Are you really a feminist if you haven’t read Germaine Greer?

The Female Eunuch - Germaine Greer

Ok, confession time. I think it’s fair to say that I consider myself to be a card carrying feminist these days. And I try and educate myself on the subject where I can.

However, at the risk of having that card revoked, I’m going to come out and say, right now, that I have never read any book written by Germaine Greer. In fact, I’m going to go further and say that I actually don’t know very much about her.

What I do know about her has been gleaned other things I’ve read, (like, er, her Wikipedia page) and various newspaper articles. And I’m afraid that nothing has yet persuaded me that I wish to purchase, ‘The Female Eunuch’ and invest the several hours of my time that it would take me to read it.

Now, I do know that Ms Greer was instrumental in fighting for women’s liberation during a time when women really didn’t have any voice at all. And the impact that she made by writing and publishing ‘The Female Eunuch’ should not be underestimated. I’ve no statistical evidence to back this up, but just generally, it seems that she was the face of feminism, at a time when feminism had no face at all.

So, I get it – she was on the front lines fighting the good fight, at a time when there was nobody really backing her up. She, understandably, must feel like this is a very personal fight for her.

But I fear that, in this modern age of feminism, every time I hear Germaine Greer’s voice at the moment, the message she is spreading just seems…off. Like her views against transgender people calling themselves women. Or criticising the #metoo movement as ‘whingeing

Now Ms Greer is clearly an intelligent woman. So one has to suppose that she’s not throwing these comments out there without having really thought about what she’s saying. Clearly she feels that somewhere along the line, we’ve strayed off the path that is so clear in her mind. However, as I have said before and I’ll say again – does it really matter if the shape of the feminist fight doesn’t look quite how you want it to? Isn’t it more important that we stand together in solidarity, rather than fight amongst ourselves?

Is the current feminist ‘movement’ (if you want to call it that) perfect? No, probably not. Do some elements of the #metoo campaign (again – need a better word) run the risk of perhaps resulting in an over correction? Maybe.

But let’s try and remember how we got here. This isn’t some campaign cooked up in a board room by the directors of the ‘Feminist Organisation Co. Plc’. This is a completely organic and reactive outpouring of emotion, hurt and pain – which was triggered by the experiences of sexual assault and harassment of women. By men.

Ms Greer – we didn’t plan this. The #metoo movement is not an orchestrated event. It is the emotional equivalent of decades of rage bursting through a dam. It’s going to be messy! And uncoordinated. And at times, incoherent. It is also totally necessary. The underlying problem can’t and won’t be properly addressed until it is fully brought into the light and examined. Only then can we all start to heal. And I’m all for that happening in any way that women feel they need to right now. We haven’t had a voice for generations. Possibly ever. And now that it appears that this might change, it’s going to take a little while for us to work out where we go from here.

So please. Please! Keep your negativity to yourself. If you have had the benefit of decades more experience of thinking about these issues and formulating a clear way forward, then please use that knowledge in a constructive way to help us all, rather than knocking down women who are finally starting to think that maybe feminism is for them after all! Be part of the goddamn solution – rather than yet another person we have to fight and defend ourselves against.

And in the meantime, I will maybe – maybe – get around to reading the Female Eunuch.

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Feminism: Is 2018 the year the world changes?

Full disclosure: I’ve never been much of a trend setter. You know those really cool people who always seem just ahead of the curve with the latest new thing?

Yeah, that’s soooo not me.

I’m usually so far behind these people I’m a speck in the distance. When iPads first came out I think my, much voiced, opinion was that they were ridiculous things that would ‘never catch on.’

See what I mean? I really hit the nail on the head with that one, didn’t I? You can always trust me to read the zeitgeist – incorrectly.

However, I may have broken my pattern. It occurred to me this morning that even though I only started this blog in September last year (and so, in blog years, that means it’s still in nappies), the world of feminism looked completely different back then.

Yes, there was a slow drift towards recognising that the issue of equality was something that still needed to be addressed, and everyone was very impressed with Emma Watson’s speech about the ‘HeForShe’ campaign, but generally feminism was still a subject that, if you brought it up at a dinner party, would cause slightly pained expressions to cross the faces of your dining companions (particularly if they were men), and everyone would either politely try and change the subject or someone would say that we now had a female Prime Minister, so, ‘job done, am I right?’ Err…no, actually, but let’s not go there today.

I started this blog because I truly felt that the situation was becoming unbearable. Here we were in 2017, I had a baby girl and the pace of substantive change was so painfully slow that I simply didn’t believe that things would be drastically improved by the time she was all grown up and looking to enter the workplace. That made me really angry, and I felt that the very least I could do for her – the very very least -was to start speaking up about the issue. I didn’t necessarily expect anyone else to agree – I was fully prepared to be all, ‘the girl stands alone’ about it.

But then #MeToo happened. Just weeks after I wrote about the issue of sexual harassment at work and mentioned that I hadn’t met a woman who didn’t have a story – suddenly there were stories everywhere! On Twitter, in the press, on TV… all these incredible and brave women finally feeling able to speak up and share what they had experienced.

And it felt like the world changed. Suddenly I wasn’t alone. Suddenly feminism and equality was THE subject to talk about. I was ahead of the curve people – ahead of the curve! Who could have known when I started this blog in September 2017 that by the end of the year, the feminist fight would look so very different?

And call me optimistic (which no-one does, ever) but I’m truly hopeful that what we are witnessing will amount to real change. And I’m hoping that 2018 is the year it happens. It’s only 16th January 2018 today but I thought I would have a quick recap of the year so far:

  • Toby Young was forced to resign from his appointment to the Office of Students following a public outcry as a result of his many years of sexist and misogynistic tweets (oh, and his penchant for attending eugenics conferences – yuck)
  • Carrie Gracie publicly resigned her post as China editor as a result of the BBCs dismal failure to deal with her request for equal pay
  • John Humphreys was publicly shamed for mocking the above mentioned issue of equal pay at the BBC (always nice to see privileged white males really revelling in that privilege)
  • The first few companies with over 250 employees began to publish their pay stats, proving once and for all that the gender pay gap is very much a real thing. (Phase Eight – I’m looking at you)
  • #TimesUp was launched and Golden Globe attendees wore black in protest and took female activists as their dates on the red carpet, totally changing the conversation.
  • Mark Wahlberg donated the $1.5million he earned from the reshoot of ‘All the Money in the World’ to #TimesUp, after learning that Michelle Williams was only paid about $1000 for the same thing

Now I don’t know about you, but that looks like a pretty good two weeks for feminism to me. If we keep this up, I really do think that 2018 might be the year the world changes.

And I really fucking hope so. Because I quite enjoy being on trend for once. 😉

Feminist book love: “How To Be a Woman” – Caitlin Moran

Oh Caitlin Moran… how have I written a feminist blog for this long and not yet mentioned Caitlin Moran??

I love Caitlin (I’m sure she’d let me use her first name if we met). She’s pretty much, kinda, sort of, who I would like to be when I grow up. Ever seen the TV show, “Raised by Wolves”? It was written by Caitlin and her sister as a semi-autobiographical show. It’s hilarious and so is this book.

However, notwithstanding the fact that this book contains some of the best one liners and caustic wit around (although the meaning of caustic wit has forever been ruined by Boris ‘douchebag’ Johnson’s defence of Toby ‘knob jockey’ Young), this book is also one of the fundamental ‘feminist texts’ of our time (in my humble opinion)!

I’ve actually bought this book twice in my life. The first time, I was in my early twenties and grabbed it off the shelf in WH Smith’s coz I liked the cover and thought the title was funny. I thought it was going to be some kind of mildly amusing chick lit novel. It is not.Do not read this book thinking it will be a chick lit novel – you will find yourself thrown into a confusing world of teenage angst, workplace harassment and a scorching diatribe covering menstruation, abortion and the patriarchy. You will not be prepared and you will be left bewildered and vaguely stunned. You *may* feel slightly cheated, give the book away to charity and head out to buy the latest Jane Green novel which you know will be safe.

“How to be a Woman” is dynamite and should be handled with care!

However, in my thirties, with my newly awakened sense of feminist righteousness, I realised what an error I had made and promptly headed out to re-buy and re-read the book. Read with the correct mind frame this book simply is the bomb. As opposed to dynamite. Dare I say it’s explosive…?? You get the point. I love it.

Basically if you have an unsettled feeling that life just seems to treat women slightly wrong – like we’ve headed down the wrong path somewhere along the line – then this book tells you exactly why you feel like that and which path you should be blazing down instead.

I’m not saying that I agree with everything that Caitlin (still on first name terms here ) writes in the book but if you’re looking for a role model to demonstrate just how brilliant, funny, intelligent and fierce a feminist can look like in this day and age, then you need to look no further than her.

Caitlin = Big loves forever.

(You can buy “How to be a Woman” from Amazon by clicking here)

#TimesUp – is wearing black the new black?

I have to confess that when I saw the headlines and coverage of the Golden Globes award ceremony this year, I welled up. I thought it was beautiful. A sea of men and women in black, making an incredibly strong statement that sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood and, indeed, in any industry will no longer be tolerated. The intention was to change the conversation and my god did they ever achieve that. Oprah for the win!

However, as ever, the protest was not without some controversy. For starters I think it’s fair to say that Rose McGowan, one of the most vocal victims of the #MeToo outpouring, was less than impressed.

And then there was the bizarrely tone deaf tweet from Ivanka Trump, proudly declaring her support for the #TimesUp movement. All whilst holding a senior official position in the administration of her father, Donald Trump, who has 20 women accusing him of sexual assault or harassment. It’s hard to see how she could be blind to how weird and hypocritical that looks, so who the hell knows what she was trying to achieve there! Seems that the entire Trump family may suffer from the inability to engage brain before opening mouth. Perhaps it’s genetic…

And finally, just to really set the whole thing off, you have Paris Hilton proudly tweeting a picture of herself wearing black in support of #TimesUp, only for Twitter to throw her own words back at her from a few months ago when she said in an interview with Marie Claire that the accusers of Trump were simply seeking fame and attention.

So is Rose McGowan right? Is this simply everyone jumping on the bandwagon of what’s the fashionable cause right now and none of it is more than skin deep? Well, honestly, in some cases she is probably right. You have those for whom this has been a heartfelt issue for years and have spoken about it many times (Oprah and Emma Watson, to name just two) and then there will be those who have probably not given it a moment’s thought previously and, while not necessarily in support of sexual harassment or assault (coz who is?!), may feel deep down that this has not and does not vastly impact upon them. Human beings do have a tendency to be selfish after all.

But to this I say, who cares? Does it really matter? Does it detract from the overall effect if some of the Golden Globes’ attendees were perhaps more focused on finding the most perfect looking black dress, rather than focusing on the message behind it? I don’t think it does. The point is, the overall impact still CHANGED THE CONVERSATION. And it was a conversation that needed to be had.

I read the tabloid headlines on the Golden Globes this year – as I usually end up doing most years (don’t judge me) – and, for the first time, I can’t tell you who was wearing what designer or who did their hair… Because who cared? It was all about Oprah’s amazing speech, and Debra Messing’s red carpet interview with E! where she called them out on their equal pay scandal, and Natalie Portman’s beautiful mic drop moment when reading out the ‘male’ nominations for best director. It was all about the women, and women’s voices, and our collective refusal to take this shit anymore. It was a fucking awesome show of strength.

So whether or not some of the attendees really had their heart and soul in the cause, or were just jumping on the bandwagon, I don’t think it really matters. The most important thing was presenting a collective front, so the message is clear: things have got to change. #TIMESUP

Was 2017 a good year for feminism?

It’s a New Year everyone, in case that has passed you by. Happy 2018!

Is there any way of arriving in a brand new year without feeling the need to reflect upon the year just gone? If there is I’m not sure how you do it. But I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing anyway. It’s important to look backwards sometimes, to see how far you’ve come.

So with that in mind I thought I would take a little time to reflect upon the impact of 2017 on feminism. I know it was a big year for me – it was the year I woke up and started to find my passion for fighting against all the inequality that is ingrained in our daily lives and I discovered some of the incredible women out there blazing a fierce trail for us on a daily basis (Caitlin Moran, Sali Hughes, Sophie Walker to name just a few). Amazing, brilliant and inspiring women who demonstrate how to take no shit but to do so with grace, humour and intelligence. And sometimes sublime sarcasm. I love them all! I know twitter can be a double edged sword but I’m grateful it has brought the voices of these women into my life. Also, no biggie, but I started this blog. So yay for 2017!

As for the bigger picture, 2017 has had some killer punches to throw our way. Seriously. I mean, it started with Trump’s inauguration – a man who dismissed his own admission of sexual assault as ‘locker room banter’. Er….. well, there are no words really for that one. I think perhaps no words are needed. Suffice to say that 2017 started on a bit of a downer. But, and this is a little controversial, maybe we should be grateful for the awful spectacle that has been Trump’s presidency. Yes, really – hear me out.

His inauguration ceremony was (sorry Trump) vastly outnumbered by the amount of people who then turned out for the Women’s March the very next day, which was the largest single day protest in US history. How amazing is that? What an awesome response. Sometimes the enemy just needs a face in order to make people see who they’re fighting against.

And if Donald Trump wasn’t enough of an incentive for you to get off the sofa and fight, then 2017 also provided us with the poster boy of sexual assault, Harvey Weinstein. And what an incredible, watershed moment that has turned out to be! It’s mind blowing. The outpouring of horror stories not just regarding his alleged behaviour but then other big players in Hollywood and the momentum that gathered to eventually start shaking the ground in Westminster itself… I can’t even comprehend how important this was. Who could have ever imagined it? It has been so important, so shocking and frankly absolutely fucking fantastic to suddenly have this topic on everyone’s minds, being discussed in every workplace and in every home and to begin to hope that perhaps – just perhaps – the next generation might walk into workplaces where this behaviour is no longer accepted or acceptable by those in power. It could be a moment of real change – it really could – and that is the goal. I don’t have the words to express how happy this makes me. Women have found their voices.

The #metoo movement, born out of the Weinstein scandal, gave women a collective voice, possibly for the first time ever. The strength and solidarity that has resulted has been so necessary and so important that it can’t be overstated. I still haven’t found a woman who doesn’t have a #metoo story. Just saying.

And now, as we start a new year with 2018 (the centenary of women getting the vote, just FYI), a follow up movement to #metoo is being launched as #TimesUp, where some of the most powerful women in Hollywood have set up a fund currently amounting to around $13million to support and help those women experiencing harassment and assault in their work places. Basically using their power to help those women who have no power and no voice. God, it makes me want to cry thinking about it. This is what the world should look like people!

So yeah, I think 2017 was a good year for feminism. A lot of things got brought into the light that needed to be seen.

Here’s hoping that 2018 kicks ass just as much. The fight isn’t over – it’s just beginning.

Being a role model for working mums?

Oh god, the endless dilemmas and self judgement of being a working mother.

It was our Christmas work party on Friday. It had been an insanely busy week (again) and I knew I was going to have to go home and work afterwards so I was in a bit of a low mood. Add to the fact that I hadn’t seen my little girl properly all week because I had needed to stay late every night for work, and you can see why I wasn’t fully in the Christmas spirit.

But I tried to rally. I like the people I work with and it’s always entertaining to see them drunk (I wasn’t drinking due to the aforementioned work requirement). It can also be very enlightening – I’ve had some real home truths thrown at me in the course of Christmas parties of yore, but this year was particular interesting. It turned out that the constant theme was to be, ‘Oh you’re such a role model for working mums”. “You’re an ‘Alpha Mum'” someone said to me.

What does that even mean, ‘Alpha Mum’? I’m not even going to start trying to work that one out, but I got the general message. I have a daughter. I still work full time doing a demanding job. I’m am therefore a ‘role model’ in that I’m proving that this be done.

Hmmm. Yeah. I have conflicting feelings about this one to say the least. On the one hand, I do find it hard and stressful and challenging trying to juggle all the aspects of my life. And in weeks like I’ve just had where I’ve barely seen my child, frankly it sucks. So it’s nice to have that struggle recognised, I won’t lie. But on the other hand – I honestly never set out to be any kind of role model and I’m really not sure I want to be.

The reasons for why I work full time are many but in essence there are two key factors – one, right now we need the money. A cut in my pay cheque would make a significant impact on our lives right now (i.e our house extension wouldn’t get a roof). And two, I have this thing in my head that says I’m SUPPOSED to continue ‘do it all’ and if I reduced my hours at work, then this would somehow be an admission of failure. It would be weak.

This is, of course, complete bollocks.

And that’s my issue. I don’t actually think that what I’m trying to do, which is keep it all hanging together whilst relying on the support network of people I have behind the scenes to stop it all falling apart, is really something to aspire to. What I actually think is that work places should be striving to become more flexible so that they are accommodating the working parents, rather than the working parents desperately trying to accommodate the rigid working structure.

And I have a feeling that by being perceived as a role model for ‘making it work’ what I’m actually doing is encouraging the narrative that this is the way it should be. You can go off, throw a tiny human hand grenade into your life which will blow everything to pieces so you never recognise yourself again (in a mostly good way, obvs) and yet you will still come back to work and carry on like it never happened.

Yeah, thanks but no. I don’t think that’s the way it should be at all. And yet, here I am. Apparently a role model for exactly this! Dammit! What am I supposed to do with this info? Not much I suppose. Carry on the way I am for now. Keep talking about how important it was for me to be able to shift my hours so I could see my daughter (I pushed my day back by a whole 15 minutes so I could catch an earlier train. Not exactly ground breaking I know, but I’m still grateful to my employer for agreeing) and also work towards being in a position when perhaps I can have some influence in the conversations that happen about how to support and encourage working parents.

Oh, and cut myself some fucking slack. Your life has to work for you at the end of the day, not the other way round. And it is not a weakness or failure to do what you have to do to make that happen. It is a huge show of strength. Trust me – I’m working towards getting to that place.

No doubt when I manage, I’ll be a role model for that too!

Feminist book love: “Feminist Fight Club” – Jessica Bennett

Feminist Fight Club: I stumbled across this book in the strangest of ways really. I found it through its Instagram account. Yes, a book that has its own Instagram account. It’s a strange new world we live in folks. Seems it’s a smart idea because several weeks later when I was browsing in a bookshop, the front cover caught my eye. And, because I am clearly easily brainwashed by social media, I bought it.

Having not really processed exactly what I had just done (which was to basically confirm every marketer’s wet dreams) I had no idea what to expect from the book I just bought. But I’m so so glad that buy it I did. Because it’s brilliant.

My concern had been that it was going to be some sort of fluffy, silly book filled with cartoons about how rubbish men are – let’s all drink wine and bitch about them etc etc. But that’s not it at all. It is a lovely, honest shout out and support message to all women who may have struggled or are currently struggling in the workplace and it identifies and throws light on some of the (sometimes sub-conscious) actions which men can engage in, which are undermining the women they work with. And believe me, some of the characters that the author, Jessica Bennett, depicts are so familiar it’s scary.

The book also identifies some of the insecurities and acts of self-sabotage that women can engage in during the course of their careers and how you might address these. It’s is beautifully written, never takes itself too seriously and yet every point it makes is backed up by serious data, so there’s nothing frivolous about it at all. It’s just fun. With an edge. Just how I like it!

Personally I think it should be fundamental reading for any woman who may want to work anywhere, ever. Because if you have ever come across any of the issues that it highlights, this book provides you with practical advice on how you might address those problems. And if you haven’t, then lucky you, but we should all still be aware of what goes on around us and what other women may be struggling with so that we can be each other’s strength and support to help in the fight against such issues.

Feminist fight club for the win I say!

(You can buy from Amazon.co.uk here)