Category Archives: Work

Simplicity

Sometimes a thing can just be over-thought.  Y’know, like feminist mothering for example.  Yes, guilty as charged.  Oh, hush up.

But sometimes, there is simply a beautiful act of doing, of just getting on with it.

Like this from Made for Mums.

Just women who happen to be mothers doing the whole working thing, the whole life thing.

Like Katie Hislop, 32, from Wiltshire, a Major in the army;

‘I’ve seen active service in Iraq, and I may again. Even though I can’t deny it will be difficult leaving Sophie, I totally accept that responsibility.’

Like Sarah Hill, 38, from Wales;

‘I’ve volunteered for my local lifeboat since I was 23 years old, and I’ve never considered stepping down now just because I’m a mum.’

Like Sarah Solheim, 31, from Essex;

‘[Working with the Fire Service] I’ve dealt with house fires, road accidents and flooding. It’s hugely rewarding, and [my son] is especially proud of me!

As somebody who can get shoe-throwingly frustrated by ‘The Juggling’, I find these statements fall like drops of pure crystal triple-distilled-by-nature mountain stream water into the murky cesspool of my life.

And while I’m feeling cleansed by simplicity, I’m going to take a bath in this stunningly simple piece of sagesse from Musings of an Inappropriate Woman:

‘But most of the time, getting what you want – especially if “what you want” is something really juicy – means pulling out all stops. And for most people (for me, at least) pulling out all stops requires being honest about what you want.

‘It means standing up and acknowledging – at least to yourself, if not to other people – “hey, I really want that juicy thing and I’m not ashamed to admit it.”’

What do you really want?  I mean really, really want?

Me?  I don’t think ‘rule the fucking world’ really counts, so I’m taking some time out to think about it.


Finally!

Dear larks a’mercy, I thought November would never fucking end.  I am not good with self-imposed, for-no-good-reason obligations.  Who knew, right?  Well, I did for one, but let’s skip that bit.

Maaan, I am tired!  I don’t know how other people – other mothers – do this, this labouring at the coal face of blogging.  I’m not talking about those mothers who are covers for advertising shit, whose every second post is a free giveaway competition…I’m not jealous of those bloggers, I’m just confused as to why anyone would read the inane shite they post just to win a copy of Harry Potter.  I am, truly, the Anti-Zeitgeist.

I’m even more confused as to why you would waste your time writing that shite.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not coming down on ‘mummy bloggers’ whatever that means anyway, I’m just, well, well…what?  I’m just confused, really confused.  I had to carve out time for this month’s daily blog posts, time I just didn’t have.  Sure, ‘stuff’ was going on this month, but only the same ‘stuff’ that is always going on when you don’t live in a little gingerbread house on the internet itself.  Life stuff, y’know?

I had to work really hard some days; it shows, I know – it shows today for sure because today’s to-do list was – is – a bee-yatch.  I. carved. time. from. nothing. some days. I wanted that time to have been used to say something.  Yes, I mostly failed – which is why I’ll be going back to weekly-or-so postings – but I tried.

But a big shout out to those who try and – generally – succeed.  You are, my friends, better women than I.

Forgive me, but I still have to figure out how to iron on sports badges and order an angel costume and eat something and all I wanna do is go to bed.


With Every Silver Lining comes a Cloud

I write about how much I’m looking forward to Christmas.  I then peruse my FeedDemon and the first thing I see?

This: Can you find the female in the Arthur Christmas poster? courtesy of ReelGirl.

Hint: Yes, you can; Mrs Christmas is squished in amongst 12 males, including the main character of the film, the main character of Christmas (Father himself), random guy showing off upper arm strength, miniature version of Father Christmas (Father’s father??) and numerous elves (all elves are male?  are you kidding me? I remember watching Huey, Dewey and Louis Christmas cartoons which featured female elves and how long ago was that??  WHY ARE WE GOING BACKWARDS??)  I suppose we’re just supposed to be grateful that there isn’t a single, solitary ‘elfette’ in a mini-skirt and false eyelashes, sigh.

can you kindly stop this?

And the tagline underneath this Christmas dude-fest?  ‘2 billion presents delivered in 1 night…It takes a family.

Which immediately put me in mind of something I’d read years and years ago in the fantabulous book, ‘The Stronger Women Get, The More Men Love Football‘, by Mariah Burton Nelson, which is a delightful romp through the innate sexism and misogyny in sport, not only in how it’s played but in how it’s decided what sports are ‘exciting’ and what is ‘sporty’ and what isn’t.  Really fab stuff and indispensible for any arguments you may have about women’s (lack of) sporting prowess.

Anyhoo, one part of the book relates to experiences of female sports journalists trying to cover sporting events and, specifically, dealing with the ‘tradition’ of interviewing baseball players in the locker room itself straight after a game.

These women were routinely subject to deliberate sexual aggression as the players met the journalists fully naked (making special efforts to ensure they were naked if a female was in the room) and, often, hinting at threats of sexual assault and rape.  Despite this, the women kept doing their jobs and so legal efforts were made to ban them from the locker rooms on the grounds of ‘decency’.  One such case went to court (forgive me a lack of details – my copy of the book is in storage), with an official from a certain club arguing that it shouldn’t be allowed, because ‘baseball is a family game’.

The beautiful judicial response?  ‘The last time I looked, the family included women.’*

The last time I looked, women made up about HALF THE POPULATION OF THE FUCKING WORLD BUT YOU WOULD NEVER GET THAT LOOKING AT CHILDREN’S FUCKING FILMS!

I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

D’you know, it makes me so sad.  I mean the whole sexism crap makes me mad, of course, but you know what makes me really fucking mad?  The fact I make it worse for my own daughter.  Because Boogie has been raised with a level of gender awareness that – certainly in my experience – is unheard of in the general population, she sees this stuff.  She, equally (and it wouldn’t be the first time), can look at a poster like Arthur Christmas and see that nowhere is she represented; for her, even Mrs Christmas wouldn’t count, because she doesn’t yet see the connection between children and adults, between her, a girl, and a grey-haired old woman.  She is not there.  Heart-breakingly, she very rarely is.

And I see her seeing these things and part of me wants to erase the knowledge, the awareness that girls aren’t valued enough to make films about, to write books about, to tell stories about and just make it all go away.

Jesus, I hope this’ll all be worth it in the end.

*Now don’t go thinking that this meant the women were legally allowed to ogle men in locker rooms and the men had no recourse.  Post-game interviews are now generally conducted outside the locker room by reporters of both sexes, which is just far more professional, isn’t it?


I’m Full of Modesty and Low Ambition

I read this in yesterday’s Sunday Times but the link is to the Daily Male (due to the Times’s pay wall).  Naturally, the Male story doesn’t cover the facts as well, but it’ll have to do.

The Institute of Leadership and Management questioned 2,960 women in various managerial roles to explore, according to ILM’s website, ‘the hurdles women face along their career path, and [to] identify the factors that create the glass ceiling effect that many women managers encounter.’

The result?

From The Times: ‘The glass ceiling may be all in the mind.  A lack of ambition and self-confidence, rather than overt male sexism, is holding women back from senior management roles..’

Which is convenient, because it means it’s all women’s own fault.  Again.  Stupid bovines the lot of us.

And the reason for this ‘lack of ambition and self-confidence’?  Institutionalised sexism?  Negative stereotypes so strong that even women believe women to be less able than men?  Working environments run according to patriarchal rules?  Societal expectations that women will be the ones looking after children, expectations so entrenched that we don’t even have the phrase ‘working father’ in our lexicon?  Ha!  No, ‘experts’ believe this state of affairs is, again, women’s own fault:

‘Experts believe a principal reason for women’s lower ambition is that men are more likely to define their success in life in terms of work achievement, while for women other factors such as raising a family play a far bigger role.’

Where to start?  Well, first off, our dear friend Catherine Hakim is quoted later in the piece, so I think we can know how we feel about the ‘experts’ referred to.  Secondly, how does this explain a lack of self-confidence?  And thirdly, what a pile of crap.  Does anybody know a working woman who defines her success in life as to whether and how she raises a family?  In a society which denigrates mothers on all fronts and which (thanks again to Condom Cameron), whilst trying to kick partnered women back in the kitchen as quickly and unceremoniously as possible, is simultaneously kicking single mothers off benefits if they refuse to get out of the kitchen and work for minimum wage, out of which wage of course they have to pay somebody else to look after their kids?  Jesus, I’d laugh if I wasn’t so busy having a hysterical rage episode.

Of course, women who happily take on the full time ‘wife and mother’ role (and there are some about), would, I imagine, view raising a family as their life success, but remember, we’re talking about working women here, specifically women in management roles.  And, of course, if you work or not and want kids and can’t have them, then manage to have them, you would view that as a success in your life; a hurdle overcome as it were.  But a working women, at managerial level, defining her success in life by raising a family?  What a pile of shit.  Course, it actually should be considered a measure of success to raise the next generation, especially whilst juggling a full-time job, but it certainly isn’t in the world I live in.  Raising a family is just what you do.  It’s just what women do.  Raising a family successfully has no rewards in our society: no pay, no laudatory celebration, no time off.  No reward that is considered useful in a society in which stay at home mothers are considered to be non-people in terms of economics.  Ecomonically speaking, these women earn nothing and voila! therefore contribute nothing to GDP and so don’t count (although if you want to find out how they should count, talk to Marilyn Waring).  If you’re lucky, successfully raising a family means you won’t die alone in a care home, but that seems too slim a reward for 20-plus years of hard graft to really count as ‘success’.  Conversely, if society deems you to be failing in raising a family – and it will, at some point, for something you did or didn’t do – it will heap opprobrium down on your head like a ton of shit bricks.  Given all this, who would be stupid enough to believe that raising a family defines their success?  Who among these working women, who we’re told lack self-confidence in spades, would be confident enough  to stick two fingers up to the world and say ‘My success is my family’?  The phrase, ‘I’m only a housewife and mother’ didn’t come from nowhere.

What these ‘experts’ actually mean is that if a working woman has kids and stays at work full-time and still manages to recognise her off-spring at weekends, and doesn’t feel too guilty that she never took them to Gymboree, and her husband didn’t run off with the nanny, and her kids don’t end up on Jeremy Kyle and her working prospects and earnings don’t drop by too much, she views that as a success.

And that’s really not the same thing, is it?


Oh, How I Love The Daily Male

Despite loads and loads of stuff going round in my head at the moment – like: how could I have not seen the white, male, upper-class privileges whirling round Stephen Fry and instead found him whimsically amusing and faintly adorable?: how come Steve mcQueen can be used to advertise watches and everybody else see his image and thinks ‘cool’ and I think ‘wife-beater’? – I’m finding a coherent narrative hard to come by.  Swirly stuff that would end with, ‘but I digress’ I have shed loads of but even I can see that these swirls need a thread to turn them into a post.  So thank fuck for the Daily Male.

It is an article of faith with me that on any given day, should I be in need of conjuring a bit of righteous anger (not often necessary to artificially induce this, but still), I can always, guaranteed and without fail, rely on the Daily Male to supply it.  I came to this article of faith by virtue of my parents who live many miles away and visit only seldom, but always, always, come armed with a copy of the Daily Male, regarding it as a ‘good, informative read’ (I know, I know; safe to say I am regarded as an alien being by my parents).  It was therefore only on completely random and infrequent days that I flicked through a copy yet, however random and infrequent, my reaction was always the same.  It is, as we all know, a piece of work; worse even than The Sun which at least knows it’s a comic, rather than actually a newspaper.

The other day things were just a little too harmonious: the BoogieMeister and I were loved up, Boogie was behaving like an angel and L’il Boo was having a particularly long nap even for him.  Things were too fucking right with the world.  So I click open The Beast:

Oh, How I Love The Daily Male

And it’s good.  It’s pure.  Pure clap-trap.  It’s classic Male.  Just so you don’t actually have to bother reading it, The Male kindly summed up the whole article in one sentence: ‘Dr Catherine Hakim concludes that the battle for sexual equality is over and any pay gap is down to women’s lifestyle choices.

So short a sentence.  So much wrong with it.

OK, OK, so you can see from the date of the article that I’m using a bit of artistic licence here; I started this post last year (though it seems a bit bizarre to put it in those terms), but – I don’t know if you’ve noticed – it’s been Christmas and I always lose the plot a bit at that time of year.  I was going to do a short criticism of the article then swiftly realised that that wouldn’t be possible; the only thing that would do this bit of clap-trap justice would be a line-by-liner and, frankly, I have resolutions to plan (first one: make resolutions before the New Year), otherwise how am I going to know exactly how much I’ve failed come this time next year?  So y’all can read it and savage it at will (although, seriously, it’s too, too easy, candy-from-a-baby time or, as I Blame The Patriarchy would probably describe it, an exercise for ‘novice’ patriarchy blamers only), and I will limit myself to quoting one sentence; according to Dr. Hakim:

In Britain half of all women in senior positions are child-free, and a lot more of them have nominal families with a single child and they subcontract out the work of caring for them to other women.’

First off, commiserations to all those single children out there who have to deal with the knowledge that they are members of only ‘nominal‘ families.  Second off, let’s just see how that sentence works out for men:

In Britain half a small proportion of all women men in senior positions are child-free, and a lot more the vast majority of them have nominal families with a single child with any number of children and they subcontract out get all the work of caring for them to other women done for free by the significant women in their lives.’ Who they then divorce for a younger model and complain that ‘feminism has gone mad’ when said women demand a bit of cash recognition for devoting their lives to bringing up said men’s children and then being left below the poverty line as a result of their diminished work skills.

Too fucking right the battle for sexual equality is over.  What the fuck was I thunking?

Too, too easy.

Such was the basic idiocy of the article that I found myself thunking: who is this Dr. Catherine Hakim?

I wish I hadn’t.  I really do.  Because Hakim has a bit of form.

She is, apparently, a Senior Research Fellow (I bet she’s not arguing with that title) in the Sociology department of the LSE.  Amongst her ‘topics of interest’ is ‘women’s employment and theories of women’s position in society.

Hmm.  Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was even remotely interested in ‘women’s employment and theories of women’s position in society‘ I would feel behoven (yes, I suspect I’ve made that word up, too, but it sounds so…nice), to at least make enquiries as to whether there was, say, a whole movement utterly devoted to analysing ‘women’s position in society.’  I surely wouldn’t have to make many enquiries before stumbling across something called ‘feminism’.  You’d think, wouldn’t you?  Even if it was just by accident of the weird results you can get from a Google search.

Maybe Dr. hakim doesn’t own a computer.  Maybe she thinks that ‘feminism’ is actually a term invented by the Male meaning ‘harbinger of all evil’.  Who knows, but Dr. Hakim does seem to skim over the whole, boring bit about ‘reasons’ for stuff she concludes.

In an article for Prospect magazine Hakim expands on something called ‘erotic capital’ (a term she claims to have coined) and detailing how women ‘use’ it.  Her conclusion seems to be thus: proper economic capital be damned; women may have none of it, but bugger me, they’re ‘erotic’ and that’s just as good.  I paraphrase, of course, but that seems to be the basic jist (‘cept of course I inserted the bit about women having no actual economic capital).  And you can see her point, can’t you?  I mean the machinations of The Patriarchy means that whilst women do the work they sure as hell don’t hold the money but who gives a shit when you have ‘erotic’ capital?  Because then you just get a man to buy you a house and some diamonds instead, right?  So, we can all lie down and relax, girlies, because the equality war is so over.  And women, of course, are just better at being erotic; to quote:

Erotic capital goes beyond beauty to include sex appeal, charm and social skills, physical fitness and liveliness, sexual competence and skills in self-presentation, such as face-painting, hairstyles, clothing and all the other arts of self-adornment…Yet women have long excelled at such arts: that’s why they tend to be more dressed up than men at parties.’

Which is a bit like saying, Poor people excel at being able to resist the temptation to buy a Ferrari. Indisputably true, but kinda meaningless when your analysis only takes into account the amount of poor people who actually own a Ferrari, n’est-ce pas?  Maybe – just maybe, ’cause I don’t want to be dogmatic here – the number of poor people owning Ferraris is influenced by something other than just poor people being better at managing the urge to buy a fast, shiny car?  Or am I missing something?  No, I’m really not.  But somebody is.   

And, in a nice twist, she just keeps going.  She is quoted in yet another Daily Male article today. 

More Clap-Trap

This woman’s like the bloody Duracell bunny.


Frightening Feminism

I did it again. I casually dropped into the conversation that I am – gasp, wait for it – a feminist. The room stilled, time seemed to slow as my small audience took in a collective breath. And held it until the space-time continuum reasserted itself when somebody mentioned their child’s bowel habits.

Naturally, I’m used to such pronouncements wreaking havoc in a business environment (the feminist one, rather than the bowel habits, though I suspect that one would stop you getting invited to lunch pretty quickly). Announce you’re a feminist in an office and the space-time continuum will wobble like a weeble. But, I don’t know, call me naïve (and you will), I had thought that things would be different when you’re surrounded by women who have been – and are still – at the sharp end of a central feminist dilemma – i.e how to have kids and at least have a passing involvement with raising them without completely fucking up your career or, indeed, your head. If anything, the reaction is worse.

I can only explain it by citing the fear factor. When you’re happily trogging along, in your job and kids are but a distant possibility that you don’t bother to think about much, feminism is only scary in the abstract. There you are, earning your money and not thinking too long or hard about the pay gap between you and your male colleagues because these things tend to be well-hidden and a real fuss has to made if you want to do something about it. And, well, who wants to jeopardise their whole career for a few grand a year? And chances are, unless you are an active, committed feminist, the so-inherent-as-to-be-invisible-to-all-but-the-select-few patriarchal crap that surrounds you will go virtually unnoticed, save for a few twinges of unease perhaps when you notice the sheer numbers of naked breasts in a newsagent. So feminism is scary, but remote (or so you think) to your every day life. A bit like flesh-eating spiders – terrifying to meet, but what are the chances in these parts?

Then you actually have a baby which is, generally, a wonderful and, yes, life-changing event. But three months in, six months in, when your face hurts from smiling (because a depressive visog harms the little pumpkin, doncha know?), and you’ve expressed just about as much verbal glee as humanly possible at a successful clap or deftly executed roll-over, the reality of your life now becomes apparent. Because no matter how exhausted your smiling muscles, you will, as a mother, unless you’re incredibly lucky, experience a degree of panic at the thought of going back to work and leaving the most precious child the world has ever seen™ in the care of, well, of anybody else. And it is at this moment that if you’re lucky (or unlucky depending on your point of view) enough not to have an utterly compelling reason – say starvation, or eviction or income-supported poverty – to return to work, you start to think, ‘Weelll…’ and phrases like ‘career break’ suddenly start popping into your head. They did in mine anyway. And then, almost inevitable it seems, you suddenly find yourself with a second child, having completely forgotten to go back to work after the first one. And then you’re into a whole problem of wanting to treat your children the same by staying at home for the same extended period for your second child. Before you know it, your career break has become a whole Kit-Kat and the rest of your erstwhile colleagues have moved on to dinner and drinks and throwing shapes at the local discotheque. Honestly, what woman wouldn’t be a feminist when faced with the unattractive options having kids presents you with?

And what options they are. You could work full-time, living life as a constant juggling act not only between work and kids but between your own expectations and thoughts and those of the mother-hating world around you. Or work part-time around school hours for a wage roughly amounting to minimum in a job for which, often, you’re over-qualified. Or be a SAHM and find your brain slowly leaking out through your ears. Which is not to say that SAHM have no brain to leak out, far from it. That’s simply to say that those women who do stay at home and relish it have different desires and motivations to those that don’t (or those that do but aren’t particularly happy about it). And to be clear – those desires and motivations are equally valid; whilst I’m absolutely clear that staying at home with my kids is not intellectually stimulating to me, it is in most other respects infinitely harder than working in an office. That this is a fact has actually confused me for a long time, given that my kids aren’t particularly difficult or demanding (and are even, often, extremely entertaining, not something that I remember happening very often at work, very few colleagues being partial to attempting to breakdance with knickers on their head) so I’ve had to give it some thought, and I’ve come up with two main things: (i) the unrelenting sameyness of the bulk of each day and (ii) the complete lack of control over your own time-outs. At work, your job changes from day to day and if you need five minutes alone to just contemplate your navel you can generally chose the time to do so. These factors combine to keep things fresh and you sane. If you can cope with the downsides of being at home and still remain motivated and enthusiastic about it, then more power to you. You’re obviously better at playing the long game than I am. I need more immediate gratification than waiting 20-odd years to see all my hard work come to fruition in two well-adjusted, wonderful adults.  I also have a sneaking suspicion that it doesn’t help me that I can’t cook, don’t cook, hate cooking; so being responsible for two meals a day probably leaches a piece of my soul on a daily basis (hey, if ‘m hungry I want to eat, not make love to a Delia cook book for an hour).

But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes. If you want a ‘career’ after you’ve had kids, your options are for shit in this patriarchal, built-for-men-with-a-wife-at-home world. And whether or not we understand the machinations of the patriarchy and whether or not we blanche at the word ‘feminist’, all us SAHMs know it. And it scares us to think that our options are so limited when we grew up thinking that we would, as adults, have limitless options. Or at least a couple of decent ones. And I understand that fear because, to be honest, it’s way scarier to be a committed radical feminist who understands intimately the workings of the patriarchy and to discover that even with the knowledge of these concepts sign-posting your way, you still can’t find your way out of the motherhood maze.


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