Tag Archives: family

Embracing the F word

The moment I decided to come out to my dad was, if nothing else, an anti-climax. “Dad, there’s something you should know…” I began with the sombre self-realisation of a 27 year old about to dump a life-shattering bombshell at her father’s door “…I think I’m a feminist.”

There was a pause.  Followed by a suppressed snort of amusement. “Um, love, we’ve known this for about 12 years.”

Oh.

…hang on, What?? Why the hell didn’t someone tell me?!

Bill Bailey: Bearded, comic legend. Also looks suspiciously like my dad.

 The list

There was a reason I had taken so long to realise what was so obvious to my parents. For most of my life I had been sold a rather narrow view of what a feminist was supposed to look like. There was a list. And my personal CV just didn’t match up:

I don’t want to burn my bra. Years ago a well-meaning relative told me that “A feminist is someone who burns her bra in public”. Being twelve, I didn’t actually own a bra so this immediately presented a barrier. By the time I did, I’d already had enough underwear-in-public shaming incidents for one lifetime.

I’m not raging with anger. I never thought I could be a feminist because I just wasn’t angry enough. And I had been told once, by a boy I fancied, that all feminists were crazy, extreme angry people with bad haircuts. I’ve only ever angrily sworn at another person twice in my entire life – once when I got plastered and spent a full hour drunkenly shouting at God, and once when I mustered up enough spite to call my brother…brace yourself folks… a “bloody boy!” Yeah, you read that right – Bloody. Boy. – words so badass they make the recipient’s toe hair shrivel up in fright (…or just cause them to laugh in my face, resulting in me running away. Crying.)

I am not invincible. I hate hate hate walking home alone late at night. I struggle with heavy boxes. I cried at the end of Terminator. Twice. I suck at team sports. Sometimes I require the help of another person when over-optimistically scaling the park wall at ten to midnight and getting stuck on top of the fence.

Occasionally I find myself wishing I were built of unscratchable, unbreakable, ‘I don’t need nobody, damn it’ stone. But then I realise that a life like that would be really boring and require almost no courage whatsoever.

I like God. Even when I’m spewing drunken swear words in his general direction, ultimately I’m still a fan. In fact, I don’t think I would ever feel comfortable enough to get drunk and swear at someone I didn’t like. If I ever swear at you, by the way, you’d better damn well take it as a bloody compliment.

I like men. There are men in this world who have inflicted horrific oppression on my gender. But there are also men out there who have championed the end of exploitation, inequality and abuse. Some of my feminist heroes are, in fact, men. If we’re going to truly stamp out violence against women it’s going to take all of us – men and women – to bring about lasting culture change. The appalling suffering directed towards my sex isn’t just something that women should grapple with. It presents an issue for humanity as a whole.

In addition, men can grow all kinds of awesome facial hair – shadow, stubble, BEARDS!! C’mon, people!

The other list

However, there is another relevant list: Sexual violence. The 55% pay gap between men and women in the finance sector. Forced marriage. Porn which depicts sex as something ‘you do to’ rather than something ‘you do with’ a woman. Female Genital Mutilation. Honour killings. The fact that many women in the public eye are judged first by their appearance, rather than their policies, achievements and character.

This list may not make me rage with hatred, but it makes me feel pretty sad.

I think a woman should never be beaten with sticks for simply uncovering her arms. It’s gutting that little girls in some families are sold off to brothels because they’re not valued as much as their brothers. I think men should seek to protect, and partner with, the women in their lives, not beat them to a pulp.

I don’t think we should settle for how things stand at the moment.

And that is why I, ladies and gents, am a bra-wearing, fence-scaling, man-lovin’ feminist.

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Things to do before you turn 30

Best birthday card of all time? Uh-huh.

What not to write in your impressionable brother’s birthday card:

  

Gareth!!

The day has arrived. Twenty-eight. Big deal. Hope you’re not freaking out.

If not, why not? Only two years left to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, run a marathon, and become a washed-up 1-hit wonder pop sensation.

Sooo… enough with the cliched ’10 things to do before you turn 30’ crap. I’ve written an ‘alternative’ list for you. Much more fun:

The Things to do before you turn 30 to prove to yourself that you’re a worthwhile human being list:

1. Fart loudly in a crowded lift
2. Hi-5 ten random strangers while shouting “Go, Power Rangers, Go!!” a little too enthusiastically
3. Dramatically QUIT your job, storming out with flare, confidence, and the office stapler
4. Grow a moustache
5. Realise that your face does not support adequate ‘tash growth and buy a fake
6. Send your big sister chocolate on a monthly basis
7. Be overcome with moustache-related inadequacy & compulsively buy random moustache-shaped objects in order to compensate for your dwindling sense of self worth

Yup, This actually happened.

Upon receiving this rather questionable advice, my brother ‘mysteriously’ came into the possession of several unconvincing moustache-like items.

I’m still waiting on the chocolate.


The day the dropkick died

If you could be any character from any film for one day, who would you choose?

For me, the answer is obvious.

Selene, the ass-kicking, werewolf-killing vampire from Underworld is my celluloid hero. In many ways I would make a crap vampire: I can’t even give blood without having a minor panic attack; I don’t like guns; and last week I got really freaked out because I accidentally squashed a beetle, so ruthless killing is probably out of the question.

But.

Selene knows how to kick ass. And she can do that triple spinny thing in the air before throwing a roundhouse to a guy’s head whilst simultaneously drop kicking yet another person’s bottom.

That used to be me. Well, sort of.

Six years ago my mum and I decided to accompany my sister to her first kick boxing class just to give her initial ‘moral support’. We got hooked. Soon we were kicking and punching our way through three hour-long classes a week.

My mum: Don't be fooled by the friendly smile. This woman could probably take you in a fight.

For the first time in my 23 years, I felt like a total badass. Embarrassingly, I still didn’t look quite as hardcore as my mum, who kicked my ass in every class. (Only because I let her, of course. I’m just, umm, really nice like that.)

My love affair with kicking lasted three wonderful years. And then disaster struck in the form of a twisted ankle, and it was all over.

Rather embarrassingly, whenever my friends ask what ended such a promising career of crime fighting, I can’t tell them that I got injured during a kickboxing competition, or because I tripped after dropkicking a mugger on the crime swamped streets of London. I have developed a nasty habit of telling the truth. Which is, unfortunately, this:

“I fell off my shoes”

Sympathetic friend: “Wow. You must have been really drunk! Or scaling an impossibly high wall in impossibly high heels. Or defending a helpless elderly lady whilst scaling an impossibly high wall in impossibly high heels… drunk.”

“No.”

Awkward Silence.

“I was sober.

At 7am.

At a networking event.

In the House of Parliament.”

In fact, I had just successfully networked with another person at the event. And I know this because we both felt comfortable enough to admit that we really needed a pee and so set off to find the loo together. And that’s what all the pro networkers usually do to seal the professional bond at networking events in parliament, right? So off we walked. And as we walked across the grand hall in our high heels, with no intervention from anyone or anything else, I somehow managed to fall off my own shoes.

So that’s it. In Underworld, it usually ends for a badass vampire because she is ripped apart whilst triple dropkicking through the air to avenge both a 400 year-old feud and the annihilation of her entire family.

For me it just ended because I needed the loo.

Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.


How not to attract a man (and other fun stories)

Life. For most it passes by with the occasional fail. For some, however, (cue: me) life is a series of slightly humiliating disasters of hilarious, yet epic proportions.

For example, take my track record on interaction with attractive men. For some reason this area of my life seems to resemble a Will Farrell movie.

Rather than moan, I thought I would share my in-depth experience with the bloggasphere in the hope that some of you may avert dating disaster by following this one simple, yet highly effective rule: don’t. copy. me.

Over the next few weeks I will share a few of my most embarrassing moments in the hope that some good can come out of the more ridiculous things that I have done have happened to me (against my will. Through no fault of my own. Whatsoever.)

Part 1: The slide of horror

I was ten years old and on my way back from a walk in the welsh mountains with my trendy parents (yes – my mum and dad were cooler than me even then. Not a good sign of things to come.)

Upon passing a small park I begged my weary parents to stop and let me play for a few minutes. In retrospect I now realise that the park was, in the words of my mum,  “a bit run down” (i.e. a total dive/ death trap) but all I saw was the possibility of five whole minutes of unbridled fun rather than the fact that this was Not A Good Idea.

On entering the play area I realised I was not alone. There was another kid sharing the space with me, and not just any kid.

A Boy.

When I was ten A Boy was a big deal. Especially one that was a little older than me. I struck my best confident walk, striding up to the rickety slide that towered above me. I climbed the stairs tentatively, making sure that the wind didn’t whip my flowery elasticised skirt over my head. I made it to the top. He was watching. Result.

Throwing myself onto the slide I began to wiz down, trying not to bang my elbows on the large iron hooks that poked upwards along the sides.

Allow me to narrate what followed:

Young girl begins descent. Girl’s skirt catches on hooks. Girl’s torso flies through centre of skirt with technical flare.

At least this is what the onlookers remember. All I can recall is starting the descent with my skirt on and finishing in my underpants, skirt still half way up the slide.

I wish I could tell you that this is an isolated incident in an otherwise uneventful life. But we both know that I would be lying.

Next week : Part 2 – The Tuscan pizza of degradation


Speechless

Silence.  Nothing.  Nada.

I’m speechless.  And unfortunately not in a cute ‘Wow, I’m so surprised’ kind of way.  Nope.  I open my mouth and out croaks a sound which has the ability to terrify animals and make small children cry.  I’m losing my voice.  Again.

It’s amazing what happens when something you’ve so heavily relied upon, yet never really appreciated, is gone.  You begin to realise how essential this previously underrated implement is to your daily living.

Or is it?

I am amazed at how the experience of loss often leads to unexpected creativity.  I was 19 when I first lost my voice.  Over a period of 12 months I would regularly be unable to speak for up to a week and was unable to sing for the entire duration of that time.  Over that year the way I expressed myself musically dramatically altered. I evolved from an awkward sheet-reading pianist to someone who would sit at a piano for hours, just making stuff up.

As human beings we have an incredible ability to adapt in order to cope with the unexpected.  I recently read that the visual cortex takes on the role of language in the brains of people who are blind from birth.  Incredible.

The last time I lost my voice was Christmas 2009.  Upset by the possibility of being unable to communicate over the festive period, I decided to employ the means of interpretive dance.   My family got into the spirit of things (we’re crazy, remember?) and everything was going well until we managed to set fire to the table wreath during our candle-lit Christmas dinner.  Go team.

So here’s my predicament.  There are thirty people coming round for lunch in less than an hour.  Interpretive dance is out of the question as I’ve already had one house burn to the ground (again, um… not my fault) and I don’t really fancy losing all of my material possessions today.

Maybe I should just punch them in the face before breaking out my zombie moves.  At least that would get me out of having to dance like a demented hamster.


Bad ass mumma

Something rather worrying occurred in my family six years ago.  My mother – my calm, middle-class, softly spoken mother – took up kicking ass as a hobby.

Growing up, my sisters had 21 facial piercings between them.  While they tattooed their ankles, I spent every Saturday playing violin in the local orchestra.  When they invested in dreadlocks, I invested in a maths degree.  When my bro developed a love for art house film-making, I developed a love for honey & marmite sandwiches.  While they had their fingers on the pulse, my finger was firmly stuck to the remote control for a Deep Space Nine episode marathon.

My parents were my one solace.  I could safely look at them and fool myself into thinking that by comparison I was vaguely cool.

Then my dad grew his hair long and my mum joined a club where people fly through the air for fun.  My sandwich-making skills hardly shine in comparison.  How very dare they.