Posts Tagged ‘women’

  1. Feminism: A Subject I Approach With Trepidation

    January 16, 2013 by Jenni

    Copyright Paula Wright 2012 - image from dispatchesfromtheclaphamomnibus.blogspot.co.uk

    Copyright Paula Wright 2012 – image from dispatchesfromtheclaphamomnibus.blogspot.co.uk

    I am a feminist. Or at least I think I am, and therein lies the problem. I’m fairly new to the whole feminism thing, or at least new to calling the things I already thought anyway ‘feminist things’, and I’m still feeling my way through the whole thing. Here’s the thing though… it seems that there’s apparently a right way and a wrong way to be a feminist – to believe in the simple notion of equality for everyone because it appears there’s a lot of dissention amongst the ranks.

    I’ve got lots of feminist friends, I follow a lot of feminists on Twitter and they follow me, but I don’t really get into discussions about it with them, I’ve never blogged about it before and to be honest I try to avoid the subject. Why? Because there can be a lot of backlash if you’re the wrong type of feminist, it seems. There are certain names that are associated with feminism that a lot of people seem to hate for various reasons. There’s a lot of angry people in the world of Twitter who don’t like them and make it abundantly clear- “X calls herself a feminist? Well she can’t be because of these reasons…” sort of thing. And that’s fine, everyone’s entitled to an opinion on the matter.

    The thing is though, it makes it really hard for us baby feminists to find our feet because we don’t want to make a mistake, or worse, be the subject of Twitter hate ourselves because we said we liked the wrong person. “Oh… X is the subject of a lot of angry tweets saying she can’t be a feminist. Does that mean I’m not one because I quite liked that thing she wrote and her views made me think differently about feminism in the first place? Better not mention it.”

    That’s not how it should be. People shouldn’t be made to feel like they’re “doing feminism wrong” or worried that if they agree with a certain someone then they can’t be a real proper feminist. Everyone who identifies as a feminist should be encouraged to speak out, to make joyful noises on the subject of equality and get angry at people who want to pretend that it can’t/won’t/shouldn’t happen, not get angry at each other for saying the wrong thing and then being a bit of a nob about it. Yes people say stupid things sometimes and yes sometimes they make it worse by saying more stupid things and being a prick about the whole thing but at the end of the day that’s an opinion. Not everyone has the same one as everyone else on certain subjects.

    But please, let’s stop vilifying each other because we disagree slightly. At the end of the day if you’re a person who thinks that all other people regardless of any factors should be equal and recognised as such in society, then you’re a feminist in some way or another. Let’s stop trying to make people feel passionately about every subject, let’s stop making it feel awkward to like certain feminist figureheads, let’s stop scaring away people from using ‘the F-word’ and force them into hiding because they don’t want to do it wrong. We need to encourage each other to speak out, to talk to everyone we know about feminism/equality and why it’s important and to stop making it matter what sort of feminist you are, when all that really matters is that you are one.

    NB: Even after I wrote this and was submitting it to AWOT, I was feeling incredibly nervous as to how it would be received. I can only hope it goes better than I expect it to. *cowers*

    Jenni (@circlethinker) is a science geek, a theatre aficionado (both on and off the stage), and a big fan of socks. She’s in her early twenties and recently finished up a Biomedical Science degree at Sheffield. Jenni has a lovely blog over here and you can find her on Twitter right here

     


  2. Christmas, charity and keeping safe

    December 18, 2012 by @NotRollergirl

    Image from ActionAid

    Image from ActionAid

    “We must be careful to remember the true meaning of Christmas” is a BRILLIANT thing to say to someone if you want to get them to pelt you with chocolate coins. The true meaning of Christmas might be the sensation of teary panic that descends after you have been out for four nights in a row and fall over a display of Yoga Bunny drinks in Pret. It might be the bile that rises when you read a piece called “Give the gift of DIAMONDS!” and you’ve got everyone a Compare the Meerkat mug. It might be the sicky feeling you get when you see a red, lacy, fur trimmed “sexy festive” outfit, or the stabby feeling you get when you’re stuck on the tube with That Guy Who Thinks Everyone Should Be Pals And Sing Last Christmas Together Because It’s December And For God’s Sake Why Do People In London Not Talk To Each Other.

    We should be kind to people all year around. Charity doesn’t begin at home, and it certainly doesn’t begin and end at Christmas. And charity at Christmas is a bit Dickensian. We can’t relate to monacled millionaires buying turkeys the size of tiny orphans and having an open house for “the poor”. It’s a bit “Milky Bars are on me!”

    But this year’s Action Aid Christmas campaign is painfully relatable. It’s all about protecting young women from predators. And if you’ve ever been anxious when walking down a street alone, or worried about someone you love doing the same, it’s a campaign worth of your support, attention and donations.
Action Aid’s Happy Homes project offers shelter to children and young women who might otherwise become sex workers. They give them a place to live and learn. 10 year old Salma lives there. She was eight when she ran away from the house where she worked as a domestic servant, because her employer tried to rape her. And thanks to Farhana Nahid, who found her and looked after her, Salma is now about to attend one of the best schools in Dhaka. Approximately 150 girls have stayed at Happy Homes, and thousands more have benefitted from their services. But Happy Homes relies on public fundraising, and unless Action Aid raise the £116, 212 it needs, it may be forced to close at Christmas.

    Imagine being eight, and scared and homeless. Imagine having brothers, sisters and even parents who depend on you. Imagine that you don’t have anywhere to go where you don’t feel vulnerable. The most basic human entitlement is safety. All people should have somewhere they can go and know that they are safe.

    We’re all broke. But if you’ve got £5, it would be lovely if you did without a gin and tonic or skipped Secret Santa and gave it to Action Aid instead. Or 50p. And if you haven’t got the ha’penny for the old man’s hat, tell someone who has. Club together. Make cakes or sing carols or just put this on Facebook so that people know about it. It would be nice if every child woke up to presents and people who loved them on Christmas morning. But for now, let’s try to make sure that as many children as possible wake up and know that they’re safe.

    For more information on how to donate to Action Aid, check out this link: http://www.actionaid.org.uk/103419/happy_homes.html

    @NotRollergirl is a freelance funnywoman and writerlady. She’s the women’s editor over on Sabotage Times (where she writes a ridiculously popular column on Made in Chelsea), she writes books, and she knows all the words to ABBA’s entire collection. Follow her on Twitter (recommended for daily giggles).


  3. Abortion: Don’t be afraid to say it

    November 22, 2012 by SarahH

    PRO-CHOICE. Potential trigger warning,

    Image credit: BPAS

    For those who do not follow the pro-choice movement, the events of last week proved to be a bit of a shocker. And, rightly so. For those of us who do follow the pro-choice movement, Savita’s story is not such an anomaly. The biggest, most distinguishing factor about this tragedy is that this happened in Ireland, in a ‘developed country’, our neighbours, incredibly close to home. As one of my closest friends (who is Irish) said to me in an email earlier this week ‘I’m in shock and utter rage about what’s happened in Ireland. This is my country, it’s the first world and this happens?’

    Abortion is a subject which warrants a dialogue and engagement not avoidance. Abortion is a social issue and abortion is a feminist issue. Acknowledgment, understanding, and awareness of abortion is vital if we are to break down the negative labeling associated with it. When it comes to personal experiences of abortion, why is it that women only disclose this information to their nearest and dearest and most trusted? Why is it that, in 2012, women do not feel confident enough to stand up and admit to being a woman who has had an abortion? My answer to this would be because of an unwarranted, widespread, and insidious judgment powered by silence, by shaming, by avoidance, and ignorance. Contrary to what the heavy regulations and controversy surrounding abortion suggest, it is a not scarcely performed medical procedure: in 2009, 21% of UK conceptions ended in abortion, yet women still feel the need to be silent about their experiences for fear of being judged or tarnished with a label which is not, and should never be, applicable to them. There are so many myths and negative connotations surrounding abortion that, for many women, speaking out about it is a daunting and frightening prospect.

    So, here’s a bit of myth busting:

    1. Abortion is faced by married women, by single women, by mothers with children, by women in long-term relationships. Statistics show that approximately one in three women in the UK will have an abortion in her lifetime. ONE IN THREE.

    2. Abortions occur at all reproduction life stages: 9% of abortions are for girls under 18; 41% ages 18-24; 36% ages 25-34; and 14% age 35+.

    4. Abortion is very safe in Britain. It is one of the most commonly performed gynaecological procedures.

    4. Internationally, each year, 20 million abortions take place in unsafe, unhygienic, and downright grotty conditions. Because of this an estimated 80,000 women die.

    (stats taken from www.dh.gov.uk and www.statistics.gov.uk)

    Why is this still a taboo subject? Why is this still something which society teaches us to be ashamed of or be made guilty for doing? Why is this still an issue which is subject to restrictive, and down right shaming, legislation which makes women jumps through hoops, stand on their heads, and do a tap-dance?

    At present, British abortion legislation is based on the Abortion Act (1967) and the Section 37 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990). In Britain, abortion is not legally available at the request of the woman. The ultimate decision resides with not one but two GPs. This gets even more scary when you take into account that 10% of British GPs consider themselves to be actively anti- abortion and have or would refuse to grant a woman an abortion because of this. The situation for our sisters in Northern Ireland is positively medieval: British abortion laws are not applicable in Northern Ireland, therefore women do not have access to safe legal abortion.

    So, what are the repercussions of this? What does this really mean? In Britain, it means that women are side-lined and marginalized. It means women have little choice and no voice. It means that women are subjects not citizens. Furthermore, for women in Northern Ireland, it means trauma and emotional distress brought about by having to surreptitiously seek an illegal abortion.  It means serious complications and health repercussions caused by back street abortion methods.  It means death. How can we expect abortion to break free from social stigma if the people who seek it are treated as though they are criminals, offered up to and bound by the decisions of others.

    Where is the autonomy in this? As far as I can see, there is none. It is a humiliating and paternalistic attitude, perpetuated by a government who so cleverly appointed an anti-abortion health minister (a man, no less!) who wants to reduce the upper limit to 12 weeks. A bizarre move given that only 8% of abortions are carried out over the 12 week period anyway. Who exactly is being protected here? Not the women facing abortion, that’s for sure. These attitudes need to stop.

    Abortion is not a dirty word.
    Abortion is not a crime.
    Abortion is not something to be ashamed of.
    Abortion should not be an ‘issue’ which is pushed under the proverbial carpet and only discussed/ acknowledged at time of crisis (i.e. now)
    Abortion is a real and tangible factor of everyday life.

    Abortion. Don’t be afraid to say it.

    One in three women in the UK will have an abortion in her lifetime. One in three. Look around you….
    For honest, reliable, and unbiased information or advice see:

    Education for Choice: http://www.efc.org.uk/
    British Pregnancy advice http://www.bpas.org/bpaswoman
    Abortion Rights http://www.abortionrights.org.uk
    Abortion Help (Marie Stopes) http://www.abortion-help.co.uk/

    (Please Note: “LIFE” and “Crisis” centres are religiously motivated abortion advice centres. Please be aware that the information they offer may not be unbiased.)

    Sarah (@sazbottle) is a grass roots feminist campaigner and is involved with groups including @femactioncam and @armpits4august. Sarah writes for various online magazines/blogs and is partial to a bit of blogging in her own right (obviously all her posts are her own views, and not necessarily the views of organisations she works for, or anything like that, for all you legal eagles out there). By day, Sarah works for an NGO  which targets corporate malpractice and illegal marketing strategies. Sarah likes history, yoga, raspberry leaf tea, and loud music.


  4. Three’s A Crowd

    September 28, 2012 by The Kraken

    Image from http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dominic-mohan-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3

    You know what? I’m still thinking about tits. Even though I’ve splashed my bile over the whole Kate Middleton debacle I still have baps on the brain. God knows why because I’ve had my very own pair for the last 41 years. Then again, it’s precisely because I have funbags of my own that I am obsessing over the subject. That and the No More Page Three campaign that’s making me want to lob burning tyres into any given newsagents.

    What is with The Sun’s page three? I’m comforted by the fact that thousands of other people have spluttered the same question as they signed the campaign petition, yet I get the raging vapours when I realise that right now, in 21st Century Britain, I can actually show my four year old daughter pictures of tits in a national newspaper. A newspaper. Not a wank mag. Not an anatomy text book. A newspaper.

    I just don’t get it, the whole notion of checking a paper for the news, a crossword or TV listsings just to be confronted by the norks of Chantelle from Chelmsford. In fact it makes me sick up into the back of my throat. The whole thing leaves me so bewildered that I swear to fuck someone’s been feeding me rohipnol. Quite possibly the type of someone who leers over page three in the first place.

    And as much as this offends me as a woman it sends my rage into space when I view it as the mother of a little girl. There I am showing four year old Kraken Junior that she’s strong, determined, intelligent, inventive and capable of changing the world while page three shows her that her value lies solely in the tits that she hasn’t even grown yet. What a delightful start to any little girl’s life. And there I was fretting over her wanting to be a princess. What I should be worrying about is whether she one day compares herself to these laughable examples of femininity and starts slashing at her own body with a knife just to relief herself of her thundering lack of belief and self-esteem. I’ll send the bill for her psychiatric treatment to editor Dominic Mohan shall I?

    Yet even if I never expected better of The Sun, you’d have thought that it would expect better of its own readers. You see, even though the paper thinks of itself as a rag that stands up for the common man it’s happy to piss all over the other half of the population. It’s also happy for the common man to one day see his own daughter gurning back at him from page three. What a lovely thought for all of those page three supporters, that one day their daughter may get her kit off and submissively stare out of a newspaper while some stranger gets a stiffy and splashes his spooge all over her picture before balling up the sodden page and chucking it into the bin. How’s that for respect for women? But then again I really don’t expect page three supporters to think that far ahead in the first place. Not when there’s a quick woody to hand.

    More than that, is this really what a newspaper wants to look like in modern Britain? Opening The Sun to page three is like setting a flux capacitor to 88 mph and finding yourself back in a workingmen’s club in 1971. It’s such a dated notion from such a dated age that you’d think that any decent editor would back off faster than David Cameron from a benefits claimant. So exactly what is The Sun trying to achieve by clinging onto it? Perhaps it’s actively trying to die out which it will when the last leering, 70′s-stuck, daughterless reader finally kicks the bucket and takes the entire paper’s readership with him.

    Which is why the NMPT campaign isn’t just women defending women. It’s also about women defending the daughters and wives and grandaughters and nieces of any given tit-ogler, although it’s a big shame that we’re having to do this for them. If you fancy being generous, though, you can sign the petition here or you can tweet or you can nip over to Facebook. Go on. Even if your day’s been a bastard here’s your chance to turn it around.


     The Kraken is a ‘furious and ranty ex-freelance journalist’. She has a wonderfully rage-filled blog, with the excellent title, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and you can find her on Twitter right here


  5. Which Time Is Sexytime?

    September 11, 2012 by J9London

    Image from http://finditmore.info/

    Two things happened this week that made me go “argh!” The first was a friend of mine, male, intelligent, young, mentioning that old, Mad Men style classic, men are biologically designed to be promiscuous and women aren’t. The second was this article, which argues against the concept that women will be happier in relationships if they hold off on the sexing.

    Now, the first one is obvious. Kind of. We have spent the last lots of years and much yelling to claim the right to have sex when and with whom we want to. How many more times to we have to holla before the bros believe us? Sex is great, obviously, we’re allowed to think so too, we’re allowed to be open about it. But the flip side is, we still have the right to  hold off, if that is what we want. Do men?

    I’m the sort of person to wait. It’s involuntary. It takes me a long time to want to get all canoodling features with someone, and I like that about myself. But I don’t think I’m like that because I’m a woman, and I don’t think that my friend isn’t like that because he’s a man. We’re just different people.

    As to the second, it has a point: the idea of waiting is always related to girls. Boys are expected to want to get around. Girls are expected to keep the milk so someone’ll be forced into taking the whole cow. Or something. It’s a skewing of expectation that’s been around forever, and it seems natural because it’s been around forever. I think it’s worth considering that for most of that forever, women weren’t having sex at their own discretion because men were in charge, and they didn’t want us to.

    But no one should feel like they’re supposed to have a lot of sex with a lot of different people, either it’s because they’re a MAN and MEN need to spread their SEED, or because they’re a WOMAN and WOMEN are just as good as MEN and must PROVE IT. If you’re only interested in being that intimate with one person ever, go for it. Wanting to wait until you’ve known someone for a few months before you shag them rotten isn’t abnormal and it’s not reserved for the prudish and repressed.

    I don’t care what used to be the norm. I don’t care what studies are done. I know what I want, who I want, how I want it. It’s not fashionable, but then I’ve never been fashionable. And I’m ok with that.

    Janina is addicted to dark chocolate and peppermint tea. She once made a burger so good she has a picture of the occasion on her bedroom wall. You can find out more about her at myrednotebook.com and follow her on twitter at @J9London.


  6. Rape: As much about men as it is about women

    August 28, 2012 by HannahsRhapsody

    Image from thefastertimes.com

    Several old men have offensively sought to re-define rape against women for their own political ends in the past week. And while the online response has emphatically reminded people that rape is rape, much of the online backlash – such as the #MenAgainstRape hashtag – has actually  been more telling than the comments themselves, and helps shed light on how misunderstood the issue of rape really is  

    Rape. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, it is unlikely to have escaped you that rape is on the news agenda at the moment. In a big way.

    First, we had US Congressman Todd Akin giving an interview in which he staggeringly-ignorantly described how, “as I understand it, if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down”.

    BOOM! In that one single sentence we have both utter ignorance of how the female body works AND a suggestion that some rape isn’t legitimate. Well, holy shit, we must have reached the pinnacle of white, old men pontificating on women’s bodies, right? But no. Wait! There’s more!

    Next up comes WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently hiding in the London Ecuadorian embassy, flatly refusing to come out, thereby winning this year’s prize for stretching the rules of hide-and-seek to patience-whittling levels AND refusing to face rape and molestation allegations in one fell swoop.

    Now, while it’s beyond the remit of this blogpost to properly comment on the WikiLeaks situation and what embassies will and won’t allow, the rape allegations seem unequivocal. In the more famous indictment, Assange is accused of having had consensual sex with a woman, who then woke up later on to find him having sex with her again. Let me repeat: WOKE UP – ergo, Assange started having sex with her while she was still UNCONSCIOUS.

    The law is clear on this: it’s rape. A means through which some men have sought to demean, dominate and violate women since the beginning to time. (Yes, men get raped too and many of the same points still stand, but in this case, we’re talking about a man doing it to a woman.)

    As Hadley Freeman, and so many others, got piercingly-right when they repeated it again and again: rape is rape is rape. If you have sex with someone without their outright and mutually-understood, fully-conscious consent, then that is rape.

    It’s quite simple really. Except, apparently, for some people.

    In which Galloway sends himself down shit creek

    Because, next up on the batshit-tosser train this week was Respect MP George Galloway (best known for dressing as a cat on national television) who inexplicably joined Akin and Assange in the redefining-rape fun by saying that for some people, being naked in bed with them means you’re “already in the sex game”, and therefore have consented to more sex EVEN IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE ASLEEP. “Sure, a tap on the shoulder would have been more polite,” he then went on to suggest, causing me to have a minor embolism before I could continue watching.

    Although it has to be said that the sheer numbers of people who have come out against the comments, as shown by the Vagenda’s ‘Rape rainbow’ or Jezebel’s ‘Official guide to legitimate rape’, is one of the most heartening things about this whole sorry tale, some responses haven’t been uniformly encouraging – and have actually highlighted why we still need to keep talking about these issues in the first place.

    Of course, it all started with a hashtag. The #menagainstrape hashtag.

    In case you’ve read this far and your eyes are getting squiffy, that’s Men Against Rape. Many people took offence to this hashtag , but I think it addresses some serious points; the dismissal of which could be potentially extremely damaging to what we’re all trying to do: educate people about rape.

    In a nice handy list, here are a few of the most common ideas that I saw bandied around in criticism of the hashtag.

    • It’s making this crime, which largely affects women, about men
    • It’s taking away from women’s ability to talk to men and put their own experiences across
    • It’s obvious and completely unnecessary; why not simply have a hashtag saying #MenAgainstMurder, or #MenAgainstPaedophilia or #MenAgainstDrinkingBleach ?
    • It seems to ‘thank men for not being rapists’, and suggests that this is an ‘opt in’ thing rather than a general base level of respect we’d all expect  as default

    Although I can see where these points come from, they largely miss the point that, actually, rape is quite often about men.

    In fact, wherever the crime is a man having sex with a woman, that’s about a man as much as it’s about the woman. About the fact that a man has so little respect, appreciation or understanding of that woman’s right to her own body and sexuality; about how her sexuality, power, intellect and identity has got absolutely nothing to do with him, unless she explicitly consents to make it so.

    Rape is about power, and as long as it’s about the wielding of power over women, it’s also about men.

    Feminism was born from women demanding dialogue with men, and even though women now have the power to speak out without men’s permission or help, it doesn’t follow that men cannot empathise with women or espouse their views on equality.

    Of course men shouldn’t seek to redefine or dominate feminist debates, or women’s experiences. But joining a discussion or wholeheartedly espousing its principles doesn’t automatically mean a man wants to dominate it, ‘make it about them’ – or, if you will, ‘mansplain’ it.

    While rape of women strikes right to the heart of what it means to be a woman, in these cases, anyway, it also strikes right to the heart of what it means to be a man coexisting with women.

    Of course, it’s extremely obvious to have a hashtag saying #MenAgainstRape.

    Because OF COURSE men should be against rape as a default position. Just like I’m against kicking puppies and shooting children with rifles.

    BUT the fact that some men and women still agree that in some cases, rape just isn’t that serious and that women must shoulder some of the responsibility when they ‘lead on’ a man or drink a bit too much; the fact that there are still people in the world (especially those who are in positions of political power) who think that conscious consent is a blurry concept, means that actually, I’d say having a #MenAgainstRape hashtag isn’t such a bad idea.

    At the very least, inviting men to join discussions about rape might get people ‒ namely men for whom it doesn’t seem immediately obvious ‒ considering what rape means, and getting them to think about it a bit more before engaging in sexual relationships with people.

    It might also provide a rallying point for men on the subject, in their own arena, away from the feminist blogs and the sections of the newspapers which, with the best will in the world, are not usually read by those who have the most need for them.

    All those men who are so obviously already against rape, well thank god for you, you’re absolutely right. You don’t need to ‘opt in’, or pat yourself on the back for not being a rapist. (But if so, this hashtag, and the comments created alongside it, were not aimed at you.)

    And frankly, if it gets even one man thinking about what it means to rape versus not rape, or even strikes one line of dissention against the ideas perpetuated by Akin, Assange and Galloway, then I’d consider that a success.

    At least it’s not trying to redefine or qualify rape, in a discussion which is so often reduced to a ‘women’s issue’ against men, simplistically pitching the genders against each other.

    It’s simply saying that actually, men don’t all agree with Galloway or Akin.

    And if it provides a rallying point for groups such as domestic violence charity Respect UK (NOT Galloway’s ‘Respect’, thank god) to tweet links such as “10 things you can do to stop violence against women” or “If you want to show sexual respect, always check you’ve got an enthusiastic yes”, then frankly, where’s the harm in that?

    It doesn’t take away, it only adds

    Giving people a platform on which to assert that they are against rape doesn’t take away from the testimonies of women coming out to tell their story about rape. Neither does it, logically, suggest that anyone who doesn’t assert their view in this way is therefore ‘for rape’ or ‘rape ambivalent’.

    In fact, as I see it, it only adds to the dialogue between the genders; only adds an additional voice to the crowd of people around the world telling Assange, Akin and Galloway, and their sympathisers, that their views are profoundly offensive, unwanted, unfounded, ignorant and completely at odds with the experiences and views of the vast majority of men and women.

    And isn’t that what we’re all trying to get across in the first place?

    Comments and (constructive!) criticism very welcome!

    Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahsRhapsody, or see her other writings at http://notallwhowonderarelost.wordpress.com where a version of this post first appeared.


  7. Sneak harassment: when can I say something?

    July 16, 2012 by Ashley

    Protestors against street harassment in Washington DC. Image from sarah-graham.co.uk

    I don’t remember the first time I properly started to think about (street) harassment and how it affects me. It might have been this excellent post by @pleasedonteatjo, or this totally fabulous example of solidarity from @laurenbravo. Either way, until recently, I’d always just ignored it. Accepted it. Let it slide. But since we’ve been talking about it more, I’ve started to get annoyed. I’ve started to get really bloody angry. Because it’s not okay to treat a woman like she’s nothing more than the sum of her orifices. And nine times out of ten, that’s what street harassment is. It’s not a friendly man complimenting you on your fine choice of lipstick – it’s a bloke saying something creepy under his breath just as you walk past him; it’s a group of lads yelling ‘suck my cock’ from a passing car; it’s the nutter in a corner shop, telling you to bend over.

    It’s not okay, and it’s scary as shit. I’ve finally gotten the confidence to actually start shouting back (though only in crowded places and/or broad daylight – it would be stupid to put yourself in actual danger by provoking the wrong person). Having witnessed @alice_emily in a spectacular moment where she told off two harassers on Charing Cross Road, I’m now in full support of reacting angrily.

    But what about the times when you can’t really shout back? I was at a bit of a mental house party a couple of weeks ago. I only knew a handful of people, and I was having a good time catching up and snaffling a lovely G&T. As the night went on, the party got busier and the pupils of the people around me got wider. I was standing by the bathroom at one point, when an absolute scrotum of a man walked past me and full on brushed my left breast with his hand. Not an actual lengthy grope, but a distinctive, single stroke down the length of it. I jerked, stunned and did a sort of ‘what the fuck’ gesture with my arms, but he was already gone. I stood there for a second, wondering if anyone else had seen. They hadn’t. I felt indignant but sort of helpless. There was no chance for me to chase after him and berate him – after all, it could have been an accident (it wasn’t).

    Later, that same man pushed past me again and this time, did the exact same stroke-as-he-walked-past right up my bum cheek. Again, I felt immediately very uncomfortable and I think I actually said ‘what the fuck’, but he was already off and away. I mentioned it to my boyfriend, who wanted to know who it was. I didn’t tell him, because picking an argument with someone who’s high off their ass on coke and already bug-eyed is never going to end well. I told myself if he did it again, I would crush him (drunk me may be a bit of a drama queen). Thankfully, we left shortly after. I continued to seethe.

    I’ve talked about harassment a lot with my boyfriend, who is always horrified. He never sees it. We joke that he’s my talisman, because it does (obviously?) happen less when he’s with me. But the following day, we were walking down the escalator at a tube station, me with my maxi dress hitched up so I don’t get sucked in and vaporised, and it happens. Just as I walk past an older man in a suit, he says ‘lovely legs, sexy lady’ with a weird, hungry smile. I am instantly annoyed, throwing a ‘fuck off’ over my shoulder. As I get off, I turn to the boyfriend. “There! Did you see that?!” He didn’t. Because it was sneaky. It wasn’t a man in a hard hat yelling ‘tits’ while hanging off some scaffolding – it was a fairly ordinary looking businessman saying something quietly when I am less than a foot away from him. It’s not street harassment – it’s sneak harassment.

    Last week, on the District line, I put my hand up to hold the rail above me. It wasn’t particularly crowded and there was lots of room. The man nearest me put his hand on the rail too, touching mine. I instinctively moved mine a few inches along. He moved his along so our hands touched again. I moved along again. He followed. Then put his foot against mine. Everytime I moved, he would follow. I became so uncomfortable, that I switched carriages. Should I have said something? What am I meant to accuse him of? Excuse me, strange man, but please stop harassing my phalanges with your sweaty palms? Please don’t put your hushpuppies near my pumps? Please don’t breathe on me when there is clearly several feet of empty space around both of us?

    I have no problem at all with chatting to strangers, or a stranger complimenting someone on the way they look. I know a couple that met on a tube, another that met in a lift. It’s perfectly okay to speak to strike up a friendly chat with a perfect random. But it’s not cool when you’re subtly putting that person in an uncomfortable position. Deliberately pressing your crotch into someone on a crowded tube is not only unacceptable, it’s icky. Kind of like when your cat presents you with a dead mouse. But it’s hard to find the balance between telling someone you’re uncomfortable, and making things really bloody awkward. As Brits, awkwardness is just something we don’t do. I hate it. And when I can call out harassment, I do. But when it’s sneaky, you know the person’s getting off on the fact that you can’t say anything. They’re getting away with it in broad daylight, because you risk embarrassing everyone on the train if you actually say something, or wrongly accuse someone. It’s a social-political nightmare.

    So what do you do? My boyfriend suggests staring them down, but honestly, if someone’s creeped me out, the last thing I want to do is look them in the eye for any length of time. I’ve thrown a few casual glares around, but is it enough? How can we fix a problem when it’s barely on the radar? Or do we just have to get on with it? I don’t want to have to accept that sneak harassment is something that just happens. I want a solution! So, any ideas?!

    Ashley is the editor of teamawot.com and thus is not used to writing her own bylines. As well as working in communications, Ashley runs a little food blog, called Peach Trees and Bumblebees. You can also find her other, oft-neglected blog here, where she muses on issues ranging from Nectar cards to wanking. Usually not in the same post. She’s also on Twitter.


  8. Feminism: No longer needed, right? Erm, wrong

    July 11, 2012 by HannahsRhapsody

    In my life, I could view gender struggle as something that ‘happens to other people’. So why do I feel such a strong need to view the world from a fighting, ‘feminist’ point of view? Because it’s only by understanding what happens when gender equality is not upheld that I can appreciate just how lucky I am, and therefore how important feminism still is

    Feminist doormat

    Sound familiar?

    You know the scene. A few glasses of wine have been had, and a discussion starts. And yet again, I take a feminist viewpoint on something, and see the issue irrevocably coloured by its gender politics. And yet again, I find myself having to justify my stance, to women as often as to men. I find myself having to justify why feminism is still relevant to someone like me.

    ‘Why are you a ‘feminist’, anyway? Isn’t that all about bra burning and stuff? Why do you even need it, it’s so outdated?! You’ve got the vote and equal pay, haven’t you/we? Women go out to work nowadays, you/we can get divorced, have access to the Pill, get abortions, men do housework, look after the kids, I mean, what more do you/we want? How often do you/we get cat-called in the street? Maybe other women do, but you/we hardly ever do, right? And didn’t you hear that story a while back about how even builders don’t think shouting out at women is OK anymore? Think how much better you have it than women around the world! I mean, honestly. Are you just looking for something to get angry about?’

    And despite the seriously frustrating nature of these questions, it’s not always that easy to give a proper answer.

    It’s all very well engaging in feminist discussion on ‘women’s blogs’ where everyone agrees more or less with where you’re coming from, but in the ‘real world’, around the pub table, people who take on feminist stances can see themselves being looked at strangely, given distance as that crazy, angry woman in the corner, getting pissed off about stuff that doesn’t even apply anymore.

    It’s all very well being seen as akin to the ‘madwoman in the attic’ when the law says you’re legally your husband’s property, but hey, we’ve all moved on since then, so what are you still whinging about?

    • It’s not a question easily answered, if you consider it from my own personal point of view.
    Vindication

    A Vindication of the Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft

    Quite often I do find myself wondering why I personally feel the need to assume such a ‘feminist’ viewpoint on life. I gravitate towards ‘feminist’ blogs and ‘women’s’ take on the news; feel strongly about women’s independence, am deeply interested in discourses surrounding and between men and women, the ‘confounding’ of gender stereotypes (to paraphrase Mary Wollstonecraft) and derogatory language used by either sex, and generally am drawn towards individuals and media groups that bravely, intelligently and passionately argue for a more equal, more accepting, more tolerant and more liberal society, particularly where men and women’s gender ‘roles’ are concerned.

    • But, beyond the obvious, I sometimes wonder why I feel this way. On the face of it, I don’t have any real personal motivation for seeing the world through this kind of lens.

    Controversial statement, perhaps, but despite being an opinionated git; interested in news, debates, philosophical discussions and other things that would come under that rather horrible umbrella term ‘current affairs’; stubborn and outspoken, I’m not hugely political, and often feel myself assuming the rather non-triumphant role of observer rather than activist when it comes to these issues in real life.

    I’ve never marched for anything, and in my everyday life have been lucky enough to never have experienced first-hand any real sexist or sexual abuse, comments or problems (of which more below).

    I’ve had a great education, got a job, earned my own money, shared a flat on my own terms, and walked around London at night without feeling in any way especially discriminated against or at any disadvantage simply for being a woman (unlike in other countries I’ve visited, namely in India, where I sometimes felt threatened and stared at just for daring to appear on the street ‒ I can only imagine what would happen in other, even more conservative countries).

    Unlike women in other countries or cultures, I’ve not been denied contraception or been sneered at for having sex before marriage; I’ve been given just as good an education and chance at a career as my brother, I’ve never cooked a meal or ironed a shirt that I’ve not wanted to (being tired and wanting to watch the latest episode of Girls doesn’t count), I’ve not been pressured into marriage, or felt forced to have, or give up, a child, felt at any real risk of sexual violence, suffered domestic abuse or felt the glass ceiling pressing down on my head.

    I have barely even been ‘cat-called’ in the street – to which, stupidly and completely absurdly, my initial reaction is to feel offended and convinced of my own unattractiveness as a result, before I remember that such idiocy completely flies in the face of my own more considered convictions that women (and men; everyone) should have the right to walk down a road undisturbed.

    That I’ve not suffered this seems purely a case of luck; I know many of my friends have had explicit comments whispered at them while on public transport, and lewd comments shouted at them humiliatingly across the street. The internet is rife with women speaking out, quite rightly, about the verbal harassment they receive. But personally? It’s never been a big problem, to be honest.

    • On a wider level, compared to many other countries, in Britain we are streaks ahead in terms of legislation regarding women and equality of the sexes.

    Ignoring, for the moment, all the ways in which things still aren’t perfect in the UK, women are – in theory, anyway ‒ able to be educated, to claim the right to live without sexual harassment or fear, not legally able to be forced into marriage; able to have abortions, get free contraception, and entitled to be paid as much as a man doing the same job. Discrimination and lack of opportunity in this country is rife, but arguably far more as a result of socio-economic inequalities than gender ones.

    Of course, for each of those points I could (and probably should) enter into heated debate about why that’s not true, how this state of affairs only applies to white, heterosexual, middle class, privileged women. I could talk about the exceptions; the statistics that claim that these rights are far from universal, and why just because it’s the law, doesn’t mean it actually happens.

    But the fact that these laws and conditions exist, de jure at least, if not de facto, for many, already puts our nation far, far ahead of what women in other countries have to live with (or not, as the case may be). In some ways, women’s positions in this country are far from dire – or at least, legally they have the potential not to be.

    I can barely believe how lucky I am, and yet – if I am so lucky, and living in a country where such laws are in my favour, and where I personally am rarely made to feel threatened or limited because of my gender, then why do I still find myself feeling strongly about ‘women’s issues’, gender politics, and other debates that come under the heading ‘feminism’?

    • Why do I persist in seeing things through that ‘gendered lens’? Well, perhaps because, in reality, most of what I’ve written above is bollocks.
    Feminism people

    Radical, huh?

    While the legal ins and outs of what I’ve written are true, such as, for example, that women have a right to vote, a right to equal pay, and to live without harassment ‒ and that I myself haven’t suffered any real gender inequality ‒ that doesn’t mean that this state of affairs applies to all women, or that I don’t need to care.

    Even though, critics say, many of the key feminist battles have been won, that doesn’t mean that we no longer need to regard society from a feminist viewpoint, or defend the lines along which the original, old battles were fought.

    Women may have won the vote a while back, and bra-burning may (one might argue) belong in the faded days of Germaine Greer’s first-edition The Female Eunuch, but that doesn’t mean that feminist viewpoints aren’t needed. For so many reasons I barely know where to begin – in fact, so many reasons that a website called just that – A Thousand Reasons – was set up to highlight misogyny on the Internet, and, in its own words, to ‘discuss the continuing necessity of feminism’.

    • Because, yes, I realise I may be preaching to the converted here, and saying the obvious. Except, to me, it doesn’t always seem hugely obvious, because – as I’ve said above – I pretty much have never felt side-lined because of my gender.

    Beyond getting irate at some very-slightly off-colour ‘banter’ in my office, I’ve never obviously been at the receiving end of any real discrimination because of my sex. I’m a privileged white girl without much cause for complaint at the moment – certainly not from a gendered point of view, anyway. Lucky bloody me.

    But why, then, do I need to espouse a feminist viewpoint on the world, and get irate about such issues? Hasn’t all the hard work been done for me by women far stronger and more politically engaged than myself?

    • Yes, and yet, understanding one’s own motivations for taking a feminist stand on the world is something that I don’t think people talk about enough.

    It’s not enough to say ‘well, I’m a woman so obviously that’s why.’ It’s not enough to simply jump on the feminist bandwagon and get angry and excited about an issue just because I can. It’s not enough to mindlessly follow something without examining, in some way, why you’re doing so.

    • Maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but it is to my serious embarrassment that sometimes I could find myself agreeing, at least from a personal point of view – that on the face of it, ‘the big’ feminist debates don’t really apply to my life, so why, personally, do I care?

    Of course, the answers to these questions have the potential to be as huge as they are debatable. Why, for instance, do we care about others at all? Why should we engage socially or politically in issues that don’t necessarily affect us directly? It’s about why we pay taxes, why we build a civilised society at all.

    This issue is also part of the whole ‘mansplaining’ debate on the Internet, which asks whether people who haven’t experienced prejudice can still own the struggle against it – specifically whether men can really be feminist, or ‘explain’ to women what ‘real feminism is’. Can I, even as a woman, justifiably care about feminism, and identify with its arguments, when I’m not on the receiving end of the worst of it? It’s a thorny question.

    But then, I don’t have to be non-white to understand that racism is completely wrong; I don’t have to be gay to want equal rights for gay people.

    • But all that aside (because this post is long enough as it is, and ‘mansplaining‘ is a huge issue in itself), on this particular issue, for me it’s basically very simple. It’s about appreciating what I (and millions like me) have, and recognising how easily, and apparently without too much fanfare, those gains could be lost.

    It’s about recognising that feminism isn’t just making a lot of noise about ‘women’s issues’, but understanding that it’s a fundamental part of who we are as a society – that not too long ago, women had to leave work when they got married; had to have a man’s permission before opening a bank account; couldn’t control their own fertility and were side-lined and marginalised and controlled as a result.

    I think for me, it basically comes down to the fact that a knowledge and continued debate on women’s rights, what they mean, and instances in which they are not upheld, simply informs my gratitude and understanding of just how privileged I am, but also, by extension, how far there is still to go when it comes to gender equality, and how easily such rights can be subverted.

    It’s only by seeing the ways in which apparent equality is letting other women down, of ways in which legal conditions can be subverted, of examples where woman are NOT given what I could so easily take for granted, of understanding just how vile people can be to each other on the basis of sexuality, sex and gender, and of looking – both historically and currently – of what happens when gender equality is NOT fought for, that I can see how lucky I am.

    And, therefore, in doing so, in my own, tiny way, try and work against prejudices that could flush away everything from which women like me have benefitted. At the risk of sounding like a character in Harry Potter, the phrase ‘constant vigilance!’ comes to mind.

    • Because gender inequality, especially today, when on the surface things look so much better than they historically have been, can be insidious.

    The privileges and rights that women have fought to claim, the moves that have been made against the patriarchy (which, I will add, at the risk of pursuing a positively scarlet herring, can harm men almost as much, if not just as much, as women) sit on a knife edge.

    Those rights could, if we stop caring, fall away in far less time than it took to instate them in the first place. Gender equality is still young. Women everywhere in the UK only got the vote in 1928 – not even a hundred years ago ‒ and other laws are younger still. And it’s hardly necessary for me to say that just because laws change, mindset is a whole other ballgame.

    To name but a few instances from a potential pool of millions, in Ireland, it’s still illegal for women to get abortions. In America, they’re still debating whether access to contraception makes women more promiscuous. They’re still asking whether legalised abortion is OK. They’re still debating the key, seminal issues at the heart of women controlling their own sexuality, of having the right to decide what they do with their own damn bodies. They’re still contemplating voting in someone who would limit women’s rights over all these issues.

    Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton in makeup-less *shock*

    In this country, the media still print bare breasts on page three of the most-read national newspaper. Hillary Clinton choosing to go without makeup is still news. Most rape cases go unreported and unpunished. Many women do still feel threatened walking in the street. Magazines airbrush, focus on sex, looks, products and advertising more than anything else. Far too many women are still abused in their own homes, get paid less than men, feel like they are valued only for how sexy they are, how slim they are, how glossy; and only see themselves in relation to the men in their lives.

    Women are still, if the media is anything to go by, encouraged to value their looks and reproductive functions over their intellect; even the bloody UN can’t make a video about women going into science without making some highly-questionable, lipstick-and-high-heel-driven, patronising fluff complete with amazed ‘proper’ male scientist going all gaga at the fact that women Can Do Science (read: faff about with test tubes). In China, women are still being forced into having abortions; in countless other countries, they are conversely being forced in childbirth, underage marriage; deprived of education – constrained not just by poverty, or social constraints, but purely and only because of their sex.

    • But, hey, on the surface of it, no, man or woman in the pub, none of this directly affects me.

    I could choose not to take any notice of it, relegate feminism in Britain to a historical footnote, and make use of the legal victories that have been won for me in decades gone past, and stop, as one acquaintance once put it, ‘stamping my foot’ and ‘getting all indignant’ about certain ‘feminist’ issues because it ‘feels good’ and ‘I can’.

    Yes, despite wobbles where my conviction sometimes slips, I am lucky enough to have grown up knowing that basically, I don’t have to be abused in my relationships, pressured into sex, have sex without protection, get paid less than men, feel bad for speaking my mind, or feel subordinate in any way unless I actively choose to. I don’t have to wear high heels, sleep with a man to feel good about myself; I don’t have to look like a model – or like anyone, in fact.

    Actually, I could say, I am one of few around the world who can take privileged comfort in the fact that I can breeze merrily through life, unconstrained, perhaps limited by my own lack of energy, tendency to procrastinate, laziness or lack of focus – anything, in fact ‒ but not, NOT by my gender.

    But knowing just how much other women have been at that receiving end of gender inequality (e.g. not being able to get a conviction for rape, or feeling trapped in an abusive relationship, feeling intimidated in the street on or the Tube, or any other kind of deprivation, discrimination or entrapment, great or small), forces me to appreciate what I have, and understand just how precious it is.

    • For example, yesterday I watched the Mike Leigh film, Vera Drake, for the first time.
    Vera Drake

    Vera Drake, starring Imelda Staunton

    Watching the story ‒ fictionalised though it is ‒ that depicts the life, arrest and conviction of a caring, compassionate, ordinary, community-minded yet ultimately criminal backstreet abortionist in 1950s England, renewed my feminist viewpoint and reminded me why I care.

    Watching how women were repeatedly blamed, and criminalised, for their own sexuality; lampooned socially and legally for the sheer temerity of having sex before marriage, getting pregnant or wanting to control their own fertility; at how not so long ago, women who were raped were seen as having brought it on themselves and utterly responsible for any consequences, reminded me why I see the world in this ‘feminist’ way in the first place.

    Mike Leigh may have made a deeply touching film that tries very hard to avoid judgement on either side – but that doesn’t mean that my own judgement was left in any kind of doubt. The notable absence in the film of any of the fathers of the would-be babies, was striking. But worse was the uncomfortable feeling that so much of the moral and legal condemnation visible in the film is still on the political agenda of most countries in the world today – and, therefore, how easy it could be for that condemnation to return to society.

    • How close I could be to losing all the rights I (and people like me) could so easily take for granted.

    Beyond giving a slightly sexist joke a casual raised eyebrow or giving a steely look to an idiotic joker on the street, I’ve never had to personally test out my feminist convictions. I’ve never had reason to ask for legal aid in a battle fought solely due to my gender or sex, been in a relationship where I’ve felt threatened, or seriously been discriminated socially or professionally for the sole reason that I’m a woman.

    But it’s only by educating myself about the cases where women – both around in the world and in the UK ‒ haven’t had it so good, and the instances in which the law or society has failed them; by understanding the ways in which society, the media, and the law might work against the values that I hold so dear, (including, on what might sound like a more frivolous level, magazines that encourage women to value themselves largely on what they look like and what they consume that month, TV shows and news stories that show women as silly or of value only for their looks or relationships with men, rather than their intellect; political debates that re-hash the meaning of women’s sexuality and sexual rights over and over) that I can truly appreciate the vulnerability of my own fortune.

    • That ‘feminist’ issues don’t seem to hold much real, pressing role in my life is in itself paradoxical – it’s because they’re there that I can ignore them. But it’s at my peril that I forget they exist at all. Feeling in my position shouldn’t be a privilege – it should be a right, for all women, everywhere.

    And until it is, and until there’s no risk of that right ever being taken away, I’ll continue to see the world from a stridently ‘feminist’ viewpoint.

    It’s a slightly longer answer than your mates down the pub might have been expecting, perhaps – but surely one worth saying, nonetheless?

    Ps. I realise this is a sensitive and hugely complex topic. This post is already far too long but I welcome any discussion or debate in the comments if you feel I’ve glossed over something or perhaps need to think about something more. As many wiser than me have said before, just because I write about something doesn’t mean that’s the end of my thoughts on the topic – often it’s actually the beginning. Any abuse will be deleted though, cheers!

    My top feminist blogs and sites (including the fabulous AWOT, obviously!)

    Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahsRhapsody, and see her other witterings at http://notallwhowonderarelost.wordpress.com


  9. Chicks with sticks and glasses; does ‘disabled’ mean undateable?

    June 20, 2012 by Thimbelina

    Image from someecards, via eyeofthe-needle.tumblr.com

    As I alluded to the last time I blogged for Team AWOT, I’m currently a single gal. My last relationship ended two years ago, almost to the day. Time heals all wounds, it’s true, and I confess that the idea of sharing my life with someone once more has a certain appeal.

    (I have not been ‘anti-men’ or anti-a-relationship in the intervening period; it’s just that I’ve taken the dreary, faux-noble, insufferable step of wanting to work on myself, regain myself, first before relaunching fully into The Fray…)

    Even when I was twenty, clubs, pubs, bars and night-clubs were never my thing; now I’m twice that age they hold even less of an appeal.

    Add to that, I now have a chronic health condition (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or ME, if you’re curious), which means I use a walking stick and, for distances beyond the minimum (which I’m unable to walk), a wheelchair. So, forget dancing round my handbag, dancing around my walking stick, more like; the ultimate in low-rent pole-dancing.  Huzzah.

    So, on the face of it, online dating is the perfect way for the somewhat-less-than-entirely-mobile to meet future partners. No awkward moments while I laugh off my walking stick; no worry that a guy will feel intrinsically repelled by the slowness of my gait, or being hit on by someone ‘disabled’.

    With the written word I can entertain, enthrall and explain; my dating profiles are part pirouette, part pyrotechnic – a feast of verbal fun and fancy. Even the part where I explain the (God’s-damn, natty) walking stick.

    So how many dates have I gone on, since I tentatively uploaded my profiles (and by ‘date’, am I allowed to include ‘had a brief coffee with’)?

    Even with a generous interpretation of the term by anyone’s standards, I’m struggling to count more than three; and even they were more about ‘meeting a new potential friend’ than ‘golly gee, this fella has the very whiff of romance about him’…

    This isn’t to say that my profiles haven’t drawn interest – on a couple of sites an embarrassing avalanche of interest was experienced (almost entirely communicated by incoherent, hormonally-driven text-speak), but it was rapidly clear that the guys were responding to my photograph; to the promise of tits, not wits.

    (My photos are fastidiously demure and covered-up, I hasten to add…)

    My experiences tend to be keyboard bound, and nary shift into the real world. Guys suggest meeting up and ‘walking up from the river’ without reading my profile – as soon as I explain my limited walking radius, silence. I exchange messages, they say they’ve read The Spoon Theory link I give; yet expect me to drive over an hour to meet them. They say it doesn’t matter, and then are unable to meet. Or disappear. Or both.

    (Mostly both.)

    I have learnt, the hard way, to ensure any Instant Messenger facility is switched off; the moment I joined one site, the first message I received was, ‘Can I ask you a question? How does CFS affect your sex life?’

    (Oddly, I declined his invitation to explain…)

    So; what is a girl to do? Worse than that: an allegedly grown woman?

    I venture out on my own to live music events and am sat next to tedious, grey-haired men by the host in the hope (it would appear) that we ‘hit it off’ (and if we don’t, the host offers to help me ‘get laid’ the next time I visit; seriously, is there a social convention in place for handling such a conversation??)

    I flirt with folks via the power of social media, but flirtation is merely the currency on which such entities exist.

    I join forums and create relationships with others who are somewhat similar, and thus have their own particular barriers to meeting up.

    I smile and talk to guys when I stop off at a coffee shop, but I hardly think many male fantasies revolve around the idea of a woman on a Shopmobility scooter.

    (Sidebar; are the disabled and chronically ill automatically desexualised?  I still consider myself  ’recovering from and only temporarily disabled by chronic illness’ rather than plain ‘disabled’, but is it in the eye of the potential beholder?  Should I be looking to a specialist dating agency, as covered by the now defunct Filament Magazine here?)

    I know it must be possible. I know lots of people with chronic health conditions, with disability, with far greater challenges than I possess; they are married, in relationships, in love.

    But as the lyrics of the old song have it: “They’re writing songs of love .. but not for me…” ..  and part of me is starting to wonder, with a certain self-protective grace, if they ever will be.  Regardless of how strongly I may still appreciate myself.

    Peace out.

    Thimbelina  blogs here, a site which was conceived to house her occasional thoughts about sewing and CFS/ME, but which has subsequently collapsed into the incoherent chaos about life, love and relationships that it is today.  She also hands out hugs and cups of tea to complete strangers via Twitter here, as restraining orders have yet to be invented for the Virtual World she almost entirely inhabits.


  10. Is being single ‘going to waste’?

    May 15, 2012 by Thimbelina

    Image from Pinterest

    There are many reasons why I love Twitter (the Awesome Women count alone is stupendous), but the ability to ‘over-hear’ conversations is right up there.  Every now and again, you gain a glimpse into what folks really feel about themselves; sometimes directly, and sometimes it’s just seeping out, unspoken, from between those scant 140 characters.

    It’s there where I overheard two extremely attractive (and I sensed a fair bit younger) ladies lamenting that their most ‘attractive’ years were drawing to a close; those good looks and damn fine bodies were starting to soften and, without a romantic partner in their lives, those attractions were ‘going to waste’.

    I intervened, of course: these women are, if anything, at their peak of desirability, surely?  The body still toned, the face still firm, but with the gilding of experience and confidence to make them women and not mere little girls.

    And doesn’t a real man want a woman, not a little girl?  They are still gorgeous; desirable.  They and those fabulous bodies have had, are still having, fun.  They could have ‘wasted’ those years in a crap relationship, with someone who didn’t appreciate them for who they really are; that would have been worse, no?

    Still, I understand where they’re coming from.  I read this on the Guardian’s Invisible Woman fashion blog;

    “It’s a bit of a no-brainer really, isn’t it? Look around yourself on the train, in the coffee shop or canteen and count how many “celebrity magazines” you see – all peddling the impossible myth of eternally youthful chemically enhanced “beauty”. Look at almost any red carpet event and the subsequent reporting about who looks “tired”, who’s “struggling to contain her curves” and whose décolletage is not quite as perky as “they” think it should be. You wear gloves (Madonna) – it’s because your hands “give you away”. You wear a scarf (sensible in January) – it’s because your neck is “crepey”. No perma-tan? Then you’re emotionally and physically exhausted and your relationship is probably on the rocks as well.”

    I’m watching the years make their steady progress across my face and my body, like everyone else.  Sometimes I’m not sure if it has an additional level of mental discomfort for me; perhaps I am too vain, too subconsciously accustomed to and dependent upon the generosity of new folks who claim surprise at the advancement of my years.  I am, however, much luckier than many, many others; I have a large LTR behind me, I do not hear a biological ticking clock, I have no-one who enquires with kindly yet perceptible impatience, “so, when are you going to settle down, then?”.

    Despite this good fortune, I am still teetering on the edge of many a grey area; do I dress the age I sort-of look, or the age I genuinely am?  Does my face ‘match’ my body?  Is it a lie?  Should I care?

    I feel I can claim some triumphs with age, though.  For one; with greater confidence, my posture is better.  My body has changed, improved; a regaining of post-break-up weight, a tapering of my ribs, a clearer shoulder-line and waist; basically, more curves.  My face has slimmed a little and, despite the many faults I could list, the wrinkles at least are still pretty fine.  I still smile.  I smile a lot.

    Is this last blooming, this last fragile beauty of my late summer, being wasted through having no one to share it with, no-one to appreciate it, enjoy it, love it?

    I could see it that way.  I know I have spent a lot of time in the not-so distant past doing just such a thing.

    But it ignores one crucial element.  There IS someone here to appreciate it.

    Me.

    It’s even more important that I appreciate myself as, quite frankly, no-one else is here to do so.

    I have very few folks to bear witness to my (in real) life, stuck here as I am, mostly house-bound through chronic ill health.  Very few visiting friends (perhaps once every 3-6 months), no colleagues, no dates (that’s a long story, next time, my amigo), no family, just the occasional lunch with a female friend.  I talk via Skype to a couple of friends but it tends to be via audio only; and I know for a fact that neither of them are invested in how attractive they find me…

    So.  Here’s the point.

    If I do not think I am beautiful, and funny, and special, then who will?

    If I do not look in the mirror, see beyond the faults, see the good heart shining through despite them all; who will?

    If I do not love myself: who will?

    And this is why I think I am grateful for the toll the years have taken upon me.

    My attitude, my outlook, my attempts to grow and develop any compassion and kindness within me (I say attempts; I’m not so vain as to believe that I succeed!) means my ‘beauty’ (such as it is or was), while still perhaps remaining an acquired taste, is far deeper than it ever was. It grows day by day, as I try to be a better person.

    And this is the gift, the blessing given in exchange for my youth: I am a more ‘beautiful’ person to be around.  A calmer, wiser, more secure soul.

    (Generally: you know, I’m not a freakin’ saint, right??)

    Just because I cannot pass for 20 doesn’t mean I’m no longer ‘beautiful’; it has merely changed, grown, evolved into something more.  Something different.  A different kind of beauty, I hope.

    Of course, I am sitting atop a high-horse on all this; as I say, I’m extremely lucky.  I’ve read the OKCupid statistics on how men my age will still look at and message girls half ‘our’ age more than they will their own contemporaries and, while I can ‘go cougar’ to obtain short-term sexual thrills (and yeah, I’ve had offers), that’s not quite what I’m after.

    (Sidebar: up to 9 years younger than me, then hell yeah.  If an impossibly kind, intelligent and beautiful young man wants to persuade me, hot damn, then go ahead, sport :) )

    But yeah.  Even if no-one can see you nor hear you, nor validate nor endorse you: fuck it.  Appreciate how rocking your body is, how your own eyes glitter in the sun and the snow, how much you love those who do come across your path, and just how bloody hilarious you damn well are.  I do.  I have to.

    It’s not a waste if someone appreciates it.  Why not make that lucky person be you?

    Peace out.

    Thimbelina  blogs  here  (where this post first appeared) – a site which was conceived to house her occasional thoughts about sewing and CFS/ME, but which has subsequently collapsed into the incoherent chaos about life, love and relationships that it is today.  She also hands out hugs and cups of tea to complete strangers via Twitter here, as restraining orders have yet to be invented for the Virtual World she almost entirely inhabits.


  11. An open letter to my sexy lady mates

    April 4, 2012 by @NotRollergirl

    Hey Samantha Brick, you can be friends with fitties!

    I love being a girl with hot mates. I love it. I was out on Saturday with pixie perfect @jo_rourke and the sexy, statuesque @ashleyfryer and we spent about 20 minutes discussing which Renaissance painter would be best placed to paint @missebw and her luminous skin. I have watched grown men fall off pavements as @peachesanscream passes and spill drinks and forget their own names in the presence of @amytweetedthis. I’ve watched a waiter start stammering in the presence of @luc7m just after she told us she wasn’t wearing any make up. Instead of writing a post, I could just use the rest of this space to name check my beautiful girlfriends (@_staceysutton, @laurenbravo, @ewasr, @sarahrapp HIYA!)

    I don’t hate you because you’re beautiful, hot girl mates. (I hate you because you smell. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA not really.) You’re beautiful in a way that makes me get emotional as well as pervy. I love checking out your outfits, arses and accessories. And I do sometimes look at you and wish I had your legs/fringe/awesome skull bag. But not to the point of actual envy. If I don’t wave when you walk past, it’s not because I think everyone I have ever slept with prefers your tits to mine and I want you dead. It’s because I haven’t put my contacts in or have been distracted by a burrito shop.

    Surrounding myself with gorgeous girls hasn’t made me bitter, miserable, self loathing and friendless. When I’m in the presence of hotness, I feel… relaxed. An enormous glass of Pinot Grigio to the good. It’s sunshine on my shoulders. A lovely scented bubble bath. It feels positively intoxicating. It might just be a coincidence that my fittest friends are the funniest, and that my hips still hurt from a weekend of giggling. I couldn’t not be friends with girls. We nurture each other. We’re kind to each other when we’re crap at being kind to ourselves. We’re generous. And we do get insecure, and have whole conversations themed around “you’re so hot and I’m so shit”, but we talk each other off the ledge. We allow each other to be anxious, paranoid, hungover and emo because when you care about someone you don’t expect them to be perfect all the time. You let them have feelings.

    And on that theme, sometimes people are dicks. You fight, you fall out, and hopefully you make up but not always. This might be because they’ve been insensitive or they hold beliefs that you find objectionable or they refused to look after your dog when you got stuck in Panama. (You know who you are, bitch.) But unless you’ve been on a reality TV show, you don’t have a fight with someone that begins and ends with “YOUR VAGINA IS NICER THAN MY VAGINA! I HATE YOU!”

    So, if you’re a girl and you’re my mate, I’d be proud to have you as a bridesmaid, no matter how hot and gorgeous you are. (To be honest, I’d rather have fitties in my wedding pictures.) When we walk down the street and you get hollered at, I’m thinking “damn the patriarchy!” – but I’m secretly thinking “If I was the patriarchy and I didn’t know any better, I’d holler too.” Remember all this when the sexy men are queuing up to send you champagne – and ask for a glass for me. Hey, I’m so goshdarn gorgeous that Pizza Express keep sending me all these 2 for 1 vouchers. And I’d be proud to treat my beautiful lady friends to a complimentary Padana.

    @NotRollergirl is a funny funny lady. If you ever find out her true identity, you should befriend her immediately. She does a mean karaoke version of [insert all songs, ever] and knows every Abba song ever recorded, including those weird ones that weren’t in Mamma Mia. You can follow her on Twitter (recommended for daily giggles) or check out her excellent work on Sabotage Times. 


  12. Healthy Competition

    February 29, 2012 by jo_rourke

     

    Image from obsessionistas.co.uk

    I love a good bitch. Sometimes there’s nothing better than getting it all off your chest and having a good old rant. Whether it’s about something or someone, letting it all out can be therapeutic. I reckon Anne Robinson, with her daily blank cheque of bitchiness on the Weakest Link, must retire of an evening utterly zen after her efficient 45 minute insult session. The idiot who wouldn’t move down the carriage on the tube becomes Ann, Coffee Artist, from Bognor Regis. Nick, Student, from Gloucester, conveniently has the head of a traffic warden on his scruffy, skinny jeaned and Conversed body.

    Women are usually charged with being the instigators and encouragers of the art (science? Not sure) of bitching and bitchery. The intended uses of ‘bitch’ are 1) a female dog and 2) an insult. Nice, huh? But quite apt when you consider what the verb ‘to bitch’ means in practise. When it comes to what we consume in the news (I use the term loosely as I am referring to tabloids) the actual tone of the piece is bitchy, often a “Who ate all the pies?” thinly disguised as “Flaunting her curves.” Most of what is written for or about women runs on a not too subtle current of highlighting flaws and pointing out mistakes. Even in our own lives, away from the sidebar of the Mail, we find ourselves continuing this theme. It may be because by pointing out other’s faults we make ourselves feel better about our own. Classic defence mechanism, really; attention will be drawn to their big bum/bad taste and away from our own bigger bum/worse taste. Couldn’t be more Chandler if I said “Could it be any more of a defence mechanism?”

    Image from queensofvintage.com

    In some ways, though, it’s a sign that we are incredibly competitive. And, listening to Woman’s Hour this morning, I got thinking some more on competitiveness. Jane Garvey had the editors of Cosmopolitan UK and Vagenda on the show, debating what women look for in a magazine. Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett for Vagenda argued that Cosmo’s content of beauty buys, belly busters and blow jobs is not just disempowering and outdated, but patronising too. Cosmo’s Louise Court (admittedly with reader numbers on her side) countered that plenty of women in the UK are interested in Cosmo’s articles on firmers and fellatio – 1.6 million actually – and that, besides, Cosmo does tackle “feminist” issues; equal pay and speaking out about domestic violence being two of them. Disregarding the fact that being paid less than your subordinate with a penis and being subjected to physical violence go against basic human rights; Court does have a point when she touches on readership figures. Women do buy Cosmopolitan. And they keep buying it. Its content can’t be that far off the mark.

    Yes, women are interested in more than just sex, how to look good with their kit off and how to achieve the perfect blow…dry, but equally this would have been said about the magazine at its launch back in 1886. At that point it was a “family” magazine with a section “devoted exclusively to the interests of women, with articles on fashions, on household decoration, on cooking, and the care and management of children.” For some women this would have been condescending and belittling. For others, it would have been the best thing since…I’ve got nothing here – sliced bread wasn’t invented ‘til 1928. But let’s leave it as really awesome. Besides which, now, in the 21st century, there are entire magazines, blogs, websites and TV programmes devoted to these topics, so they are by no means irrelevant, unpopular or antiquated.

    Court and Cosslett are intelligent, successful women at the helm of two groundbreaking magazines; the fact that they can’t agree on what women are interested in is a good thing - it simply means we’re interested in a wide variety of issues. (Even typing that sentence annoys me – why shouldn’t we be?) Competition in our media is also a good thing; it means we get to enjoy varied, boundary-pushing journalism. We need to focus on this benefit – we don’t need to bitch about the content – they are written by women, about women and for women. They both satisfy the needs of the fairer (ahem) sex and we have many, like any human being. I like to look good. I like clothes. I like to bake. I like to read. I am interested in current events. I am interested in Ryans Gosling and Reynolds. I deserve equal pay. I am a feminist. None of these sentences should cancel each other out. As for our in-sex bitching, competing and showing each other up, I recently saw an interview with the country singer Reba McEntire who put it brilliantly when, having been asked if there was competition between her and other female country singers, said “Of course we’re all competitive in our business, but we all pull for each other too.”

    Jo is a writer slash blogger, who works in sustainability. I’m still not sure what that means. For a small person, she is very noisy. In fact it is my personal belief that she only learned the four languages that she speaks fluently so that she could talk more. She knows the entirety of Bridget Jones by heart (don’t we all!) and is a dab hand at quoting any and all chick flicks. In fact we spent nearly 2 hours doing this the first time we met.

    Jo will be launching a brand new website later this year, which I will tell you all about soon – but rest assured, it’s going to be awesome. You can find Jo on Twitter, or in her little corner of the HuffPo