Monday, 24 November 2014

Beating myself up over shaving

I'm afraid I'm still not done with my post on Japanese bondage, but it's coming along nicely! So, instead, let me invite you to do a bit of navel-gazing with me today. Gazing at my navel, not yours, I mean. And not really my navel either, but another part of my body. HA! Which part am I talking about? I hate to break it to you, but it's my armpits again. Because there have been some new developments on that front.

Years back, when I first discovered feminism, one of the first steps to becoming more free, as I saw it, was to free myself from a number of expectations relating to my body. Hence the various blog posts on women and body image. It was important to me to feel that I could stop shaving my armpits and stop plucking my eyebrows because men aren't expected to do either of those things. And when I stopped looking at other women as competitors, and instead saw them as potential love interests, I realised that I actually think that armpit hair, wild eyebrows and even a hint of a moustache in women can be f***ing hot.

So for a while, I had two mantras
1. would a man be expected to do this? No? Then I can stop doing it.
2. do I find this attractive in other women? Yes? Then I can do it too.

For me, this process started years and years ago. I've become a mother since, and that raised all sorts of body issues. As a pregnant woman and young mother, you're supposed to stay attractive, be a "yummy mummy" like all those stars in magazines flaunting their bumps and raving about just how beautiful they feel. But why is it that the main purpose of women is to be beautiful? Why aren't they seen primarily for what they say, or think, or do? Why is their body so important?

Anyway, while I don't buy into the whole yummy mummy thing, after pregnancy and breastfeeding, I felt the need to reclaim my body, which had mainly been a vessel and feeding machine for Momo. And, funnily enough, the way I found for reclaiming it is: to go dancing again three nights a week. And to dress up for that. To wear make-up, to wear dresses, and then last week I even.... waiiiit for it..... I EVEN

SHAVED MY FLUFFY ARMPIT HAIR.

Because I don't have to have bloody armpit hair just because I'm a bloody feminist. Or maybe, I couldn't take the stares anymore and it was just easier to conform. So, rather than reclaiming my body, I've let others claim it. Shit.
Anyway, now that I've shared this piece of earth-shattering news, let me just wish you all a lovely week, and I can't wait to wrap up (pun!!!) that bondage piece for you for next Monday! Cheerio!

Gwen

PS Is it bad that I feel like a total noob because I cut my nose while posing for this picture?

Monday, 17 November 2014

On being a feminist dad: working part-time

Hello everyone. I hope you're having a wonderful start of the week.
So anyway, I said that this week's post was going to be about Japanese bondage. Bummer! It's not! First, I'll need to do some more "research". And because lots of you have expressed an interest in more parenting posts, today's is my partner's musings on being a feminist dad and his decision to work part-time. Here we go:

For once, this week's post will not be grim and cynical. Quite the opposite: today, I will describe my great experience as a dad working part-time.

When Gwen and I first started talking about me working only four days a week for a year, I wasn't sure. I still remember my parents telling me how working part-time ruins your career, or these internet articles about how you are given the most shitty tasks just because you want to spend more time with your kids. After weeks of thinking about it, I thought “Frouk it, my daughter is more important than my career.” Neither Gwen nor I wanted to be the main carer. We both wanted to be equally involved in all aspects of our relationship with Momo. That started with spending the same amount of time with her. As far as possible. So we both decided to work 4 days a week.

I discussed this idea with my family and with my bosses at work, and then signed the paperwork before Momo was born. I would be officially working 80 per cent when Momo was 4 months. Why wait? Well, this is what happened:

When Gwen gave birth, I was allowed 2 weeks paternity leave, that I took immediately. Gwen was tired, and I wanted to spend some time with my daughter. However, these were two frustrating weeks. With Gwen breastfeeding, I was feeling like a secondary parent. Momo's crying? Here is Gwen to the rescue. The only thing I felt good at? Carrying Momo on my forearm (type “the happiest baby on the block” into the Youtube search engine for the technique that inspired us). So after two weeks, I was quite happy to get back to work. Gwen was on maternity leave anyway, so it did not make sense to work part-time then. When Momo was 3 months, she was to start with a nanny and Gwen would go back to work. I took three weeks off to help with the transition, and I started working part-time just after that. By this point, Momo would do more than just cry and feed. She would smile, recognize people and even play.

I immediately noticed a shift in the way Momo was behaving towards both of us. I wasn't a secondary parent anymore, but she would turn to me just as much as she would turn to Gwen whenever she needed anything. Cuddles, food, reassurance, going to bed, you name it. Of course, not everything was perfect. Four days a week, I would get home just as Momo was about to go to bed, so I would barely see her on those days. And at this age, after two days without seeing a person, they already seem to start forgetting you exist. Work meant Gwen had to pick her up almost every day at the nanny's. But still, I felt as though if Gwen had to be away for a few days, I could handle everything, apart from breastfeeding maybe;-)

Looking back, I can honestly say that I made the right decision. Work-wise, it did not make a noticeable difference. I was able to work on any project. My colleagues made an effort to schedule meetings on the days I was there. I also realised that I was more efficient in my work on the days I was there. On the other hand, I really felt that this extra day made a big difference in my relationship with my daughter. Today, we're very close, and most of the time, I don't feel like the secondary parent any more. 

I have had to stop working part-time for a few months for financial reasons. However, I decided to go back to working part-time recently, and had to talk to my new boss about it. And once again, my decision was greeted with smiles and enthusiasm. Can't wait for next week to start spending Wednesdays with my daughter again!


Paternity leave in France:
French law allows either parent to stop working completely, or work part-time. If a person chooses to work part-time, they can work any amount of time per day of the week, with a minimum of 16 hours a week. This arrangement is valid for a year, and can be renewed up to three times, until the child is 3 years old.


Monday, 10 November 2014

Why we're dressing our daughter like a boy

"You can tell he's a boy. He does love playing with that hammer"

"You can tell she's a girl, she's got such finely chiselled features"

"Don't carry that heavy box around, that makes a little girl look like a hulk"

"Little girls should have long hair"




Now these are just a few of the "feminist comments of the day", as my husband and I jokingly call these sexist comments. Because we literally could keep a diary of them. Every evening when we settle down to eat, one of us will inevitably say "hey, listen, honey, I've got a good one"...

So today's the start of a series of posts on feminist parenting which I've planned to publish over the coming year. For those of you who are not into this topic, don't worry, I'll not be posting about parenting every week. As a matter of fact, next week will be about bondage!

So, today's instalment is about why we're making our 18-month old daughter Momo look "like a boy". In other words, why do we keep her hair short, and why do we mostly dress her in a gender-neutral way? The short answer to the first question is: originally, it was because she was too hot during our Mediterranean summer. And then we kept her hair that way so that it didn't get in her way, and so there's no need for painful hair clips or other accessories.  

There's nothing that drives me more insane than children that can't see through their bloody fringe. We don't know what we'll do with Momo's hair in the long run, but of course we'll let her grow it out the day she says she wants to have long hair.

Now as far as her clothes are concerned, we've basically got two criteria:
1) Above all, clothes need to be functional. This generally means dresses and skirts won't work, and neither do delicate clothes, tight jeans that keep sliding down and aren't flexible in the crotch, tight collars and so forth. We may make exceptions for special occasions, like Halloween and New Year.

2) Generally speaking, we prefer it to be impossible to tell whether she's a boy or a girl. So we'll avoid pink and girly stuff. We told our family that if they wanted to give us clothes for her, they should be gender neutral. Or, as my husband put it, "beware that we will dress our next child in this, no matter what sex they are". People still gave us mainly pink and girly stuff, because "it isn't really pink, it's raspberry", or "we know you don't like pink, but this is a really gorgeous pink".

It's the stuff of legends, and I can tell you that we always have a good laugh about it over dinner.

Now, as far as rule number 1 is concerned, the reason is that we want Momo to be able to move naturally. Already, other girls her age are starting to move differently from boys. Some have lost confidence when trying to toddle up flights of stairs because the hem of their dress gets in the way. Or they sit down differently because those tight skirts that are fashionable at the moment mean they can't sit down cross-legged, but they're forced to keep their legs together.

Have you noticed how 4 or 5-year old girls tend to sit on the floor differently than boys? While the latter sit cross-legged or move around on all fours, girls tend to sit on the floor with their feet neatly tucked under their bums or sticking out to the sides so their legs are forming the letter "W", which is really bad for your knees.

I know I'm not objective here. I see everything through feminist eyes. But try it one day: watch a kid play, and imagine that they're a girl instead of a boy, or vice versa. Would you be surprised to see a girl do the same thing? Would you be surprised if a boy did that?

Even when they don't wear tight skirts, wearing dresses often means that girls will become body-conscious much earlier than boys because they need to make sure their panties don't show. So we teach girls about modesty much earlier, and we teach them that the way they look is important. We also tend to compliment girls on their looks, while boys are complimented on what they do. I have noticed that the words people will spontaneously use to describe our daughter is

--"She's beautiful". Or: "She's a princess". Heard a thousand times.

Whereas I rarely hear people compliment boys on their looks, but instead, boys are "strong", or they just "are".

Guys, that just

DRIVES - ME - NUTS.

So this is why we care a lot about the way we dress Momo. So that people (including us!) will see her for what she does, and not for what she looks like. If dressing her "like a boy" is the only way to do that, then that's what we'll do.

Anyway, that's me for today. In two weeks' time, I'll follow up this post with a series of techniques we're using to help Momo do things girls aren't supposed to do.

Have a great week, guys!
Gwen





















Sunday, 9 November 2014

Looking for people with experience of Shibari (Japanese bondage)

Howdy people. I hope you're having a nice Sunday.

Anyway, I'm looking for people with experience of Shibari for a blog post on Japanese bondage. Please leave your comments after this post! Anonymous is fine. Closing date is Saturday 15th November.
Cheers dears!

Gwen

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Disclaimer: not all men who dance Salsa are machos!!!

Hehe, hi everyone, I was just made aware that I made it sound as though all men who dance Salsa are machos. I don't want to be a Feminazi so just to be clear: apart from the guy who told me I need to get laid more, and one or two others, they're all fine!!!!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Being laughed at for not shaving my fluffy armpit hair

Being laughed at for not shaving my armpits? Being told that I'm sexually frustrated? It's just another day at dance class...

I've always loved social dancing. I was Ceroc addict before we moved to France. So when we moved, I tried to find something similar. But I had to admit defeat very quickly as they don't do Ceroc here at all. A friend suggested trying Salsa, which is huge around here. But I hesitated, because I thought, shit, do I really want to dance with machos?

So I didn't dance, but after two years of abstinence, I just HAD to get back into dancing because it's my absolute favourite sports and without it, my soul just withers away and dies in horrible misery. My husband says dancing isn't even a sports but whatever. So I went to my first Salsa class.

Three classes in, there's this new guy, smug grin plastered onto his face, and the FIRST thing he says to me, I kid you not, is

-----dude, there's a lot of tension in your head and "down below".

Meaning my groin. Sweet! Thanks for that! So I think too much and I shag too little? That's very perceptive of you but how about if I told you to just go FUCK yourself?

I mean, what if I went around telling my dance partners that they show signs of sexual frustration? Would they recoil in horror? They would!

And so, my friends, did I.


Anyway, the story doesn't end here. Next thing I know, there's these girls whispering things to each other behind their hands and they start giggling while shooting glances at me. So somebody finally noticed my armpit hair, I think to myself. It's about time: it's sooo soft and fluffly!!!

Then that reminded me of something else, attention: this is a flashback. If this were on TV, the screen would go black and white, and the sound would be all off and shit. So anyway, I'm on this bus, I'm 16 years old, it's the middle of the summer, everyone's hot, and there is this gorgeous girl from my school opposite me, holding on to one of those handles that dangle down from the ceiling on German buses. Exposing her beautiful black armpit hair. And I think to myself, wtf, she doesn't shave? And why do I find this attractive?

Shaving is uncommon in many other cultures, but in mine, randomly enough, it's practically obligatory. So that scene on the bus has stayed with me and it comforts me whenever I have doubts about my own armpit hair, and I catch people looking at me thinking "what the fuck is this"? Making me feel ashamed of my body. I mean how can some people think it's ok to make other people feel ashamed of their bodies? So then I just think of that girl on the bus, and I feel quite happy to stay the way I am. To just enjoy my soft fluffly armpit hair, rather than scratching at itchy stubble and that ugly, UGLY feeling of sweat collecting on shaved skin, instead of melting into my fluffy! Yes! I've said it three times! Four: FLUFFY underarm hair!!!!!

Anyway, that's it from me for today, folks. Stay tuned for more episodes from Season 2 of "Gwen's blog about orgasms and stuff like that". It's much more personal, it's much more regular, and it's going to be good:) Coming up next week: "Why we're dressing our daughter like boy".