How would women talk if they knew men weren’t listening? This is something I’ve been considering a lot of late. How much is what we say to each other a performance on behalf of men? And if a woman speaks out of earshot of any man, does she really make a sound?

It isn’t true that men never listen to women. They do, all the time. When we say to men “you don’t listen” perhaps what we really mean is “you might use my words to judge me but they will never change your view of yourself”. It is not that our words are not heard, but that they don’t function in the way they are supposed to. All too often, there is no real dialogue. The listener takes our words and uses them to reform his perception of us. In doing so, he subtly changes our status; we are redefined from without. What we really wanted to achieve — an interchange of ideas, with all the shared vulnerabilities this entails — remains out of reach. “I am listening,” he says, “and later I will judge.”

So we get used to it. No point endlessly trying to achieve the impossible. If I put forward an argument, especially on twitter, I expect a large proportion of the men who hear it to understand it not as a challenge to their worldview, but as a means of positioning me in relation to them. “Where do I place this woman in relation to my rightness?” I lack the status to be an adversary or a mind-changer. Women generally do. Our words don’t penetrate. Penetrating others isn’t for the likes of us. (more…)

This week the Telegraph ran a piece that purported to ask the question “has motherhood ever been so political?” Beneath the obligatory “pregnant woman in boring, inexplicably tidy office” photo, Judith Woods outlined the hard choices faced by mothers in today’s deeply unequal society.

Few people realise, for instance, that when mothers choose to stay at home “it’s not about luxury”. Nor is it about not having a job, or only having one that’s too poorly paid to cover childcare expenses. According to Woods, for these mothers “it’s about replicating the secure, traditional upbringing they had”:

In the process, they forgo holidays abroad, avoid glossy magazines full of the latest fashions they can’t afford and drive battered cars worthy of Only Fools and Horses.

I know, I know, it’s heartbreaking. But don’t use up all the tissues — there’s worse to come: (more…)

For all its flaws, the internet has been great at giving a voice to people who wouldn’t otherwise be heard. Indeed, in recent times there’s been one group who, silent for far too long, have finally been finding their voice. I’m referring, of course, to those who don’t give a shit about things.

In the old days if there was something about which you didn’t give a shit – sexist language, size zero models, the Sun’s page three, images on banknotes – you’d have to just suffer in silence. Obviously you could get on with other things in the meantime, albeit in a purely abstract, imaginary way (the economic downturn and female genital mutilation are, hypothetically, no longer problems due to all of this not-shit-giving). In real life and in public, however, there weren’t that many outlets for ostentatiously demonstrating just how totally not arsed you were about minor, usually feminism-related tussles. Thank god, therefore, for the Guardian’s Comment is Free site. From now on silently feeling furious that other people are feeling furious about things about which you wouldn’t be furious except you are now but only in a meta way in response to these other furious people – anyhow, that thing is a thing no more. (more…)

This weekend I attended Britmums Live 2013. What’s more, I enjoyed it. There, I’ve admitted it. Now excuse me while I watch my imaginary status as “not one of those mummy blogger types” disappear down the drain.

It’s not that I ever used to hate mummy bloggers, or even that I didn’t always consider myself to be one of them. Certainly, I have some discomfort with the term itself. Adding what Pamela Haag calls “the mommy modifier” to words like “blogger” or “porn” instantly seems to render them trivial and cutesy. While this might say more about patronising attitude towards mothers than the things in themselves it’s hard not to be affected by it. When I tell bloggers who aren’t parents that I write about motherhood and childcare, I always feel a little regretful that I’m not saying “world politics” or “art and literature”. I might write the odd post criticizing the low status of mothers yet sometimes I find I’ve bought into it myself. (more…)

Another day, another clever clogs arrives to tell the feminist masses why they’re fucking up. This time it’s the turn of Martha Gill. Like Charlotte Raven before her, Gill offers a rare insight into the feminist mindset. This is due to the fact that not only is she a feminist herself, but she’s amazingly clever and totally ace at writing. Most feminists are, as Gill so cleverly notes, thick as pigshit and rubbish with words. Thus we should all thank her for her guidance (come on, sheep-like feminist masses! Bleat in gratitude!).

In a piece that is ostensibly on “the perils of Groupthink” Gill makes two timely observations. The first is that every single “online feminist” (i.e. those feminists who are several classes down from a “print feminist”) writes in exactly the same style. And that style is … Well, let’s be honest, it’s the style in which Vagenda write. And Vagenda write in that style deliberately, perhaps because they’re writing about the very magazines whose approach they mimic. It doesn’t take a genius to notice this – Vagenda spell it out for you - but still. Well done, Gill. That’s probably a good few young feminists you’ve embarrassed out of writing on the things they care about, simply because they happen to adopt what you consider to be an overly stylized voice. Sod ‘em, though. It’s all very well finding a voice in this sexist world, but make sure it doesn’t sound too jarring to the more sophisticated feminist ear. (more…)

This morning I took down a post I’d written the night before. No one asked me to and I didn’t feel particularly bullied or intimidated into doing so. I took it down because I tried really hard to achieve a particular objective and I failed, badly. I know writing stuff isn’t magic and most of it makes no difference anyhow but sometimes, the feeling that you rarely, if ever, have genuine exchanges with people who see things differently – and that all that really happens is you gain the approval of people who would have agreed with you anyhow – is just a bit grim.

I don’t think there is anything at all I can add to debates on feminism, twitter, intersectionality, privilege and bullying – other than that I think no one else can add much, either. It has reached a point where, in essence, in order to try and defend people I like without appearing to be “one of them” or “taking sides” I feel the only option is to defend them badly, with so many qualifications and ifs and buts that what I’m writing becomes impenetrable (or rather, it becomes terribly nuanced, so nuanced that anyone who so wishes can see a “hidden message” – and such a message can mean different things to different people). Hence there’s no point. If every single argument you make has no value because it’s just the kind of argument you would make – because your argument itself demonstrates your bias, hence invalidating itself – then there is absolutely no point in making an effort to connect. You might as well just patronize people by pretending to agree with them all the time or shut up. (more…)

*Totally self-absorbed post alert*

Yesterday I wrote a post about online feminism and privilege. And lots of people were nice about it, which made me think “ace! Lots of people agree with me!” But then it also made me think “hmm, that was a bit self-serving, really”. The thing is, I’d only written part of what I felt. I worried that the unsaid bits would make people like me less, so I didn’t say them.

As I wrote yesterday, I value online feminism and I don’t think it’s some ridiculous mean girls’ club. And I’m sick of people mischaracterizing the nature of online debate (you can learn a great deal about other people’s lives on twitter) . All the same if I am totally honest – really, truly honest – there is a bit of me that’s scared that one day, I will get on the wrong side of people without meaning to and I won’t feel so positive any more. And there is a bit of me that knows that this has already happened to some people and I’ve said nothing, first because it might “spoil” online feminism for me, and second because if I did say something, I might be considered a bad person, too.   (more…)

Unless you are an MRA and therefore hate all feminists, you’re probably amendable to the idea that some of them are nice and some of them aren’t. But how can you tell who’s who? In a recent piece for the New Statesman, Sadie Smith offers some tips for amateur feminist spotters: the nice ones – those who represent “good, honest feminism in all its manifestations” – tend to be western women who were especially active in the latter half of the twentieth century, whereas the nasty ones are lurking on twitter right this very minute (shh! They might hear you!).

So, we know who’s who, but what’s the difference? The nice feminists are often of high status (e.g. Camille Paglia, Luce Irigaray) and while they might say some strange things, their familiarity breeds a patronising presumption of niceness (a sort of “oh, that’s just Camille having another of her funny turns…”). The nasty feminists, on the other hand, might not have the same status but they are mean. Mean, mean, mean. So it’s best not to provoke them (otherwise it’s “intersectional this” and “check your privilege that”. Honestly, they never stop!). (more…)

Most people really don’t like mummy bloggers, do they? By this I don’t mean that the latter are facing intolerance on a daily basis. It’s not as though there are crowds lining up with pitchforks outside Mumsnet Towers (having said that, I’m not sure whether that’s even a real building). Anyhow, I just think that, if you asked most people what they thought of mummy bloggers, those who bothered to have opinions at all would not be expressing positive ones. 

You could say it stands to reason. To the outside observer, mummy bloggers are like Private Eye’s Polly Filla, only with less successful writing careers. They’re whingey middle-class moaners, who think their children are the centre of the universe and that everyone else should be gripped by the trials and tribulations of parenthood. They write whiney posts about potty training, behaviour management, cake baking, childcare guilt and cleaning products. They even write whiney posts about whining. Narcissists of the hearth, they’re unable to see beyond the domestic sphere and engage with what really matters. What’s more, they’re so self-obsessed that they’re even aware that this is going on (in case you didn’t check – why ever not? – all of the above links lead to posts written by me. I’m so vain, I’m pretty damn certain this post is about me). (more…)

Beneath my sharp, witty, so-damn-cool-you-wouldn’t-believe-I-had-kids exterior, I am a total mummy blogger at heart. Here are just some of the hot topics about which I’ve blogged:

When it comes to immersing oneself in a virtual “cupcake-scented world”, I’ve got it covered. All of which makes me just the kind of woman Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones would pity. (more…)

So I’ve decided I want to sign up for The Women’s Room. After all, if there’s one thing the media needs even more than women’s voices, it’s my woman’s voice and the not-all-that-well-informed opinions it articulates. I mean, look at me: I am a woman and I feel totally under-represented in the media (and literature and religion – hell, even my own household consists of me and three males). Hence as a suitably self-absorbed, opinionated person I feel the need to do my part. The only trouble is I’m not really an expert in anything.

Okay, that’s not strictly true. I am an expert in one obscure aspect of one part of nineteenth-century German literature. I wrote a PhD and a whole bloody book on it. If ever the rest of humanity comes to realise how essential it is to know about what Goethe was doing on a Tuesday in March 1811, they’ll come and ask me. And I won’t know because my PhD wasn’t on Goethe and I didn’t even get through the first ten pages of Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. But anyhow, I know some random stuff and have thought some original thoughts on a subject no one else has bothered with (alas, I tend to think there’s a reason for this. Everyone else, you were probably right). (more…)

Here follows a self-important announcement of little relevance to anyone but me: I am taking a break from blogging, for 10 whole days. Is it because:

  1. I am finally sick of the sound of my own virtual voice going blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?
  2. I’m trying out a passive-aggressive tactic to see if I can get more hits?
  3. I’m too upset to carry on now that my favourite troll has lost interest in me?
  4. I am leaving my partner and kids behind and pissing off for an all-expenses-paid week in the Caribbean?

To maximise the annoyance factor of this blog post, I will now reveal that it’s Option Number Four. It is a business trip – but given that my business trips in recent years have been to Corby, Chipping Sodbury and Walsall, it’s a pretty sodding unusual one. I mean, I’m pretty sure it’s the real Caribbean and not just a conference centre in Dudley that happens to be called Barbados, but we shall see. To be honest, I still can’t believe it, although I’ve known for a couple of months.

Obviously everyone around me is taking the piss out of the very idea that this is “work”. It is, mind – but it’s in the fucking Caribbean! And every night I get to go back to a hotel room – in the Caribbean! – with no kids to put to bed or anything. I will miss them, of course, but I also can’t bloody wait! I don’t think I deserve this trip – it’s just something that happened due to an accident of project distribution – but I’m gonna really, really appreciate it.

If the WIFI in the hotel is crap (and I’ve heard that it is) I might have to go without twitter, too. And I will miss people there. I was having a ponder about it today and realised that I’ve been blogging and using twitter for seven months now. In that time I’ve encountered loads of people who are not only lovely, but who have challenged me and changed my way of thinking. I think *soppy bit* it is making me a more tolerant person. Although *less soppy bit* it is also making me a rude, antisocial person who just stares at her phone and ignores actual people in her presence. Swings and roundabouts, eh?

Anyhow, enough of a rather boring but uncharacteristically positive post from me. I’m *cough* pissing off to the Caribbean! I’m outta here! Will really miss people but, um, yes … it’s the fucking Caribbean!

*swans off*

A while ago I happened to mention to my dad that I wrote a blog and that it was part of the Mumsnet Bloggers network. God knows why I did this; he’d just mentioned a piece he’d contributed to Trout and Salmon magazine, so I suppose it was a failed attempt at one-upmanship (let’s face it, if you were me, would you want your dad reading any of this?). Anyhow, he wasn’t interested in reading my posts (despite the fact that I ploughed through all of his report on trout fishing in Scotland); he merely screwed up his face and asked me what I was doing associating with Mumsnet because “the women there – they’re all just middle-class mothers!”. Then he packed up his toolkit and went back off to work down the building site (did I just write building site? I meant court – he’s a barrister, so hardly salt of the earth himself). 

I am a middle-class mother – a middle-class feminist mother, which is even worse. How bloody exclusive is that? Obviously I believe all other women are exactly like me and if they’re not, then they sodding well should be. Nonetheless, even my own parents fail to acknowledge this essential middle-classness in me. I have a theory as to why that is: I think it’s because they’re my mum and dad and therefore they think I’m nice. Plus they’re middle-class themselves, but they don’t really know that they are. Or rather, they do, but when my dad says “middle-class mothers” he doesn’t mean mothers who are literally middle-class in socio-economic terms.* He means mummies who are assimilated into mainstream culture but who nevertheless dare to express opinions he doesn’t like.
(more…)

This morning my youngest tried to go on the “big potty” i.e. the toilet all by himself. Needless to say, it all went horribly wrong. It looked like a massacre had taken place. A massacre with poo in place of blood. So then I ended up spending the five minutes before all of us were due to be out of the house crouched on the floor in my work clothes, cleaning up room and pre-schooler, all the while assuring the latter that no, Mummy wasn’t cross and yes, he was still “a big boy”, just a big boy who, at this point in time, happened to be smeared in faeces.

Why am I telling you this? Well, partly it’s because it’s one of those madcap mummy mayhem moments that we all love to share (regardless of whether anyone wants to listen). And partly it’s because I would have announced this earlier on Twitter anyhow, only my phone isn’t working and my netbook’s not as practical for such on-the-go tweeting (it takes ages to get going and I’d have only got poo on the keyboard). (more…)

Is writing articles about feminism a complete waste of time? Certainly for me it isn’t (I might not influence anyone, but I do find that WordPress controls my Ebay addiction). But for people in general – and proper writers in particular – what does writing a feminist piece achieve? It might earn you money, but will it change the minds of the people whose minds you really want to change?

Today I read two articles – one by Deborah Orr on No More Page Three, and another by Dina Rickman on Everyday Sexism – both of which I thought were great. I wouldn’t expect everyone to agree with them, but in many of the online comments it was clear that some of those commenting hadn’t even bothered to read the pieces. For them it was simply a matter of honing in on the subject matter and trotting out a pat anti-feminist retort (even if it completely misrepresented the writer’s position). And I couldn’t help thinking “what a total waste of time – for everyone involved”. And then I wondered whether these people wrote their comments – at once so offensive yet so familiar – from scratch. Because that’s perhaps the biggest waste of time there is. All the retorts are the same. How much more efficient would sexists be if they could streamline their article-commenting technique? (more…)

I’ve been tagged in a meme by @babberblog. I’ve never been tagged in a meme before! Way-hey!* Best of all, it’s to do with writing a list of wants – and I’ve got loads of them! Want, want, want, that’s me. So I might as well get started:

<Drum roll>

I want…

Fairness

In a lefty feministy sorta way. I’d have to leave someone else to make all the finer decisions about this because I am, on a personal level, a selfish sod. But globally, I really believe in fairness. Hey, it’s a start. (more…)

It’s SO unfair! I’ve just had yet another comment left on my blog accusing me of “whining”. Me? Whine? How could anyone write such a thing? That is just MEAN and WRONG and I’m NOT going to talk to ANYONE EVER  AGAIN.

<stomps off to listen to Joy Division in darkened room for, like, ten million years>

[ten million years later]

Right, okay, I’m back now. I hope everyone’s sorry. As you can see, I just don’t do whining – passive-aggression’s much more my thing. (more…)

Two days ago the “comedian”/professional arsehole Frankie Boyle sent out the following tweet:

My advice to people with depression is to keep it to yourself, maybe just fuck off on your own when you’re down, it’s a bit of a drag.

As someone who has suffered from depression, I’m not about to get all upset about this. I know there is genuine prejudice surrounding mental illness. However, I doubt many people will read Boyle’s tweet and think a) “hey, perhaps he’s got a point” or b) “ha ha, that’s hilarious”. If anything, I’d like to think Boyle might giving those who seek to raise awareness a helping hand. After all, “Frankie Boyle” is synonymous with “person who says shit things just to be offensive”.  Thus bullying the mentally ill can be placed alongside laughing at rape victims and mocking the disabled as something you only do if you’re a total bastard with a career that’s completely reliant on desperate, toddler-esque boundary-pushing. (more…)

I am having a moral dilemma. Well, to be honest, it’s not much of a dilemma. I know I am doing something morally unacceptable. I’m just trying to work out how prepared I am to do something about it.

I do try to be good. Whatever else I might think about myself – that I’m unattractive, stupid, lazy – I would like to think I try to do the right thing. For years, however, I have attempted to convince myself that part of doing the right thing involves getting over-familiar those who do the wrong thing. And thus I’ve sought to justify endless hours spent reading hateful nonsense, both online and in hard copy. (more…)

Whenever I see I’ve got new mentions on twitter, I’m overcome by a feeling of dread. You might call it having a naturally guilty conscience. I invariably think “oh shit, what have I done / what have they found out now?” It doesn’t make much sense – no one has ever tweeted anything nasty about me (yet). But I have this sense that one day I will be “found out” – over what, I just don’t know – and everyone will then know “the truth” and I’ll be publicly named and shamed.

Well, enough about me and my idle, self-important paranoia. I have just spent the evening witnessing someone else take their place in the Twitter Hall of Shame (I have also been watching Snakes on a Plane, but hey, I’m versatile – I can do both!). And by “someone else”, I mean the Tom Daley troll. I’m not quite sure why I’ve been watching this. I suppose I’ve never before witnessed someone having so complete a meltdown into violent, hate-filled, furious threats. I’ve never really seen so much real-life anger being spewed out, live, in real time, while I sit comfortably in a position of safety. I can just watch and watch. And so I’ve watched, as have many others (not that this excuses my own voyeurism – that’s down to me alone). (more…)

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