Fearlessly Feminist and Fighting the Good Fight

Things are about to get a bit socio-political today people, so be prepared. With what’s going on in the news, I felt it would be a bit lax of me not to address some of the matters at hand. Being as I am a h’actual woman, a lot of what I’ve heard and read has resonated with me, and it’s about time I throw my 2p in.

Now, even in today’s society, “Feminism” is a much maligned and misunderstood word. More often than not, it’s taken to be either something that is indicative of unshaven women hysterically burning bras (though, to be honest, I could get behind that because GOD, they are just the most uncomfortable thing EVER), a specific attack on harmless menfolk, or any other number of negative diatribes. It seems to be almost impossible to be grasped as something that just means the desire to see all people treated equally. I’ve heard women say that they personally don’t identify with feminism, because they believe in equality, which makes me wince every time. I’ve heard guys say that why can’t understand why women keep complaining because they’ve got all the same rights now when all they do is continue to act like girls – as though asking for equality means giving up your womanhood. I’ve heard countless arguments again and again that feminism is causing more harm than it is good.

Once upon a time, I might have had some sympathy for a misunderstanding of the term. There are so many “new waves” and “neo” movements and I get that it can be hard to follow labels. I understand that sometimes you can get lost in the political correctness of what people do and do not like to be associated with. I respect that it can often feel like nameless internet busybodies are shouting loudly and often without any purpose other than to seem outraged.

But guess what? I’m starting to lose patience with excuses. You don’t have to understand a term or blindly follow an ideology not to be a dick. You can ignore titles and labels and internet movements all you want, but you do have to understand that assaulting a woman isn’t right. I don’t give a flying fig what you call yourself, but if you even try to tell me that you think I’m less of a person because of my reproductive organs; that I should just take it and quieten down; that I’ve got everything I should want now, you and me are going to have serious problems.

In light of the news that Joss Whedon is in fact not the hero of women’s rights and feminism he was always proclaimed to be, that Harvey Weinstein took his power and responsibility and twisted it into something completely repugnant without fear of justice or retribution for years, that Diane Abbott (who, admittedly, is not someone I am particularly fond of, but nonetheless) has to put up with absolutely intolerable torrents of objectionable and unacceptable abuse, and the light shining starkly on the horrific regularity of violence (both mentally and physically) towards woman (specifically in the media) I’ve decided to take a moment to focus on some strong female figures in my life. I’ve been raised by a staunchly feminist father on a diet of science fiction programs with fantastically powerful female role models and male characters that actually interact with them as people, rather than objects. My understanding of how the world works has been coloured by my (possibly misguided) belief that most people are inherently decent and that everyone deserves a fair chance to prove themselves on their own merits and not be hindered by someone else’s opinions or dogmas. That’s not to say that I’ve not dealt with misogyny – I’ve been harassed and groped; I’ve gone on nights out and had strangers try and grab me, rub their hands across my chest and squeeze my arse. I’ve listened to them say horrific things about what they’d do to me and what I deserved, but I’ve tried to never give up on the belief that those scumbags are in the minority. It gets harder every day though, with each new accusation and revelation, and when people who are supposedly in positions of power use their strength to harm and hurt others. These examples though, are the paragons I hold high – that prove to me that women are deserving of all the rights we fight for.

FAMILY

Most people say that their mother’s are the best and I’m sure that they’re right, but I don’t think I could ever be more amazed by anyone as I am by my mum. She is the pinnacle of everything I want to be and aim to emulate. Intelligent, classy, beautiful and heart breakingingly strong, there has never been a point when I’ve ever been let down by her. My Neens stands proud as the matriarch of a particularly mental and rowdy bunch, but I would never even consider doubting that she wouldn’t do anything and everything in her power to protect and nurture us. TMM’s mum reminds me of a Valkyrie and has done a pretty amazing job of raising a man who is everything a person should be and my sister taught me to not be afraid of unashamedly being exactly what I want to be. Every woman who I am proud enough to call family has struggled or suffered in someway and yet not let it warp them. They have thrived and made their way in the world that has not always been kind to them. They have done what they do and I love them endlessly for it.

#MightyMothers

FRIENDS

I actually think that I don’t really have much say in who my friendship groups are – mostly my friends pick me. I’m too nervous and anti-social to make much of an effort, yet somehow I am lucky enough to know women who I love wholeheartedly for what they are.  I met girls at University who amazed me – who had travelled the world when I was scared of getting on the bus on my own; who had personalities so beautiful they shined right through their gorgeous faces and who pushed me out of my comfort zone to find fun and laughter where I didn’t know to look. These days, I hang around with women who are unashamedly brilliant; who struggle with depression, who strive to please others before themselves, who maintain full time jobs, lives and households and yet still make time to invite me out and laugh with them. I adore them and often wish they could see themselves as I do, because if they knew how powerful they were, they’d rule the world. 

FACTUAL

There are so many women through history I look up to with almost obsessional wonder. Writers, scientists, astronauts, film stars – huge powerhouses of influence who changed the world inescapably yet are often overlooked. Ada Lovelace is always recognised as the daughter of Lord “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know” Bryon, yet at 27 she created an algorithm which is considered to be the first computer system. In 1843! Hedy Lamarr was film actress famed for her beauty who also developed a radio guidance system which is a key factor in the creation of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. JK Rowling created a not only a series of well loved books, but a whole fully formed world as a rebellion against her depression. These women were not afraid of their strengths and fought against male dominated societies to enrich a world that tried to push them down.

We Are All Wonder Women! by SarahSatrunA piece of art work by SarahSatrun off Deviant Art that I absolutely love.(https://sarahsatrun.deviantart.com/art/We-Are-All-Wonder-Women-368307378)

They are so many strong role models out there, yet so often all we hear about are examples again and again of women being victimised. There are women lambasted for not standing up against their attackers or hiding what happened to them, because apparently it’s better to blame someone who is already frightened rather than fight against the monster who committed the act in the first place. There are girls sent home from school for wearing “provocative” clothing, because apparently boys can’t control themselves; sending the message that our girls are asking for abuse and that our boys don’t have the strength of personality to overcome their baser impulses. Stories of abuse break and immediately some guys go on the defensive – shouting about how “it’s not all men!”, because they want to feel less uncomfortable and it’s easier to invalidate women’s claims than accept there is a problem with your own gender that needs to be addressed. Sure, you might not be a rapist, but I’d rather not spend time applauding you for not being a masochistic pig and shine a light on those that think it’s okay to grab and harass instead.

I want to wear short skirts in summer because I like my legs and not because I want someone to try and take a peek at my bits. I want to be in a bad mood because I am angry, and not have some idiot guffaw about how it’s my time of the month. I want to be a woman, who can be proud of how I look and what I like, and still be recognised as an actual person. Now, I’m not saying that I expect women to be perfect goddesses. Every one of those above is flawed because, guess what, they’re people. They will have lied or cheated, cried and raged, but what else can I expect? They are not princesses or damsels; they’re not warriors or crusaders. They are just women – and I am empowered by them every damn day.

 

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Book Review – The First of Many…

You know you’re in for a good couple of days when it’s not even Wednesday and you’re already 236% done with the week, don’t you?

The last few days have gone by in rather a blur; work being as horribly worky as it possibly can be, and the weekend being spent stripping the dressing room (say hello to another two boxes for charity and one more bin bag) and being unaccountably grumpy. There was a rather spectacular highlight in the viewing of the new Wonder Woman, which was far better than I hoped for and has meant that my crush on Gal Gadot has escalated to disturbing heights. I even got a bit emotional watching the Amazonian fight scenes at the beginning and spent the half an hour after the film finished trying to convince TMM that I had to take some martial arts classes immediately otherwise I would die (thankfully, I think that urge has slightly fallen by the wayside in favour of slobbing on the couch and eating my own body weight in birthday chocolate, but I can still dream).

 I mean, just look at her for Pete’s sake!

There was a slight concern I wouldn’t even manage to get a blog done this week (SHOCK HORROR), but TMM has been most persuasive and due to the fact he actually went out and bought props to use for my first book review, I couldn’t really let him down. To that end, I have done a review of Number 1 on my “Books to Read” list – “Nigel – My Family and Other Dogs” by Monty Don. It is my first review, so please be gentle with me!

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This Sunday I finished Nigel, slouching on the couch wrapped in a blanket with drooping eyelids. I realised quite early on that it’s a book that requires no urgency or effort and consequently it’s seen me through a stressful week at work, one half hour lunch break of soothing garden chatter at a time. 

As previously mentioned, I am not a huge reader of biographies, though I can be persuaded now and then if they’re told through the mask of a storyteller and liberally sprinkled with hilarious anecdotes (see works by David Niven and Gerald Durrell, which can surely only be classed as semi-biographical by the most lenient of reviewers). 

Whilst Monty Don writes in a way that is perhaps not as raffish or charming as those mentioned above, there is a strong, self assured voice that appeals non-the less. It is almost impossible to read it without hearing him speaking directly to you, and I definitely believe it would benefit massively from having an audio book version. There is still definitely a slight tongue in cheek tone to some of the things he writes though that can’t help but bring a smile to your face, and there is the line “my mother thought, with some reason, that I was immature, feckless and impoverished” which is basically everything I’m looking for in a person.

Nigel, (the star of the show) is spoken about regularly with a kind of cheerful exasperation; he is clearly the hero of the piece and very much his own dog. A terribly handsome Golden Retriever, he is quite confidently aware of his own worth and the relationship between Monty and him is more of a symbiotic bond rather than an owner and pet. Their breakfast routine, beautifully detailed, puts me in mind of a kind of Holmes and Watson scene – set against a quintessentially British backdrop. He does not anthropomorphise Nigel and treat him like a child as pet owners are often want to do, but rather allows the dog’s own character to shine through. He is easy living and embraces  all elements of the gardens he lives in and the TV crew that inhabit them during filming times; more than willing to be centre stage or re-film shots time and time again in true film star style. He manages, without seeming cliché, to embody some rather poignant life lessons that are described quite simply; dogs do not look back or forward, but live purely in the moment. If there is a ball to be chased, a fresh pea pod to be crunched or a puddle to be splashed in, he is as content as can be. Whilst he by no means the only dog that has been welcomed by the Don family, but he is definitely the man of the moment.

The rest of the content focuses on certain key events in the author’s life, as seen through the lens of the dogs that occupied those periods and the gardens they lived in. Somewhat atypically, the narrative doesn’t follow a chronological timeline, but instead weaves in and out; dropping onto certain episodes centred around a particular four legged friend. It does leave you feeling as though you’re flicking through a beloved and slightly worn photo album; stopping to look at random dog-eared snapshots with worn away scribbles on the back. There is a completeness to each story arc through, and though it may not be in the same chapter, you learn about the introduction and subsequent departure of every beloved pet. Monty Don has a very fixed view on not only how one should build a relationship with a dog, but also the huge affect it has on it’s owner’s life, and this includes the unhappy way in which they leave. The last few chapters of the book focus on the deaths of some the dogs, and whilst they are quite heart rending, there’s also an almost holistically and robustly healthy attitude to the way they are described. Very much as each section of his garden has a life cycle that blossoms and withers, so do the dogs.

The admiration and esteem he holds for each of the dogs is tangible, and whilst there are some sections that reflect the time periods they’re about (there was a comment about his father’s treatment of unwanted puppies that involved a sack and a bucket of water that did make me wince), you can tell the impact each separate one has had; be it Beaumont the Blackdog he got from Ranulph and Ginny Fiennes and his steadfast loyalty or Gretel, the twenty first birthday present that spent ten years accompanying him everywhere.

Very much like the Gerald Durrell book this takes its name from, there is an approach to the animals and the natural world that is imbibed with a warmth and heartfelt adoration. The relationship he has with his garden (which cannot be ignored considering his career) is that of a partner in crime rather than a proud creator. He talks about the management of it as an endless process; an on-going exercise that changes with the seasons, the requirement of the film crew and even his mental state. He describes the garden as though we all know it (which admittedly, if you avidly watch Gardener’s World you probably do), but rather than coming across as patronising or in a lecturing tone, it’s more of a shared consciousness. I know barely anything of plant names (Latin or otherwise) or how certain things should be done, but reading this I found  it’s pleasantly engaging

Overall, there is an integral warmth to this book this which must be experienced in kind to truly create the full effect; read outside on sunny days on a soft lawn, with eyes squinting against the sunlight. The nostalgia winds through the narrative but doesn’t overwhelm and it’s nicely complimented by Nigel, who gently trips through the whole book looking for tennis balls, colouring it golden and bringing forth visions of long lazy afternoons and abundantly green gardens.

Monty

Photo Credit – My very own Man Muffin. He’s getting so good at this now!

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Anyway, I’m one review down and it’s hump day tomorrow – things can only get better, right?