Reluctant feminism

Someone recently asked me if I identified as a feminist. “Nooooo!” I said, waving them off with a casual hand gesture and a giggle. “I wouldn’t say I was a ‘FEMINIST!’”

And I’m not alone here. The results of a recent survey showed that only 29% of American women and 42% of British women identify as feminists. So most of us are in agreement that we’re not…right?

I was promptly introduced to the world of feminist non-fiction – and just in time too. In the words of the very smart, funny and talented (and happily married, btw) Caitlin Moran in her book, ‘How to be a Woman’:

“What do you think feminism IS ladies? What part of ‘liberation of women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF SURVEY?”

I realised that, to live as a functioning modern woman who expects equality, to go off to work and demand as many opportunities as any man, to own the right to slope off to the co-op for fags without shoehorning myself into a corset and summoning a chaperone, I HAD to be a feminist. It is an intrinsic part of living in the culture that has become second nature to myself and most people I know.

So now I realise that I am, in fact, a feminist (29 years after I was actually born as one – better late than never I suppose) there are a lot of things I’m seeing differently. Things that, once they’re seen, really can’t be unseen.

Things like horrific supermarket adverts that joshingly show mums being run ragged whilst dads piss around with water pistols or computer games. People, both male and female, saying things like, “That’s just how it is”, when you apologetically point out something outrageously sexist. And men. I’m seeing men differently. Yes, sorry guys – most of this is going to be about you from here on in. But the good news is, if you also believe in equality for women – YOU’RE A FEMINIST TOO! Congratulations!

We ladies shy away from calling ourselves “feminists”, basically because we want to avoid being tagged as bra-burning, hemp-sack wearing lesbians. And by the by, I know heaps of gorgeous, smart and talented lesbians, who – shock revelation – actually wear clothes other than hemp sacks. They even manage to put on a bra in the morning to go about their daily business. Because guess what boys – and I don’t expect a man who has never had to run for a bus with his boobs jiggling about to understand – bras are not for you; THEY’RE FOR US!

And it is this point that, even in our modern society, still doesn’t quite seem to be getting across. We women all think we don’t belong to men. And the men know they don’t own us. But deep down, in the darkest depths of their subconscious, do they all REALLY know that?

Before I go any further, I want to point out that I know a lot of clever, lovely, beautiful, respectful and brilliant men. I’ve also met plenty of outrageously atrocious women in my time. And I’m not a bra-burning, hemp-sack wearing lesbian, although sometimes I wish I was.

This blog is about one tiny slice of one side of one story. There are a million slices of a million stories out there, but I only get a certain amount of free storage space on my blog, so this is the slice you’re getting today.

Maybe I’m just getting old…but some of the behaviour I’ve been witnessing from men of late seems to have hit a new low. And really, this isn’t actually about men and women at all – this is about humans, treating other humans with an ounce of decency.

A (smart, gorgeous and completely non-fat) friend of mine had one of these vile pieces of pond scum burst into her life for a flash moment last night,  throwing himself like a steam train into the path of her celebratory night out by proclaiming she was a “fat bitch”. Apparently, she had offered him some chips.

Raise your hand if you’ve been there. It’s happened to me plenty of times. I’m overweight.  But I’m not a monster. I’m not expecting a pitch from Channel 4 anytime soon, asking me to partake in a hour long Bodyshock special, documenting how, “Britain’s fattest single pre-30 year old still dances to Beyonce in underwear” or similar.

But overweight or not, the fact is, I am fully, completely and acutely aware of my own body. And boys - you can take that as a given for every woman on this planet you have ever, or will ever meet in this lifetime or the next. You might think it’s helpful to point out our problems with your constructive criticism, but there’s really no need. We’ve got this.

The slight consolation I take is the realisation that actually being overweight is a mere coincidence, as these men throw out random insults from their repertoire to women of all shapes and sizes, like some kind of vile lucky dip. What’s it to be tonight, ladies? “Fat bitch”, “stupid cow”, “ugly fucker” or “slut”? Take your pick, there’s plenty more where that came from.

But whatever. We’ve heard it all before, right? Happens all the time. That’s just how it is.

Ermm nope. I’m not sure at what point our culture dive-bombed into this horrific parallel dimension where it became completely acceptable to have a couple of drinks and then be absolute cocks to each other, but let’s all just stop for a second and realise – THIS IS NOT OK! We are the most intelligent creatures on earth, the top of the food chain, living in one of the world’s most developed and privileged lands and the best we can do is spend our weekends running around hollering, “Fat bitch!”, at each other?

If anyone reading this – and I’m talking to guys and girls here - ever has the time or inclination to throw random insults around, just think of this: that person’s mum might literally have died today. You have absolutely no idea what is going on in that life. And you have zero right to enter that life uninvited.

Perhaps the most perplexing part of this culture we seem to have got ourselves tangled up in is the calibre of the men doing the insulting. They’re not all lookers you know. I’m not sure which beauty god resigned and put the spotty guy from the taxi queue outside Wetherspoons in charge, but they really need to take a look at their recruitment policy.

And even away from the shitshow of the Saturday night pub scene, it seems things aren’t quite adding up for a lot of women at all stages in the dating cycle anymore. As I steadily trundle down the slope to thirty, I hear of a new long term relationship or marriage break-up on almost a weekly basis. Everyone has their own reasons, but the general thing I’ve been hearing a lot is that they’re just not happy anymore as a couple. Nothing went earth-shatteringly wrong. But, at the same time, nothing went earth-shatteringly right.

This conversation raises a lot of pity smiles and understanding nods and declarations of “aw, he’s a ‘good guy’”. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I go around awarding the accolade of “good guy” to basically any man who has managed to avoid beating his partner or shagging her sister.

But really, does that not just make him a “guy”? Not doing bad things doesn’t automatically make you good. We women tend to have a habit of placing the title of “good guy” on men we don’t really know that well, just because they’re fulfilling the most basic requirements expected of normal human beings.

Men behaving in ways they damn well should be does not constitute a congratulations. This is the bare minimum; the plain beef burger. We really need to start seeing a bit of cheese and bacon on there before we go handing out awards.

So what’s the general consensus here ladies? Are the split relationships, the random insults and the ogling eyes in bars our fault because we’ve allowed that behaviour and rewarded mediocrity?

I hear a lot of women dissecting the problems of troubled relationships, saying things like: “Well he’s acted that way because she’s allowed it for so long.”

No. It’s most likely he’s acted that way because he’s a selfish, self-indulgent prick. This is a grown man. He’s been to school. He has a job. He has interacted successfully with humans in the past. He knows how to act correctly. And he’s chosen not to.

This isn’t about woman allowing men to act in a certain way. This is about women allowing themselves to act in a certain way. Women allowing themselves to accept below-par behaviour and brush it under the carpet. Women allowing themselves to make excuses for the men in their lives who have not treated them correctly because they just don’t bloody feel like it. Women who are standing in bars, allowing themselves to be hit on and offended simultaneously by whoever feels like pushing themselves into their lives, and not speaking up and saying, “are you actually KIDDING me?!”

Girls – your choices are your own. And your bad choices are your fault. But the bad behaviour of men, is most definitely, their fault.

Demand the respect you deserve. And dish out that same respect to people who deserve it. Like it or not, we are all feminists now. The next time a man makes you feel uncomfortable, ask him calmly what the hell he thinks he’s doing. Ask him why on earth he thinks that’s ok. You’ll probably get called a bitch. But that’s fine, you can handle it. Because the next time he wants to shout a random insult at a woman who is simply going about her life, he might just think twice. And that, my fabulous female friends, is how we’ll slowly change the world. 

A prince is born

So, a new prince is born! Yeh, ok…so what, right? 

Well…for starters, this is a child. The next time one of your multiple Facebook friends (who you’re not in the slightest bit interested in by the way) pops one out, why not just stick “so what?” on their newsfeed? Because it’s not British, that’s why. So stop that right now.

Royal baby

Yes, this child has been born into a world of unending privilege. A world that, as the Twitterati so scathingly point out, is light years away from the worlds of the 1 in 3 children in the UK who are living in poverty as we speak. But I also was not born into a world of hardship. Were you? Maybe, maybe not. But the fact is, none of us can be blamed for what we are brought into.

Whatever degree of lucky the star under which you were born happened to be, none of us can relate to the life this child is about to embark on. It’s not this child’s fault that approximately one third of his birthday buddies will be born into poverty. Just like it’s none of our faults, right? The difference is, this young man will one day have the clout to change things. And people who have the power to change things, tend to be blamed for...well, not changing them. Us? Oh we’re just normal. We’re just part of the machine. It’s not our fault…right?

This child will attend the best schools; he will holiday in exotic locations, receive the finest education and become at ease with palatial surroundings. And in payment for these privileges, he will be scrutinised from this day forward. When you were three years old and your mum told you off for eating a bogey, no one else had to see it. Children launch themselves into the world, warts and all, with all their weird and wonderful little habits and personalities on full display to whoever is watching.

Lucky for us, no one was watching.

But if this kid decides to chew on a stray bogey at 3pm on some idle Thursday, it may just be in front of the whole world, this memory becoming immortalised for us all to see and remember and point and laugh at when he’s old and making “bad decisions.” Before this child is old enough to learn how he must act for the rest of time – and make no mistake, this is a binding lifetime contract – he is out there doing his thing and being scrutinised before he even knows how to chew on a rusk.

There’s no covering up those weird habits you develop as a kid. Me? I used to name my colouring pencils then walk them around as if they were little people. It wasn't overly imaginative – I'm pretty sure they were called things like “greeny” and “yellowy” – but whatever, I had no brothers or sisters until I was 11 and so, nobody to bounce prospective pencil names against. 

Another friend of mine recently told me she would bully her family into watching home-made musicals and run around after the teachers in the playground because the other kids didn't “get her”. Unsurprising as she sometimes chose to speak only in Old English. Maybe if Autism had “existed” in the ‘80s, we’d both have been tested. But instead, we were pinned as “artistic”, conditioned to cover up our strange ways and allowed to get on with our lives as almost functioning adults. Luckily, everyone was too busy trying to cover up their own weird stuff to notice ours. But this kid? We’ll all notice his weird stuff.

Perhaps the Royal Family is a ridiculous British tradition that doesn't translate into modern life. But there’s a ton of other stuff that I personally think of as ridiculously British and I wouldn't give up for anything. Will this child ever get to have a cuppa, a microwave burger and a bourbon cream round a mate’s house after going to the inflatables at the swimming baths? Will he be out obsessively knocking a tennis ball around the street for two weeks every June, before retiring the racket to the back of the garage for another lonely 11 months? Will he spend many happy Christmases watching someone getting blown up in the Eastenders special, whilst lying on the rug because all the older (and therefore higher in the pecking order) family members have flaked out on the sofas in paper hats, tentatively holding a sherry? Will he have to eat dinner on special occasions whilst perched on a garden chair or piano stool for the same hierarchical reasons? I bet he won’t. And that’s a shame.

Yes this child is born into a life of privilege. But the price he must pay is high. His life is not his own. There are kids on the other side of the coin who, it might be said, have no chance. But some of them will slip through the Dangerous Minds net. Not enough, of course. But some. For these children, we hold onto the hope that you never know what can happen. You never know what’s around the corner.

But this child’s life is mapped. And the phrase “anything can happen” suddenly doesn't seem like such good news for a young prince waiting in the wings of a restless country. I’d imagine “The Unknown” raises all sorts of terrifying prospects when you’re set to take the helm of the United Kingdom in the middle to later part of the first century of this new millennium. But the show must go on.

This baby's path is written. His childhood is the only time he gets to be even vaguely carefree. I hope the world gives him his chance.

The stress of relaxing

In my continued attempts to keep up the impression I lead a functional adult life, I am beginning to worry about my health, as we are obliged to do once we reach a certain age. It seems to be a grown up thing to do, kind of like purchasing breakdown cover, having alcohol in the house that isn't necessarily for immediate consumption and spending significant amounts of money on stuff like couches rather than stuff like fortnights in Vegas. 

I don’t tend to be very good at these kinds of things (which I believe are known as "sensible choices") and I would happily sit on a cardboard box for the rest of time in return for two weeks in Vegas. I'm always the person who finds themselves in the panic of another nameless crisis, shooting some holier-than-thou individual a frenzied, infuriated look in reply to unhelpful questions like, "Don’t you have insurance?" and, "Didn't you back-up?". But worrying about a non-existent health issue fabricated from paranoia and creativity, then self-diagnosing a spectrum of diseases using Google? Step aside, I've got this. 

The Dung Beetle is on Facebook!

Go onnnn...gies a like on the Facebook! Lots of new blogs and pictures coming up, or I can just keep drawing cartoons of beetles pushing balls of shit...whatever.

That's it....

Nearly there...

There it is.

Public transport - it's a jungle out there...

"If you wanna push th' bell, get oan the 28" was the driver's warning bark to a man who had happily pushed the bell to get off buses all his life in Glasgow, but on this day, on a new bus route, found himself an outsider in his home city.

I don't know you...but I...HATE you...

We must all realise - for the sake of our own health and safety - how much the politics and etiquette of a public transport system varies from place to place.

With the Edinburgh Festival starting soon and the city limits strained to bursting point with tourists and travellers, it's important to be aware that if you are new to a city, do not - under any circumstances - try and assert yourself with some kind of power when it comes to their transport system. You will not be thanked for your efforts.

Terri Marie - 'Something Simple' - Album review

Firsty I must apologise for the recent Dung Beetle radio silence. I can't say for certain that I was carted off to an Apple-shaped brain altering compound in the desert, because I just cannot be sure. And they definitely would have flashed the little 'Men in Black' memory thingy at me so I wouldn't even know if I had been. But I suspect that is probably exactly where I've been.

Anyway, we'll chew that fat some other time... this post is focused on one thing and one thing only - and that is the brilliant first album from the awesome talent that is Terri Marie.

Continued nightmares of a technical reluctant - a grapple with Apple

I’m going to expand on a previous blog about my fear of the Twitterati by talking a bit more about my position on Apple.

Every time we welcome a new revision of the iSomething into the world, we bid farewell to the rationality of so many loved ones who have, yet again, morphed into senseless maniacs at the prospect of a new toy from Apple. Do people realise that the amount of money they are spending on a singular product could get them an all-inclusive holiday in the sun? Are they aware that ‘all-inclusive’ means booze is included? 

Something’s not right. The grip Apple has over the world is starting to make me feel a little uncomfortable.

Don't feed the birds - my Twitter nightmares

Inside my head, I was standing in an 80's lunch hall, tray in hand, looking over a sea of strangers who were all chatting and laughing together. Even some of the kids I'd seen before were somehow different now, surrounded by others who seemed to know them so well, hanging off their every word. There weren't any seats free...I didn't understand how to join in. Defeated, I turned and left, hanging my head and clenching my fists, vowing that this would be the last time I ate alone, hidden from the world in a toilet cubicle.