Archive for the 'In The News' Category

Sleep, my pretty, sleep

NS March 14th, 2011

As I stood at the sink this morning washing dishes, I found myself continually glancing out the window at the glorious sunshine and our freshly-cut-for-the-first-time-this-year lawn. I smiled contentedly and thought of all the things I wanted to get done today.

With Noble Girl at school and Noble Boy at the childminder’s, I had nearly 6 hours of time in which to tick things off my to-do list. Census forms needed filling in, car tax needed renewing, a session on breastfeeding and newborn care with a client tomorrow evening needed preparing, many emails needed sending and at least three posts needed writing, for various blogs (both mine and others’). I also thought I’d squeeze in a walk and perhaps a chapter or two of a new novel on a park bench somewhere, if I had time.

But then I made the mistake of turning on a BBC talk radio show while I finished my chores. I listened with increasing levels of astonishment as various Londoners called in to explain why they wouldn’t be donating any money to the Japanese disaster relief funds being set up. They have enough money, it’s a rich nation, they have the resources and efficiency to do it themselves, what difference is my few quid going to make, who knows where money donated to charity really goes, the audacity of said charities in having admin costs and paying salaries, blah blah blah blah blah. Heard it all before. Doesn’t make it any less annoying to hear, but at least it wasn’t particularly shocking.

And then we have an older woman, one claiming to be horrified by what’s happened in Japan, banging on about how her Christian faith tells her to extend sympathy and help, but…BUT…

What about the war? she says.

Jesus. Will ‘the war’ ever go away in Europe? I’m so sick of hearing about ‘the war’ that I almost wish another, more awful and far-reaching one would start just so I wouldn’t have to hear about this one again.

Beryl from Merton, or whoever she was, goes on:

Japan never admitted to or apologised for the atrocities it committed during World War II, according to her. At least the Germans had the good sense to be ashamed and hold themselves accountable. But not the Japanese, no. And it’s just not quite right, is it? To give our few hard-earned pounds to a rich country that hasn’t come out and said sorry for killing scores of our boys in uniform 60-some  years ago. Could it be that earthquakes and tsunamis and other natural disasters are God’s way of punishing us for past mistakes, for not treating each other and the planet a little more kindly?

I’m sad to report that the radio show host didn’t tell Beryl to fuck off and take her brand of ‘Christianity’ somewhere it might be better appreciated (I don’t know — maybe Hell?), but I certainly did, right there in my kitchen.

It made me so angry and despondent at the human condition that instead of doing any of the things I’d meant to get done, all of which involved dealing with, speaking to or thinking of other people, I instead switched off the radio, put the computer in sleep mode and spent the rest of my day reading a novel, from start to finish, while drinking enough tea to sink a British battleship. When I put the book down briefly to boil the kettle, stretch my back or go to the toilet, I’d think of Beryl in Merton and, in order to protect myself from the sense of frustrated rage that threatened to darken my mood on this bright Spring day, I made like a laptop and put myself into sleep mode too.

If you’d have seen me or tried to interact with me at that time, I’d probably have held up a sign that said, ‘Noble Savage isn’t available right now. Her sense of morality and indignant rage have reached levels not advisable or compatible with the Spring 2011 operating system. In the meantime, please be appeased by this rhythmic and colourful graphic.’

When I emerged from my literary cocoon and was forced to interact with others at the school pick-up, it was like someone had moved the mouse and woken me back up. God, what melodrama! Why do I get myself so worked up and allow Beryl in Merton to represent The Entire World, Ever? I thought I’d gotten a handle on this when I finally stopped reading the comments on online news stories. At least I’d recognised the impending meltdown and shut myself down before any lasting damage could occur and ruin my day. A day spent absorbed in a book is something I haven’t done in quite a long time and was a much-needed respite from the daily grind.

If I had a shrink, she might call that progress. Or she might say, “See you next Wednesday…and for many more after that.”

The call

NS January 2nd, 2011

Soon after I became a doula, I considered shutting down this blog.

I’ve grumbled before about the possibility of having nothing left to say or being tempted to throw in the towel but I can never quite bring myself to do it. This blog has been a major part of my life and, dare I say it, my identity for the past (coming up to) 6 years.

So I’m not going to shut it down. I may post more infrequently, or in manic bursts between silences, but I’m not ready to let go of the part of myself that still believes I am/will be a writer.

That said, I think I have a new calling.

When I became a doula, I wanted to help women have better births. After writing about, reading about and now even witnessing firsthand the terror and trauma that so many women go through (often unnecessarily) to give birth, I am even more devoted to not only helping individual women receive better care and become empowered enough to make their own choices, but to actively fighting to change the appalling state of maternal health in the UK and around the world.

Here are a few facts to chew on†:

  • If you are a north-western European woman, your risk of dying in childbirth is 1 in 30,000; if you live in Afghanistan or Sierra Leone, your risk is 1 in 6
  • Every year over half a million women die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth; 99 percent of them are from the poorest nations
  • Preventing unwanted pregnancies would reduce the maternal mortality rate by a quarter. At the moment, more than 68,000 women die from unsafe abortions every year
  • There are not enough midwives. One in four women in the world give birth without a skilled attendant present. Even in industrialised, wealthy nations, women are frequently left unattended or unsupported as they give birth, resulting in both physical and emotional trauma
  • Women in poor countries lack access to needed caesarean surgery; women in rich countries are subjected to too many. Both have dangerous implications for maternal health
  • The child of a woman who dies in childbirth is much more likely to die before the age of two

In the UK, David Cameron is revoking his campaign promise to provide at least 3,000 more midwives within the NHS, the minimum number needed to bring the service to a safe and acceptable level. Once again, as they do the world over, politicians’ lips do a lot of moving but their commitment to actually providing the funding and resources is non-existent.

Do we really matter so little?

NHS midwives are stretched so thin that at the Royal College of Midwives’ recent annual conference, RCM General Secretary Cathy Warwick painted a bleak picture of maternity services and warned that they are at the breaking point. In today’s Observer, on the front page, Warwick warns once again that if the maternity services don’t improve quickly, it is only a matter of time before it begins to break down completely, further endangering women’s lives and those of their babies.

If we can’t get maternal health right in even the most prosperous, wealthiest nations in the world, what hope do we have of bettering conditions in developing nations where conditions are much worse?

Even Dr. Tony Falconer, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, today issued a warning that women who give birth at night are at greater risk for inadequate care due to staff shortages and inexperience because senior staff tend to work during ‘normal’ business hours. This, despite the fact that many women go into labour and arrive at hospital in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning. I’ve personally heard countless stories of women in full-on labour being turned away because there just aren’t enough midwives to cope and being sent to another hospital, A&E or being forced to give birth unattended in a waiting room, corridor or car park. It does paint a rather worrying picture, doesn’t it?

That’s why I’m working on a new project, one that will hopefully combine my passions for birth advocacy, feminism and writing into one big ball of justice-seeking, anger-tinged-yet-hopeful blogginess. I’m hoping that all will be revealed in the next few weeks so watch this space. I do believe that 2011 is going to be a busy, busy year.

Bring it.

†All stats taken from ‘The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts Are Bad For Business’ by Gabrielle Palmer

Photo credit

Fight the terrorists with crotch grabs!

NS November 17th, 2010

People are going apeshit in the US about these new pat-down procedures at airports. Apparently, airline passengers are faced with a choice of full body scanner (where an anonymous person in a room somewhere can see under your clothes — big deal!) or a rather thorough pat-down that includes much groping and patting of various damp and dark places on the body.

I am really not bothered about being scanned or patted-down. I’d prefer not to have to do either but seeing as they are a ‘necessary evil’ for the time being, I’m really not fussed which method they use. This is what we must go through as a result of the Bush Years, folks. It’s your own damn moronic faults. You made your GOP-lined bed and now you are being molested on it. Ain’t life grand?

I’ll be in the US in just a couple weeks and will be entering 6 or 7 different airports. I may get to second base several times while I’m away! At least I’ll be getting some action while separated from NH.

Pot Kettle Capitalism

NS November 11th, 2010

I took a quiz the other day on Facebook, a bit of cheeky fun called ‘What type of Leftist are you?’ I answered a few questions and then my result popped up on the screen. ‘You are a Marxist!‘ it declared. No great surprise to me, I suppose —  I knew that my political beliefs were left of what passes for liberal these days — but Marxist? Really?! Hmm.

I know a bit about Marxism, studied it as part of my poly sci degree and have a book about it on my shelf, but I devoted a good hour or two to brushing up on its principles and figuring out whether, actually, I do have a bit of Marxist blood running through these veins.

Turns out, I do. At least partially. Regardless of whether or not I think Marxism could ever become a (successful) reality in this day and age, I do admire and agree with many of its tenets. Not those that were hijacked by dictators and despots looking for a cause to cling to and give rise to the power they so desperately crave, but the core belief that capitalism is inherently anti-proletariat and oppressive to the people, despite attempts of throwing ‘democracy’ at its wretched, greed-encased feet.

In typing these words, I keep expecting a trapdoor to open up below me, sending me into a political black hole that transports me directly back to the United States to face hanging, drawing and quartering for treason. At the very least, my nerves will be heightened when I go through US Immigration in three weeks’ time. What would they care about a simple little mommy blogger like me? Probably diddly squat. But people have been snooped on and detained for less.

So if you don’t hear from me for 24 hours after my flight was due to land, know that I’m paying the price for this post somewhere in a little room with a large woman and a pair of rubber gloves. Maybe George Bush will be there, reading passages from his new memoirs while he chucks bucket after bucket of water down my gullet to try to force me into a confession. By writing it all down here, out in the open for all to see, I save them (and me) a  lot of time and water.

As a friend of mine on Facebook said when he commented on my quiz result, “Is it legal for an American to be a Marxist?”

I very much doubt it, Stuart, but we’ll soon find out.

Anyway. The real reason I’m writing about Marxism and my frustration with capitalism is because of these student protests that took place in London yesterday, which everyone in the UK is talking about today. Essentially, up to 50,000 people turned up to protest the coalition government’s plans to increase tuition fees by up to three times the current limit, something the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg specifically said he would not do in his campaigning during the election period. In fact, he went further than that and said he would reduce tuition for university students. He then got into office and, after ‘realising the enormity of the nation’s debt’, promptly forgot that promise and agreed to screw all the students (and millions of others) who voted for him and his party.

I don’t like that a fringe group became violent and started breaking shit, I don’t think it was the smartest idea, but I can certainly fucking understand why they were so angry. Hell, I’m not even a citizen of this country (and therefore couldn’t vote) and I’m STILL angry that the Lib Dems completely screwed their supporters by bowing down to the great Tory machine. Nick Clegg is but a puppet and David Cameron has got his hand shoved so far up his felt-lined backside that I do believe he’s moving his mouth now as well.

Listening to a call-in show about the topic this morning on BBC London, I heard over and over again people talking about violence never being the answer, how we have to be peaceful and use democracy to get what we want. This, coming from the same people and the same government that is quite happy to go to war and tear apart entire countries over boundary squabbles, ownership of natural resources and to force democracy and capitalism onto those not fortunate enough to live in a country where we worship the dollar and the pound and the lifestyle that goes with it.

War in Iraq and Afghanistan = fine but breaking windows because you’re pissed off at your government = deplorable? Where’s the common sense in that? If you’re going to condemn violence amongst your own people but then use it as a tool to control, threaten or coerce other nations, you’re really just talking a load of bollocks.

We live in a hierarchal, patriarchal, class-driven society. As much as we like to pretend that we’re all open-minded and liberal and independent, we’re ruled and oppressed just as much as those living in the so-called ‘third world’. We’re just too blind to bloody realise it.

History shows us, time and time again, that those in power will not relinquish it easily. The upper crust of society — the wealthy, the male, the white, the educated, the able-bodied, the privileged — will always have the upper hand, even in our ‘democracy’ where every vote is counted but rarely matters or changes anything. After this election, I found myself thinking for the first time: “Fuck it, why vote? IT DOESN’T MATTER ANY MORE.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pacifist. I think war and violence and breaking shit is awful and pointless. But if you think you can condemn these students out one side of your mouth and wage war out the other in the name of something YOU believe in, the hypocrisy is almost more than I can bear.

So yes, I understand why these students and activists did what they did. I understand their anger, frustration and helplessness. I too want to kick at the gilded tower from where the fucking bastards are laughing at us, knowing they’ve got the keys to our cages.

But I’m afraid that while we’ve still got a Pot Kettle Capitalism instead of remaking society into something that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few, this shit is going to keep flaring up and then fizzling out. People will whinge and nothing will change, unless we get not 50,000 but 500,000 protesting, then 5 million, then 50 million.

Realistic? No. Idealistic? Sure. Delusional?

Go ask Marx.

Really Striking Stuff (RSS): A round-up

NS October 8th, 2010

Blog posts of note in my RSS reader this week.

Mad Women, or Life on Venus by Paris Ankara Express. Why we love to hate women on TV.

Poverty, Mayor Bloomberg and Coca-Cola at Jen’s Den of Iniquity. Why barring those on food stamps from buying soda is hypocritical, unrealistic and just plain ridiculous.

Dad Who Writes on gender and Sewing.

A conversation about birth rape at The Feminist Agenda.

Also on birth rape, my new feature for The F-Word, which was a response to a slew of articles refuting the term (quoting a piece I originally wrote in March 2008, also for The F-Word) and another article at Salon criticising my response to the criticism. Is that a confusing enough cluster fuck for ya? The only other prominent feminist blogger who had defended use of the term is Cara at The Curvature, who writes about it eloquently and intelligently in her post: On Birth Rape, Definitions and Language Policing.

Spilt Milk on why hating bullies doesn’t have to mean hating children.

Blue Milk addresses a survey done on mothers in the UK which found them more likely to label their sons as “cheeky” and “loving” and their daughters as “stroppy” and “serious.” I could hear her exasperated sighs all the way from Australia; I was sighing right along with her.

The Singing Doula on Reasons to Birth in Water.

And from the US newspaper round-up:

Candidate for governor of California recorded having a conversation about his female rival with an aide who suggested calling her “a whore” as part of their strategy. Oy vey.

No more ‘marriage gap’ for college-educated [white] women, according to the Washington Post.

No big surprise here: High school principal blocks transgender student’s bid for homecoming queen. At least the article used the student’s preferred pronouns, if there is one tiny silver lining to be found.

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