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Archive for August, 2011

Feminism for dummies

I’m quite new to feminism. If I’m honest, I used to think feminists were a bit nutty – women who fought imagined injustices for fighting’s sake, who quite enjoyed a soap-box and a chance to man-bash. Yet as I make my way through the world, I am getting steadily more angry about the multiple and varied ways in which I see women degraded, derided, and just plain  discriminated against. This does not mean that there aren’t other injustices, or that I hate men (trust me, I don’t), but that I am constantly astounded at how much we as a society under-value our women. 

Take this article on the BBC website today. Women at management level are paid on average £10,000 less than their male counterparts.  That’s a staggering amount, and yet it’s something I see happening regularly. Equality legislation sets out provision that no-one should suffer direct or indirect discrimination due to age, disabilities, gender reassignment, marital status, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation. But as anyone who has ever fit into one – or more – of these categories will tell you, there are a thousand ways to discriminate without saying explicitly “I am not providing you this service because of X”, or “You are not receiving a pay-rise due to Y”. No-one (surely) is that foolish.

I won’t go into my own specific experiences in my working environment, as you never know who is listening! – but suffice to say even in a supportive environment with good line-management, I have felt on several occasions penalised for being a woman of reproductive age. When was a man last asked if their difficult day was down to “hormones, dear?” I know for a fact that my wage is less than that of comparative male staff, but if I were ever to challenge it, I would encounter stories of higher performance, extra experience, extenuating circumstances. And who knows?- maybe that’s true. But given the article – and anecdotal evidence of many of my friends and acquaintances – I doubt it.

And therein lies the rub. If it were straightforward to identify inequality, then it is likely there would be far less of it. And this is why we should be angry about it, be outraged at stories like this. As a feminist, I am not one of *those women*. I am just a woman.

Get angry.

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In Victorian times, Glaswegian families would travel down the river to towns on the Firth of Clyde for their summer holidays. Today my sister, TWM and I took our own mini-break down the coast in the form of a day-trip to Dunoon.

We queued for a ferry:

Lynn  was excited,

TWM? Not so much.

We  managed to be at the front of the ferry.

TWM found this exciting, though not as much as the man wearing a hat. Discussion round the man wearing the hat occupied much of the 20-minute crossing.

We met up with friends who are on holiday from London. They are excitedly awaiting a much-longed-for double arrival at the end of the year and I couldn’t be happier for them. They are good peoples for whom this is a long time coming. Judging by the impression made on TWM, J will be a fabulous dad!

We decided to drive back to Glasgow the long way round, rather than taking the ferry back – the scenery is just gorgeous, although obscured by typical Scottish weather at times. However we were given extra time to admire one part of the route –

All in, twas a lovely day. I am always astounded by the diversity and the beauty of my country, and in areas so close to where I live. Things to be grateful for #26,954.

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To seek to explain

Ed Miliband said today that “to seek to explain is not to seek to excuse”. This is more or less what I was getting at in my post earlier this week. There can be no excusing the criminal behaviour, the rioting, the looting, and the terror inflicted in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and several other cities this week. I do not for a second think that those walking out of shops with expensive brand-name trainers, large TVs, iPads, and mobile phones were making a valid political statement or directly expressing their anger about the government cuts.

However. Those who see their future as hopeful and positive do not tend to engage in the kind of destruction and violence we saw.

Saying “well, I grew up poor / without expensive trainers / on a council estate and I never…” is obtuse, and fails to address the wider issue. There have always been ‘bad apples’ – indeed, mass civil disobedience is not new:

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”
Plato, 4th Century BC

So the problem is nothing new, and almost certainly nothing to do with our society’s move away from smacking as a generally accepted form of punishment, or any other imagined failing of our ‘soft’ parenting. What we need to explore is how we tackle the causes of the discontent. I don’t have the answers, by the way – and I don’t trust anyone who says they have a straightforward five-point plan to tackle it.

I do know I want to be part of the debate, and part of the solution. That seems to me an awful lot more useful than devising elaborate punishments and eye-for-an-eye retributions – which will do more to punish the children and families of the rioters than anything else.

“those who feel they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by wanton violence” – these are the lost of our society. They are not excused, but they must be understood.

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Flapjacks

Today was wet, in a way that only Glasgow can be. After seeing a friend’s beautiful new house early afternoon there seemed to be a long time to fill before Daddy came home, so TWM and I got our bake on again. Just simple flapjacks this time, but twas fun 🙂

We had to revisit the ‘hot’ concept a few times. I figure it’s a good lesson for life.

 

They were pretty good!

Stephen is currently being a star and painting woodwork in the kitchen – phase 296 of trying to get the house ready for sale. We were aiming for having it on the market by the end of August, although it looks like it might be September the rate we’re going. Chances of being in a new house by Christmas look ever more remote!

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London’s burning

Do you ever feel like you are watching history?

I’m watching BBC News channel (still can’t bring myself to watch Sky News, too hysterical), and seeing astounding scenes of buildings burning out of control. Scenes of shops being looted, and police attacked. It’s terrifying, and breathtaking in terms of the speed the violence and disruption has spread.

It’d be easy to name-call and pigeon-hole the perpetrators. Of course the violence is utterly unwarranted, of course the destruction is devastating. It must be terrifying for both police and for those living nearby the flashpoints. I can’t help but look at it sideways, though, and wonder why people are so disconnected from their communities and their culture that these riots and such destruction seem like an appropriate response.

In many areas of London, almost one in four of working age are unemployed. Young men, particularly young black men, are more likely to be unemployed than any other group. There is no immediate prospect for many of them of that situation changing. Participating in mass action such as we are seeing tonight, using social media as a principal method of communication, may be giving many a sense of purpose and belonging they haven’t experienced for years, if ever. And yet these are the areas which are experiencing, proportionally, the worst cuts in government spending. For the rioters, their actions are an expression of discontent and futility. Mindless thugs they may be – but that’s just the tip of a very large iceberg. Writing them off does nothing to solve the problem.

As a country we are failing our youth, failing our minorities – and tonight we are seeing the results.

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Good days

I have found so far, as a parent, that there are good days and bad days.  Of course, it should all be sweetness, sunbeams  and healthy snacks – but we all know that’s not the case. There are days when I am tired and grumpy, and days when TWM gets the worst of me, not the best which he deserves. I constantly feel guilt – guilt because I work, guilt because we can’t afford to live in a big house with a safe enclosed garden, guilt that we don’t seem able to give him a sibling, guilt that I don’t always have the patience to spend endless hours on the floor putting puzzles together and make-believing submarine stories over and over.

And then some days are good days. Days like today. My day off, the day it’s just me and him. This morning we went swimming (and he actually enjoyed it, rather than clinging on with a bruise-leaving pincer grip as if I might actually drop him in the liquid chlorine). This afternoon we baked. We talked, and laughed, and made a mess.

I know all of that is just a normal day for many wonder-mums. For me, though, it was a reminder that, just perhaps, I am not breaking him.

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Getting my knit on

I have several projects on the go just now (Works In Progress), but I seem to have lost my knitting mojo. Any ideas where I could find it again?

I have beautiful yarn-

And I have the patterns ready. I have time; I waste  that on the internetz at night. I have no reason not to be useful with my hands and my time. I’ve been good in the recent past, I just need to get back into it again. Ask me in a few days how I’m doing, will you?

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