May 2008


Despite being a non-heterosexual woman-centred celibate woman, I apparently still get to go “He’s quite tasty!” when the moment arises. I tend to react that way (oh dear, how predictable) to rugby players, men in uniform or black tie, and a few Professional Ugly Blokes like Gerard Depardieu and Gordon Ramsey. I’m such a useless stereotype, it’s actually embarrassing.

The above is by way of being an introduction to a post about something else, because I had one of those kinds of conversations with someone the other day and it set me musing about this and that.

It should already be clear that my rating a man as tasty does not mean that I would like to have any sort of relationship, or even casual sex, with him… No way!!

For one thing, I learned from trial and error (oh, college days) that the best looking ones are always the most selfish, in bed and out, but especially in. No – you always go for the slightly nerdy-looking bloke with a twinkle in his eye – not the one who never pulls, but the one who just happens to have interests in life other than getting off with girls. Honestly. It’s not just the “he’s so grateful you even looked at him” nonsense, it’s also the fact that because he is neither drop dead gorgeous nor obsessed with sex, he hasn’t been trained since puberty to expect that women (girls) will throw themselves at him, hasn’t learned contempt for us, hasn’t learned to view us as entirely replaceable and to take our availability for granted. So he treats women – or is more likely to treat us, at least if he isn’t a porn monster (which, if you pick right, he isn’t) – like human beings deserving of, you know, consideration.

In any case, the moment some bloke – especially Some Famous Bloke – opens his mouth is usually the moment I lose interest, so I tend to admire from a distance, or with the sound turned off… I guess that’s why firemen and rugby players are good to choose, they don’t talk much while they’re on the job.

Yes it’s all very dysfunctional and somewhat laddish. I blame the patriarchy, or something. But all that is by-the-by. (This is clearly doomed to be a meandering post where I get distracted at every turn, and I must keep hauling myself back on track. The trouble with trying to write a post on sexxiness, or even a post that isn’t actually supposed to be about sexxiness at all, is that you end up going down all sorts of by-ways and unplanned diversions. OK, I’ll stop looking at Jason Robinson’s torso now.)

The nutshell I got to on Tasty Blokes was, more or less, that just because men may sometimes be quite sexy doesn’t mean I want anything to do with them… It’s not that all men are stinky and mean – clearly, that isn’t true, although if the cap does fit… Ahem. Nor is my decision to steer clear of men, however tasty, a political one rooted in some ideal of a far-off feminist utopia, although of course my chosen way of life is definitely rooted in the feminism that gave me the eyes to see it and the courage to live it.

As I was saying, it’s not that men are all horrible creatures from the deep, or that they are politically unacceptable to me. No. What puts me off the idea of having a (sexual) relationship with a man is the way they just take over your life.

Seriously. One day you’re an independent woman doing your own thing and enjoying every minute, the next you’re worrying about whether you have time to cook the lovely meal you have in mind cos you need to have a bath and get yourself ready for Stud Man. A month later you start taking an interest in his darts league; after a year you’re wondering why you never have time to see your friends any more; five years down the line and you’re a haggard wreck because you can’t cope with the fallout from his depressive mood swings or his mid-life crisis.

Screw all that.

Of course, it may not turn out quite like that every time. But what is true of all relationships – all the ones I’ve had, anyway – is that there is never peace. There is never time to just be; you are no longer a person but only part of a unit; suddenly somebody else’s problems all become your problems too.

It is what I think about when I see ants – when you disturb a nest they all run about madly, grabbing eggs and making a run for it, busy, busy, busy. But why should an ant, a worker who will only live for a few days anyway, waste its precious time saving somebody else’s eggs? Because the ant is not an individual; the ant is part of a collective, a mindless collective, an ant unit. Is that what I want to be?

I’ve been reading Possession and although it is seriously stagnant for most of the plot, there are moments that speak to me. There is talk of a clean, white bed. Another of the main characters writes of solitude as freedom, she uses intense privacy and voluntary isolation as her means to achieve freedom and independence – but when she allows a man to penetrate her solitude, when she allows herself to be blown off course by romantic love, it all comes crashing down.

Screw all that.

Just give me a bed of my own.
It needn’t be white, or even especially clean.
Just a bed, a space, a sanctuary, a time and place to be – something that is all my own.

Advertisements

What do you reckon? An abstract masterpiece?
Or – does it go this way up?

We felted by hand and then, because it was basically in shape but not “solid” if you know what I mean, it went through the washing machine and tumble dryer to see if that would finish it – which made no difference at all! Ho hum.

I think the problem may be that we were using alpaca wool and maybe some of it was – not kinky enough? The hairy bits sticking up are all straight hairs. We have a bunch of sheep fleeces to do next and they are definitely kinky enough! 😯 – the coloured merino wool felted beautifully, it was just the alpaca that was troublesome.

Possibly the verdict should be – not bad for the first attempt?

Ariel and I went to Slimbridge today on a whim and saw ducklings hatching!

We went into the duckling room first thing to admire the ducklings and there were two eggs in the hatchery (a little warm box where it is a little drier than the egg incubator, to help the ducklings dry out once hatched, where the eggs are moved once there are signs of life). They were apricot silver calling ducks, I think. They looked very much like the one pictured, although a bit less wet and straggly!

The two eggs were both intermittently rocking a little and one had a crack where the duckling had started chipping at the shell from the inside. Duckling Woman told us that it can take many hours, even a couple of days, for an egg to hatch and that they were in the early stages, but that if we checked back later we might see a little hole in the egg rather than just a slight crack. Apparently it takes a lot of effort to break an egg with a miniscule little “egg tooth” (not a tooth, just a sort of bump really) so they often have a few little sleeps while in the process of hatching out.

When we went back an hour or so later there was a third egg which had been brought in and it already had a hole in it! We could see movement through the hole, the little beak chipping away, and feathers, and we could even see the movement of the ducking breathing. Apparently, the little air sac inside the egg gets bigger as the duckling uses up all the nutrients in the egg. When the littl’un is ready to hatch, it starts by breaking into the air sac at which point it begins to breathe! From that moment, even before it is hatched, the duckling begins to cheep. We couldn’t hear any cheeping as the 5-day-old Laysan Teal ducklings (rarest duck on earth) on the other side of the room were very noisy. But apparently they cheep to one another as they are all hatching together and this encourages them, hearing one another, and maybe it also lets mummy duck know what is going on. Anyway, it was really cool and we watched it for a while, the two original eggs had both progressed a little – the one that previously just had a little crack, had chipped almost all the way around while the other which was just rocking before had got some cracks.

A drink and a snack in the cafe later and we decided to go back and see the ducklings on our way out. All the eggs had progressed a little bit and the “middle egg” was catching up, with a visible hole although not such a big hole as the third egg. We went over to see the ducklings and just as we were looking at them and talking to Duckling Woman, someone cried out “oh look it’s come out!” and we rushed over to see the duckling hatch. It was the middle egg which had obviously got a wiggle on and overtaken its more advanced clutch-mate. It had its head out but not its feet and we saw it wiggling around and coming out – very ungainly, but just amazing to watch.

There is a little yellow sac thing that comes with it – like a placenta?? – but otherwise the egg is empty. The duckling, once unfurled, was huge compared to the egg! We got to have a look at it later on and inside the egg you could see the blood veins which had nourished the littl’un before it hatched. Duckling Woman had told us to expect that the duckling would just collapse in a heap and snooze after the mammoth effort of hatching itself, but it seemed to have plenty of energy left – maybe because the “birth” was so unexpectedly quick and easy – and spent a while just crawling around and trying to get onto its feet, rolling its fellow-eggs around and trying to cosy up to its own broken egg (return to the womb??) It was fab!

After that Duck Man came in and had a look. The third duckling – the one everyone thought would hatch first because it was ahead of the others – by now was trying desperately to push out of the egg even though it hadn’t chipped all the way around the edge yet. It was just pushing and pushing. I think (in my anthropomorphic way) that it was annoyed at having been overtaken, and encouraged by the now much louder cheeps of its clutch-mate, and possibly annoyed at the fact that the duckling was rolling the egg around as it tried to get on its feet – no wonder it wanted to get out fast!

Anyway Duck Man came in and decided to “help” by breaking the shell open a little (impatient obstetrician! episiotomy now!) I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing for the chick, and it didn’t feel right, to my wholly inexpert eyes, for him to interfere – however it had the unexpected advantage for we onlookers that we got to see the second duckling hatch as well. It came out within less than a minute of being “helped” and it too was completely amazing. It came out in one go, not head first and legs after like the first one – or legs first and head later like the cartoons…

Oh it was amazing! (Amazing!) I’ve gone on and on about this – I felt while watching it, so privileged and awed.

I kept relating it back to what I know about childbirth in terms of the length of the labour, the experience of the hatching bird / birthing child, the need for time and rest, and this probably coloured my reaction to Duck Man’s intervention. It was a thoroughly absorbing natural process and it was tainted somewhat by the intervention. But still.

What a surpisingly and wonderfully powerful experience: I was walking on air for a long time afterwards – it was a little moment of Joy.

The other day I came across a report produced by the Advertising Standards Agency recently. They have done a survey of advertising compliance in the cosmetics industry and discovered that 93% of the adverts surveyed complied with the law. That may sound good – 93%! – but then even gambling adverts have a 99% compliance rate while food and drink advertising is at 99.2% – and both of these industries are held to special higher standards with tighter controls than is the case in the general law. There are seven times more non-compliant beauty ads than either gambling or food and drink ads. Skin cream adverts were the worst offenders with a 19% breach rate.

It interested me, so I share it.

I could go on a bit – I could refer back to The Beauty Myth and body fascism and talk about how horribly the cosmetics industry perpetuates and exploits women’s socially created insecurities, trying and too often succeeding at making us all feel inadequate and unacceptable for not being supermodels, blah blah blah. I could relate it to the woman and her two male friends who thought it was OK yesterday to make loud remarks (from a safe place on the other side of a high fence) about how unacceptable my tits are, my tits which do not even try to be “acceptable” and yet which still felt humiliation at having their inadequacy pointed out so loudly, pointedly, rudely, aggressively. Poor boobs. Lovely boobs. Stuff’em.

Or maybe I could go in another direction. I could get into an ASA groove and relate an adjudication I read about today on four TV ads for a gambling website, which featured the (self-)humiliation of a number of people with dwarfism. The adjudication considered at great length to consider whether or not the ads were juvenile and therefore likely to appeal to young people and encourage them to gamble. They were also careful to refer to the characters in the adverts as “persons of restricted growth” or “persons of short stature”. Which is all very sensitive – yet why is the horribly offensive nature of the advert – which features little people participating in stunts designed to belittle them, to humiliate them, to make them look silly, to use their bodies as entertainment, as entertaining (so reminiscent of the freak shows and the dwarf tossing of days gone by) – why is this overlooked entirely? I’m not sure to be frank whether to call this kind of advert “ableist” as it may depend on whether you consider dwarfism to be a disability… but surely, whatever you call it, it isn’t acceptable in a just society?

Well I could go on and on and on, following these little avenues or maybe some other avenue or – like – whatever.

The trouble is, I’ve been deep inside a place at the centre of me, looking out, pondering, looking in, allowing slow thoughts to come clear. Digging, thinking, working things out. Planting seeds and allowing them to germinate in their own good time. Gardening starts to teach you patience, starts to make you think, a little, of the long view. This is all jumbled up because it is that time when jumbling happens, when clear thoughts emerge from soup. Have patience. The seeds are here.

What I’m saying is that – in the scheme of things – skin cream? Skin cream?

People are dying out there. Women are dying. They are under boots and behind doors and inside the Woman’s Room. We are being beaten and tortured and imprisoned and starved and raped and ignored. All over everywhere. And I put on my boots and I dig in the soil and I look forward to harvesting – what? That sneaky “we”, it isn’t “we” at all… And I can talk about this guy, or this woman, or this company, or whatever and – it all comes back to – the woman looking in a soul mirror, a woman looking in her mirror and seeing blood. But not her own. Not my own.

I have given suck, and know
How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn
As you have done to this.

That oath. It was sworn long before me, long before my babe who lies safe, safely sleeping – yet both of us have the blood on our hands, our innocent hands. The oath sworn, before either of us, nevertheless binds us both, just as surely as it binds every woman and every man on this entire planet. I am not afraid of blood, but whose blood is it? And what can I do to heal the wound it came from, to unwind the oath and save the babe? Whose babe? Not mine, for she is safe asleep, with blood on her hands too.

Oh, and I want milk. I want milk.
But whose babe will go without?
And how much of this is menstrual poetry?
And how much of it is real?

I saw this poster on the bus today. In case you can’t make it out, there is an image of a punchbag set in a dishevelled kitchen, and the caption says:”A domestic violence victim will be beaten 20 times in the next year, unless a friend stops it sooner” with a line at the bottom saying “Enough. Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline for support.”

I did think for a horrified moment that this might be a campaign sponsored by Women’s Aid and/or Refuge, who I think run the helpline. It’s not. Surprise! It’s the Home Office.

There’s another similar poster where the image and main caption are the same, but the sub-caption reads: “If your friend is being hit, she’s probably too scared to do anything to stop it. So her beatings will just go on and on. Help her take the first step, call the National Domestic Violence Helpline for support.”

(Link to the similar poster – PDF)

Just who is doing the beating here?
These women – sorry, not “women”, “domestic violence victims” – are magically getting beaten by – who?
As usual in the case of crimes against women, the perpetrator drops out of the limelight.

I do get that a campaign encouraging friends to support those who are being abused has a place. I do get that perpetrators often seek to isolate their partners, to cut them off from the friends who may help them to escape – that encouraging friends to see through what is going on, encouraging friends to take an active role in helping victims is, on the whole, a good thing.

But.

Why do we have a campaign telling a woman’s friends that they are responsible for “stopping” the violence when they can do nothing to stop the violence and can only offer support to the victim who might otherwise feel or actually be unable to escape? And why don’t we have a campaign targeted at men to just stop hitting and abusing women? And why don’t we have a campaign targeted at men to stop their friends from hitting and abusing women? And why is it always the women (and her friends) who get the spotlight, when the people who actually can stop the violence, or influence the perpetrator to stop the violence, are offstage somewhere, overlooked?

Is it that we feel these men are so far beyond the pale, so monstrously twisted, so clearly unhinged that no campaign or well-meaning friend could possibly influence them to modify their behaviour? Because that aint so. Men who beat and abuse their partners are human beings, just like us. Human beings, not monsters. Maybe when we search our souls for solutions to the problem of domestic violence we should ask ourselves fewer questions about how we can help women to escape and a great deal more about why these men commit this violence and what can be done to make them stop.

To make them stop.

I have given suck, and know
How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me

Next Page »