Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
Out of Tune book 2 edited by Jonathan Maberry, Lara Croft and the Blade of Gwynnever, and Crises and Conflicts edited by Ian Whates

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The EU Referendum part iii

So, I’ve been bouncing this around, and, of course, I’ve written about this before, on the day of the EU Referendum and a couple of days later.
Another thought... still just one woman
photo by James K Barnett

First of all, after my last post, I was accused of being undemocratic. That’s fine. Think what you like.

However, it would appear that some people are confusing an election with a referendum. An election must be acted upon, but a referendum is about asking the opinion of the people; it isn’t an automatic mandate for change. Our democracy requires that we vote for our representatives in parliament and then trust them to get on with the job. The referendum doesn't change that… A general election just might.

Now, for today’s thoughts.

I’m going to make some assumptions, and extrapolate.

Firstly, let’s assume that David Cameron gained power within his party and manoeuvred himself into the top slot in government with the backing of the Conservatives. In order to achieve this aim, Cameron had to do something to appease the Eurosceptics in his party, and he chose the promise of a referendum on membership of the EU as an enticement, a carrot, if you like. The Eurosceptics took the bait, and Cameron was elected as party leader, and, with the backing of the Eurosceptics, PM.

Of course, Cameron finally had to deliver on his promise, despite being in favour of remaining in the European Union.

Now, in the wake of the Exit vote, the Conservative party has no leader, and David Cameron is keeping the seat warm for the next leader of his party and the next PM.

Suppose that the Conservative party is largely against the Exit from Europe. Suppose that a candidate for leader emerges from the Remain brigade, and suppose that person becomes the new leader of the Conservative party and our new PM.

What then?

If Johnson or Gove don’t become the next PM, then whoever takes up the mantle might also decide not to pull the trigger on Article 50.

I imagine the first piece of business in this situation would be for the new PM to call a General Election. It might be the first and possibly only act of the next Prime Minister.

In effect, this makes the next general election a referendum on our EU membership.

But people vote very differently in a general election from the way they vote in a referendum.

If the Conservatives, Labour and the LibDems all fight from a platform of remaining in the EU, who does that leave to satisfy the referendum electorate?

Well, I guess that leaves UKIP. Can UKIP field enough MPs to gain a majority in the House of Commons? And if they can field enough MPs, can they win those seats?

History suggests that this is an impossible proposition.

If Wales and Cornwall were voting by-election style on an issue and not their political allegiances when they overwhelmingly voted for the Exit, then those voters might vote Labour in the next general election, particularly if the Labour party plays down Europe and offers a realistic way forward for some of the poorest areas in the UK. The Conservatives would face having to come out on top in a third general election in a row. (You notice I don't say ‘win a third general election in a row’, because the Conservatives didn’t win in 2010. It’s always been my contention that we ended up with a government that nobody elected, because there was no ‘coalition’ box to tick. I wonder how democratic my detractors think that situation was. But we endured it for five years.)

I don’t know what is going to happen over the next few months. I do know that, one way or another, it will probably all be over by Christmas.

The husband and I were only saying, the other day, how soon Christmas will be upon us, and how time flies. Now, I think the next six months could feel like an eternity.

I remain hopeful that this whole mess can be brought to a satisfying conclusion for the UK and for Europe. Right now, I’m not sure what that means.

I am European.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

The EU Referendum part ii

I lack the time today to be precise or coherent, but I had an idea, and I wanted to share it, so forgive me.
Just one woman's thoughts
(photo by James K Barnett)

It was nothing to how I felt in the early hours of Friday morning with my ear piece in, listening to the results of the election on the BBC.

Weren’t we all horrified?

It turns out that the ‘Leavers’ with their anti-establishment protests votes were horrified too. They didn’t expect or even want this result either.

How can anyone believe that their vote doesn’t count or doesn’t matter? Could it be because they have never been taught that the vote is a right, a privilege and a responsibility?

I have a solution to the problem… You knew I’d come up with something, right?

The downside is that it requires humility… Humility on the part of the politicians, the leaders. So you know it’s never going to happen.

I think, at this point, the leaders of all the major parties, including the SNP, should stand together and announce, in solidarity, that they are going to revoke the referendum. As I understand it, there is no legal reason why a referendum has to be acted upon. I think they should put out a joint statement explaining their reasons for coming to this decision, and then I think they should make citizenship classes compulsory in all schools.

Of course, I could be wrong, but I’ve seen too many vox-pops of ‘Leavers’ who didn’t understand the implications of what they were doing, who didn’t foresee the outcome, and who now deeply regret their decision.

Let them claim ignorance, and let’s fix that. At this point, I doubt there are very many people who would throw their arms up in horror. Those who would are in that vociferous minority of people who genuinely are racist and xenophobic, and it’s time we educated them, too.

The public has spoken… But they mis-spoke, and I suspect that they know it.

I am European!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The EU Referendum

Just one woman's thoughts
(photo by James K Barnett)
I’m writing this today, because stay or leave, I know that I’m going to feel very differently tomorrow.

Today, I feel stress and discomfort. I’m nervous in a way that has nothing to do with excitement.

My body is very reactive. I always physically feel my emotions, and today, I’m finding it hard to breathe and my stomach is a mess. I have never felt like this on polling day before.

I’ve been voting for thirty-three years. I have voted in every election for which I was eligible. I studied History as part of my degree, and universal suffrage was hard won by better men and women than I am. To vote is not just my right, it is my privilege. I have exercised that privilege dozens of times.

In all the years I have been voting, I have been on the losing side, particularly at the local level with Council elections, and my preferred candidate for MP has always been beaten at the polls.

I dread being on the losing side this time, and this feeling is partly responsible for my discomfort, for my stress.

But, I am uncomfortable for another reason. I am uncomfortable because this election campaign has been divisive.

I have been surprised and sometimes shocked by the things that have been said by people that I  respect and am even fond of. How and why people have come to the decisions they have reached is none of my business, and I understand that many of the people who disagree with me do so for very good reasons.

The problem is that the rhetoric of hatred and fear has so permeated this campaign that I find myself wrongly and inappropriately projecting that rhetoric onto the people who disagree with my stance on this issue. I have to remind myself that there are rational reasons for both staying in the EU and for leaving it.

Today, I read my ballot paper twice. I didn’t need to, because the question was worded as simply as could possibly be:



There was no room for error, and yet, I have been so bombarded by the rhetoric, and I was so sure of my response that I read the ballot paper twice, just to be absolutely certain of voting the way that I had always intended.

The polling station where I cast my vote was busy when I arrived. It would appear that there’s going to be a big turn-out for this one. Everyone has an opinion. I looked around me at the other voters, and I began to wonder who would vote stay and who would vote leave. I’ve never before wondered how another person, a total stranger, would vote. It was as if I was wondering which of these people, who are my neighbours, could be trusted.

I shook off the feeling; it was unwelcome and made me feel judgemental and uncomfortable.

I like to think of myself as a live and let live, everyone has good in them, kind of person. I don’t judge a person on race, creed or gender. I make a point of treating everyone with equal respect.

This morning, I found myself looking at people in a way that depressed me. I was looking for signs that a person was educated or politically aware…

There are no signs, and the educated and politically aware have perfectly sound reasons for choosing to vote either way in this election.

Trust me, if I can feel like this, anyone can feel like this. This morning, I had to talk myself out of my own latent prejudices, and I honestly didn't know that I had any.

In the end, it wasn’t about the vote itself, it was about people’s motivations. I wasn’t concerned about which way a person was going to vote, I was concerned that there might be people in the room who were racist. I wanted to see if anything in the way they looked or dressed, or presented themselves, or in their gestures or voices, would give them away.

That’s what this campaign has done. It has made me question what the people around me might be like, when I had always believed people to be essentially good.

The Brexit campaign has used immigration to persuade the voters to leave Europe. Remain have suggested that everyone in the Brexit campaign is racist.

Neither of these things is true, but it leaves all of us wondering.

Of course there have always been racists and xenophobes out there, but out there is the operative phrase. This campaign has suggested that these people are my neighbours and friends, and I object strongly to that.

The EU Referendum campaign has made me feel differently about people, and I don’t like it.

Tomorrow, I shall feel differently again. 

Stay or leave, I hope we can put all the rhetoric behind us, and I hope never to see another political campaign like this one.

We should all be ashamed.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Murder for Religious or Political Reasons

In the space of a single week, the biggest mass murder in American history was perpetrated, and we witnessed the first murder of a serving British MP since Ian Gow was killed by an IRA bomb in Eastbourne in 1990. 

I was incensed by the attack on the innocent people having a night out at Impulse gay club in Florida. My first reaction was to put some of those thoughts and feelings on paper. The problem is, I’ve done that before, and my feeling of powerlessness only increases with every mass shooting that happens in the USA… And, on average there’s one a day.

As John Oliver so eloquently put it:

A Latin night at a gay club in the theme park capital of the World… the ultimate symbol of what is truly wonderful about America.

I was about ready to blog on Impulse when Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen was murdered in her constituency. She was shot and stabbed outside the local library where she had held her constituency surgery. She was murdered in broad daylight, and 77 year old Bernard Carter-Kenny, the man who came to her aid remains critically ill in hospital. He was dropping his wife off at the library when he tried to intervene in the attack.

I held fire on writing a blog, partly because I was shocked and upset by the event, and partly because I heard the news during the evening of the day that it happened, and I generally write my blog in the mornings.

The first thing I do every day is check social media. I look at Twitter and Facebook, and track stories from there. The volume of tweets, status posts and media speculation came down on me like an avalanche, and much of it was conflicting.

The same things were being said about Jo Cox’s killer as are often said about the mass shooters we’re used to seeing in America.

Mental illness was widely talked about. Many claimed that Jo Cox’s murder was not politically motivated, and that the murder of an MP should not be used as political capital.

In the USA at the same time, Omar Mateen’s attack on Impulse was widely being reported as Terrorism (and yes, I did intend to use a capital ’T’).

I’m going to digress for a moment to talk terms.

We are used to words like ‘murder’ and ‘mass shooting’, but these are also technical terms, and I think it’s a good idea to make distinctions. 

‘Mass shooting’ is generally defined as 

the shooting of four or more victims at one location.

When the shooter is white, he is the shooter, when he has a name or a face like Omar Mateen’s he is a terrorist. The distinction is one of fear.

In UK law, ‘murder’ is defined as follows:

The actus reus of murder consists of the unlawful killing of a human being in the Queen's peace. The mens rea of murder is malice aforethought, which has been interpreted by the courts as meaning intention to kill or intention to cause GBH.

So far, so good. I’m going to add another definition:

Assassination is defined as:

Murder (of an important person) for religious or political reasons.

Tommy Mair was arrested for the murder of Jo Cox. Witnesses claim that he shouted racist slogans at the scene, and, in court he refused to give his name, age or address, saying,

My name is death to traitors freedom for Britain.

Tommy Mair has a history of mental health issues. He might also have a history of grotesque political influences. Racist and neo-Nazi material has been found among his possessions. He was an unemployed man who was willing to pay $150 for a book of what is thought to be art by Adolf Hitler. That’s an expensive book for anyone living on benefits. Tommy Mair also owned a gun in the country with the most rigorous gun control laws in the World. It is not clear whether he owned the gun legally; there is speculation that it may be an antique. Either way, Mair has been charged with ‘carrying a blade and having with him a firearm with the intent to commit an indictable offence’, alongside the murder and GBH charges.

We have recently witnessed a huge increase in hate- and fear-mongering in the British Press. It is widely associated with British immigration policies and with the referendum on membership of the EU. If Mair was already fearful, if he was already suffering with mental health issues, if he was already politically inclined to the far right, the Brexit campaign might have created the impetus to push this man over the edge, to turn him into a killer.

Is Tommy Mair an assassin?

In terms of the law, assassination is ill-defined and almost never used in charging killers. Assassination is synonymous with treason, and the British have a long and colourful history when it comes to that particular crime. Killers of religious and political figures are universally charged with murder.

Tommy Mair, regardless of semantics, might be all kinds of victim; he might be a victim of his own mental health problems, of unfortunate influences, of fear and anger and hatred. However, Mair claimed, in court, that his motivation for killing Jo Cox was political. He stated it clearly in response to the court asking his name.

There is political disaffection everywhere. We’ve seen it in the States with the rise of Donald Trump, and in the UK with the rise of UKIP. 

We’ve also seen the polarisation of politics with Bernie Sanders’s impressive run for President, and, in the UK with the rise of Jeremy Corbin to leader of the Labour Party.

Omar Mateen may have been a terrorist; he may have killed fifty people and injured fifty more for religious reasons. Perhaps he was a closeted gay man, perhaps he was mentally ill, or perhaps he was aligning himself with fundamentalist Muslims. 

Tommy Mair has told us why he killed Jo Cox.

I, for one, am infinitely less afraid of immigrants and of muslims than I am fearful of men like Tommy Mair, by which I don’t mean the mentally unstable.

I am afraid of disempowered white men who espouse extreme right wing politics; they are fundamentalists too, and there appear to be a great many of them. I am afraid of their ignorance and their anger and of the impact that could have on all of our lives.

Political unrest is not necessarily entirely negative, grass roots activism can be a great force for progress. Right now, I doubt that anything is coming from the grass roots. With people like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage, Neil Hamilton and Ian Duncan-Smith in the Brexit camp, it’s easy to see that this political manoeuvre is being orchestrated by the rich and powerful. These are people who want the poor to have less, not more. They want them to have fewer benefits, a privatised NHS and less funding for schools. The disempowered white man is falling for the rhetoric, because he is fearful.

If there is a revolt, and I can’t help thinking there needs to be one, and preferably before the referendum on Thursday, it won’t come from the disempowered working classes, it will come from the Liberal salaried classes, who want more and better for everyone.

Yes, I made this political, and not because I don’t have sympathy for the disillusioned and the disempowered. It is difficult to feel sympathy for Tommy Mair right now, but we must remember that he is among the least of us.

We remain, for what it’s worth, a Judaeo-Christian society, so I’m going to go ahead and quote the bible. I am not among the faithful, this is simply my way of trying to achieve universal understanding. This comes from Matthew 25.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Heaven is denied to those who do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, quench the thirsty, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned.

For those who don’t believe in heaven, this kind of morality, taught in all the major religions, still holds good.

Those same people who are pro-Brexit have not, so far as I can ascertain, espoused this kind of morality. Ian Duncan-Smith cut benefits to the poor, needy and disabled; Michael Gove crippled our schools, and Boris Johnson is on the record as being in favour of privatising the NHS, saying that if people had to pay for it they’d value it more.

I can't help wondering whether Tommy Mair's life might have been very different if he'd had the help he so clearly needed, the help that society could have given him. Education, healthcare and relief from poverty might have influenced Mair as much or more than right wing politicians of the Brexit stripe appear to have done.

Gove, Johnson, Farage and all the others are not the kinds of people I want influencing my decision making process, and they’re absolutely not the kind of people I want running the country.

Let us decide to do for the least of our brothers and sisters that which we might one day need to have done for us.

It might not be biblical, but Do as you would be done by isn’t such a bad approach to life.
Muslims for Peace in a London rally

For all those of you who still fear Muslims, there was a rally in London at the weekend run by the Husaini Islamic Trust UK. Thousands of Muslims took to the streets to promote peace and unity, and to denounce terrorism, but their efforts made very little impact on the news media.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

I do enjoy a good Comic Convention

In the past couple of years, the husband has upped his comic-book output.

He works a lot, and he works on a lot of projects, but the balance does vary from time to time, for all sorts of complicated reasons. While the husband’s still writing long-form fiction, games, and various other projects, quite a lot of his output is comic books right now. He’s getting a lot of enjoyment from it, and he’s having some success… Honestly, if you haven’t read Wild’s End or his recent run on Hercules, I can highly recommend both. Brink is proving very popular for 2000AD, and he’s currently working on Aquaman, Titans and Earth 2, all to considerable acclaim.

We don’t attend many conventions, not least because the husband works constantly, and there isn’t always time to schedule weekend events. When we go away, we also go together, so, if the husband attends a convention, I do too.

Over the past year, the husband has been invited to an increasing number of comic conventions. He likes to get out, we both do. He loves meeting and talking to the readers. After all, as we so often say, “The point of the writer is the reader”. The husband has scheduled more comic conventions this year than he generally would. It gives him a chance to chat with other writers and artists, and to get feedback on the work from comic book readers.

Comic Conventions come in all shapes and sizes. Some are all comic books, others include gaming, tv and movie stuff. There are always a few writers, and, generally, a whole host of artists. Artists’ Alley consists of traditional professionals, self-publishers of various kinds, and relative amateurs. Conventions are work for them, and an earning opportunity.

There’s always stuff to look at, and buy, and there are always interesting people to talk to. Going to a comic con is no hardship for me.

Then there’s the cosplay. Costumes range from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the professionally built to the homemade to the cheap and cheerful. They are all wonderful. I love the ones I recognise, and I enjoy those that I’m not familiar with. Seeing a woman in beige overalls with a toy ginger tom in her pocket puts a smile on my face. Seeing more than a dozen versions of Wonder Woman gives me a thrill. Catching sight of purple locks and nursery dresses and faces made-up to look like porcelain dolls fascinates me. I smile at ever Space Marine, every Nightwing, every Doctor Who. I love all the Spider men and women, and all the Ultra boys and girls.

Comic conventions are great family days out. Everyone is welcome, and the crowds come to enjoy themselves, to show off a little, but mostly just to participate in their hobbies and to share them with the likeminded.

It’s all good… It really is all good.

The last two conventions I attended with the husband followed this simple pattern, but there was one small element that gave me pause, that made me think, that sort of bothered me.

I didn’t want to be bothered, and a little bit of me was uncomfortable that one small element of the day had this effect on me.

I’m a feminist. I’ve been a feminist for a very long time.

Comic Conventions are a great place for people to be whomever they want to be. Gender is no impediment to dressing as a favourite comic book character, and neither is age or race. I saw boys dressed as girl characters and girls dressed as boy characters, and I saw children dressed as adult characters. I saw black and asian versions of white characters (and if there were more black and asian characters, I might have seen white versions of them, but that's another blog entirely). Diversity is a good thing. It made me happy. People were free to express themselves any way and every way that they wanted to. They were free to follow their passions without censure or comment. Bloody marvellous! I approve, unreservedly.

Except… And part of me hates myself for the exception. I’ll be happy to be persuaded that I’m wrong.

…Except that at the two most recent family day out comic conventions that I’ve attended, beautiful young women were being body-painted to resemble various comic book characters.

Comic books were always the preserve of boys. Over the decades, some comic companies have been heavily criticised for what is perceived as misogyny, for lacking insight where gender politics are concerned. Much of that criticism is justified. Most comic book companies are trying quite hard to do better, and the culture makes it tough. There are still very few women comic book professionals, and there are still very few women editing comics. Where there is no internal voice, no voice is heard. Change comes slowly and at a price.

Comic book fans do understand gender politics, and they do embrace everyone equally. They share interests and they are more likely to have some prejudice to other comic characters than to women, children or anyone of any ethnicity sharing a passion for their favourite character.

What then of the painted women? Aren’t they just embracing a favourite character too?

Well… Perhaps they are.

I have thoughts about that, though. 

I have never seen a body-painted man, and if there were such a thing, he’d be wearing pants. Yes, I know the women are wearing knickers, too, but men don’t have the secondary sexual characteristic of breasts; women do. And where there are naked breasts their are people who will respond sexually to the sight of them.

Some feminists would say that’s not the painted women’s problem. I guess it isn’t. On the other hand, those women must be aware that they are being looked at as sexual beings before they are being looked at as their favourite superhero. Artists paint over bikini briefs, so why not bikini bras as well?

Except that’s not really the issue.

Women have been idealised and sexualised in comics for decades. These painted women are buying into that and perpetuating the myth at a time when feminists are attacking comic book companies for sexualising and degrading women.

There’s a huge contradiction here.

My favourite Wonder Woman at the last con I attended was a young asian woman, clearly a muslim. She was covered from head to toe, she looked fabulous, and she totally epitomised the kind of Wonder Woman that I could get onboard with. My favourite costume at the last con I attended was worn by a boy of about tend years old, and consisted of a bright yellow tutu. What can I say? He wore it extremely well.

The body-painted women posed for photographs. The photographers were men, and they photographed the women because they were beautiful, because they were sexy, and clearly not because they were portraying their own favourite characters. The children took no notice, and I didn’t see any women getting their cameras out.

I’m not a prude; a beautiful body is a beautiful body in any and all circumstances. However, nudity is always about context. Nudity at a family day out, at a comic convention where gender politics are such a hot topic doesn’t, in my mind at least, help the course of feminism.
A beautiful woman in a fabulous costume
Demoncon 2015

Some women will always be objectified because of their bodies. If beautiful women expose their bodies, they will be more objectified. That’s not the nature of women, that’s the nature of the masculine sexual response.

I don’t care about their nudity, but I would not choose to paint my body to represent my favourite comic book hero.

In the end, I don’t know if they choose to paint their bodies to represent their favourite comic book heroes. I don’t know whether they’re paid to have their bodies painted for the viewing pleasure of the comic convention goers. I do know that men weren't queueing up to take pictures of other costumed convention goers, no matter how impressive their outfits.

Honestly, I’m not hugely comfortable with actors and models being employed to walk around comic cons to have their pictures taken. The comic con is for the fans, first and most importantly. The characters belong to the fans. The rest feels suspiciously like exploitation.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

I wrote a story... and so did the husband

I do that from time to time. Generally, I do it because I’ve been asked to, or because the husband has passed an invitation on to me.

I like writing short stories. I feel I should do more of it. It’s very satisfying.

I wrote a short story for Jonathan Maberry… Yes… New York Times bestseller and Bram Stoker Award winner Jonathan Maberry!

Jonathan invited the husband, and then me, to write a short story each for his second anthology of stories based on folk songs. It’s called Out of Tune Book 2.

Widely available now
I like folk, especially the old stuff, so it was fun to trawl through my memory and my record collection, and then it was fun to take my findings further by checking out various lyrics. 

I chose a song, and I wrote a story, so did the husband, and so did fourteen other writers.

When I saw the list of writers contributing to the anthology, I was thrilled. I love to be in good company, and these writers a good!

I was pleased when Jonathan seemed to like the story, and more pleased that he liked it enough not to want much editing.

Some of the stories relate pretty closely to the subject matter of the songs that inspired them, some, like mine, drive in at an angle, dealing more with the themes of the songs than with their narratives. That’s one of the joys of a job like this… seeing what people have chosen to make of the remit. Every approach is valid, but each is unique to the writer.

This was a fun job, and a rewarding one. If he ever asks me, I’ll be more than happy to work with Jonathan again.

John's illustration for The Twa Corbies
Read about his experience working on the bookand see more pics
Unusually, this book of stories comes with pictures. John Coulthart made an illustration for each story, and they’re very atmospheric. I love the piece he made for my story, The Twa Corbies.

I don’t want to bang on about my story, or the anthology too hard or for too long. Self-publicity is an uncomfortable thing. Smiles. I will say, though, that if you enjoy my writing, or the husband's, or if you’re a big fan of anyone in the line-up (and you should be), then do pick up this collection. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016


Menstruation is not a mystery. Women of all creeds and cultures have a monthly period; it’s completely normal.

If women menstruate then clearly men must be familiar with the process.

I remember a time when women didn’t talk about menstruation, at least not out loud in mixed company. There are places in the World where that is still true. I started to menstruate in the seventies, before sanitary towels and tampons were advertised in the mainstream or on the television.

Things changed, gradually, and mostly for the better. Women did begin to share more, the media talked more about women’s issues, including menstruation, and advertising sanitary towels and tampons became commonplace.

There was a downside, however. I was in my twenties when menstruation began to take the blame for everything, and it was mostly men that were doing the blaming. Any time a woman raised her voice, offered an objection or disagreed with anything, she would be accused of being on her period, and therefore irrational, aggressive and emotional.

Menstruation was being talked about, and that should have ameliorated our anxieties on the subject, if we happened to have any. It should have taken any embarrassment out of being compromised by our periods.

Men simply used the conversation to marginalise us.

Honest to goodness, I’ve been emotional and I’ve been irrational, but I haven’t spent a quarter of my life that way (and I menstruated regularly for more than thirty-five years). When I was emotional or irrational it wasn’t because I was menstruating. 

Of course, some women do suffer horribly with their menstrual cycles, both from PMS and from pain and discomfort. Many… most… don’t suffer more than regular, mild problems, and we soon come to manage them. I would have lost three months a year, every year for almost four decades if menstruating had been an issue. I would have spent ten years of my adult life being emotional and irrational. I didn’t, and I don’t know any woman who has.

Perhaps I should get to the point.

Bodyform has produced a new advert to sell their sanitary products. Women are thrilled… Lots of women.

There’s a groundswell of admiration for the ad and what it stands for.

I’m not so thrilled, and I’ll tell you why.

It is very rare for women in the First World not to buy sanitary products; they are considered essential. Sanitary towels, tampons and even panty liners are considered a necessity by the majority of women (half of the population!), so why are big companies spending vast sums of money on advertising campaigns? That cost is passed on to the consumer, women like you who are taught that they need these products. Women are a captive market for these products. We would still buy them without any persuasion from ad agencies. Many of us are also brand loyal; we find the products that suit our needs, and we stick with them.

I would be thrilled if the price of sanitary products was lower, and I’d support any company that cut the price of its products by reducing or abandoning its ad budget.

We’ve all seen the kinds of adverts that are produced for purveyors of the humble sanitary towel. In the early days of sanitary product advertising, women were shown doing whatever their hearts desired, including swimming, dancing and wearing white jeans.

Using a particular brand of sanitary towel or tampon doesn’t allow women to swim, dance or choose to wear whatever we want to wear. By their very definition, sanitary products… protection as they were once sometimes referred to, should all do the same job, so that we can all pretend to the World that our normal bodies are not functioning in the normal way.

More recently, sanitary product advertising has shown the towel or tampon being sold, often with test tubes of blue water poured into them.

Blood is not blue, nor does it have the consistency of water.

The great hullabaloo about Bodyform’s latest ad is that it actually shows women bleeding. There is real blood.

Women seem to be applauding this breakthrough.

I’ve seen the ad, and the step that Bodyform has taken is a tiny, baby step, and I’m not convinced it isn’t a backward step.

In the ad, which runs to more than a minute, in its entirety, women are shown running, dancing, playing rugby, boxing, cycling, surfing, swimming, skateboarding, rock climbing, horse riding, and, yes, bleeding: Bleeding from grazed knees, split lips, banged elbows, torn feet and ripped knuckles. The advertisers have gone back to the older format of showing women being active, doing whatever their hearts desire. It’s old-fashioned, although possibly no worse than the science-y ads that we’ve seen more recently, with their test tubes and blue water.

Women will do whatever they want or intend to do, or, at least that’s the way it should be; that’s the way it should always have been. I have done none of the things portrayed in the ad. Most of the blood I have shed during my life, and almost all of the blood I have shed during my adult life has been menstrual blood.

No menstrual blood was shown in the making of this advert. If women run, dance, play rugby, box, cycle, surf, skateboard, climb rocks or ride horses, their pastimes might, from time to time, cause them to bleed. None of it has anything to do with menstruation.

The strapline for the ad is 

No blood should hold us back

Personally, physical injury would be much more likely to hold me back from doing something than would my period, and it’s condescending to suggest otherwise.

The biggest joke in sanitary product advertising history was the Tampax Compak ad of 1992… You remember the one with the girl in white, rollerblading?

This Bodyform ad is more dynamic and has a better soundtrack… And look… There’s actual blood in it! But what’s the real difference? In the end, I don’t see how attitudes to women, to menstruation or to sanitary products have really changed.

The cost of sanitary products is too high, and it wasn’t until March of this year, 2016, that they were finally 0% rated for VAT, and only then after a long and bitter battle. Society has created an environment in which menstruation is hidden away, is considered an inconvenience or an embarrassment. It isn’t, it’s a simple fact of life for most women; more than that, it sustains the circle of life.

For those women who feel like me, who want to own their bodies and be at peace with their cycles, can I suggest you consider acquiring a mooncup. It’s cheap, clean and seems simple enough to use. Were I still menstruating, I’d have invested in one. Sanitary towels and tampons cost between 12p and 20p each. A mooncup costs about twenty quid and can last for ten years if you treat it right. The maths isn’t difficult.

Of course, now that I’m not menstruating, I’ve entered a whole new realm of womanhood in which I can be marginalised, ignored and even demonised, and all because my menstruating days are over.

Go figure.
In 2015 Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon while menstruating.
She chose not to use sanitary protection.
Here's what she said in the Independent