Monday, 26 December 2011

Sometimes feminism makes me feel really lost...

When you stop wearing impractical makeup (i.e. any kind of makeup), plucking your eyebrows, shaving your armpits and legs, wearing impractical clothes (i.e. any kinds of skirts, or things made from delicate fabrics, high heels), having impractical hair (i.e. long hair), this means that you're no longer doing all the work you're supposed to be doing every day in order to look like a "proper" woman.

When you stop doing all these time-consuming, expensive, painful and restrictive things, you have more time and money on your hands, and, really, you should feel more comfortable. Sometimes it's precisely these time-consuming, impractical, uncomfortable things, however, that make us feel comfortable. It's comfortable to conform. To be what we're expected to be.

When you don't look like a "proper" woman anymore, people look at you weird, and that can get very tiresome. Going against what we're supposed to be like as women takes a lot of effort and you can feel very alone sometimes, and lost.

That's why I'm thankful for my partner, who is also a feminist, and who has supported my quest throughout the years! Thanks Dear!

Happy holidays everyone, and I'll see you in the New Year!


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Women on the verge of a festive breakdown

Coming up to the holidays, in Britain, the question "So how are you spending Christmas" is an even more popular topic than the weather.

One thing I take from listening to everyone's answers, is the fact that women are totally stressed out by Christmas. You haven't even finished your question, and you can already see their shoulders tensening, their eyes becoming disoriented, as they launch into a detailed list of how they're preparing for the big day, when they've started doing all their shopping for presents and food, what their day-to-day plan of action is to get everything ready on time.

Some, I hear, parboil their roast potatoes and freeze them, do dry-runs of their Christmas dinner, and most seem to have a detailed plan of what needs to be done when. Because apart from preparing food and presents, Christmas get-togethers with friends need to be squeezed in, somebody needs to pick up grandma, make sure the children do their homework and stay out of trouble, go to their "activities" such as carol singing and nativity plays and so on and so forth, have their costumes, nappies, and clean clothes ready...

The frenzie starts weeks before Christmas, sometimes as early as November, when I hear people saying how they're so glad they've already done all their Christmas shopping this year. And Christmas madness doesn't end on Christmas day, because someone needs to clear the table, clean up everyone's mess, wash the dishes, prepare beds and do the cooking for what is often a big family gathering for several days. An awful lot of planning is neccessary to pull that off, as meals for so many people need to be planned in advance, the food shopping must be done in advance as well, you need to find enough space in the fridge or freezer, make sure food keep long enough...On top of that, you need to make sure you've got enough towels and bedding washed and dried for your guests... and the list goes on and on and on...

Women get a pretty bad deal at Christmas, because they're still largely the ones doing all this work, organising everything, carrying the weight of the responsibility for the smooth running of things..while men are merely delegated to do a thing or two, such as picking up a tree and doing the dishes, which is only a fraction of this mammoth task.

An honest conversation before Christmas can help find out what everyone really wants Christmas to be like - for example, do you really need all those presents? Are there ways of making food preparation more communal and part of the big day? Would you not much rather not have to worry about presents,* have only a simple meal, and play board games all night?

Anyway, merry Christmas-madness, everyone!

*if you have kids, maybe one or two presents, rather than twenty, would do?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Why other women are always more beautiful

As I mentioned in my last post, girls competing with other girls, women competing with other women, is a behavioural pattern which we learn from the day we're born. But we can break that pattern!

I don't know about you, but it made me sick to compare myself to other women for so many years. I'm talking about other girls in school who were prettier than me, women in the street who were thinner, had smoother skin, nicer hair... Women in magazines. How could I waste so many years worrying about my weight, my skin, my hair, my face... Here are a few lessons I've learned over the years:

1. Photos of stars, advertising images, are almost always extremely heavily photoshopped. Read: it is not possible to look like this in real life. Follow the links and you'll see just how incredibly photoshopped images tend to be.

2. When you look at other women, you always spot their most beautiful feature - oh, I wish I had her legs! When she might in fact have a really ugly face.

A brilliant experiment is to look at other women as potential (sexual) partners for a few days. This means you no longer compete with them - an extremely empowering reversal of roles! Try it, it's really incredible. You don't need to actually flirt or make out with any other women, unless that's your thing. For this exercise, it's enough to just view other women as potential romantic interests.

This exercise is a real eye-opener. It's worth it for this liberating feeling alone, this enormous pressure falling of your shoulders. It also helps you realise that physical features are only a part of what is interesting about another person.

3. It's a waste of time to be with a partner who expects you to conform to their (physical) ideal of a woman. Who expects you to shave your legs and whatnot, wear makeup, "do" your hair, wear particular clothes... You don't need to be with someone who expects you to be this cookie-cutter woman. It's a two-way street though: why should you determine what your partner is supposed to look like?

4. Finally, what liberated me from a whole load of pressure was to learn about feminism and to read the book Femininity, which shows you just how ridiculous and arbitrary all these aesthetic dictates are. This opens up a can of worms, though. While feminism will make you feel confident to stop worrying about your looks and to waste hours each week grooming yourself to conform to this arbitrary ideal of femininity, you will encounter a whole new set of pressures, as people will give you "the look" when they see your hairy armpits, other women will feel you're letting yourself down by not caring about your looks, and you may, quite simply, feel really lost for while. I'll say a bit more about my experience with that in my post on 26th December.

Surviving the holidays with your mother

Many women have close relationships with their mothers. Some even feel they're spending their whole life trying not to turn into their own mother, particularly when they're in a relationship (becoming their partner's mum) or once they have children.

Nancy Friday wrote a book about the mother-daughter relationship, and particularly about the daughter's search for identity. Its title is My Mother, Myself. Originally published in the 1970s, it's just come out in a new edition, which goes to show just how relevant it still is today.

I read this book when I was twenty, and I remember that it was one of the most important books I'd ever read. A bit like with Wifework and Femininity, I felt as though this books really had a profound impact on the way I felt about things.

Some feminist books are like that. When I first learnt about feminism, I talked to my aunt and she said that, when she first read Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex -a life-changing book for a whole generation of women- she remembers feeling really angry.

I don't think I felt angry after reading My Mother, Myself, but it put a lot of things into perspective. Feeling the need to compete with other women is one of the issues discussed in the book as a type of behaviour mothers teach their daughters. I thought this was a really really important section, and I think it might have helped me get over this sick competitive mindset that so many of us women share. Thought I think that what helped me eradicate it completely was a simple experiment I did for a few days, and which I'll write about in my next post.

Feeling comfortable with one's sexuality is another thing Friday discusses. She argues that, as children, we pick up on our parents' emotions more than on what they actually say. So when a mother talks to her child about sexuality, she might do so in enlightened terms, but her child will more likely pick up on the discomfort she feels when discussing sex. Friday thinks that this is why it takes several generations before feminism's lessons really take root and become 'comfortable'. Because there is necessarily a generation which learns about feminism but knows that it goes against all the morals they have learned, and they will transmit feminist lessons to their daughters together with a mixed bag of emotions. Their daughters will grow up in a world or more relaxed morals, so they will feel less uncomfortable about discussing sexuality with their children, and so on...(by the way, I don't want to imply that parents shouldn't transmit feminist lessons to their sons in equal measure!!!)

Most people who know of Nancy Friday do so because of her bestselling collection of women's sexual fantasies, published under the title My Secret Garden (1975). I don't know what that book is like but it seems to have hit the spot.

Anyway, I'm going to stop writing about My Mother, Myself for now, as it's been a while since I read it and I mostly remember that I found it important, but I don't remember all the details. It's sitting on my shelf, however, and I'll endeavour to have another look through it. Particularly with regard to body image and menstruation, because that was a real eye-opener!

Happy holidays to all!


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Trudi Canavan's feminist Fantasies

Dearest dears! As promised, I'm putting my "bubbly blogger" hat back on and here goes my new instalment of
blogging about feminism and sexuality. Today I thought I'd write about Trudi Canavan's feminism-infused fantasy novels, in case anyone's still looking for a really good book to read during the upcoming holidays.

Personally, I've read the Black Magician Trilogy, its prequel and sequel. The sequel is still missing one book, The Traitor Queen, which is to come out in late 2012, yay!

Becoming absorbed in a really good book is such a wonderful thing. With Canavan's (her name always makes me think of "caravan") gripping books, the bonus is that they are not full of sexual and gender stereotypes. She's created multi-facetted gay and lesbian characters, and characters which call into question what it really means to be a man or a woman, feminine or masculine.

Check it out, her gender-bending starts right on the first page of the Black Magician Trilogy!