Archive for feminism

The Thought Box

Posted in craft, Craft Post, My So-Called Life, My Thoughts on X Thing, Politics, Thought Box with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 10/11/2009 by phyrbyrd

Another ‘it’s been a while’ post – apologies, it has been a while. There are a couple of reasons for this – one is that my life has been rather hectic lately, the other is that I’ve honestly been trying to get together a good coherent post but really my thoughts are too fragmented at the moment to do so – this happens to me a lot, so I’m just going to give you the fragmented thoughts in the hope that you find those interesting.

First of all, I had two of my wisdom teeth out a few days ago. The operation itself was a snap – they put me under, and afterwards I came round with a minimum amount of wooziness, was chatty and chirpy within a couple of hours and after a night’s observation,* was sent home. However, now the right side of my face is all swollen, eating a meal is a chore and sleeping is increasingly broken, and after being informed that this isn’t actually all that normal, I’m going to the dentist to check that I don’t have an abcess. IT NEVER ENDS.

I had no idea people normally get sent home with antibiotics after a wisdom-tooth-ectomy or whatever they call it, but I’m not surprised I didn’t. The hospital I went to had to phone out to check whether the stitches would dissolve, and couldn’t tell me how to clean my teeth post-operation. I’m not saying they were incompetent – I’m saying they were hideously underfunded. The nurses were lovely, sweet and friendly,** but the beds had very, very minimal bedding and what blankets there were were mostly fraying. The NHS is one of the most underfunded things this country has; it’s also one of the most precious things we have. It should at least be able to afford a whole blanket for every hospital bed.

And across the pond, America is on its way to getting government health care. This is a good thing. I can’t understand why a lot of Americans seem to think it’s a bad thing – I guess the freedom to go bankrupt because you fell ill is a basic human right? So Obama’s having to fight every step of the way to get this through. And one of the things that’s happened is that the Stupak Amendment has passed. Basically, if you’re an American woman, and you’re not rich, abortion is now illegal. This is hideous, and I can only hope on behalf of my American friends that Obama fixes it quickly.

Obama, of course, can’t fix everything – that’s been one of his big problems, lately. Everyone expected that he would fix everything, clean up the mess Dubya left behind – but he is, after all, only human, and America has a senate, not a monarchy. Obama cannot just say ‘do this’ and have it be done – there is a hell of a lot of due process first. There is a lot he has not yet delivered, but at the end of his first year, I actually think he’s done pretty well, considering. Apart from the Stupak thing.

On a different note, I spent a while today with my stepfather, hereafter known as the Mad Scientist, and his best friend the Hardened Cynic. I was at the Mad Scientist’s house, where I spend a lot of time, and it’s a nice, relaxing place to be – Mad Scientist is free with tea, coffee and conversation, and so a lot of people come and go. At one point Mad Scientist’s brother, Crazy Artist, turned up, and, as is his wont, started to rant. Now, the people around this house generally have at least one pet theory or another, they’re usually very intelligent people*** and I have reason to respect a lot of them, if not to take them seriously all the time. Most of them have known me at least since I was in high school and so it’s taken a little while to pluck up enough confidence in my own intelligence and research skills to be able to offer my own input. And normally it is taken on board and given as much airtime as anyone’s – except by Crazy Artist.

Crazy Artist is a ranter. He talks down to me, will not let me finish and assumes I know nothing. Apparently he does this to everyone and I take it too personally – maybe I do, but talking to him always ends in me seething. I have been told that Hardened Cynic is also a ranter who talks down to people as though they were ten – but Hardened Cynic offers me respect. He allows me to finish my sentences. More than that, Hardened Cynic is one of my dearest friends – he was one of the people who was there every day when I was seriously ill, he has seen me at my lowest. He offers me criticism that I can take gladly, because it feels honest, and he also tells me when I do well. Crazy Artist has an art degree, and I don’t show him my work anymore because his attitude is always, ‘Meh, it’s OK – and this is what’s wrong with it.’

I will do my very best not to rise to Crazy Artist’s bait next time – even Mad Scientist is saying maybe I should slap him.

Anyway, I leave you with, at the bottom of the post, one of the things I’m most proud of – a clothespin doll I made in 2007. This one was actually the second stop on a process that started with me wondering how elaborate I could make a peg doll – the first one was made in 2006, and I shall show her to you another day. This one was made a year later to check how far my skills had evolved. I think I might make one of these every now and again just as a periodic skill check.

* – Due to my epilepsy and possible effects post-general anaesthetic, they wanted to keep me in for a night under observation.

** – When I was in for three weeks in 2006 with pneumonia, I passed the time mostly by complaining – I consider NHS nurses to be absolute saints.

*** – Although occasionally inclined to tinfoil-hattery.

Autumn Angel - November 2007

Autumn Angel - November 2007


Hypothetical Woman and the Intersex Olympics

Posted in Sport with tags , , , , on 13/09/2009 by phyrbyrd

So possibly it’s a good thing that my first real post in this blog is about a real issue, and not a craft post or how boring my life is – it certainly gets the ball rolling. If you haven’t heard about this particular issue lately – where have you BEEN?! Have you been researching clams in a remote area of Wales like my uncle?* For Uncle Doctor, and others like him, I’ll recap.

Caster Semenya, a South African middle distance runner, won gold in the 800 metres in the 2009 World Championships in Athletics with a time of 1:55:45 in the final. This is the fifth fastest time ever run by a woman, and has caused the International Association of  Athletics Federations to accuse her of being a man, and to demand gender testing – a horrifically complicated procedure which takes several weeks and five different experts. Why, I am not entirely sure, since apparently we can now tell all this about a person from a DNA piss test – but I am not an athletics standards officer so nobody’s asking me.

Apparently nobody asked Ms. Semenya either, and the results of said test were leaked to the media even before she knew – according to Netland, she is intersexed, with both sets of sexual organs and three times the level of testosterone a woman would normally have. This is way below the level a man would have, and she identifies as a woman, so it shouldn’t matter. Should it?

See, this is being touted as a racist issue, a feminist issue, a trans issue and a class issue. People are saying that it’s because she’s a black intersex woman from a rural background. And yes, many of the slurs that have been hurled in her direction – ‘hermaphrodite’, ‘that’s a man’, even ‘it’ – are horrible things to say to anyone. And yet somehow I feel the issue is being missed here.

So Ms. Semenya is intersex. This is a very rare condition, but it makes her stronger, faster than her peers. It has been said that the kind of improvements she made to her time were the sort that would normally trigger steroid investigations. How can any cisgendered woman compete? So what then, is Semenya to go race against the men? Is she up to the same standard? However much feminism might say that whatever a man can do, a woman can do too, men are still, on average, faster and stronger than women, and at their peak, faster and stronger still. Plus, I have an inkling that it wouldn’t be allowed. So now what? There aren’t enough intersex athletes for a category of their own and even if there were, that would require them to out themselves whether they liked it or not, and the taboo is still far too high for it to be truly safe.

But Ms. Semenya’s fellow athletes must be feeling rather put out about it all. If her gold medal is taken away and given to Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei, who currently holds the silver, and the silver were passed on to Britain’s Jenny Meadows, it would be a phyrric victory at best, one assumes. Everyone would be saying ‘Yeah, Janeth’s got gold – but everyone knows Caster really won.’ Because you just can’t win. The media’s a bitch like that.

Anyway, in a little whimsical aside, fastforward a few years if you will, to the 2016 Olympics. Hypothetical Woman, who is intersexed,** is entering a new category for the athletics – the mixed 800 metres. She competes against Caster Semenya, double-leg amputee Oscar Pistorius, and several male, female, trans, uncertain and disabled athletes.

Who wins? I don’t know. Personally, I’m betting on Oscar Pistorius. I know that a lot of people called him a cyborg and that it’s been taken as not a nice thing to say but I think it’s unbelievably cool. I do know that Hypothetical Woman won’t win, she’s never been much of a runner…

* – Yes, I’m serious, I have an uncle who is the foremost researcher of global warming indicators in clams. He is very cool and shall henceforth be referred to as Uncle Doctor, if I refer to him at all.

** – Of course Hypothetical Woman’s power, like the rest of the cast, is to fit the needs of whatever point I’m making.