46 years of safe legal abortion

Edinburgh Eye

Celebrating 46 years of the Abortion Act On 27th April 1968, 46 years ago, the Abortion Act became law, and women in the UK – except in Northern Ireland – were entitled to get safe, legal abortions. That’s half a lifetime ago. There can be few doctors or nurses still practicing who have first-hand memories of the bad old prolife days.

Every year for the past few years, on the Saturday closest to that date, SPUC stand in a line down Lothian Road, on the Sheraton Hotel side, and express their sorrow and regret for 46 years of health and wellbeing for women.

SPUC on Lothian Road with pink balloons

(The gentleman with the little girl on his shoulders, carrying the sign ABORTION KILLS CHILDREN, kept lifting his sign to block his face whenever he saw one of us taking photographs: I’ve seen BNP demonstrators do the same thing. In previous years SPUCcers have had expensive, heavy, pre-printed signs in grim black: this year…

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The Smell of Bullshit, part 53: VAT cats

Lush launched their new website on 31st March this year. It’s been set up in such a way that customers ordering products from outside the UK are charged VAT, even though they shouldn’t be.

The web team have been “looking into it” since it was first reported to them. I would strongly advise non-UK people not to buy from the Lush website unless they’re certain it’s been sorted out. Surely a website for a company which ships abroad should handle removing VAT for non-UK orders as a matter of course. Are Lush incompetent?


I received an email from a non-UK Lush customer today, which I think deserves a place here in the main blog rather than being relegated to the comments. I think it answers any lingering questions about Lush’s competence.

Lush are saying on their twitter/facebook a bit ago that international customers should all call our orders in instead of using the Lush Kitchen website to order. They said that way we can ask them manually to take off the VAT since it doesn’t seem to be taking the VAT off automatically as the old website has done for years. And Lush suggests calling in also because there are issues with the ordering system. This came at the same time I was told that my issues have been fixed, (which is incorrect because I still have the same one issue left). People have been working on my messed up orders for weeks, and it seems to be *almost* fixed. And from reading around others’ orders still seem to be messed up. Is there a professional company working on trying to install this new kitchen website or is it one of the Lush staff? So it sounds like now international people may have to call in their orders, making it even less likely that we’ll be able to get in and order. What about the people whose first language isn’t English? What are they supposed to do? Lush has on their site that this new site has been a year in the making, and had a Beta site with people testing it before they put it up. Next time, they should test the website as a customer, and not test it as only Lush employees.’


I would bet my Future Primitive body whip that the new website has been done by one of the Constantine offspring.

They’ve set up a new website, and arsed it up so badly that it doesn’t remove VAT for non-UK customers, they still haven’t fixed it, and their response is to ask non-UK customers to phone their orders in – even though they might not speak enough English to do that, or might have to get up in the middle of the night to do it. Omnishambles clusterfuck just about covers it, I think.

Let’s question why men want anonymity for rape defendants

Another angry woman

Content note: This post discusses rape, sexual assault and rape apologism

Fresh off the back of his own trial for a series of sexual offences, Nigel Evans has called for anonymity for defendants. Evans got off as his own defence put his behaviour down to “drunken overfamiliarity”, and throughout the trial he came off as at the very least a massive creep and young people are more likely to be on guard around him in the future.

Evans’s plea is one much repeated among those who seek to protect perpetrators of sexual violence. The call comes up again and again, a repeated screech. The thing is, the evidence shows that anonymity for defendants in sexual offences only protects rapists and abusers.

Between 1976 and 1988, the UK had anonymity for rape defendants. It led to a number of practical problems, including a very major and horrific one: if a…

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Another fast swim (well, for me)

I did 1200m tonight in 30m19s, with the first km completed in 25m08s. My average time for 50m was 1m15s, and I think for the first time ever, none of my lengths, not even my last length (always backstroke, always much slower) took over 1m30s. In fact, only 2 of the lengths took over 1m20s. I was taking longer rests between lengths; when I just go at a slow steady pace I try not to stop until I’ve done 500m, but still, I’m getting faster overall.


The Smell of Bullshit, part 52: alternatives (revisited)

In this post, I talked about alternatives to Lush. I thought it was time to give an update on the products I have tried since then.

I have tried the Future Primitive bubbling sugar buffs, and I really like them. They leave my skin feeling very soft and not dry, but not actively moisturised in the way the previous sugar scrubs did. I prefer the sugar scrubs, but I like the sugar buffs enough to keep buying them. Future Primitive have just released some products with new scents, and the Green Coconut might be the nicest scent I’ve ever smelled.

Gaia Creams – I have now tried the Lavender & Patchouli hand therapy cream, and the Raw Healing & Soothing Cream. I don’t dislike them, and I’ll finish the pots, but I won’t be buying more. They’re incredibly expensive for the size of pot, and I don’t find they work well for me. The Healing & Soothing Cream doesn’t heal or soothe my eczema, and I find the Lavender & Patchouli cream doesn’t moisturise my hands at all. I’ve tried rubbing it in and then sleeping in cotton gloves, and my hands were as dry as paper in the morning. Not for me, sadly.

Klorane haircare has turned out to be great. I’m using the mango butter shampoo and conditioner, and I love it. It cleans and conditions very well, even after swimming, smells great, and lasts a long time.

I have tried Sugarloaf Soap Company soap and lipbalms. The soap seems a bit meh – cleans ok, rinses away ok, not too drying, but the scent has gone from the bar after about three weeks. I do like the lipbalms more, both the tin and the twist tube.

I’m interested in trying the Rhodes to Heaven hand, nail and cuticle cream, but they haven’t responded to my requests for a full ingredients list. I’ll try once more, and if they don’t respond, they’re off the list for rudeness!


The Smell of Bullshit, part 51: mica, child labour, and Lush

Another day, another email (this one addressed to my full name 😉 )

Dear southsidesocialistsexybum,

I would like to talk to you about mica. Not the cheeky singer-songwriter who thinks big girl, you are beautiful (gee, thanks MIKA) but the sparkly, dusty stuff used in cosmetics.

After many years of Lush fandom (which has now also turned to sparkly dust) Lush news stories always catch my eye. A couple of weeks ago I noticed these two articles in The Guardian. They are lacking the standard issue antique photograph of Mark Constantine in a flowery shirt, by a mountain of soap of his own making, but you can’t have everything (as any ex-Lush fan knows).

The first http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/india-child-labour-mica-mineral-cosmetics discusses the growing market for the use of mica in cosmetics. The main supply comes from India, where the industry is largely unregulated and relies heavily on forced child labour.

In the second story, http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/lush-removes-mica-child-labour The Guardian have approached Lush, as part of an investigation into whether cosmetics manufacturers are using an ethical mica supply chain. As a result, Lush have committed to removing mica from their products and finding a suitable alternative instead. Hooray for Lush! etc etc

Lush always make a song and dance about their ethical buying. You can find them on their website (ok, find is an exaggeration but it’s on there somewhere) waxing lyrical about their Fair Trade vanilla absolute and claiming that ‘In the Lush Buying team we look for suppliers who are honest, transparent and hard working.’ It makes a nice, sexy story for the website and the Lush Times/Fresh Matters/whatever-it’ll-be-next-time with happy, glossy pictures of a happy Lush buyer with happy local faces, all so happy to be doing business.

But what about the ingredients which don’t come with a shiny story? Going back to the first article in The Guardian

‘According to the Australian newspaper The Age,child labour is endemic in India’s mica mining business and 86% of the country’s mica exports in 2010-2011 were unregulated.

Presented with this evidence, British cosmetic brand Lush, which uses mica from India in its handmade products, was shocked.’

Got that? Shocked. A word which suggests a certain element of surprise. But it goes on –

‘ “That’s appalling,” says co-founder Rowena Bird. “I became aware of this issue a few years ago’


Years ago? How can you be shocked about something you already knew? It’s yet another issue Lush have been aware of for years and failed to address. Meanwhile, according to this article http://www.smh.com.au/world/the-grind-and-grief-behind-the-glitter-20140118-311f8.html#ixzz2xoRj4uSREstee Lauder have been working in partnership with a local NGO to promote access to education as an approach to work towards the elimination of child labour in mica-sourcing communities, since 2006.

Even L’Oreal, who are hardly a yardstick for ethical cosmetic production, have been trying to clean up their act. According to this article http://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Formulation-Science/Mica-and-child-labour-in-focus-due-to-Lush-s-latest-stand L’Oreal became aware of the possibility of child labour being involved in the production of mica in 2009 and have been working to eliminate it since.

If ethical buying is so high on the Lush agenda, why are they so behind the times? What have they been doing while other companies have been working to address this issue? Back in The Guardian we find Mark explaining that Lush

‘would usually request spot checks on its suppliers to be assured about local practice, but the area in which mica is mined is too dangerous for visitors to arrive unaccompanied. This means that Lush is unable independently to guarantee that child labour is not used on the sites that supply the mineral to the store.’

Rowena goes on to explain ‘we require our suppliers to issue a certificate declaring that its mica production is free of forced labour of all kinds. Of course, such declarations are based on trust’

So, having known for years about the use of forced child labour in the production of an ingredient, in an area which is too dangerous for people to visit, Lush’s response was to ask the suppliers to self-certificate? No flaw in that plan.

Mark admits he has known about this issue for years, too. ‘Constantine said concerns had first been raised some years ago, but Lush had thought assurances by audit would be enough. It has now reconsidered its policy in the light of recent concerns.

“It made us all run around and ask, what are we going to do then? Why are we using it?” he said. Lush has not set a date by which the mineral will be eliminated from all its product lines, but is already using synthetic replacements where possible.

“We have been moving across to synthetic mica on things like the bath bombs. Really, we would like to be able to get a mica that was mined correctly. At some stage, the whole industry should take responsibility for that.”

How can ‘assurances by audit’ be enough for Mark, when, by his own admission, nobody is able to carry out any kind of audit?

Notice also, that they are unwilling to set a date. Lush say they are going to eliminate mica from their products, but not when. Will it take them as long as it took them to replace the non-biodegradable glitter? Lush didn’t just remove those tonnes of ocean unfriendly glitter, they waited years, until they found a substitute – meaning that in the meantime, they could continue to enjoy their sparkly profits.

Of course, it’s great that Lush have responded to this issue with a pledge to sort the problem out. If they’ve known for years though, why does it take a public kick up the bum from a newspaper to provide the motivation to deal with it? Ten year old children, working in illegal mines, in dangerous conditions isn’t enough of a wake-up call, you need a newspaper breathing down your neck?

How do Lush audit their supply chain to make sure that the ingredients they buy are ethical? If their idea of auditing is to ask people to send in a certificate, how can any customer be sure that the ingredients used are ethical? I am left wondering how they audit the animal testing side of things – do they actually check or do their suppliers just send in a certificate for that, too?

Yours, glittering with the blood of a thousand tiny children,

Very anonymously,

Big Girl



Thank you very much for this email, Big Girl (you are beautiful, yes you are. Your hair needs brushed though.)

This is really related to the Corporate Social Responsbility report, which pointed out that there is very little external, independent verification of the majority of Lush’s claims. This post documented concerns about their cocoa butter and palm oil. And this post is about the glitter issue Big Girl mentions.

Can we believe anything Lush tell us about their ethics and standards? I choose not to.

Versatile Blogger Award


Thank you very much to Tracy at Fit, Feminist and (almost) Fifty, who has suggested this blog for a Versatile Blogger Award. I hadn’t heard of the awards, and having seen who else she has nominated, I’m very flattered. Especially because this blog is mainly just me muttering about stuff, with semi-colons.

The rules of accepting the award are:

  • Display the award on your blog
  • Announce your win with a post and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Present 15 deserving bloggers with the award.
  • Link your nominees in the post and let them know of their nomination with a comment.
  • Post seven things about yourself.

The fifteen blogs I have decided to nominate are linked by nothing more than the fact that I enjoy reading them – because they make me laugh, or make me think, or they say things I agree with, or they make me adjust my beliefs. In no particular order, here they are

  1. Fit, Feminist and (almost) Fifty
  2. Pride’s Purge
  3. Bottomface
  4. Another Angry Woman
  5. Media Diversified
  6. Dances With Fat
  7. My Elegant Gathering of White Snows
  8. OhHellWhatTheHell
  9. Philrotica
  10. Feminist Philosophers
  11. A Girl Called Jack
  12. Left at the Lights
  13. London Feminist
  14. Never Seconds
  15. Edinburgh Eye

Seven things about myself

  1. I have not seen my hair’s natural colour since about 1984
  2. I am 99% certain I will be voting Yes in the independence referendum, because I believe that will give us the best chance of creating a fairer, more socially inclusive, less unequal society
  3. Swimming is my favourite exercise, for my body and mind
  4. My relationship is long distance. Sometimes I really like that and sometimes I hate it
  5. My dad wanted to call me Ursula, after Ursula Andress, but my mum put her foot down.
  6. I believe that every employee should join the most appropriate trade union, and then be as active as they can manage – especially women
  7. I wish George Michael would come round my house every night and sing to me