Monday, 25 January 2016

One Battle Won, But the War Ain't Over

Editor's note: 
I had meant to post this yesterday, but there was an emergency at the women's shelter where I volunteer, and I had to go help out. Let us not kid ourselves that the law protects women and children from men's violence. 

Funny how people get upset about violence against women when it is committed by "other people". The belief that only "other people" - i.e. scary foreigners, and refugees - sexually harass women, for instance, seems quite widespread and is a never-ending source of wonder to every woman who has ever been present in a public space.

Sexual harassment happens in all kinds of places, and is an activity indulged in by all kinds of men, from all kinds of backgrounds. It rarely raises concern, or causes publicity. Women are expected to put up with a certain amount of violence. It is presumed that men "can't help themselves". The notion that persons of the male sex are impulse-driven beasts who can't control their actions is deeply insulting to all men, but seems common in most cultures.

The Swedish journalist Ivar Arpi expressed his opinion recently, in an editorial in a national newspaper that should be ashamed of itself for publishing such tripe, that men's violence against women is due to genetic programming. So according to Arpi's reasoning, violence against women is "natural". Thus we can all stop our efforts to address the structural and cultural issues that make women subordinate to men, in the happy belief that this is how nature intended things to be.

We would like to know what other phenomena Arpi considers to be caused by biological differences. Men's higher wages? The fact that black American men are more likely to be incarcerated than white ones? The supremacy of the Aryan race? We would dearly love to hear Arpi's thoughts on the matter.

Last time we were sexually harassed, it was in the security check at Copenhagen Airport in September. We're still waiting to hear if the Danish police can be bothered investigating the matter. To be honest they don't seem to be  bothered by the fact that staff at Copenhagen Airport appear to have been systematically subjecting women to sexual violence for years.

Presumably, if we had been attacked by a swarthy man with a foreign-sounding name, not a bog-standard Dane, the police would have put more effort into their legal obligation to investigate crimes. But perhaps we are doing them an injustice. Let us assume, until we know for definite otherwise, that Danish police care deeply about the safety of women. However, we shall continue to warn our female friends and acquaintances to not travel alone through Copenhagen Airport.

Women - to be as safe as possible, always travel with a man! And make sure his ownership of you is clearly displayed, for instance by wearing a wedding ring, or taking his surname.

We had meant, in order to uphold the standards of this blog and make a show of sticking to the topic, to do a feature post on hygiene-related sexual harassment. We had planned to describe, in a humorous vein, all the times we've been sexually harassed in a hygiene-related environment, like for instance public swimming pools. However, thinking about all the times men have got away with harassing us entirely without repercussions turned out to be intensely depressing.

Instead, we've got this charming narrative of dealing with manspreading from Shewee Fiend Friend, that stalwart scion of harden-the-fuck-up-ness. We found it immensely inspiring!

So this guy beside me on the tube is totally invading my personal space with his 17 newspapers 
So I reached out and touched his foot with mine 
Just to see 
While texting you 
And he leaned forward to check right away and was really bothered by my foot infringement

That is a pic of how much of his arm is on my side 
So most 
And that's not when he's changing pages, and it's suddenly ALL of my space 
Anyway, I think I will touch his foot again 
He didn't like it 
It made me a little uncomfortable 
But the huge rolled up newspaper between his legs dropped when I lightly touched his foot the second time 
What a stimulating story! We expressed our admiration of Shewee Fiend Friend in no uncertain terms. She explained that she had moral support: "A friend was egging me on." Here is a screenshot of said friend's encouragement:
We have said it before and we'll say it again: our friends are amazing!
Meanwhile, Tudor Friend sent us this inspirational picture:
An eco-conscious and extremely practical barbecue
It is a hick barbecue! We have never, in all our life, seen anything quite so fabulous, and we are pretty fucking old.
It seems we're all about inspiration and clodhopper escapades today. Here is a picture from Jonny:

Jonny calls this "You sunk my battleship".
The joke "Is that a bottle of rum in your bath, or are you just pleased to see me?" somehow springs to mind.
It is possible that we have posted this picture before, but somehow, one can never get enough pictures of Jonny in the bath.

Let's have a festive video. Let's have this one, which illustrates that
a) there are dudes who are aware that a woman will not necessarily be enthusiastic about him trying to talk to her, however charming he believes he is (many dudes are aware of this. But many are not),
b) there are dudes who give a shit about domestic terrorism - we are here choosing to use Rosie Batty's term domestic terrorism, which is intended to highlight the fact that more people die from domestic violence than terrorism - and are intelligent enough to realise that ending it takes a bit more effort than scratching your armpits and ranting "Not all men", while going prematurely bald. 

Festive video - Sam Hunt, Take Your Time

Related Reading
On Violence Against Women

Saturday, 9 January 2016

High Noon, Hell, and High Water - A Very Long Linguistic Rant

It seems but a day or two since our last blog post, and yet how many things have happened! How much we shall have to tell! (And how much we shall have to conceal.)

Let us begin with some linguistic musings. We engaged in a discussion on the word forenoon with Shewee Fiend Friend, some days ago. The Oxford English Dictionary will have you believe that forenoon is a word still in common use, but we all know this is a bollocks suggestion. Nobody uses the word forenoon outside of Victorian novels, and this is  a crying shame.

To speakers of other Germanic languages, which still retain the equivalent of the word, the discontinued use of the excellent word forenoon in English is a puzzle and an irritation. How is one supposed to express temporality when the language has been deliberately stripped of one of its most useful words? Scandiwegian languages, for instance, have the word förmiddag, and variations thereof, German has Vormittag, and Dutch has voormiddag.

Originally, various dictionaries inform us, forenoon, and its Germanic cousins, were used as synonyms to morning, ie the time before the afternoon - much as in modern English. However, in modern Germanic languages, the equivalent of forenoon is much richer than that.

Jonny, comparing himself to Colin Firth with not very much subtlety in a dark photo clearly taken well into the afternoon, says:

"I'm like a fine wine, getting more refined with age. Next stop, Mr. Darcy distinguished Gentleman.
[...] You can also add that my shot was in a toilet."

If you are a wanton female and you find yourself thinking, upon regarding this picture of Jonny, "HUNKA HUNKA!", then do get in touch. We say this not because we wish to be arrested for pimping, but because we happen to think that Jonny is a nice boy, despite his sometimes immature and often vulgar attitude.

(We say "wanton female" because a) the type of female who frequents this blog tends to veer towards the shameless spectrum, and b) although we are rampantly in favour of non-heteronormative constellations, we believe that chicks stand a greater chance of success with Jonny than dudes. Anyway. If you haven't seen it already, have a gander at this lonely hearts ad we did for Jonny once, and, if it rocks your boat, get in touch: theprivycounsellor [at]
On a related note, this interview made us go HUNKA HUNKA!)

When one for instance staggers into the kitchen, hungover and rueful, round 11 am, to attempt to make oneself tea without vomiting, it is clearly not morning. The morning, in civilised society, only lasts until about 10 am - as soon as you get into double digits, you are in the territory of the forenoon.

The distinction is important because saying you did, or intend to do, something in the forenoon, as opposed to the morning, can indicate a variety of things. It can indicate that there is no rush - that something doesn't need to get done till the forenoon; or that, as in the example above, one was so hungover that one didn't manage to do something until well into the forenoon; or that somebody was late, not arriving until the forenoon; or that one has no intention of doing something early in the morning but is set on waiting until the forenoon. The forenoon not only makes the language richer, but removes stress!

The word forenoon is of course a compound of the preposition fore and the noun noon. Noon is specific to English; other Germanic languages appear to retain variations of the word middag / Mittag, meaning, naturally, "middle of the day" (though if one is to believe the OED, the Norn language in Shetland appears to have been more perverse in this respect than others). Why English speakers have felt the need to take recourse to the word noon is beyond comprehension. (Regular readers are aware that we are rampantly mistrustful of Latin, especially when it is opposed to a Germanic language. Latin can be useful when one wants to compose witty slogans against mansplaining, but apart from that, we consider a Germanic tongue much more satisfying.)

We harbour strong antipathies towards the word noon at the Privy Counsel, and have done ever since we read somewhere that noon derives from the Latin nona, signifying the ninth hour. This only makes sense in a monastic system, where the day starts at three am. THREE A.M.! The notion of starting the day at three am should horrify and appal all right-thinking people.

When discussing the unreasonableness of this with Shewee Fiend Friend, we wondered how the hell this kind of system was supposed to work in northern Europe where there is no daylight until 8 am at the earliest, and sometimes not at all. Is one supposed to run around performing monastic duties in the dark? Isn't that dangerous? Wouldn't it be better if everyone stayed in bed until a reasonable hour? (At this point Shewee Fiend Friend, we are sorry to say, made a lewd and unscientific suggestion, which we by no means intend to repeat. The discussion took another direction entirely after that.)

Here is a gratuitous picture of Colin Firth in a bath-tub.

However, our opinion of the unreasonableness of the term noon was somewhat tempered on looking up the word in the OED. Apparently, says this soothing authority, noon originally denoted the hour around 3 pm. If this is the ninth hour, then clearly the day doesn't start until 6 am, which is a lot less horrendous than 3 am. Apparently, in the Roman system, the day started at sunrise. This, we feel, is reasonable, at least in winter.

Nobody seems entirely sure why noon changed from being at 3 pm to 12 o'clock. Possibly the time for ecclesiastical services moved, or work patterns changed after the BASTARD NORMAN* invasion.

Possibly we had some toilet pictures we had intended to show you, but once we start ranting we tend to produce quite long blog posts, and we hesitate to bore or exhaust our readers. Let us therefore content ourselves with telling you the joyous news that there is, actually, official information on the sorry state of British plumbing!

We came across, via Twitter, this blog, written by an American living in Britain. The author expresses her bafflement at the perversity of British plumbing in a way that is familiar to all readers of this blog. The traditional learning curve goes:

1) WTF? Why are there two taps? Why?
2) Oh thank God, there ARE mixer taps even in this fucked-up country
4) This is hell

A witty and intelligent illustration of said learning curve is provided in this video.
Anyway, we learned from the blog mentioned above that there is actually a leaflet from Defra, the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, explaining the intricacies of the fucked-up-ness of British water tanks. Enjoy.

We've drunk a good litre of tea this forenoon and need to break now. But first - a festive video! We came across, via this article by Soraya Chemaly on the structural sexism affecting (the lack of) women's toilets, an excellent TED talk by the same author. We're not normally in favour of videos where people talk, preferring to read articles as this is faster and constitutes a more reasonable use of our time, but Soraya Chemaly's talk is thoughtful, intelligent, and funny, and based on solid research. We cannot recommend it enough.

*As all civilised people know, one cannot use the word "Norman" without prefixing it with the adjective "bastard".

Festive video - Soraya Chemaly, How Sexism Shapes Human Knowledge

Related Reading

The one time we saw the advantage of expressing something in Latin:
Apparently There Was a "Best Norwegian Café" and "Best Latin Translation" Competition, and Here Are the Winners!

The video illustrating the perverted monstrosity going by the name of plumbing in the British Isles: Evolution of British Plumbing

Soraya Chemaly on toilets and structural sexism:
Biology Doesn't Write Laws: Hillary Clinton's Bathroom Break Wasn't As Trivial As Some Might Like to Think

If you're a bit drunk and in the mood for something kinky and perverse:
The Defra leaflet explaining about British water tanks

The lonely hearts ad we wrote for Jonny:
Jonny and a Public Toilet - A Treat for Single Ladies

Another picture of Colin Firth in the bath:
Privy Counsel Pin-Up - Colin Firth

And another one:
It Is Tolerable, We Suppose: A Privy Counsel Pick-Me-Up

A compilation of our best rants on separate taps:

A Note on Desperate Measures
Are You British? Does Tap Sanity Elude You?
Let's Get Medieval: King's Manor, York
Mixer Taps - The Great Controversy, or, When Will Britain Enter the 21st Century?, or, You Are Not Alone!
More Dark, Dark Horrors: An Outwardly Reputable Employer with a Dark and Filthy Secret
More Uzbek Toilets
On the Eighth Day God Created Paratroopers, But He Forgot the Soap
Right Up Our Alley
Safety at Work
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