29 January 2008

Working with boys

I like my job. I like the guys I work with, I have no trouble working with guys. But sometimes they annoy me and make me feel insecure.


We all play our music via the networked iTunes. In theory, everyone can play whatever they like, as long as it is not too annoying. Every once so often, we all bring in a favorite Top 10 based on some theme. In reality, things are slightly different. My music mostly is met with scorn and laughter, especially if the artist is known to be gay or popular with gays. Not homophobic or really nasty remarks, but stuff like "Who the hell is playing this?" Stuff that can be played without remarks is indie, eighties and quirky (I have sat through the soundtrack of Sweeney Todd as well as through 7 (SEVEN) volumes of The Best TV Theme Tunes!) So I end up choosing stuff i think they will like but is still as close to my taste as possible. I know not to play Joni Mitchell, EmmyLou Harris or Indigo Girls. REM is allowed. Kaiser Chiefs is OK too and so on.

Another example.

One of the guys suggested a movie club. They all talk about movies all the time so maybe it would be fun if we all suggested a movie to see so we can discuss that when we are sitting around chatting. Good idea I said but can we really pick anything we like or should it be in line with the general taste? No, it could be anything you like. Needless to say, most suggestions are things like Star Wars, Spiderman, Transformers, James Bond, Night of the Living Dead, Batman etc etc. I asked what about stuff like Brokeback Mountain, Kramer vs Kramer, The Queen, la Vie en Rose etc. This was met with a general feeling of dismissal. I would not feel comfortable suggesting we all watch films like Sister My Sister or Portrait of a Marriage. Fantastic as they both are, the plot revolves around a lesbian storyline and I can already tell you what the response would be if the guys had to watch that! OK then, so just like the music choice, there really isn't a choice when it is not something they know they will like right away.

Yesterday, someone sent around the question: If you could have your wicked way with any fictional character, who would it be. The character, not the actress playing her.
Tricky one. Was I going to answer truthfully or give some random answer that I knew would not be laughed at? Suggestions made by the guys ranged from Xena and Daisy from Dukes of Hazard to some elf warrior from Lord of the Rings. All of them mainly pretty women. So I thought I would answer the actual question: what CHARACTER, not actress. My choices were CJ Cregg (if she was younger!), White House Press Secretary in West Wing, or Kim Legaspi, Kerry Weaver's partner in ER. I do not think the actresses are pretty or particularly attractive but I like the characters they play. Needless to say my choices were met with surprise and jovial laughter. "But they are old", "They are ugly", "You like grannies?". I explained again that the question was about the characters they played, not the actresses themselves. Nobody said: "but she is an elf" or "But she is a dumb blonde bimbo" when other suggestions were made by the guys.

So, it must be a girl thing. I went for the actual character, not for how they looked. Wrong choice. Next time I will just pick the music nobody will laugh at, the films everyone already likes and choose blonde bimbos with no character and big tits.

I don't mind working with guys but just sometimes I get really insecure when they make fun of some stuff I say, do or like. As if it has less value because it is 'gay' stuff. As if I only like certain films or music or women because there is something typically lesbian about it.

In 2 weeks time, another woman will start working here. I don't care if she is gay or not. I am just glad I am not the only woman here anymore. Now obviously I need to get on with her first before forming some kind of Sisterhood (see post below:-)

PS: JD thinks I am making way too much of a fuss about this. If they do not like the stuff I suggest, I should just say: tough shit, they are my choices, just like REO Speedwagon and Spiderman is your choice. They don't seem to mind that raving on about Transformers actually makes them look like little boys, rather than men. So why should I mind that listening to Indigo Girls makes me look like a lesbian if that is what I am?

Christians say the funniest things...

Masturbation can sometimes be wrong and it can sometimes not. If you masturbate thinking about how pretty the flowers are and how you want a puppy, essentially that's not wrong. But most times, that is not the case. I believe that when one masturbates a high percentage of the time they are fantasizing about a sexual partner therefore making masturbation lust. Lust, as the Bible states, is a sin. But masturbation is something that people in general should stay away from because it's hard not to lust whilst doing it. From: Fundies say the darndest things

Freedom is the ability to choose the good. Being able to choose the evil, or promoting evil detracts from our ability to choose the good. Therefore, it detracts from our freedom for condoms to be legal. From:
Catholic Answers Forum

25 January 2008

Oprah: race before gender?

Oprah Winfrey has had lots of flack for strongly supporting Barack Obama in the US Primaries. Many women, her biggest fan base, were angry that she put race before gender and supported a black man instead of a white woman. Oprah has always strongly campaigned for women's rights and nowhere near as vocally for 'black rights'. But even so, she is a woman and she is black.

Many back women in America will have to choose between race or gender. I am at a loss as to why one is better than the other. The women who are so angry with Oprah claim she betrayed them for supporting a man. But how about the black people who might feel she betrayed them, if she was supporting a white person?

As far as I am aware, Oprah was born both a woman and black so how can she possibly betray one by choosing the other.

Fair enough if those women are disappointed with Oprah's choice for a man, but how can it be betrayal when you support a black candidate?

Is this related to this ridiculous idea of Sisterhood that many women seem to have when it comes to Empowerment? Some kind of strange need to claim another woman as 'one of them', a Sister.

I have seen this many times when going to concerts of lesbian artists. For some reason I can not explain, lesbians seem to like certain artists more than others. for example, I was 'in to' Janis Ian, Melissa Etheridge and the Indigo Girls long before I 'knew' I was a lesbian and I certainly had no idea they were lesbians. I purely liked the music.

However, when I started going to their shows, I found some quite open hostility to straight women at those shows. Not so much to their boyfriends but when waiting in line at the venues, many lesbians would claim only they were REAL fans because only they understood her, only they had followed her entire career, only they were so devoted (read:insane) so follow he around Europe on a 50-date tour etc. etc. etc.

The anger and scathing words when a known lesbian does not feel like becoming a spokesperson for the gay community. As if it is some kind of obligation. Example:Lilly Tomlin. Out lesbian but does not do much in support of the community. And for that, the lesbian press regularly portrays her as a coward or even a traitor. Why? Why? What gives you the right to say that someone else should spend their time fighting YOUR cause just because they have one thing in common with you?

Maybe all this just shows women are nowhere near as independent and strong as they would like and still need to form alliances to feel they are strong enough.

I just feel it is all pretty pathetic.

21 January 2008

Alison Moyet - The Turn

In my stereo right now, on permanent rotation (or should I say: on my computer?), is Alison Moyet's latest offering, The Turn.

I have always liked Alison Moyet (Liked her a lot in Yazoo but her solo album Hoodoo is my favorite, eventhough she herself apparently doesn't think much of it) but nothing major. Not like I (used to) like Janis Ian or The Indigo Girls. Her greatest hits album Singles has been in my car for months and JD & I really like Whispering Your Name and Solid Wood.

At work, someone played Whispering Your Name the other day and I mentioned that I really like that song. They looked at me and said was not a surprise and infact a bit stereotypical. My quizzed look made them elaborate: Whispering Your Name is apparently a gay/lesbian anthem.

Silly me. As a lesbian I was of course supposed to know this. I was also supposed to know Alison Moyet has a big lesbian following. Erhm.....nope. Didn't know. Just liked the music. Didn't even know if she is a lesbian or not or what. Clearly I am not really 'in' withthe scene these days.

So I did some Googling and noticed she has a new album out. And then it went one better; she is touring. In Northampton no less. So I bought 2 tickets for JD and me to go and see Alison Moyet. When I came home, I found JD actually listening to Alison Moyet (Love Letters) whilst working. Speaking of timing :-) JD was very happy with the tickets and I got the new album as well. It is a really nice album. I am not sure it really is JD's thing but JD is always able to appreciate quality, even if it is not exactly her type of music.

So, you could do worse than buy The Turn on Amazon or Bol.com. Alison's music is nothing like Yazoo and the old stuff she did in the 80s. This is mature stuff with a wonderful voice. I am very much looking forward to Februari.

Update: Oh.My.God. I have just learned that Yazoo will play 4 shows later this year! Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke back together! I think I have just wet myself. I am SO going to try and get tickets for that.

Public Sector tenders...only a fool gets involved!

When tendering for contracts in the public sector, you are usually asked to complete a questionnaire about your business practices before you are even allowed to submit a tender proper. This is the Pre Qualification Questionnaire. if they like your answers, you then might get an invitation to actually submit a tender.

I am all for equal opportunities, racial equality, green policies and health & safety at work. But things are getting out of hand.
Let's have a look at a PQQ I am currently working on for a SMALL job for a local council.

The PQQ (remember, not a tender at all, you are not able to show your company's product or work here, merely showing that you abide by government policies) is about 15 pages long.

It contains questions such as:

- Names of all directors
- Any outstanding or past litigation claims against the company
- Organisational chart and CVs of all personnel
- Balance sheet (for past 3 years)
- Profit/loss accounts and cost of sales (for past 3 years)
- Full notes on accounts
- Directors' reports (for past 3 years)
- Auditor's reports (for past 3 years)
- Copies of all insurance certificates
- Name & job title of Health & Safety officer
- Health & Safety Policy (the entire policy, not just the policy statement!)
- Have there been any accidents in the past 5 years, if so describe them and include copies of accident reports
- Examples of risk assessments you have done for your company

Lost the will to live yet? Well, there's more.

- Include your Equality Policy (the entire policy, not just a statement)
- How do you make people aware of your equality policy? (Provide proof of this with things such as recruitment advertisements etc)
- Send examples of the instructions, documents, recruitment advertisements or other literature that prove you implement the equality policy
- Provide details of make up of your workforce, specifying number of men, women, ethnic minorities & disabled employees and specify their grade or position within the company
- Do you have targets regarding the make up of the workforce? If not, why not, if yes, please include evidence.

Let's move on swiftly as there is plenty more to come

- Provide evidence of your environmental policy
- Do you have an environmental policy?
- Do you have an official EMS, if so please provide details and enclose certificates
- Who is responsible for your environmental performance?
- Outline the major environmental impacts of your company and what steps you take to improve performance
- Include your Quality manual
- Include your customer care code

for the record: that is just a selection of the question.

Note how at NO POINT are you asked anything about your ability to deliver the product you want to tender for.
After having completed this form, you are to post it off and then some public servant will go through the dozens of entries and pick the company that ticks all the boxes. Only then will they get an invitation to tender which will be a repeat of the PQQ and a small brief on their requirements.

Now, if we are talking construction work or some other, manufacturing-based project, then I could understand the need for all this. But no. This PQQ goes out to EVERYONE who wants to tender for their business, even if you are looking to supply their toilet paper.

I would like to provide graphic design services with a small company. And to be even allowed to get a look at the actual tender, I need to have a member of staff spending almost a full week's work on completing the PQQ. We have a company handbook that is full of common sense stuff like: recycle as much as possible, we are an equal opportunities employer and discrimination on whatever ground is not tolerated, please help keep the place safe, do not play with matches and the fire exits are here, here and here. More than enough for peopel to realise they should use common sense and we care for them.

What am I supposed to do? A risk assessment on how to flush the toilets? I mean, the only thing we do here in the office is sit at our desks and use Macs to design stuff. How does that need an environmental policy? Or risk assessments?

But no. That is not exact enough. Not enough targets to measure, not enough time wasted on writing long documents nobody ever reads. All they will check is: has this company been stupid enough to write all these policies and copy them a million times to include in this tender? If yes, then we will give the suckers the chance tto send in a tender. And then we will still choose the cheapest of them all.

So it doesn't matter if you are a brilliant company with no detailed environmental policy. If you do not tick all the boxes of policies and documents, you can forget it.

These things are designed to put small businesses off even bothering to try for the business. It is a fucking travesty. Small businesses do not have the time or staff to spend days on completing these ridiculous PQQs. And nobody cares either. The public sector bodies ask the questions because the law says they have to.

They won't READ your policies. They will merely check you have included them o that they have covered their own ass when it comes to meeting their own targets.