Tag Archives: feminism

It’s All In His Head

29 Sep

The other day, I happened to be feeling rather grateful to the wonderful Bill Bryson.

Well, I’ve always felt quite grateful to him actually. As the incredibly talented, witty, top-notch, best-selling author actually WROTE to me when I lived in Africa. In fact – the rather lovely fella has actually sent me TWO letters. It’s great to receive such fan mail, it really is!

Okay, okay – I’m lying about the latter, but neither did the comms from Bill contain a missive from his solicitor, demanding me to abstain from the stalking activities. And I’ve always loved Bill’s style of writing, would have read his stuff anyway – but the fact the chappie took time out to scribble a few lines to me – meant a hell of a lot to a budding writer.  Pure gold, that kind of thing.  So I always do my absolute best to read his books. Brilliant for a laugh and for pithy, social observation.  But this week, I was particularly glad that I’ve just finished reading one of his more recent books. Because I ended up having one of my usual –  rather strange and contorted – conversations with my 8 year old boy. And without Bill’s help, I wouldn’t have been able to interpret it.

I don't imagine that Bill wrote this as a parental self-help manual. But it sure as heck worked for me.

I don’t imagine that Bill wrote this as a parental self-help manual. But it sure as heck worked for me.

The chat with the lad centred on me relating events that took place in 1980.  To cut to the chase, the moral of the story of today’s parental lecture was all about me, trying to persuade the lad not to make ‘unwise’ swaps of toys. Because once you’ve swapsied, most kids don’t want to swap back, yeah? So I told the kid of a similar time in my childhood. That on seeing my flute teacher’s case for her instrument, I had envied it. Because hers had a handle. Mine didn’t. So she offered to swap it – and this was of mutual benefit to both parties.

And even though the handle came in handy (it was MUCH easier to smack my brother over the head with it) I almost instantly regretted the swap. Because just a couple of weeks later after the novelty of this had passed, I noticed that she had a brand new, sleek flute case. And me? I had a scruffy old one. With my brother’s skull-marks imprinted in it. Albeit with a handle, of course.

“Soooooo,” I told my son. “I still look at that flute case today and regret it. I wish I had kept the one I originally had.” He asked me, “So didn’t your teacher ever give it you back?” “No,” I replied.  He snarled and then yelled;”That’s MEAN!” And then? And then he grew suddenly quiet, with a strange and distant look on his face.  “Hang on, though,” I said. “I never asked for it back. I felt silly about asking for it back. I’m sure she would have given it to me, if I had. She didn’t do anything wrong. She was a really nice person!”

He suddenly looked guilty. “Uh-oh,” he said. He wouldn’t respond when I asked him what he meant. I began to wonder what was going on for him. And then – thanks to Mr Bill Bryson and ‘The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid’, I quickly realised why. “I know why you’re looking a bit worried,” I told him. “You’ve just killed my teacher haven’t you? Using your superhuman mind powers. Boys do things like that, don’t they?”

Bless him, he had the decency to look slightly abashed. “Yes,” he replied. “Well!” I answered, “You can just ruddy well bring her back then! If you’ve got the power to kill someone with your mind, you can at least resurrect them. You go to a Church of England school – you believe in that kind of stuff! C’mon! Bring her back!”

“Sorry …” he sang – as he wandered off to find some plastic superhero figure or another with which to entertain himself with; “…when I’ve killed someone with my supreme mind death-ray, they can’t come back. But don’t worry – your teacher would be well-old by now. So she’s probably dead anyway.”

And would you believe me if I told you that this lad has natural charm – in spades?

Nah. Probably not.

The Joy of Boys – Feminist Mamma now thinks twice about nurture vs nature

 

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The Book Has Left The Building…

5 Mar

It’s finally up there for people to buy.  My first fiction book. You can find it on Amazon here.

I allowed myself a small, self-indulgent moment when the first dribblings of tweets and publicity trails arrived.

I felt good about the fact that I’m honestly not out to make money from this book. It’s always been  about the process of creation for me. About the fact that I finally listened to my inner voice …. that I simply had a story that I wanted to tell and to share with others.

I smiled and I pondered as I looked out upon our beautiful valley here. It really has been a mammoth task – but so satisfying and so uplifting an experience.

So, I got ready to go out, to meet my fellow writers and to bask in the warm glow of their support and artistic inspiration.

And then my husband said; “I hope you’re not going out like that. The budgie shat in your hair and you never even noticed.”

Mind Games & Ministers by Chris L Longden (now available at Amazon and soon to be on all of the others of course...)

Mind Games & Ministers by Chris L Longden (now available at Amazon and soon to be on all of the others of course…)

A Flat Head? EJ Howard, writing and the waterways…

3 Jan ej howard

One of our local librarians managed to push aside the fear of her own redundancy in order to try and engage with me. There I was.  Wild eyed and raddled mother of second, newborn baby. Desperate for something both entertaining and intelligent to get me through the wee small hours of brain and boobie-overdrive boredom…

Without Anon Librarian-Lady, I would never have heard of Elizabeth Jane Howard.  Or the Cazalet chronicles. Without Unknown Kirklees Library-Lass, I would never have ended up corresponding with E J Howard herself.

All it took was a certain librarian making a certain recommendation (sans Amazon, sans Kindle estimates of previous-purchases help…) “Oh – judging from your returned books – I think that you will like EJ Howard and the Cazalet chronicles – we don’t lend them out enough these days. A real shame!”

And this was…what? Some FOUR years before BBC Radio 4 decided to credit Elizabeth J Howard for her societal, spiritual, humanitarian and yes – beautiful prose, dialogue and character-observation.

Oh, dearest BBC Radio 4 commissioners I hate to say this, but yes. I really want to say ‘I told you so.’ Elizabeth’s writing was and is amazing.  Tasty, profound, political – without being preachy. Even though many of her contemporaries – and especially the Literahti – perceive her to be ‘domestic, upper class. old fashioned commercial women’s fiction’

Cobblers, my fellas. Just read her stuff.

And yes, how I wish that Radio 4 had re-discovered her before the very recent time where her Cazalet Chronicles were snatched up as new fodder for a Radio 4 audience who had enjoyed ‘Downton Abbey’ etc… But hey. Better now, than never.

I was fortunate to have been able to correspond with her directly.  She was an exceptionally rare person. A woman able to disreguard the birth prejudices of all of us in terms of economic family of origin.  A fellow ‘starting writer in heart’ even though she soared above us all.  She adored books, grassroots, off-the-wall, boho society. She admired socialism, quakerism and pacifist thought. She venerated books and the ‘simple life’. Here was a woman who ‘way back when’ had braved the infamous Standedge Tunnel and who still admired those crazies of us, who still square ourselves up for that all too rare  200 years old tunnel experience right here and now on the waterways today.

And poignantly, she admired and priorised the extended family. She was a subtle reminder to us all that ‘love affairs’ of the heart can and do change but that actually ‘being a parent’ has nothing to do with whether you have actually given birth or not.That parenting per se goes far beyond biology, paperwork and gushing sentiment…

As for me, I will never forget her kind responses and encouragements to my yearning to write whilst being a mother to small children. And that particular encouragement as to how parking the mammoth Cazalet chronicles on the noggin of child number two might not simply lead to a ‘peculiarly shaped, flat-head’…. but also might lead to a life-long love of books and learning…

ej howard

The Man Wants The Tan….

19 Jul

and the teeth…and tiny waist/long legs/big boobs. The airbrushed image of unachievable, to-die for (literally) female perfection (well – its still THIS century’s fad. Who knows what hoops we will be expected to jump through in 2050?)

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Called ‘One Day I May Choose To Have Children And They Will Turn Out To Be Marvellous And Pro-Women’….I really, truly believed that it was all about Nurture. I really bought into the idea that if I *had* a boy, he would be a lovely, cuddly, respecter of women and their rights.

First kid was a girl. Strong minded. Opinionated. Unusual. But will believe whatever I tell her. I could brainwash her with any old set of political or religious beliefs. She would buy into it.  That’s the great fun of having kids. You can really mess with their heads.  (And as per post below, please don’t report me to social services – I am merely trying to make a point here.)

And then came second kid. A boy. A boy who actually happened to be born on International Women’s Day.  Pretty Cool, thought both me and small bambino’s father. But a boy who, from the word go, hated anything that he deemed to be ‘girly’ or ‘unmanly’ or that won’t ‘blow the entire world up and rip everyone’s heads off!’

Of course, a psychologist would have a field day with this one. Little boy reacting to an overbearing feminist mother and a wimpy new man of a dad. But then the psychologist would meet aforementioned parents and twig that we ain’t anything like that in this here house…

So what do you do? What do you do when your 5 year old says ‘Mummy I hate all women and  girls and ladies apart from you?’ What do you do when all the kid does really stupid, inane stuff like trying to jump out of classroom windows in order to ‘make all the other boys think I’m really a real superhero!’

I reckon that this is where nurture comes in. You do the writer-thing (Show Don’t Tell.) You lead by example and demonstrate to Testosterone Tot that women are actually pretty damned good as fellow human beings. Of course, there will be times when  you need to be a little bit more direct (“If you are ever rude to random old ladies in the street again I am dumping you at the nearest orphanage, you little git!”) But in the main, you try and educate the child. Encourage the manliness (or whatever the hell you want to call – ahem – The Great Explorer chromosome) but develop it to move away from the animal brain and to become more focussed on the frontal cortex. Educate!

Which left me thinking. (Psychologist’s head on here.) The mothers of all of those blokes in charge of the media – the ones who so despite the No More Page Three campaign, who believe that society is a better place because we get to see a Bare Breasted Bird over Brekkie….what was their relationship like with their mothers? I’m banking that mother either encouraged their little testosterone-driven excesses. Or was an opinionate bugger whom little Charlie harboured a secret fear or even desire for. And so, Boy Offspring Uncultivated went wild and wanted to carve his own way in the world by proving his Power and Domination over Lovely Ladies Everywhere. Get Yer Tits Out! Give Us a Smile!

Not saying I have got this mothering of a boy thing right. He is out there right now trying to force his sister to drink paddling pool water (which he has apparently peed into according to Older Sib…) But recent evidence leads me to believe that between myself and his dad, we must be getting something right.  Look what he did to a recent toy of his sisters. I found it shoved down the side of a radiator.  Yes, that’s a scorched face.

Was the kid making a protest that no good will come for women who are trying to live up to some crazy ideal, which men don’t actually want anyway? Or was this a blatant act of minor-driven misogyny?

Either way, his sister has the right approach ‘Never liked the stupid doll anyway. Looks well cool with its face like that!”

Extreme Fake Bake - a role model? Or a political statement by the child we all thought had misogynistic tendencies...

Extreme Fake Bake – a role model? Or a political statement by the child we all thought had misogynistic tendencies…

Gnomes, Thongs and The Needy

13 May

People have always misused charitable concerns for their own ends. And sadly, some charities themselves have often not been the best adverts for an ethical and a sensible approach to raising money for causes.

But most recently, things seem to have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. Readers of this blog will know that I am closely involved with managing and volunteering at charitable organisations. They might well have heard the occasional rant from me about the gross amount of overheads, salaries and stupid marketing ploys that some of the larger NGOs and charities are guilty of (those Corporates of the Charidee World. Nothing wrong with being BIG per se. But lots wrong with not managing your affairs in the fairest way for all.  So when asked, I always say – go ask questions of the charity you might want to give to. Go ask questions…)

A reader recently got in touch, sharing similar concerns and informing me about the practice of ‘Gnoming’ (happening now on college campuses near you apparently.) Gnoming involves a student being targeted and various silly/hideous things being inflicted upon them. For example, tie the bugger to a tree, pour treacle all over them, film it and stick the video onto you tube. This is one of the more light-hearted examples of course. You can imagine what some people end up having done to them. And everyone watching or sponsoring, gets to contribute money to charity to see this particular individual ‘Gnomed.’  For about a fiver. No kidding.  A-sodding fiver! Yes, student RAG weeks have always attracted a certain level of irresponsibility but it seems that the nastier edge of this kind of practice is a-growing. Here is an example of your typical gnoming activity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFn1p4PgRyY

But you can’t complain though, can you? You can’t have a whine that some people will be targeted might well be vulnerable….that they may have some kind of mental or physical disability (people who have hidden impairments will be a bloody-gift for such practices.) You can’t have a gripe that there will be an element of bullying in some cases. Or fret that people will be filmed without their consent. Oh no. You can’t moan.

‘Cause it’s all in the Name of Charidee innit? Therefore tis okay. “Lighten up! Don’t be a misery-guts! We’re helping The Kiddies/Donkeys/Starving Africans…”

But this week has left yours truly Utterly Gobsmacked. For it seems that the latest activity For Charideez has dreamed up a new method which in my book, marks an all-time low. Using a ‘search charities service’,  a journalist from The Sun has targeted specific charities (i.e. those with a focus on women, on young people… Unbelievably) in order to ask the females who work for them to pose IN A THONG and to be photographed for well known not-so-quality UK tabloid newspaper ‘The Sun’. This is all in the name of Health and Self-Esteem of course. The women who volunteer will have to rate how they feel about their own bodies. And their bodies will also be judged by a panel of men.  And money raised (and PR of course!) will go to their charity. And they get to have their piccie printed in the ‘Health and Wellbeing Section’ of ‘The Sun.’

After cleaning up the froth generated from these delicate and oh-so-feminine lips of mine after hearing about this insanity,  I actually felt so stupified that I now feel that I cannot beyond the next sentence or two. Yes. Not like me.  And I certainly can’t put it any better than the blog which revealed this lower than low development All In The Name Of Charidee.  Gawd Bless ‘The Sun’ eh?  It’s like feminism never happened!  Go see: http://yourdaughterswillbenext.wordpress.comgnome

Fancy More Than One Wife?

24 Apr

Readers of this little blog will no doubt have clocked my feminist credentials by now. So it might surprise you (if you haven’t yet gotten a whiff of my upbringing, my background) for me to be urging readers to have a nosey at this wee article. In essence, this is all about The Joys of Polygamy For Women.

http://www.londonthenews.com/news/Lifestyle/20130423/43029625/What-kind-of-woman-is-willing-to-share.htm

For sure, I could rant and rave all day about this subject per se.  And I imagine that plenty more Broadsheet (and Not..) commentators will have had doled out a a nice, tongue in cheek (nay – bitch-fest) about the author of the article herself – one Jemima Khan. i.e. Who Hell She And What She Ever Achieved 4 Women Innit?

But the truth is always more complicated. The truth is that there are many highly educated women – both at home and abroad – who think that polygamy can work for them and who have the power and the money to Make That Choice.  And the truth is that there are many women – both at home and abroad – who have bugger all money and bugger all choices… those who have no other option other than to accept polygamy as a cultural and (apparent) religious diktat or recommendation.

Is this about cultural conflict and understanding? Or religion? Or gender politics? Are there more ways to view this issue?…(Now don’t get me started on ‘Shades of Grey’. Please. I am trying to learn How To Write *more* Professionaly here..)  But please – do have a read. And see what some women think. And why. (Whether you fall into Feminist, Religious or Anti-Religious camp. Or simply if you happen to be the kind of bloke who drools at the thought of more than one woman tripping around after you…)

And yes –  if there are any men out there – whether religious, non-religious, feminist or anti-feminist….I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue.

(And a big thanks to a certain Mohammed Amin for flagging up this article. Your posts always inspire – to say the least!) You can read Mohammed Amin’s always informed and provocative stuff here.. http://www.mohammedamin.com/  )

And I end with a photo of me wearing the hijab. Taken whilst I was in the West Bank, Palestine. Perhaps I will blog on that experience in the future…sis fat and big ib