Saturday, December 31, 2016

Annus Horribilis

Annus is not quite anus but in 2016 it might as well be; it has been a butt-hole of a year in many respects (never mind that I published a book and become a stand-up comedian of sorts; my little life is of no matter).

The Queen of England famously described 1992 in this fashion, that year being the year Lady Di was killed escaping the paparazzi, a situation she was largely driven to by the Queen's son. I think there was an expensive fire in one of the palaces that year as well.

The dramatic and sudden death of Lady Di was heavy and horrible to be sure, but on a world stage it doesn't compare to the election of the one human being on the planet who is least suited and qualified to run the most powerful country in the world by a completely corrupt system and a populace that is even more sexist and racist and plain delusional dumb-ass than we had ever imagined it was, which was just one of the horrible highlights of 2016.

The violence and destruction being meted out in Europe and the Middle East by a band of bearded men who seem to think that the beard maketh the man, oh and a gun and a grenade and maybe a truck too aimed at civilians, including children at play, to cause as much bloodshed, mayhem and misery as possible wherever and whenever they feel like, has given us more hapless and horrible horror this year than almost any other.

This horror of course could not happen without the assistance of various elected and unelected, bearded and unbearded politicians, but that's the same as it ever was, if the refugee crisis it has caused this year is the worst the world has seen since WWII, or so I read in the media, which I now barely trust.

Then there was BREXIT and the arrogant and narrow minded beardless men who largely brought it about and then jumped ship for a woman, who hadn't supported it, to deal with. Good luck with that!

BLACK LIVES MATTER! That we should still have to shout this statement of the obvious from the covers of our magazines and with placards out on our streets and the worst of the whites don't and won't get it, 2016 has shown us with the gruesome cold-blooded murder of unarmed black men by armed white policemen.

Stars have fallen too in greater numbers than in most other years, or so it seems, including the mother and daughter, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher,  who died one day apart and in the wrong order.

But, to end on a note of hope, as all things must try to end even if the year itself will not, thanks in part to social media and some prominent women and men speaking out against racism and sexism, more people than ever before are learning the hard truths about our messed up world and being prepared to step up in their small and big ways to try and change it.

The wide world of art that will save us if anything will is taking the lead in this battle for real social and cultural change, employing more women than ever before to write the script and tell the real story in a way that I have never seen before, and I have been looking. Fewer stock macho heroes and excuses for men being men and the rest of us putting up with their shit have been made in 2016 than in any other year, and so, fewer stock sexy evil/passive angelic females have appeared on our screens than ever before.

There are more female comedians this year than any other, with Netflix doing much to promote them and diversity on all fronts on our screens. Chelsea, the first nighttime talk-show in the US to be hosted by a woman, is making great strides in the direction of exposing and fighting discrimination on all fronts, but especially the systemic misogyny that is perpetrated around the world by men and women. The fact that Chelsea herself more or less became a feminist while hosting this show and interviewing a range of people in the know, shows the power of the entertainment industry to challenge, or reinforce, the discrimination status quo. 2016 did more to challenge than reinforce this status quo.

Recreational cannabis was decriminalised in California, the state that overwhelmingly voted with their brains and hearts instead of their butt holes. Hopefully this decriminalisation of the peace and love drug will mean fewer non violent, mostly black and brown people are imprisoned in the US and around the world.

And finally, closer to home a woman judge in Queensland Australia has handed down an unprecedented ruling exposing the systemic racism in the Australian police force against the indigenous Aborigines and forcing compensation from the state to be paid in the hundreds of thousands to the indigenous peoples of the land to make up for some of this racism. It's a start.

And so, here we are, the last day of this Annus Horribilis with a tiny twist of hope. 2017 will probably be worse, possibly much worse on the political front (god help us), but with the arts leading the way in showing us that we can live much more fairly and equally, while still having a whale of a good time, there is a tiny twist of hope that we will survive it. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger? Maybe.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

It's all about George, Carrie and me

It's a strange and fairly disturbing thing, but when something bad happens to other people you know and like but don't exactly love, including their sudden and premature death, you tend to insert yourself into the event and make it at least a little bit about you. Or is it just me? No, it's not.

I know this because this is not me here with George Michael, it's a friend of mine who used to be in the music biz and met George Michael on his Australian tour and has just posted this on Facebook.

I have a George Michael story too and it's the first thing, or second thing I thought about when I found out he had died. The first thing was: 'Was he only 53; that's only three years older than me!' I was sad for him and shocked too, sort of, but these feelings were not the main ones, if I'm honest.

But me and George go way back too. I served him in London in 1985 when he was already a major superstar and I was, well, a (very young) waitress living on my wits (tits) and tips. Actually I didn't have much tit back then, but that's not the point - certainly not for him!

I have carried that story with me ever since and would give almost anything to remember what I served him. All I remember is that he was with a guy and a girl and being a little bit jealous of the girl. Silly sad Sally (I was still Sally back then; still silly now).

Similarly, when I heard that Carrie Fisher had had a heart attack on the plane back from London my first thought was: 'We've just seen her on Graham Norton!' as indeed we had and she had not seemed at all well. The boy band (can't remember who they were) on the same show had asked her if they could have a photo with her and she had agreed. When I heard the bad news I hoped that that photo and the whole stress of the show hadn't tipped her over the edge, a hope that at least shows I have some compassion.

Now that she has died from that heart attack I feel genuinely sad and a little ashamed of myself, though I am not a Star Wars fan. But she was a cool lady, even in her unwellness that much was clear, and I am sorry her heart gave out, though how it lasted at all after Harrison delivered that classic clunker 'I know' in return for her impassioned 'I love you' I do not know. I know my heart wouldn't have survived that. But it's not about me.

RIP superstars George Michael and Carrie Fisher. You will be missed (by me, as well as just a few others).      

Monday, December 26, 2016

Free range pigs

So it's Christmas day in America still but here in the southern hemisphere we're all done and and dusted with the ho, ho, ho, hip, hip hooray of guilt-free gluttony on this holiest (hungriest) of days.

Well, when I say 'guilt-free', I mean only as far as the waistline goes and only for the day. The morning after is another story, and don't we know it! I could start a chocolate shop with this year's stash.

But having not one but two vegans in the house for Christmas this year, as well as a recently turned vegan friend who came round for dinner on the 23rd, there is no guilt free eating as far as the environment and animal ethics go. Even buying free range, as I dutifully did for all my meats, including the stuffing pork that cost 60% more than the pork in a prison pen variety, will not get you off the hook. 'Free range pigs? Do you want me to tell you about free range pigs?' No, I didn't want.

According to my vegans, animals should not be eaten no matter how 'free range' the price and how much freer their lives are than ours -- when you (I) think about it. They don't have to worry about their waistlines or Donald Trump, or the cost of buying free range to ensure other animals get some kind of quality of life before they become stuffing. I should be so lucky.   

I've been trying to get my head around the whole vegan thing since the younger females of the house (and male friend) went vegan, but I can't quite manage it. It seems to me that their case against the harm to the environment and to the animals that is done by eating animals and their products logically leads to a case for eliminating farm animals altogether, not least the graceful moo cow that gives us chocolate and ice-cream. How is that fair on the pigs? I'm sure I don't know.

Now please excuse me while I head off for a chocolate brunch while I still can. Oink oink (that's wink wink in pig, a dying language).

Monday, December 19, 2016

Otherwise festive?

So you know our new (second-hand but still very shiny) car was crashed into at a stop light a few weeks back just three days after we got it and we're still driving the rental they gave us to use while the p-beaters hang on to ours two weeks and counting longer than they said it would take to fix. They think it will be ready by Christmas but they can't guarantee it. I've heard that one before.

What you don't know is that yesterday the hot water cylinder blew up just as I stepped into the shower (for my twice weekly wash) and with my mother, who likes to wash daily, arriving on the morrow. There will be seven adults staying in the house for Christmas and the power company says it's our problem. No kidding.

Last night, possibly because I hadn't had my twice weekly wash, the cat decided to pee not on me, exactly, which was nothing short of a Christmas miracle, but directly next to me on the master bed where I was lying watching Barry (review pending, once I've re-watched it without the cat pee -- hopefully). Washing the duvet and cover without hot water is going to be festive fun for my husband.

The good news is I've run out of vodka, I poured the last of it down the sink the night before the cylinder blew up and the cat drowned the duvet. Could be connected, the Russians are behind most things.

Merry Christmas, or, as the Russians say, счастливого Рождества; explains a lot.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Martian of the year

So Trump doesn't like being TIME's 'person' of the year. He wants to be 'man' of the year instead, suggesting he agrees with me that creatures like him aren't persons. 'Men' are from Mars, right? Right. Especially the orange ones. If only they'd go home.

I am surprised to find we agree on something, namely that the term 'person' does not apply to creatures like him. What the term 'man' means and should apply to we seem in slightly less agreement on.

A man, for me, should not, first of all, be orange. Let's be quite clear.

Second of all, a man should not think a woman is so different to and lesser than a man that it is an insult to a man to be included in the collective, gender-neutral term for a human being known as 'person'. That sort of thinking is SO last millennium.

TIME changed its annual award from Man of the Year to Person of the Year in 1999. Prior to that, since its inception in 1927 'Man of the Year' was awarded to a man or a group of men. So 'man' meant man, not human, as some used to wishfully suggest.

If a woman was considered worthy of the title, which happened almost never, just enough to give the impression that women are a whole different species, then the award was for 'Woman of the Year' and once for 'Women of the Year'.

But this millennium, as symbolised by the gender-neutral, politically progressive not 'correct' term 'person', we are attempting to suggest women are not a whole other species than men, neither are we 'not men', but we are human beings just like at least some men. WOW! Imagine that. Women are persons, and men (some of them) are persons too. Who knew? Not Donald.



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Orange is the new white

So I can't open my blog and look at John Key ever again, even if he is waving goodbye. I'd rather look at an orange T-shirt.

Monday night I was back at the comedy club doing my funny mummy thing with a bit of Trump trolling thrown in because comedy is all he's good for.

I wondered why so many white people voted for him when he's not white. 'Orange must be the new white,' I said, suitably droll, and got the laugh.

Then I suggested we lure him down under and lose him in the orange desert. More laughs.

Mars is another option.

It was a good night. I kept to the time limit, even if I did have to run the laughs to do it.

But the trouble with stand-up, I can't help thinking, is that you're either the copy cat comic -- LOTS of those -- or the copied cat comic, and as I'm not the former I fear I am in danger of being the latter. There's so much competition in comedy these days and only so many ways to be funny. Indeed my youngest has assured me that big comedians 'borrow' off us unknowns all the time, and with impunity.

So I thought I'd post my latest gag here to make it mine while giving it for free to a much wider audience. Not to suggest you're wide; I'm sure you're quite trim. You can have that for free too.  


Monday, December 5, 2016

The Key is gone, long live Labour!

PM John Key announces he is resigning on December 12. Well that explains why he was so quick to call and congratulate Donald Trump, he knew he was on his way out.

He says there is nothing left in his tank. Tank? Is that a euphemism for his brain or for something lower down? It's hard to say with Key. He's nothing if not a master of vague declarations.

He also says his eight-year reign as king of the right-wing rich has been hard on his wife Bronagh and he wants to spend more time at home.

Home alone
I don't know what she thinks of this arrangement but if it's true to Key's political form, she had nothing to do with the decision and this is merely his way of deflecting responsibility for the resignation onto her. The few women in his cabinet were always given the shittiest jobs and made to shoulder the blame when the shit hit the fan.

I wonder if Bronagh will be at home when Key moves back. My bet is not.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Crash Conditions

So we bought a car (it was not green)

So we crashed a car four days later (the same car, still not green)

So we rented a car two days after that (it was not green)

So... we were issued with and did
not read these terms of conditions (that are a little bit green) because not having bionic eyes we could not read these terms and conditions that told us, in the finest print ever produced and reduced for purposes of never being read, what we were liable for if we crashed that car too, all the more likely because it was not green, possibly.

I can't be sure as I haven't read the terms and conditions and know nothing about green cars or any other colour car, in point of fact. But green is supposed to be the most relaxing colour. Really? Really.

But we bought a red car (the opposite of green), thinking we were already sufficiently relaxed and that because red is the colour of STOP it must be the safest colour (wrong), and because we didn't buy new so didn't have the luxury of choice. Otherwise we would definitely have bought green (possibly).

The good news is, no one was hurt in the crash and we still have our physical health.

The bad news is it wasn't our fault (my husband was driving) which, although cheaper in not invoking the insurance excess, means that as far as preventing another accident of the sort goes we are, to put it politely, fucked. The best we can do is not drive the rental car at all, though as the accident occurred while my husband was stopped at the lights (his story) and so not actually moving, even this might not be enough to prevent an accident to our rental car. You could also argue that there is no point in renting a car that you don't drive.

Meanwhile, we're paying insurance premiums on a car that's stuck at the panelbeaters with a badly broken bum that won't close no matter how hard I kick it, waiting in a pre-Christmas queue to be made secure and sufficiently road worthy to justify those premiums, hopefully before Christmas, but there are no guarantees.

Otherwise fine? NO. My mother is about to arrive from Australia, and she advised us to buy a totally different car...

Saturday, November 26, 2016

600 Today!

Just to be clear, I'm not saying this woman looks 600. No. She doesn't look a day over 599 -- and god love her for rocking those wrinkles and smoking that look (I'm not advocating smoking either, though if I were to do that, I could do worse).

Nor am I saying that I am 600 today, although 600 is a fairly accurate estimate of the age I have begun to feel since he who shall not be named was elected president. But no; that is not exactly what I am getting at either.

Rather, it is OWW that turns 600 today with the publishing of this here 600th post since its launch in the April of 2013. And she has come a fair way since that April inception after a long dry summer that produced her first post 'Drought breaker' with its cleverly conceived double meaning.  That clever post received 6 page views.

Since then, OWW has become a little more political and topical in her blogs and her page views have increased accordingly, with pieces on Posting poo, Tall sperm, A big butt, Jesus's sister, Fuck dust, If men could get pregnant, the Burka ban, Drugs for mugs, Excessive clenching and One lost chicken wing, to name a few of her more popular posts that provided a little something for everyone.

Still, if OWW's author had a wrinkle for every blog post she has written she would indeed look 600 years old and she is not altogether sure that the time she has taken on these posts has been worth it, but then again, that's life. Putting the effort in is the best you can do and what you get back is often not a measure of that effort directly but of some spin-off of that effort, such as feeling better about all the smoking she did in her youth after discovering this woman, which she wouldn't have done if not for the blog.

So there's that.

And so it's a happy 600th blog day to OWW; may she blog on for the next 600. Fuck dust indeed.




Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Lorde Trump

So I tried to find comparable pictures of these two public figures in order to make a fair comparison, and this is the best I could come up with.

In each image the subject is closing her/his eyes, clearly deep in thought -- if thought of very different sorts, no doubt -- and the red highlight is of a roughly similar hue.

They're also both offering their contributions to the world with the aid of a microphone, if only one of those microphones looks like a pair of shrunken testicles, fittingly, the right one.

But there the similarities end -- although they are both white-ish (Trump is orange).

In an attempt to look at the world's present presidential predicament in a slightly less suicide-inducing way, I decided to compare these two very different public figures, one representing the past, the other the future, if both are currently colliding in the present. Lorde's second album is coming out soon; HURRY UP LORDE!

Let's not live in the moment, folks. Let's look to the future where people like Lorde -- wildly creative and courageous, highly intelligent, more mature than her years, open-minded, critical thinking and feisty feminist -- will prevail after the old but perennially childish, bigoted, egotistical, devious, deluded, sexist, racist, arrogant men of limited talents and minds so narrow they can barely see their own way forward let alone the way forward for a world that increasingly doesn't look or sound or think like them, as represented by Trump, finally dies away.

Let's see our present presidential predicament as the death throes of an old order that is finally being exposed for what it is by a generation or two of people who have seen, through people like Lorde of whom there are increasing numbers across the world, a better way to live and think and rule.

I have nightmares about Trump, don't get me wrong. We have a problem, Houston, certainly. But we have never before known the nature of that problem as well as we do now and you can't fight a problem so well if you don't know what it looks like. Now we do and it wears an orange toupee. Who knew? Not enough of us, apparently, but now we do.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Obama obit (political)

This is why I got out of politics -- the never-ending backtrack. In politics you've got to go back to go back, and you do, over and over and over again, when the right-wing 'conservatives' replace the left-wing progressives and dismantle all their good work to make their countries and the world a healthier, happier, safer place.

Here in New Zealand, when the RW John Key and party replaced the LW Helen Clark and party in 2009, her poignant words on election night were: 'I hope all that we've achieved won't be undone.'

It was, or much of it.

One of the first things Key did in office was repeal Labour's Healthy Food in School's policy that had funded the removal of fatty junk food from school canteens, a critical policy to turning around the child -- and so adult -- obesity burden in poorer communities.

The second was to increase the cost of food by raising GST by another 2.5%, a flat tax increase that hit the poor disproportionately and forced those struggling to feed their children to rely all the more on cheap junk food. This rise he had also promised the electorate he would not implement. Honesty means nothing to the wrong-wing.

Then, with the gains to the govt coffers, he cut taxes on the very rich at a time when we were in the thick of a recession caused by the recklessness and corruption of the very rich and in the process, reversed the progressive taxation policies introduced by Clark's government.

Our only public broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, has had no funding increase since the wrong wing came to office and is on the verge of having to close its Auckland office and studio that it has run successfully for many decades. It is the most listened to radio channel in the country by a long margin.

And so the fear is that the US right-wing will do as the NZ right-wing did and dismantle the progressive policies brought in by Obama over his eight years in office. And they will, because that's what they do. It's just a question of how fast and how much progress will be undone in the first four years.

With the world watching more so than ever it's also a question of how much this political corruption that is getting more brazen and shameless by the day can be challenged and exposed as fundamentally wrong and harmful to everyone in the long run -- even all the little Trump juniors.

So we the good have our mission for the next four years. To speak out about the harm Obama's replacement is doing and so honour Obama's legacy and honour ourselves and our children. He's already appointed an all-white all-male cabinet which is the first brazen leap back to the dark ages of institutionalised racist chauvinism.

And on that note, bravo to the cast of Hamilton for shaming Pence when he attended one of their shows on Broadway, calling him out when he got up to leave after the show with the challenge: "We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights."

Do not cower, do not fear, the time for action is here!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Quake commiserations

My commiserations to those directly affected by the November 14 quake that reminded all New Zealanders we live on a shaky isle and that life is precarious -- and precious -- as two were killed, one man in the collapse of this Kaikoura home that his family had lived in for more than fifty years, though his 100-year-old mother survived the collapse, a bittersweet escape for her, no doubt.

Also, our capital city of Wellington incurred heavy damage to its harbour port, as pictured here, along with some damage to a number of city buildings, though many held strong in part due to earthquake proofing that must be at least some consolation for those living there. 

And the seal colony that we and so many others had observed with delight on that stretch of southern highway is now destroyed with the coastal landslip caused by the quake, also shown here. 

So much damage in so little time, though it could have been so much worse. The predicted tsunami never eventuated, though the quake's epicentre was centred off the Kaikoura coast. 

But with nature so destructive when it wants to be, we really need to do all that we can to counter that destructiveness by bringing as much warmth and kindness and togetherness to the world that is within our human power alone to do. Nature reminds us of the unique power we have, we should all take heed. 



Sunday, November 13, 2016

Thank you, Hillary Clinton (the people's 45th president)

The people's 45th President
"Hillary Clinton, thank you for being a pioneer and a role model. Thank you for persevering all these years even when you had to eat what I will euphemistically refer to as dirt. Thank you for your intelligence, dignity, tireless work ethic and toughness." (Curtis Sittenfeld).

"It is time to stop suggesting, as some commentators are doing, that Clinton failed us. The truth is, we failed her" (Sarah Churchwell).

Hillary Clinton has a Grammy Award for the audio version of her book It Takes a Village, just one more success of this over-achieving, under-valued woman that most people won't have known about as she campaigned to become president because, unlike her opponent, she is not a skite. 

So as some others post-election are pointing to the flaws in her campaign, because of course it must be her fault she was not able to convince enough people in the right states -- though she got 2 million more votes overall than her rival -- that she was a better candidate for the job than a 'man' like Donald Trump, nothing to do with the deep-seated prejudices and long-running misogynist smear campaign against her, I, like Curtis and Sarah and many many more women, want to acknowledge how great she is and what a debt we owe her as women, first and foremost. Those women who didn't vote for her are fucking hypocrites, which is the worst thing you can be, in my opinion.

So thank you Hillary Clinton for showing the world what women are up against and what we (some of us) are made of, a strength, compassion, humility, resilience and intelligence that are the best, the only, qualities in combination capable of leading us to a comprehensively better world. 

Thank you. You are a legend among women (and men) and your efforts will not be in vain.


Thursday, November 10, 2016


D is for Donald, D is for disgust
D is for defeat, D is for dust

D is for doom, D is for debt
D is for desert, D is for death

D is for drip, D is for drought
D is for despair, D is for doubt

D is for detest, D is for disdain
D is for damn, D is for derange

D is for danger, D is for dunce
D is for devil, D is for defunct

D is for discrimination

Uneducated, sexist, racist white men, and some of the most deluded, jealous and/or self-loathing women of any colour on the planet have just elected the next leader of the (not so) free world.

F is for FREEDOM, F is for FIGHT, as the rest of us must continue to do far into the darkest night.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Thank you, Donald Trump

Until Donald Trump decided to run for president against Hillary Clinton, sexism and misogyny were marginalised and mocked as non-issues trumped up by a few 'man-hating' women who identified as feminists.

It's ironic that feminists have long been accused of 'man-hating', like at least since Wollstonecraft in the 1790s, but their attackers have almost never been charged with 'woman-hating' (misogyny). Indeed the word misogyny was hardly used beyond feminist texts for much of history, despite the reality being dangerously pervasive, unlike so called 'man-hating' of which actual examples are rare to non-existent.

But since Trump has moved beyond business to politics, he has effectively shown a much wider group of people what sexism and misogyny look like in 'real' (if also surreal) life, namely a big steaming pile of orange egotistical woman-hating man shit.

And in the process he has made effective feminists -- people who acknowledge misogyny is a reality and a problem and take steps to expose and eradicate it -- of many who would not otherwise have identified with the feminist cause, especially men.

And I think this Conan interview with comedian Louis C.K. is an example of this Trump effect, bringing out the feminist in a comedian who is on record, not that long ago, for mocking sexism as a non-issue compared with racism.

C.K's endorsement of Hillary and statement about how it's time we had a mother as president because mothers care about and fight for humankind more than fathers ever have done, or, he says, ever will do, is a sign of real progress in gender politics, if he does seem to want to say he is excited to have Hillary as president more because she is a mother than because she is a woman, which is not entirely helpful. She is a woman first and we should not be afraid to say that we need more women in politics because men cannot govern fairly or effectively on their own.

Today is election day in the US, though the day is yet to dawn in that country. But here in NZ it is 9.30am on the morning of Nov 8 and the weather is blowing a gale in anticipation of a momentous battle.

May the best person win and a new era of non-hating humanity dawn for America, and so, with a bit of luck and a bit more time, the world.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Nasty feet vs. stupid assholes: the battle of the sexes 2016

'Get this, Donald -- nasty women are tough. Nasty women are smart. And nasty women vote. And on Nov. 8, we nasty women are going to march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get you out of our lives forever.' (Elizabeth Warren).

The 'nasty' part Warren took from Trump's oft repeated description of Hillary as 'a nasty woman.'

It's interesting, isn't it. Aristotle, who hated the idea of democracy, believed women to be malformed men who contribute nothing to the genetic makeup of their offspring and as such saw to it that female newborns were either abandoned at birth or -- because we need a few -- kept, maximum of one per family, but denied the same amount and quality of sustenance and exercise as their male counterparts. And he was one of the smartest men (supposedly).

No wonder the Greeks are doing so well.

This year's US presidential race confirms that nothing much has changed as far as what men think about their gender superiority and right to rule. If only men voted, Trump would be elected.

That said, some men, if slowly and reluctantly, are finally acknowledging the truth and danger of their gender's deep prejudice against women, a prejudice that this election campaign has exposed like nothing before it.

Joe Klein, TIME columnist, who has not been known for his feminist sympathies or commentary in the past, has this week conceded that women are better suited to many of the challenges of politics, such as 'listening to a complicated argument without interrupting, negotiating patiently with opponents [and] looking before [they] leap'.

'Our politics', he further writes, has long suffered 'a profusion of masculine bluster' that leads to 'the unseemly leap into silly wars and overambitious programmes.'

Having studied feminist and anti-feminist rhetoric for far too long, I know the rarity and significance of this kind of concession by a man.

Hopefully it's not too little too late, because if this battle of the sexes is won by men, we're all, to use the Greek term, fucked.


Monday, October 31, 2016

In to win (not)

They say you've got to be in to win, and it makes a bit of sense.

And I used to understand that, I think, being rather competitive once upon a time, spending much of my teens and twenties competing for one or other dance or academic prize and, incredibly, having some success too.

But recently I seem to have forgotten that in order to win you need to be in the competition and managed to miss out on entering my first book in the main writing competitions it was eligible for on account of missing the deadline for submissions by some months.

I'm not sure if I can win without being entered but I think it unlikely.

I'm also not sure who to blame. You're supposed to blame yourself when things go wrong but I'm reluctant to do that. My publisher could have given me a prod or entered the book themselves, yes, but they have other books to enter and promote and I only have the one. They also thought I wasn't eligible because I live in the wrong country. Easy mistake.

Instead, I think I'm going to level blame at a certain someone who entered himself in the competition to run the free world and in the process threw all sane people -- me included, on the margins of that group -- into an epic shit storm of angst and anxiety that is a tiny bit distracting.

If only he'd missed the deadline for submissions.Yeah, right, like he'd ever miss a chance to win.



Monday, October 24, 2016

Man on a rig

So, last weekend it was a female film (see previous blog) and this weekend a male film. It's important to keep a balance. It is also important to read and record the gender of a film, not only because most films have a gender and few reviewers (and viewers) seem to recognise this, but because most films are male -- written and directed by men with male heroes and male themes (adventure, disaster, violence, crime, fantasy, sex).

The few films without a gender, or with a gender balance, are those that are truer to life in avoiding taking either a male or a female perspective while having a more gender-balanced cast. Wracking my brain to think of one, I can only come up with The Lady in the Van, which I reviewed here favourably in March of this year. That rare film was based on a book and play written by a man about a real-life woman, hence the rare gender balance.

But The Girl on the Train and Deepwater Horizons are as gendered as A-grade films get and running concurrently make for a good gender comparison. Their casts have predominately male/female leads and gender reverse secondary characters. They are also films of roughly equal quality and entertainment value, in my opinion. As a woman I enjoyed both equally, more or less. I found Train more intriguing and original and Horizons more exciting and coherent.

There were gender flaws in both, though more for Horizons than Train because the male hero trope it deployed to the max, has been done and overdone in film in general, though as this trope was more true to life than in most male-hero films (though I don't know how true to life and expect it was exaggerated), some of this can be forgiven. Train scored highly on a gender front not only because it was female-centred but because it portrayed a deceptively violent (good-looking, white middle-class) husband, an all too real character who rarely appears on film.

However the reviews strongly favour the male film, with Rotten Tomatoes, for example, giving Train 44% and Horizons 83%. Most other reviewers follow suit, which is, to me, telling. I suspect most of the reviewers for RT are male, even though women reviewers (like the one for Time magazine I highlighted in my last blog) can go out of their way to show they are not in favour of a female film, like Train, just because they are a woman (the type of woman that also had a bad case of 'feeling the Bern', I suspect), which of course doesn't happen in reverse. Male reviewers aren't ever trying to prove they are not biased towards male films just because they are men, though that is so often exactly what they are, they just don't know it. Ah, the irony!

In fact, our own film reviewer for the NZ Listener, James Robins, who this week gave a brief review of each of these films, has a bad case of this implicit gender bias.

According to Robins, Train is 'A reliable memory-loss thriller, but its fine female cast [patronising whot] are reduced to tearful blubbering too often -- an exploitative, uncomfortable, and infantilising technique.' He gives it 2.5/5 stars.

Horizons, by contrast, he says is 'A shockingly good disaster flick, though do try to leave before the tacked-on documentary ending [about the less-heroic, more real damage caused by the oil spill. We didn't leave]. What's more surprising? That BP is evil or that Marky Mark Wahlberg can actually act?' He gives it 4/5 stars.

In Train the problem is a gender problem, in Horizons there is no gender, problem or otherwise.

And the gender problem in Train is that the women, though 'fine', are reduced to 'blubbering tears', not sexy soft tears, 'too often.' Blubbering tears are 'infantilising', presumably, because that's how children cry. Adults don't blubber? I think you'll find they, including men, do cry uncontrollably when given good cause, as they are in Train, which is anything but childish. It shows the depth of the human capacity to feel emotion, which is a vital quality.

In my recollection the only tears that could be described as 'blubbering' in Train are those from the character who had previously come closest to being 'cold' and distinctly unblubbering when she finally reveals she accidentally drowned her baby in the bath when she fell asleep, which turns out to be the cause of her apparent coldness that is, in reality, self hate.

These tears rang true to me as a reality for most women who feel deeply about loss, especially the loss of a child, and especially when they blame themselves. If Robins finds this 'exploitative' he misses the point entirely, of getting real women and women's pain and stories on screen. That the women characters were good looking, is more of a problem than their tears, though Blunt is not classically beautiful and often looked worn out, which balanced that classic problem somewhat.

I find it telling that the critics of Train attempt to couch their criticism as feminist, when it is actually good old fashioned sexism. These critics want modern women to be sexy and bad, not sympathetic and emotional, which is just another way of denying real women a legitimate place on screen.

Man on a rig, as I would have called Horizons, shows real men at their best, and worst, with a bit of exaggeration toward the best. The Girl on the Train essentially does the same for women, though with more of an emphasis on the worst. I think it's harder to show real women on screen because we just don't believe women's realities, as we believe men's, having been lied to about women for so long.

And for my money, I'd be happy to see another female-centred thriller soon but have no need for another male-centred disaster film for a while. It's a question of balance.      

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Woman on a train

So Emily Blunt is not pregnant in her latest film, The Girl on the Train, and that is where her problems start, at least ostensibly. And I guess if you could look this good pregnant you would feel bad if it didn't happen for you (we all look beautiful pregnant, I know, but it helps to have height).

But, according to Time film critic Stephanie Zacharek 'the sad thing' about this film, and Blunt's role in it, is not that she fails to fall pregnant and, as a result, becomes a sad tormented alcoholic with paranoid delusions and fantasies about people she sees from the train, but that she is not 'bad' enough.

According to Stephanie Zacharek, the film is spoiled by a society 'trying to be progressive' and in that effort, not allowing 'classic bag girls' to be portrayed on film anymore.

For Zacharek, this failing is a sign of a feminism gone wrong as, she says, it paints women as flimsy creatures who 'are not wholly responsible for their behaviour.'

Is anyone wholly responsible for their behaviour?

This strikes me as distinctly unhelpful commentary in a world that continues to struggle with the basic idea of feminism: namely, that women's lives have been, and continue to be, constrained on every level by men, often through violence, and that one of the most powerful weapons that men have used to sustain this oppression, is to blame women for the violence inflicted upon them, from rape to domestic homicide. Courts have upheld this reasoning and the real life violence of men has continued unpunished.

A more helpful and interesting review of this film that I found intriguing, if a little disjointed in the first half, comes from Eileen G'Sell (strange name) who compares it with Fatal Attraction, a film that presumably would qualify for Zacharek's 'classic bad girl' acclaim.

G'Sell calls her review 'the rise of the sane angry woman' and says that after decades of portraying psychotic angry women, Hollywood has finally sided with female rage in this film, to take the woman's perspective, for a change, instead of the man's.

She mentions, too, that Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction took the part understanding that her character kills herself in the end, but when preview audiences weren't responding and they changed the ending to make her proper psychotic and homicidal to be finally killed by Douglas -- a box office smash -- she was not at all happy about this change. She knew that it undermined the integrity and truth of her character and sold out women. She was not wrong.

The change might have done wonders for her career, but still she would rather not have had to sink to reproducing the stereotype that perpetuates the myth that women are psychotic and often ask for the violence committed against them.

That was the 80s. If you believe Zacharek, we have degenerated as a society since them in 'trying to be progressive' and failing. I'll agree we are trying today, some of us. But some, like Close, were trying back then, and others, like Gloria Steinem, were trying back in the 60s, and many others were trying much further back than that still. We will always be trying, some of us.

And Zacharek wouldn't have the job she has -- Time's first female film critic? -- if some of these triers hadn't succeeded in making society more progressive and gender equal, too.

But more would succeed, there is no doubt, if there weren't so many -- women, like Zacharek included -- determined to fight against this progress by mocking the efforts, often of women, as in the case of this film, to present more realistic and substantial women on screen, and more realistic men, too, not the Michael Douglas of Fatal Attraction who is pushed to kill Close by her psychotic jealousy.

To read any serious study about the real life violence between men and women in relationships, is to know that the psychotic, and all too often homicidal jealousy of men -- not women -- is the single biggest factor driving the abuse that destroys millions of families (one in three), the world over.

So, well done to the women involved with The Girl on the Train for giving us a slightly more realistic glimpse into this sad reality, and to Emily Blunt for bringing the main character, a real woman, to life with so much feeling and depth. This is progress indeed.


Friday, October 14, 2016

RAW reprisal: The age edge

Okay. So this is not me. I don't do nail polish (I don't have any nails). But it's a little bit me. She (Viv Groskop) has the age edge too, only not so much (she's 43).

Earlier this week I took the plunge, polished up the wrinkles and put away the pride to do my first stand-up gig at the Classic Comedy club in Auckland. It went surprisingly well.

I was the oldest stand-up of ten performing and the only first timer, which is not an ideal equation for a person of the female persuasion, especially. I was even older than the MC, a seasoned comic with twenty years stand-up experience.

But... turns out, age gives you an edge as a comic because everyone else who thinks they're old, namely all comics over the age of 24, have to pack up their getting-old jokes and think again when they see me arrive. It's quite funny to watch.

Anyway. I didn't do any 'getting-old' jokes because I didn't have to; it was all implied. I talked about John Locke and my husband's penis instead -- admittedly, two quite old things.  


Sunday, October 9, 2016

From Dickens to Dicks

Yesterday, I happened to read two statements by famous men on the subject of women. The first was: 'I am sure I don't know why "a great girl" should be a term of reproach, for every rightly constituted male mind loves 'em great and small.'

That was written in 1857 by Charles Dickens (45) in his eleventh book Little Dorrit, which I am currently reading for the first time, better late than never.

The second was: 'Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything.'

That was a recorded statement, published yesterday in the Washington Post, made in 2005 by the 2016 Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump (59), bragging to a TV host about how being famous allows him to do virtually anything he wants to any woman he meets, without sanction.

In both statements women are objectified as 'them' or "'em", and both comments are spoken during conversations between two men. But there the similarities end.

For Dickens, women are objectified in order for his humble, honest character, a prison turnkey, to question this objectification through usage of the term 'a great girl' as a put down reference for men who get emotional: '...makes me take out my pocket-handkerchief like a great girl, as people say...', says this humble character within the prison walls.

In 1857 this would have been progressive social commentary and a reflection, too, of Dickens' own maturing gender consciousness and critique that was not so evident in his earlier books.

That this kind of gender critique has clearly been ignored, as we still, 159 years on, put women down by telling boys and men they're acting 'like a girl' or 'a big girl' when they are showing emotion; indeed, ironically, when they're being human and decent, rather than woman-mocking bullies and dicks, shows that most men never mature beyond seeing girls and women as silly, and men as silly if they behave 'like girls'.

In truth, boys and men continue to put women down as silly and easily used in order not to feel so intimidated by them, as Trump still clearly is at 59 when he has to brag about the women he can do anything to and not be punished for. In the video of what happens after this brag, when he meets the woman he said he might kiss or grope, Trump is clearly intimidated and uncomfortable around her and not at all in a position to do what he wants to her. Instead, her beauty overwhelms him (she is much younger than him, of course), as well as the TV host he had been bragging to, and instead of groping and disrespecting her they both vie for her approval.

The 'rightly constituted male mind' is supposed to love womankind, for the species to prosper, not mock, objectify and dominate us. Boyish fear of women lasting into manhood is at the root of the misogynist mockery Trump and so many other modern men are guilty of, and a humble male maturity in recognising the goodness and value of women, is at the heart of Dickens' rarely expressed sentiment, then or now.

If only Trump was the man of old and Dickens the man of today, we'd be heading in the right direction. As it stands, it would appear we're running backwards at a pace.

PS: Having finished Little Dorrit now, it seems I was a bit hasty -- and hopeful -- to cast Dickens as a any kind of feminist. He finishes on a moralising note about a woman's 'duty' to serve, expressed by a father figure to a young woman who had been in his care, as maid servant to his daughter, then rebelled against him. She comes round to thinking she was totally in the wrong and was mislead by an older woman who is also cast in the final hour as a bitter and twisted lost cause, though he had suggested some sympathy for her earlier on.

Apparently he was fighting with his wife at the time he wrote it. Hmm...

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The 9th man

In the fifth season of Veep, my preferred go-to for political insight these days, someone suggests an all-female ticket for President and VP, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus replies: 'You can't have two women! That'd break the universe'. So we get Hugh Laurie instead, and he's not even American.

Tears of injustice in 1998 from Helen Clark, when local Maori excluded her, as
leader of the Labour Party, from speaking on the Marae for NZ's national day,
because she is a woman.
And so, with Helen Clark's failed bid for UN Secretary General today and the appointment of yet another man to that job for the next 4-8 yrs, the universe is once more saved.

Indeed I can't help thinking that the appointment of the 9th man in a row to lead the institution that is most directly set up to improve the lives of all the world's people -- HALF OF WHICH ARE FEMALE -- and expressly to reduce global conflict between nations, something that men have proven to be slightly crap at since the beginning of time, was influenced in some part by the prospect of a female president of the US, which made voters for the top UN job, who may or may not watch Veep, apply the same top-notch reasoning of saying we can't have two women in such powerful positions, we might break the universe.

There were ten men and one (token) woman in the group that made the announcement, which is a little bit of a clue to the real reason why Clark, as well as the many other very qualified women bidding for the job, was probably never in the running.

The only upside is that institutionalised misogyny is further exposed to show us how it is that men have held power all these years, nothing to do with their professed natural ability to lead, but a banal boy's club mentality of sticking together across religions, races and nations to oppose and put down women, above all else.

Apparently the guy who got the job was seen as a 'warmer' character than Clark. Yeah, right. And Trump is 'warmer' than Clinton, I suppose. He is quite orange, like the sun. Men in general, let's face it, are warmer than women. Why else would we have global warming? It all makes perfect sense. Leave it to men to explain all things and make sure the universe remains intact.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The RAW boat

Urzila Carlson: Comedy's hostess with the mostess.
So last night we went, for the first time, to RAW, the Classic Comedy club's Monday night session for new stand-up comedians.

It was a fantastic night, hosted hilariously by ex-pat South African Urzila Carlson, who blamed us for her weight issues on account of us all spending so much time and money trying to save (feed) starving Africans, among her many other amusing themes.

I had been thinking of giving RAW a go myself, for my sins, but as the other stand-ups last night were so good, I am thinking again. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately.

Perhaps I would rather devote my time to saving starving Africans instead; if it makes the world a funnier place then that seems worthwhile. Alternatively, there's always the firing squad, a comparatively painless option.

In fact, I found out last night (always the last to know) that the RAW sessions officially finished last week in preparation for a 'best of Winter's RAW' event next Saturday, and so some of the comedians last night were likely not raw raw, but prepping for that gig. Perhaps some were even auditioning for a place on the best of RAW night.

So it looks like I've missed the RAW boat anyway and might as well cut my losses and join a bridge club, another hobby I've been considering. Bridge isn't funny, so much, but it does make constructive use of the word 'trump', which is not so easy to do these days.

I'll keep you posted.

For now, the cat's at my door wanting some more raw beef. It was the first thing I touched this morning, raw beef -- the cat likes her raw beef hand shredded not sliced -- and she can probably smell it on my hands, the closest I'm going to get to RAW for the foreseeable future, I fear.    

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The nuclear button

I really didn't want to dignify the US presidential race by blogging on it (because my blog brings such dignity to a subject), as I simply can't take Trump seriously enough as a person, let alone as a presidential candidate, to bother.

But today I read an interesting article in an historically pro-republican publication that asked the pertinent question, among others, 'Whose hand do you want on the nuclear button?' and answered it in favour of Hillary, and I thought, well maybe that's worth blogging about.

Because really, for those who have even the slightest doubt about which of these candidates is more fit for president, that question is the only one you need to ask. To give Donald Trump access to a button that would start a nuclear war and probably spell the end of the entire fucking world, even if it would in the process put an end to Donald Trump, has got to be a bad move. They probably don't get any badder, in fact.

So if you have any doubts (and I know my good readers don't, but you might know someone who knows someone who knows someone who does and pass it on), read this article and consider this one single question: If you had a button that could, and probably would, if pressed, destroy the entire world, would you put it within reach of a petulant child? Probably not. You'd slap on a 'keep out of reach of children' sticker and store it on the highest shelf that only the most grown up of the grownups could reach. And that would be Hillary Clinton, who is much taller than she looks, indeed.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Kids on a plane

All you have to do is enter 'bran' and it comes up, the news story of the moment that is overshadowing the Trump tornado, the ongoing shit storm in Syria and, most incredibly, Jennifer Aniston's latest phantom pregnancy. Bran has never been so big.

The story I am referring to is of course the announced breakup of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (recently Jolie Pitt), otherwise known as Branjelina, hence bran's media moment.

And according to the latest media release -- not necessarily the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but still -- the Hollywood super couple and parents of the millennium came to this sorry impasse on a plane when Pitt allegedly "lunged" at the oldest of his multinational brood of six, the slightly unfortunately named Madd ox.

Now, I don't want to make light of dads that lunge at their kids, much less drunk dads that lunge, as Pitt allegedly was at the time, nor do I want to shift the blame for said lunging onto the kids, but... I will say, speaking from experience, that flying with children is a challenge, with or without, but really with is better for the parent/worse for the child, alcohol in the mix.

That said, I've never flown on a private jet with my kids, a flying experience that I would imagine to be slightly less like the snakes on a plane scenario that I have experienced flying coach with my kids. But then again, the private jet experience would also afford more room for lunging, so that if one was inclined to lunge, that could indeed make the kids on a plane situation worse.

It's all so relative.

But, not so relative, is the number of kids you take with you on a plane, private or otherwise, and in the Branjelina case, that number was six. I have only ever flown with three. Double that number and, well, all said and done, you'd probably be better off with snakes. Snakes, after all, are silent.

Still, just as we can blame Hollywood for the snakes on a plane scenario, I feel this sorry situation with Branjelina, who really did seem to be a happily married couple making it work against the odds of a wildly unreal, overtly public relationship and life, can be hurled at the feet of Hollywood and not so much at Brad's lunging feet or, much less, at Anjelina's desire for the pitter-patter of a multitude of multinational little feet that some media (Chelsea Handler, I'm looking at you, girl!) have blamed for the split.

The fact that they met on a film where they were required to simulate (express) intense sexual attraction, while one of them was married in 'real' life, was probably not the healthiest of beginnings. That they made it work for 12 years is commendable and something of a celebrity couple record, I think.

So good luck to them both, and to their multifarious brood, I hope they all survive their Hollywood break-up without too much blood and drama. To this end, I would recommend no more plane travel for a while. Take the kids to the zoo instead, that's the best place for snakes, too.  


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thank you, feminism

'You should resign!'
Warren's take down of banking CEO John Stumpf
There's a lot of misunderstanding and deliberate misrepresentation of what feminism is and is for. So I thought I'd highlight this woman, US senator Elizabeth Warren, and her courageous battle ongoing against Wall St corruption, as a good example of feminism at work.

Wall St is not all macho male greed and corruption, the kind that has screwed the world for thousands of years, it's just overwhelmingly macho male greed and corruption, and Elisabeth Warren is one of the few people of influence who is confronting and exposing this greed and corruption that has continued unabated since the global economic collapse of 2008 that it caused.

Without feminism, Warren would not be in the senate, and without Warren, as history attests, this battle to expose and end the obscene greed, corruption and unaccountability of the 'big' men at the big banks, would continue and increase.

Feminism, as feminists have long argued, stands to benefit everyone; it just relies on the most courageous women, like Elisabeth Warren, being allowed access to real power to prove it.

So thank you to the feminists who fought for this access, and thank you to Elisabeth Warren who proves that the fight for women's right to speak and be heard at the highest level is a fight, if not the fight, worth fighting for.  And we still have a long way to go; look at the senate chamber in which Warren works.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

I see, you see, we all see Chelsea!

Before tuning in to Chelsea Handler's Netflix series I'd last seen her stand-up show (2013?) in which she produced a billboard-sized photo of three old men giving each other a simultaneous blow job, don't quite know how that's possible but she -- and they -- did it.

I decided I couldn't quite handle the Handler after that, having been a casual fan for some years prior and read a couple of her books, not that I've got anything against blow jobs or the elderly, but I'd just rather not have to see those two things in the same sentence or image. Sorry.

But then we (Moose and I) tuned into her first series with Netflix, the four-part Chelsea Does, and were back into Chelsea with a bang. It was fantastic, the freshest show of its sort we'd seen in a long, long time.

Her Netflix talk show which followed it, Chelsea, Netflix's first talk show indeed, is not as good as Chelsea Does, but it's still well worth watching and it's getting better all the time.

She's such a natural talker, she doesn't suffer fools or bullshitters, she's quick witted, interested in all people, often hilarious and easy on the eye without having to try too hard. Oh, and she can't stand Trump and doesn't mind who she tells about it. What's not to like?

It also ticks the feminist box for being one of the few mainstream, not daytime talk shows, hosted by a woman, which means sexism is one of the subjects up for discussion rather than systematically sidelined or ignored entirely. Even though men are fundamentally involved, few men have the balls to discuss it, which basically means they're sexist too. Silence on sexism in a sexist world is sexist. I think I might just have come up with a catchy slogan.

Chelsea is not a classic feminist and she has had to warm to Hillary after initial disdain and distrust, but she has warmed considerably, and genuinely, and her feminism continues to be honed on the show. The last episode we watched she told men to stop telling women to smile in response to some dude telling Hillary Clinton on Twitter to smile more.

In the episode I linked the series to here, she and Sarah Silverman reclaim the word cunt for women to use to tell each other what wonderful cunts we are.

And on that note I'll sign off, from one wonderful cunt to all you other wonderful cunts -- men against cunt-haters included.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Excessive clenching

So this is me at night, in bed, when I'm supposed to be at rest, if the dentist I've just been to see is to be believed.

'Excessive clenching' he calls it, and it's not terribly good for me, apparently.

Indeed it explains why my teeth and general mouth area hurt, and possibly why I have to take horse tranquillisers to sleep.

Either that, or the the horse tranquillisers are the reason for the excessive clenching and general mouth pain. It's difficult to say with horses.

But one way or another, I've got a problem -- another one -- that neither the dentist nor the doctor who prescribed the tranquillisers seem to be able to fix.

And there's more...

It also seems I'm closing my teeth too often when awake. The dentist asked me how many times I close my teeth of a day and I had to think. How many times do I close my teeth? It was a good question.

I couldn't really give a clear answer, so he told me: too many times, that's how many. Apparently you're only supposed to close them three times a day. Three.

So there's room for improvement there, which is good. I'm not closing my teeth as we speak.

At the end of the consultation and immensely enjoyable teeth-cleaning procedure, while chatting casually about my excessive clenching over my x-rays, taken previously while the dentist and his assistant were out of the room, he says 'Hang on. We'll need to take another x-ray.'

And so, after they set that up and leave the room again, it's discovered that I do in fact have a hole in my tooth that could, just could, explain the pain in my mouth, over and above the clenching.

As my time had expired discussing the excessive clenching, I had to make another appointment to get the filling.

It's enough to make a girl close her teeth, really it is.    

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Face off (Muslim women on the burka ban)

'All religions cast women as sinners and temptresses.'
'Like a half-naked woman, a veiled female to me represents an affront to female dignity, autonomy and potential. Both are marionettes, and have internalised messages about femaleness.'

'The claim that veils protect women from lasciviousness and disrespect carries an element of self-deception.'

'The Koran enjoins all Muslims – whether male or female – to dress modestly... Beyond this general instruction, the holy book... contains no mention of the burka...the hijab, or veil.'

'I am not assuming that the coverings all represent simple oppression. What I am saying is that many women who take up the veil, in any of its forms, do so without delving fully into its implications, significance or history.'

'When the Taliban captured Kabul and seized power over most of Afghanistan in 1996, they made it compulsory for all women to wear the burka.'

'All religions cast women as sinners and temptresses. Conservative Islam has revived the slander for our times. Women have to be sequestered or contained lest they raise male lust and cause public disorder.'

I have taken these quotes from a variety of Muslim women expressing their views on the recent debates about banning the burka and burkini. I think these women should be leading the debate which has taken some bizarre and unhelpful turns of late.

As a feminist who has studied and fought against the oppression of women in all its complicated, yet often, all too simple and predictable forms, I think the attention given to this issue is progress in itself, unless it makes light of the issues or makes them about something other than the worldwide feminist fight for the rights of girls and women to freedom, dignity and equality.

Being told by law or custom what to wear, or what not to wear, beyond basic decency, is, in my view, a violation of these core rights. And as it currently stands, as well as throughout history around the world, many more women are told to cover up, be modest, hide yourself, don't speak, leave the public sphere to men, etc., than to undress and wear less.

Thus, my sympathies are with the women trying to fight for their right not to have to cover up and be ashamed of their faces or bodies, much less to dress modestly for the sake of preserving men's freedom or 'honouring' some ancient mythical male figure of worship.

However, I do think that the pressure that is on women in western societies to dress in a overtly sexual (busty, slim, youthful, pretty and pouting) way, especially those hoping to make a career as an actress or entertainer, are also inconsistent with the pursuit of gender freedom and equality.

Western women who are fighting against this pressure are fighting the same fight that Muslim women are fighting in resisting the pressure to cover up. It is the same fight against the same age-old, male-imposed double standard that sees females controlled and restricted for the sake of male power and freedom.