26 Aug 2015


The majority of media is very against Jeremy Corbyn at the moment. I'm not sure why - if he becomes Labour leader, they will be able to stir the right wing readership into apoplexy on a weekly basis, generating ample clickbait. Corbyn said, when discussing policies, that he was interested in reducing public sexual harassment experienced by women and it had been suggested to him that introducing women-only carriages on train might help.
It's being claimed he's trying to depersonalise women, that it's inherently misogynist, that segregation is evil, and most importantly to the (white)(male)(affluent) journalists, NOT ALL MEN ARE SEXUAL PREDATORS.
Waaah, they cry. Why do women hate us? Why do sites like EverydaySexism exist? NOT ALL MEN rape. NOT ALL MEN sexually harass women. NOT ALL MEN are evil.

To which a swathe of women roll their eyes, because once again, men are making it all about them.
Guess what? Over a thousand women reported sexual assault on public transport to the BTP last year. The number of individuals assaulted is probably far higher, since women tend to be reluctant to report sex crimes. It's not unique to Britain - in fact, Japan have implemented women-only carriages to prevent groping on trains. Trains and stations are really good hunting grounds for sexual predators. Smaller stations tend to have very few, if any, staff milling around. Trains can be enormous, with only one or two staff circulating. Nobody wants to make a fuss on the train, because stopping it causes major delays and inconvenience, not to mention embarrassment. If you travel on the train reasonably frequently, it's likely you've been stuck in a carriage with someone you really don't want to be, whether through their aggressive manner, their overbearing demeanour, or just sitting far too close to you. And what you do is focus really hard on your phone or ipod or whatever, and hope they go away.

I was alone on the train to London a while ago, at 9:30am on a Saturday. Sat behind me were six pissed young men, who had reservation for a four seater table and the seat next to me and in front of me, but preferred to all lurch around the gangway around the table. They weren't being aggressive, just high spirited, but they were harassing any staff who needed to make their way past and anyone sitting by themselves. As I was sitting next to one of 'their' seats, they kept sitting down and trying to talk to me. Then one of them gave me a big, unsolicited cuddle. Yay me.
Now that's not a sexual assault. Annoying, embarrassing, inappropriate but not criminal. But it still scared me. I've been sexually assaulted a few times to varying degrees of awful, and it never ceases to amaze me how many men think that just being a woman by yourself means you DEFINITELY want their attention. Perhaps it is from some misplaced sense of chivalrous protection. I once had some men on a bin lorry leap off and 'cuddle' men in the middle of the street. I was 14 and in school uniform, I'm not sure what part of that they read as sexual availability, but there we go. I'm not sure why some men think cuddling women they don't know is acceptable behaviour. But they do.

And that's the real problem. It's not women whining and moaning and claiming all men are rapists. It's men thinking their attention, however benign, is a gift to women in their vicinity, combined with women being taught (mainly by the media) that all men are just waiting to drag them away and rape them. It's a culture where women who are raped or assaulted by strangers are then asked WHY they talked to this strange man in the first place. Women are expected to prevent themselves being raped or assaulted by PSYCHIC MEANS. The only sensible way for women to do this is to not talk to strangers.
It is time we flipped the narrative. A lot of men complain that feminism is unnecessary in the modern age, that men and women ARE equal, and the gynocracy is emasculating them. They want to be allowed to open doors for women, and carry their bags and not be called a rapist. They want to be viewed as chivalrous, not predatory.
So how about we start teaching men how to recognise and react to social cues? That when a woman is studiously staring at her phone or has earphones in, she doesn't want to talk? You certainly don't get to pull her earphones out unless the place is literally on fire.
That a woman has the right to not talk to you, if she doesn't want to, and that doesn't make her a stuck up bitch? She doesn't even have to give you a reason.
That feeling awkward and rejected doesn't give you the right to shout or hurt or do anything other than feel awkward and rejected?
That there is literally no silent social contract which makes unsolicited sexual contact OK?

Because it's not all men. It really isn't, and women know that. But it's enough men to have no idea who is safe and who isn't. It's enough men that in any given ten women, two will have experienced a sexual assault.

The women suggesting segregated carriages aren't generally man-hating lunatics: they are simply trying to find a way to protect themselves while our culture continues to do very little to stop men harassing women.

5 Aug 2015

Breastfeeding Tips

So, since my Alex was born last month, I've restarted breastfeeding. It's only been a year gap since I weaned my middle boy (aged 3, where's my fucking medal?) so I wasn't expecting it to be too big a deal. Indeed, the hospital were so taken aback by my willingness to feed and reluctance to be 'shown how' that they wrote "declined support" in the breastfeeding part of my notes.
But it's actually been harder than I expected. Not because of Alex: he's a good feeder and ACTUALLY SLEEPS PRAISE GOD. But because I forgot about feeding newborns and how exhaustingly full on it can feel. So, here's some top tips on establishing breastfeeding that you didn't ask for.

1: Get comfy
It is a lot easier to relax and feed your kid if you're comfortable. First, grab a drink, and your phone. Go to the toilet if you need to: baby won't actually scream himself to death in 60 seconds. If you're not comfortable feeding in front of people, go find a more private space. If you're leaning up in bed, support yourself with pillows. If you're in a chair, sit back and put the telly on. Bring the baby to your boob, rather than your boob to the baby because that way lies stiffness and aching which might just be too much in the postnatal awful. Some babies take 20 minutes to feed, some take 5, some take bloody hours. You don't know how long you're going to be in that position, so start right.

2: Lanolin cream is your new God
Your nipples are not used to being sucked in the vice like grip of a baby's maw, and can get quite sore even from one bad latch. Lanolin cream is safe for the baby to suck, so you don't have to worry about it poisoning him, and it turns nipples bulletproof in days.

3: You don't have to put up with a bad latch
Babies, in their desperate haste to eat yet more milk, will occasionally snap onto your boob wrong. You know it's wrong because you shriek, and then sometimes, you bleed. If you do bleed, by the way, it won't hurt the baby but if the blood is coming from inside your nipple, tell your midwife or HV.
Should the baby latch go awry, pop a finger between baby's mouth and your nipple, and try again. Do not leave the baby latched wrong, however much he squeals in indignation that you've stolen his food. Aim your nipple at the back of his throat, wait for him to tip his head back with his mouth like a baby bird, and shove it in. You won't hurt him. Even at a month old, Alex still needs a bit of a prod to stop him sucking his fist or arm instead of the perfectly good boob millimetres from him.
A good latch might feel a bit uncomfortable and strong, but it shouldn't make you scream. Ask for help if you cant seem to get the hang of it.

4: Engorgement feels like hell, but it is normal.
When your milk comes in, fuck a duck it hurts. It is often accompanied by the three day blues, which make you hate the world and weep over nothing. Giant, rock solid boobs, with fluey symptoms and uselessly unsupportive nursing bras make everything worse. But guess what? It lasts about 24 hours and then it's done. Cold cabbage leaves really do work and so does a warm shower.
You GAVE BIRTH: you can do this.

5: Cluster feeding is also normal
Cluster feeding is how babies tell boobs to make more milk, usually in response to growth spurts. But I have never seen it mentioned in breastfeeding help from official sources, and it nearly drove me to despair with my eldest. Basically, your baby will feed pretty much non-stop for four to six hours, commonly in the evening when you are tired and wanting the baby to get off and let you sleep. It can, however, prompt relatives to ask if you're SURE the baby's getting enough, and suggest that maybe you should stop feeding (see 9 for more on this). It is a recipe for crisis if you're not sure of yourself. But know this my friend, it is normal. Your boobs are amazing at responding to the baby's needs and it only lasts a day or so at a time.

6: Breastfed babies get wind
Some people think they don't. Trust me, they do. You can feel it in their solid little bellies after a feed (normally, there is squidge). Sit them up, let them sick it up a bit and then offer some more if they're still rooting.

7: Don't be afraid to ask for help
Birth can make women feel incredibly insecure and stupid. Midwives can (if you're unlucky) exacerbate this by making it look SOO EASY to feed babies. They come along and force the baby's head on your boob as if by bloody magic, leaving you none the wiser as to how to do it. Then they want to observe you feeding, which is hardly confidence inspiring. Then they give you conflicting advice. So, assert yourself a little. Ask them to slow down and show you properly. Personally, I found the pictorial guide in the NCT booklets better than anything anyone could tell me. If you're worried about anything - bleeding nipples, sicky baby, baby who won't stop crying, baby isn't interested in feeding, baby who never stops feeding, the way you feel - talk to your midwife or health visitor. Remember,  they want you to breastfeed too. You're not on your own in this.

8: Eat. Bloody eat! And drink!
You are a milk factory. You cannot make it out of thin air. Eat! Drink!

9: You are allowed to tell people to piss off if they're being shit
If your baby latches, wees and poos and seems happy, then you're doing great. Family, particularly when they haven't breastfed themselves or if it's been ages, can be surprisingly pissy about the choice to breastfeed. THEY WANT TO FEED THE BABY DAMMIT. Well, they can't, and if they could it's not like they're going to come round and do bottles at 2am for you, is it?
If they're really getting you down, suggest they:
- Sit under the baby for two hours while you have a nap/a bath/a leap around the garden because your arms are finally free
- Bath the baby
- Cook you some food and stop being so fucking negative
This also applies any time people decide you are Doing Parenting Wrong because you're doing something they didn't.

10: It's OK not to breastfeed
Fuck knows it doesn't feel like it, but sometimes it just doesn't work, or isn't compatible with the way your life is. And that's OK. The baby needs feeding, you need your sanity, and these are both more important than the method. I was formula fed myself, so I can vouch for its life giving properties, and nearly starved to death first*, so I can also vouch for breastfeeding going wrong having severe consequences. Do what is right for your family.

Here, have some handy links:

* This was due to supply failure. This is a very unusual breastfeeding problem, that your HVs or midwives will pick up on through failure to thrive rather than just thinking the baby's not feeding enough. Don't mistake cluster feeding for not producing enough milk, but do get your baby weighed if you're concerned they're losing weight.