Sunday, 29 March 2009

Time out to remember

A book I am currently reading has taken my mind back to a place I lived in with my then partner some 37 years ago. A small wooded valley on the Lancashire side of the Yorkshire moors, Wycoller was at that time mainly empty. Abandoned by the hand loom weavers as the nearby industrialised textile mills took over the trade in the early 19th century, many of its houses lay open and deserted. Over the beck which flowed through the village were several very old stone bridges. This is the pack horse bridge, about 800 years old:

And this, the clam bridge, some claim to be neolithic -dating back 10000 years- although most simply claim it to be over 1000 years old.

There in the middle of the village was the ruined Wycoller Hall, reputed to be the inspiration for Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre

Much of my time while living in Wycoller was spent exploring the moors above. Empty spaces now inhabited mainly by sheep and the birds that soared overhead, or hovered, circling, looking for prey. The sky there was big and open and the winds always present. Sometimes, I would roam as far as the old ruined farm of Top Withens, reputed to be the setting for Wuthering Heights In the winter, a cold and desolate spot. Inhospitable and unforgiving. A place where death could seem very imminent and there were constant reminders of its presence - such as the stinking carcases of dead ewes.

In the distance, from the trailer we were living in, could always be seen the brooding shape of Pendle Hill -where during the early years of the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, their founder George Fox experienced a vision, and which was the locus for one of the most famous English witch trials.

In the early 70s, however, these things were not a matter of dry historical record. Witches still existed and were active in people's lives. This was not in a neo-Pagan, Gardnerian, sense of the term, however, but a much older one. I remember the farmer on whose land we were living coming down to the trailer one day and asking me to find an excuse to visit in about 40 minutes and then not to leave the kitchen after I had entered. He did not explain why, but I duly did what he had asked. He was not alone in the kitchen when I entered, there was a woman with him - who did not seem too pleased to see me. I stayed, however, and after a while she left. Joe then explained that she was a local witch and that she fancied him but the last man to turn her down had died suddenly. So he needed me to be there so that he di not have to turn her down. He was not kidding. He believed this. He was, literally, frightened for his life if she felt slighted. He was not in any way a New Ager, but a hard-working hill farmer, devoted to his family. And also, for the short time I knew him, a friend.

There were other signs of such beliefs, such as figurines placed in streams. This was all unspoken - the closest that it ever came to being openly acknowledged in my presence was a nod and what was close to a wink - some things are not spoken about, they just are, and human lives have to adjust to take account of them. A general sense of deeper powers that had to be acknowledged and honoured was prevalent even among those who attended church regularly. The uncanny was ever present. Often it was just a feeling - a sort of knowledge that there was something lurking just beyond the border of awareness - like shapes glimpsed from the corner of the eye. It seemed that there were other beings, other awarenesses, just slightly out of reach There were times, however, when worlds seemed to meet. Once, we were walking on the hill overlooking the trailer and heard the music of a flute. We followed the sound to its apparent source, the other side of a rock formation known as Foster's Leap. Just as we came up to it, the music stopped. Nowhere was there any sign of a musician.

It was here I first became aware of Goddess. A vision, while sitting in the ruins of the old hall, of a place where women were free to be who they are and not conform to the old and sterile expectations and that my life purpose was to help bring this about. I knew this absolutely - a clear certainty permeated the picture I saw. Even today, after so many years. I can still see and feel it. I did not have the vocabulary then to speak of Goddess but know now that it was then She first spoke to me.

This was the land of Brigantia and of the people who became known, disparagingly, as brigands. The Pennines, now known as the backbone of England, retain in their very name the memory of a time when English was not heard. "Pen" - head, mountain, hill. It is even clearer in the name of nearby hill - "Pen Y Ghent" - pure Welsh. All around seemed then to be a place in which history, although it had of course passed, had followed a different course and the attitudes of the city and adherence to the cult of reason had not really penetrated. The people I met then were strong and independent and, to my surprise, seemed totally acceptant of a southern-accented city refugee such as me. I felt, for the first time in my life, that I fully belonged and did not have to bend and twist myself to fit another's expectation. I was welcomed, and it seemed to be a full and unequivocal welcome. I was welcome as me - and I did not have to do anything to earn that welcome.

This is how it seemed to me then, and still does now. I wanted to stay there and never leave but this turned out to be impossible. The time there was a time out of time - a time to rest and feel the roots of the land that had birthed me. It was a time in which I was able to rest and gain the strength I would need for the often nightmare that lay ahead. It was my first true experience of a real, tangible, immanent presence which I can now call Goddess. I felt that presence every day and She never fully left me. A seed was planted then that was slow to grow and is only now beginning to flower

Then, I now know, I felt the presence of Brigantia. Later, the Lady of Avalon was to call me through the mists and teach me so much. Now, I hear Her voice as that of Inanna, whose messenger I am. For this is what I heard Her say, clearly and unambiguously, one evening when I was alone in the Budapest Goddess Temple.

This post follows some in which i have looked out at the activities of others. I needed to look inside, to reminisce, to remember - and to see where my own vision was and how it has developed over the years. And I found that there is a consistency and continuity to it - even when I thought that I had wandered up blind alleys and into dark. forsaken, places. It was all part of the path to which I have been called and of which my first real taste was given to me all those years ago in Wycoller.

I went back there a few years ago and all had changed. Twee and cute are the words i would use to describe the now country park with its craft centre and waymarked walks. ( BTW, whoever wrote the copy on the craft centre's website does not even seem to have read the very books that they are marketing - referring not to Mr Rochester, but Lord Rochester - a very different character indeed, whose poetry, if written here, might well get me flagged!). Of course, it could not have continued as it was - hill farming was getting less and less viable and places of beauty and peace have a market value - even though the very act of marketing destroys or at least distorts the beauty and peace that is marketed. I was reluctant to leave all those years ago, but am glad that I did since I avoided seeing the decline that is termed progress. I was both lucky and blessed to have been able to experience all that I did in the short time I was there. There, I was given the strength and the vision that still informs and inspires me.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

More on Kyle Payne

I have been hesitant to post any more on this affair because I wondered whether it would serve any useful purpose. Certain things have moved forward - Kyle has posted this disclaimer on all feminism-related posts:

DISCLAIMER: This post is rooted in a feminist/pro-feminist analysis, and as a result, it may lead readers to assume certain things about me politically and personally (e.g. that I am living, have lived, and will continue to live a responsible, pro-feminist lifestyle). The fact is, I committed a crime in January 2007, sexually violating a woman who was under my care as a resident advisor in college. I ask that you keep this information in mind when evaluating my comments in this post, as well as if you engage me in dialogue. Please read this post (listed as “Because you deserve to know” on the “All Posts” page) for more information.

So. This does go some way towards minimising the possibility that any naive person coming across his blog would assume that he is someone to be trusted. He has made a public statement that he is a sexual offender. I commend him at least for this But I am still puzzled as to why he feels his posts are valuable enough to be reposted. Sure, they were fairly well written but did not really offer any fresh insights into feminist theory. They were simply restatements of what had been said before. What made them remotely special was that they were written by a man. Here, they claimed, was a man who had seen the light and was aware enough of patriarchal conditioning to transcend it. He could, in support of his sisters, oppose the rape culture in which we live. He presented himself as living proof of the ability of awareness to change behaviour.

And yet, even while writing the original posts, he was aware that he was himself a sexual predator. He was a campaigner against pornography who sneaked into at least one student's room in order to molest her and carry away a short video which he used for sexual gratification. I do not condemn him in any way for desiring to look at women - what is deeply troubling is that he felt it right to campaign against consensual display while secretly enjoying the photograph he had sneaked from an unconscious woman. Why, if he desired so much to look at the bodies of naked women, could he not simply buy a copy of Hustler, or if that is too extreme, Playboy?

This, I feel, is where Kyle could, if he so chooses, begin to make a real and honest contribution. There were reasons he chose the public path he did as an ally of radical feminists, a rape counsellor and anti-porn campaigner. There were also reasons he chose to molest and photograph an unconscious woman. There is a real dissonance here. Kyle is certainly not unintelligent and has revealed that he can think analytically - albeit in the derivative way one would expect of an undergraduate. Now, however, he has seen in his own life a disconnect between theory and practice. He has seen how understanding of one cannot affect the other. There are other, deeper, motivations. Demons, if you will, inhabit the human psyche and no amount of analysis can rid us of them.

Thus, I can, at times, feel an urge to dominate and even to cause pain. I can feel my old wounds calling for revenge - on any woman who is in the way. I can feel my need for human touch to be so great that it seems that it would overwhelm me. I can be fully aware of the historical sources of these desires but this does not, in fact, negate them. They are still there. And they are powerful.

And here is where it all gets horribly messy. Because it is hard to acknowledge such feelings. For not only are they acknowledgements of weakness, they are also politically dubious. If I have a desire to dominate a woman sexually, albeit only in play, then there is a strong part of me that wants to censor that - because it reeks of patriarchal privilege. There are times when I yearn to be dominated and yet i can suspect that to be equally a product of patriarchy. Which it well may be but that knowledge does not make it go away - it simply manifests itself in shame and denial as I refuse to own that part of me and, guess what, it then grows and festers and manifests in anger. Against women? Against myself? Both or neither, it does not really matter - the anger remains. It was not until I began to see, and accept, te desire for both domination and submission as parts of my make-up that the anger began to diminish. And the desires began to lose any power they may have had to rule my actions. Or inaction would perhaps be a more appropriate word, for that was the result.

I cannot fit my desires into a box. i am aware that they are not pure. I wish to penetrate - to enter - to be enfolded. However it is defined it is a real and ineradicable desire (so far, although i get older every day so who knows what tomorrow will bring?) I cannot guarantee that my desires will be "safe" or free from the taint of privilege. All I can do is to ensure consent - being able to recognise the "no", however it is expressed. Reluctance is a "no". Hesitation is, perhaps, a "maybe" but is never "yes". And "no" can come at any time and is an absolute. To ignore the "no" or to ensure that it cannot be expressed is to rape.

Somehow, Kyle decided to override that possibility of "no". It is in his act - or acts, for we can never know the truth - that Kyle's contribution to discourse has the potential to be unique and valuable. He is a perpetrator who is also fluent in feminist theory. Did he feel the dissonance? If so, how did he reconcile theory with his personal practice. More to the point, what did he feel when he had that woman, or women, in his power - unconscious before his gaze. I am not talking about a theoretical, intellectual, analysis here - simply an account of how it felt. What emotions were there? How dd he feel in his body? What emotions were there when the incident was replayed on his computer? Was he aroused? How did feminist theory and the reality of those emotions sit inside the psyche of an intelligent man in his very early 20s? Where did arousal fit into the pattern of his thought? How now does he feel about arousal? It is in these questions that he can begin to make a contribution to feminist discourse - albeit as perhaps a cautionary tale. The self-congratulatory stuff he has reposted to his blog - even with the disclaimer, is in fact empty and totally meaningless as it had no grounding in practice.

Monday, 23 March 2009

The art of sheep

As a complete change from recent postings, I love this!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Kyle Payne, consent and consequences

An amymous commenter to my post on Kyle Payne, claims to be the male radical feministe crusader himself. I checked the traffic and the writer appears to have come from Iowa and the writing style seems very similar to his. Therefore, I assume that he is the man himself. If so, it seems that he is indeed hoping to take up exactly where he left off - as if nothing had happened. After trying to put a quotation in context and giving, without any apparent sense of irony, a lecture on ethics he finishes by stating:

I am very sorry for the misunderstanding, especially to anyone who has confided in me. I did not consider fully the implications of what I was writing in this post. In the future, however, I will be much more careful and respectful.

Careful and respectful to whom, Kyle? The women whom you hope will, in future, pour out the details of the abuse they have undergone into your receptive ear? Why should they trust you? Because you are struggling with the effects of your patriarchal upbringing and past abuse? I have news for you Kyle. Other people have also had similar experiences.- They don't, however, write articles celebrating their own sensitivity to and empathy with the feelings of abused women just weeks before copping a plea bargain and admitting to abusing a drunk and unconscious woman.

The fact that you do not see that you cannot expect to be trusted is in itself evidence that you cannot be trusted. You abused a woman. You did not seek her consent for her breast to be photographed. And yet you are proud of picketing a place where men look at the breasts of women who have consented. Isn't there something very dissonant about this? You claim that the women who work in the sex industry are incapable of consent even when they insist that they are fully responsible for their choices. But you did not give a young student uninvolved in the sex trade the opportunity to give consent. Does the concept of consent have any meaning to you? When the women confided in you, were they aware that you prowled into at least one female student's room and photographed her unconscious body? Did you tell them? - for if consent is to be valid it must be informed. Did they know that your desire to gaze at women's breasts was so strong before they spoke of what some other men did to their breasts?

If I came across a drunk and unconscious woman revealing naked flesh, my first response would undoubtedly be to look. Patriarchal conditioning or not, this is part of my make up and I doubt it will change now. But this would, also undoubtedly, be a very short look because my next response would be, and has been in the past, to cover her. For by becoming drunk she did not give consent for all and sundry to gaze at her, even though she might, unconsciously, have enabled them to do so. And most men I know, all of whom are conditioned by patriarchy, many of whom have been abused, and very few of whom would identify as feminist, would do exactly the same.

Kyle, you did not. And neither did you stumble upon her by accident and then become overtaken by a sudden impulse. You entered her room. You sought her out. You had a camera with you. This was a deliberate act. How can any of the women you seem to hope to counsel be sure that they are not your next target? The answer is that they cannot - for you have not shown any sign that you understand the consequences of your actions. Therefore, there is a very good chance that you will re-offend. And why, given the way you have behaved in the past do you want to go back? Do you have a need to peer inside the minds and souls of troubled women? Do you, in fact, get off on it? Does it simply turn you on? Did you lie in bed at night and imagine being those men. When you ejaculated, which orifice were you in? What did you like better - when they fought or when they froze in terror?

Such questions may, perhaps, be unjust, but they will be asked. And with cause. Your actions gave cause to them. Your apparent lack of any real insight reinforces that cause. It was not patriarchy or past abuse that prompted your actions. It was, unless you have serious mental health problems, a result of choice. You gave yourself permission to do what you did. You gave consent to the act and she could not. And these actions have consequences - such as the questions in the last paragraph.

(By the way, it would be entirely ethical to publish a book such as the one you fantasised about writing providing you obtained the consent of the women concerned. That did not seem to be a factor in your later disclaimer. Why not?)

Thursday, 19 March 2009


I was involved in a bit of an exchange a while back with someone who seems to me to have problems with her anger. In the course of a long "rant" against people she identified (wrongly, as it happens) as being of the far left she spoke of being "driven to considerable rage" about a certain issue. One of her principal accusations was that "far lefties" were angry people and used this in order to dismiss them as unworthy of consideration. She also said that for those who agree with her there was such a thing as "legitimate and natural outrage". She, on the other hand, was a "spiritual" person and was therefore able to sermonise about how destructive anger is.

I pointed out to her that her choice of words indicated that she was angry herself. This she denied emphatically, eventually saying that when she wrote "I am driven to considerable rage" she really meant to say something along the lines of "were I the sort of person who gave way to anger my moral disapproval of this person's actions could cause me to do so excessively".

OK. Perhaps I am being pedantic but I do not see how the words she wrote could mean anything other than an admission that she felt angry. With which I would have absolutely no problem. People are entitled to be angry - it is often the most appropriate response to what happens. But no. Because of some bullshit notion of spirituality she could not accept that anger played any significant part in her life.

OK. It is her blog and she is entitled to say whatever she feels on it. I suppose I may be being unfair to her so I have linked above in order that others may see the post for themselves. There is a lot more about it which worries me - such as the contempt she expresses for others, but I will leave that aside.

What really got me thinking and has prompted this post was the phrase "I am driven to considerable anger". The passive voice. It implies helplessness and lack of agency. A passenger in a car, unable to reach the steering wheel or brake, or an animal being driven to market. She is not alone in this use - it is common and I know that I have used and will use in the future, similar constructions. Because, sometimes, it seems my emotions overwhelm me and impel me towards some behaviour that is outside my control. This is scary and, in an attempt to cope with them, I invoke an outside agency. "I was moved to tears by the plight of the orphan", I might say when, in fact, what happened was that I saw the orphan's plight and my response to that was an emotion that produced tears. It was my emotion and they were my tears - they did not come from outside but from within. They were mine. But their apparent power can be terrifying.

I do not think I am nit-picking here. I feel that this is important. If the emotion is mine, then I have choice. I have agency. I can choose whether or not to feel it - or, more exactly, having felt it I can choose how to act on that emotion. If am angry at someone, whatever they have done, my anger belongs to me and I can choose what to do with it. Anger then becomes a creative energy. If, however, I perceive anger as something that is caused by the actions of others then I lose agency and the consequent ability to use the anger creatively.

I remember when I was a child and my mother smacked me, she sometimes said, "now look what you made me do". I think I have used similar phrases - for which, at this late date, I can only apologise. The thing is, I did not force her to smack me - that impulse came from within her. Whatever I had done - and, in fact, I cannot remember any of those childhood misdemeanors - she, ultimately had a choice in how she reacted. The effect, however, was twofold. I bore the pain of the smack and also the blame for causing the loss of my mother's self-control. I am, I must add, in no way talking child abuse here, just normal 1950s childrearing. Whatever childhood traumas have affected me, and they are certainly not relevant here, my mother's disciplinary methods are way down the list.

But the belief in lack of agency that my mother expressed can have effects in all areas of life. I can say that I am turned on, or another similar phrase, by somebody I desire. A seemingly innocuous expression. And it normally is. But, however, if I turn the metaphor into a simile, it becomes clear that I am saying that she has activated me like an electrical appliance. There is, therefore, an assumption within this that my desire is her responsibility not mine. Her experience, her perceptions and desires are irrelevant to this, for she is the active agent - she turned me on. I am the machine that has been activated -I do not think I need to elaborate on the potential consequences of such thinking. If, however, I accept that it is my desire then it becomes my responsibility. It may be reciprocated or it may not. Either way, my desire is mine - not hers.

Just as my anger, my sorrow, my joy and every other part of my being is mine. They are all my responsibility. I must choose what to do with them. When I learn this trick, and that often seems a long way off, then I can become fully myself. For the path that I am on, which I identify with Inanna, is not the path of trying to suppress or transcend the emotions of my humanity but is the path of acceptance of them in their totality and thereby finding my true being and agency. Perfection is not something that lies ahead and can only be reached after a long path of discipline and denial. It is here and it is now - all I need to do is to reach for it. And why I haven't done that is a whole other story...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

A final word on the troll

Just one set of statistics missing. Mr Troll alleged that most PARENTAL killings are committed by mothers. So I typed parental murder into google and this is what came up:

"Killings of children by a natural parent are committed in roughly equal proportions by mothers (47%) and fathers (53%), but that where the child is killed by someone other than a parent, males strongly predominate" 15 .
Brookman and Maguire (2003) Reducing homicide: a review of the possibilities (PDF) London: Home Office. p.16.

It isn't so hard to find the truth, Mr Truthseeker

And that really is that - just wanted to tie up a loose end.

A road no one should travel..

Strip clubs, along with the sex industry as a whole, support a system in which women’s bodies are literally bought and sold. For many women working in the sex industry, their participation is not by choice, or it is based on unjust circumstances. For a woman whose livelihood is based on playing into men’s sexual fantasies, that means internalizing the message that men have the right to control her body and that she has the duty to serve them.

So why would SAVE protest at a strip club? Because we don’t support the buying and selling of women’s bodies. We don’t support a system of patriarchal oppression in which women are deemed commodities to be controlled by men. Whether the outcome of such a system is domestic violence, date rape, or any other act of hatred committed against women, SAVE wants to make the message clear that we do not support it, especially at a time when pop culture seems to celebrate sexism.

The above comes from a blog posting dated March 11 2009. It is reprinted from a letter to a magazine in April 2006.

One day I’ll write a book. Well, hopefully several. But this book in particular will be a compilation of all the stories shared with me by survivors. Women (of a variety of different backgrounds) raped, beaten, groped, stalked, threatened, drugged, coerced, tortured, pissed on, and emotionally abused by men (of a variety of different backgrounds). It always strikes me, when listing these abuses, that the words are almost meaningless out of context. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Why would we take men’s violence seriously if we cannot begin to understand, on an emotional level, its effects on the lived experiences of women?

And that from a post on the same blog dated May 6 2008

A good feminist man and an ally of exploited women, one might think. And this is what he would have us believe. But there is a slight problem with that picture. Because, you see, on August 25 2008 Kyle Payne, the owner of the blog, The Road Less Travelled, was sentenced to six months for entering the room of a drunken and unconscious student to whom he was counsellor, exposing her breast and videoing it. He pleaded guilty to having done this in order to obtain sexual gratification. He said it was a passing impulse. So passing that he uploaded it onto his computer?

He has now served his time and his blog is active again where he still poses as a radical, anti-pornography feminist man. That may be so, Kyle, but can you expect to be trusted so soon after the event? You choose to become a rape counsellor and you choose to listen to the intimate secrets of women. You fantasise about writing a book based on such secrets. You then choose to molest an unconscious woman and keep a trophy for your later pleasure. It seems to me that you are a voyeur, Kyle. Accept it. Live with it. It is not so bad. Enjoy pornography - for that is clearly your thing. The video proves it. The women who were stripping at the club you were so proud you had picketed had chosen to do it - however restricted and conditioned you may say their choices have been. The woman you molested, the women you are so proud of counselling, did not have such choices. If you want to hear about being pissed on, beaten etc, then there are, I am sure, phone lines you can ring, books you can read - or even willing partners to meet your fantasies. You might well find a happy and fulfilled life.

I cannot pretend that my own sexual conduct over the years has always been as good as I would like but it has always been consensual. What Kyle did cannot be called that, The fact that the young woman was unconscious means that no-one - particularly the woman he molested - can be sure that photography was all that he did. Neither can anyone be sure that it was the only such occasion. He speaks in his statement, which is, to be fair, on the blog, of his bewilderment at what he did. A while in the wilderness reflecting on his actions and motivations is far more appropriate than his current attempts to re-establish himself in the environment he so blatantly took advantage of not so long ago..

I do not normally take part in campaigns against private individuals. I think this is the first and I hope it is the last. If he had remained private, or simply started a blog without trumpeting his own, now severely tattered, radical feminist credentials, I would certainly have left him alone. But this is not what he has done. He does not seem, therefore, to have taken on board that he was well out of order and that trust, if it ever returns, will take a long time to come.

A Poison Tree- William Blake

I cannot pretend that I have delved all the meaning in this poem - well, I doubt that I ever will delve all the meaning in any of Blake's work - even the most apparently simple. It seems, however, highly appropriate to my last posting. Read and enjoy.

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine -

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Anger and Spirituality

I have been feeling angry the last few days. This is probably evident to anyone who has read the blog. I do not apologise for this. In fact, I am glad that I have, since I have also felt particularly creative. As is also evident. I hope that others will appreciate reading the last few posts but that really does not matter - the fact is that I needed to express how I felt and this is now done. Some of the language has been intemperate and, again, I have no problem with this.

Anger is nothing new to me. It is something that has been with me for much of my life. For most of that time, however, I have not acknowledged it. I felt that it was a negative emotion and a sign of my own lack of development. I had to be cool. And all the energy locked up in the anger just whirled around inside me - eating away my creativity and self-esteem. I tried to erase it with pills and drown it in alcohol - but still it lurked, not going away just becoming less visible. Hiding.

And it was not only the anger which was hiding but me. For my anger is born of me and partakes of my energy. It is part of my being and cannot be erased without violence to that being. It is my fire. Or at least, it is that aspect of my fire that exists in order to protect and impel the defense mechanisms but had to be switched off in order that others would not punish or reject me. For anger, in a hierarchical system, cannot be expressed against those in higher position - be they parents, teachers or employers. So I learnt to hide the fire - to hide myself.

For anger is of the will to life. It is the fight or flight energy we need in order to meet threats. It is the energy that will enable a mother to lift a car away from her child. It is goddess-given. It is there to impel action - to move us, and others, out of danger. It is beautiful. If you doubt this, look at, say, Picasso's Guernica or much of Goya - to take two, Spanish, examples.

But we are taught that it is wrong. We are taught that spirituality consists of erasing such passions. Anger is, we are told, one of the seven deadly sins. So we learn to pretend that we do not have it. We become adept at hiding it in words and smiles. We pretend that it is not ours but that others have driven us to it, that they make us angry. "Look what you made me do!" Then we can even learn to hide it altogether - even from ourselves.

And in this hiding I became depressed - unable to move - eventually unable, really, to feel. A half-man, I thought that I was alive. But I wasn't - for my fire was absent. Because in order to hide my anger I had to hide my fire. And without that fire I am not alive.

It still scares me but I am determined to allow my fire to burn. And this, to me, is spirituality - to become fully and completely myself. Only then will I cease to be a prisoner of my passions. When they are allowed to flow freely then I will be free. For anger is not the whole, or even a major, part of my fire - but it cannot be separated from it.

I could not let him slither away..

...until I had eliminated all chance that he might be an honest troll. So, I have been to the source he later directed me to - the US Centre for Disease Control. And yes, there are indeed statistics which show a majority of infanticides being committed by the mothers. However, these figures only relate to 9.1% of all child killings -those in the first week of life, 82.6% of which occurred on the first day. 95% of these births took place outside hospital and the majority of the mothers were adolescents with histories of mental health problems. So, a frightened, mentally distressed child gives birth alone- perhaps not even knowing (due to inadequate sex education) that she has been pregnant. She then smothers the child. Tragic indeed but, I would argue, deserving more of compassion and care than censure and in no way representative of the female population at large.

Such a selective use of statistics to support an allegation that most child killings are committed by single mothers is nothing other than a poisonous lie.

I then turned to a research paper, by Murray A Strauss, which is published on a web site called This, the troll alleges, proves that women are equally, if not more, culpable in domestic violence. The first thing that became evident is that this seems to be a sound piece of work. The second thing was that it does not offer support to the assumption behind the name of the website. To quote Strauss, "for men, the risk of injury and therefore fear of injury, is relatively low." He stresses that there is a real, quantitive and qualititive, difference between a slap and a beating - although both are legally assaults. Furthermore, he ends with this statement:
I believe humanity needs research inspired by the moral agenda and perspective of those who focus on the oppression of women, regardless of whether the oppression is physical, sexual, psychological or economic; and also research inspired by the moral agenda of those who focus on physical assault, regardless of whether the assault is by a man, woman or child. I even dare to hope that the controversy will be resolved by recognizing the need for both perspectives, and that this will bring an end to attempts to discredit those whose agenda and professional role requires a different approach and different perspective.

This is hardly a stinging indictment of feminist theory - indeed, it calls for a further application of it. Strauss does not question the reality of the oppression of women but accepts it as a given. The fact that he calls for research to take other factors into account does not affect this and I would not argue with him.

The troll's attempt to cite this paper as evidence supporting his contention that men are equal, or greater, victims seems, at best, disingenuous. As far as I can make out at first glance , Strauss simply does not say it. "Battered" men are not as equal in number or significance to battered women.

But I certainly do not expect a troll to worry about evidence - since all facts can be twisted to serve his agenda. A slap to him is the moral equivalent of a kicking and a frightened and bewildered child is a vicious murderer.

This set of values seems deeply sick. And yet, I fear, it pervades much society.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Some facts for the troll, before I let him settle back into his hole

Before I left the troll completely behind, I wanted to check on one of his allegations - which was that women, particularly single mothers, are responsible for the majority of child killings. I had a feeling that this was not true but was in any case not going to click onto the male rights activist blog that he cited as evidence for his claim. Then I got to thinking. Was my gut feeling wrong - because it is, after all, women who are in the most contact with children and are thus perhaps the ones more likely to lose the plot - they certainly would have far more opportunity to commit the crimes.

So I decided to check and went to the US Department of Justice where I found the statistics which show that, despite women having, in general, the responsibility of caring for the young and therefore more opportunity and, feasibly, more motive, 60% of all infant homicides are committed by men. Furthermore, when it comes to the elderly, where again the responsibility for care falls mainly on women, the proportion of male offenders is even higher - 85%.

This did not take long to find. Any troll could do so. But, of course, he will not - why spoil a fervent hatred with facts. I do not think, for any sane individual, the USDOJ is a hotbed of feminist ideologues - so I cannot see how these figures can be argued with. I would imagine that similar figures will be replicated for most western countries.

So there is no support here for his contention. It is born of his hatred towards and fear of women, pure and simple.

Goddess Pages now online...

The Spring issue is now online - with much free content. If you have not done so in the past, check it out now and also be sure to check the back issues in which all content up to and including Spring 2008 is free. There is a wealth of material to read and enjoy - including learned articles, artwork and some wonderful poetry.

Just click here and enjoy

Madoff, 56bn and free enterprise - a few reflections

Where the hell has that money gone? Down behind the cushions of the sofa? Hidden under a mattress? There is a limit as to how much anyone can spend on their homes in the Hamptons, New York, Mayfair and elsewhere, even including the three yachts. Perhaps a billion or so could be blown on them. The rest?

Where is it? I admit that finance at this level makes very little sense to me, but once upon a time there were individuals who put their savings into financial institutions which then put that money into this Ponzi scheme. So the money working people put aside from their wages in order to provide for their old age is no longer there. It has gone. It seemed to be real once - a measure of the reward for service rendered. Now it seems to have evaporated. At each point in this process of rendering cash into steam various individuals took fees and many earned bonuses. Most of these transactions, until the end, were probably legal. But something apparently magical has happened as what was once real has become unreal - contrary to Newtonian physics.

But it is not magic, however, for the money was never real in the first place. It never has had any reality - all it is is a set of agreements - nowadays represented in binary code and never existing outside those electronic impulses. Those who understand this language of unreal agreements grow rich and generally escape the ultimate consequences of their actions, while those who produce the goods and services measured in this language of agreements reached on the poker tables of international finance find themselves in unexpected poverty in their old age. Unable to meet the bills for essential services. Perhaps unable to have the medical treatments that could keep them healthy for longer. Sure, there are some, like Madoff who cross the line from legality to illegality but this seems to me to be simply a question of degree not of substance.

This is not the first bubble and it will not be the last - unless some other way of ensuring distribution of goods and services is found. The Soviet model did not work - neither, patently, does the Freidmanite free market - which has ended up, ironically, by fulfilling the dream of early 20th century socialism, the nationalisation of banks.

There is often an amazing apparent symmetry of events, however, and there was an early indication of where we were heading. Early in Margaret Thatcher's premiership a ferry was delivered to Townsend Thoresen and began its operations on the cross - channel route. it was one of three and their names reflected the triumphant ideology of both the Tory leader and her friend Reagan - Free Enterprise. On March 6, 1987, one of these, the Herald of Free Enterprise, sank as it was leaving Zeebrugge harbour. The official enquiry concluded:
.a full investigation into the circumstances of the disaster leads inexorably to the conclusion that the underlying or cardinal faults lay higher up in the Company. The Board of Directors did not appreciate their responsibility for the safe management of their ships. They did not apply their minds to the question: What orders should be given for the safety or our ships?

This seems to me to epitomise the whole ethos of the ideology of Free Enterprise - maximisation of profit with no thought of social responsibility. Early in its unholy career this fact was "heralded" in Zeebrugge harbour. Lest anyone claim that this criminal corporate negligence was a one-off, there had been an even worse indication a few years earlier in Bhopal, India, when spillage from the Union Carbide works killed and maimed thousands. Here, even the most basic safety measures had been cost-cut out . No-one in authority in corporations seemed to learn any lessons from such events- they simply campaigned, successfully, for even less regulation. The safety and livelihoods of human beings seem forever to take second place to the search for greater and greater profits for the corporate few.

We have now seen the results of this culture of greed and have an opportunity to rethink. I pray we take it

Feeding the trolls

I should know better than to do so - but there is no fool like an old fool. Besides, they can be amusing at times as they caper about, trying to appear rational. Seriously, however, Mr Anonymous is perfectly entitled to his opinions but I wish that he and his ilk had the personal courage to write their own blogs rather than, like a burglar shitting in someone's living room, deposit their bile in spaces other people provide. Still, he has given me a glimpse into a particular pathology - albeit a little exaggerated and caricatured.

For this I am grateful to him - even though on a rational level it horrifies me. The world he inhabits seems to be a complete inversion of the one I know. He speaks of "pregnant couples". What strange branch of biology is this? He contradicts himself and when challenged says that I knew what he meant. So he evidently also considers himself a telepath. I may be strange in this but when English-speaking people address me in English I assume that they have chosen their words and that they are using the same general dictionary - and not, like Humpty Dumpty, assigning new meanings as they go along and then expecting others to keep up with this.

Most of all, I am grateful to him for this gem:

there's a reason why universities didn't offer degrees for women. It's because women generally are less critical and not as innovative or intellectually daring as men. Sad to say but it's true. Women are more collective and want to please authority figures such as teachers, instead of critically engage with the material and question academic dogma

many women in universities today are there for the social benefits. They like social bonding, communication, gratifying their own egos. Sadly many men are becoming like them instead of pursuing Truth

This is so crazy it is risible. On the one hand he complains about feminist scholarship and on the other he says that women are incapable of engaging critically with received wisdom. Therefore, whatever women do, unless it is darning his socks or being an incubator serving his divine right to be a FATHER, it is wrong. Because, of course, men have always pushed the boundaries and have never used their time at school and University simply as a means of making contacts for later life but always as a place for the pursuit of Truth. Haven't they? Well..... no. And of course, as we all know, men are devoid of the desire to seek ego gratification.

And yet, although he seems a caricature, this man does, I fear, represent quite a large body of opinion. There are many who feel a sense of grievance as they perceive their own easy privilege slipping away and their lazy, self-serving assumptions challenged. Secretly, or maybe not so secretly, they would love to emulate the Taleban. For them, the world of The Handmaid's Tale is a Utopia. I hope their numbers are dwindling but there are times when I fear that the contrary is happening. Particularly as we move into difficult economic times.

When anybody starts capitalising "Truth" - whoever they be - part of me wants to run for cover. For often they will have guns and the will to use them to assert and impose this Truth. The other part of me, however, is determined to refuse to allow them to bully me into submission.

So, I am amending my comment policy. Any abuse from any "Anonymous" and for which there is no link back will be deleted automatically, without being read. I have heard such verminous garbage many times before and do not intend to provide a resource for cowards, who lack the courage to put themselves on the line, to propagate their hate.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

I am no fan of bloodsports, but...

... I have loved the battle between Jon Stewart and the CNBC network and its share tipster, Jim Cramer. Like nothing I have seen so far, it uncovers what is, at best, the incompetence and, at worst, criminality of those who cheerled the CEOs, the traders and hedge fund managers as their greed for short term and unsustainable profits led to meltdown of the financial institutions and poverty for those who trusted the advice given.

For those who have missed this display of impeccable comic timing coupled with controlled outrage I did have the videos here, but I am afraid that they were too much for my computer - which decided to go on strike every time I turned to this page. So here is the link to the website.

Feeling really good...

I am feeling a renewed enthusiasm about blogging. Lately, I have at times been wondering whether to discontinue, thinking that I may have nothing relevant or new to say. Or, perhaps, it has been more that I have been blogging for about six months now and the novelty and excitement had worn off.

But now passion has returned, courtesy of "Anonymous". His comment reminded me of just how warped and isolated the world view of some human beings can be and how vital it is to keep banging away and presenting alternative visions. Of which mine is just one among many. I neither expect nor want to convert anyone to my way of thinking. This is, in any case, impossible since that way of thinking has developed over many years and has its roots in experiences which are unique to me. Uniformity of thought is the aim of totalitarians of both right and left and I will oppose it to the best of my ability. At best, I hope that I stimulate critical thought. Such thought, however, to have any real validity, should be grounded in experience and observable reality - not in received dogma and prejudice.

I accept that many men have suffered at the hands - or even fists - of the women in their lives. Any such assaults should be taken seriously. No argument. But then some men assert that such assaults are at least as endemic as men's assaults on women. Just yesterday, a London taxi driver was convicted on 12 counts of drugging and attacking women passengers. All in a matter of about a year. So his average is about attack a month - and that is just those of which he has been convicted.

I do not know his motives. He testified that "he craved female attention in the wake of a series of failed relationships". And yet he drugged them into unconsciousness - a strange way to gain "attention". It sounds more like revenge. Perhaps he sees himself as a victim of uncaring and predatory women and this was his way of getting back at them. I don't know. What i do know is that I have, in both professional and personal life, heard many men express such deep anger. I have also heard and read women who have expressed similar anger against men. Their response, however, seems to consist of withdrawing from relationships with men - not seeking them out, drugging them and sexually assaulting them. That is solely the preserve of the out-of-control, angry and inadequate man.

Of course, this taxi-driver is an exception. Very few men behave like that. Just as there are few Peter Sutcliffes or Ted Bundys. A list of serial killers shows, however, that they overwhelmingly male and that their victims were predominantly female. And that there have been frighteningly many of them.

I was just looking at the US Dept of Justice statistics on intimate partner murders and came across something very interesting. In 1976 the sexes were fairly evenly balanced with male victims numbering 1,304 and female victims 1,587. Over the next 28 years, however, the gap widens until in 2005 the figures are 329 men to 1181 women. It is interesting to speculate about the reasons for this trend. Perhaps it is something to do with the rise of feminism and an easier access to divorce and women generally preferring to terminate a relationship and set up on their own in a less lethal way than men. And that, of course, leads to further speculation as to why men prefer a dead partner to a divorced one. One immediate thought is that it is bound up with notions of ownership and men preferring to destroy their property rather than lose it - especially to another.

I do not know the answers to such questions but I have opinions. Many of these will, undoubtedly, be wrong. I hope that when people disagree they comment, preferably without resorting to personal abuse. I will not delete any comment, however abusive, unless that abuse extends to any other person or it becomes purely repetitive. I will not, however, directly answer anybody who lacks the courage to sign such abuse and reserve the right to express my utter and complete contempt for any such coward.

Friday, 13 March 2009

WHIPPED ? - I think not

I am not going to deal in any detail with the attack on me a couple of posts ago. Anyone who is interested can see it in the comments to that post . However, in the strange and inverted pseudo-logic the anonymous wingnut uses he alludes to an expression that is common in misogynist discourse- "pussy-whipped". To me this typifies the nonsensical nature of the world these people inhabit. How can any woman's genitals actually whip anyone? Tell me please.

I am not saying that genitals cannot be used to hit people. The sjambok, a whip used by the apartheid police in South Africa has been alleged to have been made at times from rhinocerous penis. Whether this is true or not the bull pizzle whip has been used in Europe at least from early modern times - being referenced in Henry IV. Many men, and women, have been whipped by penises, but, as far as I know, no pussy has ever whipped anybody. Perhaps I am wrong. If I am, please provide me with references

So misogynist men accuse men who do not share their particular pathology of having undergone a physically impossible assault - ignoring the physical realities of male and female. This puts into a clear perspective their allegations of the victim status they claim which is in similar blatant denial of any objective reality outside their perverse imaginations.

Recognition at last?

Well, it has at last happened and a nutter has dropped from the trees - or, as is more likely, emerged from under a stone - and left a torrent of abuse as a comment to my last post. Grateful as I am for the positive feedback and intelligent comments I have had, this anonymous - of course - "person" has really made my day!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


I heard the BBC news today and it spoke of a government initiative to fast-track teachers' qualifications for suitably qualified professionals. Fair enough. I thought. And then in the next breath the reporter mentioned mathematicians who had previously been employed by the banks.

And I wondered whether these were really the sort of "experts" that we wished to let loose on our children - people who can devise intricate ways to profit from financial disaster?

I laughed uncontrollably for a few minutes. It was the only thing I could do. And then, I wondered whether i should have wept.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The Fruit of the Poison Tree

I was listening to a BBC programme in which a presenter spoke about being on the Haj and then gushing about being in the same place where Abraham did something or other, I cannot remember what. And then I realised that I just did not give a shit about Abraham - nor the various religions of his putative descendants

I am sick and tired of the assumption that these things are important. So many times, I have seen and heard Goddess followers trying to be inclusive - to find a way that they can accommodate those who have a residual attachment to the religions in which they were brought up. I do not see it. Whatever Abraham was or was not, he is the idol of an ideology which has exulted in its triumphs over the religion it superseded - the religion in which Goddess was honoured. He is the embodiment of monotheistic, patriarchal triumphalism and is seen as the ancestor of the pernicious creeds that have brought the inhabitants of this planet to the brink of destruction. He represents the fulcrum of history where the balance shifted and the power/over paradigm took the high ground.

For what is the story of Abraham and Isaac about but the whole concept of father- right. As father abraham defers to the superdaddy, Yahweh, who, vampire-like thirsts for the blood of younger men in order for him to feel fulfilled. The religions and ideologies which have metaphorically sprang from the loins of this arrogant psychopath are the very same ones that have their fingers on various nuclear triggers. They are the ones that claim the moral authority to destroy all life on this planet.

And I am expected to kowtow to this sick conception of divinity! I reject such expectation. For this religion is fundamentally and irrevocably flawed. Far from being the blessing that we have been led to believe, it is a pernicious lie whose effect is to rob human beings of their integrity. Thus, having been told for millennnia that their desire was the gateway to the Fall of humanity, women are then told that they can see themselves honoured in the figure of the Virgin - forever inviolate - even after giving birth

It is, pure and simply, a lie.

I cannot think of any other way to describe this. Dress it up in whatever theology we like it is nothing other than a lie. Even within most protestantism this lie is repeated. For at its base is the recognition that the Abrahamic covenant depends upon the denial of women's true agency. And at the base of this is the true and certain knowledge that paternity is always ultimately doubtful. Thus, Mary has to be a perpetual virgin, for otherwise Jesus may be a bastard - and that would give the lie to the father right which underpins the Abrahamic covernant.

And yet, according to the myth, Jesus was nothing more nor less than a bastard. He was conceived out of wedlock and was not the son of the putative father. A patsy, Joseph, had to be found in order for the child to be "legitimate". A convenient legal fiction, really - however it may be dressed up. If Jesus was not the product, under Judaic law, of the congress of man and wife he was a bastard. He was outwith the rights of inheritance and acceptance. He was outwith the Abrahamic covenant - remember what happened to the son of Abraham's concubine, Hagar. He could not, therefore be the Messiah. Unless he was somehow freed from the normal route of conception. A miracle must therefore be proclaimed

For this is what happens when you tell a lie. You must spin ever more lies in order for the first lie not to be caught out. And the lies get ever more ornate and complicated as they have to account for more and more anomalies. Thus dogma is born as ordinances are given that it is a sin to question these lies. Lie builds on lie.

And yet many within the Goddess movement strive to accommodate such lies. We are told of the Magdalen who blessed the Messiah and ordained him as priest before crucifixion. She was, we are told by many, a priestess of the Goddess and had undergone the sacred marriage with him - even perhaps bearing his child. A male child, lest it be forgot.

Thus the Abrahamists strive to include the new awareness of Goddess and incorporate Her into the Abrahamic lie. There is little evidence that Jesus ever existed and even less that he was an initiate in the mysteries of the Goddess and there is even less than that little that he fathered a child whose descendants would come to reign in France. Perhaps he did. But it can only ever be perhaps. And what the hell does it matter?

Because the Abrahamic lie is based upon the patently false notion that any man can be certain of paternity. A large section of the bible is devoted to trying to prove descent from one man to another. All it needs is one woman - just one among many- to have managed to hide her "indiscretion" for all such lineages to fall to pieces - they mean, literally, nothing. They are a lie. Or, at best, a pious and futile hope. For it is inevitable, thank Goddess, that somewhere along the line, the assumptions of the patriarchs will not have been fulfilled and a new and unknown DNA sequence be introduced into the line of descent.

For the only possible certainty is of motherhood. None of us can be certain of paternity - short of scientific testing that is only now available. The whole logic of the Bible is in defiance of this certain fact. And this defiance of reality is enough to invalidate whatever nebulous claim it may have to allegiance.

US jurisprudence has,unlike its ancestor in the UK, the delightful concept of "the fruit of the poison tree". Under this doctrine, evidence which is obtained illegally or from dubious sources cannot be offered in court. The Bible is a poison tree. Instead of trying, from very creditable motives, to find a way in which Goddess awareness can conform to christian or other expectations and find a home in the bible, I feel it would be better to leave the bible - and, more importantly, messianic expectations, completely behind. Yes, there is much wisdom to be found within its pages - but such wisdom can also be found elsewhere. And, most importantly, when it is found elsewhere, it will be free of the taint of the poison tree.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

..and more synchronicity... this article on Alternet - a few days old but I have only connected with it now. A short quote from a very good article:

this vulva gallery therefore is so simple yet so inspired -- an art show we carry around and never look at.

The differences are profound and lovely -- some are drapey and flowerlike, some have bigger labia, some are spare and simple, and frankly there are more hair variations than at the Westminster dog show.


Strange - I had just posted my last piece when I saw on Medusa Coils this posting from Lydia Ruyle concerning the earliest ever Sheela na Gig . Must be something in the air...

cutting out the shame

Livia Indica posted a comment to my last post which spoke about some rather extreme genital modifications. I looked at the link she supplied and, although I felt physically repelled by many of the images, would not want to say that such things should not be allowed. But there is a strong proviso to this and that is that such drastic procedures are undergone with full, informed, consent. If an adult woman or a man has made a free and conscious decision to mutilate themselves - for whatever reason- then that is a matter for them and whoever wields the knife. The fact that I cannot understand - and am repelled by it - is neither here nor there.

The people who choose undergo such modifications, however, do so in the full knowledge that they are deviating from the norm - however that is defined. They know that what they are doing is transgressive and have chosen that way in order to express themselves. They have that right. This is very different from the message being promulgated by plastic surgeons whose profits depend upon the instillation of anxiety in women who fear that their entirely normal genitals are in some way pathological and repulsive. For this feeds into the state of chronic shame that rules our culture and of which women are the main recipients and transmitters. Shame, with its mythological origin in Eden, is located within the genitals in general but in women's in particular. It is women who are the recipients of the language of shame - a man may be a "rotten prick" but this in no way carries the same weight as "filthy cunt".

For there is a perceived intrinsic wrongness about the vulva that does not pertain to the penis. A man may indeed be anxious about size but this is a question of degree and comparison, not of essence. Culturally and liguistically, the cunt is taboo. It is the source of pollution. It is, intrinsically, pollute. It secretes. It bleeds. And it is from where we all have emerged.

It reminds us that we are human. And mortal. We were born and we will die. Womb and tomb may only rhyme in English but there is a strong correlation. Long barrows, to give just one example, are modelled on the female body. it was, I think, for this reason that Sheela-na-gigs were carved on churches. "Gaze", they invite," upon your beginning and upon your end. The Alpha and the Omega. Before both, you are powerless".

Barry Long. in at least one of his tapes, speaks disparagingly of cunt power and of the "fiendess". There is a sort of equation between the two. And both emerge because of the failuire of men to exercise their natural authority. He says. I am not sure what he means but I wonder to what extent his ideas are rooted in his fear of the cunt - in his fear of women's power which he sees as having its roots in hell. But, of course, his fear is, in this case, not surprising and in a sense rational for Hell is a goddess.

There is no way that I can see of avoiding the accusation of essentialism. Our culture is predicated upon genital difference and the privileging of one set - the male - over the other - the female. However it is glossed, this still applies. And the privilege and the taboo have their origin in one inescapable fact and that is that all human life emerges from between a woman's legs. Sure, men have their part to play - but that can seem trivial and minor when compared with birth. Besides which, how many men can relate the child with any specific physical action of theirs? How many men can be 100% certain - without the very new science of DNA testing - it was an act of theirs? We cannot. And this, I feel, has a major part to play in the way we have acted to denigrate and revile women.

In order to control women, we have striven to deny their ownership of their own sexuality. In our fear of the power we perceive, which we see as cunt-power and demonic, we have told women that their genitals are filthy pits of disease and decay (lest you think I exaggerate. read some of the church fathers). Such language can seem out of place in our modern world - but the message is still there in such practices as labioplasty, where young women, who have absorbed the wordless shame which underpins our civilisation, are encouraged to have that shame cut (literally!) out.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

baffled !! - NSFW!!!

I wondered whether my previous posts had been a bit over the top - exaggerating something that is not really happening. Then, today, I typed "labia" into google and found this site - within the first five hits - it is from a cosmetic surgeon.

My question is: can anybody tell me what was wrong with the vulvas before surgery? I just cannot see it. But I am a man so may be missing something. Please tell me if I am, because - as I said- I just cannot see it.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Irony - or racist hypocrisy?

I was just in the kitchen and listening to the BBC World Service - ah, it is good to hear fluent English! - and there was an item about female genital mutilation in Africa and how campaigns to raise awareness are having concrete effects.

And yet, as I posted yesterday, in the UK a mainstream television programme can advocate a similar procedure. Sure, it is not done with broken glass and without anaesthetics and it goes by the reassuringly latin name of labioplasty but it is nevertheless mutilation. Certainly it is not as extreme but I cannot help but feel that the same impulse underlies both. For example, any surgical procedure leaves a scar and I do not see how scar tissue can have the same sensitivity as normal tissue. I am not a woman but my experience would indicate that the labia are sensitive to pleasurable stimulation. Any surgical procedure must diminish this pleasure. Maybe not to anything near the same extent as in Africa, but the impulse is the same - women must be mutilated, and thereby lose some capacity for pleasure, in order to attract men. That is the bottom line.

So, in Ethiopia and other places, young girls are held down and mutilated so that they can conform to a cultural norm. In the west, television programmes will induce them to volunteer to so conform - telling them that their normal vulva is, in fact ugly, abnormal and pathological and must be cut in order to be acceptable.

So the same media outlets that condemn genital mutilation when performed in Africa will promote it in the UK. This is both racist and hypocritical. I cannot see it as anything other.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Words fail me....

When Inanna gazed at her vulva she saw it as wondrous. She applauded herself. We do not know how it looked, but that is totally irrelevant for no two vulvas are the same. Each is as individual as the woman who possesses it. And I have never seen one that was not beautiful. And I doubt that that I ever will. Which is why I found this article very disturbing. In a UK television programme a young woman, concerned that her vulva is abnormal is referred by her GP for labioplasty. I have not seen the programme but the writer states that there was no medical justification for this procedure since the woman's vulva was well within the range of normality. The woman had not complained of any discomfort but was only worried that it looked wrong.

The writer is very concerned not only about the completely unnecessary operation but about the message it sends to other young women who watch the programme and decide that their vulvas are abnormal and ugly. If the account is true, I feel that Channel 4 have been almost criminally negligent in allowing the programme to air. Was it sponsored by some seedy cosmetic surgeon who sees a whole new market for his/her knife? If so, the programme had the desired effect, to judge from some of comments quoted from its message board. Here are a few:

’m 15 and i thought I was fine, but since I ve watched the programme I ve become worried, as mine seem larger than the girl who had hers made surgically smaller! it doesnt make any difference to my life, but i worry now that when I’m older and start having sex I might have problems?!

i saw the program and i think i have this i thought it was a little werd befor the program and now i dntno what to dooo….help someone

im 15 and i thought that it was actually quite normal but i was watching this programme and a girl had a promblem with this, and it has really made me parranode.

So young women, trusting that the television would not misinform them, have now been led to believe that they are abnormal and should be trimmed to fit some sort of ideal.

Sometimes, I think that we have come some way towards building up the self-esteem and confidence of young women. And then I read about crap like this being dished up.

I cannot find the words to express the anger I feel.

I am posting a link to the Vulval Health Awareness Campaign for anyone concerned that they may be abnormal.