Germaine ‘Bloody’ Greer

I said I’d get to Germaine Greer at some point, and here we are.  I’ve been having emergent thoughts along the lines of ‘what the hell has happened to her?’ for quite some time now: as I’ve mentioned before her comments on trans women (‘just because you chop off your d*ck doesn’t make you a woman’) and rape (‘most rape is just bad sex’) are at best unhelpful and at worst bloody awful.

And yet she was a hero of mine for a long time.  So what the hell happened?

Like most women of my generation ‘The Female Eunuch’ was for me a seminal (perhaps I should say ‘ovulary’) book.  Previously I’d been blundering along, half in denial, half aware that there was such a thing as sexism but not having put together all the ways in which misogyny was embedded in society and how this had affected me.  My sense of myself, of who I was and what I was capable of – my very self-confidence – had been radically curtailed by growing up female in a patriarchal society.  What Germaine did was put it all brutally together and lay it out.  It was liberating, devastating and provided me with food for thought to last several decades.  But now there is a problem.

I can’t understand why Greer would say, as she has done, that ‘nothing has changed’ since she wrote the book.  Things have changed enormously; so much so that I hardly know where to begin.  From women sitting on the board to rape suites in police stations; from the #metoo campaign to the sheer unacceptability of so much everyday sexism that used to be taken for granted, there has been a tremendous shift in attitudes.  Many men have genuinely taken on board the major demands of feminism; some merely go along with it, but what is certain is that the culture has shifted hugely.

Of course it would be ridiculous to assert that Everything Is Now OK.  Everything is not OK: we have upskirting and sexting; we have harassment in the workplace; we have Harvey Weinstein and the Presidents’ Club.  But here’s the thing: thirty years ago these would not have been news.  Everyone would have just shrugged and said ‘what do you expect?  It’s the casting couch/don’t wear short skirts/it’s just a bit of fun/she was asking for it’ and so on ad nauseam.  Men invented countless spurious reasons why women couldn’t do certain jobs (like Paul Daniels saying women can’t do magic because ‘they can’t keep a secret’).  If he said that now he’d be vilified everywhere.  Look at the hassle Christopher Chope got for trashing the Upskirting Bill (he maintains he’s not a dinosaur but I think the jury’s out:)

Sexism still goes on; the difference is that it’s no longer acceptable.  Look at the mass reaction by women to Trump’s election; look at the change in the abortion laws in Ireland.  Such things would have been unthinkable thirty years ago.

So much for ‘nothing has changed.’  Harder to forgive are the comments on trans women, though it appears here that she’s softened her response a little:

But worse than this were her comments on rape.  She began by saying that a lot of rape is just bad sex, meaning really the reverse; that a lot of bad sex (a husband turning over and digging in without eliciting any kind of consent) is basically rape.  I would agree with that.  But she goes a lot further and claims that rape is not a big deal unless violence is involved.  I cannot understand this attitude; it’s as though she’s saying that unless you have physical scars no harm has come to you.  This is how the police used to think: unless you could show injuries they didn’t believe anything had happened.  Of course there weren’t many female officers back then either…

And there’s more: apparently the #metoo campaign is a load of whinging: if a man harasses you, you should just knee him in the balls.  Never mind if you’re alone, scared, intimidated, confused – just knee him in the balls.

There’s a sort of convoluted logic to these arguments but it all ends up too close to victim-blaming for comfort.  If Germaine suffers from self-doubt she hides it well, and whilst that in itself is not a weakness she seems utterly lacking in compassion for the timid, the shy, those lacking in confidence.  And it is axiomatic in any liberation movement that you stand up for the weak, the shy, the timid and the nervous.  You act like Martin Luther King getting a black crowd to chant ‘I am somebody’.  You don’t scornfully tell the victim of groping that they should have kneed the guy in the balls.

Perhaps we all become parodies of ourselves as we grow older: or perhaps one characteristic takes over and becomes our defining trait.  Greer always could be perverse and critical; she was also incisively intelligent and – most importantly – fun!  But now the fun has gone and all we’re left with is the perversity.

Anyway, check out this interesting profile of her on the Beeb:

Kirk out




Up and Out and Poeting in Leicester and Thurnby

Well first of all a quick catch-up.  I’m always gratified to see that my readership doesn’t slide into the abyss when I’m absent for a few days, but as you will see I’ve been busy.  First, the gigs.  All poets are basically frustrated rock stars: we talk about ‘gigs’ and ‘touring’ as though we were Mick Jagger or Suzie Quattro (that dates me I expect although someone last night commented that they’d recently been to see the Stones and said they were brilliant.)  So on Saturday four of us (three musicians et moi) took the stage for a fundraiser for Momentum at Leicester’s Criterion pub.  Thirty or so people came along to listen and I did a 20-minute set featuring a poem about Corbyn (JC4PM), ‘Spike’ the homeless poem, a couple of poems about Blair and a couple about Jo Cox and her memorial picnic.  These were very well-received and you could hear a pin drop even when the waitress came in to serve pizza.  I like hearing pins drop.

Then last night I finally made it to TABAC which sounds like some underground wartime group but in fact stands for Thurnby and Billesden Acoustic Club, where a good crowd of musicians assembled.  I’m always slightly dubious as to how poetry will be received at these events but I needn’t have worried; it was received with enthusiasm.  It was a great evening with a terrific variety of instruments being aired including a whole caseful of harmonicas, a piano-accordion played by a retired headmistress; a concertina and several guitars and of course Jan with her recorder.  I did three poems: ‘Is Vic There?’ for Victoria Wood; ‘The Lady in the Van’ and ‘Spike’ again.  The evening ended quite late with a lengthy impromptu rendition of ‘Yellow is the Colour of my True Love’s Hair’ to which my contribution was ‘black is the colour of my true love’s feet’.  And so to bed; except that first we had to drive back from Thurnby with missed turnings and diminishing petrol.

What I missed last night (but will catch up on, thanks to the miracle of iplayer) was the final episode of A Very English Scandal, a dramatisation of the Jeremy Thorpe affair in the ’70’s.  Hugh Grant is a revelation in this!  I had him down as this generation’s John le Mesurier, only good for one particular brand of romantic comedy – but I was wrong.  In this miniseries, a drama with a touch of farce, he is utterly thrilling as the dark and menacing Thorpe; in fact he has the man (appropriately enough) to a T.  Ben Wishaw is also brilliant as his victim-turned-blackmailer Norman Scott and Alex Jennings (Charles in ‘The Queen’) plays his Machiavellian sidekick.

I could also have been watching the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.  So I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Toodle pip!

Kirk out

This Page Intentionally Left Blank

We don’t have local elections here in Leicestershire but if you do, don’t forget to vote.  Local elections are often run on local issues, viz the trees in Sheffield:

and in London the issue is more likely to be the Windrush scandal:

which impacts on how the government is seen both locally and nationally.  Mind you, the Tories in Ilford don’t seem too worried, if this leaflet is anything to go by:

Image result for conservative leaflet Ilford 2018

(I’ve given the google search so you can be sure a number of sources have reported it: I wasn’t sure if it was a spoof at first.)

But now we’ve had a good laugh at the Tories’ expense I come on to today’s question.  Which is, seriously, what is the point of pages intentionally left blank?  I downloaded an e-book yesterday and had to scroll through about half a dozen pages which said ‘This page intentionally left blank.’  Apart from being a contradiction in terms, since, thanks to these words the page is now no longer blank (a pedant would write ‘the rest of this page intentionally left blank’) what is the bleeding point?  In the old days when books were bound and you had to have a set number of pages it was understandable, but with an ebook you can have anything anywhere, can’t you?  So WHAT IS THE POINT???

This goes in the ‘annoying and futile’ bin along with progress bars that don’t show progress:


and voting Conservative (ho ho.)  So…… make sure you head down the polling station some time today – and don’t leave your polling card intentionally blank.

Kirk out

This Post Will Self-Destruct in Ten Seconds

When I was a child one of my favourite TV series was ‘Mission: Impossible’ (not the films – those came later.)

At the beginning of each programme a disembodied voice would say: ‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is…’ and I would be on tenterhooks lest they choose not to accept it and there would be no programme.  In fact one week they did choose not to accept it, though thankfully they changed their minds a moment later.  Phew!  The music was thrilling and there was a fuse burning down across the screen – very exciting:

I must have had a deep attachment to programmes back then (I know my life was ruined if I didn’t get to watch ‘Batman’) but somehow as you grow up the attachment wanes: and one programme I have never been tempted to watch is anything with Matey Popkins on it.  In fact I think as a media troll Matey should get as little publicity as possible, which is why I’ve given her a pseudonym, and why this post will self-destruct once it has been read.

The trouble with trolls is that they feed on attention, which is why it may have been a mistake for Theatr Clwyd to put on a play entitled ‘The Assassination of Matey Popkins’:

Of course Matey, impulsive little scamp that she is, didn’t trouble to find out what the play was actually about and turned up out of nowhere with a giant billboard saying something about free speech or whatever (yeah, yeah).  But the trouble with satire is that unless you know it’s satire, it can look exactly like the thing you’re satirising: so that if all you know is the title, ‘The Ass of Matey Popkins’, rather than coming across as an examination of social media, seems like something much more sinister and intolerant.

Which brings us back to the world of dear old Matey – who has had enough publicity for one day and needs to go back to bed.  Night, night Matey!

Please click the ‘like’ button, after which this post will self-destruct in ten seconds.  Please stand clear of your computer. 

Ten… nine… eight…

Kirk out

Oh, Not To Live on Sugar Mountain

Last night I caught up with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest offering, ‘Hugh’s Fat-Fight’.  It’s the most recent in a line of campaigning series by the food writer, who previously took on wonky veg and persuaded many of us to buy less-than-perfect vegetables.  I enjoy his style – it has neither the manipulativeness of a Louis Theroux or the self-righteousness of many a didactic voice-over: instead he makes friends of local people; acknowledges and thanks corporations when they do the right thing and holds them to account when they don’t.  Some of his methods are highly imaginative, such as turning up to Kellogg’s and Nestle with a huge set of traffic lights to get them to use the ‘traffic light’ system properly.  (It may come as a shock to realise that some breakfast cereals are nearly 50% sugar.)

The programme (I have to fess up here) did make me feel a tad smug since we eat very little processed food, never add salt or sugar, don’t have puddings and eat a fair proportion of fresh fruit and veg.  Down sides: we don’t eat as much wholemeal stuff as we used to (pasta, rice or bread) nor as much raw food (coleslaw, salads etc.)  However, I can report that I am not only able to bypass entire aisles of crisps and chocolate without feeling the slightest twinge of regret (in fact they annoy me mightily) to me, crisps are like bits of flint with salt on and I don’t like chocolate bars as much as biscuits.  I do have one indulgence though, which is chocolate digestives.

My BMI is within healthy range, though I wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds: but on the whole I’m happy with my weight.  I could be more physically active: for exercise I do yoga every day but I don’t walk or cycle as much as I used to.  So there’s room for improvement there.  As for alcohol, I would drink a lot more if I could afford it, but I can’t.  So my consumption is virtually zero at the moment.

None of which is any help at all except in developing my already entrenched sense of smugness about being healthy.  On the other hand, for years I smoked, drank too much, had a rubbish diet and hardly exercised at all.  So it’s a luxury for me to feel that for once I’m on the side of the gods.

As for the obesity crisis, of course individuals are responsible for their actions, but many areas have few outlets for fresh veg and fruit and takeaway food outlets are on the rise.  But big companies have to shoulder a large part of the blame; and as well as the frightening quantity of sugar in cereals, one thing that shocked me about Hugh’s programme was his trip to WH Smith’s.  It really pisses me off that even clothes shops nowadays have sugary snacks by the till: but Smiths’ (whom I never visit because they are so overpriced) have a positive maze of chocolate – walls of the stuff which you have to negotiate before you can get to the till.  So Hugh is asking people to tweet WH Smith’s with the hashtag #WHSugar.

It’s dispiriting to see the once highly-principled Kellogg’s (it was started by Seventh-Day Adventists) descend to the same level of corporate nastiness as every other multinational:

but as for Nestle, they are pure evil.  Nothing will persuade me to buy any of their products:

Anyway, here’s the programme:

Oh, and here’s a bit of Neil Young to keep you going:

Kirk out


Phone Banking (no, not that kind)…

This is not a post about the current crisis in TSB’s online banking service.  Actually, even though they have cocked up on a monumental scale, I do feel a little bit sorry for them.  Cock-ups can happen to the best of people and this does seem to be a contained event relating to a shift in platforms over a highly limited time period (do I sound like I know what I’m talking about?  Good, cos I don’t…) anyway, this is not about that: in political circles phone banking means basically phoning people up to ask them if they’re going to vote for you or whatever.  This is not something I particularly enjoy, but I can handle it better than knocking on doors or leafletting in the town centre: anyway, last night’s phone banking was to invite people to a meeting tonight in Quorn on the current crisis in the NHS.

Lots of people were out, which is a bit dispiriting though also something of a relief as it means I don’t actually have to talk to anyone; but when someone is listed as ‘Con’ on my sheet my heart sinks when they actually answer the phone.  The only problematic person last night was a Tory guy who took great delight in saying ‘that’s a shame’ when I announced that I was calling on behalf of Stuart Brady, the local Labour candidate.  He aggressively prodded me for facts when I said there was concern about privatisation of the NHS, pooh-poohing these ideas as ‘scaremongering’ and saying no, he would not be attending tonight’s meeting.  It was not enjoyable and I ended up feeling like a particularly unpopular contestant on Question Time (yes, I know contestant is the wrong word but sometimes it feels like the right one.)

It’s hard to know the best way to contact constituents: I dislike knocking on doors as it feels quite intrusive, though in practice most people are quite happy to talk: but phoning hardly seems less so.  I don’t enjoy handing leaflets out or petitioning in the street as people will go miles out of their way to avoid you, and I don’t blame them since I do the same thing.  So how do you get to talk to people?  Social media works quite well with younger people but you have to be friends first, and then you have the whole ‘echo chamber’ problem.  So I don’t know what the answer is and in the meantime we’re stuck with phone banking.  On the other hand I found out that in the last month we’ve contacted upwards of a thousand people, so that can’t be bad.

Anyway, if you’re in the UK and have local elections on May 3rd – don’t forget to vote!

Kirk out

Good in Parts? Is There a Cure?

The latest in a loooooooooong line of pretentious verbs all got up to make ordinary tasks seem like something special, is to curate.  This may have been a verb in museum circles where people quite legitimately curate exhibitions, though publicly I recall the usual form was to state that ‘the curator of the exhibition was so-and-so’ rather than ‘so-and-so curated this exhibition.’  I think there’s a sort of ramping-up of importance going on here, an attempt to make things sound much more thingish, as Pooh bear would say; things which are otherwise quite ordinary.  So you have a person who puts a few things together and, hey presto, you’ve curated something.

Viz: this thing that came through my door this morning.  Now like many people I get little enough post these days and what I do get is generally unwelcome.  So when an envelope with my name on it came through the door, even though I knew it was probably junk, I bore it upstairs and ceremoniously prised it open.

It was a nice maroon envelope containing a piece of thick card.  An invitation, it said.  Do they really think that works on anyone any more?  I opened the card and read:

Invitation to join our exclusive membership programme that brings you a host of members-only ballots, incredible events and great offers.  We’ll also bring you guides, interviews and features…

Now like me you will not only have noticed the cliched ‘host’ but spotted that this is long on verbiage and short on information.  What are the ballots about?  What exactly are these incredible events?  Will I even want the offers?

It’s all irrelevant to me anyway because no matter how tempting the offers or how incredible the events I won’t be able to afford them.  That’s one thing about having no money – you can make your mind up pretty quickly on things.  Life’s too short to bother about special offers unless it’s for something you really need.  But here’s the killer blow:

… all specially curated for our members.

There it is – that word again.  Basically someone has put together a few things and called it curating.  There’s a word for this ‘bumping-up’ of importance, and the word is ‘reification’ – making a thing out of something that really isn’t anything:

Oh but wait!  Down the bottom there are some examples: I can win tickets to see Tony Hadley (who he?) or go on a cruise to the continent (no thanks.)

So all in all I think it’s a no.  But it was the misuse of the word curate that clinched the deal – in my day curate was a trainee vicar with a dodgy egg…

Kirk out

PS – Tony Hadley is apparently ex-Spandau Ballet.  So that’s a definite no then…