Monthly Archives: October 2009

Beautiful Star

Have you heard of Odetta? If you’re a fairweather folkster like me, chances are you probably haven’t. She was an American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a human rights activist, who had Carly Simon weak at the knees and Maya Angelou waxing cosmological. You’ve probably heard of some of the acts she influenced, though: Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, Janis Joplin… she is even indirectly responsible for the career of Bob Dylan, but don’t hold that against her.

Her music is joyful, playful, pissed-off, regretful, angry, and has the power to tie your bowels into knots. The folks at Wears The Trousers Magazine have had the good sense to organise a tribute album, Beautiful Star: The Songs of Odetta, featuring a selection of Odetta’s finest songs sung by a range of established indie artists (Marissa Nadler, Liz Durrett) and up-and-coming, hot-out-of-the-studio new talent (Haunted Stereo, Katey Brooks). Released on November 30th, all proceeds will go to women’s charities (The Fawcett Society and The Women’s Resource Centre), so there really is no excuse not to buy it. Needless to say this tribute to a great under-acknowledged female singer, organised by a feminist music magazine, whose proceeds are being donated to charities aimed at helping women, gets a big feminist thumbs up from EYS. Head on over to their Myspace page and pre-order yourself a good old slice of ear-nourishing feminist do-goodery. Sail away, ladies.

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Tweet Your Sherbert

We are proud to announce that Eat Your Sherbert now has its own Twitter page, so you can get updates on the latest posts as and when they happen (as opposed to the twice a week they are supposed to happen but often fail to materialise).

See you in the Tweetosphere!

To femininity and beyond…

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Every time you say ‘sex worker’, a fairy gets period pain.

The outcome of the Roman Polanski debacle showed us two of our more vomititious cultural mores:

1)  the law (specifically rape) is secondary to some indefinable and subjective notion of ‘art’;

2)   a) some celebrities are rape-excusing idiots;

b) the opinion of said celebrities makes the excusing of rape more valid than the legal obligations for it to be punished.

So we learn the power of celebrity, of selective justice, and the depressing fact that those who have platforms to be role models for young women are using such a privilege not to empower women by reminding them of their status as human beings, but instead to excuse forced sexual intercourse between an adult man and a drugged female minor as, y’know, ‘not rape rape‘. Whoopee.

I’m reheating the morning leftovers of this story not because it has lacked any media attention (though it didn’t receive the lambasting one would have hoped for), but in order to demonstrate how normalised we have become to rape culture, specifically when it comes to the rape of young girls by rich, powerful men. This wasn’t rape, some libertarians will imagine; this was the timeless erotic trope of a robustly nubile artist being hopelessly seduced by his Lolita. He just had to ignore the inconvenient bit where she said ‘no’ and drug her with Rohypnol first. Is it cynical to imagine that, had this been, say, a bishop and a young boy, the outcry would have taken quite a different turn, and that the flimsy exuses of ‘but he has suffered enough by having to live in Paris and make films’, or  ‘but he is a great artist’ (whatever that means), could then quite rightly go piss in the wind?

I bring up this story because the normalisation of rape culture matters. There isn’t a single female person who isn’t affected by it. If you’re lucky the worst you will get is the threat of violence from a pack of chest-beating sub-primates who have somehow comandeered a Vauxhall Nova and think it is their born privilege to slur vague sexual threats as they speed by with Daniel Beddingfield pounding out of their sub-woofers. If you have a little less luck than average, you’ll be asked or coerced by your partner into performing sexual acts in the same manner as people who are paid to pretend they are enjoying sex. If you’re pretty damn unlucky, you will be forced into sexual intercourse against your will by someone who thinks they are somehow entitled to your body.

At the very worst, you will have to endure the hellish, soul-destroying, downright dangerous ordeal of repeated industrial rape which is the reality of most prostituted women.

Besides being often the people in society who are the most marginalized and the most oppressed by poverty, drug dependence, mental illness, and other positions of social disempowerment, prostituted women are the people who pay the real price of rape culture. They are the ones on whose bodies the whole sick fantasy is acted out again and again, in ways too brutal for any of us who are lucky enough not to have resorted to prostitution can imagine. They face misogyny, violence, and hatred every day they work, and know that they will face the same again tomorrow, assuming, that is, that they’re not killed or don’t kill themselves first. It’s enough to make the lairy sexist boy racers suddenly seem like Stephen flipping Fry.

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to catch a talk by Rebecca Mott and others, who were sharing their experiences of prostitution. Anyone who thinks that prostition is a free choice, can be empowering, or just needs unionising to make it all alright, should read Rebecca’s blog and get the truth first hand. Then they should pass it on to the next misguided liberal intellectual type who, like, totally supports women’s rights to be sex objects, and then reel them back into planet Earth too. As Denise Marshall, Chief Executive of Eaves Housing for Women and speaker on the panel, pointed out: ‘prostitution can be considered a valid career choice the day it turns up on the careers list at Cheltenham Ladies’ College.’  Which, for any readers unfamiliar with the specific bastions of British privilege, will be when hell freezes over.

There is an avalanche of bullshit from both the right and the left on the issue of prostitution, to navigate through which would require one to have more free time than the whole staff of the Gary Glitter fanline. The cultural assumptions propping up the whole sorry affair are that women’s bodies are a commodity which can be bought and sold, and that men have some kind of fundamental right to sex which women, as members of the sex class, do not possess (translated: if a man is too odious to succeed in getting laid, he can expect the ‘right’ to go out and pay for sex; if a woman is too odious to succeed in getting laid, she can go buy a vibrator and…er, that’s it. Not bother, exploit, or pay to rape anyone.) We need to strip society of the illusion that the ‘right’ to sex – and the ‘right’ to buy it – are somehow fundamental. In short, we need to get the men who would use prostitited women wanking back into their socks.

When we as a society excuse rapists like Polanski, or anyone else who violates another human being against their will, we are actively enabling rape culture and denouncing the seriousness – and indeed the criminality – of the act (and with conviction rates already lower than a snake with vertigo, that is hardly a state to be desired). We are also allowing the privilege of our indifference to be paid for by every prostituted woman who has to face the real, painful, bodily consequences of  a social system which tells her she is no better than property, with no agency of her own. Anyone who thinks that the exchange of coins either provides full agency, or proves that the women enter this trade fair and square, would do well to spend a night in Soho talking to the 9 out of 10 prostituted women who can prove otherwise, or to their pimps.

All of which is roughly why so-called ‘liberal’ newspapers like the Guardian who use the term ‘sex work’ and ‘sex workers’  in a bid to show how edgily cool and accepting they are can sit and swivel. ‘Sex work’ is to ‘prostitution’ what ‘collateral damage’ is to ‘dead citizens’; a contrivedly neutral reconfiguration of a term, which has been sanitised to protect the interests of a party who you can bet is someone other than its referee. Without pornification and rape culture to keep women in the habit of being viewed as sex objects and not fully valid human beings, the workforce for prostitution would haemhorrage away, and so, in an ideal world, would its clientele. It’s time we listened to the experiences of people who have endured the daily abuses of prostitution and declare finally that enough is enough. To those who argue that men will and should always objectify women, on account of being from Mars and having ten heads, I offer the humble suggestion that they go and perform some ‘hand work’ in a sock.

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Filed under Thank Fuck It's Feminism Friday, The Burning Deck

Hell

Of all of the things I would have imagined Hell to be like, the notion that it would be pedestrian would never have crossed my mind.  However, Tegan & Sara have effortlessly (or so I hope) achieved this, with ‘Hell’ the new single from their pending album, Sainthood, to be released on October 27th 2009.  They have suddenly become a teenybopping, guitar shredding, lyrically inept, duo.  Although, it is possible that this is what they always have been and I am suffering from a very specific attack of amnesia.  Regardless, whilst they proclaim themselves “not ready for a big bad step in that direction” (admittedly about something different and more abstract), they seem to be trying to morph into a prepubescent manifestation of The Organ (note the very instrument dangling in the backing).  Maybe it is time for one to get ‘over it and over them.’

Preorder the album with all its excessive hype and extremely pretentious paraphernalia here, or do something enjoyable instead.

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Alpha Mummy

Just take a moment and brace yourself against the realisation that this is not a post concerning another impending and wholly implausible Hollywood blockbuster starring Brendan Fraser, but rather the utterly disgusting title for The Times’ new blog-child.  One must say, although it is simply “not done”, that this baby is hideous.  Visiting the site for my weekly leeching of the infamous Women’s Section, I noticed that Alpha Mummy is now wedged between dating and fashion (which is, after all, woman’s place, aka The Home) on the menu bar.

Astonished, I tottered, taking my first steps towards the shiny new object, then puked adorably as I reached it.  Meet Alpha Mummy’s “team”:  Jennifer Howze, mother of one and stepmother of one, is Lifestyle editor of Times Online.  Eleanor Mills, mother of two, is the Saturday editor of the Times.  Caitlin Moran, mother of two, is a columnist for The Times.  Sarah Vine, mother of two, is a columnist for The Times.  It reads like episodic propaganda from Francoist Spain.  Children give you worth, women.

Apparently, Alpha Mummy, ‘is the blog for mums and dads who work, used to work, or want to go back to work one day (as if looking after children isn’t work enough),’ but its content ostensibly deviates from this goal, with these mythical father figures making occasional and brief appearances.  Surely the title similarly promotes exclusivity?  ‘[C]onversations on the blog aren’t restricted to parenthood and playtime,’ but deal with diverse other topics such as sex and dating.  However, one is reassured that bloggers ‘talk about everything that affects our lives as grown-ups with families, careers and intellects,’ none of which appear to have done the writers any favours.

‘In early September,’ the “team” asked their readership about ‘experiences [they] had with sexism, and the results were surprising’ in that, at least in my humble opinion, they somehow managed to overlook the woolly mammoth in the room which goes by the name Alpha Mummy.  Seemingly, the belief is that they have in some way embarked upon an empowering mission, when in reality their endeavour can never exceed its own limitations.  In principle, a sensible  site for parents with young children could facilitate liberal education, but whilst such arenas are restricted to the likes of Alpha Mummy, the sexist values they propagate remain engrained.  Alpha Mummy’s ‘strategy,’ when approaching the inevitable moment at which a child begins to curse, ‘is low-key “correction”,’ stating that such ‘words are for grown-ups and they’re not very nice to use.’  Well, perhaps everyone should implement their advice in not misusing words, like sexism, that are for adults, and should be used sensibly.

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Filed under Hilarity, Ms. Guided, Thank Fuck It's Feminism Friday, The Burning Deck

Life on Earth

Despite having recently obtained not one, but two, calendars to aid me in my time management, Tuesday has again become Wednesday without notice.  So, this week, what is rapidly becoming Tapes on Twednesday shares with you, or perhaps introduces, Tiny Vipers (aka Jesy Fortino) and her new record Life on Earth released on July 7th 2009.

Flicking through the Belfast Telegraph whilst visiting in September, I noticed that Tiny Vipers, with whom I had become acquainted by way of ‘On This Side,’ a song from her previous release Hands Across the Void, was playing at the Black Box in the heart of Belfast’s emerging Cathedral Quarter.  Quaint in its monochrome modernity, with an array of matchless furniture, the occasional whiff of fresh coffee, and drifting scent of heavy metal, a free gig could scarcely have been better.  After what one must politely term a disappointing supporting act,  Tiny Vipers sidled onto the stage, perched delicately on the stool, began to pick out a melody, and, eyes closed, captivated the audience to silence within a couple of bars.  Needless to say, I bought the record on the way out of the door.

The concert had much the same effect as the album, in which the songs smoothly and unnoticeably merge into one another.  Opening ‘Eyes Like Ours’ with the words ‘do you recall when the world was still young?  Just a small town…I heard that you walked across its borders into the unknown,’ it would have been difficult to express my sentiments about this record more exactly than by that very description, and with ‘eyes full of wonder’ I continued, entranced.  ‘Development’ follows with delightful cadence and rhythmic picking, curiously juxtaposed with the destructive drive of the lyrics.  ‘Slow Motion’ first hints at the potential for harshness in Fortino’s tone, only to find the track easing itself into its place, followed by the earnest existentialism of ‘Dreamer’.  Recalling Virginia Woolf’s The Waves in asking ‘what can we learn when we can’t understand?’ it  ends like a modernist novel.  ‘Time Takes’ and ‘Young God’ are not as noticeable, but neither are they out of place preceding the epic ‘Life on Earth’.  If Patti Smith wrote poetic or dramatic theory, it would sound like this.  ‘CM,’ ‘Tiger Mountain’, and ‘Twilight Property’ all appear to draw on the American folk tradition, with their eerie native harmonies and haunting echoes.  Aptly concluding with ‘Outside’, Tiny Vipers asserts that the problem with life is you can’t do it twice, and with this record, she doesn’t need to.

Please support Tiny Vipers by going to see her on tour, and by buying her merchandise here.  Also, become a fan and get updates on Facebook.

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The feminist week in bullshit (part 2)

After a slightly nitpicky beginning to the feminist week in bullshit, it would be rude not to mention this spectacular steaming coil of misogyny and pseudo-science, which appeared in newspapers across the board (oh Grauniad, what were you thinking?). It’s hard to know where to even begin with a ‘study’ that didn’t think to analyse any statistics about the presence or absence of fathers before making its sweeping conclusions about family life, conclusions which essentially boil down to the fact that some women must be so cripplingly poor that they see no other option but to resort to having an autonomous identity and sense of individual worth by getting a job and earning their own wage. And when they are forced into such unnatural and unimaginable horror scenarios, their poor confused offspring are left with no choice but to numb the pain by gorging themselves until they burst with sausage roll and crisp sandwiches (on WHITE BREAD), before drowning their hopelessly emasculated sorrows with a molotov cocktail of Fanta and Sunny D, then being driven to school by their heartless (not even wholemeal-)breadwinning  matriarch, if she remembers, on her way to the stinking pit of vice and iniquity which is the workplace for a female parent in the 21st century.

You can practically hear the screech of centuries reversing.

And yet, if people don’t complain loudly enough, this is what the face of (esp. free internet) journalism will ultimately become. Flimsily-concealed agenda-driven ‘scientific’ ‘studies’ attempting to convince us that the dominant paradigm of oppression, greed, capitalism, or another form of gross injustice, is natural and good and we shouldn’t any of us worry our pretty little heads trying to detangle the reality from the immense web of bullshit in which this is all tangled up.

It’s enough to make you want to start paying for papers.

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