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…

No More Page 3; The Top 10 Excuses I Have Heard Against Signing It

At the time of writing the No More Page 3 campaign has achieved 81,585 signatures. Speaking as someone who signed it right at the start, I feel incredibly proud of this milestone. It is all because one woman, Lucy Holmes, decided to speak out against an outdated and demeaning section of the media.I am a passionate supporter of this campaign, which I believe has an excellent chance at removing soft porn from a family newspaper, not least because bare breasts have absolutely nothing to do with news!
In order to mark this occasion of surpassing 80,000 signatures I have compiled the top ten most common objections to the petition that I have had said to me over the past months:

10—“What have you got against bare breasts? Are you a prude?”
Answer: I have nothing against breasts! I love breasts! Mine came in rather earlier than all the other girls in my class and, as a bully magnet already, they served as yet another excuse for ridicule, so I hated my boobs for a while. I also had to deal with attention from grown men ogling my underage tits if I dared to wear anything with a neckline lower than my chin. I remember once signing for a parcel at 14 while my parents were out in a top with a scooped neckline and the postman watched me sign my name, slightly bent forward to lean on the pad and then said “That’s a nice top.” I flushed, said thank you and shut the door. Then I went to get changed. Thank you Mr Postman for making 14 year old me just that little bit more awkward and uncomfortable about my burgeoning body. Thank you The Sun for making it seem a-ok for a grown man to assess a 14 year old girl as a pair of tits only and then remark on them.
9—“I support local newsagents and paperboy/girls”
…seriously? Yes, I have seriously seen this excuse more than once! My answer to this one is that it may come as a shock to some people, but there are other newspapers and there are plenty of other things sold in newsagents. In fact, the newspaper as a tangible thing to buy in a shop is fading out of existence. How many of us get our news from the web now? Some papers, such as The Times require paid subscription, others such as The Daily Mail rely on advertising pasted all over their site. The Sun even has a website, and in fact they are very aware of the shift from paper to website as they have taken the time to create a special bonus “page 3” area on their news website. It’s called page 360 because you can swivel the photo of the model all the way around. Isn’t that a lovely thought…
8—“Lack of page three will put the women doing it out of a job”
Answer: Yes it will. They will no longer be able to pose for a national, family run newspaper in nothing but a pair of knickers and a smile. I think we will all survive. It is important to note that the campaign is strictly against The Sun having a page devoted almost entirely to a pair of naked breasts. Whatever the individuals feeling towards Lads Mags, they will not be affected. There will always be someone somewhere willing and indeed eager to slap a photo of a barely dressed young woman in a magazine somewhere.
7—“The women like doing it”
Answer: Good for them. No-one, not one single person I have spoken to who has signed the petition is making a judgment about any one of the models. They are all over eighteen and as such are free to make their own choices and I support them no matter what choices they make. This is not a slur against them; it is a judgment against a family newspaper that chooses to objectify women and girls in this manner. It is that which we are hoping to end.
6—“Censorship!!!”
Answer: Actually, no it isn’t. To those who point out that banning something from a newspaper is censorship, I direct to re-read the petition title. Dominic Mohan: Take The Bare Boobs Out Of The Sun. It is a pretty polite request, asking the editor of the Sun to stop showing soft porn to the nation in a family newspaper. That is all.
5—“There are more important things to be worrying about”
Answer: I hear this one the most. It makes me very downhearted to tell you the truth. For a start, signing takes very little time. Certainly less than a minute. Everyone has time to sign if they want to. Unless of course the person making this excuse is too busy campaigning for equal pay, or against female genital mutilation. Because of course they are, right? If there are so many other gender causes to get behind then these too-busy-to-sign people are surely out there doing just that.
I am also rather affronted by the assumption that I cannot concentrate on more than one cause at a time. Darn that pretty blonde head of mine; I just can’t keep my attention on more than one thing at a time! Of course I can raise awareness and sign petitions and blog and patiently explain the reasons for the millionth time to a nay-sayer for more than one cause.
Finally, suggesting that page 3 is a minor offence against gender issues is naïve and, I’m sorry to say, ignorant. I refer back to my point about the postie “complimenting” me on my “top”. I refer to any woman who has ever been wolf whistled at, had “get yer tits out!” shouted after her, tried to breastfeed in public to tuts and disgusted mutters. In fact, let me just refer you to the Everyday Sexism Project http://www.everydaysexism.com/. Page 3 is soft-core pornography normalised. It’s as simple as that. In one of the nation’s bestselling newspapers, women are considered little more than a sex toy, a masturbatory aid. While men get to boast about their achievements or hide from their misdemeanors they at least get to do it fully clothed. Page 3, if we succeed in getting it out of newspapers, will symbolise a cultural and societal shift away from the sexism that has blighted us all for so long and might be a crucial step towards a future of genuine gender equality.
4—“Kids see far worse than that these days on the internet.”
Answer: Apparently they do. Certainly they can. The internet is a powerful tool and can easily be used for searching out images and videos of much more hardcore porn with just a little exploration. But does that mean that we should just drop all pretense of innocence from day one? Should I sit down with my almost four year old and explain to her about sex? And not just sex, but pornography? I emphatically think not and I aim to keep porn away from my children for as long as I can, while they are still children. Page 3 makes that harder; while I don’t buy it, other people do and they leave it lying about and read it unabashedly.
3—“Bet you wouldn’t complain if men posed shirtless in the papers, too.”
Answer: Speaking for myself, not really. I’m rather blasé about a shirtless man. And in actual fact, they tried to get women interested in shirtless men in the 1980s, with the Page 7 Fella. This idea ran through the decade, but was abandoned due to lack of interest. Isn’t that telling? And besides, it is plain ridiculous to compare a woman’s breasts to a man’s. They are entirely different. If my husband wants to strip off and walk down the street in the summer with his shirt off, he can. If I choose the same and discard my top and bra I get arrested for public indecency. The only times I’ve exposed my boobs in public were to feed my babies and luckily I never had anyone confront me directly about this. But I know plenty of women who have been made to feel ashamed to bare themselves in public, never mind that quite usually a baby’s head is obscuring anything remotely titillating and in fact they are just using their breasts for their intended purpose. But doesn’t that speak volumes? That a woman choosing to breastfeed should be made to feel ashamed of doing so in public, because breasts have been so sexualised that their biological purpose is forgotten? My poor mother-in-law almost fainted the first time I started breastfeeding my daughter, because in her head breasts were so intrinsically linked with sexy time that having her son’s wife open her bra in her presence freaked her out. (I hasten to add that she quickly got used to it!)
2—“Women’s magazines are far more horrible to other women”
Answer: Yeah, they are. That’s why I don’t buy them. Women’s magazines are hateful, simply hateful towards women. “X is too skinny!”, “X is too fat!”, “X: why I love my curves!”, “X: my diet tips!” For goodness sake, leave women alone! But this preoccupation with body image, with how to look good naked, with how to perfect the best diet is all down to a national insecurity about beauty. Beauty is not an absolute; it is entirely down to opinion. Yet the view of what beauty is has been narrowed so tightly down to this ideal look and Page 3 plays a big part in that.
1—“Just don’t buy it”
Answer: I don’t buy the Sun. Never have, never will. So why do I care about Page 3? Well, because Page 3 affects me whether I buy the damn thing or not. Page 3 is demeaning to all womankind, it objectifies us and reduces us to the sum of our (sexual) parts to be tried and assessed and potential found wanting. I don’t care that I do not look like a Page 3 model. I have huge thighs and droopy boobs and stretchmark’s and cellulite and have never plucked my eyebrows in my life and often don’t bother shaving my legs. I don’t care that I fall waaaaaay outside of the narrow beauty margins. But I want to live in a world where that doesn’t exist. Where beauty is assessed on more than body fat percentage. I don’t want to hear “nice tits!” shouted after women. I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that she is not as important as her brother or that he should judge all women on their physical attributes. Of course as their parent I have a massive amount of responsibility on my shoulders to teach them that the opposite of those things is true. I am by no means trying to shift responsibility onto anyone. But I am asking for a little help along the way. I want to tell my children that the world regards them equally and I want that to be true. It isn’t yet and that is partially the fault of Page 3.

Page 3, if we succeed in getting it out of newspapers, will symbolise a cultural and societal shift away from the sexism that has blighted us all for so long and might be a crucial step towards a future of genuine gender equality.

Gavel!
Discuss (and please, if there is an excuse you know of or are using that I have not addressed, please post it in the comments and I will respond gladly)…

Also, if you haven’t signed it, but want to here is where you need to go: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dominic-mohan-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3

War on Wildlife

Hats off to the badger, he is black and white. He doesn’t fight, except for mating rights and territory.
-Bill Bailey

I wanted to keep this blog as objective as possible whilst still giving my, sometimes strongly held, opinions about the matter, But I fear this time I may give in to my more subjective side. Yep; on week two I’m releasing my impassioned, slightly ranty, bleeding-heart liberal self. It was going to happen eventually; might as well get it over with!

I’ve picked two topics to cover. They’re pretty much on the same theme, which is ultimately the way we human types interact with wild animals. There are, I feel, a great many injustices done by human beings to native animals around the world, more than I could possibly cover in one sitting. There are many injustices done by humans to other humans. The world is full of injustice. These two seem easier to fix than most, and yet even that seems such a struggle.

First we’ll tackle the simplest one, and the one which has hit the headlines most recently. Foxes. And I’m not talking about fox hunting, although I have plenty of thoughts on that (I understand that it’s necessary to protect chickens and other livestock from local predators, but I don’t understand why it has to be made into a cruel, barbaric sport.) I’m talking about the ‘growing menace’ that is the urban fox. Earlier this week a four-week-old baby, lying in his cot, was attacked by a fox. This is not the first incident in recent years. In 2010 twin baby girls were likewise attacked in their own home. The link between these two cases; both occurred in London. No longer is the fox simply a country dweller, preying on the farmer’s chickens or the odd pet bunny – now they’re after our babies.

Except that’s not really the case. It is? With the countryside dwindling before the relentless onslaught of housing developments, is it really any wonder that the foxes are moving to the towns to find food and shelter? And oh my, we’re providing it. Dustbins filled with leftovers make our cities a prime feasting spot for the cat-sized scavengers, not to mention all the buildings and their central heating systems, keeping back the cold weather of winter. We have made a haven for them, and then we are shocked when foxes do what foxes do – hunt for young and unprotected animals. We cannot blame them. What we can, and should, do is discourage them. Putting lids on bins would be a good start; better still would be to minimise our wastage. Buy only what you need; cook only what will be eaten. Close the doors and windows where children are sleeping so there is no path from the outside to their beds. Fans and air conditioning units can be used to keep the temperature down. If there is no food to be found in the cities, there will be no need for the foxes to be in the cities. It’s that simple. Gavel!

Second on my list of unjustly persecuted animals to champion are, probably quite predictably, the badgers. Cousins to my beloved pet ferrets and portrayed so fondly in television shows and books, they are the subject of one heck of a debate. It’s all to do with the cows. The British beef trade is, I believe, rather a big deal, and there’s this nasty disease called Bovine Tuberculosis which is quite damaging to the meat industry. Like, really, truly, terribly damaging to the meat industry, costing millions of pounds. And, of course, it costs the lives of entire herds. Where do the badgers come in? Well, unfortunately for them, for the cows and for the farmers, it transpires that badgers are able to carry the bovine TB disease, and it seems to pass between the two species fairly well.

There are, to my relatively un-researched mind, several solutions to this problem. Investing in badger-proofed fencing, a systematic vaccination program to immunise the badgers and stop the transmission of the disease, or even working with the EU to allow the trade in vaccinated cattle so that the cows can be treated to prevent them from getting it in the first place. What did they pick? Yeah, they went for option D; kill all the badgers. I can’t imagine that there would be that much money saved in the cull of a native species (well, only 70% of the species, let’s not exaggerate) compared to the other possible solutions. Now, really, you don’t even have to vaccinate all the badgers to stop the spread; so long as you’ve got a significant proportion of the population immunised, the remainder will likely be so dispersed that if they were to get it they would be unlikely to pass it on (see the Wikipedia link for a better explanation).

I could go on, but I’m already late for posting this. Ultimately my point is twofold. One – just vaccinate the badgers. You’ll save the meat industry AND not destroy an indigenous species, and Brian May will be happy! And two – we human beings need to take a long hard look at ourselves. We have outgrown the natural order of things. We have stepped out of the prey-eats-predator world where Darwin’s rule of survival of the fittest is law. We have become the game-changers in this world, and in that capacity we have to learn how to accept responsibility for our actions. Entire species are being displaced as we claim this world acre by acre. Intricately balanced ecosystems are being torn apart, and one day we’re going to go too far and there will be no wildlife left; just domestic animals we have bent to our will. That is not a world I want to live in.

Respect the planet and the creatures who live on it before it’s too late. Gavel!

Discuss…

Articles which inspired this post;
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21399709
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19890114
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-20534842
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity

We Are The Young

I’m at that funny age where I’m most definitely an adult, but I often still feel like a child. I’m twenty seven and I live in a country ruled by an octogenarian. The Prime Minister is a 46 year old, and the average age of a Member of Parliament is 50. The people in charge are, effectively, my parents’ generation. They are the ‘Baby Boomers’, the children of the 60s and 70s, who benefited from university grants, and a more stable economy, allowing them to buy houses whilst the mortgages were cheap, and they’re now looking forward to retirement on a comfortable pension. Ok, things weren’t easy for them. Life is never easy. But the time has come for them to take a step back.

You’ve got a generation raised on the welfare state, Enjoyed all its benefits and did just great, But as soon as they were settled as the richest of the rich, They kicked away the ladder, told the rest of us that life’s a bitch.
– Frank Turner

We are Generation X and Generation Y. We are the MTV Generation, the 9/11 Generation. We are Generation Me, and we seem to be seen by the Baby Boomers as greedy and narcissistic. Modern technology has shaped our lives; communication has never been easier – I can Skype someone on the other side of the world with ease. Information is readily available – the world’s news is readily browsable and often reported and updated in real time. So much knowledge, coupled with increases in the quality of education means we are growing up faster, reaching psychological maturity earlier. As teenagers we have the ability to form strong, informed opinions about the world we live in. And we have no power to change it, or a least we feel we have no power to change it. England is an old nation with old customs and old laws which are slowly, slowly being converted into modernised thinking. But at the end of the day we are still answering to the older, privately-educated white man. In the interests of keeping this brief, I’m going to place race- and gender-inequality to one side for now, otherwise we would be here for a long time. This one’s for the kids.

Because we do have something. We have a voice. We have all this modern technology. We have our blogs and vlogs, we have youtube. We have an international platform through which we can unite with like-minded individuals. We, more than any generation before us, can rest assured that we are not alone. We have social networking sites and message boards as our stage, and we have such an amazing and varied peergroup who are just the other side of this computer screen.

Yes, it is difficult being young today, even in the priviledged Western world. More difficult than I fully understand. I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a job, I have managed to make the break from living with parents, and more than that have scraped together enough to scramble onto the property ladder. I have been lucky. I’ve also worked bloody hard, but at times have simply been the right person in the right place. Not everyone has the same breaks. There are people my age living with their parents, unable to find work in this over-populated country where people are continuing to work after retirement age because they can’t afford not to. The high street is slowly crumbling, and jobs are scarce, careers even more so. Tempers are rising, patience is wearing thin and those in charge are not listening, and so we’re feeling forced into action. Problem is, when it gets to the squeezing point, the course of action taken is often the wrong one.
In the beginning of August 2011 many cities in Britain were attacked by rioters. A peaceful protest spiralled hideously out of control, resulting in 3 nights of rioting, looting and vandalisation. The streets were overrun by the disenfranchised, who were soon joined by the opportunistic. I personally think the actions of the rioters were reprehensible, and there is no excuse for that sort of behaviour. There’s making your voice heard, and there’s wanton violence, and the difference between the two is crucial.

If we don’t kill ourselves we’ll be the leaders of a messed-up generationIf we don’t kid ourselves will they believe us if we tell them the reasons why
– Example

So what’s the answer? We have opinions, we want to be taken seriously, we want to change the world we’re living in, but we’re losing faith in the established leadership. It’s a tricky one, and to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t have any bright ideas or quick fixes. All I know is that we have to make the most of the tools we have at our disposal. We have our voices, and we have this wonderful thing called the internet. Seriously, I love the internet. Hate it too, at times, but I think it has so much to offer. On the internet you have the possibility of reaching people and sharing your opinions in a way no one has ever truly had before. Conversation and debate are easily initiated and without much effort you can find yourself discussing ethics with people you have never met. Challenge yourself by considering alternative viewpoints, and you might find new options to consider, or renew your support for your original opinion.

For me, the internet is also about knowledge. I’ve long subscribed to the idea that ignorance is no excuse. We have everything we could ever wish to know at the tips of our fingers. Knowledge is power, it truly is. Many a time I’ve had to take a step back from a conversation to quickly search for a statistic, or the meaning of a word, or the history behind an event. The information is there, and with a pinch of applied common sense you can learn so much.

My point? We’re not going to change the established government any time soon. Even something as simple as a law to ensure all dogs are microchipped is going to take 3 years to come into being. But we can prepare ourselves; use these tools to find our voice, to find like-minded individuals and to raise awareness and support for the causes we feel are important. Find out what it is you stand for, and you will find ways to take action; whether it’s signing a petition, writing to your MP, or attending a staged protest. There are ways of getting your voice heard; it’s up to you to speak out.

In order to build a better future, we have to decide today what it is we want from the world, and we have to take appropriate action to make the necessary changes. Gavel!

Discuss…

Articles which inspired this post;
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21302065
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19997182