair share of him. To be honest I was not overly bothered by the Doctor. He seemed like a grown up and as a small child I didn’t identify with that. I did get a desire for the Doctor to come and find me, invite me on the TARDIS and take me travelling through space and time. I still dream about it now.

So the Doctor was to me like the fun uncle who comes to collect you to take you on the adventures your parents wouldn’t, in which case the companion was the one I identified with. For me that was this girl…

 

Dorothy "Ace" McShane

Dorothy “Ace” McShane

This companion was aptly named, for she was truly ace! From her Wikipedia entry: “Ace is a 16-year-old who first appears in the 1987 serial Dragonfire, where she is working as a waitress in the frozen food retail complex of Iceworld on the planet Svartos. She had been a troubled teen on Earth, having been expelled from school for blowing up the art room as a “creative statement”. Gifted in chemistry (despite failing it for her A-levels), she was in her room experimenting with the extraction of nitroglycerin from gelignite when a time storm swept her up and transported her to Iceworld, and far in her future. There, she meets the Doctor and his companion Mel. When Mel leaves the Doctor at the conclusion of the serial, he offers to take Ace with him in the TARDIS, and she happily accepts.”

Ok, did you read that? Read it again! She was doing chemistry experiments in her room when she was whisked away in a time storm until the Doctor met her. She’s proper tough-girl nerd! She was great to watch as a young girl and she and the 7th Doctor had a relationship not unlike Harry and Dumbledore; the Doctor used the opportunity of her travelling with him to educate her about the universe and the history of earth, yet their friendship was strained at times by his manipulation of people and events. There was no love story, just an old man and his friend travelling the universe.

My point is that the Doctor has never been a role model to young women and girls. He’s a man. He can be something we aspire to find in the opposite sex, but we will never be like him. We can aspire to be like the companions at the moment, but the offering so far has been paltry. Rose Tyler loved the Doctor, Martha Jones loved the Doctor unrequitedly, Donna Noble did some amazing things as the Doctors friend and companion but had to have her memory erased rendering everything null and void. Amy Pond loved Rory and was best friends with her Raggedy Man, which was nice, but her storylines involved marriage and pregnancy. Granted perhaps Clara might be better, but I found the series flagged so badly at the end of Amy and Rorys run that I couldn’t be bothered with the next. I’d like to watch it again and watch it with my children and I’d like for there to be a good female role model for my daughter. It would be  nice if the Doctor could be a woman so that my girl can look up and see herself wielding the sonic screwdriver and, well I was going to say steering the TARDIS, but you know what I mean. Failing that can we maybe have a companion who isn’t gaga over the Doctor. Maybe one of an age closer to Donna or River Song? Maybe one who can be clever and quick, but not equally vapid and girly to counteract it. Can we maybe have a male companion who is not a tag along boyfriend of the primary companion?  There have been male companions in the past who have been much beloved and very successful. Love stories, while they have their place in the world, can be kind of boring. Certainly they are boring to children my daughters age. Lets have some mates bombing around the universe with the Doctor, preferably an old and grumpy one rather than the current young, manic and sexy ones. A female Doctor would be nice. A Doctor of colour would be pretty good, too.

Basically it would be nice to see a change of pace to liven up a somewhat stagnant formula.

And more Neil Gaiman penned episodes. In fact, lets just replace Stephen “sexist jokes are always funny, right?” Moffat with Neil.

I’m not going to Gavel! today because I’m in two minds about it. I think I’d be happy with either and I’m certainly going to be watching to see who appears out of Elevens regeneration. I’m going to put it to you Discussers instead: do you think we should have a female Doctor or another male?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviewsday – Grief

Reviewsday doesn’t quite work on a Wednesday. Revednesday. Nope. That Bank Holiday’s made a right mess of things!

Anyway, we have a bit of a dark Reviewsday this week… I’ve decided to review Kübler-Ross’s 5 stages of grief. Most of you will have experienced grief at some point in your life; the loss of a friend or a family member, the loss of a job, the end of a relationship. Many things create in us a state of grief. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross put forth the theory that the brain goes through a series of stages when coping with grief. Her initial thoughts were that these stages were passed through by a person suffering with a terminal illness, but the theory has since been expanded to cover any form of grief.

The stages can be remembered by the acronym DABDA; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Different people will pass through the stages at different rates. Some people may skip stages; this is just a rough guideline. Grief is on my mind quite a bit at the moment. In real life I’ve got a very poorly Nanna, and a very poorly dog. Both mean a heck of a lot to me, and the prospect of losing either one is ridiculously upsetting. Slightly more trivial; a couple of the short stories I’m currently writing involve emotional devastation; through death or through the learning of terrible truths. So I’m very aware of grief right now, and the most pragmatic part of my brain wants to deconstruct the stages to be better prepared.

Denial
Somewhat toddler-like, we start out with the sheer refusal to believe that the impending doom is going to happen. This is the desperate attempts to believe that it’s all going to be alright. Maybe you misheard the news, maybe the test results got mixed up and it’s really happening to someone else. Maybe there was some sort of mistake. Maybe this is all some terrible dream and in the morning you’ll wake up and it’ll be ok.

Anger
So you wake up and it’s not ok. And the next morning you wake up and it’s still not ok. And eventually it sinks in that this terrible thing is happening whether you like it or not. You really don’t like it, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it from happening and the powerlessness drives you absolutely crazy. The more you can’t do anything, the more angry you get that it’s happening. It’s not fair, you’re better than this horrid thing. You’ve worked so hard to do the right things, why should this happen to you?

Bargaining
The anger breaks on the hundredth utterance of ‘It’s not fair’ and a last ditch of desperation appears. You find yourself willing to do anything to escape your fate. You walk the safest paths and avoid anything even remotely risky, you swear by whatever deity you believe in that you will be the best person you can be if only they give you another chance. I would call this step ‘Desperation’ except that would ruin the acronym; no one wants to associate ‘DADDA’ with grief.

Depression
Your bargains receive no answer, the impending awfulness is still impending and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. So you give up. You shut out well-wishers and you wallow in futile sadness that it’s all so very out of your control. Now the tears shed are not the tears of shock, but the tears of how bloody rotten everything is, and how this shouldn’t be happening, and how distraught you are now you know what you’re distraught about.

Acceptance
Then something clicks in your understanding. It’s not necessarily the serenity of being granted the knowledge to see what you can’t change, or however that goes, but rather the point when you realise that there’s nothing you can do about the fact that there’s nothing you can do. You’re no less sad than you were, no less angry at the way things are, but you’re probably a bit less stressed and able to deal with the things you need to deal with.

And that’s that. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

Now, to make up for the really sad subject, here’s a couple of adorable things.
really cute puppies grief
adorable baby kitten

Cookery Corner: Cidery Cheeseburgers with a Warm Salad

Happy bank holiday everyone in England! I hope you lovely Discussers have had a great time. We didn’t do all that much, but for today I did rustle up some home made burgers and a warm salad for tea. We don’t have a barbecue so it was all cooked on the cooker, but even so it was a good meal.

I’m funny about burgers. I love them, but I’m fussy about them. For me a burger needs to be a rustic affair; I can’t stand uniform pressed burgers and in this area of eating I can’t stomach frozen/re-heated ones. I always make my burgers from scratch.

023  It starts with a pack of mince; use your judgement for the amount you’ll need to feed the people in your party. Mix it with whatever you want to flavour it and anything goes– I’ve used mushroom pate before now! Today I mixed in a good sprinkling of Italian herbs, some garlic and a generous glug (or three) of Magners Irish Cider. Other varieties of cider are available, but personally I don’t much care for these sub-par ciders! Add to the mix an egg to bind the stuff all together and then dig in. Remember to remove any rings or you might end up with a greasy ring and I’m telling you now that nobody wants one of those. The image to the left is of the meat concoction once I was satisfied that everything was mixed and that the meat was suitable tender.

026

Next, form the meat into patties. Fun fact: the patties will shrink during the cooking process so aim to make your uncooked patty larger than the burger bun or you’ll wind up with a wonky looking burger! I make my patties by rolling the meat into a ball then placing it on a floured surface and pressing the heel of my hand onto the meat. I owned a burger press once, but your hand will do just as nicely. I then put the patties on a plate with greaseproof paper on top and chilled them in the fridge. The longer you chill the better, but today I started late so the patties only got half an hour (and that’s pretty long for me!) so its not crucial. Just be gentle with them when you flip them, kay?

My husband, Tony, is very much a no-salad guy. He’ll eat it if he has to, in other words, if he feels that whoever lovingly prepared it will be offended if it’s left uneaten. In a flash of inspiration once upon a time, I decided to make a warm salad. It’s nothing fancy, just peppers and mushrooms softened in garlicy butter over a low heat, then served atop of a bed of lettuce leaves. Easy peasy and Tony loves it. So, while my burgers were chilling in the fridge I did just what I mentioned above.

031 028 I tend to cook the burgers and the salad at the same time as the veg doesn’t take long and I like pinkish burgers. I made two much smaller and thinner burgers for the little Gavellors so they were cooked more thoroughly and quicker, leaving them time to cool before serving them. I had requests for cheese, so I sliced up some cheddar with herbs and laid it over the cooking patties so that the cheese melts into the meat properly–I hate the idea of cold cheese on a hot burger.

I made some potato wedges to go with the rest of the food, or rather I heated some frozen ones up. I do fancy having a go at making my own, but today was a lovely sunny day and we spent most of the afternoon in the garden instead helping my son garden, read: cover themselves in soil and bang pots together, while my daughter helped her dad clear out the shed and ride her bike. Frankly there are more exciting things to do than make everything from scratch, but we enjoyed the bits I did do! Now you can enjoy the picture below. So I hope you all put your bank holiday to good use, because we’ve got ages now until the next one in August, although I always enjoy that one as my birthday happens during that week and Ali Gaveller and I have exciting plans for that week. For now though: burger.

038

Our Messed Up World…

Right then world. Stop what you’re doing, that’s it, drop everything and listen up. I’ve got just a few complaints. I’m just a little fed up with how awful things are at the moment and I need to get it off my chest.

Firstly and foremostly; the straw which has broken the dam. Anyone in the UK is probably already painfully aware of this. Yesterday a man was killed in Woolwich, London. That’s the simplest way of putting it. This man was a soldier in our armed forces, and was wearing a Help for Heroes t-shirt. That seems to be what singled him out for this horrendous attack. Two men, armed with knives, cleavers and machetes, killed him, then waited by his body, spouting political and religious statements until the police arrived.

Seriously. What the fuck?

Sorry, this isn’t a swearing blog. I’m just so angry and sad that this has happened. I’m sad for the man’s family, friends and colleagues. I’m furious that other members of our armed forces have been advised to cover their uniforms in public, although latest reports suggest that advice is about to be reversed. I have so much respect for our armed forces and for the work they do. The police too, and the fire and ambulance services; all of these people who work not for a profit, but for the good of their country and its people – us. Any attack on them is an attack on the United Kingdom, and I don’t think I’m the only one around taking this a little personally.

The attack in Woolwich has been hailed a terror attack. It’s not like the previous attacks we’ve seen; the bombs at the Boston Marathon, the events of 7/7 and 9/11. These terrorists were just two men, armed with knives. Somehow I find this so much more frightening than the idea of bombs and large-scale attacks. The trouble with terrorists is that it’s not clear who is and who isn’t one; it’s not an entire country, and it’s not an entire religion, it’s a group of people with extreme beliefs and who are willing to go to extreme measures for those beliefs. Extreme measures, which include killing innocent people just because of the job they do or the country they live in. It’s disgusting and it just makes me so angry and exhausted.

To add to the awful events of yesterday, I’ve read comments on the news saying that the ‘English Defence League’ (who I really think ought to stop. Just stop being whatever it is they are and go away) have taken to the streets, including one man being arrested for carrying a knife into a Mosque.

Seriously. What the fuck?

Who takes a knife into a place of prayer? Who thinks that the correct response to militant extremists attacking an innocent person is to send militant extremists out onto the streets with the aim of threatening innocent people? I am English, but I want nothing to do with this so-called Defence League.

Also making me sad and angry at the moment are the happenings in Oklahoma. No terrorists here, but still a world of devastation. The perpetrator was a tornado. We’ve been hearing about a lot of natural disasters lately, and this tornado has added another 90 to the death toll. Unavoidable, people took shelter as and where they could whilst the tornado tore its way through Oklahoma City, hitting the suburban area of Moore particularly hard.

There’s no one to blame for this. No one sat down and planned it; no one decided spur of the moment to go out and release a tornado. It just happened, like Hurricane Sandy last year, and like the earthquake which struck China just last month. And yet even with no one to blame, there is anger that this could happen, that it could happen so quickly, and that it happened in such a densely populated area. The tornado ploughed through a school, killing children. I sat in my car on Tuesday lunchtime, listening to a fire marshall break down as she talked about the recovery work they’re doing and I wanted to cry myself. It’s not fair that these things happen which are so out of anyone’s control and are so damaging to whoever stands in their way.

But what really doesn’t make sense is that, even though we have these natural disasters all over the world, we have earthquakes in Asia and the Middle East, we have hurricanes and tornadoes and tsunamis, and there are still people bringing it upon themselves to kill other people. There’s more than enough death in this world as it is; no one should be adding more.

So please, people of the planet Earth. How about we all just stop doing what it is we’re doing, and instead of fighting each other, let’s have a go at working together to fix the things we can’t prevent. There’s no need to be killing our soldiers or setting off bombs at public events. No need at all. Gavel!

Discuss…

Reviewsday – Les Miserables

It’s hard to get the true measure of something on a single viewing, tasting or other method of sampling. Cinematic experiences are particularly true for this, in my experience. The hype of visiting the cinema and the engrossing viewing environment; the big screen, the surround sound, the dimmed lights and the inability to pop out for a cuppa and get distracted loading the washing machine all add to the enjoyment of the film. I know I find that I’m much more likely to rave about something I’ve seen at the cinema, than I am to rave about a first viewing of something on the smaller screen.

Because of this, I’ve decided that the only way to review a film is to watch it once on the big screen, then let it sit for 4 months, watch it again on the small screen and make the review after that second exposure. Or at least that’s what I’ve done with the subject of this week’s reviewsday. With the slight addition of having listened to the soundtrack off and on throughout that 4 month break.

So, without further ado, I bring you my review of Les Miserables.

Les Miserables poster

First thing I need to do is to issue, as is often the case, a disclaimer. I have not read The Brick; aka the literary source material for this story. I have, however, seen the West End production, and I’ve even seen the film they made in the 90s with Liam Neeson taking on the role of Val Jean and not singing a note. So I know a bit about Les Mis. I’ll go as far as to say I was already a fan before I saw the most recent film adaptation. Because of that, I’m not going to give you a review of the story – it’s been retold in so many ways and I’ve seen/heard so many slightly different versions, it’s just going to get confusing. Instead I’m going to give you a 2012 film-specific review, looking at the cast and some of the direction and giving my opinion on them.

Now, I’m a list-based reviewer. That’s just how I roll, and that’s how I’m going to go about this. My points will be vaguely in film order, simply because I made notes during my small screen viewing and that’s how it worked out!

Hugh Jackman. Upon first viewing I liked him, but having listened to the soundtrack several (hundred) times, there’s just something I don’t like about his voice. It’s too energetic at times; too much a caberet star, and it doesn’t have the gravity I want in my Jean Val Jean. To be fair to Hugh; the two JVJs I’m comparing him to are Colm Wilkinson and John Owen Jones (who I saw on stage as the Phantom); both truly epic performers, and both with a bit more oomph to their voice. Watching the film again last night I sort of forgot my complaints; when watching him acting, Hugh does a fantastic job, but listening to the audio on its own lets him down a little bit. This is most likely due to the fact that they recorded it ‘live’ on set, which has to be exhausting, and I would imagine the acting and the singing each lost a little bit in trying to get both captured at the same time.

Russell Crowe, because I can’t start with one and not follow with the other. Who knew he could sing? Again, as with Hugh, he’s not got the same depth of tone as the West End cast recordings I’m familiar with. I adore Earl Carpenter’s version of Javert. I do, however, rate Russell’s version; I really see in him the black-and-white logic of Inspector Javert, and the utter conviction he has in his faith and his duty. I particularly liked the scenes between Val Jean and Javert – the two actors played against each other very well. There’s a video on youtube with Hugh and Russell singing Confrontation and they just look like they’re having so much fun!

Anne Hathaway – I know she’s persona non-grata on the ol’ interwebs, but I’ve always been an Anne Hathaway fan. I don’t get why people don’t like her. Fantine’s a tricky character; she’s not in the film for long enough for the audience to love her, but I think Anne did wonderfully, and I Dreamed A Dream was wonderfully performed – it’s such an emotional song, and was heart-aching to watch on both screens.

Samantha Barks – Now, here’s where it gets interesting; Sam Barks is from actual musicals; she was Eponine in the 2th Anniversary Concert, she knows how the theatre audience want to see their Eponine, and so I couldn’t help but to love her performances. What I didn’t love, however, was what the adaptation did to her character. In my mind, Eponine is lovely; she fancies the pants off Marius, but she helps when he asks for help; even if that help is pushing him toward Cosette. She climbs the barricades mid-battle to deliver news that she has given his note to Val Jean. In the movie she’s a scheming, conniving cowbag, hiding notes and just generally being unhelpful. Why?!?!

Also, whilst we’re on this particular soapbox, what the heck did they do to On My Own? The musical arrangement was beautiful, Sam’s voice was lovely. The scene, however, looked like a rather dodgy pop video. It’s everything I disliked about the direction of the film; the overuse of out-of-focus camera shots, the bizarre need for a rain deluge every time Eponine sings about rain, and yet remaining dry as a bone in every other shot. What is this?!? I may be over sensitive, I love Eponine, I love On My Own, I had such high hopes for that bit, and found it so utterly wanting. It’s not even just that scene, the strange out-of-focus camera work happens fairly often, and the mysterious sudden rain shower reappears when Eponine is felled at the barricades, just in time for A Little Fall Of Rain. Maybe the rain’s not as metaphorical as I had thought.

Quickly through the rest of the cast so as to not make this too much of an essay;

  • Aaron Tveit’s Enjolras is sheer perfection. This may be because I went into the film with already a little crush on the character, a crush which was certainly not harmed by that earnest face and amazing eye acting. The way Enjolras stares at Marius, and then later at Grantaire – makes my lustful knees go weak!
  • Speaking of Grantaire – major props to George Blagden; he wasn’t in the film for long, but he gave such an emotional performance.
  • Eddie Redmayne was a fantastic Marius. I believed in his love for Cosette, and his devotion to the revolution. Yes, his singing voice was a bit different to everyone else’s, but I kinda loved it. He sounds like he’s been airlifted from a Sinatra film, and there’s nowt wrong with that!
  • Amanda Seyfried was good as Cosette; a bit shrill at times, but not enough to distract from her performance. Bloomin’ difficult to warble along to in the car though!
  • Sasha Baron Cohen & Helena Bonham Carter made for amusing Thenardiers, but upon second viewing I wasn’t so easily amused. I think it’s because I can’t put aside the actors from the roles – I look at Sasha Baron Cohen and I see his other performances; Borat and Pirelli in particular, just as I look at Helena Bonham Carter and see Mrs Lovett, and every kooky Tim Burton character she’s ever played.
  • Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche) on the other hand is seventeen shades of perfect. His EVERY moment on screen is exactly right.

My favourite scene in the movie was probably Do You Hear The People Sing; the revolution’s beginnings in the crowds; a slow building song of revolution. In the cinema I got goosebumps (and that was the moment the tears started flowing, not to end until the credits rolled.) I also loved One Day More; it’s impossible to do that sort of montage in the theatre, and so there wasn’t much to compare it to, but even so it exceeded my expectations; as they prepared for battle. Marius’s return always makes me smile, especially with the addition of Redmayne and Tveit’s eye acting.

In fact, the whole short-lived revolution needs to be talked about. It was engrossing viewing; I flinched at every one of the gunshots. I wept piteously as Gavroche fell. I felt my heart breaking as the battle turned and the students were banging on doors begging for salvation. That final scene; Enjolras and Grantaire standing together, knowing death was moments away. That brief moment was so perfect, and such a lovely nod to the fans, especially those who maintain the pair were more than just brothers in arms.

Javert’s unravelling further served to break me; I did not expect the moment when he removed his medal and pinned it to Gavroche’s chest, and so that surprise utterly devastated me in the most cathartic way – his resolution had broken and his downfall had begun. At his suicide I wanted to applaud, as is right and proper in the theatre but most unacceptable in a cinema. Yes it was brutal, but the whole film is brutal in just the right way.

I do have to mention a couple of small annoyances (aside from the aforementioned camera work and rain scenes) – I didn’t like the sewer scenes. Yes; sewers are dirty and full of poo, but when Val Jean and mostly-dead-Marius emerged with gross poo-encrusted faces it broke my concentration just a little bit. They could have restrained the make up artist just a bit on that one, I think. Also – what the fudge was going on with their accents?!? I know the film was set in France, and to have them all doing dodgy French accents would have ruined it; but they could at least have picked one English dialect. I heard everything from Cockney London to Yorkshire to Irish, and that’s not even focusing on Hugh Jackman’s ever changing tones. It wasn’t a major big deal, but it was a bit irritating.

I’m going to bring this to a close on two last good moments of a fantastic film. Firstly; Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. This song, for me, is the end of the story; everything after is the gentle wrapping up; like coasting downhill. Eddie delivered this song so beautifully and so heartbreakingly, highlighting the devastating loss of so many young men.

And finally; Colm Wilkinson’s cameo as the Bishop made me too happy; seeing the original Val Jean on the big screen was a much appreciated hat tip to those of us who recognised his voice/face.

Les Miserables

Reducing Pregnant Women to Fibbing Children; Why The Smoking Tests at Antenatal Appointments are a Really Bad Idea

It’s been a while now since I had a baby. My youngest is now 13 months old, but I remember all the antenatal appointments during the times that I was pregnant. I had 3 booking in appointments in my time due to the fact that I miscarried at between children. All three appointments were brilliant: relaxed, informative, friendly. I really felt like I connected with my midwife even though it was a different one each time. Trust was established. I felt that I could call any of these women whenever I felt like I needed some support or had any queries. I left the appointments buoyed up with glee and only some of that was pregnancy bloating.

Were I to get pregnant this year and go to a booking in appointment, I have learned, I would be expected to perform a breath test designed to monitor carbon monoxide levels. I would refuse and I’m not the only one.

I am not a smoker, never have been and never intend to be. I was asked at each appointment whether I smoked and explained, as I just have, that I don’t. Tick. Done. Apparently it turns out that pregnant women can’t be trusted. The purported aim of this test is to offer advice and help for the expectant mother to quit smoking, but if the woman wants to quit smoking she will ask for these things. In truth this is designed to root out the liars and badger them until they quit. This quote from NICE explains their reasoning:

“Some pregnant women find it difficult to say that they smoke because the pressure not to smoke during pregnancy is so intense,” 

What’s that now? Some pregnant women find it hard to admit that they smoke because of societal pressures against smoking while pregnant? Well then I’m sure an ordered breath test will make them feel nice and relaxed and ready to talk about quitting.

Look, its not good to smoke during pregnancy. There are a multitude of reasons why smoking is bad for you regardless, and during pregnancy its especially not good for the foetus. If you are pregnant not only is it better if you quit, but surrounding folks ought to as well. I’m looking at you, fathers-to-be. But ultimately it comes down to your body, your choice. If you are a pregnant woman your rights as a human come first. I respect your choice because I’m a decent human being.

The point of the booking in appointment is to fill out the start of the blue folder (in my Trust the folder is blue) and to get onto the system as a being with child. The appointment usually lasts an hour and you can ask questions, find out valuable information and get to know the department who you will know over the next months. I’ve said it before: its about trust. You can’t have trust if you listen to a woman tell you that no she doesn’t smoke and then you insist upon a breath test to make sure she’s not lying. You just can’t. And that’s a bad thing. For women like me, the baby in your uterus will be much wanted. You’ll be happy and excited and want to feel validated for that feeling. Millions of women get pregnant every day, but (especially for your first) you want to feel the most special. You also want to establish that trust thing I keep harping on about.

For women like me in my 3rd pregnancy you have one child, have miscarried once and you’re pregnant again. You are scared. Due to the midwife being sick you are having your booking in appointment at 11 weeks instead of 8. You’ve already had some spotting in this pregnancy and spent some time in A&E thanks to that. You’re scared. Your much wanted second child might not ever become a child. You want to get the booking done so that you can go to the scan booked that afternoon, where it turns out the foetus did not make it past 8 weeks. Once again you answer no to the smoking question. Just imagine if at that moment your midwife insists on a breath test. You’re fragile and vulnerable and suddenly the person claiming to be there for you is treating you like a sneaky liar. Fuck that shit.

For some women, if we want to look at the possible worst case scenario, they are not there because they are having a much wanted baby with a man they love. Let’s imagine the case for hundreds of women in the country. She is pregnant by a man who scares her. She is isolated from her family and her friends have been steadily eroded from her life. She literally feels trapped and being permitted to go to a booking in appointment is about it in terms of freedom. The midwife is a friendly face who is there for advice and support in pregnancy, but she brings up domestic abuse, too. The pregnant woman suddenly has a little spark of hope. Maybe she doesn’t bring it up then, but as the relationship between mother-to-be and midwife grows so does the trust and one day she speaks out. Except that when the pregnant woman says she doesn’t smoke, the midwife brandishes a Breathalyzer  The mother-to-be is snubbed; she is not believed when she says she’s a non-smoker so why the hell would she be believed if she said “my husband hurts me”? Trust is broken right at the start and it’s impossible to build up again.

I can’t see a way in which this test is OK.  Perhaps the end result might be that the mother-to-be quits smoking, but if she truly wanted to quit she would bring it up at the relevent time, right? And if the mother-to-be quits but the father-to-be or anyone else living at the family home does not, then was it worth it? Second hand smoke in a persons home is almost as bad at direct smoke. But wait a second…no-one is suggesting breath testing the father, are they? Nope, this is just for the mother-to-be. I wonder why that could be…perhaps it has something to do with the fact that women are often considered to be nothing other than incubators once they become pregnant (warning on this link due to the possibility of graphic images, although that page is pretty safe).

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Only if you in turn trust us

 

(I must just point out that this has come from NICE guidelines, rather than directly from midwives, who I think do a terrific job under difficult circumstances and I’ve never met a bad one! I’m concerned, however, that their job will be compromised by this legislation, as well as the effect it will have on mothers-to-be.)

Let Kids Be Kids

I woke up this morning and checked my e-mail, checked my facebook, then had a look at the BBC news webpage in case something had happened overnight that I would need to be aware of.

What I found was the following headline;

Age of consent should be 13, says barrister

The barrister in question, one Barbara Hewson, specialises in public and administrative law; human rights and civil liberties; and professional discipline and regulatory law. She lists her interests as the following; ‘abortion rights, autonomy, childbirth, civil liberties, due process, privacy’. And yet I almost don’t need to know any of that. My entire view of this woman, whom I had previously never heard of, is now tainted by an article she wrote for online magazine Spiked.

Hewson’s article does not make for very pleasant reading. Her attitude is awful as she stomps eloquently from the 1880s Social Purity movement, when the age of consent was raised from 13 to 16, to the last few decades and revelations of what was happening at the BBC and, I believe, more widely spread. I could easily give a strongly worded retort to each sentence in her article, but I will restrict myself to just a few.

I do not support the persecution of old men. The manipulation of the rule of law by the Savile Inquisition – otherwise known as Operation Yewtree – and its attendant zealots poses a far graver threat to society than anything Jimmy Savile ever did.

This is Hewson’s opening line. This pretty much sets the tone for the entire article. It’s disgusting, especially when you consider that this is coming from a barrister; from a woman whose job it is to uphold the law, to ensure justice is done. She seems to be missing the major facts; that these ‘old men’ being ‘persecuted’ are actually suspects of rape and sexual assault who are being questioned and/or arrested for actual crimes which happened to actual people. Actual young, unwilling girls. This is not persecution – there are no pitchfork-wielding mobs traversing the streets and baying for blood; this is an attempt at justice.

In the 1880s, the Social Purity movement repeatedly tried to increase the age of consent for girls from 13 to 16, despite parliament’s resistance. At that time, puberty for girls was at age 15 (now it is 10).

The second sentence in this quote was where I am startled at Hewson’s attempt to twist logic and factual accuracy to make her point. The fact is that, on average, puberty for girls in the 21st Century begins at 10 or 11 and finishes by 15 or 16. Thus the age of consent standing at 16 makes sense. There is a school of thought that puberty in girls happens earlier now than it did in the 19th Century – this would make sense; puberty is triggered by how physically capable a girl’s body is of carrying a child – 150 years ago girls would have been thinner, possibly weaker or more unhealthy, and so their bodies would not change so early. What these facts say to me is not that the age of consent should lower as the average age of puberty has, but in fact that the law change of the 1880s was much needed, and did not go far enough to protect the girls of the time.
(‘Behavioural Endocrinology’, edited by Jill B Becker provides some scientific back up for the above statements.)

It is depressing, but true, that many reforms introduced in the name of child protection involve sweeping attacks on fundamental Anglo-American legal rights and safeguards, such as the presumption of innocence.

In a way I don’t disagree with this quote. It follows a strangely-worded rant about how the NSPCC and the Metropolitan Police, in a report on Operation Yewtree and, in particular, Jimmy Savile’s crimes, are calling the accusers ‘victims’ rather than ‘complainants’. It’s a fairly major step in terms of semantics.
I do firmly believe in the adage ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’, and this is a place where I really struggle. It’s said that one of the main reasons victims of rape or sexual abuse don’t come forward is because they are afraid they won’t be believed. They are ‘alleged victims’ and ‘complainants’, and in the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ way of thinking there was no rape or abuse until a court of law has proved that it happened. This doesn’t seem right, but at the same time I can’t in good conscience advocate the switch around to ‘Guilty Until Proven Innocent’. To me, the whole thing is so dangerously convoluted I don’t think I’ll work my thoughts out today, so I’m not going to dwell too long on it. What I am going to do is distract you with a subject change, then continue my reading of Hewson’s article. Charli has much clearer views on this issue, so I’ll eagerly await her comment, putting forth her better-structured opinions!
Mumsnet have a campaign entitled ‘We Believe You’. This campaign exists to support victims of rape and to break down rape myths.

Touching a 17-year-old’s breast, kissing a 13-year-old, or putting one’s hand up a 16-year-old’s skirt, are not remotely comparable to the horrors of the Ealing Vicarage assaults and gang rape, or the Fordingbridge gang rape and murders, both dating from 1986. Anyone suggesting otherwise has lost touch with reality.

I guess I’ve lost touch with reality… sexual assault on anyone (regardless of gender or age) is, in my eyes, a major crime. Arguably it is the fore-runner to rape and gang-rape, if we’re going to simplify things to a hierarchy of criminal activity. To say to a child or teenager ‘don’t make a fuss dear, it was only a little bit of groping – at least he didn’t rape you’ is tantamount to saying ‘you’re a sexual object for men to do with as they wish; let go of whatever self-worth you had and accept the abuse. The fact that you don’t want it to happen is irrelevant.’ I am not cool with that. I am incredibly not cool with that. I, and every man, woman and child on this earth has the right not to be sexualised against their will.

As for Hewson’s ‘regrettable necessities’, let’s take a look at them one by one…

It’s time to end this prurient charade, which has nothing to do with justice or the public interest.

She’s talking about Operation Yewtree… I’m pretty sure it does have something to do with justice. Children have been assaulted, have lived their lives with this hanging over them, afraid to come forward and speak against a tv star. Undoubtedly their lives have been affected by what happened to them and they bloody well deserve justice. It doesn’t undo what happened to them, but it’s the right thing. Lessons have to be learnt from the things that were allowed to happen; those criminals still alive need to be brought to justice for the crimes they committed (if proven by a court of law they actually happened, but that’s what the justice system is for.)

Adults and law-enforcement agencies must stop fetishising victimhood. Instead, we should focus on arming today’s youngsters with the savoir-faire and social skills to avoid drifting into compromising situations, and prosecute modern crime.

I do think people wear their ‘victimhood’ as a shield at times, but having never been a victim of that nature of crime I can’t possibly say I wouldn’t do the same. Making today’s yougnsters responsible for protecting themselves against the unwanted attentions of people in positions of power, on the other hand, is preposterous. How is the molestation of a 9 year old down to the child to prevent rather than the molester? Children should be aware that there are some bad people in the world, but they shouldn’t have to live in fear and paranoia. There should be no ‘compromising situations’. Celebrities should not be allowed to use their position to shame/intimidate children into being abused and remaining quiet about it.

As for law reform, now regrettably necessary, my recommendations are: remove complainant anonymity;

…and force more victims to not report their assault/rape for fear of repercussions? This is such a dangerous suggestion, more likely to allow crimes like those of Jimmy Savile and associates to remain hidden than to do anyone any good.

introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions;

Just because a crime happened 20 years ago does not make it any less of a crime today. Speak to the families of those who died in the Hillsborough disaster. Sexual abuse is such an awful, life-affecting thing to be put through, it can take the victims a long time to come to terms with what happened to them. As much as I would wish all victims could report it as soon as it’s happened, realistically this does not and will not happen.

and reduce the age of consent to 13.

No. Just no. As I wrote at the top – the average girl does not reach sexual maturity until 15 or 16, boys tend to be a year behind. Allowing/encouraging sexual activity to happen at 13 (the average age of a girl’s first period and a boy’s first ejaculation, and thus the age the average child is able to make a baby) is just madness. At 13, most children are simply not ready for the complications that come with sex; family planning, STDs, what is and isn’t ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ (horribly vague terms, I know, but this isn’t the place to talk about what’s wrong or right between consensual adult partners…)

To conclude; Barbara Hewson’s article represents one of the worst pieces of writing I’ve seen in a long time – her thoughts and ideals just strike me as unimaginably wrong, and I can’t help but to wonder whether she has a 13 year old daughter.

Let children grow up in their own time. Let them reach adulthood (be that 16 or 18 – I’m still unsure) in their own time, and for pity’s sake protect them from predators. Gavel!

Discuss…

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