Archive | September, 2012

Prancing about in pink skirts

29 Sep

I just took my daughter to ballet and discovered a definite niche in the market: feminist ballet. Does this exist already?

In my version, the three-year-olds would not be told to stretch their arms to reach ‘beautiful princess dresses’ or ‘wave at Prince Charming’, and neither would the teacher pretend to be Princess Fiona from ‘Shrek’. Instead, they would ‘use their strong bodies’ to ‘reach their potential’. Or something. I was unprepared for the princess-indoctrination. Although daughter seems to have enjoyed it and was praised for her beautiful twirling, I feel kind of dirty now.

I checked out toddler rugby, but it’s prohibitively expensive, and the football is too far away. Perhaps she’ll want to join the great musical theatre group in our city when she’s a bit older. For the next term, prancing about in skirts it is.

The Gaga Palaver

28 Sep

I like some of Lady Gaga’s songs, she has some ‘banging tunes’ to quote my crazy ex-neighbour. But somehow it has always struck me as problematic how she portrays herself/is portrayed – almost as if she should be a sort of feminist icon, but just isn’t. Maybe she is, I haven’t examined what she does/sings/wears/says in any great detail at all really, but I am usually intrigued by analyses of famous women’s role in society.

Then I went to a great talk on a generally feminist topic, a quick google-stalk of the speaker brought up this paper, and all became clear. Taking apart Lady Gaga as a person/woman/fashion icon probably won’t do anyone any good or get us anywhere, so this paper deals with some of her lyrics.

“While Stefani Germanotta’s performance of Gaga reveals the constructedness and artifice of identity in true postmodern style, the lexical choices in Born This Way mobilise a conception of sexual identity that is rooted within essentialism.”

Event: Mapping Feminist Movements, Moments, and Mobilisations

27 Sep

 

This looks like a great conference which aims to examine some really relevant, recent phenomena. I wish I could go.

 

 

Call for Papers

“The Lady Doth Protest… Mapping Feminist Movements, Moments, and Mobilisations”

Women have long participated in and led a wide variety of protests, feminist and otherwise. Their historical participation in movements against, for example, colonialism and militarism; for equal rights and civil liberties; on livelihood issues and against capitalist expansion has routinely thrown up questions about feminist knowledge, praxis, and personal-public life. More recently, the visibility of women on a global scale in the ‘Arab spring’, the North American ‘occupy’ movement and activist marches like the ‘Slut Walk’ and ‘Muff March’ phenomena, makes revisiting debates on women and protest apposite. At the same time, the ‘war on terror’, the so-called death of multiculturalism in Europe, the racialization of religion, and women’s global participation in fundamentalist mobilisations and armed struggle raises new questions concerning the interstices between race, religion, class, sexuality and citizenship. These questions that feminism(s) needs to (re)consider whilst contextualising women in protest and protest more generally lie at the heart of this conference theme. We seek to critically reflect upon the concept of feminist protest – its discourse, image and impact, and to examine the possibility of creative feminist engagement across a spectrum ofmomentsmovements and mobilisations.

We conceive of the term ‘protest’ in its widest sense as both formal and quotidian contentious action existing in a variety of practices including activism, critical pedagogies, literature, film, technologies, art and aesthetics – all of which coalesce around the challenge they mount to multiple hegemonies. By unpacking the concept of protest and expanding existing notions of the political through a feminist lens, we seek to understand how feminist protest, in particular, responds to and emerges within/in spite of, the challenges of our contemporary world. In exploring feminism’s relationship with a wide variety of contemporary concerns, social movements and across a range of disciplines, we invite papers from across the arts, humanities and social sciences, that aim to address the possibilities and complexities of feminist mobilisation within the socio-cultural, political, economic, and pedagogic specificities of the temporal spaces we currently find ourselves in. Topics may include, but are by no means limited to:

• Women and protest: theoretical, historical, and contemporaneous concerns;
• Sexual and gendered economies of neoliberalism, recession, and austerity;
• Gender, securitization, counterterrorism, and nationalism(s);
• The impacts of new forms of (transnational) activism and protest politics on feminism; connecting theory and practice;
• Critical pedagogy and feminist scholarship in times of continuity and change;
• The poetics of protest: literature, music, film, and art;
• Race, Class, Gender and the State;
• Spirituality, Faith, and Religion;
• Feminist temporalities in protest;
• The language and rhetoric of protests, movements and feminist mobility;
• Non or anti-feminist protest;
• Sexuality and protest, and heteronationalisms

Please send panel proposals (600 words) and 250 word abstracts for twenty-minute papers to the conference organisers at: conf2013@fwsa.org.uk

Panels proposals should be sent by 15 October, 2012 and individual paper submissions by 30 October, 2012. 

There’s a special feeling reserved for parents, I think

27 Sep

A mixture of guilt, obligation, stubbornness, annoyance, ‘it’s-not-fair’-ness, and general argh! at the world.

I have been accepted to do an internship at a separate organisation based at my university which is relevant to my PhD. This is great news, especially as I thought the interview went extremely badly.

As part of this internship I will be working with the person who is also my second supervisor. She got in touch to set up our first meeting about what I’ll be doing, and I sent her a list of my daughter’s nursery times, implying (I thought) that it would make sense for her to pick a time within these hours. But she didn’t.

She doesn’t have children, and she only knows a little about my situation, so I don’t know if she thought the times I sent her were merely the most convenient for me rather than the only times I am actually available. The email was very short, and I don’t know this person well enough to judge whether she might be annoyed at my limited availability and thought ‘well, she’ll just have to make it work!’, or if she simply didn’t read my email properly.

Either way, I had to delicately let her know that she could either choose a different time or I’d have to brig my daughter with me, thus risking looking unprofessional before I’ve even started the internship. I briefly wondered (agonised!) if I could make it work another way.

For the interview, which lasted all of 12 minutes, my daughter’s dad took an entire afternoon off from his busy job. He’d been off work for a few days the previous week due to illness, and taking further time off risks making him look unprofessional, plus his work is of such a nature that it tends to pile up when he’s not there, so that when he gets back his stress increases. Added to this is that our relationship is not brilliant and quite unequal in terms of power distribution, so I usually feel uncomfortable asking for favours because I can’t think of a favour I could ever do him. So this was a big ask. For the sake of 12 minutes.

Doing this again a week later is not an option. I could book an extra nursery session (if one is available, that is), but £30 is rather a lot for a few minutes of meeting, and it would mean putting my daughter in nursery for longer than she’s ever been. Sure, it wouldn’t kill her and she would probably have fun, but £30 when this is most of my weekly food budget? No.

Then, as I saw a fellow student mother wander past me in the office, I considered asking her to play with my daughter in the postgraduate kitchen as they know each other from the music group we used to attend. But I don’t know her that well, and I don’t know if she’d ever ask me for a favour. And getting indebted to other people only sets the precedent that even if something takes place outside of nursery hours, I will make it work somehow, so next time I’d have to ask someone else for help again because surely nursery times are only a preference . When it’s fixed events like conferences or interviews, I will make it work if possible. But when it’s a two-people meeting and I’ve made it clear that I am only on campus at specific times – no. Not anymore. Not after a 12 minute interview that involved a rather sarcastic comment from one of the interviewers and made me feel a bit rubbish.

I have a daughter. That means I have responsibility for another person. Not a dog or a cat you can put somewhere on their own. A person who also deserves to spend time with me. I want to be involved in university life, but I can’t change nursery times at the drop of a hat, and I just do not have a network of people that allows me any flexibility. So those are the times I am available. Take it or leave it.

Music and Women’s Liberation

26 Sep

This evening, as I was bopping along to my recent discovery Veronica Falls (no idea if they are feminist) with my daughter while cooking dinner, I remembered an announcement that had arrived in my university inbox a while ago and thought it might be nice to share the occasional feminism-related event with my readers.

I have always been interested in the link between music and activism. It just seems that music creates various emotions in most people, and it is frequently used in media/popular culture portrayals of demonstrations/uprisings, as well as to get young people interested in political activism in the first place through campaigns such as Love Music Hate Racism. At the end of the first year of my A-Levels everyone who was doing history had to choose a coursework topic for year 13, regardless of whether or not they were actually going to take history then. I had a nervous breakdown every time I so much as thought of my history teacher, so it was obvious to me that I would not carry on, but the pretend-topic I came up with to fill the last four weeks of term – the role music played in bringing about the end of the German Democratic Republic in 1989 – was almost enough to make me reconsider the importance of my mental health. Almost, not quite though. I don’t know if music played any kind of role, or if anyone has researched this, but it turned out that someone I knew during my undergraduate degree did his PhD thesis on the role of television during reunification, so popular culture provides fertile ground for researching trends in society. If you’re interested in this kind of thing (popular culture/music and politics), definitely check out the work of UK academic John Street, he is amazing.

Aaaanyway, so much about ‘PhD topics infinitely more relevant to real life than mine’. What I actually meant to say is the Women’s Liberation Music Archive is touring the UK, showcasing “rare ephemera and artefacts such as posters, songbooks, t-shirts, instruments and fliers” as well as films, interactive installations, photos, music, and ten oral histories. The exhibition has already been to Cardiff, and will be in Manchester, Glasgow and London for a couple of weeks each between 1 October and 13 January. The website gives a great overview of bands, so it’s worth having a look.

Check it out: Feminist Values make for more stable relationships

24 Sep

Very ‘ha! In your face!’ article . Take that, government which takes advice on families and relationships from abstinence-only groups.

Thank you Caitlin Moran

15 Sep

 

Every now and then you come across a viewpoint which you have been feeling for a while, but haven’t articulated, and then when you read it in someone else’s words it goes bang! and you say ‘that’s it!’ out loud to yourself in your empty sitting room. For me, reading Caitlin Moran’s book How to be a Woman was filled with such moments. The other day she did one of Mumsnet’s ‘Live Webchats’ (which seems to have gone slightly better than Naomi Wolf’s the week before!), and someone quoted a brief passage from her book which resonated with so much of what I’ve been thinking recently.

Overeating is the addiction of choice of carers, and that’s why it’s come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. It’s a way of fucking yourself up whilst still remaining fully functional, because you have to. Fat people aren’t indulging in the ‘luxury’ of their addiction making them useless, chaotic or a burden. Instead, they are slowly self-destructing in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. And that’s why it’s so often a woman’s addiction of choice. (Moran 2010: 117)

It’s spot on:

It’s a way of fucking yourself up whilst still remaining fully functional, because you have to.”

One of the more horrifying moments in my single-mum life to date was when I realised a long time ago that there is no point in a cry for help because no one will help. My daughter’s dad has on several occasions dropped her back home and literally legged it down the path to get away while I was either crying or at least very obviously having a rubbish time. One of my best friends changes the subject when the conversation moves towards a difficult area. I occasionally consider allowing myself to feel all my negative feelings, hoping that the people around me will realise that I’m struggling and give me a hug or step in to make things easier. But eventually I realised that if I let myself wallow, the only person who is going to be there to pick up the pieces will be me, so it’s best to limit the number of pieces to pick up. Because I have to remain fully functional.

I have been really dissatisfied with how I look and feel recently. I was going to the gym twice a week for several months and enjoyed it, but I stopped going when I kept getting cold after cold, and when I had not had a consistently healthy week for three months I gave up counting. So now it’s been half a year and none of my clothes fit properly. Partly I’m still trying to get used to my body after rapidly losing weight during my pregnancy, the obvious changes pregnancy brings with it, and the aftermath when everything is a different shape. Because of the serious food deprivation my pregnancy brought with it, I told myself after giving birth that I would be allowed to indulge for a little while, and after all, everyone tells you that breastfeeding uses up 500 extra calories so you have to eat when baby is eating, and what’s easier to eat one-handed than a biscuit. Three years later I’m still not out of those habits, and now I already have an answer prepared in case anyone points at my tummy and asks when my next baby is due (thankfully this hasn’t happened yet): ‘it’s my biscuit baby’.

Eating too much doesn’t affect anyone except the person who is doing it. I don’t get drunk or shag random guys, I’ve moved away from the drug dealer neighbours. I feel bad for having breakfast in my dressing gown. I am in charge of everything and it’s all sorted. I simply like a family-size bag of crisps and a chocolate bar on the sofa of an evening.

I know all sizes are beautiful, and I love the body positivity campaigned for by blogs like Already PrettyThe Beheld, and Women Against Non-essential Grooming (the latter being on the more kooky end of the scale). One huge eye-opener for me, after spending my childhood being indoctrinated by my mother that being even just solidly built inevitably signified crushing self-loathing, really bad health and a lack of self-control, was a blog post on Sociological Images about how overweight and obese people can be just as healthy as thin people if all have four healthy habits. ‘Healthy’ in this case means ‘at risk of premature death’, and the healthy habits are regular exercise, eating at least five portions of fruit and veg daily, moderate alcohol consumption and no smoking. It’s great. I started quoting the study at my mother every time she pointed out a ‘fat’ person (she really does this), and during her most recent visit she did it a lot less. Result!

However, the thing is, I just don’t feel great. I never smoke and hardly ever drink, but there is a serious lack of fruit and veg in my diet, and my only exercise is walking. Perhaps I am actively sabotaging myself because two important people in my life (my mother and the man I married) have made it clear they think I am an awful person. Clearly all that negativity had to go somewhere while I was busy coping. So now it’s time to get back to the gym. All this food has been masking issues, so perhaps when I feel better ‘in myself’, everything will magically be better.