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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

blog 151. Sprouting madness...

A woman who doesn’t want sex (even if she is sick) is mad according to the pharmaceutical company Sprout. The FDA agree.

I couldn’t quite believe my ears last week when I heard that the FDA has approved this female libido pill called Addyi. It was turned down plenty before because it didn’t work (a minor glitch).  Plus it had (and still has) unpleasant side effects. But bless em – in the face of Cancer, Diabetes, Malaria and antibiotics that no longer work yada yada yada - good ol’ Sprout Pharmaceuticals persevered with their anti-party-pooper drug for those demented women who don’t always want sex.

But if that isn’t crazy enough, socially scary, controlling and misogynistic – what about the legal implications? It’s weird that America, of all places, hasn’t fried that one.
This pill for women, unlike Viagra for men, does not increase blood flow to the genitals. Addyi chemically alters the woman’s brain. Let me run that by you again - it makes a woman who doesn’t want sex think she does. So Viagra works by enabling men who want sex, but are physically incapable, to have it. The newly approved female version cures women who don’t want sex. Could there be any manifestation that better illustrates the backward steps we’ve taken in attitudes to women in this world?

And other drugs companies are working on more instant take-at-the-moment drugs for women that won’t – unlike Addyi – require daily consumption and abstention from alcohol. Yay. Thank heavens the pharmaceuticals industry have their priorities right.

One radio article I heard had a woman fronting the new drug. I presume for the same reason that 50 Shades of Grey was given to a woman to direct – to make the misogynistic crap more palatable.

My question is, if the sex drive is courtesy of Sprout pharma rather than the woman – where does that leave the thorny old issue of consent? Perhaps in a situation where a partner has been pressured into taking the drug.

The so called ‘dysfunction’ – even in America where dysfunction is trendy – purportedly affects about 8% of women in a very limited age range in a survey carried out by the drug company (so basically hardly anyone). You can only conclude this is a pill for partners to give their gals if the gals no longer fancy them. Though the pharmaceutical company set to make big bucks from the sale of this new wonder drug have funded ‘campaign’ groups to push this as some sort of feminist or equality issue – paralleling Addyi with male sexual dysfunction drugs. What can you say...

In the UK we are still reeling from recent stories of gangs of men in parts of the country grooming young girls for sex with impunity – for years.  I don’t need to go into the even darker uses this drug could be put to.

I can see why, in this SWAM led world when clearly there’s no shortage of blokes copulating, we got Viagra. (If you don’t know what a SWAM is scroll back three blogs to no148). But this new pill is some kind of off-the-scale craziness. It’s sick – in the real sense of the word. It’s beyond Stepford Wives (the cool 1975 version). Below is a list of some of the reasons given why these strange women may not be up for it;

Following surgery
Suffering from diabetes / cancer / arthritis
Suffering depression or stress
Having previously been sexually abused.

Now – I may be being a bit of a weirdy killjoy here but looking at that list I think these are all plausible sensible reasons why a woman may not want to do sex and might instead be better off with a cup of tea, a biscuit and a cuddle. For society to be telling her that despite any of the above she should be feeling the urge and if not - here’s a pill - is bonkers and creepy and nasty.

Imagine if you broke your leg and someone said – never mind – for a while you may not feel like going for a jog but here’s a pill to make you think you want to.

In this world where young girls are increasingly easily preyed on by older men, trafficked, pressured by the internet to think they should be sexually active earlier and longer and basically always sexually available, this is just another nail in the coffin of sanity and self respect.

With my old lawyer head on I can even envisage a situation where, under the influence of this prescription drug, a woman’s consent at the time of intercourse could be queried. What are these nutters thinking of? The USA is famously litigious so I await with curiosity the first legal case for what I will term for the purpose of this blog Consensual Rape courtesy of Sprout and the FDA.

Would it be too forward of me to suggest that the people who made this drug should go F@*£& themselves and work on a cure for their profit driven idiocy.          

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

blog 150 Jeremy Corbyn (my next ex-husband) & why Bill Hicks was right.

That would be ‘Corbyn’ with a WHY?

And the bit about being his fourth wife was just a ghastly dream where JC was Saruman’s kindly but less well preserved uncle. Andy, Liz and Yvette were goblins and the backseat Blairites were Orcs. D Miliband was the cave troll and Mandelson was the Nazgul. It all ended badly.

You’ll have gleaned from this bloggy that I’m a left of centre gal and I grieve still for the pre-New Labour days before activists ran from the party like Rohan villagers from Wargs. However, even I can see that the labour party may not benefit in the long run from having a politically rigid hippy called Jeremy who is addicted to wedding cake – as front man – even if there is no other option with a pulse.

Where are the believable women? Other parties found some! After  my experiences as a labour councillor in the 80s / 90s I will not even ask about a credible black candidate.

But the problem is not Jeremy’s foibles. E.g. folk have made much of Jem being teetotal. So am I. It’s not weird though I did suffer some booze-related confusion recently. Trying to read an article without my specs, I thought it said ‘Corbyn 20 pints ahead...’ No, the problem is that he is a bad reaction against the pain of Blairitis.

The symptoms of Blairitis were Thatcher-lite-ness, warmongering, bank-arselicking, sycophancy and addiction to sound bites.

Even the mad messiah himself is rattled. Blair wrote in The Guardian that electing Corbyn would lead to the “annihilation of the Labour party”. And who would deny that Blair knows a thing or three about annihilation? It may – I suspect – have the opposite effect and invigorate the party. What it won’t do is make it electable.

This still doesn’t quite explain either the party’s or the media’s pants wetting hysteria.

Far be it from me to suggest that it’s just business as usual. The double whammy of media indolence and the government’s ongoing need for distractions means that ANYTHING that diverts attention and can be hyped – will be.

If you listen to the news you will be aware that – even quicker than I expected (blog 76. Pension Plunder Charter) – certain chicken nuggets have come home to roost. There’s a massive increase in attempted frauds aimed at separating the gullible from their pension pots in the first three months of the new draw-down rules. Is that headline news every night? Is Osborne being brought to book?

We still have the ‘so called’ migrant crisis. A few hundred folk (some from countries we helped to screw over)fleeing horrors we could not imagine are in Calais. Bear in mind that, for example, of the estimated 4million+ Syrian refugees 70% are living in countries – however poor – bordering Syria. A huge proportion do not live in refugee camps but derelict buildings, abandoned sheds and on streets. Yet the frenzy in the British media aided by Cameron’s ‘swarms’ speech would suggest that all four million of these unfortunates are clinging to one giant lorry bound for Buckingham palace (hmmm – now there’s an idea). But – yeah – in the shape of the most desperate people on earth the bogey man is coming to get us - again.

Slavery is really back in vogue again if anyone is interested.

Oh and we just had the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima – a reminder that we can kill (and did) 140,000 people with one weapon and lots of countries have this technology.

Neither this government nor the last labour one did anything to cure the British social disease. So Tim-rich-but-dim will be chief exec of almost anything while Trevor-poor-but-clever will still be wasted in a call centre or on a zero hours contract packing shelves.

In Bill Hicks’ classic set ‘Relentless’ he outlines, with desert dryness, how the first Bush Iraq war was really – to use his words – “The Persian Gulf Distraction”; an expensive deadly distraction from domestic issues that were not being addressed. I was struck by the same old same old SAME OLD nature of political/media tactics and somewhat depressed by public gullibility.

But it may partly explain why everyone has gone Corbyn crazy. The media milks alarm. It stops people thinking. The government of the day likes low grade panic because it stops people putting two and two together and realising who is really shafting them.

Frankly I’ve no strong views on Jeremy. My blog after the election said the Labour party should take advantage of its inevitable time in the wilderness and use at least the first 18 months to shake itself down (see blog 135 Kim Kardashian & UK elections – I TOLD you...) Bland Harriet who has wandered off into a mum’s-coffee-morning oblivion really can’t do any harm because she’s ruled herself out of leadership by her behaviour and also out of her own gob.

The left has been snivelling round the sidelines for the longest time while the smarmy, slick, shallow, image-obsessed, rent-a-quote, not-quite-tories bullied their way to the top of the labour party. If Corbyn wins he could usefully re-educate Labour on how to be an effective opposition party. OPPOSITION is a vital part of democratic government. (It shouldn’t be left to satirists).

But if – in the long term - Corbyn is the great white hope of the left I’m staying under my duvet.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

blog 149. Edinburgh Whites-Up for the Fringe

(and The Stand does a funny!)

Like a Damascene revelation it occurred to me that if the Edinburgh International Festival is the predominantly white middle class getting their artistic rocks off then the Fringe is the offspring of the pwmc just getting their rocks off. Free fringe is the overflow - like a cultural refugee camp.

In august, Edinburgh turns into that slice of over rich lemon torte with chilled mascarpone and three brave raspberries on the side that flaunts itself at you when you’re not hungry.

It’s some kind of enjoyable madness here right now - not so much a line up as a pile up. There is hardly a spare inch within the conflict zone that isn't plastered with carefully nonchalant mug shots of blokes looking out from posters advertising 'comic genius' 'outrageously funny' 'pushing the boundaries' (which means he does paedophile jokes).

But – where are all the brown/black performers? There are more than there used to be, I grant you. It no longer feels quite like I am back in my sixth form (see blog 41. Not a Lesbian but...) However, it still appears to be England’s white middle-class playground for the month of august.

As someone who dallied with the festival 15 years ago as an infrequent punter then from 2010 – 2014 as a performer – I feel a bit poacher-turned-gamekeeper now that Edinburgh’s home.

At least the ubiquitous ladyboys have brown skin under that makeup.

When I first ‘fringed’ on a pitch outside St Giles Cathedral in 2010, I was often distracted by large camera lenses thrust in my face. I was attempting to prevail with poetry over guys with guitars doing cover versions of The Proclaimers. It didn’t occur to me till later that I hadn't seen many brown performers that day either. Now as well as the ladyboys there are African choirs and other non-white acts more obviously dotted round.

The weird thing is that this city is actually wonderfully mixed. Having trouped round a couple of dozen schools last year with Casey & the Surfmen I saw numerous black and brown faces well integrated in local schools. A couple of weeks ago, local press reported an Arab guy suffered a brutal racially motivated beating by three white blokes. I presume he also lives here... So the city isn’t a white-out the rest of the year.

Some of the local papers have gamely put brown faces in their fringe and festival coverage. In fact a huge WELL DONE to The Stand for getting a black female face on the front page of The Herald today (Monday 10th) Well done because it’s so out of kilter with The Stand-ard line up as to be possibly one of the best laughs they’ve delivered.

According to the front page of The Herald this woman stepped over to comedy from cat walk modelling. She is gorgeous and I hear she is very good – but that’s not what’s funny here.

When I lived in the N.E. (attending the Newcastle Stand comedy club) I heard rape jokes (once from a Stand comper) and misogyny (not even the sort that’s supposed to be ironic) as well as the dreary guess-which-celebrity-I-look-like from the overwhelmingly white male line-ups. But hey – a free ticket is a free ticket and I did once win a meal out to which I took one of my bestest girlfriends by putting my Stand ticket in a glass at the bar J

Edinburgh is also home to Professor Sir Godfrey Palmer. I was listening recently to his painful though uplifting and humorously told accounts of a life time of achievements where the white establishment – like a plastic coat –  tried to keep out the warm rain of his intellect, talents and potential. One of my new resolutions is to strive if not for his achievements, at least for his equanimity.

It echoed many experiences I’ve had – not least being elected to Newcastle city council in 1989. As the first black woman – welcomed initially - I was subsequently sent to Coventry for 6 years by the then council leader Jeremy Beecham when he discovered I wasn’t a tame darkie after all.

If I could force myself to believe in multiple identical coincidences as the lost boys forced themselves to believe in fairies, I wouldn’t fry my brain so often.

Maybe it’s time to rename the fringe. It’s not really a festival, cultural / arts or otherwise.  You’ll get shafted on any street corner by creatures whose craft is – well – shafting people. Street acts  are often bawdy rather than creative like one Canadian woman  escapologist who seemed to have a 50 shades of grey THING going with a member (you’ll excuse the unintended pun) of the slavering male audience.

The free fringe has a lot going for it. It's less limp and tried to assimilate itself into a niche that used to be filled by the fringe proper. But frankly it’s a rickety boat in the Med with too many people aboard.

There is lots of good stuff if you can find it. Last night at blind poetics – which was a hoot - I got flyers for two promising one woman shows and I even enjoyed the ridiculous waste of money pretty fireworks on the way home.

Call it what it is. It’s just a party. ‘Fringe’ is a word redolent of ‘alternative’ ‘out there’ ‘not mainstream’. It’s the most mainstream event going. It’s a wild party for the pwmc with minimal concessions to it being 2015. Attention seeking and adrenalin are the drugs of choice. It’s noisy and it can be, to my knowledge, aggressive if say one performer doesn’t clear a pitch before the next guy thinks he is due.

Should we take a leaf out of Dave Cameron’s book and re-name it the SO CALLED fringe?

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Blog 148. Shirley Temple Jesus & the curse of the S.W.A.Ms.

I’m trying to decide whether to reconnect with Shirley Temple Jesus and all that stuff.

Building work and ‘settlingin’ is done, life is normalising and I want to get my head round some new writing. Part of that has been dragging through archives and back-files – mainly my own – looking up some old pieces trying to reconnect with direction. It feels like I wandered off a path in the woods, got tangled in the brambles, bogged down in swampy stuff but now the light is penetrating and that track I stumbled off about 18 months ago is near.

One of the ponderings is whether to revisit performance poetry. I often found the actual performing grim and the aftermath gruesome. But if you write performance poetry (rather than just poetry that you read out loud) then it aint complete till it’s PERFORMED. So there’s a dilemma.

Secondly, as someone who’s never engaged (other than me little bloggy) with social media – it seems that there is no point doing anything these days unless you then spend ten times as much effort tweeting / facebooking / instagramming about the thing you did. Add to that an aversion to joining groups an allergy to cliques - I’d better just stay home (I should maybe get that analysed!).

Anyway – as well as peering into my own brain attic I had a look in that of an old NE poetry pal and came across a short performance of mine (below) which made me smile. Still relatively new to the scene, I was with two of the performance poets I admired most on the NE scene – Steve Urwin (who posted this piece) and Poetry Jack. It’s one I grew to enjoy as I got to grips with performing solo over the following couple of years.
Shirley Temple Jesus

This piece also made me think about the whole issue of S.W.A.Ms (smug white advantaged males) and how they just need to HAVE everything BE everything – from Blair and Bush and their testosterone fuelled Armageddon escapade to the fckwit lion killer from Minnesota. Even (over this side of the pond) the guys who pillory the SWAMs are often SWAMs. Example - The Now Show on Radio 4 with their core presenters disgorging banalities in a parody of satire – days old ideas punctuating tired ‘in’ jokes, with fillers of cliquey radio 4 references and dreary personal anecdotes – to what sounds like an anaesthetised audience. Sure it beats the ubiquitous comedy panel/game show but...

We used to do satire so well in this country (Spitting Image anyone?) and yes – who would argue that those strings were not (literally) pulled by SWAMs but they seemed to have hungry anger and genuine creativity and a comic pulse and enough of reign on their egos that the satire was sharply, sometimes brutally focused on deserving targets.

Maybe – with hindsight – this explains why everywhere – Jesus who was after all a Palestinian Jew - is portrayed as a white Caucasian slightly hippy bloke who could probably fit the tired BBC radio 4’s 6.30 hams’ half hour. Even Jesus got SWAMd.