Things I read recently that I found interesting

It’s that occasional round-up again!

Same as it ever was, only much worse (Dykes To Watch Out For)- In our hour of need, DTWOF returned after eight years hiatus!

Oral History: In 1985 Mr. Snuffleupagus Shocked ‘Sesame Street’ (various)- A really sweet oral history of how the decision was made to reveal Mr Snuffleupagus as real, and how it tied in to teaching children being abused that they would be believed.

Juridified Dispossession: Brexit, Migrant Workers and the Law (Gracie May Bradley)- What will Brexit mean for workers’ rights? Bad things, very very bad things.

Prejudice, “Political Correctness,” and the Normalization of Donald Trump (Julia Serano)- Theorising about the rejection of “identity politics” and what we can do next.

Political correctness: how the right invented a phantom enemy (Moira Weigel)- A history of the myth of “political correctness” and fighting this imaginary enemy led to Trump’s election.

The eroticization of abusers: from jizz in the face feminism to dapper white supremacists (Flavia Dzodan)- Examining and unpicking a particular strand of fuckery within white feminism.

From inside Colnbrook: my drawing is my feeling (Jay)- A young man in detention talks about the impact of detention and shares art he has produced.

Five Tropes Fanfic Readers Love (And One They Hate) (Flourish Klink)- Analysing preferences of fanfic readers and presenting massive survey results.

‘I knew I was home’: a trans woman’s journey through porn (Nadika Nadja)- A side of porn we rarely talk about.

It’s Time To Retire the “No Blacks, No Asians” Topic (Angry Black Hoemo)- Why discussions of racism in the gay community are limited in scope and unlikely to bring about much change.

No One Makes It Out Alive (Casey Plett and Morgan M Page)- Developing a trans reading of Little Shop of Horrors.

And finally, ever wanted to see a capybara farting in the bath to the chagrin of some ducks? Of course you do.

 


A short twitter thread on “fake news” and how the media created it

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Things I read recently that I found interesting

Welcome to the semi-regular link round-up. It’s been a while since I’ve put one of these up, on account of the apocalypse having come (and also, I went on holiday).

Memorialising 2016: Transgender Day of Remembrance– Today is TDoR, and this year 271 murders of trans people have been recorded. The vast majority of them are trans women of colour. Read the list of their names, and remember their brutal killings.

Free e-books for the struggle ahead (AK Press)- Three books about resisting fascism are now available for free from AK Press. It’s vital that we are ready, and we know the history and tactics available to us. Also, free books, everyone!

Introducing Post Trump Europe (Flavia Dzodan)- This rise of fascism is not just limited to the USA. Flavia provides a brief, intelligent overview.

Preparing Your Children For The Apocalypse (Jendella Benson)- Reflections as a parent on the terrifying turn of world events.

Fuck Trump, But Fuck You Too: No Unity With Liberals (Bobby London)- Liberals are holding back any effective resistance, and maintaining the hierarchy of violence.

They interned my family. Don’t let them do it to Muslims. (George Takei)- George Takei–yes, that George Takei–has a warning from recent history.

Not guilty does not mean innocent (Rashida Islam)- A reminder, for those who have some weird vested interest in defending rapists.

Stop Calling Human Trafficking “Modern Day Slavery” (Eminism)- Some points as to why this phrase is inaccurate and appropriative.

Unaccompanied minors (judeinlondon)- A twitter thread on the needs of refugee children and why white people reject them.

Obedience tests (pookleblinky)- A twitter thread on normalising fascism and how we must disrupt at every step.

And finally, meet the Horniman Walrus, London’s most terrifying taxidermy, and read this cute little interview. As a bonus, have some ugly medieval cats. Yes, two jolly links today, because everything is terrible.


Why World Toilet Day is far more important than International Men’s Day

Content note: this post discuses suicide, transphobia, and racism

Each year, we have a little giggle that International Men’s Day happens to fall on the same day as World Toilet Day: teehee, November 19th is all about being full of shit! Now, I hate to be the humourless killjoy, but, yes, IMD is pretty much a load of rubbish but World Toilet Day is actually rather important and meaningful. Sadly, only one of these awareness days is trending today, and it’s not the important one.

World Toilet Day matters. The UN have shared some vital statistics about the nature of the problem. 2.4 billion people in the world do not have access to the improved sanitation facilities that we in the West take for granted. Up to one in ten people in the world are still forced to defecate out in the open. Diarrhoea–a fairly unpleasant inconvenience for those of us lucky enough to live in developed countries–is still a killer, with over 300,000 children a year dying from diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation and a lack of access to clean drinking water.

This year’s World Toilet Day theme is toilets and jobs (stop giggling at the back). Did you know that poor sanitation and access to hygiene facilities is one of the biggest workplace killers? 17% of workplace deaths around the world are caused by this, and yet toilet access seldom features when we discuss workers’ rights.

Toilet access is a driver of gender inequality across the world, too. A lack of access to a place to pee privately keeps girls out of school and women out of work. The privacy alone is an issue, although it is exacerbated for those who have periods, and have nowhere to safely, cleanly and privately change menstrual dressings.

Even in the West, where the sanitation itself is highly unlikely to kill us and the worst we’ll encounter is one of those weird French toilets where you have to squat (I know they’re better for you, but I still find them pretty terrifying to use), there are still bog-battles to be won.

In the workplace, around the world and the West included, some workers are unable to access toilet breaks. A recent expose of Asos warehouses found that workers were forced to meet with ridiculous targets or lose their jobs, and so were unable to take toilet breaks–and if they did, they were searched on their way in and out of the loo. And this is taking place in a developed country where the toilet facilities are a short distance away and physically present in the workplace!

Toilets are a site of social exclusion for many, preventing some people from leaving the house. For example, fear of being “caught short” stops elderly people from going out, leading them to feel as though they are “tethered by a bladder leash” (H/T @stitchandsow). This is, of course, exacerbated by mobility issues. Despite regulations surrounding toilet access for disabled people, a lot of the time, while nominally fulfilling duties, disabled people are still unable to access the toilet. Again, these are issues in countries which supposedly have laws allowing access to toilets, and hit far harder where such laws do not exist, and such physical access is even harder.

As well as being able to physically access the toilet, issues surround a more social pressure. This article on the history of toilet access being used to exclude people from public life is an absolute must-read. To summarise, though, when public toilets first became A Thing in the 19th century, toilets were used to exclude women from working life. During segregation, public loos were a battleground. And now we have the latest iteration, as the right wing attempt to ban trans people from using the right toilet facilities for their genders.

There are so many important conversations to be had about the toilet, and yet instead of having the space to discuss them, we are once again constrained by men taking up space. International Men’s Day is a bit of a joke, broadly marked by misogynistic professional victims, and definitely without a flavour of internationality, focusing mainly on privileged white dudes playing at being oppressed. Even the key talking point–men’s suicide rate–is perhaps better discussed elsewhere. After all, while men have a higher proportion of successful suicides, women attempt at the same rate and may even think about suicide more. So maybe it would be better if we talked about gender and suicide without centring entirely around men: there’s Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th!

So from now on, I won’t be mentioning International Men’s Day any more, and on November 19th, I’ll be talking about a key issue affecting people around the globe: the humble pisser. World Toilet Day is an awareness day where we all need to be more aware.

Everyone has a right to piss and shit in dignity and privacy, yet too many people are denied this. We must fight for access for all–and this needs to start with actually talking about it.

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Against proposals

Content note: this post discusses on coercion in relationships

Recently, I had the abject misfortune to find myself part of a captive audience to a public proposal. I veered between burning mortification, obsessive checking that the woman was in fact definitely happy about this, and fury because I really needed a wee and this public proposal was going on right in front of my route to the toilet.

Public proposals have been discussed a lot in feminist circles, often viewed as coercive, rooted in insecurity, and not giving the person being proposed to a decent chance to say no. In short, they’re not romantic, they’re manipulative. This additional social pressure, with all eyes on you, makes it incredibly difficult to refuse, especially if the relationship you’re in already has overtones of coercive control. If you’re on TV, on a crowded street, on a packed aeroplane, you know that everyone is expecting you to say “yes” so everyone can feel good–and for women in particular this is the sort of situation where we’re socialised to avoid letting everyone down.

And of course, it’s almost always women being proposed to by men. You may have the odd same-sex couple or woman proposing to a man, and these are so remarkable they appear all over the bloody news (thus furthering the pressure).

Public proposals are, in short, dire. I don’t believe in carceral measures for massive social problems, but if I did, I’d make public proposals punishable by death.

However, what I want to talk about is wider: the notion of the proposal itself. This, too, is unnecessary and actually rather weird when we drill down into it. Many couples, when deciding to get married, deploy the following format: one partner “pops the question” to the other, with a little bit of pomp and ceremony, perhaps kneeling and a bit of jewellery. The words uttered are usually a variation on the theme of “will you marry me?”, and the proposee will then say either yes or no.

Getting married is a major life decision, and yet it is the only major life decision I can think of which involves a bizarre ritual in making the decision. We do not buy a ring while figuring out whether to go to university or not. We do not book a fancy restaurant to have a think about buying a house. We do not get down on one knee when deciding if we want to have children. We do not put a cute little question in a fortune cookie when working through the various treatment options for an illness.

All of this would be ludicrous, and this is because all of these major life decisions are not just simple questions, but rather discussions that need to take place in an ongoing process, which include all affected parties. They can be boiled down into a blunt yes/no question, but we know it would be ridiculous to do so.

Now, I don’t doubt that people who decide to marry have these discussions after the question has been asked: I fervently hope everyone talks it through absolutely thoroughly and doesn’t just dive into planning the wedding. Some might even have these conversations before, rendering the proposal itself a strictly performative gesture.

There is something distasteful about the framing of the question itself: “Will you marry me?” as opposed to a more mutual “Let’s get married”, which could grow organically from conversations about your relationship, where you want it to go, and so forth.

The nature of the proposal as a ritual is rooted, perhaps, in traditional heterosexual patriarchal expectations of how romance works. There is assumed to be an opacity to your partner’s thoughts, needs and feelings, which must somehow be elucidated. This is unnecessary: just by communicating, you can know, always, which page your lover is on. The veil of uncertainty of their intentions within the relationship needs not to be pierced if it is not there in the first place. If we all simply talked to each other, there’d be no need for all the rigmarole.

Capitalism, too, no doubt plays its own part: diamond rings became a part of the ritual for real people following a marketing campaign in 1938 when the Depression had flushed the price of diamonds down the toilet and diamond cartels wanted to get rich. As with Christmas, yes, there were some ancient traditions (the rich sometimes used diamond rings from the Renaissance onwards), but more importantly, capitalism saw it as the opportunity to profit. Along with the marketing for the rings, there was a marketing for something else: the proposal as an occasion, rather than an idea that comes into being mutually, with little ceremony.

Until recently, it was fairly traditional to ask the woman’s father’s permission to get married. Thankfully, this tradition has decayed and continues to wither. This is good, because it is grossly patriarchal in the most literal sense. Perhaps in the future we will see this happen to proposals themselves: an utterly unnecessary tradition.

Some people like grand romantic gestures, and I suppose, good for them. YKINMKBYKIOK. Just please, please, communicate rather than pop a question.

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Taking Back Cuntrol: a post-Brexit marmite made from vaginal yeast

Content note: this post is about food

A few weeks ago Britain had its first taste of food shortages after it voted to crash its economy. Unilever briefly stopped supplying Tesco due to a dispute about prices. Around the same time, disgraced former former minister Liam Fox, who is currently in charge of figuring out post-Brexit trade, issued a call for innovative jams to become one of Britain’s chief exports.

In this climate, I decided there was no time like the present to start making a yeast extract from my vaginal sourdough starter: again, it’s my damn scientific mind, which sparked previous weird experiments. It took me a while, but the results were quite promising, and if Liam Fox won’t eat it, it just shows he has no confidence whatsoever in Brexit. Or British Values, because I’m sure making my own cunt marmite when there was a shortage is the epitome of that make-do-and-mend Blitz Spirit.

So, the headline: yes, it’s possible to make a quite tasty yeast extract spread from vaginal yeast, but my god, it’s a massive *puts on sunglasses* faff.

could

Now, the full recipe is currently available to patrons only, although will be made public in a little over a month. For as little as $1, you can read the recipe now, completely free from the trappings of recipe stories on blogs. When I make it public, there’ll be a lot of scrolling.

Let’s begin at the end, when I finally ate the damn stuff. What did it taste like?Final product

Answer: not like marmite, but tasty anyway. It was sort of sweet, like chutney, with a strong umami edge: not as strongly umami as marmite, but more like the more delicate flavour of vegemite. The closest thing I could compare it to is brown sauce. I had very low expectations for the project, with my bar set at “Troll Everyone” with bonus outcomes being “Actually Produce Something Edible” and the most unreachable desirable outcome being “Edible And Actually Quite Nice”. Somehow, I succeeded in the Edible And Actually Quite Nice, with nobody being more surprised than me.

And why was I surprised? Because it started life as this:

yeast

That right there is some of my sourdough starter (to which, you’ll remember, I added some vaginal juices when I first started growing it), modified to make it more liquid and therefore frothier. Literally nobody, as far as I could discover, has ever made yeast extract from sourdough starter, so I was having to improvise the whole thing from start to finish. Recipes tended to call for either bakers’ yeast or brewers’ yeast. Having neither, I settled for making something which had a consistency somewhere between the two of them. It took a couple of days to get the yeast ready.

Yeast extract is made by autolysing yeast. In lay terms, this means forcing the yeast to eat itself and then enjoying the delicious, tasty by-product of its own self-destruction. It’s probably a pretty decent metaphor for the Tories, which is another reason why Liam Fox should definitely eat my vagemite, unless he’s too chicken.

In practical terms, autolysis is triggered by incubating the yeast at a precise temperature, or under a precise pressure, or a little bit of both. It’s also helped along by salt.

If you’re making yeast extract in a factory, you’ll need specialist equipment to put it under pressure, keep it at a very precise temperature, getting the pressure right, and so on and so forth. Hell, if you’re making it at home, you probably need some specialist equipment: some recipes call for a pressure cooker, while others call for a hob where you have a decent amount of control over the temperature. I have neither of these things, but I jury-rigged a very high-tech incubation chamber anyway.

15 hours in

The full recipe explains exactly how I autolysed yeast without any specialist equipment, and it actually did work, to my utmost shock. The picture above shows the yeast after the incubation. The dark band is the yeast extract itself. That’s what yeast extract is: a dark liquid that comes off of autolysis of yeast.

I incubated it in total for about 26 hours: I’d intended to do 24 hours, but I was playing a really awesome game called Night Witches with pals, so I was out for a bit longer. Strongly recommend playing Night Witches, by the way, if you like any of the following things: communism, planes, women’s history, yelling DAKA DAKA MOTHERFUCKER at imaginary Nazis.

A few hours into the incubation, it started smelling a bit like marmite. 15 hours in, and it definitely smelled like marmite. Once the incubation was done and I strained it, I sneaked a taste of the yeast extract, and it tasted… not like marmite, nor vegemite, but maybe the cheap off-brand yeast extracts you might end up accidentally buying.

I left it to separate further for a couple of days, and then my next task was to reduce it down from a liquid to something with a consistency of marmite, and to flavour it. While you can eat yeast extract on its own, and you can buy that from health food shops, it’s pretty horrible, so you need to flavour it. Even proper marmite is flavoured a bit.

I used the water from boiling vegetables to flavour mine. Specifically, I boiled up two carrots, a small pumpkin, some baby pickled onions and a normal onion. This probably explains why it has that sweet edge to it, because carrots and pumpkin are both quite sweet, and maybe my tastebuds are weird, but I also think baby pickled onions are sweet. Incidentally, I only used pumpkin because the recipe I’d seen called for turnips, and they didn’t have any in the shop, but they had loads of pumpkins. Here’s what it looked like when I multitasked reducing the yeast extract and boiling veg:

reducing

I then plonked the vegetable water into the pan with the yeast extract, and let that reduce. While it was still liquid, it would have made a passable gravy.

not gravy

Sadly, I had to keep on reducing. And I reduced and reduced, until eventually, after a week, I managed to produce… probably about 3 tablespoons of vagemite.

finished

I let it cool, and then I ate it. I ate the whole fucking lot of it, because it was surprisingly nice. It seems like sourdough starter doesn’t produce quite as much yeast extract as more conventional yeasts, so if I were to do it again, for, say, when Liam Fox eats it to prove he has confidence in Brexit, I’d probably use a lot more sourdough starter than I did here.

I think it would probably go quite nicely with a sharp, mature cheddar in a sandwich, or perhaps in a savoury cheesecake made with quark.

So what have I proved here? That, in the event of a second marmite shortage as prices rise after Brexit, you can make it at home reasonably cheaply, but it won’t particularly taste the same. That it’s probably much better mass-producing the stuff. That it is a lot of fucking effort to make marmite, but it is possible. That you can make it out of sourdough starter and it doesn’t–as all the forums said while dismissing the idea–taste in the least bit funky. That Liam Fox is a fucking wanker… but I didn’t need to take a week of fiddling about with yeast to know that.

Full recipe on Patreon.

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Things I read recently that I found interesting

Welcome to the occasional link round-up. Here are some things I read recently that I found interesting.

Aberfan: The mistake that cost a village its children– On the anniversary of the tragedy, survivors, rescuers and families tell their stories.

“I’m not looking for a new England”: On the Limitations of Radical Nationalism (Kojo Koram)- How nationalism cannot be reclaimed, and a better model.

A post-Brexit spike in homophobic hate crime? It’s a part of ‘taking back control’ (James Butler)- The increased violence is a feature, not a bug.

Gender stereotypes have made us horrible at recognizing autism in women and girls (Matthew Rosza)- A useful introduction into gender and autism.

Porn Didn’t Ruin Your Sex Life. Sorry. (Kitty Stryker)- A porn performer explores what actually ruins sex lives (tl;dr it’s men).

Men’s Silent Consent Of Rape Culture (Shane Thomas)- I don’t usually recommend stuff about rape culture written by men. This is a very welcome exception.

Thirteen things I wish I’d learned before choosing non-monogamy (Lola Phoenix)- These points are all SO important, and currently poly/non mono people should read and take note, too.

And finally, it was Ursula Le Guin’s 87th birthday. Did you know that as well as being an awesome SFF writer, she loves cats, and writes blogs about her cat? And from her cat’s point of view? And there’s loads of pictures of her cat, too? Here’s Le Guin’s Annals of Pard.