Word of the Week: Inconsistent

inconsistent

In the last week and a half I have had the opportunity to meet up with two lovely new friends I’ve made through blogging – Elfa from Californian Mum in London (who invited me along to a fab beauty promo event at John Lewis) and Hannah from First Time Mummy who lives ten minutes from me and invited me over for tea and a chat. Talking to other bloggers has made me realise that I’m ready to stretch myself a bit more – I’m ready to go self-hosted, make a bit more of an effort with promotion and appearance (which is not to say that I’m not still a little bit in love with the Wizard of Oz header that I designed and Helen from Ellie Illustrates created months and months ago now), and potentially take on a few review gigs.

The problem I have right now, though, is time. Just as I’m thinking all these thoughts, I find myself in a position which, for reasons I can’t really go into, the time to blog is just not there. And by ‘blog’ I mean not just write, but have the headspace to get inspired.

I’m also starting to wonder if the things I choose to blog about aren’t just a bit too eclectic. On the one hand I love to attempt light-hearted, amusing posts with a soupçon of wit; on the other hand I yearn for the opportunity to test my writing skills with – well, not exactly hard-hitting journalism, but something a little bit more meaningful which might, some day allow me to cross the divide between amateur and professional writer.

At the same time I take note that the blogs which seem to remain consistently popular do tend to have a niche and stick to it (Eeh Bah Mum for example – although she does occasionally branch into recipe posts; and Mummy Daddy Me who focuses on the beautiful photo story of her little family and sticks with straight up, consistent musings of a wife and mum).

On the other hand, within a week I have swung from a ‘funny’ (silly) post about my love/hate relationship with Cbeebies (which, by the way, I had great fun writing) and an examination of what ‘feminism’ means in 2014. I might also throw in a recipe or a photo-post.

As a personal blogger this is no biggie, you can write what you want, when you want, but the second you begin to think of your blog as a ‘brand’ it feels as though you need to pick an audience and stick to it or risk alienating one reader or another at any given moment. I’d love to know other peoples’ thoughts on this…

 

The Reading Residence

Feminism: a beginner’s guide

feminist is not a dirty word

When I was at university the only thing I really understood about feminism was that it involved Germaine Greer and lots of “texts” like The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (which honed in on the unhappiness of American housewives of the 1950s) and The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf which argued that society’s demands on women to conform to an almost unattainable standard of beauty had increased in line with women’s achievements. Then there was Andrea Dworkin – an unashamedly radical feminist who  focused on the subject of sex and pornography. To be honest these intellectual, academic women seemed like radicals or extremists at the time, synonymous with man-hating, hairy-legged, lentil-munching nutters.

But actually? They had a point. Now we see the launch of the UN’s “He for She” campaign for which actress Emma Watson recently delivered such a heartfelt speech attempting to address and redefine the true definition of feminism – one which simply argues for gender equality.

 

Trending on my Facebook news feed I saw that David Tenant was supporting the campaign which, essentially, is trying to get men on board and show that, in the final analysis, it’s all about human rights. There were a good 800 comments attached to his He for She selfie and I flicked through a few pages curious to the general reaction. Aside from many people commenting on how old he looks (and he’s only 42 so I can only assume the commentators are smug twenty-somethings) there is obviously still a misconception about feminism – the same misconception that led Katy Perry to reject the label whilst still embracing the ideology.

People seem to think that feminism seeks to discriminate against men – overlooking the abuse of men within relationships and all the other ways that men might suffer within society, but to me, that’s like saying Battersea Dogs Home is discriminating against cats (they’re not – I believe they take cats in too) – it seems like a way of undermining the end goal.

Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy, recently argued that it is the term “feminism” itself which is the problem, claiming that if you stick “ism” or “ist” on the end of anything then it gives a negative connotation (see: racism). He suggested a new term, “genderist” which would be used to name and shame those who, either overtly or subtly undermine women. There’s been a lot of debate over that one too.

For me, the “He for She” campaign, whilst passionate and true, can never change the status quo because the men who will support it (see: David Tenant) are already enlightened and don’t have that niggling feeling of being threatened by change. The men I read about daily who threaten and control the women in their lives – the perpetrators of domestic violence – what will this campaign mean to them? They will laugh in its face.

And then there are those who would pay it lip service. I heard a snippet of a talk radio show a few days ago for which the question of the day (hour?) was ‘should men be expected to pay for dinner on a first date?’ and the male DJ was attempting to argue that, if women are truly seeking equality, then we should expect to go halves on such occasions. I have to admit that this made my blood boil a bit and I was desperate for someone to phone in and put my case for me. Unfortunately no-one did (not while I was listening anyway). My very first thought was, how extremely shallow for a man to be willing to take the first step to accept feminism by thinking of it as a money saving exercise for the average bloke. I wanted to tell him that this is an absolute nonsense in a world where women are still not treated equally in the workplace, still have lower salary expectations and where the traditionally female jobs like nurse, carer and teacher are valued (and paid) so much lower than their traditionally male equivalents.

Although this is rapidly descending into a message of doom, I do feel like all the recent debate and high profile over women’s rights and expectations can only be a good thing in helping to chip away at the male-dominated infrastructure. And as a mother of boys I feel some responsibility to show them that gender equality is a good and desirable thing.

What do you think about the UN campaign? Do you disagree with me about who should pay on the first date? Please leave a comment below.

 

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

It’s a man’s world…

a woman's place

I know I’ve been absent from The Prompt for a few weeks. Somehow inspiration has failed me. But I saw this week’s prompt – the saying above – and I wanted to think about it because I think it is an interesting and controversial one.

Before I had children I didn’t think too much about this. The hubster and I both had full time jobs. I never really pursued my ambitions to be a writer but I know I could have done and stood on an equal footing with a man in that profession. I knew that some professions were very male-dominated and that women found it hard to be taken seriously in certain roles. In some cases I think it is true that there is a glass ceiling for women, but at the same time, the large and well known organisation I work for now is currently headed by a woman and also has a professional association dedicated to women (which doesn’t stop male colleagues joking about the unfairness of this kind of ‘positive discrimination’ or ‘affirmative action’).

The thing about having children is that it gives you a whole new perspective on where you stand in the pecking order. As women, we are automatically granted up to a year’s maternity leave (in the UK – not all of it paid), and then we are given the opportunity to work flexibly in order to accommodate childcare needs (although having said that, the legislation in the UK has just recently changed to allow everyone and anyone the right to request flexible working). I think the mind-set is that women fulfil the ‘caring’ role and so therefore it is almost the unspoken norm for the woman to either give up work completely or work part-time.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of what it’s like to look after little children day in day out – sometimes it can be a thankless task – but it can also be seen as a ‘privilege’. If a man doesn’t like his job he can see that as a reason to feel some envy for this flexibility women seem to be granted almost automatically, but if he loves his job then he’s laughing.

But it’s not the workplace where the idea of a ‘man’s world’ really resonates for me. It’s the home. Whilst I appreciate that I could be making a sweeping generalisation here, I hear from female friends and colleagues (all mothers) time and time again that essentially, there is no real ‘equality’ in their relationship when it comes to organising and running the home, ensuring childcare needs are met and everyone is fed and watered and happy. And we’re talking about all different working arrangements – be it stay at home mums, full-timers, part time workers or situations where men have some time alone with the children each week whilst the mother works. It is nearly always the mother who is ‘on call’ 24-7.

In this respect, nothing seems to change from one generation to the next. It is easy for ‘equality’ to be a political issue in the workplace, not so much in the home. A mere suggestion of this kind of thinking is enough for some men to shout ‘feminist’ as if it is some kind of filthy dirty word which leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

I’m sure from a man’s perspective there are many negatives to the shared juggle of family life too. They have the burden (in many cases) of being the breadwinner. Up to now they have not been granted the courtesy of asking for flexible working. Often they earn the highest salary and so therefore they are automatically expected to be the breadwinner.

I know from personal experience with my husband and his ex, that men are given very short shrift by the courts when it comes to father’s rights. But equally, without a sense of moral responsibility and a good work ethic, a man is capable of walking away and abandoning a woman and child far more easily than a mother could ever do the reverse (or would want to).

Men seem to somehow maintain a good proportion of their freedom when they start a family. They are still able to pursue both their careers and their out of work pursuits whilst women are left at home, literally “‘er indoors”. OK, sometimes we are granted time off for good behaviour, but it’s the exception, not the rule.

So yes, in my mind it is still very much ‘a man’s world’ and I can’t see that changing any time soon…

 

mumturnedmom

Why ‘Before Midnight’ will resonate if you are a mother…

Before midnight poster

I should swiftly add that this film – the third in a trilogy which began with Before Sunrise and continued with Before Sunset, can be seen as relatively balanced in how it approaches both how men see women and how women perceive men within a relationship.

The essence of these films is a couple, played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, meandering through some beautiful settings and essentially chatting. Not much more to it than that, and yet the conversations they have are so well drawn and fascinating, and, certainly in Before Midnight (its been a while since I watched the other two) they touch on universally recognised truisms about the minutiae of the human condition when it comes to long-term relationships – particularly where children play a part.

I have discussed this film with my sister and she explained the part where she cried with recognition of Julie Delpy’s brutally honest confession about how she felt she had fallen apart when her twins were born and her husband, a writer, essentially left her to it and went off on a book tour. She talks of him never being there, of both the emotional and physical difficulties of coping on your own with two babies.

For me, the kicker was her description of the day to day inequalities – of how the woman is generally the one who is expected – in the most unspoken way – to make the sacrifices, to lose herself in parenthood, to drop the career, to accept the fact that her pension will probably end up paying about 10p a year after X amount of years with little or no salary. She makes an impassioned speech to her partner, trying to make him understand that she resents the fact that, when the children were little, come bathtime or bedtime it was always her who had to be there no matter what, whilst he could skip out to a publisher’s event or drop the family time because writer’s inspiration had hit and he couldn’t afford to lose the moment. This, for me, perfectly sums up the female experience with such clarity and perception.

She walks a fine line between bowing out of the relationship – one in which she feels she has become a moveable object (he wants her to move from Paris to Chicago, leaving behind her dream job so that they can be closser to his son from a previous relationship), making a stand for feminism and equality, and recognising the fact that the love and bond between herself and her partner are true and that he is no different from a million other men and fathers except that he’s her lover and life partner. All her niggles can’t cancel out the fact that they were right together as a couple and, I guess that relationships are inevitably about compromise and acceptance.

A very thought provoking movie.