I had a great response from my mildly soul searching blog post last week exploring why I blog. I posed a bunch of questions on a thread on Mumsnet and got some interesting responses, both on that thread, and on posts other bloggers wrote in response.
When I started the thread I was feeling fed up and defensive about my blogging habit, and questioning the value and motives behind it. At first I just read people’s responses without really thinking about my own. Posts at Low Impact Parenting, Pressies by Pebbles and MumToTeens made me realise that it is not all about the value that the reader or the world in general gets (although that is great) but that bloggers themselves get an enormous amount from it, aside for the self validation and attention that I always assume to be the bloggers motive (they’re mine after all!). By the time I wrote my own post I was back in the game with a more circumspect attitude to my critics (both direct and indirect).
Such was the response, I thought I might have a go at a blog hop, so other people can share their feelings. I’ve never done one before and the process does not come to WordPress naturally, so bear with me and let’s see how this goes.
For reference, these were the questions I posed on Mumsnet, but feel free to write in whatever way you want:
Why do you blog?
What do you get from it?
Is it trivial and is that ok sometimes?
Why should people be interested in what you write?
Do you care if they are not?
If you blog just for you why do it publically?
What value do you think you are adding to the world by blogging?
Do you feel defensive about blogging?
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So this Liz Jones article in the Daily Mail is still bothering me. I know, I know, it shouldn’t. It’s the Daily Mail, mysogynistic, racist, homophobic rag for the aspirational lower classes. But after reading the article I then started reading the comments section. Big mistake. The Daily Mail comments section is like a black hole for all hope and optimism. If Liz Jones is a Dementor then the Daily Mail website is Azkaban. The commenters competing over who can vituperate the loudest. Their targets: mothers, Mumsnetters and bloggers. Now these three things happen to be major parts of my identity at the moment, so to see them systematically abused by people who have very little knowledge of any of them is a teeny bit soul destroying.
Now, most of you will know that my love Mumsnet is both strong and enduring. I can and have posted at length about the good that comes out of that website. I will not hear a bad word said against it. That’s not to say there are no bad words to say, I know all its faults. But like an errant family member, or a football team in a slump, I acknowledge and accept its faults but continue to love and support it anyway.
It’s easier to shake off the criticism levied against me as a mother. I have pushed a human being out of a hole in my body the size of egg cup. I have sucked snot out of the nose of stuffed up baby. I have paused during breastfeeding to vomit from the pain of a migraine, then resumed breastfeeding. I have in turn been vomited on and my first instinct is always to check my child is ok. I am bringing up two delightful children to become productive and charming members of society who will eventually be funding the pensions of the ignorant Daily Mail reading twats who loathe children so much. If you haven’t done at least one of those things then I am afraid you can fuck off and keep your women-hating thoughts to yourself.
But, and this is the crux of this post (yes, three paragraphs and we are not even at the crux yet – if the Internet is shortening people’s attention spans it’s not because of me), blogging is a harder hobby to defend. It is by nature an attention-seeking activity, and often rather ego centric. While undoubtably there are blogs out their with obvious objectives, trying to change the world, highlight discrimination and poor treatments, there is a rather large section of blogs which mainly detail people’s own lives and opinions, with the inherent assumption that other people should want to read about this. This set me thinking about why people blog, is it a pointless hobby? Do the benefits outweighs the negatives? And personally, should I continue to blog, labouring under the assumption that I am interesting enough that people will want to listen to what I have to say. I posted some questions on the Mumsnet Blog Network (where else?) and people have answered or blogged about it, so I should really answer them myself too. Here goes:
Why do you blog?
Well, it started out as a way to show off stuff I had made, but then I found I quite enjoyed the writing, and got complimented on it, which made me want to do it some more. What do you get from it?
Well, attention and compliments, which I love. An outlet for creativity; I really enjoy the creation of my posts, thinking them through and trying to come to a resolution. I have also made lovely friends through my blog. Is it trivial and is that ok sometimes?
Yes and yes. Look, people are always complaining that the news is so depressing. All these trivial parts of the blogosphere are are the bits that remind us that the world is still going on as usual. And things that seem trivial to other people may not be trivial to the people involved. This is especially true when it comes to having children. The crises I had over what to feed my children, how to get them to take a bottle, and have I damaged my baby by watching Sex and The City while breastfeeding, all seem trite now, but at the time they were huge, and they mattered. Just like it mattered when I was 14 and trying to decipher what it meant when Chris Davies borrowed my pen in English. One woman’s triviality is another women’s tragedy. But you know what blogs give us, they allow us insight into what other people are thinking; all those ephemeral thoughts and overblown worries that we have, other people have too. So yes, triviality is ok. Especially if it’s funny like this one. Why should people be interested in what you write?
Well because I often have some well articulated thoughts among the diatribe. I think about the topic I am writing about and try to find new angles. I make stuff and often it’s nice, I like to give people ideas (that I have usually stolen from someone else). I’m occasionally funny, plus I also think I am mostly quite positive on my blog, which is funny as I am a pessimist in real life. But there is nothing like rereading what you’ve written to bore the pants of you, which means that it is probably boring other people. I want people to come back to my blog, and I know they won’t if it is full of whining, because I don’t want to read other people’s whining myself. That isn’t to say that all blogs must be positive, some aren’t for good reasons, but their mission is about sharing and empathising, and mine mission isn’t nearly so noble. Do you care if they are not?
I’d be lying if I said no, but that’s less because I take it as a personal slight on my writing or me, but more a slight on what I am writing about. I’m not great when people don’t share my views and values, so I take that more personally than a lack of interest in me. If you blog just for you why do it publically?
I don’t blog for me, or not in the way people usually mean. I get a lot from blogging, so I do it for me in that respect, but I wouldn’t get nearly as much from it if it was private. What value do you think you are adding to the world by blogging?
Occasionally entertaining, and interesting to read. My blog is pretty ‘real’ compared to many craft blogs, so while I probably don’t inspire awe and aspiration, I might inspire a sense of “I could do that” which I much prefer. I think I am also making people more aware of feminist issues. And at least one person has said that they started blogging because of me, I really should ask her why. Do you feel defensive about blogging?
I did, and still do a little. But writing this has helped me to see what I get out of blogging, plus I know other people like it because they tell me, so I am adding some value too. But there is still the niggly feeling that it is all a bit pointless and ego centric. That doesn’t make me want to stop, but it is making me stop and think about the value I am adding with each post. There is enough room out there on the Internet for everyone, so I’m wasting nothing but my own time. And as for the people belittling blogs for their mundanity and triviality from Twitter, chat forums, or the Daily Mail website, glass houses people, glass houses.
I’ve waxed lyrical on here several times about Mumsnet. My love for Mumsnet knows no bounds, and in fact it is really down to Mumsnet that I am even blogging. Just over a year ago they started up their blog network. It was then that I realised that everyone was in fact blogging, and I should really jump on the band wagon. Until then I thought blogging was just narcissistic and attention seeking. Then I realised that I am in fact an attention-seeking narcissist an I might as well embrace it.
Well, in about a month, MN is holding BlogFest, their very own blog conference, with all kinds of great speakers, including Caitlin Moran, Fi Glover and Zoe Williams. There will be various discussions and clinics related to blogging, and lots of drinking networking opportunities.
You don’t have to be a MN blogger to go, you don’t even have to be a blogger! Tickets are £75, and you get to spend all day in the heady heights of the swanky Millbank Tower.
I for one can’t wait. Usually I’d be pretty nervous, but actually I have a group of people I have grown to know through my social networking and we are all keen to meet each other. The biggest dilemma will be what to wear. I also am lucky that my real life friend Stitch This will also be going, and is hosting a live blogalong, so even if you can’t make it you can follow the goings on and gossip.
Other visitors to BlogFest are posting detailed get-to-know posts in advance, with pictures and everything. Well, I am rather camera shy so instead I will give you my nearest likeness:
Those of you who know me will agree the likeness is in my dreams uncanny.
If you are reading this in anticipation of meeting me, but haven’t read my blog (er, why the hell not?) then I suppose you could sum my blog up as a little bit crafty, strongly feminist, occasionally ranty, self-improving, psychological, with a little bit of parenting and humour thrown in. And if you can’t recognise me by the above photo, then I’ll probably be the one with the crochet. No, not Stitch This, the other one with the crochet.
In real life, without my keyboard to slow me down and the ability to edit before I speak, you should know I talk a lot. A lot a lot. But don’t let me fool you, mostly it’s a sign of nerves rather than confidence, and a tendency to think out loud, as is common to extroverts. It’s worse when I drink which is why I will at least wait until midday try and abstain.
Morning all, I promised a Sunday brunch post, and to everyone’s surprise, including mine, I’ve managed to pull one together. As I just said to someone on Twitter, I tend to over commit and under deliver. This brunch post is great idea. When I usually write posts for my blog I like them to be coherent, well thought out articles, I often do a bit of research (well, I google a few facts…) and I plan them in my head for ages. This is why I don’t blog as much as I would like, as it is time consuming. Well, these brunch posts are unashamed opinion and blather, lacking in coherence and structure, much like a normal brunch time conversation, just without the other person’s opinion. Just how I like it.
Anyway, on the menu today is bacon and eggs. Thick cut smoked bacon, half price in the Co-op, and farm eggs from the village green grocer, on wholemeal toast, slathered in ketchup! Sorry for the crappy picture, food is notoriously difficult to photograph, erm, especially if you forget till halfway through…
So, what’s been happening in my world this week? Well, I spent a happy hour taking part in the Mumsnet webchat with Caitlin Moran. Caitlin, if you don’t know her, is a writer for the times, previously a music journo, and top Twitterer. Her book How To Be A Woman is an excellent treatise on real life feminism. Some of her points are contentious, but her frank discussion of her abortion experience was excellent. When Caitlin had her abortion she was a grown up, married with two children, financially solvent. Having a baby just wasn’t the right choice for her or her family. Her response on Mumsnet about it was
The thing about abortion laws is that, if you were some right wing guy, you might very well think it would be okay to change them. After all, you NEVER hear women going on about their abortions. You’d think no-one normal was having them. This is why we have to normalise talking about it. You know – one in three women will have an abortion, but they’ll never talk about it. As a consequence, access to abortion could easily disappear, or be curtailed, because it just looks like no-one’s using those useful laws. When they were having that debate in the US, I wanted every woman in America who’s had an abortion to go on strike for one day – just so America could see, in one dazzling moment, how common this is for women. it’s not a marginal event. it’s absolutely part of our society. America would have ground to a halt on that day. And it would have been incredibly apt and symbolic, because if you curtail women’s access to abortion, their lives grind to a halt, too.
which I absolutely concur with.
Caitlin has a new book coming out Moranthology which is basically just her blathering about all kinds of crap and just how we like her best. I for one can’t wait to read it (and don’t yet have a copy hint hint to any publishers or just friends who want to buy it for me).
I have been listening to BBC 6 Music a lot this past week. Now I am completely not a muso, I mean, I like music, but I like, you know, Take My Breathe Away by Berlin and The Best of 70’s Disco. It safe to say I’m not schooled in the art of cool music. God, do people even use the word ‘cool’ anymore? Am I supposed to say ‘sick music’? Anyway, in the past few weeks I have been listening to 6 Music to alleviate the boredom at work, and I’m developing quite a taste for it. When I hear a song that I really like I write it down in my diary so I can check it out when I get home and the two songs I wrote down this week were Hail Bop by Django Django and Something Good by Alt J.
Turns out these two artists (bands? They might be bands, I’ve no idea) have been short listed (and are way up the list) for the Mercury Music Prize. Check me out, into music. And the final album I want to buy this month is Push and Shove by No Doubt. I feel like a teenager again, waiting for payday so I can go and buy a CD. It’s their first album in years and I have always loved them, since I used to listen to Don’t Speak when I broke up with my first love; sobbing while singing “I really feeeeeel like I’m losing my best friend…” Good times.
The news has been dominated more than was necessary by the subject of the breasts of the Duchess of Cambridgeshire. I’ve been trying to muster up an opinion on the matter and struggling, mainly because it’s not news. But here’s the crux of it, the French magazine was wrong to print the pictures of Kate. Tits out or not she was on private property trying to enjoy a holiday in peace. And taxpayer funded or not NO ONE has the right to take and publish pictures of someone half naked without their consent. It’s exploitation and an abuse of privacy.
But here’s the other side, the Duchess of Cambridgeshire should not get any special treatment just for being a member of royalty. The Royals are not special. They have got where they are by accident of birth or marriage. They live an exorbitantly luxurious lifestyle which they in the main don’t pay for, for which they give up about half their time doing light ceremonial work. Kate should not have had her privacy invaded. But let’s remember there are enormous number of other woman being exploited who do not have the weight of the Royal Family or the indignity of the righteous British public behind them. This should not be news. And let us remember that these publications publish these sort of pictures because they know we the public buy them. No British outlet has published them (so far) but that is because Kate is held up a some sort of Madonna figure by the British media. They are not short of other young women to exploit, women seeking validation and money in the way they have been conditioned to think is acceptable. When we buy these magazines and papers we are complicit in their exploitation. We can call for as much regulation of the press as we like but far better just to cut off their power and circulation by boycotting them.
Anyway, enough of my diatribe. Hope you are having a happy Sunday. What’s been going on in your week? I do wonder if there is mileage in making this into a blog hop. Blogging is so one-sides, it would be good to share other people’s thoughts and posts too. Tell me what you think. Oh and how to do it would be good too!
So, I’ve just missed my one year bloggiversary. The 16th July 2011 was when, after much deliberation over the right name, I launched my WordPress blog. And on the 17th I made my first post. I’m a bit miffed I forgot and missed marking the actual day, but unsurprised. DH and I never remember our own wedding anniversary. It’s usually him that remembers, but not until about 2pm on the actual day. We are sadly quite unsentimental about it. But when we do remember we do try to take just a moment to appreciate what it means.
And what has my year of blogging meant to me? Well, firstly it has meant making friends (in the random Internet sense of course!) like Lynn at Salt&Caramel, Claire at In Again Out Again, Mum of All Trades and LittleMe at Pint Sized Rants and many more. And it has meant becoming close to friends I already had like Stitch This, and the irrepressible-can’t-understand-why-she-doesn’t-blog-herself Georgia, both of whom I have lured into a life of crime in the seedy underworld of Yarn Bombing.
I have kindled a new found creativity, challenging myself with the things that I make, incentivised by the opportunity to show off my work. I have also enjoyed the actual writing of my blog, picking a topic, researching, running the ideas through my head until they come together in a coherent form.
I have found a political voice, joining campaigns, trying to spread messages that I think are important and trying to change people’s attitudes to things like rape and young women’s sexual attitudes.
I have enjoyed the many comments that you have all posted, many of them have made my day and boosted my confidence.
One last shout out and that is to the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, who inspired me to start up my blog and have publicised and supported my blog. I’m also very grateful to the network members who made me feel like part of their community.
No, please don’t play the music! I haven’t finished my speech…
I just wanted to end by saying I have enjoyed every minute of blogging. I hope you have enjoyed reading it. I’m eternally amazed that so many people are interested in anything I have to say. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting and thanks to those of you who write your own amazing blogs.
In the last month I have received via Mumsnet*: an offer of a free holiday home for a week, some dried lavender, Estée Lauder Night Repair serum (that was a MN giveaway). Some ebooks and resources to improve my writing, some yarn to make so more blanket squares, and volunteers to try out a pattern I designed. That is just in the last month. From complete strangers.
When the above Mumsnetter recently offered my family the chance to stay in her house abroad she said “Not sure what I will tell my husband, probably that you are from university” because who would believe that people who have never met in real life could feel the need to do such a thing? It is testament to the generosity of Mumsnetters over the years (and the things that I have done in return) that my own husband didn’t bat an eyelid when I told him that a person from Mumsnet who I knew only by user name had made such an offer.
But my love for Mumsnet is not just cupboard love. It’s about more than the material things I have received. It is about the advice and support I have received in spades.
When I have been up at 3 in the morning crying because breastfeeding was going so badly, Mumsnetters have been there. When I had a home birth, not only did Mumnetters give me loads of advice in making the decision in the lead up, they were there cheering me on and doing virtual knitting in support while I posted between contractions.
I’ve cyber stalked Mumnetters and found them at my workplace, at my knitting group, and conversely I have converted my friends to the Cult of Mumsnet. Some people are very coy about their affiliation with the site in real life, partly to preserve their anonymity, and possibly partly because of the bad press it often gets.
Some of the criticisms are deserved. Mumsnet has gone through periods of turmoil where certain groups of posters have ruled the virtual playground. But these criticisms are true for many online forums, and as with every forum it has evolved, and grown.
A lot of the bad press it gets stems from bitterness and jealously. Liz Jones takes a crack or two at it on occasion, but her dazzling wit and astute observations (sorry, it’s hard to convey sarcasm in the written word) continues to be outpaced by the shrewd and scintillating posters who chose to put their brains and words to good use on Mumsnet rather than waste it on the misogynistic heap of shite that is the Daily Mail.
During the last general election, the media hailed it as the Mumsnet election, and politicians and politicos flocked to the site to woo the votes of its posters. It was mostly media hype, but a nod to the rise to prominence of the female story in the slightly more egalitarian world of the Internet (unless you count the Guardian Forums). But in the same way that the media and government used Mumsnet as a symbol of all women, so too is Mumsnet used as a way to beat all women down. When journalists and comedians mock Mumsnet, what they are really mocking is women’s freedom of speech. Ho ho ho, let’s laugh at the women who think their lives are meaningful and who think they have something important to say. God forbid that mums engage in anything but tending to their children and husbands. It shows complete ignorance and, at the very least, lack of proper research. For you don’t have to look very far on Mumsnet to find women (some men, but it is mostly women) making a real difference in the world, whether it is advising another mum how she can continue to breastfeed her baby, making blankets for the recently bereaved, or taking part in numerous campaigns to bust rape myths, improve miscarriage care, and improve reproductive choices in third world countries.
On a personal note, I truly believe Mumsnet has made me a better parent, you know, apart from all the time I’ve spent neglecting them. If it wasn’t for Mumsnet I wouldn’t have stuck with breastfeeding, I wouldn’t have done Baby Led Weaning with my children, I wouldn’t have worn my second child in a sling for so many months. That’s not to say that those choices themselves make me a better parent, but knowing about these choices, finding that there is more out there than Gina Ford and naughty steps, has given me the confidence to make the right choices for me and my children. And that’s not to say that all Mumsnetters are the sling wearing, lentil-weaving type; far from it. There are many Mumsnetters who would rather poke themselves in the eye with a blunt pencil than wap their baps out to feed their children, or who would rather spend an evening at a Peter Andre autobiography book launch than even to discuss parenting online. There are even people on Mumsnet who don’t have children. And that’s the thing about Mumsnetters, they are so diverse that it is impossible to even try and levy any sort of criticism against them as a community.
If this post sounds familiar, it’s because I have written a paean to Mumsnet before, when I started contributing to the Mumsnet Woolly Hugs Blankets (if you are bored by my writing yet another sycophantic blog post, then tough, it’s my blog!) Once again I find myself with another couple of balls of yarn, donated by yet another stranger, to make squares for a blanket of someone I don’t know. But I don’t need to know her. I just know she has lost a child and needs support. God forbid it should ever happen to me, but I know that Mumsnet would be the place I would turn to in my time of need.
*Warning: do not confuse Mumsnet with Netmums. It’s like confusing Father Jack from “Father Ted” with the Pope. You know, if the Pope said “hun” a lot and used smileys.
Regular readers might remember that I have contributed squares to a couple of blankets which are made as a group project by a bunch of women who for the most part have never met, for people they have never met. The people who these blankets are destined for have been bereaved in some way, and the blankets are a way of sending a little bit of comfort.
While often derided as just ‘words on a screen’ Mumsnet, and other forums, are places where relationships are formed. I’ve never met most of these women, yet many of them have been there for me in my darkest hours. But my darkest hours have been nowhere near as dark as those who have lost husbands or children.
These blankets are usually hand delivered to these families, bristling with energy; a collective unconscious. I’m sorry to say I didn’t contribute to the blanket pictured above. But there have been others that I have contributed to, and there will be more. I just wanted to post the picture of this piece of work. It’s amazing that scores of disparate people can make so many different squares that come together to look so beautiful. And some of the people who have made these squares are complete novices, trying out a new skill to lend support to a stranger. And let’s not forget the donors provide money or yarn to the cause. You can read more about this blanket here. In the meantime I’m just going to marvel at the blanket, I just need to get this thing out of my eye…
So, fired up by the Mumsnet “We Believe You” campaign I decided to take my first foray into craftivism, using craft to promote a socio-political message. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but I’ve found it hard to get fired about anything. I mean, I can get faux-fired up about things, and off course there is plenty in the news to get worked up about, but my political knowledge is limited, and world events aren’t often at the top of my priority list.
But when I read about campaigns like the “We Believe You” and am reminded about the awful abuses people I know have faced, the embers start to stir a little.
I knocked a couple of things up in the space of last night and this morning. Now, normally I am in total awe of most of the crafters and artists I read about online, and what they manage to achieve. Today was my day at home with Iris, and because I have been feeling a little under the weather and running on empty my lovely husband spent the past 2 days emptying the laundry basket, cleaning the house, and making lasagne so that I don’t have to do anything except stop the baby from killing herself for two days and the go on the school run. So with that and the help of Peppa Pig I managed to produce a couple of craftivist pieces.
More than 80% of women who are raped know their attacker*. Putting these out tonight was a bit of a whim, I drove until I found somewhere to put it. I chose a fence just outside the University campus. I have no research to back this up, but my gut instinct say that University students are pretty vulnerable to sexual attack. Young, sometimes naive adults, with their first taste of freedom, finding their way in the world, coupled with copious amounts of alcohol, close living quarters are almost a perfect storm for sexual exploitation.
The next one I fear hasn’t quite met it’s potential…
Laid out flat it looks cool, but I ended up dumping and running with this one. I drove into the nearby city which I rarely go to because I used to live in the nearby town which I ‘naice’ and the city is not. But the city is now closer and I should really get used to that rather than schlepping 6 miles into Naice Town. I parked my car at the station without paying for a ticket as it was 7pm and I thought I’d chance my luck, but already I was nervous. This was a difficult one too as I had no idea where this yarn bomb would fit so I just picked a post that I thought was suitable and got sewing, conscious of the men standing outside the nearby pub. I wonder if I will ever not feel stupid doing this?! But here is is anyway:
Well, if one person reads it and checks out the hash tag then it has served it’s purpose. Maybe I can inspire some other people to give this craftivism thing a crack. The stupid feeling only lasts about 3 minutes!
So, for those of you who read my blog just for the craft you might want to skip this post. This is where I get a bit serious, but I am not going to apologise because this is important to me, and what is the point in having people’s ears (or eyes) and not using it for good.
1 in 4 women have experienced rape or attempted rape. How many women are in your house? How many female friends and family do you have? Think about that statistic 1 in 4 women have experienced rape or attempted rape.
So, there are so many issues that I could tell you about rape, about how in no other crime is the victim grilled about what they were wearing during the crime, what their sexual predilections are. I could remind you that last year the Coalition started talking about anonymity for men accused of rape, when there is no evidence that false allegations of rape are higher than for any other crime. But for those of you who are concerned for those men at the mercy of all these women out there they have The False Rape Society advising them how to avoid being falsely accused of rape, including avoiding sex with young girls who may want to hide it from their parents, group sex with just one woman several men and sex with a woman who has a husband or boyfriend. Now, I’d like to reiterate those warnings to men, but not because you may get accused of rape, but because they are morally repugnant.
But I am going to skate over those issues, serious as they are. I am joining Mumsnet’s “We believe you campaign” to try and bust some common rape myths some of which I have copied here:
MYTH: Women provoke rape by their appearance or their behaviour
It’s never your fault. No woman ‘asks to be raped’ or ‘deserves what she gets’ – only the rapist is responsible for the rape.
REALITY: Dressing attractively, or flirting, is neveran invitation to rape. Rape is not a ‘crime of passion’ – it is an expression of power and control.
No woman ‘asks to be raped’ or ‘deserves what she gets’ – only the rapist is responsible for the rape. Rape happens to all types of women, from the very young to the very old – physical appearance is irrelevant.
There is no ‘typical rape victim’. There is only one common factor in all rapes, and that is the rapist. So when someone says to you “You’re not going out dressed like that” it should be because they have toilet roll stuck to the bottom of their shoe, or are wearing a Jedward t-shirt.
MYTH: Women are most likely to be raped by a stranger, outside, in dark alleyways
REALITY: More than 80% of women who are raped know their attacker; 53% of perpetrators of serious sexual assaults are current partners or ex-partners.
In fact, over two-thirds of rapes take place in the victim’s home, the suspect’s home or the victim/suspect’s shared home. This myth can mean that women who are raped in these circumstances don’t identify their experience as rape, and therefore don’t report it.
It also puts blames the victim, and limits women’s freedom of movement by implying that rape can be prevented by avoiding certain places.
The exemption for rape in marriage was only abolished in England and Wales in 1991. Until then being married held an ‘implied consent’ to sex. This isn’t meant to scaremonger people to be be afraid of their friends and family. It is meant to stop women having to be afraid of every stranger they pass in the stress.
Now, I am lucky enough to have never been the victim of rape or any kind of physical sexual assault, but I know people who have, and I am the mother of daughters so I want to show my support to this campaign and get people thinking a bit more about the facts and realities surrounding this awful crime.
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.