I think I’m going to stop calling myself a feminist.
I’ve changed my blog bio to ‘equalist’, which is a pedant’s way of saying I believe in something that could be called feminism, but which I think it (not always unfairly) associated with, and shouted about by, people who could often be referred to as narrow-minded – and I don’t want to be one of those people.
I want to read both sides of the argument. I’m aware that I will sometimes contradict myself. I’m aware that I will sometimes sit on the fence. But I want to keep learning.
There are parts of feminist ideology I cannot agree with. While I can’t agree with Quiet Riot Girl’s total rejection of rape culture, I know that in my 23 years I’ve never been sexually harrassed or made to feel uncomfortable by a man. Or a woman, for that matter. And so I can’t claim that I’m a feminist because ‘men do terrible things’.
And while I know that a lot of people will say that I’m ‘lucky’ to not have experienced victimisation on account of my physical makeup, and I think that’s shit and shouldn’t be the case, and that no person should be sexually harrassed… I also believe that to perpetuate a myth in which men are the harrassers and women the harrassees is short-sighted and not helpful as it paint all of us who fit as either victims or perpetrators. I’d like to think we’re more complex, and compassionate, than that.
And while I believe that a lot of culture leads us to expect less from women, I also believe that it pressures men into unattainable ideas of what a man ‘should’ be and ‘can’ do (i.e. sexual stallion who beds 60 women a month, and can’t compliment a friend on his/her choice of shoes).
I can also see that page 3 models and the thought that sex workers can’t be raped is a blatant objectification of women, I’ve never been able to see how that’s worse than the Cosmo naked centrefold. In fact, rather than outlaw these things, I’d prefer that we accepted them and also acknowledged that they are not gender-specific, and our prejudices about the people photographed should be challenged. Objectification and sexualisation are not gender-specific, but they should be tackled.
I don’t like that a male anorexic is paraded as an oddity, and female professors and politicians are judged on their dress sense. I would rather we judged people on their choices and values (and yes, those are influenced by society) than what genitals they have or would like to have.
In fact, there are a lot of things I like and a lot of things I don’t. But I don’t think I favour any one of them consciously because they are ‘male’ or ‘female’ things. And I think that’s what radical feminism and misogyny and pink and blue children’s rooms and automatically putting glitter on girl’s shoes and not making skirts that fit boys does – whether it means to or not. My view is that a modern person should be able to do what the fuck they like, equally. And that’s what I would argue for.
But I’m going to keep reading. I want to be challenged and I want to keep learning, and I don’t know all the answers so I welcome the challenge!
Recently I’ve been travelling on the London Underground more than usual (read: twice in the past week), and while standing in a baking hot metal tube full of people reading paperbacks (and on one occasion a guy with a guitar singing John Martyn’s May You Never – *squee*), I’ve been reading the advertisements above my head.
In every carriage I travelled in, there was a poster advertising new SKYN condoms. They’re not made of latex, apparently, and it’s good news for people who don’t like the feel of latex – good news for everyone, then, I guess.
And it’s great to see condoms being advertised alongside dating websites and vitamin pills and The Independent and all the other stuff that’s commonplace and you can’t help but look at on the tube – really great. But I’ve still taken a small (but I think significant) issue with SKYN’s advertising campaign.
Here are a selection of SKYN adverts:
Do you notice a theme? Nice lady, in underwear, lying on a bed/other soft furnishing, smirking gently into the camera and captioned with one tagline or another extolling the virtues of wearing SKYN condoms vs. not wearing condoms vs. wearing other, insensitive latex brands.
On the surface, this is looking good. Women hate condoms, but they’re necessary. Men hate condoms, but they’re necessary. SKYN will fix this. Excellent. My problem is: why isn’t there a nice-looking dude lying in his boxers on soft furnishings telling me how much he enjoys wearing SKYN condoms?
You can’t tell me that doesn’t play into the stereotype that men hate condoms but have to do so for the benefit of women. Women are always: wear this, don’t wear that, whereas for men it’s a case of ‘well I suppose this’ll keep her quiet’. Wouldn’t a man preaching the brilliance of this new condom material and how brilliant it feels be much more effective a) in advertising to men, and b) in combatting the idea that men ought to practice safe sex just because women ask them to? If advertising is meant to appeal to us on a personal level, why can’t a man want to follow in the footsteps of the nice guy he sees in adverts?
This is a minor gripe, that potentially opens a can of worms.
By only using women to advertise their products, SKYN are committing two offences, to my mind. One: placing the responsibility for condom purchase solely in the hands of women. Two: perpetuating the stereotype that condoms exist for the benefit of women.
To address offence One: what I do like about the adverts is that the women are not asking, or nagging, they’re expressing their preference for ‘closer’ sex and therefore the use of SKYNs. They are flirtatious, and the message is clear and friendly: women like sex with SKYNs as much as you, token man, will. But it isn’t just their opinion that changes the behaviour of those who buy condoms: men and women buy condoms (at least, I bloody hope so), and so men and women should be included in the adverts. Sure, the woman in the advert is supposed to be talking directly to the man on the tube, and convincing him that SKYNs will be the answer to his (and her dilemma), but by not acknowledging the male opinion, SKYNs are ignoring the responsibility of both genders to use condoms.
Saying “no” is a really important skill in life. Hearing “no” is just as important, if not more so. There are a number of situations in which it’s appropriate to hear and accept a refusal to your proposal, and a multitude of ways in which a rejection of this perfectly valid response are unfair and totally incorrect.
If your boss gives you work you can’t manage, you need to be able to politely decline, and they need to be able to understand that. If your housemate insists you do all the washing up, you need to be able to say no, and they need to be able to hear that and compromise. If your husband or wife asks for sex, you should be able to say no, and they need to hear, understand and respect your wishes.
In light of the recent ridiculous remarks on rape and rape culture in the media lately, from Julian Assange to George Galloway’s “no need to ask permission before every insertion” (excuse me while I throw up in my mouth), to tools on Twitter who just don’t know better but really, really should, I just want to express my astonishment that this is still a question.
Does no mean no? Why, yes, it does. Sometimes “no” has the context of ‘well, I’d really like to, but we shouldn’t', but going ahead regardless is refusing to acknowledge “no”, and therefore being at best an idiot and at worst a criminal. Sometimes “no” has the context of ‘no, not on your life, get away’, and if you go ahead knowing this then you are an idiot and/or a criminal.
It surprises me that people seem to justify imposing themself on another by claiming that it’s in some way unromantic to actually ask/check that the other party’s ok with what’s going on. Because, sure, what’s more romantic than being violated, forced into something against your will, andhaving your right to free will ignored because you might give the answer they didn’t want to hear?
I can’t think of another explanation, so this must boil down to a fear of rejection. We’re all scared of rejection. We’re all scared of getting the wrong end of the stick, misunderstanding, or making a fool out of ourselves. Have we really reached the stage where we’d rather be criminals than just plain wrong?
And when I say wrong, I don’t mean going ahead with sex and saying ‘oops’. I mean misreading the situation: thinking someone was interested when they weren’t, being too worried to bother reading the visual/aural cues that a person makes when they’re uncomfortable, being unwilling to stop a second and say ‘is this ok?’
I’ve mentioned before on this blog, that the ‘fear’ around sexual harrassment (by which I mean the fear that you might be seen as a harrasser), has something to do with the (un)willingness to take no as an answer. For some reason, we seem to feel that we ought to be perfect when it comes to relationships, but it’s ok to be wrong about these things! You can make a move, it can be rejected, and then you can get on with your life! If I accept that the person I want to have sex with might not want to have sex with me, then I’m ready to hear ‘no’; I’ll be embarrassed but I’ll get over it – and so will they. Isn’t momentary embarrassment better than going ahead without asking and doing what you want at the expense of someone else – condemning them, and possibly yourself, to a lifelong remembrance of something terrible.
Similarly, it’s perfectly acceptable for someone you’ve had sex with before to not want to do it again – maybe not now, maybe not ever. Assuming eternal consent is stupid. If you were asked if you liked cheese on toast for dinner once, and received it every day for the next month without anyone asking your opinion, wouldn’t you be annoyed? And I’m using this sort of example because I think that the people who need this explaining to them will probably understand better if I use shorter words.
“No” always means “no” at the time it is said. “No” can be retracted at a later date to “yes”, just as “yes” can at a later date be changed to “no”. Be prepared to hear no, and be prepared to cope with rejection. That way, although you might be a bit embarrassed, you’ll be showing empathy and not end up a criminal.
Of course, I’m assuming here that people trying to justify ‘not quite a rape’ rapes, aren’t selfish, heartless bastards who are going to go ahead with whatever they want because their opinion is the only one that counts and their needs are the only ones that need to be met. I could be wrong. But let’s hope I’m not.
I’m just genuinely amazed that this is even debated. People – men and women – change their minds! Men and women change their minds! Refusing to acknowledge this is plain ridiculous, and if you really can’t understand this very simple concept you should probably steer away from sexual contact with other people and educate yourself.
I’m going to tell you something weird now. As if my Phonebox collection wasn’t weird enough.
I’ve always wondered why we don’t make friend in odd places. More precisely, odd, places where we spend very little time, but can feel like an age. In queues for the shops, a music festival, a bus. At traffic lights. In traffic jams. In bookshops.
Whenever I’m in traffic lights, as mentioned, I like to be the one with loud music and the windows down. I lay no claim to a decent taste in music, but just once I’d like someone to wind down their window and go ‘Hey, you’re listening to Genesis! I love The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway!” Then, we could both drive off, one of us turning right at the lights, the other straight on with a sense that we’re not alone in the world, even though we’d never see each other again. Is that too much to ask?
Once, on a drive down to my boyfriend’s parents’ house in Folkestone, I got stuck on the M25. This is not surprising. The guys sitting in the lane beside me started waving. To my embarrassment, at first I turned away, and used the first opportunity to shuffle my car forwards slightly. I scolded myself, as I knew this was a perfect chance to make a weird friend in a weird place. But I did feel a little safer six inches ahead of them.
Turns out we were all stuck there for about 40 minutes. In that time, the traffic before them inched forward a little, and suddenly they were beside me again. They waved. I laughed at them, and at myself, and waved back. For the next 39 and a half minutes we nudged past one another, alternately waving and laughing and pointing at other drivers around us. They were three quite tall, confident-looking guys all crammed into a small red car – something like a Micra. Something you’d be surprised they all fit into. I had no idea where they were going, they probably couldn’t care less where I was going. But it was amusing enough for us to make a short-lived connection while we sat in the baking sun, waiting for every other bugger to get out of the way.
When we finally sped up enough that one of us could pull away, they were in the inside lane and so overtook me easily. Then, the traffic stopped again. One of the guys stuck his head and torso out of the sunroof to wave and blow kisses. I had enough time to crack up laughing and mouth “Get back in your bloody car!” before the traffic picked up again, and they were off for good.
It’s little moments like that that make the tedium of traffic jams and the dreaded M25 manageable. I’ve never understood why we all ignore one another in our cars, when we all know we’re there. So thank you, idiot men, for ticking off a box on my bucket list.
To weird friends in unfamiliar places.
I’ve been away from this blog for just over a month now (apologies), and out of the country for just over a week (got back on Monday), so when I returned to work this week I found that there were a lot of new radio plays to listen to on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4Extra (or R7, as it used to be).
I’ve found that listening to radio plays while working is very therapeutic, and I’m considering downloading e-books so I can claim to have ‘read’ the classics while I count things and email things and scan things and deal with enquiries that allow me to listen to something in the background.
Another thing I’ve been meaning to do is mention this,and possibly mention some of those radio plays that I’ve enjoyed – but because I’m lazy the first thing I did was to google reviews. I was very surprised to find only one site that reviewed the plays I’d been listening to (if at all!), but on the plus side it’s a really good site! http://www.radiodramareviews.com/index.html has been interesting, but I’ve been lacking the ability to make my own comments.
So what I’m proposing now – now that I’ve just about finished my first year of Library School – is to collect my opinions on these plays I keep on listening to, and work out what I like and what I don’t. This is a selfish project, but I’m hoping that there’s others out there who will find it interesting. Another thing I’d like to do one day is write a radio play, and so I’m pretty sure that much like studying and reading books so as to improve writing them, listening to and thinking about radio plays will help me to work out what on earth I should be doing in future to write a decent one that can be broadcast on Radio 4!
Expect thoughts and review soon! Watch this (previously unoccupied) space!
In the meantime, the reasons I’ve been quiet: essays and holidays!
My boyfriend is a
plant nerd horticulturalist, and so our trip to Holland was filled with bulb fields and horticultural shows and my insistence that if I lived in such a flat place as Holland I would cycle everywhere and it would always be very pretty and isn’t that a good idea – maybe I should move.
We did perhaps slightly too much travelling for a short period of time (I am a lazy soul, after all), but we did see a number of very beautiful things.
This is note for me as much as for anyone reading this that April is National Poetry Month.
And as such, I will be participating in NaPoWriMo. After last year’s NaNoWriMo defeat (acknowledged and decided upon to make myself feel better) I vowed to participate in NaPoWriMo this coming month instead.
I’ve always considered myself to be more a poet than a fiction-writer. The reasons for this are probably more complicated then I have yet realised, but when asked I tell people it’s because I don’t have the intellectual capacity nor grand ideas to Write A Novel.
This may be true.
What is also true is that I like poetry. I like taking little wordy snapshots of what I see and/or feel or what I make up for others (often fictional) to see and/or feel. I like to play around with words and shapes, and sometimes sounds, in a way that fiction can let you, but which my brand of fiction doesn’t. I want to be self-indulgent, and with poetry I feel that I can do just that. And I don’t even care whether it’s read or liked! Fiction wants readers to inhabit and get lost in its world, poetry stands alone and asks you questions. I like that.
In addition to NaPoWriMo, April is also the month of Finishing LIS Assignments and Going on Holiday – so I picked a good time to write a poem every single day. However, I guess that’s the aim of the thing: overcome adversity and keep swimming.
So, if you’re so inclined, please do check back over April where I will hopefully be posting the products of my NaPoWriMo challenge every day. (Apart from the last week, during which I will be abroad. I’m telling you now so you know I’m not cheating.)
Looking forward to a busy April!
Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I’ve been rabbiting on slightly about Big Plans and Small Plans and whether reading Ulysses counts as Big or Small. Among other things.
Planners scare me. Big Planners intimidate me. Isn’t it enough to know what I’m doing for the next four years?! (Kind of no choice and all, unless I quit the MSc, but you know…) And in the next four years, I don’t think I will be travelling the world and changing it for everyone. So then, I’ll be 20-something-else – and is that too late?
I’m going to guess right now that the answer to that is ‘no’. And that it’s the attitude that makes the difference. My ‘little’ dreams will keep me happy and I still have time to find a really, really BIG one.
Having said that, I have a feeling that my real big dream wouldn’t be to go everywhere and change everything, but stay in my head and make something really awesome that goes out there and does it for me.
The first time I had this panic, I made a little list of Things I’d Like to Do. I’m going to share what I have of a List so far. No laughing!
Once I hit ‘publish’ then the list is real and everyone can laugh, I mean, share their own stupid ideas…
So, yeah – any Plans, Big or Small? Or Ridiculous? Oh, and feel free to yell at me for suggesting that size is important.
I realised some time ago that I stopped writing poetry at about the same time that my first major relationship broke down. At the time I didn’t know whether to feel sad about it, or that it was too melodramatic. Did it even matter that I had stopped writing? And what did it say that without him I had nothing to write about?
For a long while, when I was much younger I hasten to add, all I wrote about was him: how he made me feel, what he was like, where we were going etc etc. and if I had stopped writing when we broke up, surely I wasn’t really Writing anyway, I was just being indulgent.
In the two years since realising this, I’ve written on and off, and started this blog as an attempt to get used to writing and sharing writing again. I thought that with an audience I might want to write more, and differently, and that mythical ‘inspiration’ might strike and make me into a Poet at any given moment and that you would all be pleased for me.
As you can see, it hasn’t really gone that way. However, today I think I have learned something about Myself as a Writer – and something about what that means.
I took an hour out from my sick bed this afternoon (once I stopped wondering if I was going to throw up every 20 minutes) and walked around the nature reserve across the road. I sat on the bench by the pond, perched on tree stumps, logs, fallen trees, took detours, ran – for the hell of it – and found myself writing. And the thing is, I know I couldn’t have done that if I’d have been with someone else.
This is, of course, not a slight on the people I spend my time with. They’re lovely and wonderful and keep me busy and stop all the introspection that has always caused me to write poetry in the first place. But today it was comforting to realise that writing these little snippets might actually be something that I do, and not just a product of indulgence and suggestion. And that I don’t need a personal trigger, I’m not just a person who write about Things That Have Happened To Her, I can think outside of the box.
I’ve realised that I can write on my own, in fact, I’m much better at this sort of thing alone. I can forget other people long enough to be myself, as the postcard in my bedroom says.
I fact, I could be learning, or re-learning depending on your point of view, how to write the sort of thing that could be read, and the kind of thing that reflects me. I’ve always said I’m no good at photography, and I can’t draw to save my life. So I was a little surprised today to find that what I was writing were little pictures caused by the things around me. Back in the day when I was writing about Feelings and the like, I would have laughed at the thought of myself writing poems about nature, and the world. “I’m not William fucking Wordsworth”, I would have thought. And I’m not!. So while the things I penned today are still Things That Happened, they’re (hopefully) more accessible, and more reflective of where I’ve gone with this. There is more to write about than Feelings, and I always knew that. It’s just nice to know that I can do that sort of writing – or at least, I have the potential to, as dangerous as potential is.
Learning to write again is a slow process, and it looks as though it will involve a lot of time spent on my own. But I kind of like that. I think I can work out how it’s done on my own. For the past eighteen months I’ve been hopefully carrying a notebook and pen around with my when friends and I go to visit nice places. Turns out, the nice places are irrelevant. It’s the being on my own that helps. Which explains why I always think of something to write when I’m doing something unconsciously; like driving, or washing up, or taking a shower – and not when I’m trying to do something complicated like remember how to co-ordinate all my limbs and breathing at the same time while at the gym.
Also, this means that NaPoWriMo may not be the terrible, painful, woeful struggle I expected it to be! But let’s not count the chickens yet…
Imagine two scenarios with me:
1. Person A suggests to Person B that B has a (sexual) preference for something that Person C has been known to do.
-> C has no problem with this, in fact C is quite comfortable with the concept of A and B discussing [insert activity here] – and even C’s potential to act [activity out] – and believes that they are fine to do so to their heart’s content.
2. Person A suggests to C that, after discussion of [activity], B would not be adverse to doing [activity] with C – and invents a scenario in which such a thing happens.
-> suddenly C feels uncomfortable: a line has been crossed.
But where is the line?
What’s wrong with this picture? Why does the abstract thought of something not offend, but the consideration of acting out something – still a thought! – become difficult to stomach?
I’ve been pondering this since last Friday, and in the absence of any scholarly literature to back me up: here follow my ramblings on the subject.
Point 1: The thought of [activity] is not an issue – and nor should it be, I believe. People can consider the possibility of [activity] and the possibility that C has done [activity].
Point 2: The suggestion of a scenario of [activity] is a step too far.
Conclusion: C prefers to take a passive role. In a ‘fantasy’, C is comfortable, but the suggestion of an active role is uncomfortable.
Presumably, this is because C recognises that thoughts cannot be controlled? The speculation of A and B is outside of C’s control and, often, influence. But if A or B were to act upon this, or consider certain scenarios, C would be an active player in this fantasy of [activity] and then the circumstances would change.
Or, is it that C wishes to be admired from afar, remaining sanitised and non-complicit?
What is it about playing an active role rather than a passive one that is so different?
And does this desire to be passive, if we can call it such, a desire to be objectified? A return to the Male Gaze?
As a passive object, C has no control but if this is desired can this be considered an anti-feminist thought? Is it wrong to say that although C does not wish to do [activity], B may consider that C does [activity] as long as B does not contemplate C and B doing [activity]?
It is important to note here that passive =/= harmless any more than active = harmful. But this is where the conflict lies. In an abstract consideration, with no precise scenarios, C has no control and no voice. In Scenario 2, where C is considered by A and B, C is aware that they are part of something which they have not been asked to play a role in – but they still cannot stop it happening. Scenario 3, not mentioned above, is the point at which B propositions C for [activity]. This, too, is comfortable.
Is thinking something more or less appropriate than acting it?
Acknowledging [activity] is not the same as suggesting it.
The tipping point is where B not only considers ‘C does [activity[' but that 'C will do [activity] with me’. The point where B approaches C to ask ‘will you do [activity] with me?’ is the point at which C has a choice and can exercise that right. They have been invited to play an active role.
Before that the idea is tangible, a possibility, but C has no knowledge or choice in the matter. Rightfully, they cannot stop C considering it, but the knowledge that C is being considered in relation to [activity] is unnerving because there is no control. This is different from not having a choice at the point of acknowledgement because now C is aware of it and it as though they have been included in something they were not invited to.
So if this is not passive, what is it? Oppressive? Presumptive? Denying C the option to choose?
The most obvious conclusion here is that I think too much. But does anyone else see the line here: whereabouts is the problem? Or is there even a problem? If you were C, would you feel uncomfortable?