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Friday Catch-up

Right-wing Feminism

Feminism for Tories explains why ‘right wing feminism’ might be the ‘phrase du jour’ but certainly isn’t a new thing. I’m particularly interested in the comments about not treating women as an undifferentiated interest group, and how this plays out in their thoughts on childcare.

 I may not personally agree with their political commitments, or their feelings about a feminism that is about individuals and not groups, but I’m very glad that there’s dialogue around this stuff and that feminism isn’t just about having one kind of political commitment. 

Susie Orbach on slimming clubs

Parliamentary inquiry on body image this week saw both a protest outside the House of Commons (Riots not Diets), and evidence from Susie Orbach, author of Fat is a Feminist Issue.  In this article, Orbach is quoted as saying that she believes slimming clubs lock their members into lifelong ‘straitjackets’ of unrealistic expectations about weight loss, and that our society is creating a generation ‘polluted with anxiety’ about their weight.  She also had a go at the £15 million pound weight watchers advert.

On a similar note, our household has been discussing Weight Watchers recent change of language in their adverts – you are now encouraged to ‘play’ Weight Watchers.  Pretty clever to make something sound more light hearted and fun and less like work; but then again I’m concerned about the implications of weight and body image being a game.  Anyone have any thoughts on this language choice? 

Do men or women have it harder in the writing business?

Author Jennifer Weiner wrote a blog post about her feelings the New York Times does a poor job of covering female writers, prompting Teddy Wayne to get grumpy about how it is men who have a harder time as authors. Seemingly his argument revolves around the fact that women are more inclined to read. My favourite take down of the whole thing is from John Scalzi. 

Fashion Blogging and Reality

DeeDee over at Decoding Dress asks whether fahion blogs are becoming increasingly detached from reality, which in turn begs the question of why you may (or may not) read fashion blogs: for the reality or the unreality?

Ethical Fashion

Franca of Oranges and Apples has a really helpful post (well, essay by her own confession!) about figuring out ethical fashion and how there isn’t just one way to do be ethical in your approach to clothes.

Can a man be a feminist?

In the New Statesman, Nicky Woolf covers the topic of whether men can be feminists, largely arguing that feminist acts by men are in fact patronising and patriarchal.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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I spy, with my critical eye, something beginning with Fail…

Today’s post comes from Nik, who is a community   musician, church tour-guide and active listener, and  gets confused about the combination over at anyanswersquestioned.blogspot.com

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The prompt for me to watch the first episode of the new series of Sherlock was seeing a proliferation of blog posts about it’s rewriting of the end of the episode. I managed to avoid reading any of the posts before seeing the episode, so all I noticed at the time (not having read the original) was that the ending was a bit pants, and the lead female character, who had been brilliantly written for throughout, wound up looking pretty pathetic. Which was a shame.

A friend of mine who enjoys Harry Potter (and who also gave the most rousing and convincing defence of the Twilight series I’ve ever heard, for which they get kudos) told me that they are really disappointed, not only by the fact that outing Dumbledore post-publication appears to imply that non-heterosexual relationships are somehow more “adult” than heterosexual ones, but also by the fact that Ginny Weasley’s sole raison d’etre is to marry Harry. Which, in spite of rhyming, is not cool.

Another friend (yes I have more than one) has expressed disappointment in discovering recently that a couple of their favourite authors (namely Lois McMaster Bujold and Jared Diamond) are in their own special ways more than a teensy bit racist. Damn.

I really enjoy Steven Moffat’s writing. I really like his dialogue, his pacing, most of his characters. I love what he’s done with Doctor Who, and I’m willing to sit through a certain amount of potentially dangerous over-simplification / benevolent sexism to enjoy it. I’m also willing to ignore a certain amount of homophobia from the lead characters in Sherlock because I think their relationship is well-written enough to overcome it (Korea disagrees). But is it enough simply to be aware of these problems? Given that I have very little way of addressing them (apart from getting whiney on The Internet), by continuing to enjoy and consume this material I am tacitly endorsing it, and every time I recommend it to a friend I’m potentially propagating it. Should I be giving a list of caveats every time I tell someone about something I like? Because given what a fan of Lord of the Rings I am that could seriously impact on my free time. (There’s a deeper argument I quite like here, which sheds some interesting light on a discussion I had a while ago about the rape scene in the Watchmen film.)

In some ways I feel that it’s a mark of quality – the fewer caveats I need on something the better it is. I’m currently avidly consuming Avatar: The Last Airbender (a children’s cartoon made for the American mainstream market) because it is remarkably progressive regarding gender, race, ability and so on. The number of caveats required in the first series is roughly one half (it also has a 10-tonne, six-legged, flying bison in it, which may explain much of the rest of its appeal). While that’s all very well in contemporary media, it doesn’t work for much else. Wagner was anti-semitic but still wrote great music (well, arguably great anyway). Gandhi beat his wife, but surely that doesn’t invalidate his approach to protest? And obviously we can’t discount Stephen Hawking’s contribution to physics because, according to the BBC, he spends most of the day thinking about women, who remain “a complete mystery” apparently (poor dear).

Maybe it’s about lowering expectations. Nobody’s perfect, and even friends’ opinions are bound to disappoint at some point. I guess for the moment I’ll just keep playing “spot the fail” and then getting whiney on The Internet.

Friday Catch-Up

Two of my favourite things: feminist theory on male gaze and comic book heroes. Even better when combined, as in the above send-up of some the Avengers promo material. Source, K-Bo, who likes cookies and drawing – perfect. 

 

‘I’m Feminist Enough To..’

Nice to know that as a new blog we are in good company. ‘I’m feminist enough to…’ is a blog dedicated to redefining feminism for women of colour worldwide. Can’t wait to see what comes of it.

Sexist Sherlock?

If you haven’t already read this, the debate is still going on about the sexism in the most recent series of Sherlock on the BBC.  We’ll have some thoughts here about it on Monday.

Mirror vs the wall

Great video featuring Autumn of the Beheld talking about her fast from mirrors, and the argument about whether mirrors or facebook wall enable you to be more in control of how you construct your self-image.

Equal Pay Settlement

Women who have been paid less than their male colleagues in Edinburgh City Council received a multi-million pound equal pay settlement this week.  News articles here and here.

 

Just for giggles…Obama Sings Gaga

 

Have a great weekend everyone. 

 

 

 

 

Body Image: Tolerations and Myths

  Today’s post comes from Clare, of Apocalypse Bakery.

Honestly I’m as surprised as anyone to be talking about body image. I thought it was only for the beautiful or the confident. I may not be able to contribute to the current construction of the ideals of beauty and handsomeness, but my voice and experience matters a little in trying to question and change it. Body image is, I reckon, a conversation that anyone and everyone should be able to participate in.

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As part of an exercise on resilience for my work, I was asked to fill in a list of my most basic tolerations – the things in my life that bothered and were easily fixable but that I never got round to doing. ‘Easy’ being the focus here – we’re talking putting up a picture frame, watering some plants, sending that email: they shouldn’t be things that you need to figure out an action plan for, but things that you already know how to tackle.

To my surprise, my top five tolerations were about my image and appearance, and there were another five more in the whole list.  I’d never thought that I was stressed about my appearance; frustrated yes, but not stressed, especially in comparison to other issues at work over the past year that have caused tears and sleepless nights. I guess that’s the virtue of these exercises that you have to do-so-fast-that-your-conscious-mind-can’t-edit-it-out. So, why should it be such a surprise to me that anything about image and appearance made the tolerations list?

I’d love to say that I wholeheartedly believe beauty and image to be a feminist issue that requires reflection and debate – not just about the media or political sphere, but also for where I have taken to heart and to mind the myths and contradictions about beauty and image. The issue is that whilst I do believe this, I know that I also still believe in the myth that image and appearance isn’t really that important, that it’s only for the beautiful few, or that it’s vain to do so. I still live in the dichotomy that women should make an effort with their appearance but that, at the same time, they are shallow for doing so.  In all honesty, then, it surprises me that appearance came so high on the list because I thought more ‘important’ things would be there; I thought that my worries would be about ‘significant’ or ‘deeper’ things. I was wrong, but only on one account  – that my appearance and self-image truly cannot be separated from the so-called ‘deeper’ things that I work for and concern myself with. How do I know this? Because they made the list: these things affect – at a more than superficial level – my ability to feel that I am exercising control over my life, the stress I feel when I do not, and my overall ability to be resilient.

Realising that the session on tolerances was about power and control, what really surprised me about putting these things about my appearance on the list was that I saw them to be changeable when I treated them as insurmountable. Embarrassingly, I’m talking about really simple forms of change here – things like hair and glasses when I’m very well aware of the existence and indeed location of hairdressers and opticians.  Let me give you a really basic example about, of all things, my ear (probably because it’s easier to start talking about ears rather than, you know, bellies, thighs and other jiggly bits when you are new to writing about body image.)

I have a wonky ear. Something went wrong when I was about five, resulting in me having to have half of my left earlobe lopped off.  Surgically, I mean – not some kind of playground punishment for breaking a toy during circle time or anything sinister like that – no, no it was all above-board stuff. And it’s not like I have a cauliflower ear. It’s very neat – I just have a missing earlobe and as such, have always said that I can’t wear earrings despite thinking that they are pretty and would make me feel more stylish. (Which is probably a lot to do with dangly earrings (as opposed to piercings being coded as feminine-decorative in our culture.) The thing is, it’s not like I haven’t been aware of the existence of clip-on earrings, or the possibility of trying to get in pierced in a different way, especially as every single person I have moaned to has helpfully suggested such.

The same is true of other image-based tolerations: I know that other options are available than the status quo. So why, with such easy steps available, do I end up tolerating and moaning about bad hair, wonky glasses and hateful clothes for months, years, and even two decades? Why do I bar myself from steps that I know would make me feel more in control of my image, especially when I know precisely what those steps are?

I was about to say that it is because I’m lazy, but that’s not strictly true, or at least not in the ‘not bothered’ way. It’s that I’m lazy about challenging the image I have believed about myself. I’d rather stay safe with my tolerations because it is easier to give in to those beliefs than have to think for myself and be responsible for my own appearance and what I have believed about it. Thinking about it now, the state of my left earlobe has always been an excuse rather than a reason, an excuse not to have a try and take charge of an aspect of my own image.  The same goes for not bothering to find a hairdresser or optician, or wearing skirts or red lipstick or colours or having the right to wear more damn eyeliner that I really ‘should.’ It’s always been a good excuse to stick with the beliefs about ‘not being able to because I have big thighs/wonky ears/bad skin’ or ‘not being worth it’ and to deny taking charge of my appearance and looking as I wish to, rather than to risk the possibility of being mocked or accused vain/frumpy for doing so.

What has surprised me most about these two sets of myths is that they are not mine. True enough, I have taken them to heart and re-imposed them on myself, but I doubt that they originate with any of my own feelings about myself. I’ve taken a lot of flack from people in my time, but also praise, so I think this has probably lead me to believing in a skewed picture of myself.  I end up hiding my believed flaws and flaunting my believed assets based on a composite of others’ gaze. I hear their voices, and those of popular media, commenting on my appearance when I look at or even think about myself, and I have not had the strength or resolve to discover me for myself, to see myself through my own eyes.  I’m not saying that we can extract ourselves, or even how we see ourselves, from our relationships with others and with culture, but I do think that it is important to challenge what views of ourselves we have inherited from others whether that is about our image and our bodies or about our brains, spirits and competence.

I don’t believe that this will come through haircuts and wardrobe makeovers, through wearing earrings or accepting my bereft lobes. I don’t believe it will come through focusing on body parts or appearance either. After all, I doubt that it’s my lobes, my face, my belly or my whole body that are the problems I’ve been tolerating at all; what I’ve tolerated is what I believe about myself – my mind and my body – to be capable of, and how I’ve treated myself as such.

 

 

What about you? Where do you want to start challenging the myths you have believed about yourself? What’s on your tolerations list? 

*images via the feisty female

Get up, get going, take control.

I’ve never really made resolutions before. Usually I can’t think of anything that feels sincere, that I would actually keep to for any length of time. I like to think that I have willpower, but I can only really apply it to something that seems worthwhile to me, and I don’t see the point of declaiming “I will eat nothing but salad this year!” when I know that’s never going to happen.

But this year is different. I know that no matter what happens this year, by the end of it so much will have changed. So though I have no idea where I’ll be living or what I’ll be doing, I want to make the most of it.

My resolution is inspired a quote from one of my favourite authors:

“If you trust in yourself…

and believe in your dreams…

and follow your star…

you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”

Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

So that’s it really. Some might see this as a little depressing, but I think it’s a reminder to me that if I stopped sitting around daydreaming all day, I might actually be able get something done.  And if there’s something that makes me feel better in life, it’s a sense of achievement.

In 2012 I will get up, get going and take control of my life.

Or at least have a bloody good go at it.

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Frances lives in Edinburgh, and loves food, fashion, fire engineering and other things starting with ‘f’. 

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to gingerbread feminists.

This is going to be a collective blog, written by a number of fascinating and lovely people who have smart, funny and generally interesting things to say about a number of topics. Some identify as feminist, some don’t; the point is that we are all committed to conversation that deepens our understanding and compassion of others and of ourselves.

We hope to be covering baking and food; fashion and beauty; eduction;  environment; arts and crafts; culture and media; and gender and self-image! Phew! What a mash-up of topics!

I believe that this mash-up is what brings brilliance. People are complex, beautiful and multi-faceted and cannot be boiled down to a single set of labels or interests. Many of the topics above benefit from a range of perspectives and voices, precisely because they do not come as a ‘one-size-fits-all’, but are made up of numerous concepts, actions and passions.

The blog will get going properly in the New Year, and who knows what will happen when it does!  Until then, enjoy browsing the blogs that we love.