Dinosaurs for Feminism

This week my attention was drawn to a Facebook group that made me so angry I had to listen to loud music and punch a cushion to prevent all of the crockery in the flat being smashed to bits and my fist going through my laptop screen.

The Facebook group in question was Woman Against Feminism. Yes, women who are against feminism. They have all sorts of reasons for  being against feminism.

They don’t need feminism because “I don’t need to grow out my body hair to prove I am equal  to men” (to which I would respond, you are right! you can shave, or not. I often chose not to, but wear shorts anyway, because I don’t need to have hair free legs to feel beautiful. Sometimes I do shave if I feel like it. But don’t feel I have to. Because Feminism.)

They don’t need feminism because “My children are not a punishment, cooking for my husband is not oppression, I don’t whine hysterically until people buy me stuff” (to which I would respond that’s awesome that your children bring you joy and you like cooking for your family! It would also be awesome if you wanted to go to work, or if your husband wanted to cook for you. And you should totally have the right to do either. Or both. Without judgement. And in some countries, you can. Because Feminism. Um. you’ve kind of lost me on the buying stuff bit though. I am not sure what that has to do with feminism. But well done on not whining until people buy you stuff. I guess.)

They don’t need feminism because “Being a stay at home wife is my choice, [...] oppression doesn’t exist in my country (Australia)” (To which I would respond choices are cool. I love that modern women can make these choices in countries like Australia. Because Feminism. Also, there’s no oppression in Australia? Amazing! I also hear it’s completely free of poisonous fauna.)

I assume that the majority of my readers are fully able to appreciate the irony of young women rejecting feminism because they are “free“.

As I read through the posts on this group I became increasingly confused. It was clear that many of the women on this page actually were feminists – in the literal sense of the word. They all seem to hold the belief that women should be allowed the same rightspower, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way.

What I realised, as I scrolled through this community (which currently has almost 10k likes), is that these women aren’t against the literal meaning of Feminism. They aren’t against equality, or even the fight for equality. What they are is confused about what feminism means in a wider context. Perhaps confused isn’t even the right word – maybe misled would be better. The common thread through the posts on the community is a powerful narrative that feminists want women to be unfemine, to reject men, to oppress men, and that feminists want to tell other women what to think.

The first rebuttal piece I read about this community was written by Laurie Penny – a writer that I admire very much, who I count amongst my inspirations,  I usually enjoy her writing, usually agree with her politics, and usually think she puts her point across very well. However I found her open letter, entitled “Dear Women Who Don’t Need Feminism” almost more frustrating than the community itself. It was a very passionate piece, which did make some good points, and I could hear her anger and frustration, and I could almost feel her sense of rejection. I understand it too; when you’ve spent much of your life devoted to furthering the cause of women in an unequal society and receiving abuse from all sides and then you find a community of young women rejecting that? Ouch.

And yet, I could also see a younger me in those comments on the community. A younger me who had misunderstood the meaning of the term ‘feminist’, who had actually said out loud that she was not a feminist but an “equalist”, who had made a joke about feminist being bitter man haters, who burned bras and didn’t shave and sang protest songs naked in the park. A younger woman who’d believed that women were equal, but that feminists were all man hating crazy people. That was me. Yes, I had an epiphany after one too many times being cat called and groped in public, but it took a lot of time and a lot of kind and patient friends who encouraged me to learn more about feminism. An impassioned cry as Penny’s open letter is, it’s also passive aggressive and incendiary, and to young women who think feminists are angry women who want to tell them what to think all it’s going to do is push them to reject feminism further.

One of the posts on the community caugt my eye in particular:

They don’t need feminism because “feminism has become confused with misandry which is as bad as misogyny

The association of “Feminism” with “man hating” is problematic, and not new. But I would suggest that when a word starts being used in a negative way, it’s more important to re-appropriate that word than to reject the entire concept. See also  gay, queer, tree-hugger, dork.

Feminism has a long history of backlash. 30 years ago some claimed that we were ‘post feminism’ – women had jobs and the vote and choices and birth control. WHAT MORE DID THEY WANT? Well, the clue is in the definition. Feminists want equality. And the interesting thing about the rejection of feminism is that there have been waves of rejection of feminism – and there’s a common theme to these waves. Each time there’s a wave of backlash, it tends to precedes a sea change – a significant shift in the freedoms and rights of women.   Susan Faludi, who wrote a book all about this exact subject in 1991 argued  that “the anti-feminist backlash has been set off not by women’s achievement of full equality but by the increased possibility that they might win it. It is a pre-emptive strike that stops women long before they reach the finish line.”  This is where terms such as ‘feminazi‘ arise from; they arise from fear that actually, we might have a point, and we might actually be having an impact. And the best way to derail that is to be dismissive, critical, and paint feminism as something unhelpful and harmful – or as ineffective and irrelavant. The best counter-attack to this is to be clear what feminism is, and isn’t.

Feminism isn’t a political party with a manifesto. It’s not a religion, with a clearly defined set of beliefs.  It’s a movement, an ever-changing and enormous movement, made up of millions and millions of people with different beliefs, backgrounds, goals and agendas. Some feminists have opinions I profoundly disagree with. Some feminists are risking their lives for standing up for equality. Some feminists are men. Not all feminists are intersectional, but they should be. One feminist doesn’t, and shouldn’t, speak for all feminists, or for all women. The one thing that all feminists have in common is that they ALL believe that everyone is equal, and deserves to be treated in the same way, and that right now women are not equal to men.

Feminism will always have to battle on two sides. Feminism will have to battle a society which is demonstrably unequal. Feminism will also have to battle misunderstandings of what feminism is. But I take heart from Faludi’s words, that the greater the volume of the backlash the closer we are to a result.

I am not overly concerned about the ‘women against feminism’ Facebook. 10k likes isn’t that large, when you compare it to, say, a stop violence against women page which has 37k likes. Or Dogs against Romney which has 100k. It’s also clear, when you start reading the comments, that there are an awful lot of men on there promoting MRA groups, and that immediately makes me suspicious and doubtful. It’s also clear that the women on there are largely young, relatively financially secure, mainly white, attractive, able bodied and straight. When you have this many advantages it can be harder to see why feminism may be relevant.

To those women I say – awesome. You are lucky. And you have freedom to reject feminism.By all means reject feminism because it’s not relevant to you. But don’t ever think that means that it is irrelevant.  And if you want to know more about why most of the reasons you think you don’t need feminism are actually excellent reasons why you do, then I’ll be here, happy to discuss it with you, just as I had kind patient people prepared to discuss it with me in 2007, even though I had, at the time, implied that they were bitter man hating penis oppressing harpies.

I can’t respect your choice to reject feminism, but I uphold your right to do so (because feminism). But what you don’t get to do is tell other women (and men) who DO need feminism that they are wrong to do so. Because to deny those women (and men) their choice to continue to fight for equality that makes you just as bad as the feminists you are rejecting.

Ornithoscelidaphobia

“Ornithoscelidaphobia” is the fear of dinosaurs.

Pointing out to someone with ornithoscelidaphobia that it is completely irrational to be scared of dinosaurs because they have been extinct for 65 million years isn’t going to elicit the response “oh really? Brilliant, thanks, I will stop being scared of dinosaurs now that I know”.

Because the whole point of a phobia is that it is irrational overreaction.  It’s an extreme state of fear, and hard to control. It’s not being ‘a bit scared’ of something the way you would be perfectly rational to be scared of say, a lion should you find yourself directly face to face with one. In which case you should probably be more than a bit scared, but you get my meaning.

I don’t have Ornithoscelidaphobia, although I did have some recurring nightmares which were pretty frightening after I saw Jurassic Park when I was 14. I do have a lot of friends with arachnophobia – which in the UK  isn’t particulaly rational. We have no spiders that can give you anything worse than a mild infection, and even then only if you’re really unlucky. I rather  like spiders. They eat wasps and any creature that eats wasps gets a big thumbs up from me. Not that I  have ‘spheksophobia’ either; although Mother RDP has a potentially fatal wasp allergy which means I just really hate the fuckers. A friend of mine has ‘coulrophobi’a – the fear of clowns – which is surprisingly common.  Perhaps too many of us read/saw It at a formative age. (n.b. for the love of god don’t follow that link if you have coulrophobia)

‘Trypanophobia’ is my monkey. I am terrified of injections, blood tests and having a drip/cannula. While they all come under the same heading, I think of them as quite different fears, as they come from different bad experiences.

On my ninth birthday I was bitten by a dog while in france. This led to my having to have a tetanus injection, delivered into my arse by a non English speaking doctor who with little ceremony or kindness threw me onto his lap and jabbed the needle in my backside, in full view of my Mum’s boyfriend at the time, who I barely knew. (Perhaps this isn’t exactly how it happened, and perhaps this is how my 9 year old scared  brain interpreted it or remembers it, but it was enough to give me The Fear thereafter.) When I was 13 my entire school year was given the BCG. I warned the  nurse that I had difficulties with injections. She was kind but businesslike – after all she had 60 odd injections to do that day – but something went wrong and the syringe cracked as the injection was given. Some of the fluid sprayed into my eye and the nurse freaked out and jumped back, letting go of the syringe and therefore leaving it hanging out of my arm.  While I find injections really difficult, I  can generally manage my fear response. I don’t freak out, or scream, or faint, but I do have to do mind over matter breathing exercises and need somewhere quite to sit for a little while after. It helps that  bar those two bad experiences I  haven’t had a disastrous injection incident since.

Blood tests are a completely different matter. I have no single bad experience with blood tests, or cannulae. They are ALL AWFUL. I have never had a blood test that hasn’t been painful and traumatic. I  have ninja veins. Nurses will spent ages getting me to clench my fists, tying and retying tourniquets, smacking my arm, sighing, giving up, smacking the backs of my hands, sighing, saying “it’s ok why are you so worried?” whilst looking suspiciously concerned at the lack of visible veins. I’ve experienced on more than one occasion a delay while the most experienced person in the hospital is summoned to come and take the blood/put in the cannula  instead. That’s before we’ve even got to the matter of my slow blood pressure. (If I am really really stressed, it goes up to what could be considered normal. When I was in the midst of depression I’d have these weird moments where it was like my body couldn’t actually produce enough blood flow to keep me upright, I’d feel a bit headswimmy and then bang I’d be out cold on the floor.) So once they’ve managed to find the vein and the ‘just a little pin prick’ (FUCKING LIES) has taken place I then have to contend with the sounds (I can’t look, I am too busy trying to remember how breathing works) of them trying to get blood out of me. Or fetching someone else to do it. All while being acutely aware that they are actually now hurting me, and I am getting more and more distressed.

All this considered, I actually think I handle myself relatively well. I cry, sure, and I find it hard, but I don’t have a massive freak out and I actually go and have the damn things done in the first place.

I always warn them in advance. “I have a phobia, I probably won’t faint, but I will probably cry a bit, and it’s really hard to get blood out of me, but please just get on with it and I’ll get on with staying conscious”.

What makes it really difficult is the inevitable reaction of the hospital staff when they see I have tattoos. This immediately invalidate my warning. Apparently, it’s COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE for me to be scared of blood tests/injections because I have tattoos.  But that’s like saying “You don’t mind lizards. Whyare you afraid of snakes?”.  Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE  COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THINGS.

With my medical history, I’ve had many, many blood tests. I had to have 7  just last week. I think they got enough blood for 5, and that was after 20 minutes, taking blood from both hands, and leaving me with a hematoma in one hand. The three medical professionals that ended up involved with this marathon blood testing session all failed to take me seriously when I said I had a phobia. One ended up in tears herself, and one was incredibly rude to me, repeating over and over again that I had tattoos as if that would somehow make my fear vanish. Oh, you’re RIGHT! Dinosaurs ARE extinct. How silly. Oh YES! I AM much bigger than the spider, and it probably IS more scared of me than I am of it. Of COURSE! Most clowns AREN’T homocidal manicacs! Great, thanks, my fear has immediately vanished and I am now cured.

In all my years of having injections and blood tests there have only been two medical professionals that haven’t said this. You know what they both had in common? TATTOOS.

However irrational a person’s phobia may be, telling them to ‘suck it up’ or ‘just get over it’ isn’t going to help. Nor is pointing out the irrationality of their fear. All you are doing then is belittling the person, who might be sitting there looking at a picture of a clown and using every breath and every muscle and every beat of their heart trying to control the impulse to scream, cry, freak out or faint. Telling that person that they are being ridiculous is the least sensitive thing you could possibly do – and partly because THEY KNOW they reaction is over the top, and they are embarassed about it, and are using all their emotional reserves to control it.

Even if someone’s phobia seems ridiculous to you, remember that we’re all scared of something. If you are ever confronted with a person having a freak out over something you think is really dumb, just try to put yourself in their position. Imagine yourself confronted by your biggest fear. And just say, hey, it’s ok to be scared. Keep breathing, and you’ll get through this.

And if that person has hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, pick your words carefully…

Support the strike

Since 2010 pay freezes, below inflation incremental pay ‘rises’ and redundancies mean that I am doing the work of three people for what is essentially a pay cut. And I’m lucky. I earn enough and have a life situation where I don’t need in-work benefits.  Many public sector workers don’t.  Why should people being paid by the government have to also take benefits, simply through low pay, when MPs and bankers (who, let’s not forget, CAUSED the financial problems in the first place) are receiving huge inflation busting pay rises?

This isn’t just about me, and it’s not about ‘greedy public sector workers’.  This is about a fair working wage for the people that keep the country going.

I’m lucky. I can take the hit of losing a day’s pay. Others can’t, and they are striking today and I am striking with them, for them, and for a fair working wage. Please support the strike.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/06/celebrate-strikers-media-opposed-trade-unions

Like mother, like Dinosaur Pirate

For the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of hosting Mummy Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate. She emigrated around 8 years ago, and hasn’t been in this country since my thirtieth birthday, when a group of the most amazing friends any Dinosaur could wish for secretly collected enough money for her to fly over to attend my party. It was a fancy dress party, with the theme of your favourite children’s TV programme. My desire for accuracy in my costume – Stormer from the Misfits from Jem and The Holograms –  meant that I wasn’t wearing my glasses. Therefore when a 5’4″ penguin walked in after a big fanfare, there was a moment (which I am told was writ large on my face) where  my thought process went:

  1. What. my friends have bought me a penguinogram? Is that even a thing?
  2. Actually, that penguin looks like my Mum. Which is funny as mum loves Pingu.
  3. It really does look like Mum. But she’s in Cape Town so it can’t be.
  4. Wait.
  5. That’s my mum.

OMG WTF BBQTONGSit's like the weirdest fan fic ever

 

 

 

 

My friends have often commented on how good my relationship with my mum is, and Mr RPD is fascinated by it. (Mother RDP and I are so alike, he says, that having her to stay is pretty much like having two of me around.) It isn’t what you’d call a traditional mother-daughter relationship. It’s more like having a twin, albeit one much a little older. We give each other great advice, because we think the same, and we always understand each other’s difficulties as we tend to react to things and view things the same.

Because of how much of a pair we are, people are often a little shocked when I respond to the question “but don’t you miss not having your mum nearby?” with “sometimes, but really, we get on much better now she’s a thousand miles away.” For all our closeness, and as good as our relationship is now, it wasn’t always so.

If I could give any piece of advice to my teenage self and her embattled mother, it would just be “hang in there. It will get better. So much better than you can imagine.”

If you have been a teenage girl, and grew up living with you mum, you will probably know what I am talking about. Or if you lived in the same house as a teenage girl and her mother. There are exceptions I am sure, but if you google “mother and teenage daughter relationship” you will find that those exceptions really are exceptional. From more or less the minute I turned 13, I turned into a MONSTER. I hated everything. People, school, life, but especially my mother. She didn’t UNDERSTAND. She NEVER UNDERSTANDS. She’s TWISTS MY WORDS. I HATE YOU . *Slams the door*.

Nothing either I, nor my mother, could do, for about 6 years, could ever be right. She wanted to hold my hand, because I was her lovely little girl. I wanted to be independent and didn’t want to be seen with her, so shrugged off her hand, which hurt her. And that teenager knew it hurt her, and that makes the teenager inside shrivel in hurt and confusion even more. It wasn’t a good feeling to hurt your mother, but there was so much twisting anger boiling inside. Even now, with a distance of half my lifetime, I can remember that boiling searing confusion and anger, and not knowing why I was angry or upset. Only now I am older I am more able to sympathise with how Mum must have felt, and it beings me to tears.

She wanted me to tidy my room, or do the washing up, just to help her around the house. I didn’t want to do anything to help her. WHY SHOULD I I HATE YOU *SLAMS DOOR*. She wanted me to brush my hair, wear a nice dress for a family occasion, smile for a photo, please can we just have ONE DAY where we JUST GET ON, please? And yet I couldn’t. And yet, so alike are we, that the one person in the wold that could have any true understanding of what I was going through was her – and she was the one person from whom I both craved and rejected understanding.

The situation was compounded by Mother RDP being a very popular and well liked teacher of my peers. I was told on daily basis – “you’re so LUCKY to have Mrs RDP as a mum” , ” I wish MY mum was like your mum”, “it must me SO much fun having Mrs RDP for a mum” and so on. Every day. “you try living with her.” was my usual gruff response. Of course, most teenagers are selfish in many ways, just trying to survive adolescence – so I wasn’t taking into account that the girls saying this to me were having just the same problems at home with their mum as I was with mine, and they saw Mrs RPD as so “cool” that it never occurred to them that in Mum Mode, not Cool Teacher Mode, that she could rouse the same feelings in me as their mothers could in them.

There are many theories on the internet as to why this happens to teenage girls (as you’ll have noticed, if you did that google search); hormones, resentment of girls ‘turning into their mothers’, fear of growing up, a reflection of conflict women face in society and more. I can’t explain it, but can recognise that our situation was exacerbated by our extreme similarity. When you are in the midst of furious adolescence, hating everything and feeling tense and cross and tearful so often, and you have a fractious and fragile relationship with your mother the absolute last thing you want to hear is “gosh, you’re so alike!”. Being told that was guaranteed to send me into a foot stomping door slamming fury. I didn’t WANT to be like her. I HATE HER SHE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND.

It was this striking similarity (and possibly, in part, my wholesale rejection of it)  that made things so difficult. She could see our similarities plain as day, as could I when in a more reflective mode, and it scared us both. In each other was reflected all the negative things we didn’t like about ourselves. A quick temper, tendency towards laziness and weight gain, a habit of interrupting other people before they’d finished their sentence, a strong sense of empathy but little tact. Add in the same face, the same gestures, the same facial expressions even and you have a perfect storm of mother-daughter angst. Mother RDP could also see the good in me that was in her – large personalities, with quick wit and a love of laughter, a stong sense of social justice  and a sharp mind – and was proud of her fierce and independent teenager just as she’d been proud of her outspoken and loving child. But as a teenager I couldn’t see any good in anything.

Like many mother/daughter relationships ours matured as I did, and as I left my troubled adolescence to become a troubled adult I started to appreciate our friendship and our similarities. I was able to recognise how valuable mum’s advice and insight was, and as I age I appreciate it more and more. We still are able to have huge fights if we’re around each other too long, but I now understand that those huge fights only happen with people we really care for, and who we know will forgive us afterwards.

Our last day together on this recent trip was a walk along South Bank. It was an emotional day and not just because she was leaving later that day, with little chance of her coming back to the UK anytime soon; the walk we took was the last one that Mum took with  her mum, 15 years previously, shortly before her mum was diagnosed with cancer. South Bank has changed massively in terms of architecture over the years, and mum was astonished, and largely pleased, by the changes. But the river remained the same, and the day was a beautiful one, with the sun sparkling off the river and a gentle breeze along the riverbank. We talked of many things; food, friends, love, life. We didn’t discuss Grannie RDP much as we both get a little tearful; although the symbolism of the walk was not lost on either of us and it was a powerful sensation. Words that were  unspoken, but felt by both of us on this walk, were how far we have come, Mum and I, on our adventure through life. How many changes we’d endured, how many conflicts survived, and look at us now – the same person separated by 2osometing years.

Despite the tumultuous years in between, we’ve developed a relationship built from mutual respect, admiration, love, and an understanding of how each other works that no one else is able to have. That has come from distance; distance in miles meaning that we make the best of the time we have together, and distance in years meaning that as we both age we understand each other’s histories better.

If you are a teenage girl, or the mother of a teenage girl, just hang in there. It will get better. So much better than you can imagine.

peas in a pod

 

 

Six months in – The List progress report

It has now been six months since I gave up drinking. My review date of July 1st approaches, marking the day where I decide to start drinking again or carry on free of booze.

Therefore it seems appropriate at this point to review  The List , seeing as we’re halfway through the year. (Halfway through the year? What the hell? I swear it was March last week, and I am pretty sure that someone has stolen the first three weeks of June.)

The original list :

  1. Learn to sew. Start with cushions, end up with dresses
  2. Learn Sign Language
  3. No drinking for 3 months – re-evaluate on 1st April whether I want to stay off the booze for a further 3 months
  4. Start writing again – and document my attempts to do all of the above

Well there are three Successes here, and it is clear to the massive failure.

# 4 speaks for itself. I have written once a week ever since my first post, even when I’d only come out of surgery two days previously; not only documenting progress on The List but going on massive tangents about things that ignite my ire or fascination. Writing this blog has also led me to try things I’d have been too shy or nervous to attempt previously, opened up new opportunities and helped me rediscover a voice I’d forgotten I had. I’ve found a sense of pleasure and satisfaction I did not know I had in writing; and when people connect to what I’ve written it feels wonderful.

As for # 2 I can confidently state that I am well into my Level 1 BSL course and really enjoying it, although I am finding remembering the vocabulary a struggle and find it easier to sign myself than to understand someone else signing to me. This is a matter of practicing more, and finding other BSL speakers willing to sign the same thing over and over repeatedly at ever decreasing speeds until I understand.

# 3 has been more successful than I could have ever dreamed. It has got easier and easier as the months have passed, to the point where at a friend’s club night last night I realised that the fun silly person that was drunk-me that I thought I’d miss so much was actually just me. Happy me. A happy me without feeling crap in the morning, who can remember the night before. I am at a point where I really think if I ever do want a drink, it’s because I’ve seen a really interesting drink I really want to taste . I no longer miss being drunk, or even want to be drunk. I often feel incredibly relieved – particularly on the way home when tired late at night – that I am not drunk and do not have to deal with all that fallingy-overy-eating-pot-noodles-hangover-tomorrow business. Every now and than I think about a time when I might start drinking again and know that I never want to feel like that again.

I would like to gloss over # 1, but that’s not what this experiment was all about, and I must take my failures on the chin as much as celebrate my successes. I have not learned to sew. That sewing machine is still sitting in my friend’s hallway. The closest I’ve got to a sewing machine this year was seeing this beautiful creature  in John Lewis and deciding I really wanted it, than wandering away and buying some Space Invaders pyjamas. (I think Mr RDP suspects I have swapped my booze / sugar addiction for a pyjama addiction. I now have more than 10 pairs.) I have not made ​​any cushions. I did buy a pair of dungaree shorts things for £ 5 where the straps were too long intending to put in new buttonholes in order to make them fit. I spent an hour wrestling with a needle and thread to put in an embarrassingly untidy hole into which the button would fit (so technically it’s a buttonhole) to discover I’d completely failed to correctly measure where the buttonholes needed to be. I gave up on the second strap.

So # 1 gets a 1/10 written in red ink. Needs improvement. See me.

I do have a revised list from the wonderful ass-kicking session  I attended a few weeks ago, which I also need to review.

  1. Get back into volunteer work in children’s theatre
  2. Do my BSL level 2 exam and apply for the course
  3. Keep writing about feminism – do not give in!
  4. Get singing again
  5. Apply for the job

Again, there’s a big glaring failure here which I will get out of the way up front. I did not finish the application for the job. After running out of time to do a proper job on the application form due to someone stealing the first three weeks of June I did some soul-searching and came to the conclusion that at this point in my life and career, it is too soon to take an upward step. I am not ready yet. Even if  I managed to get an interview with a half-assed and rushed application form, and even if  I managed to get the job from that interview, I’d still not be ready . Making the decision to abandon the application brought a huge sense of relief so great that I almost cried. The next day back at work I immediately enrolled on four management training courses offered through work, with the support of my manager. By the end of the year I intend to be ready .

I have sent out some emails about volunteering with an inclusive theatre group; they are not looking for volunteers right now but hopefully will be in the future – so let’s mark that one as ‘ongoing’.

I have not done any more singing other than singing in the shower. But I know many musical people. All it takes is for me to be brave enough to say, hey, I want to do some singing. Let’s do a band sort of thing. But saying that takes courage, and it needs me to be confident that I can sing well enough for someone to take me seriously. This is a courage I do not have – and I need to somehow find that.

Ok, I might not have achieved everything. But what I have done has given me more confidence and more opportunities than I would have ever believed. And almost all of it is really down to just one thing really: giving up alcohol. It was what spawned this blog. It’s what gives me time to have adventures in my weekends. Money to fund the adventures. It’s given me a new insight into my personality, how I operate, how I relate to people around me. I am not ready to give that up just yet.

I am now past the stage of Not Drinking being a novelty. I am past the stage of looking longingly at the booze, or at being jealous of drunk people. I am happily drinking my soda water and barely notice the difference in the fun I am having to the fun everyone else is having – apart from when I see really drunk people and I feel a sense of deep relief that I am not drunk. It’s my birthday at the end of July, and the prospect of the first entirely sober birthday in 20 years is probably less than an horrific and unthinkable prospect than it is is an enticing and fascinating one. So it’s an easy decision. It is another three months, with a review on 1st October. That will be a big decision, as that will mean an entirely sober Christmas. But let’s worry about that when we get there.

So this is The New List:

  • Learn to sew. Start with cushions, end up with dresses
  • Continue to learn British Sign language – pass the L1 exam and sign up for L2
  • No drinking for 3 months – review on 1st October
  • Get back into volunteer work in children’s theatre
  • Get singing again
  • Aim to be ready to level up in my career by the end of the year
  • Keep writing once a week – documenting my attempts to do the above and writing about issues important to me

 

Women do not necessarily want your attention (2007)

A day late and a bit of a change this week as I am on holiday (sort of). Mother RDP is visiting from the other side of the world for the first time in 6 years and requires entertaining (which is actually fairly easy. 1 – provide Playstation game. 2 – add red wine. But she prefers cooperative games and saying “sorry, I can’t play Lego Pirates of the Caribbean any more, I  have to write my blog” isn’t worth the death stare). So for this week I am providing a post from my old blog – one from 2007 before I’d self identified as a feminist.

This was the first time I really wrote about street harassment, the first time I really let rip with my opinions online and it was both freeing and terrifying. The post generated many comments – positive, negative, educational, insightful and creepy, and it was my first experience of the “not all men” derailing rollercoaster.

I look back now and it’s not perfect, it’s not quite how I’d put things now, but it’s my first real piece of “internet writing” and I present it for you here, unedited, as one from the vaults:

 


 

Dear To Men,
I know this is a subject which has been brought to your attention numerous times, by women you know, strangers in the street, documentaries, newspapers and various other forms. But you are clearly not getting it.Women, believe it or not, do not necessarily want your attention.I know this may come as a shock to you. It certainly seemed to come as a shock to the four men who – separately – approached me last night, after half 10pm, while I was unlocking my bike outside Sainsbury’s. They all seemed very surprised indeed that a young, lone, small blonde woman would be undesirous of the attentions of a lone man at night. One was so surprised, in fact, that I rebuffed his attentions, that he seemed to arrive at the conclusion that I was a ‘fucking slut’. I am rather bemused at this deduction, as I would have thought that that type of woman would, in fact, have welcomed such advances.

Women also do not like being yelled at from men in cars, vans, lorries and building sites. I know this may come as a terrible shock, as I am sure from the frequency with which it occurs, men must find this a particularly successful way of getting a date. I should note that yelling at a woman who is turning right at a busy road, merely to tell her that you can see her bum, and that you approve, is not a good way to ingratiate yourself with said girl. You are far more likely to find that when you a stopped at the next junction, your tail light will be kicked in. Or it would have been, had I caught up with you.

I am aware that in the animal world, male birds strut and whistle particular tunes to attract a mate. I am sorry to inform you that this method does not work for humans. In fact, the next man that tries to attract me by adopting a pigeon chested stature, whistling at me, and calling out the mating chant of the Greater Spotted Twat, “alrite darlin” will find that his reproductive equipment experience rearranging when they meet my shoe, at speed.

If you see a woman you find attractive on the street, or in public, here is a handy guide to prevent you being murdered by a woman who is finally at the end of her temper with idiots who fail to recognise that women are people, and not things to be pulled, raped, mugged, or just shouted at in a moment of boredom.

• Don’t be an unmitigating bastard. If you are one of these, then stick to pulling desperate drunk women in bars.

• Make sure you are good looking, or at least dressed well, clean, and that you smell ok. If you are unwashed, unsanitary, sweaty, or have a third ear in the middle of your forehead, may I recommend a bath, deodorant and possibly even surgery. If you have any female friends, ask them for their advice on your appearance. Do not get cross if you do not agree with their recommendations. The best way to attract a woman, is to listen to what women think of you. If you think you know better, then you have an answer, right there, as to why you are still alone.

• Do not approach any lone women you do not already know late at night. Some men do not seem to realise, but women have an inbuilt fear of men at night, which prompts us to automatically reject a suitor who approaches in this way. WE WILL ASSUME YOU WANT TO RAPE US. Even if this is not your intention, let me assure you, WE WILL ASSUME YOU WANT TO RAPE US. Whether this is experience, genetic hard-wiring, social conditioning, or something else, I do not know – although I personally believe it’s part of that entirely necessary fight or flight instinct. Part of our brain says DANGER. RUN/FIGHT NOW. Let me assure you, that in 99% of circumstances, lone women at night who are approached by men WILL ASSUME YOU WANT TO RAPE THEM. That other 1% may assume the same thing, but they usually get payment in advance.

• If you do make the error of approaching a lone woman late at night, and you receive an angry, fearful or violent response from the woman, and you are unsure why, please refer to the point above. Women, when they are scared, often respond with anger, and thus may shout at you. If this does occur, the best course of action is to back away, apologise, and leave her alone. If you follow her, or try to continue the conversation, SHE WILL ASSUME YOU WANT TO RAPE HER. If she does get angry and shout at you, I would suggest that, owing to the point above, that this is a PERFECTLY VALID AND SANE RESPONSE.

• Many men seem to be surprised by the reaction of women such as I have described above. I have witnessed men being upset and hurt, even shocked by having their advances rebuffed. As men really do not seem to understand why a woman might reject their advances, I shall try to explain it very, very slowly.

WE. ASSUME. YOU. WANT. TO. RAPE. US.

• Just in case you are still confused, I shall clarify further.

WE DO NOT WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU. IF YOU TRY TO HAVE SEX WITH US WHEN WE DO NOT WANT YOU TO THIS IS RAPE. WHEN YOU APPROACH US LATE AT NIGHT WE ASSUME YOU WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH US. THEREFORE: WHEN YOU APPROACH US LATE AT NIGHT, WE ASSUME YOU WANT TO RAPE US.

• IF you do see a woman in public you think is beautiful, and you would like to take her for a drink (and not just have sex with her) then she may actually quite like it if you ask her. However, this is dependant on your surroundings.

Appropriate places:
Anywhere with lots of people, e.g. the underground, supermarkets, libraries, coffee shops.
Places where people go to socialise, e.g. pubs, clubs

Inappropriate places:
Dark alleyways
Deserted streets
Public toilets
Night buses
Anywhere she is on her own and no one else is around
When she is unlocking her bike from an area notorious for bike theft, theft and violent crime when everything around you is closed

Good ways to start the conversation:
‘I’m sorry, I hope you don’t think this is weird, well, i mean it is, but you’re really pretty, I don’t suppose you’d let me buy you a coffee?’
‘I know this is a bit weird, and I’m a total stranger, and please tell me to fuck off if you want to, but you just looked too beautiful to let you walk past me and out of my life without me stopping to ask you your name’

Something like that. ALWAYS acknowledge your actions in approaching a stranger are weird. ALWAYS give her the option of backing off.

Bad ways to start the conversation:
‘Alrit darlin’
‘great tits luv’
‘fancy one do ya?’
‘OI OI!!!! OI!!! OI YOU!!!!’

NEVER EVER EVER get pissed off if she says ‘no’.

• Sometimes, there are some very obvious signs a woman is busy, and attempting conversation may be an error. For example:

- She is reading a book
- She is listening to music
- She is on the phone

Women often do these things because they enjoy them. Some men seem to believe that women only do these things to fill up the time in between when men are talking to them. This is an erroneous assumption ,and foolish in the extreme.

If a woman is reading, and you talk to her, and she continues to hold the book/magazine/newspaper in the same position and continues to read, then she is NOT INTERESTED IN TALKING TO YOU.

• I am repeating this because it is probably the most important piece of information you will ever know about women. You must always bear this in mind when approaching any woman. We live in fear of being raped. We just do. We may not think about it all the time, but it’s there, at the back of our mind when we walk home. When we walk to the bus stop at night. When we wait to meet someone. When we’re surrounded by men we don’t know. When we are walking on unfamiliar streets. When a man we don’t know approaches us. When we feel lonely, vulnerable, far from home. This is why we do not like it when men yell at us. When they whistle. When they jeer and hoot and shout lewd things from cars. When a man on the street asks us for a cigarette. It is a constant, and occasionally all consuming fear that we will always have. And it is why we reject advances with such volume and stress. Because we are AFRAID because you are BIGGER than us, and STRONGER than us and WE DO NOT WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU.

• If you do not understand any of the above, there is no hope for you.

Yours sincerely,
Me.

P.s. the next man that approaches me late at night while I’m on my own is going to find out exactly what it feels like to have an Abus maximum security D-lock repeatedly slammed into their head. Purely in the name of science, of course.

EDIT: I’m adding this in, to the guys reading this who are saying ‘hey, we’re not all like this…’

Men don’t get it, because they’re either too nice to understand why other men would behave like that, or they’re the fucktards doing it in the first place.

EDIT: A small number of women have said they don’t fear rape per se, more attack. I’m not going to change it, because I think it’s the fundamental difference between women and men walking home at night – men might fear attack/theft/mugging, but there’s something much more basic, more primal, more personal about the fear of rape than the fear of attack. And these men that say ‘allo darling’ – well – these are SEXUAL ADVANCES. And we don’t respond badly to them because we think these men are going to take our phone or our wallet. I’m not telling you ‘YOU FEAR RAPE’. I’m explaining WHY women react badly in those situations. I would go as far to say that some of you have misunderstood my point, zoned in on one part, thought ‘she says i fear rape! no i don’t!!’ and not taken into account the *context*.

If you do still take issue with the use of the word ‘rape’ – please feel free to re-read substituting the word ‘rape’ for ‘hurt’.

EDIT: ‘To Men’ – it will stand. I know there are exemptions, but it’s making people read it, and if it wasn’t controversial, who’d bother? I do accept some of you have valid reasons for taking issue with ‘To Men’, and I agree with those points, but again, it will stand, mainly because I think it’s funnier. I will also direct you to this excellent comment which is written better than I managed:

This is a really common and regular occurrence for pretty much every woman I know. As in, every week, if not every time I walk home alone in the dark. And the people who do it vary hugely; old, young, middle-aged; white, black, asian; British, foreign; tall, short, medium height; fat, thin, medium build.
The one defining characteristic they all, without exception, share, is that they are all men. When it happens on an almost daily basis, to half the people you know, and it’s always  men, identifying the problem as being with (some) men is not bigotry, it’s just a fact of life.”

Objects on a t-shirt may be more offensive than they appear

Last week I mentioned, in passing, how angry I was about some t-shirts I saw in the window of a local branch of a cheap menswear chain. I’ve been angry about it all week – ever since I saw them in the window of the shop. They were all world cup themed, having several for different football teams all with one thing in common. Nearly naked women. Some sitting astride footballs. Some with footballs covering their breasts. Some with nation flags as little thongs.

It should tell you something when I have to warn you that those links may be NSFW. Yes, images which are potentially not safe for work – because they are sexual in nature and could get you fired (for A –  having sexually inappropriate pictures on your work computer and B – sexual harassment) are not only available for sale but are proudly displayed in the windows of stores and are also available in children’s sizes

I did a double take when I first saw them. I couldn’t quite believe that here we are, 2014, and somehow it is perfectly OK to sell t-shirts with practically naked sexually objectified women on them? Not just men’s t-shirts, but children’s t-shirts?? And sure, there may be a woman wearing one on the splash page of the shop in question’s website, but just because a woman is wearing it doesn’t render the shirt not sexually objectifying due to some some weird gender waveform cancelling effect.

I became more shocked and disheartened when I started to discuss these shirts with others to find that some didn’t think there was anything wrong with having practically  naked women on a t-shirt. Woah now people. WOAH NOW.

There’s nothing wrong with having a nearly naked woman on a t-shirt.

How did we get here? At what point did we become a society that is so immune to sexually explicit imagery, so saturated with images of the sexualised female form, that we (men and women alike) are able to look at those t-shirts and say “where’s the harm?”

I was born at the end of the 70s – when feminism had been a truly powerful force in the previous decade and wrought powerful changes. I grew up in the 80s, where women started to reap the benefits of that success and as the 90s dawned feminism almost started to seem obsolete. I came of age in the 90s, where women sang in rock bands and wore big shit kicking boots and Kathleen Hanna sang “Rebel Girl” and we started to feel powerful and strong – there was still a fight to have but we were going to bring it…

Then what happened in the 00s I cannot say. Was a big red “reset”  button pushed somewhere on the control desk of “women’s liberation”? It’s like the progress stalled, rolled to a slow stop and then started sliding backwards to the point where sexual objectification is so every day, so normal, so accepted that we see nothing wrong with selling naked objectified women on the front of a t-shirt to a child.

As Laci Green in her excellent video  says:

This is some bullshit. Everyone should be PISSED that this is so normal.

Before we go further, please go back a little and watch Laci Green’s video. The whole thing. Right to the end.

Done?

She says everything in that video I could possibly say about these t-shirts. They exemplify a society which sees women as decoration. As things to be looked at, admired for certain ‘qualities’. And we are bombarded with these ideas on a daily basis. What does this do to us? And I don’t mean “us” as in women, I am talking about all of us – men and women alike – growing up and developing in a world which tells us men are people and women are bodies – a collection of parts. And not only are women a collection of parts, but in order to be acceptable as a women, those parts must be the right size, the right shape, smooth and hairless and flaw free. Even the well meaning “real women have curves” is horribly misguided. I have thin friends. They are still definitely ‘real’. I have trans friends who are also very much ‘real’.

I have struggled with my own body image my whole life. I was a short chubby child with early developing boobs, and have remained a chubby voluptuous short adult. I long to put on some clothes, any clothes, and just go out and not give a shit. It is definitely easier the older I get, but I still care desperately. I care what people think of me. When my eye allergy flares up I “can’t go out” because “I can’t go out without makeup”. I have meltdowns when I am feeling “fat”. I can’t go outside wearing shorts without leggings because I am acutely aware of my big thighs and my stretch marks and my cellulite. Mr RDP was driven to distraction on a holiday we took to a very hot climate; he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t walk around in just a bikini top, or without leggings.

He hasn’t been subjected in the same way I have from a young age of being constantly told, subliminally and overtly, in a million tiny insidious ways and a hundred massive blatant ways, that the most important thing about me is my  body, my clothes, the way I look and my hair. What I say, what I want to be or become, what I think? All of that is secondary, tertiary, inconsequential even to the way I look.

And the kicker? I KNOW that this is social conditioning. And yet I still feel like this, nearly every minute of every day of my life. The conditioning is so strong, the message so powerful, that even though I KNOW it is wrong, even though I KNOW I am labouring under a false consciousness bourne of a myriad of harmful external messages, I still cannot escape it.

These t-shirts are a kick in the face to every person who believes that men and women are equal beings deserving of equal respect. Anyone that wears one needs to take a long hard look at themselves. And possibly a kick up the arse. And to be forcibly made to watch Laci Green’s video.

This headline  in the Daily Mail sums everything up for me.

George Clooney’s fiancee Amal Alamuddin looks stylish in striking red dress and heels at sexual violence summit 

Someone at the Mail clearly realised at some point that this was perhaps not a wise headline – maybe after the above link had been retweeted 1.5K times - and it has since been changed but the new headline is barely  an improvement.  Amal Alamuddin is an intelligent human rights lawyer, very respected in her field with one hell of a CV - but the most important thing about her, according to the media,  is that she’s pretty, wears nice clothes and is going to marry George Clooney. What sort of message does this send to young women? Is it any wonder, given these sorts of messages, that being a “reality TV star” or “marrying a footballer” are seen as viable career choices for young girls?

It’s the same message as those T-shirts – that women are objects, parts, bodies wearing clothes.  That women are for looking at, first and foremost. Everything else is background data.

This is some bullshit. Everyone should be pissed that this is so normal.