Women Bishops – I Don’t Have a Problem With The No Vote

I’m not religious. I don’t believe in god. I think religion is a human creation; a result of primitive people trying to explain where we come from, why we’re here and what happens to us after we die, plus a useful and effective form of primitive social control.

One of the things I don’t like about religion is the misogyny and the marginalising of women. The idea that women are helpmeets, always subservient, never equal, let alone in charge is something I can’t live by. The local mosque opens its doors to the public every August as part of the Fringe, with themed food weekends – Arabic sweets, Arabic coffee etc. I’ve been along to a couple of them and I’ve had a look around the mosque. I was talking to one of the men showing people around and I said something about having a problem with the misogyny of religion. He said Islam isn’t misogynistic, it says women should be treated like precious jewels. He genuinely couldn’t seem to get his head around the idea that I don’t want to be treated like a precious jewel, I want to be treated like an equal human being. From the reading I’ve done (which is not exhaustive), only paganism/nature religions and Sikhism seem to have equality for women as basic principles and teachings of the religion. I’m making a distinction between principles and teachings, because it’s pretty clear that both Jesus and Mohammed had a lot to say about being nice to people and respecting people, without saying “by people I really only mean men,” but religious organisations over the centuries have been quite firm in teaching the opposite. Oh, they talk about respect, but how can it be real respect if you only respect women who accept the lowly place you’ve forced them into?

So, women bishops. The Church of England recently voted on whether or not to allow women ministers to become bishops. There were three sections of the Church doing the voting – existing bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity. The bishops and the clergy voted in favour of women bishops; the laity voted no – but only just. The change required a 2/3 majority in each house and although well over 2/3 of the bishops and the clergy were in favour, only 64% of the laity voted yes. So the Church of England missed out on women bishops by a tiny amount.

But that’s democracy. The people campaigning for women bishops didn’t convince enough people to vote for it. That might be because the campaigners didn’t make a convincing argument, or it might be because the no voters weren’t willing to consider being convinced, I dunno.

But here’s the thing: if I believe in Scottish independence, it makes sense for me to join the SNP. Maybe my whole family for generations back to 1707 have believed in Scottish independence. Maybe my whole family have been in the SNP since it was formed. And then maybe I stop believing in independence. I start believing Scotland is better off as part of the union. What do I do? I can stay in the SNP. I can try to convince the SNP to change its policy on independence. I can go to branch meetings, submit motions, vote in favour of a change of policy – but those votes will not be won. Eventually I’ll realise that the party is not going to vote in favour of abandoning its desire for independence. So then what? I could remain in the party, knowing I can’t support its fundamental policy, or I can leave, joining another party, starting a party of my own, or staying out of political parties altogether.

There have been schisms in churches for centuries. There’s the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland, the Greek Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox, the Church of Ireland, the Coptics, the Baptists, the Methodists, the United Reform Church – and those are just the ones that pop into my head without having to think much about it. All of those churches came about because of a disagreement about something. And when the disagreement couldn’t be resolved, the disagreers went away and formed their own church, teaching the things they did agree with.

And that’s what I think should happen with the Church of England. The people who want women bishops, being the ones disagreeing with the established position. should be the ones to leave and form a new, more inclusive, less misogynist church. It wouldn’t be easy – but then, neither, I imagine, would it be to stay in a church which believes half the population shouldn’t have the same rights and opportunities as the other half.

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Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Today was my penultimate swimming lesson. Well, I suppose I could have more if I want, but I’m not planning on more. We’ve got me able to do front crawl well enough to do lengths, so from now on it’s just about practicing the technique and improving my fitness and stamina. We did some technique work today – arm positioning mainly. I am going to have sore triceps tomorrow. Then we decided to spend some time doing tumbleturns.

I am a clumsy, uncoordinated person at the best of times and my proprioception really isn’t great on dry land, let alone upside-down in water, so I expected it to go very badly, but it wasn’t too bad. I can do the turn but I’m struggling with judging where to do it – I tend to go too soon and end up missing the wall with my feet and not getting any push-off at all. And I have no sense at all of where I am in space – I dunno if I’m pushing off from the bottom or the side or the ceiling. I also struggle to breathe out through my nose while I’m doing it, so half the pool has rushed into my head and is swirling around my brain as I type, like some sort of chlorinated neti wash. After my lesson had finished I stayed in the pool and kept swimming, and practiced the tumbleturns.

I can do them if I’m doing breaststroke. It’s much easier to control my breathing and judge the distance when I’m doing breaststroke, but I’m not supposed to be doing breaststroke. In front crawl, I struggle to get my breathing timed right so I’m breathing in before I turn, and I struggle to judge how far away I need to be from the wall, and to get the distance and the breathing right together.

One more lesson next week – might be able to perfect them then!

More swimming

Haven’t been swimming quite as much for the past 10 days. On Hallowe’en I went back to hospital for a steroid injection into my hip joint. It had to be done quite deep into the joint so it was done under guided X-ray to make sure they got it into the right place. They give a local anaesthetic first, which was helpful, but I still flinched several times while he was putting the needle into the joint. He said that was helpful because it lets them know they’re in the right place. It was a senior reg radiologist doing the procedure, and the consultant stuck his head round the door just as he’d injected the guide dye in and said “beautiful” – referring to the position of the needle.

My hip was very sore for a couple of days afterwards and since then has been quite odd – some almost pain free days and some very sore days. I’m hoping the pain free days will become the majority.

And my lovely boyfriend was here for nearly a week, around my birthday, and I preferred to spend time with him rather than swim. So I didn’t go back until Wednesday last week and then Thursday morning. Didn’t go yesterday, for various reasons, but went this afternoon.

I quite like swimming at the Commie on weekend afternoons. (Amusing aside – tweet something including the word Commie and a twitterbot will RT and call it vile calumy. It can’t distinguish between the Commie Pool and “Obama’s a Commie.”) They have the boom across so the lanes are only 25m long, and with my powerful kick I can easily push and glide six or eight yards so I’m much faster than doing 50m lengths. I did 500m in 14m26s today, then did another 550m, total time 31m30s. And the good news is, 900m of it was all front crawl. I did 50m breaststroke as a warm-up and another 50m as a breather half way through, and there was one length I’d started front crawl but had to stop because of people in the way and changed to breaststroke so I could keep going, but other than that, I was front crawling all the way. I’m not fast, and I’m not good, and it’ll never be as easy or natural for me as breaststroke is, but I think I can say I can do front crawl now. Two months ago I could do about 10 yards front crawl; today I did nearly 1km. I’m pretty pleased with that.

I am a Bond fan, and I am a feminist. This entry contains Skyfall spoilers.

I’m a feminist and I’m a Bond fan. I don’t think you need to be a feminist to see that all of the books and parts of all the films are horribly sexist. The books are very racist in parts too. They’re still exciting, fast-paced adventure stories and I think it’s possible to enjoy the books and the films while not enjoying the racism and sexism.

Skyfall spoilers follow

I read this Giles Coren piece yesterday, and honestly, I think it’s garbage. Why do I think it’s garbage? Because it’s full of inaccuracies and misinterpretations.

In short, there is a young woman in this film whom Bond correctly identifies (in his smug, smart-arse way) as a sex-worker who was kidnapped and enslaved as a child by human traffickers. She is now a brutalised and unwilling gangster’s moll. She gives no sign of being sexually interested in Bond, merely of being incredibly scared and unhappy. So he creeps uninvited into her hotel shower cubicle later that night, like Jimmy Savile, and silently screws her because he is bored.

Yes, it is disclosed that Severine (she has a name although Giles Coren doesn’t bother to give it) was stolen, trafficked and enslaved as a sex-worker, and that she is now trapped and used by the villain of the film. But she gives every sign of being sexually interested in Bond, giving him her cabin number and the location of the boat she is on and asking him to visit her if he survives the baddies in the casino who are trying to kill him. As the boat departs we see her alone in her cabin, with a bottle of champagne on ice and two glasses, disappointed as the boat leaves without Bond joining her. She gives her location to Bond, she asks him to join her, she is obviously disappointed as the boat leaves without him getting there, and it is a boat, not a hotel. Did Giles Coren actually watch the film? When Bond eventually arrives on the boat, not a hotel room because it’s a boat, not a hotel, he joins her in the shower. We don’t know if he “silently screws her because he is bored.” We can assume, although it is not seen, that the pair have sex, but we have no idea if Bond is bored, or silent, and we have no reason to think that Severine doesn’t want the sex. Now, in real life I would be the first to say that an invitation to visit someone is not an invitation to sex, but this is not real life, it is a Bond film.

That is vile enough. And totally out of keeping, I’d have thought, with Daniel Craig’s Bond. But it gets much worse when she is later tied up with a glass of whisky on her head in a hilarious William Tell spoof, and shot dead in a game devised by the baddie. We knew already knew the baddie was bad, so there was no plot developing element here. It was merely disgusting, exploitative, 1970s-style death-porn (like when Roger Moore torpedoed the beautiful girl in the helicopter in The Spy Who Loved Me and then joked about it – a scene from which it has taken me 35 years to recover).

The ‘new’ Bond’s immediate response to the killing of a tragic, abused, indentured slave woman is to say, “waste of good scotch” (this must be the ‘humour’ Daniel Craig said he was keen to put back into the role) and then kill everyone. He could have done it three minutes before and saved her. But that wouldn’t have been as funny, I guess.

The first paragraph quoted here, I agree with. The murder of Severine is brutal, exploitative and probably unnecessary to the plot. The second – well, I don’t know. The “waste of good Scotch” remark is distasteful, but it’s true to the character. Bond is emotionally stunted. He has no roots, no ties, no loyalty to anyone. His only feelings are his feelings of devotion to his duty to his country and therefore to his boss, M. His country uses him as a killing machine. If he does have feelings, or emotions, or weaknesses, he can’t show them, especially not in front of a gang of men who want to kill him. The main villain, Silva, who obviously knows all these things about Bond, has just spent ten minutes telling Bond how they have both been badly treated by M and how M has lied to Bond. It’s clear he expects Bond to be devastated by this – he wants Bond to turn traitor and join Silva in trying to kill M. Bond’s tasteless quip is a sign that he is unmoved, unemotional and not weak in front of enemies- he hasn’t been affected by what Silva has told him and he hasn’t been affected by the murder of Severine. The murder and the quip are nasty, but in picking this as an example of how terribly awful the film is and how terribly sensitive Coren is, Coren is missing the entire essence of the character as written by Ian Fleming and as depicted in the films. James Bond is not a nice man. He’s an efficient assassin who has either shut off his emotions to be good at his job, or been good at his job because his emotions were already shut off.

And now the last whine from Giles Coren.

I am ashamed, as a man, that women are still compelled in the 21st century to watch movies in which the three female outcomes are:

1) Judi Dench’s ‘M’ dies, and is replaced by a man;
2) The young abuse victim is shagged by Bond and then killed for a joke; and

3) The pretty girl who manages to remain chaste despite Bond’s ‘charms’ is rewarded at the end with a job as his secretary.

Judi Dench has done 7 Bonds. She can’t go on forever, and if Judi Dench doesn’t want to do more Bonds, then M has to be written out. She went out fighting, helping Bond and Kincaid to kill all the bad guys. Yes, they’ve replaced her with a man, but even though I loved having a female M, perhaps it was time for a change.

The young abuse victim makes it very clear that she wants Bond. He could have turned up, killed her captors and carted her off to therapy, but that’s not a Bond film. I wish they hadn’t killed her character, and if she had to die, I wish it hadn’t been in such a powerless, nasty way. I even would have liked it more if he’d rescued her, and then she’d turned out to be a double agent portraying herself as a victim to inspire Bond to rescue her so she could turn against him and work for Silva. There are lots of things I don’t like about how the character was written, But it’s nonsense to suggest that Severine didn’t have agency in her sexual interactions with Bond. She wanted him and she was disappointed when she thought she wasn’t going to get him.

But Giles Coren’s last point up there is the worst of all. I’m really not sure he watched the film. “The pretty girl who manages to remain chaste” (who also has a name – Eve Moneypenny) actually shags Bond. It’s not seen, but it’s pretty obvious it has taken place, not least because of the content of their conversation the next time they meet. And “rewarded at the end with a job as his secretary” is also inaccurate. It’s made clear throughout the film that she’s a field agent who although competent hasn’t enjoyed her time on active duty and is choosing to move to a desk job. And she’s not Bond’s secretary. She’s M’s personal private secretary, which implies she has the skills, knowledge, competence and confidence to hold such a high level post in a demanding organisation. I think what his remarks here show is that Giles Coren a) thinks admin jobs (which are predominantly female), no matter how high-level, are meaningless and can be handed out to anyone rather than requiring a person of skill and competence, and b) doesn’t bother to pay attention to what the female characters say or do, who they are or even what their names are.

Bond is racist, sexist, emotionally stunted, would be very unpleasant to know in real life, and is fictional. Giles Coren isn’t that far behind him in the sexism stakes, but he is a real person.

This page has been edited to add a link to the 16 days campaign against violence against women.