London 2012: great fun, but don’t forget…

Not the most timeous blog ever, but now that all the fun and Olympic games are over, I think some reflection on an important part of the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics is in order.  Before I get started, let me just clear something up.  I hate televised sport.  In fact, I’m not even much of a fan of sport in general (to me it’s more of a necessary evil), but I’ve always found watching it on TV boring.

I was dreading the promised three weeks of the stuff forced upon us in the Olympic occupation of the BBC.  To me, this was televisual tyranny, deciding that we should all consume gluttonous quantities of sports coverage.  I was preparing myself for DVD box-set overload.   Then I watched the opening ceremony.  I switched it on with an air of scepticism. I think I might have even said something to the effect of, “Right, let’s see how crap this is.”

I’m not too proud to admit that Danny Boyle really showed me.  It actually made me, über-cynic, feel proud that it was my country that was responsible for this.  I’m normally one of those people who points out the irony of when Scottish athletes win- they’re British; if they lose- they’re Scottish.  I’m normally the one who avoids the bandwagon on principle.  But I was sucked right in.  The spectacle.  The humour.   Mr Bean tweeting!  I loved it, and what a welcome to the other competitors.  Not only was I thoroughly entertained, but my appetite was whet.  I was hungry for the games.

The games themselves didn’t disappoint.  I was screaming at the telly when Mo Farah casually overtook all of the other runners to win his second gold medal.  I was biting my nails to see if Tom Daley would win gold.  I was humbled by the sportsmanship, and baffled by some sports I had never heard of before.  The closing ceremony might not quite have matched up to the opening ceremony, but come on, who didn’t love the Spice Girls on top of taxis in heels?

Now that’s all very nice, but the statistics of the games speak for themselves.  This year’s games were all about the girls.  44% of team GB were female.  British female athletes won ten gold medals, more than the combined male and female gold medal haul for some much larger countries such as Japan.  This is the highest number of British female gold medal winners in history.  Quite rightly this is being celebrated.  To all of those people who reckon that winning an Olympic medal is no big deal I say: you try it!  These medal winners (male and female) are titans among us mere mortals, and we should celebrate their awe-inspiring achievements, as well as the immense dedication and significant sacrifices it took to make them.

However, achievement at London 2012 can’t merely be measured in precious metal.  For the first time ever, all competing nations were represented by male and female athletes.  This is a significant step for international women’s rights.  Even countries that repeatedly come under fire for their shocking abuse of women in the name of tradition made the momentous decision to sanction the contribution of sports women as well as men.  Brunai, Quatar and Saudi Arabia- who had previously refused to allow female competitors- were now represented by male and female athletes. [1]  Many people believe that this is a publicity exercise on the part of these countries.  Publicity exercise or not, the first steps have been taken.

Before we start cheering these steps on, we must be aware that they are baby steps.  Some women literally risked their lives in order to represent their country.  Tahmina Kohistani represented Afghanistan in the 100m sprint, despite having to endure almost daily abuse from groups of men during her training.  Training which, incidentally, took place in a stadium which had previously accommodated Taliban executions, a haunting reminder of the regime which has brutally oppressed women for aeons.  In Somalia, female runners had to hide their tracksuits under burkas until they were hidden from public view.  A very small number of Muslim female athletes had even reported receiving death threats in an attempt to dissuade them from competing, and, understandably,  for some, this was not a risk worth taking.  The Iraqi women’s wrestling team disbanded in 2009 as a result of death threats made against them.

Despite this, a number of brave women have opted to take the stand and risk their safety, and in some cases, their lives in order to compete.  To represent their country in a positive light: such as Tahmina Kohistani, who says of her home, Afghanistan:  “Right now in my country every day there are bomb blasts, there is killing- it is very important for me to represent a country that has lots of problems like this.”[2]  Some are outspoken about their dedication to promoting women’s rights such as Woroud Sawalha of Palestine who says: “I hope when I return to my country I will try to change society’s views on women playing sports.” [3]  If the team GB women’s efforts were those of Titans; the efforts of these women border on superhuman, in strength of will if nothing else.

So, in my view, the legacy of London 2012 is much greater than inspiring young people to participate in sport: it has brought the issue of female oppression to the fore and challenged those responsible for the oppressing.  Maybe the legacy of Rio 2016 could be that all of the competitors, regardless of gender, are free to train and compete without fear of persecution and violence.


*Dedicated to all of the female medalists who did team GB proud in the 2012 Olympics: Jade Jones, taekwondo, 57kg;  Nicola Adams, boxing, flyweight;  Charlotte Dujardin, equestrianism, individual dressage and equestrianism, team dressage;  Laura Trott, cycling, omnium; Laura Bechtolsheimer, equestrianism, team dressage and equestrianism, individual dressage; Jessica Ennis, athletics, heptathlon; Jo Rowsell, Laura Trott and Dani King, cycling, team pursuit; Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking, rowing, lightweight double sculls;   Victoria Pendleton, cycling, keirin and cycling, sprint final; Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins, rowing, double sculls; Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, rowing, pair;  Samantha Murray, modern pentathlon;  Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, sailing, 470 class;  Christine Ohuruogu, athletics, 400m; Laura Robson, tennis, mixed doubles; Gemma Gibbons, judo, 78kg; Tina Cook, Mary King, Zara Phillips and Nicola Wilson, equestrianism, team eventing; Lizzie Armitstead, cycling, road race; Women’s hockey team; Beth Tweddle, gymnastics, uneven bars; Karina Bryant, judo, 78kg;  Rebecca Adlington, swimming, 800m freestyle and swimming, 400m freestyle.  Ladies, we salute you![4]



[1] BBC ‘BBC News at Six’ broadcast 10/08/12

[2] Kohistani, T. quoted in ‘The Olympic Suffragettes’ Grazia 13/08/12

[3] Sawalha, W. quoted in ‘The Olympic Suffragettes’ Grazia 13/08/12

[4] ‘Team GB: every Olympic gold, silver and bronze medallist’ 13/08/12


Age: is it really just a number?

So, I am fast (very fast) approaching thirty.  I’ve been preparing myself for this since just before I turned twenty-nine actually, and I think I’m ok with it.  I feel like if my sixteen year-old self met me now, she wouldn’t be too disappointed.  Ok, rather than being a full time anarchist I now work for ‘the man’ (read, the local council), my tattoo sleeve never did quite become fully realised and I still can’t drive, but I think overall, I have managed to achieve most of what my sixteen year old self would have imagined I would by the time I was this age (although at that age, I probably actually couldn’t conceive of being 30; twenty-one probably seemed like the end of time).

I never really knew as a youngster what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up;’ I just wanted to be happy in a job that I enjoyed.  So although I didn’t actually get the job as the person who oils up the male models for photo-shoots, (still, I maintain, the only job I would ever do for free) I found my way into a career that I hadn’t thought of at sixteen, but am now wholly glad I did find.  I always thought that I would have a very bohemian relationship with a gorgeous man.  Ok, so the relationship is probably not as unconventional as I’d thought, the gorgeous man is here, and he doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, so those two boxes have been ticked.  I worked hard and got an education I’m proud of.  I have managed to fulfil some of my ambitions along the way.  I’ve travelled to Australia, viewed art in Paris and I’ve been to Disney World.  I still do some of the things I loved to do at sixteen, like go to see bands play live regularly, read and write for pleasure, in fact, I’ve probably got more motivation now than I ever did as a teenager to do these sorts of things.

I think the great realisation is that I still want to keep doing these things for a long time yet.  I might go back to study more (seriously, I’d love to be a professor, I might have to make to with a PhD though.) I hope to continue going to see the bands I love and doing the things that make me happy.  There’s a lot of the world that I still plan to see.  I’d like to at least write a book and have a go at getting published (come on, if ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ can become the best-selling paperback of all time surely they’ll publish any old shit!)  When you’re a teenager, it is quite difficult to project into the future.  One of the benefits of being 30 is that you have seen some of how your future can unfold and develop.  It’s given me a taste for it, and a determination to keep pushing on.  Very far from the boring, settled-down, done-everything-I-can person that many young people think you’ll become.

Now, inevitably, approaching thirty has led to some ridicule from others about getting ‘old’, namely from my dad and my sprightly, twenty-two year old brother.  Now I can understand it coming from my brother, but dad?  Come on, what does having a thirty year old daughter say about how old my parents are?  Surely they should be joining in on the old twenty-one again facade?  I try to take it with a pinch of salt.  Banter is a big thing in my family, and we all lovingly slag each other off fairly regularly.  They just want to get a rise out of me, and that’s fine because we all do it.  Then someone made a ‘tick-tock, biological clock’ joke.  I laughed it off, but it got me thinking.  Not about my biological clock (as if) but about how, when my brother eventually turns thirty, I’ll bet the consensus won’t be that he’s getting a bit sad and old, but that he’s maturing nicely.  Men get more ‘distinguished’ as they get older, women apparently just get what’s left.  Men are more respected as they get older; I’ve seen and heard many young men ridiculed for being young, looking young, being the ‘rookie’ or the ‘young buck.’  If a man gets to thirty and is unmarried and without children, he gets to be a bachelor, or, if he’s really lucky, a playboy.  If it’s a woman, then she’s a spinster.  Is the joking, subconsciously, because I’m a woman?

The word ‘subconscious’ is important here, because I don’t believe that either my father or brother are sexist.  Sure, my dad is quite traditional, but he has always been my biggest supporter in terms of what I can achieve and not taking any shit from people.  He instilled in me that I could do whatever I wanted to do, follow whatever path I wanted to in life, as long as it made me happy and I didn’t go to the Dark Side.  He supported me even when he didn’t agree with the decisions I made.  My brother is usually so right on with this sort of stuff that he’s practically an honorary member of the sisterhood.  So why does this feel anti-female?  Do they really feel that deep down, a woman of my age is only truly complete if she is married with children?  As I am neither married, nor with child, does this mean that none of my other achievements count?  There is also the fact that, well, I don’t feel old.  I still feel that stuff like this might come in the future, and that I still have plenty of time to think like this.  Or am I simply being too sensitive (read: girly) about a comment that was possibly intended to be taken exactly as it seemed on the surface?  Just another attempt to wind me up.

Whichever is the correct diagnosis, it’s certainly an ailment that is prevailent in society, not just my immediate family.  There are hundreds of examples of ageism in the world of entertainment, from Arlene Phillips being chucked off ‘Strictly’ in favour of the far less experienced, but undoubtedly younger, Alesha Dixon, to the increasingly sinister attempts of the tabloid darlings to inhibit the aging process by ever-more invasive surgical procedures.  There is hardly a young woman in Britain today who does not know what Botox does, so commonplace is it in our media.

That’s before examining the pity we bestow on female celebrities over thirty, purely because they are not married.  Poor old Jennifer Aniston can’t get her boyfriend to propose, never mind the fact that she is a hugely popular, highly successful multi-millionairess actress with her own production company who far out-earns her partner.  No, we must assume that she is unsatisfied with all of her achievements because she is not happily married with a sprog in each arm.  Poor Cameron Diaz, she can never get a man to commit, never mind the fact that she too is a highly successful, rich actress who has regularly appeared on ‘sexiest woman’ lists and in magazines encouraging women to achieve a body like hers.  If Jennifer was a man, people would assume that she was focussing on her career, and applaud her for that.  If Cameron was a man, she would be called a player, and guess what?  Guys get the kudos for that too!

With these ideas and images so readily available in the world around us, is it any wonder that some of that has filtered back to us ‘normals?’ That maybe, after seeing it in magazines and on TV and film posters that someone could possibly misjudge the actual impression a joke could make?

I’m glad that, as a trained student of crap mags, I count myself as quite savvy about how the media works, so I know that, actually thirty isn’t really all that old at all.  If I still feel the same way that I did when I was nineteen, and still have an abundance of hopes, dreams and plans for the future, then age really is just a number.  In a time where people in the western world are living longer than ever, maybe it’s time for the media to re-define its boundaries of youth.

As a matter of fact, being thirty is much better than being twenty-one. Or eighteen even.  Ok, so I’m not as skinny as I used to be, and I can’t hold my booze as well, but honestly?  I’m happier, more confident, at ease with the person I’ve grown into and with an idea of what I’m doing with my life.  At nineteen, I would refuse to eat before a night out in case I looked bloated.  At twenty-nine, I accept that it’s perfectly acceptable to have a bit of a tummy.  At twenty-one I was learning, but still a bit of an idiot, doing idiot things.  I was still a bit insecure and worried about what people thought of me.  Now, I try to do the right thing and be nice to other people, but I don’t agonise over it if someone doesn’t like the way I go about it.  As long as I can look at myself in the mirror, and say I tried my best, then that’s the most important opinion about me.  I own my own house, have my own money and can now afford to buy a round of drinks in a place that doesn’t do vodka-and-mixer-for-a-pound offers without worrying about whether I have enough money for the taxi home.  Oh, and another thing, now it doesn’t matter that I can’t drive, because I made that decision for me, and I can afford that taxi now.  These are all things I would have given my right arm for when I was twenty-one.

So yes, to conclude, I am quite excited about turning thirty, I think as a woman, it’s a time, particularly in terms of your career, where people start to give you a little more respect (on account of all that experience we must have clocked up, being so old and all). Having always looked a bit younger than my age, and subsequently patronised on occasion; I’m looking forward to being taken a bit more seriously. I’m definitely less prone to worrying about the small things, like if my hair misbehaves or if I’ll get a lumber, and more likely to think about how I can do all of the things I wanted to do when I was sixteen, but couldn’t because I wasn’t old enough.

However, I must say, that to be this happy approaching thirty, I needed to go through all of the other daft stuff when I was sixteen, eighteen, twenty-two, twenty six, twenty nine.  It’s all of the daft stuff that makes you who you are today.  The mistakes are how you learn, the happy memories teach you what you value and hold dear.  My only hope is that I still feel this secure when I turn forty, maybe someone could send me a copy of this in ten year’s time?

Love and marriage, go together like a…?

I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I’ll say it.  Stand up in front of the group and proclaim: “I am in love,” and I have been for quite some time.  It’s quite nice actually.  Not only have I found a man that makes me laugh; puts up with my, let’s say, eccentricities; that I fancy rotten and who shares my outlook on life.  I also have someone to tell about how my day went; someone to take along to functions; someone to sit in my pyjamas in front of the TV with a takeaway with.  Of course, that’s just the day-to-day comforts that come with being part of a serious relationship.  The surface veneer of our life together.

And it is a life together.  We ask each other’s opinions.  We own a home together.  We consult each other on big decisions.  Our life insurance policies pay out to each other.  We go to bed together and only with each other.  In every aspect of our lives we are like a married couple, except we don’t have that all-important bit of paper.  In every aspect other than legally.  In some ways, this is the least important thing.  What is important is that we love and trust each other and want to be together.  In other ways, it is very important indeed.  In theory, if I were in a life-threatening condition in hospital, he would have no say in my treatment.  I am lucky in that my parents fully recognise the status of our relationship, and I am in no doubt, that in the event of such a horrible event, they would give him his rightful place, but not all parents are as forward-thinking as mine.  Not all couples in serious relationships, but who are unmarried, have that peace of mind.

There is a difficulty in defining modern relationships.  Not that relationships really have to be ‘defined’ as such, even though as a species, we seem pretty keen on doing just that.  We want to give our relationships their due, but there is a problem with the current words and phrases we have to describe a partner you’re not married to.  ‘Boyfriend’ seems too casual, too ‘we’re seventeen and we’re dating.’ As Carrie and Big found out, ‘manfriend’ is just silly.  I refuse to refer to my partner as my husband if we’re not married, even though he sometimes playfully refers to me as ‘the wife.’  I think if he gets to do that, I should at least get to wear the big diamond!  I quite often refer to him as my partner.  He doesn’t do this as he thinks it’s a word that suggests a same- sex couple.  I don’t think he is bothered by that, or worries about people thinking he’s gay, just that for him, the word doesn’t quite fit.  It doesn’t get across what he wants to say.  For me, although I use it, when I do, I sometimes feel like I’m trying too hard to make our relationship seem grown-up. I also sometimes say ‘My other half’ but that makes it sound like we aren’t people in our own right. It sounds a bit dusty and old-fashioned too.   The truth is; neither of us has really found a label for our relationship that we’re entirely comfortable with.  That effectively gets across what we want to say about our relationship in a relatively few words.  Is that so much to ask? Language needs to catch up with modern couples.

This might seem like a rather abstract problem to people who have not encountered it.  Some people may be wondering why we really care about putting a label on it, why we don’t just let it be what it is.  The truth is; it comes up more often than you might think. We are both (relatively) young professionals and we both work with- probably a majority- of people who are older than we are and come from a more “traditional” school of thought on this matter.  It is difficult when you want others to take your relationship as seriously as you do when you don’t easily have the words to describe it.  Then there are practical situations.  A while ago I asked for a day off to attend the funeral of one of my partner’s relatives.  A relative I was close to, and wanted to pay my respects to.  There wasn’t a box to tick on the absence request form for relative of boyfriend/manfriend/ partner, but not same-sex/ other half/ but definitely not husband.  When I filled in the form, at the back of my mind was a nagging worry that, at an already difficult time, I was going to have to explain to someone just what exactly my relationship with the departed was, and why I wanted time off to attend the funeral. As it turned out, this was completely unwarranted worry.  My request was granted without the blink of an eye, even though, on paper, personnel seem to not recognise serious relationships other than spouse.

It has become a little easier since we bought the flat together.  However, I still get the feeling that most people see this as a service station on the journey to getting married, rather than a destination in its own right.  Like signing the missives were just a practise run for signing our marriage license.  I know; I’ve had people say this to me.  I’ve watched it happen to others that I know.  Is it really that important to other people if we get married?  Can other people only value your relationship if you are living in wedded bliss?  If we don’t get married, does this mean that we’re not really in it for the long haul?

We also have to remember that there are people out there having fully functioning adult relationships who don’t live together, and it suits them just fine.  I bet they have to deal with even more questions from the Nuptial Nazis than we do!  Why can’t people just let other people’s relationships be?  Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter seem to be doing just fine, so why can’t people believe that the rest of us in “unconventional” (although, really, now it’s not all that unconventional at all is it?) relationships are doing just dandy too?

It seems that your late 20s and 30s are the wedding season of your life.  It feels to me that most of the people I know and love are either married, or planning to be in the not too distant future.  Some days this makes me question why I am not married.  I’ll go on a wee rant for a few days, and give my poor boyfriend/manfriend/ partner, but not same-sex/ other half/ but definitely not husband, you-don’t-have-the-right-to-call-me-your-wife-yet-even-if-you-are-just-joking a hard time about wanting him to propose.  I’ll wonder why we aren’t at least engaged and worry that we won’t ever get married.  Then I’ll start to think about why that would be so bad.  I’ll look at all the planning my seventeen friends or so that are getting married (ok, not quite seventeen, but at last count I think it was around six) and thank some higher power that I don’t have to try to do that on top of a job, running a home and having some semblance of a life that I enjoy.

So why is it that some days I’m desperate to get married and other days it leaves me cold?  After a bit of though I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the actual wedding that scares me.  The marriage itself I think would be rather lovely, just as our life together now is rather lovely (ok, most of the time, no couple are perfect- and who would want to be?)  I don’t think too much would change, we have already made a commitment to each other by signing away our souls to our mortgage lender, and we’ve safely passed the dreaded ‘seven-year-itch.’  We know each other pretty damn well, the trust and mutual support is already there.  The marriage part is the bit I think would come naturally, the rest-of-your-life-bit.  The actual wedding on the other hand; that’s the part of the deal I’m not completely sold on.

Now, I love a party as much as the next person, but your traditional flowers and white dresses wedding isn’t really my thing.  I’m not the kind of girl who really bothers too much about things like that.  I don’t really appreciate fine cuisine and am just as happy with a dinner that costs a tenner a head from Oko or Nando’s, maybe more so, than I would be with a £80 a head dinner in a fancy hotel.  I don’t really like being the centre of attention, although I do love dressing up.  I couldn’t be bothered with wedding politics, who gets invited, who sits where.  Even just the effort of trying to keep everyone else happy in the lead-up to a wedding sounds like an enormous headache.  Despite the mantra of the modern bride and groom being (and God knows I’ve said this to enough brides and grooms-to-be over the last few months) it’s their wedding, so they should just do it the way they want to, it seems that weddings really are for everyone else.  Although the bride and groom plan it, their planning really seems to be about keeping their families and guests happy (why on earth else would anyone offer to foot the bill for an open bar?) even if it means significant expense and stress for themselves.

And before my many soon-to-be-married friends read this, get offended and scratch me off their guest lists, I would like to make it clear that, as a guest, I love weddings!  For all I said in the last paragraph, I really enjoy being at a wedding.  I’m an old romantic, and I’m likely to cry.  What can I say; it makes me happy when I see the people I love that happy.  I relish the planning of the outfit and going all out. I enjoy the food, drinks  and I really appreciate all of the planning you put in to make sure we have a great time, I do, but I’m just not sure it’s for me.  I’ve had a fabulous time at every wedding I’ve ever been to (apart from the one where we had a tray of drinks tipped over us within an hour of being there, but that’s another story!) and I’m worried that I’m coming over a little wedding-grinch-y because I don’t mean to.  I’m just very aware of the fact that I don’t really suit white.

For all my sass in pointing this out, I know, if I’m ever in this position, I’ll be exactly the same.  My ideal wedding would just be the two of us, no fuss, no fretting, just sealing the deal and tying our lives together with that proverbial knot.  But then we think how, actually we want our parents to be there, and our siblings, because family is really important to us.  Then there are the close friends who we would love to share our day with, so they’d need to be there too (gosh, the registry office at Gretna Green is starting to get a bit crowded isn’t it?)  Then there are the other aquaintances who you can’t really not invite, based on some of the prior invitations.  Then the people who invited you to their wedding who you are pretty sure want you to pay them back for the £80 a head they paid for your meal at their wedding (don’t deny it; that thought has run through the minds of some of you, I guarantee it!)  All of a sudden, it’s easy to see how that guest list can spiral out of control, and some wedding politics are going to have to come in to play just to make sure that all of these people can be in the same room together.  I’m starting to panic just thinking about it, so maybe I’ll quite happily be a girlfriend/womanfriend/ partner, but not same-sex/ other half/ but definitely not wife for a while longer, at least until I start to want an excuse to spend a thousand pounds on a dress.

Now, whichever way we look at this, there is one thing that we must remember: it’s actually quite nice to have this ‘problem’ to think about.  Women 60 years ago didn’t even have to think about this.  You were either married or single.  No in-between stage that you didn’t know how to explain to someone you worked with.  Years ago, a woman was defined a success by her relationships; and to have a relationship really meant to be married or engaged to be married.  To be “successful” as a woman, and therefore “happy”, you would be someone’s wife and have a family.  I can imagine that many women keenly felt the loss of their individuality when they became someone’s other half (or in some cases, not even so much as a quarter) yet didn’t really have any outlet to express this.  If you didn’t marry, even if you chose not to marry, people pitied you.  In fact, I think it was widely believed that most unmarried women didn’t actually choose to be, despite their best protestations, they were just left ‘on the shelf’ (what a horrendous phrase).  So to be able to choose how we want our relationships to be, even if we can’t define them, must seem like a luxury to women, who, due to convention, never had that freedom.

Now women have broken free from this, and I suppose, as problems go, this is one I would rather deal with than having no choice in the matter at all.

Make Up Make Believe

I have a confession to make.  I love make up.  It’s one of the things that really smacks at my feminist credentials.  Feminists are not supposed to like things that could be seen as a male imposition to increase physical beauty in an artificial manner.  Feminists are supposed to show their true selves, not hide behind a mask of cosmetics.  The old stereotype of the woman who wakes up two hours before her partner to ‘put on her face’ makes us feminists smile in pity.  The woman who is afraid to leave the own house without her slap on because she is so unhappy with her own appearance is surely the antithesis of what we feminists stand for.

I agree with all of these points at face value.  Women should not be judged purely on their appearance.  Women should feel confident in their own skin; and confident in letting the world see their own skin.  However, to assume that those are the only reasons that women wear make up is, well, quite frankly rather patronising.

Yes, women should not be judged on their appearance.  That works both ways.  Just as women should not be judged for not wearing make up; so should they not be judged for wearing it.  Feminism has made it clear that women should be able to wear whatever clothes they want without being judged; why should this not extend to make up?  I agree that the notion of never letting my partner see me without make up is frightening, disheartening and frankly exhausting, but this is a non-issue for me, and, I would hope, most of the sensible women out there.  I actually think that is quite a good litmus test for a relationship.  I always feel comfortable being seen without make up (although this is more to do with laziness than being super-secure in my looks by the way- please don’t hate me like you hate Samantha Brick!) but if he loves me and finds me just as attractive, or more so, without make up, well, that’s not a badfoundationis it?

Rather than viewing make up as something imposed on women by men and evil media-types to force us to strive for unattainable standards of beauty, I look on it as an advantage afforded to women (I know that some men do wear make up, but to be honest, this blog isn’t about them now is it?) that allows them to play with their appearance as they choose.  I love the way that make up allows me to create a look, become a character, and of course, cover a spot or two!  I enjoy the ritual of getting ready, and yes there is an element of making me feel better about myself (on some days it’s more like an effort to re-join the human race) but what’s wrong with that?  If scientists spent years developing a product that makes me look like my skin is lit from within, who am I to criticise them?   If there’s a day where I don’t feel like putting on make up, I don’t.  I do believe that I, or any other woman for that matter, should not have to apologise for something that makes her feel good about herself, whether it’s making her feel better about how her skin looks, or lets her show off the colours she feels inside.  I don’t wear make up to impress men, or even other women (well, apart from ‘peacock eyes’ but ask me about that another time) I wear it for me.  It’s something that I enjoy, and it allows me to look the way I want to look each day, whether that’s a 50’s pin-up, a gothic princess, a zombie or even like I’m not wearing make up at all, but just look like I haven’t been partying all weekend. 😉

However, I still get the feeling that many people, men and women, have a bit of an attitude about it.  I think that the art of make up is kind of the female equivalent of the art of building flat pack furniture.  Some can do it with precision, finesse and artistry; for most it’s a bit slapdash but it’ll do; but for a few it’s a nemesis of a task which they know will have disastrous results, don’t want to do it, but feel they have to give it a go every once in a while just to keep up appearances.

I say though, whatever your feelings on the issue; every woman has the right to choose for herself, without the fear of being judged for it, but what do you think?  I am genuinely interested in hearing all sides of this argument.

Now, I buy and try a ridiculous amount of beauty products each month; it’s not that I’m particularly insecure and looking for a cure, in fact,  as I get older I’m actually becoming much more accepting of how I look, flaws and all.  I get excited about experimenting with new products.  It’s kind of like how the other half gets excited about new Apple gadgets.  So, for fun, to save newbies some time and just in case any of you are inspired to try something new, here are my top ten make up bag basics every sceptic should have a go with before dismissing make up as for bubble brained bimbos.

And it’s getting fuller as time goes on!

  1. Primer- Good make up needs to start with a good primer, it’s what stops all that hard work from sliding off your face after a particularly exuberant session on the dancefloor or stressful day at work.  I can’t wear make up now without primer, it’s part of the ritual.  There are loads to choose from, but my favourites are: ‘the pore-fessional’ by Benefit- this keeps make up in place and controls shine- this is my day time primer of choice.  ‘Complexion Primer Potion’ by Urban Decay in ‘Brightening’  gives a lovely dewy finish, and it feels really fresh on your skin.  It holds make up in place really well and this is the primer I use when I’m going out dancing as it doesn’t get cloggy.  ‘That Gal’ by benefit is a primer that I’d use on its own because it smells so damn good.  It brightens your skin and works when you don’t want to go bare faced, but don’t want to cover up.
  2. Base- Everyone has their own preference with base, some people like full-on cover up and other like hardly anything.  Whatever your style, I would definitely recommend getting a BB cream- a new invention which is kind of like a cross between make up and skin care.   If you don’t like wearing a lot of make up they give a small amount of coverage while still allowing your skin to show through.

    One of the days when I’m actually trying to look like a zombie!

    They even and brighten your complexion and you can top up with a concealer if you feel like you want a bit more coverage.  If you prefer a bit more to your base, BB creams make your foundation work harder and can act as a primer too if you don’t want to use a separate one.  I like the   Garnier BB cream, and Maybelline also do a good one with SPF 30 and a  slightly lighter formula.  I love Benefit’s ‘Hello Flawless’ powder, again it works over other make up or  gives a decent amount of coverage on its own.  It also comes in super-pale shades which  I’m sure porcelain-skinned ladies like myself will appreciate.  A good concealer can make a real difference on days where I feel like a zombie (the days when you’re not actively trying to dress up as one I mean).   It works better to have  a light-reflecting concealer for under  your eyes (I’m using Clinique’s ‘Airbrush Concealer’ pen just now but Benefit ‘Erase Paste’ is also really good.) and  a matte one for blemishes.  I use Benefit ‘Boing’ for zits as it has  a medicated formula to dry them out, but be careful not to use it on dry  patches- ouch! A really handy product for on the go is the Benefit ‘It  stick’, and no, I’m not on commission from Benefit, they just do a bunch of really good products for base.

  3.  Red Lip- I love a red lip, but it took me years to get it right.  It makes me feel  super glamorous and powerful, plus I love to dress up like I’m in the  1950’s.  I think that every woman should wear a red lip at least once in their lives.  I really recommend that you go to a      proper make up counter and talk to the ladies (or boys) that know their stuff to help you find the right shade for you.  Mac do a great range and their staff are usually pretty helpful if it isn’t too busy.  If in doubt, I find that Benefit’s  ‘Benetint’ red lip/ cheek  stain with a slick of Clinique ‘Chubby Stick’ in ‘Chunky Cherry’ is a fabulous suits-all red which works for day time too.   The stain means that the colour stays visible between re-applications, which is great if you are lazy like me and find normal lipstick a bit too high maintenance.       Incidentally, this is a tip I’d recommend for all lip colour- a stain and a tinted balm are a great, less-fuss alternative to lipstick and      there are loads of colours available now as lots of brands are getting in on the act.  A stain works well  under lipstick too to extend time between re-applications.  I also love the Max Factor ‘Lipfinity’ pen in no 6 under 17’s ‘Lasting Fix’ lipstick in ‘Showbiz’ a pinky-red      which feels a little bit sassier than classic red.  And before you dismiss this as outdated nonsense- try it.  I reckon the right red lip makes you feel like you can take on the world, even if it’s just in your head.  It’s the make up symbol for confidence, so it can help fake it even if you don’t feel it.
  4. Eye liner- There are different eyeliner tribes: smudgy kohl-lovers who favour a smoky look and the precision flicksters who  go for a liquid or gel liner (this is my preferred tribe- see above for  notes on 1950s dressing up.  I also idolised Gwen Stefani and Dita Von Teese in my formative years- still do actually- and spent a lot of time practising the perfect flick so I’m damn well gonna use it!).  Whichever  tribe you belong to, in my opinion, Urban Decay are the masters for  eyeliner.  Their ‘24/7 Glide on eye  pencil’ gives the perfect smudge while also staying put on your water  line.  Their liquid liners have a brush applicator rather than a pen, which is not the best for beginners,  but it’s the way I learned to apply it, so I find it easier, and in my  opinion, you never get quite the same artistry or precision with a pen.  I love ‘Oil Slick’ a dark brown with a  subtle shimmer, a bit less harsh than black (‘Perversion’ is the shade if that’s what you’re after) but still does the job.  They also do a great line in glitter liners- don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it, a tiny amount in the inner corner of your top lid can look cool as fuck!  It brings the party to party eye make up (see below).
  5. Killer Mascara- this makes sure that people notice your eyes.  I like ‘em really, really black.  Either Benefit’s ‘That Gal’ or Clinique’s ‘High Impact Mascara’ in black are the darkest I’ve  tried without clumping, and believe me, I’ve tried a lot!  A dark blue mascara can really brighten your eyes, Benefit do a ‘Bad Gal Blue’ which, before you laugh me off the page, does not look like an 80’s nightmare, but has a subtle blue hint to a dark mascara which makes eyes look all pretty and sparkly!
  6. Neutral eye shadow- I truly believe that everyone who wears make up should own the Urban Decay ‘Naked’ eye shadow pallete.  Before a lovely friend gave me this as a gift two Chistmasses ago, I never really bothered too much with eye shadow.  Then there was the Naked pallete. It has 12 complementary shades, all of which give a little eye emphasis (eye-mphasis if you will- sorry!) while still looking really natural.  I’ve had great fun  playing with this and mixing up different combinations.  Some of the shades are a great basis for party eye make up, which leads me to…
  7. Party eyes!-

    Extreme party eye!

    This will be different for everyone in terms of colour and style, but I reckon once you’ve mastered a smoky eye, you can experiment with different shades to come up with lots of  different looks.  I mostly prefer a grey/ black smoky eye, when I’ll use the ‘Gunmetal’ and ‘Creep’ shades from the naked palette to create a really dark, rocky eye.  If I’m feeling festive, I’ll try a gold smoky eye using Barry M ‘Dazzle Dust’ in ‘Old Gold’ which is a bit less ghetto than other gold colours and suits me more.  I love when other girls wear fabulous eye make up in purples, greens, aquas and blues, and maybe I’ll give that a go too at some point.  Urban Decay is the best place to go for eye shadow colours for party eyes (although Mac and 17 have  great ranges too) and the Urban Decay ‘Eyeshadow Primer Potion’  is the best primer for eye make up I’ve ever tried.

  8. Highlighter- Makes your skin look fabulous, makes you look super healthy and draws attention to your best features.  Enough said.  If I could only ever wear one make up product again (but who would inflict such a horrible fate on me?) then I’d pick Benefit’s ‘Girl Meets Pearl’.  This is a really natural looking highlighter that makes skin look  great, either on its own, over, or mixed in with make up.  If you want something a little less subtle, Benefit’s Moon, High or Sun Beam highlighters are great and there  are different shades for different skin tones.
  9. Natural lip- When I was younger, I never used to bother with make up on my lips, I’d do my eyes and then just shove some lip balm on and go.  As I’ve gotten older, I’m finding myself experimenting more with lip colours and even if I’m not in the mood for a lipstick, quite often I’ll wear a natural gloss.  These are not clear, they do have a hint of colour but are relatively low-maintenance.  I find that it’s an easy way to cheat a polished finish (wait, what am I?  Furniture?) , it makes me feel quite well-put together even if I’m really not.  I love the Clinique ‘Superbalm Moisturising Gloss’ in ‘Currant’, it lasts for ages and feels like lip  balm.  A little bit more like lipstick, but still subtle in Urban Decay’s ‘Lip Junkie’ lipgloss in ‘Wallflower.’  Don’t be put off by how brown it looks in the tube (come on, it’s not the 90s any more!) it looks very natural on.
  10. Favourite nail varnish- Last but not least, I  think that a favourite nail varnish brings it all together.  I used to work in a shop which, due to that fact that sales assistants had to demonstrate products to customers and their hands would be on show, insisted that all female employees have properly manicured fingernails while working (I’m not making this up, it was actually written in the employee code of conduct).  Because someone had tried to tell me that I had to do this; I invariably refused to paint my nails for work.  Now that I have a choice, I do enjoy a manicure: I can match them to my outfit and it hides my horrible finger nails.  It’s nice to have a choice, but my favourite shade (back to that 1950s look again) is 17’s ‘Baked Cherry’ I think it’s the perfect shade of red, if only all of  my clothes went with red nail polish!

And yes, I do realise that this is now reading like a Cosmo article, but I had to get it out of my system!  Sorry!  I’m sure many of you could make comment on the fact that a woman who calls herself a feminist spends so much time and money on make up, and in particular retro make up, to look like she belongs in a time when women’s rights were practically non-existant.  I can’t explain this.  I certainly don’t want to be someone’s possession, just there to look pretty, but I do love the way it looks.  Maybe it’s because deep down, I’m actually quite a devious little lady who likes to surprise.  It’s a stealth move.  If you look like a woman who only cares about her appearance, then a lot of people assume that that is what you are, and are subsequently shocked when you turn out to be actually a rather competent, intelligent and accomplished human being.  And I do love to exceed expectations!

Is this what we’ve stooped to?

Modern technology is a wonderful thing isn’t it?  With the development of smart phones, affordable laptops and high speed broadband, people can communicate with each other at the click of a button, in seconds.  People can create their own media, and publish it, for free, to a potential audience of millions.  There was a point in my lifetime when we didn’t have internet access in my house, and none of us had a mobile phone, but I honestly can’t remember what it was like so great has the impact of these developments been on my existence.

However, with the multitudinous advantages of modern communications technology, there is inevitably a dark side.  Messages can be sent speedily.  So speedily that a message written in anger, can be sent in haste, and then it’s too late to take back what was said.  Faceless contact means that people can be perhaps more cruel to each other, if only because they can’t see the direct consequences.  And that audience of millions?  Well they see everything.  Even the things you don’t want them too.

As a result of this, an inexcusable trend has bred amongst some of the more unsavoury members of society: ‘revenge porn’.  For those of you who don’t know, ‘revenge porn’ is when a jilted partner publishes intimate photographs or video clips of their ex-lover online.  Most recently brought to the public consciousness by N-Dubz’s Tulisa Contostavlos, who suffered the shame of a sex tape made several years previously being posted on the internet.  Although this is probably the most-well known case in the UK, website caused considerable controversy in the US.  Thankfully now shut down, the owner of this site unashamedly coined in by encouraging dumpees to send in naked photographs of their ex-partners as a means of revenge.  Thousands of people suffered the indignity of this before owner Hunter Moore (who was previously defiant in his dismissal of the immoral  nature of his website) decided to shut the site down, allegedly because of the volume of submissions featuring indecent photographs of minors.

Although the death of this site is certainly a step in the right direction, sadly, it is not the only means for the virus to spread.  Facebook, Twitter and even email and text can all be utilised by scumbags to carry out their seedy agenda.  These sites can be contacted and content removed, but often by then the damage has been done.  There needs to be a greater deterrent in the first place to prevent idiots from contemplating this course of action.

It may be an extension of the excuse of many a cyberbully; they just didn’t think about how far it could spread, how many people might see it and the damage that might be done.  This  attitude simply isn’t good enough.  Anyone who would think that this might be an acceptablecourse of  action clearly has no respect for, and probably never had any respect for the other person.  And although I acknowledge that men can suffer from this too, like many points on the scale of sexual violence, the female victims outnumber the male.

This isn’t just a feminist issue; this is a human rights issue.  No-one would think that it was acceptable to run up to a woman in the street, take all of her clothes off and engage in sexual activity right there and then in front of anyone who just happened to be around.  No one would think this was funny.  And here’s the thing.  This so called ‘revenge porn’ is worse than this ridiculous scenario.  So much worse.  The potential audience for this sort of thing is, well, anyone who has access to the internet.  So millions then.  Maybe even hundreds of millions.  In the absurd scenario suggested, the humiliation would last for a period of time, but then it would end.  When this is online, the degradation is repeated every time someone else views the clip.  If that wasn’t bad enough, then the final kick in the teeth is the potentially infinite time that this clip could be available.  This.  Is.  Not.  Right.

The inevitable question that springs from this is ‘is it the person who took the photo’s fault?’  Sending sexy texts to partners is not in itself wrong.  It’s just an extension of the naked polaroid and saucy letter of the past.  In fact, I would speculate that many a modern relationship (well, since the devlopment of the decent camera phone anyway) would have failed to get off the ground without the fuel of a little sexting.  When considering whether a specific sexual behaviour is wrong or not, I tend to try not to judge so long as it involves consenting adults only, and is private apart from those involved. I believe that sexting, as long as it involves consenting partners and is  reserved for the eyes of the recipient only, is in itself relatively harmless, not for me (I don’t even like looking at photographs of myself fully clothed never mind naked.  I’d never manage to take a shot I was happy with!) but good fun for some.  However, when these fundamental rules are broken, that’s when I have a problem with it.

No one can argue that the victims themselves must take some responsibility, after all, most of them chose to take the photographs or make the film clip (and for those that didn’t, well their attackers should be dealt with in the same manner as a rapist would in my humble opinion.)  However, I’m sure that the vast majority, had they known that these images would go public, would never have made them in the first place.  They were made and sent under an understanding of trust and confidentiality, and the people who break that, no matter how badly they’ve been dumped, well they’re just bad people.  The idea that victims somehow ‘deserve’ these images to be made public is an extension of that grubby old chestnut that women who wear revealing clothes are ‘asking for it.’

Whichever way you look at it, this is just another form of bullying.  Like many bullies, its perpetrators claim that they thought it would be funny; that it was just a laugh, to embarrass their victim a bit and punish them for breaking up with them.  I can guarantee their victims don’t feel that way, and I’m not sure that I ever really believe that line.  It’s about power and control; it’s another, mutated form of sexual abuse.

Those who engage in this despicable act should be punished in the same way that other sex offenders are.  Because that is exactly what they are.  Sex offenders.  Someone who uses sex as a weapon to hurt someone else, to humiliate, to degrade and to exert power over.  No one should attempt to quantify ‘how bad’ a sexual assault is.  As a victim of a sexually motivated assault I can tell you that there is little else more infuriating than people telling you that you were lucky, just because you were not raped or seriously injured.  I don’t consider myself lucky as a result of that experience, and I’m sure women who have suffered this form of ‘virtual’ assault don’t consider themselves lucky either.  Just because there was no physical assault does not mean that these women have not endured pain, distress and torment. Everyone who has suffered this should not have.

Some might argue that this is not comparable to a physical sexual assault, yet I would argue that it stems from the same murky motivation, to exert power, to feel like you have control.  Even though the victims of this crime may not have endured physical suffering, I’m sure no one would like to suggest that their emotional and mental suffering was ‘not as bad as it could have been.’  Every woman who suffers a crime such as these deserves our sympathy and support, irrespective of what her attacker, or attackers may contend.

That this is allowed to continue in a modern civilised society is a mockery of women’s rights.  Although progress is being made in this area, there is still a long road ahead.  Yes, in the year to March 2011, 71% of rape cases which went to court ended in conviction.  However, this only accounted for 24% of all reported cases.[i]  If women and men are to have truly equal standing, this issue needs to be dealt with more seriously.  The law needs to evolve in line with technology in order to keep up with the crimes being committed.  Again, some progress is being made with regards to this.  In April this year, 12 people were arrested in connection with the online naming and abuse of the victim in a high profile rape case.[ii]  This is a massive step forward in the fight against the use of online media to sexually degrade women.  A massive step, but nevertheless only the start of the journey.

For what it’s worth, I think Tulisa’s handling of the situation was spot on.  I’m sure the person who released the tape was looking to disgrace her, make her look like a slut, but in fact, it had a different effect.  It made a lot of people angry on her behalf.  She was betrayed, and because it was so public it made her seem especially vulnerable.  It made people aware of the issue and as a result, more people are talking about it.  In the right way.

[i] BBC, ‘Rape Crime Figure Differences Revealed’, 9 September 2011

[ii] Charles, M. ‘Confessions of an Internet Troll’ Glamour  July 2012

Return to Retro

One of the things I love to do, that makes me most worried that I’m turning into a stereotype is cooking.  I love to cook.  I get a real sense of achievement when it works out the way I plan; I enjoy watching others enjoy eating it and of course, I’m also quite a fan of eating it myself.  Despite these very real pleasures, I find myself subject to gentle mocking when this comes up in conversation.  I have a close friend who calls me a “1950s housewife” whenever I tell her about what I’ve been baking recently.  Now, I’ll have to admit that I do favour a pink pinny when I’m in the kitchen, but I maintain that I’m such a Rottweiler in other areas of my life that this kitchen uniform is worn with a great sense of irony.  The even greater irony is that she too enjoys cooking (and in particular, baking cakes- the most 1950s housewife thing you can do in the kitchen, in my opinion.)   The only reason for my being dubbed “the housewife” is that quite often my partner reaps the benefits of my kitchen endeavours.  Is this fair?  I would argue that cooking, when it’s my choice to do so, actually empowers me.  Here’s why.

First of all, for me, cooking has always been a symbol of independence.  Rather than being a chain imposed by a husband and family that lashed me to a kitchen, I always thought of it as a sign that I could cope on my own.  That I could look after myself properly.  If nothing else, when I moved out of the familial home, my parents did not need to worry about malnutrition.  I’m a notoriously fussy eater, and being able to cook meant that I could eat food that I liked, when I wanted without being an imposition to others or having to resort to the tandoori round the corner every night.  In fact, moving back to my parents’ house after university was frustrating in a way because it took some of this independence away. Of course, it’s always nice to come home to meal that has been cooked for you, but sometimes, I missed being able to eat what I fancied, when I felt like it.  For me, although I was very appreciative of the effort my dad, in particular, went to, I felt a little bit like I had regressed.

I also find cooking and in particular, baking, to be a great creative outlet.  I love to make things and take great pleasure in crafting something from scratch.  I think it’s an extension of the child in me that used to drive my parents crazy because I was always making things out of toilet roll tubes.  Anyone who has experienced one of my cupcakes knows that I take a lot of pride in making them look pretty.  And even though cupcakes are a pretty girly thing to cook, there’s actually skill involved and knowledge required to make them turn out properly.  It’s not all fluff and frivolity you know.  Cooking is also a means for me to switch off and forget about the stresses of the day.  When I’m cooking, I have to concentrate on the food, and so, anything else is shoved out of my mind.  Then, when the end result apparates from the oven, wok or pan, there is a huge sense of satisfaction.  Like I managed to do something good that day.

More recently, cooking has become a way for me to take control of some health issues.  I have long been bothered by a ridiculously volatile stomach.  Who knows when it will take offence and at what, but I have spent considerable time and great inconvenience and discomfort investigating possible food allergies.  However, the thing that has had by far the greatest effect was this year’s New Year resolution: to cook more from scratch.  Over the last five months I have taken this challenge and really stuck to it.Not only can I take part in lunchtime ‘show and tell’ with my head held high, but my stomach has personally thanked me for my efforts.  I’m not sure if it is the fact that I’m consuming far fewer nasty additives and stuff made in a lab rather than a kitchen, or the fact that when you cook from scratch, the food seems to incorporate healthier ingredients, but I very rarely have problems now.  This might seem like a little thing, but anyone who suffers from IBS will tell you that it can have an extremely disruptive effect on your life, so for me, cooking has actually made a hugely positive impact on my life.  I would argue that anything that allows you to take control of a problem and solve it independently is something that an empowered, modern woman wants in her arsenal.

I know it sounds corny, but I really feel that cooking is in my blood.  There is a strong tradition in my family (from my father’s side might I add) of being a bit nifty in the kitchen.  My father is the main cook in our household, and takes great pride and pleasure in it.  My aunt is a master baker, and holds the key to some amazing family recipes.  My cousins, my siblings and I all enjoy cooking.  I think partly because it is something we have all grown up with and enjoyed.  As a family we always sat down to a fabulous three course meal on a Sunday.  This was a tradition we upheld, even as we all grew older and got jobs and cultivated social lives.  It was a tradition that stuck.  It’s the same at family gatherings- home cooked food is a big part of our shared experience, so much so that there are certain dishes which are expected at family gatherings now!

In fact, one of my most treasured possessions is a cookbook of my grandmother’s from the 1950s.  I never met her, she died before I was born, but my dad entrusted me with this cookbook from quite a young age.  This means a great deal to me because I know that cookbook means a lot to him.  Both because of whom it belonged to and what it is.  My favourite part of this book is the ‘pet recipes’ section at the back.  It’s a section of the book with blank pages where the owner can write their own recipes.  It is this part that I use most frequently. It almost gives me a feeling like I am communicating with the grandmother I never met; her voice comes through, spelling mistakes and all.  It feels like I am carrying on another family tradition, and this is very important to me.

However, in our family, cooking is not just a fluffy pass-time that you share with others and then gleefully accept the applause and adulation.  No, competition is rife in our family, particularly between siblings.  Of course, it’s all very civil and polite, but nobody gets to tell a tale of what they have been up to in the kitchen recently without the rest of us trying to match it.  I always feel that my brother, having worked in a kitchen and my father, being retired and having time to indulge in cookery classes, have a bit of an advantage.  I am certainly an untrained cook, but I like to think that when it goes right, well that’s just an example of a raw talent.  My knowledge of cookery is a patchwork mishmash of things I picked up in home economics, cookbooks, internet recipe forums, cookery shows (thank the Lord for Heston Blumenthal!) , phone calls to my father, text messages to my brother, discussions with my sister and experimental procedures.  I like this.  It feels more organic than having gone to college and learned all the rules.  It makes me feel like some sort of renegade kitchen artist!  I think you can score more points in the competition for talent than knowledge.

And let’s not forget, that professional cooking is a man’s industry nowadays.  Male chefs far outnumber female.  People like Gordon Ramsay promote this idea of a macho kitchen, where you need to be tough to survive.  All that fire and all those knives: it’s dangerous.  Even the fabulous Baker Brothers, who to me seemed like the very essence of metrosexual, new-age, modern men are insistent that their show is for the boys; that it only deals with ‘manly’ food. That sounds like a challenge to me. If the boys think they have a monopoly on it, then the girls need to get in there.  Plus, I always feel a bit Kill Bill; a bit Dexter when I’m playing with my knives in the kitchen.  Nobody messes with me when I’m cooking!

Now, I know it kind of sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet here, and for fear of a Samantha Brick-esque backlash, I would like to point out that I’m actually not that great at bigging myself up.  However, being such a fussy eater, I feel reasonably well qualified to say that I’m doing this well, and good on me for seeing that.  And just to prove that I’m not all talk and no trousers, here’s a little something I whipped up earlier.

So, what’s it all about?

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.  That’s what Tammy Wynette once sang, but she didn’t know the half of it!  In 2012 the closing gender gap certainly makes some aspects of a woman’s life easier (not having all of the house work as “my job” is one of my top ten) but sometimes it can make us feel, well, guilty!  We don’t take any shit, and fight for what we believe in, but there are things that feel kind of like betraying the cause. Does liking high heels mean you’re pandering to men’s fantasies?  Does enjoying whipping up a cake mean you are succumbing to domestic slavery?  I really hope not!

However, some ladies get this horribly, horribly wrong!  They seem to think that ‘Alpha Female’ is just a polite way of saying ‘bitch’.  They stamp all over anyone they have to in a dogged attempt to get to the top, whatever that is.  I truly belive that’s not what it’s all about.  People can’t be forced to treat you differently.  If it’s not a real belief, if people let you be the boss because they’re scared of you rather than because you are genuinely the best at the task in hand, that’s not really worth the supposed victory.  In my humble opinion of course.  This version of ‘girl power’ doesn’t really sit all that well with being a nice person.   Yes, I don’t let my partner walk all over me, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t ever do something nice for him (like making him a snack that he really likes- and mine really likes snacks!).  Is this a naive outlook?  I don’t think so, because surely feminism gives us the choice to be the woman that we want to be, even if that does involve wearing a lacy bra and doing the ironing?

Feminism has become such a loaded word, so stuffed full of different connotations, that some girls are afraid to admit to liking stereotypically ‘girlie’ pursuits.  Surely this isn’t what our predecessors had in mind when they took up the fight for equality?  Men aren’t silently judged for liking stereotypically macho pursuits.  I don’t purse my lips and frown if my other half goes to play football.  I applaud him for engaging in a positive activity that not only he loves, but also keeps him fit. It seems that men are also applauded for engaging in typically female activities-  very forward thinking of them and who doesn’t love a man who can cook?  This is a glaring double standard that I think we need to address.

Ok, so I like to bake cakes; so what?  No one comments on my enjoyment of painting or writing, they compliment my creativity (on the occassions that it works out of course) yet when I bake a batch of cupcakes, more often than not people make some comment related to me being a wee housewife.  Yet I would argue that my love of baking stems from my enjoyment of being creative.  It’s the same principle: pride and enjoyment that comes from making something from scratch.  Some might also be surprised to learn that my passion for baking (and in fact, cooking in general)  comes from my father, who I witnessed pulling off delicious feats in the kitchen almost every day of my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.

I do most of the cleaning in my house.  This is not because I’m the woman, it’s because I’m the one who borders on obsessive compulsive when it comes to cleaning.  If my partner mentions that something around the house looks a bit untidy, I’ll happily write him a list of instuctions to help him remedy that to my standards (I really do- look at the photo).

I also love make up (helps me to blend in with the human race); shoes (I have an actual shoe problem) and clothes (In my defence, I dress to impress the ladies, not stinky boys!) Having said that, I truly believe that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel good about yourself, and these things make me feel good about myself.  Surely celebrating ones femininity helps the cause, not betrays it.  Trying to be the same as men- that’s not feminism.  Having the same options available to us to choose to be and do what we want and what makes us feel happy is.

This is my attempt to negotiate the delights and dangers of being a woman, who does consider herself to be a feminist, in the twenty-first century.  I hope some (or all) of it rings true!

Be prepared for my musings (some may say ramblings) on, let’s say, a varied selection of topics.  And to illustrate my point, I wrote this while wearing lipstick and heels; but I didn’t do any ironing!