When I was 18 I worked for a well known holiday camp. I was working 70 odd hours a week in 3 different departments to save for university. On Saturdays I worked in the sales department an my boss was a man who was at least 40, good looking in an oily sort of way. Fairly soon after I started work for him he nicknamed me Busty Bertha, Bertha for short, which he would use liberally including in front of colleagues and customers. When I would go into his office he would sit with his leg splayed and indicate using unsubtle gestures that I should sit in the vicinity of his crotch. There were verbal exchanges too. I tried to hold my own, giving a good game as I thought I should, when in reality I was a sexually naive teenager.
In the midst of trying to hold my own I took the decision to mention the behaviour to another manager. I was clear that I wasn’t making a complaint. In reality I didn’t have the language to articulate what the problem was, I wasn’t even sure there was a problem, beyond my feeling uncomfortable. This was a holiday park, sexual hotbeds full of people temporally living in close quarters, in a holiday atmosphere. This is how it was. I tried to hold my own in order to make people like me. The comments I made to my other manager were self preservation. I actually said to him that I wanted to mention the behaviour, in case anything untoward should happen; that if I made a complaint it wasn’t out of the blue.
I mention this because this morning I was listening to politicians on the Radio 4 Today Show, Gisela Stuart, Labour MP, Sheila Gunn, former press secretary to John Major, Jo Phillips, former press secretary for Paddy Ashdown. The discussion was in response to the allegations made about Lord Rennard, the former Liberal Democrat Chief Executive, or inappropriate behaviour towards at least 10 women. The extent of the argument went as follows: politics is a tough business, you know what it is like when you get into it and women need to toughen up. One of these women discussed tactics she used to get away from a particularly frisky colleague who was trying to get her to go to his room at a party conference. Another useful tactic is to just pretend to cry about a previous boyfriend, that soon puts a damper on proceedings. Apparently it is our sisterly duty to share these escape tactics with our colleagues.
If only at 18 some girlfriend had sat me down and shared some tips with me things would have been much better… No, no, NO. What my 18 year old self needed was for someone to sit me down and tell me that I did not have to put up with that sort of behaviour, and that they would support me in making a complaint.
It’s bad enough that women are still having to work in these environments, but what makes it even worse is that STILL we are being to to put up and shut up about it. Men in positions of authority and power are being allowed to treat women as sexual objects, and according to Sheila Gunn we should just consider them as “naughty boys”. This is belittling both to the female victims (or male victims as in the allegations against Cardinal O’Brien, leader of the Scottish Roman Catholic Church) and men, the ones who don’t perpetrate these actions. Men are not young children without control over their desires and actions. They are conscious actors who make choices, some men make good choices and some men make bad ones. Let’s not let the ones who make bad ones ruin it for the good ones.
And let’s get away from this resignation over the situation. Women need to know that they do not have to put up with this behaviour, there is no environment is which it is appropriate, no age or position that excuses men treating women as objects for their taking. We will stand next to these women in solidarity and say “enough is enough”.
I thought I’d round up some of my favourite, and some of my most read posts from this year. This is both timely for this season, and also a great excuse for me to produce some content without having to do much work. Bonus.
My most popular post is one about a crochet flower and snowflake pattern. This one gets the most hits and crochet flower pattern is the most searched for term for people visiting my blog. Other popular search terms are ‘tante sex’, ‘homemade dog sling’, ‘naice craft for kids (not that is NOT a typo!) and ‘freaky rings’. I can’t help but feel many of these visitors would have been disappointed.
As always my posts about Mumsnet get lots hits. I bather on about it a lot but this one on the Kindness of Strangers hit a chord with many people.
Not so much a favourite blog post post but a favourite event was when Stitch This, Georgia and I yarnbombed the town hall. It was great fun, and the town hall staff were dead chuffed too!
Capturing the zeitgeist of the Olympic Jubilation this post about the Golden Girls of the Olympics was very popular. If I add up all the variations of her name Jessica Ennis is my most popular search term. I really hope these people are young girls looking for inspiration. Please don’t anyone dispel that notion for me.
Coming just under the wire of the new year these Birthday Butterflies were a gift to my friend who I saw at New Year and am about to go and see again. I was very proud of how they turned out.
A personal favourite was my experimentation with combining two of my passions, craft and psychology. With my upcoming psychology degree dominating a lot of next year I shall have to find more creative ways of keeping my hand in with the craft while studying.
And finally a feminist rant at over privileged male politicians, lacking self-awareness and empathy. Some of my best posts have been rattled off in the heat of emotion, and this was one of them. I don’t tend to edit my posts, but after listening to Caitlin Moran at Mumsnet Blogfest, I realised that like her, I let the posts mature in my head, constructing and editing them as I am running the kids’ bath or driving to work.
Hope you have enjoyed my posts this year. I’d like to know which ones have been your favourites?
Please link in the comments with some of your favourite posts from your own blogs too.
I’m sorry I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front recently. I’ve been just so busy, plus I’ve lost my creative mojo a bit. I haven’t found much to inspire me recently, and I have been preoccupied with some personal development decisions which has rendered me more selfish and egocentric than usual.
However I heard something on the news this morning that was enough to spark me into breaking open the ol’ WordPress app and putting a metaphorical pen to paper.
The cricket Twenty20 World Cup kicks off in Sri Lanka this week and both women’s and men’s teams have flown out there, the men in Business Class and the women in Economy. While out there the ICC pay them a living allowance. The women get £37 a day and the men £61. Clearly those burly men need feeding up more than the women. At the end of the tournament the winning team can look forward to a million US Dollar prize money. No hang on – that’s for the men. The women get £60,000 USD. Good job girls, just not quite good enough.
Now I cannot find any reason to justify the disparity in daily living allowance. I have just returned from a work trip with a males colleague. Imagine that when we both put in our expenses claims forms when we return to work, that our company gives me nearly half the amount they give him, because I am a woman. There is no justifying the ICC’s decision here so I’ll just move on.
Perhaps, perhaps there is the argument that men’s sport brings in more revenue. Well, I’m sure it does, but that’s because it dominates the media. Are we in a vicious circle here, whereby the media thinks no one is interested in women’s sport so they don’t show it, so people don’t get a chance to be interested in it?
Were any of these people actually awake during the Olympic period? Did that not demonstrate the support for niche sports, women’s sport and para olympic sport? After all the celebration of our athletic heroes, male, female, able bodied or not, are we just going to go back to the status quo of football as the national game, with a bit of rugby, cricket, tennis and F1 thrown in, all male dominated. Did we learn nothing from our Summer of Olympic Love?
The ICC need to come out of the dark ages and stop expecting the girls just to be grateful that the boys are letting them play their game, albeit not actually with the boys. They might catch cooties from the girls, you know. Maybe that’s why they had to fly them different classes…
I don’t really watch TV. I don’t mean that in a wanky way. We are not against screens in this house. DH and I are currently both concurrently on computers, with the West Wing on in the background. But we don’t watch soaps or other random crap on TV. What we do watch in large measures are DVD box sets. I love the comfort of watching familiar episodes of good quality TV drama or comedy. I just wanted to share with you some of my favourites, in case you haven’t yet had the pleasure of watching them, along with some classic scenes.
The X Files
Ah, this is where it all began, my love affair with American drama. If you were by chance in a coma during the 90s, the X Files was a series about two FBI agents, Special Agents Mulder and Scully; the believer and the sceptic. The two scrappy and dashingly attractive public servants were charged with investigating the X Files, a raft of unexplained mysteries, ranging from a giant murderous tape worm to also murderous shape shifting aliens. Fox Mulder, battling a legacy of a sister, kidnapped by aliens, searches through the X Files in search for answers to his sister’s disappearance. Dana Scully, medic and scientist, is assigned to work with him, to try and debunk his work, which she manages to do less often than you might think. Together this dynamic duo, sexier than Batman and Robin, cross states and continents to discover the truth about extra terrestrials.
This series was the backdrop to my teens. During a my college years a kooky friend and I would have all night X File marathons. We would copy down our favourite quotes, cut out articles referencing the series or the main actors. We were, to put it mildly, obsessed. Now, I’m not really a sci-fi fan, I’m what the online fan-geeks call a ‘shipper’, my main motivation for watching the program was the relationship between the two main characters. The platonic relationship continued for about 8 of the 9 or so seasons; threaded through the nearly 10 years, was an emotional connection that couldn’t be broken by kidnapping, faked death, or seduction by various single episode characters. Despite rumoured (and contested) rifts between the lead actors, the chemistry on screen was electric. There is no doubt that the characters were in love. Us shippers lived for a look, a touch of a hand, an off the cuff remark. We lived for the will-they-won’t-they, mollified by dynamite storylines of government conspiracy, freak shows and alien life. And did they? Well, I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen it through to the end. But I recently discovered videos on You Tube, dedicated to shipper moments from the X Files. They have been put together by even geekier and more dedicated shippers than me. They take me right back to my teenage years and remind me of being in love for the first time. Sometime I want to watch the whole ten seasons from start to finish but in the meantime I’ll keep watching these videos.
The West Wing
Without doubt one of the best, most intelligent and sassiest dramas ever. Yes I just used sassy, it’s the only way to describe this show. Running from the late 90s for about 10 years, the West Wing charted the highs and lows of the top people in American politics. From the Messianic President Bartlett, down to the weird yet indispensable assistant Margret. The West Wing never played to the lowest common denominator. Even on the sixth fourth viewing, I still often haven’t a clue what is actually going on, but it never matters because it’s about the process and the characters. The West Wing made politics sexy. The clear left wing liberalism of the writers meant that you always felt that the politicians were working for the greater good, just like you hope they are, but never believe in real life.
The West Wing is noted for it’s development and judicious use of the “walk-and-talk” filming technique, where the characters engage in lengthy dialogue while walking along the West Wing corridors. It added a sense of dynamism to the dialogue heavy show. Aside from the brilliantly paced script, the next best think about the West Wing was its casting. Originally meant to be a minor character in a show about the West Wing staffers, Martin Sheen stole the show as the President, frightening clever, with a self professed folksy charm, President Bartlett commanded loyalty that most politicians can only dream of. Scrumptious Rob Lowe played the naive but idealistic Sam Seaborne. Richard Schiff perfected gruff pessimism with a hint of witty charm, and Bradley Whitford the politically astute deputy chief of staff who you just want to mother. Allison Janey was the woman we all wanted to be, powerful, charming, passionate; a classy dame among a den of testosterone.
DH and I watch this show again and again, always getting something new from it, still gripped by the cliff hangers that we have watched numerous times. If you haven’t got into this show, then I really recommend that you do. The beauty is, that despite starting well over a decade ago, and finishing 7 years later, it just doesn’t seem to date. This is one addiction you won’t regret starting.
Sex and the City
My feelings for this show have changed a great deal over the years. The original premise was four sexually adventurous women living glamorous and romance filled lives against the backdrop of New York City. Carrie, the main protagonist, is a journalist who writes a column about sex, for which she seems to get disproportionately well paid, given her Manolo Blahnik habit, and the fact that she, nor any of the other main characters, appear to ever eat a homemade meal (yes, these are the things I notice nowadays). Initially the show was about friendship, and, basically, sex. Talking about it, doing it, not doing, doing it in all kinds of positions. I was at university when this originally aired, and me and my girlfriends emulated the show, not so much the copious sex, but the talking about it. We were a generation of sexually unafraid and explicit women. We felt like we had discovered our own brand of feminism. These sisters were doing it for themselves. Of course we weren’t, and neither were the characters on the show. Ultimately it was all about getting the guy. And to do that you had to be successful, rich and beautiful, as well as sexually promiscuous.
Sex and the City was ground breaking, and it gave women a dialogue with which to communicate with each other about sex, masturbation, and relationships. Even if the show didn’t portray reality, it allowed us to find out from each other what was normal, and what wasn’t, and to even be ok with the not normal. I still watch this for nostalgic purposes. It reminds me of being young free and single. Great series of its time. Don’t bother with the movies though, they’re awful.
The Big Bang Theory
Ok, this show is still airing and is the current amour du jour for DH and I. It follows the life of two geeky physicist flat mates, their two equally geeky scientist friends, and their beautiful blonde bimbo neighbour. Yes, there are stereotypes a plenty here, but somehow with the sharp humour in the show it doesn’t matter.
Sheldon may be a stereotypical geek, highly intelligent, scoring quite high on the ASD spectrum, but he has become a cult figure, a hero for all those geeks out there. And Penny may be a poorly educated, shallow blonde, but she befriends the socially inept quartet, and anchors them in reality, teaching them how to conduct relationships with other lesser mortals.
Later we have the comic excellence of Amy Farrah Fowler, Sheldon’s female counterpart. She is played by Mayim Balik, a real life neuroscientist, Jewish spokesperson and high profile attachment parenting advocate. Amy is a straight laced girl-geek, seduced,quite literally, but her friendship with the cool and popular Penny. Raj is an Indian, curry hating, selective mute, who cannot find a girlfriend, but finds solace in his close friendship with Howard, the only member of the four who doesn’t have a PhD. His sleazy brand of charm wins the affection of Bernadette, another highly educated member of their social circle, and they are currently the only two to hold down a stable relationship.
The characters are played with equal amounts of humour and sympathy. Brains are celebrated over beauty and fashion sense in this programme. While it treads the familiar ground laid by friends and other group sitcoms before it, The Big Bang Theory brings the cerebral edge to an a otherwise well-worn format. Oh, and the theme tune by the Bare Naked Ladies is ace:
So that’s my favourite four. There are many more series that I haven’t yet got into, but would like to try: Mad Men, Borgen, The Good Wife, The Wire, late seasons of 24. The beauty of the DVD box set and services like Netflix are that you can watch these shows whenever you want, as often as you want, and without having to wait a week till the next episode. The biggest problem is stopping yourself watching them through the night, and having West Wing style dreams!
First let me preface this post with the admission that I used to be a complete magazine junkie. Since my grandma used to send me Fast Forward in the post when I was younger I have devoured magazines. I worked in a newsagents for a couple of years when I was younger too which gave me even greater access to all the latest magazines, Mizz, More, J17, 19, Cosmo, Company, Elle, Eve, Marie Claire, Vanity Fair, Easy Living, Red. I’ve dabbled in them all. I’d even occasionally be tempted by Woman and Home, but that just made me feel really old. And yes, I am ashamed to admit my habit stretched to Heat, Closer, and other gratuitous tabloid type magazines. Mine and DH’s favourite pre-children weekend activity was to go to the newsagents and pick up stacks of weekend papers and magazines and spend the weekend lazing around reading them.
But even at the height of my addiction the gorging of the magazines would inevitably be followed by that slightly nauseous feeling. I’d keep ploughing through, even when I’d had my fill, like being at an all-you-can-eat restaurant where you are so full, but you want to get your money’s worth so you plough through yet another plate of noodles and stir fry chicken. Somehow though, I managed to break the habit. I’m not sure which came first, finances or children, but I realised that I wasn’t getting anything out out of the magazines. I was reading the same old articles, sometimes even seeing the same pictures, and spending a small fortune. I also found as I got more into reading Mumsnet and blogs I didn’t need magazines. Online I get beauty tips, real fashion ideas, I learned about other people’s families and careers. I get news and opinions, humour and reality. Most of all I get community and interaction.
This weekend I succumbed to the draw of the magazine again. However this time my motives were more mercenary. Inspired by a thread on Mumsnet I checked out the glossy mags for the freebies and picked up Marie Claire: £3.70 with a free full sized Neal’s Yard Remedies Rose Moisturiser; and Glamour: £2 with a free 100ml tube of Percy and Reed Hair Mask. I thought I’d have a flick, for old time’s sake. As I flicked I got more and more frustrated and cross, and after firing off a couple of indignant Tweets that were duly ignored I thought I would distil my grievances into a blog post.
So I flicked. And I flicked. And I flicked and I flicked. And 38 pages of adverts and publishing credits later I got to my first page of content in Marie Claire: Best High St Buys, some lovely looking women in some seriously unflattering and disgusting outfits. 6 pages of more ads and there is a page on the Marie Claire Runway Launch Party, a new magazine that Marie Claire is launching. Because that’s what we need, more trees felled for a vacuous, narcissistic, masochistic, misogynistic industry. Another 6 pages and it’s the letters page. Surprisingly none of the letters are asking why the reader bothered to fork out money on this crap. More adverts and women in ridiculous outfits, then there is the spread on the 1950’s housewife look. The geometric prints and tailored styles are gorgeous actually, but the spread shows the model in various poses, alone by the pool, alone drinking cocktails, alone sitting in various retro chairs. I don’t know if the model is a good actress but she is certainly pulling off that lonely housewife look; a woman who’s only occupation in life was to bear children and have dinner on the table. Maybe modelling is also a lonely business.
The 1950s is fairly unique in that it is the only era that is ever used to qualify the word housewife. I think that is because the 1950s epitomises housewifeliness. The decades before were marred by World Wars, and few people’s sole job was to look after the home. Women took in evacuees, they worked the fields and the factories. Before the wars the rich women had servants to do housewifely work like cleaning and cooking and looking after the children, while poorer housewives were literally on their hands and knees scrubbing, mangling, cooking, growing veg, while older siblings tended to the younger ones. This vision of the housewife is not nearly quite as romantic and involves fewer cute outfits than the 1950s, and almost no pastel cake stands. The 1950s saw the rise of domestic appliances, which in theory saved the time of housewives and saved them from manual labour, but in reality just raised standards and in fact barely dented the time spent on housework.
But enough talk of frivolities, back to the serious topic of Marie Claire, where on page 167 Christian Louboutin tells us the 10 shoes every woman should have in her wardrobe. He “knows best” apparently. In case you were uninformed as I was, some of the shoes you must own include a high heeled peep-toe nude shoe, an evening boot (which presumably can’t double as the Classic Boot at no.8, or the ankle boot at no.9), and finally at no.10 The Uber Heel. For this shoe Mr Louboutin recommends one of his own which stands at a towering 16cm. It shows toe cleavage, which is supposed to remind people (I assume by “people” he means men) of the boob cleavage and the arse cleavage. Now his shoe – the Daffodil it is called – is perfect, not because of the toe cleavage but because if you are bored “you can stare deeply into the crystals for hours!” Yes, that is really what it [he] said. Put down your Proust girls, stop bothering your pretty head about world affairs, or coming up with ideas for female domination; stare at the shiny, shiny shoes instead.
Now there are so many things wrong with this I don’t know where to start. Don’t get me wrong, I love shoes, tall ones, shiny ones, comfy ones, red ones, classic Mary Janes, and a good ol’ ballet pump. But I resent being told what shoes I and all women should be wearing by a man, and a man with an agenda at that. Of course he’s telling women they absolutely must have three different types of boot as a minimum, he bloody sells them for a living! But the real kick in the fanjo for me is that he is telling me I am not a true woman without 16cm heel. You know, no-one is telling men they need to risk their necks, backs, bunions and basically torture their feet into submission all for a bit of toe cleavage! Marie Claire, you are facilitating this misogynistic bollocks.
Now, let’s have a look at the adverts in this magazine. Obviously there is the plethora of designer brands flogging ugly, over priced clothes, and perfume. I don’t understand this craze of scrubbing away our natural smells which aid in bonding with our partners and children, and replacing them with synthetic copies of natural smells. Oh, and in case you were in any doubt that you smell, lady, there is an advert for breath freshener. My hair, the adverts tell me, is either too straight, or not straight enough. But it is ok, I can buy various products to counter whichever aspect at being a woman my hair is failing at. I am also reminded that my skin should be soft and wrinkle free. There are also products for this that I must buy.
But the real gems are the adverts for various cleaning products in this magazine; dishwasher tablets, washing detergent, fabric softener. A gentle reminder, women, not to neglect your domestic duties. But, don’t worry, I’m sure your husbands are being subjected to similar adverts as they flick through GQ and Men’s Health magazines.
What did I expect, you could ask me? Well, perhaps not much given that the Executive Director and Deputy Director of Marie Claire International are both men. But this is the 21st Century and I expect a little bit more than this. I’m not the only one. There is a whole marvellous blog called Glossed Over which highlights the crap spewing from these magazines.
When not angrily reading these magazines this weekend, I have also been reading a book I picked up in a charity shop yesterday called Strong Minded Women & Other Lost Voices from 19th Century England, an anthology of writings, by both men and women, from the 19th Century. I am barely a few pages in, but the first chapter is devoted to Woman’s Mission. One writer, Sarah Lewis, who wrote a book called Woman’s Mission, puts forward her argument thus: men are clearly inferior to women. They cannot keep their tempers, they are profligate and they are selfish. It is a failing in their education. It is our job as Good Women to quietly influence our husbands and sons. We are morally superior to men, even if we cannot equal them in social and political status. So we must quietly, and selflessly do God’s bidding; influencing the men, though we must be sure not to do it a way that they will notice.
Harriet Taylor Mill, in The Emancipation of Women, vociferously repudiates this view, stating that it very much suits men for women to be mere appendages to men. “It is agreeable to them that men should live for their own sake, women for the sake of men; and the qualities and conduct in subjects which are agreeable to rules, they succeed for a long time in making the subjects themselves consider as their appropriate virtues…” Lewis’s pro-female but anti-feminist stance just did the men’s work for them. Yes, we know we are better than men, so let us just suffer in silence in a goodly way, which makes us even more selfless and morally superior.
And yet nearly 200 years on from Lewis’s work we are still doing men’s work for them in repressing ourselves and creating virtuous, smooth, wrinkle-free, uber heeled women who believe they are better than men but are powerless to do anything about it. And while a woman trapped in an abusive marriage, or a young vulnerable teenager may be powerless, YOU MARIE CLAIRE are not. And not just Marie Claire, the media all over. You have unlimited power, you have the ear of women young and old, and you choose to waste it on instructing them on the must have shoes or how to mask their natural beauty with aspirational cosmetics. Shame on you. And shame on me for buying them just for the products that I feel I need in order to smooth soft skin and shiny hair. I will not have my young daughters influenced in the same way that I have been for the last 20 years. My love affair with magazines has been over for a long time. This last fling just reminded me how disgusting and disgusted they make me feel.