Suffering

March 8, 2016

In honour of International Women’s day (or as they call in here in Switzerland, International day of struggle for women), these are my musings about the movie Suffragette. There are going to be spoilers in here.

For those who don’t know, Suffragette covers parts of Britain’s history of women fighting for the vote. I say ‘parts’ of the history because, as many others have correctly pointed out, the story completely erases black women from the story. There is not a person of colour in the entire movie as far as I can remember.

From the little I know about the historical details, the global suffrage movement was complicated and looked very different around the world. In Aotearoa New Zealand all women (white and indigenous) were the first to get to vote in 1893. In Britain it was first only women over 30 in 1918. In the USA the suffragists were segregationist and closed ranks against black women in order to further their cause. So it is very important to point out that while this movie was a win because it shows (part of) the story of struggle, it was really just a win for white women. And in my opinion, that is just not good enough.

There is no good reason that I can think of that the movie couldn’t have included some important truths about how black women were deliberately excluded from the suffrage movement. The film would have been far richer and more honest if it had shown what really happened, instead of ignoring an important part of history. And it’s important that this part of history is not erased. When my daughters are old enough to watch this film, I shouldn’t have to sit them down first to explain what was missing.

The struggle for equality is real. The struggle was different for different women then and it still is different for us today. Let us please start acknowledging that more.

To be honest, I found the film horrfying to watch. I was in tears for at least half of it right from the early minutes. Don’t get me wrong, the film was well made but it was incredibly suspenseful. I use the word horrifying, not because of the violence, although yes, there was violence. Women were beaten by police during peaceful protests and gatherings.

In general there was a fair amount of violence in the film, but it wasn’t gratuitous. It was factual, unenhanced, yet slumbering underneath the surface all the time, creating suspense. The element of risk and danger was ominipresent and frankly incredibly draining and stressful to hold in your awareness all the time. I kept wondering if the next scene was going to be a husband beating his wife, or the boss abusing his underage workers. In one scene the police round up the women who had been listening to a leader speak and instead of taking them to jail, he just says: “let their husbands deal with them.”

I use the word horrfying because the outrage, the anger was just was so relatable. I could tap straight in to personal memories of experiences and people that resonated with those in the film. If you have ever been to protest an injustice or been close friends with someone who gives so much of themselves to a cause, then you too will be deeply moved by this film.

The anger bubbles up so easily. I am of course so lucky to live in a time and place where I have the rights that so many women fought for me to have. Yet my anger is fuelled by the knowledge that so many women are still fighting for rights all over the world. That we are still fighting for the world to take our needs seriously and to treat women and our concerns as equally important as those of men.

As the film drew to a close, a women in the audience yelled out the date of the next women’s march to commemorate what they call ‘international women’s day of struggle’.  But the word for struggle in German is ‘kampf’ which also means to fight. To me, this is very fitting. According to Gerda Lehrner, one of the founders of the field of women’s history, women organised and fought for over 70 years to get the right vote. Here in Switzerland it took until 1971-ish until women could vote on a federal level. That was like, yesterday, in the scheme of things. Saudi Arabian women got to vote for the first time last year, for crying out loud.

So let us keep fighting. And let us keep supporting and caring for each other, especially across our differences. One of the elements in the film I enjoyed the most, was this commeraderie, this bond between sisters that was forged. The way they looked after each other is something I have only ever seen from women. But I am by no means letting men off the hook either. (Note to men: you need to step up and be a visible part of making the world a better place).

There is so much more to say, but I will end with saying that our battles are not yet over. This film may have been a ‘historical period drama’, but there is still work to be done.

 

 

 

Advertisements

The dangers of metaphor

(I wrote this ages ago for Muse Feminist Magazine that has sadly come to an end, so I thought I would publish it here)

You’ve probably heard this phrase before; ‘love will conquer all’. How about this one; ‘love will set you free’? Ever heard these; ‘The power of love’, ‘All you need is love’, ‘How deep is your love’, ‘I believe in a thing called love’ or ‘is your love strong enough’? We frequently hear these messages of how powerful love is, how it can move mountains, save people and that, basically, it’s what the world needs now., NOW.

Love, we are led to believe is all you need in a relationship. Love is often prioritized over loyalty, reason, financial security and friendship. Movies taught us that. But not any love will do. It has to mad, deep, crazy, careless love. Love so strong we just can’t help ourselves, we have to follow our hearts and forsake logic and law in its pursuit. Or so Hollywood would have us believe.

We’ve become so enamored in these unrealistic stories of love and the apparent miracles that it can perform, that we are in danger of confusing Hollywood for real life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who subconsciously comparing my life to Hollywood to the point where I wonder what my soundtrack would be. (Like right now, sitting here, perhaps some Lily Allen?) Books and films lean heavily on metaphors to tell stories, which are entertaining sure, but also unrealistic and unachievable. Now I like to be entertained like most of you probably do as well. I enjoy suspending my belief in reality on a regular basis. Good old escapism, right?

Wrong.

I believe that we are being fed a huge amount of metaphor which dangerously links abusive behaviour to psychological ‘hurdles’, which are to be ‘overcome’ by love. I’ll illustrate with the following example.

I recently dug out my old copy of Phantom of the Opera (1986) and started listening to it again. It brought back many memories of being a kid, listening to my parent’s tapes and reading the full lyrics of the show. When I was 17, I was lucky enough to see the production on Broadway. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. But as I was re-listening to it recently with my own kids, a sense of discomfort settled in my belly. I heard it through different ears. This classic tale, full of metaphor, revealed itself for what it really is; a sinister tale of control and abuse.*

The story is based on the idea that the Phantom has multiple layers to his personality. First, his mask functions as his public face representing the creative genius with a debonair personality. The second layer is his private face, a monster symbolised by his disfiguration, who is capable of horrific acts. The third layer is the internal face, the young boy, the vulnerable child who is lost and alone.

In the story, Christine removes the mask to reveal the ‘monster’ and later she kisses him, symbolically accepting him, despite all the horror, recognising the vulnerable boy underneath the scarred face. The phantom is moved and releases her. Despite the fact that the phantom is a murderer, abusive, controlling, jealous and violent, she ‘accepts him’ which then ultimately ‘saves’ him.

I recall one of my own experiences, a very jealous boyfriend, who got so very angry when I, wait for it, sat next to other boys. He would drive dangerously, putting himself at risk to frighten me. He would take back and destroy gifts he had given me. And I thought this was just because he loved me so much. And I would feel guilty, that it was my fault for him losing his control. Maybe if I accepted this ‘monster’ the vulnerable boy underneath would feel loved and safe and would prevail.

So you seek folks, as long as we love our monsters enough, we can set them free. But this creepy outcome is not how things go in real life. In real life, when women try to leave their abusers, they are more at risk. In real life, when men exhibit such controlling behaviour no amount of ‘accepting them’ and ‘loving them’ will change things.

My experiences were very mild compared to some. I’m still here to tell the tale.

Unfortunately, so very many women are not.

 

* I’m sure this comes as no surprise to most of you but (surprisingly) it surprised me. I had just absorbed this story and it had become ‘background’. Suddenly listening to it fresh was actually quite chilling.

 

A rotten card indeed

A rotten card indeed

Oh har har. So fucking funny right?

Because only women like Maroon 5 right?

And so if you like Maroon 5, you must be a woman right? *

Because women don’t like metal right?

And being a woman is just so awful that calling a man “a woman” is apparently a terrible insult, right?

Is that why it’s funny?

Or is it because liking Maroon 5 must mean you have your period, because of all those womanly emotions and stuff….?

I fail to see why insulting people by calling them ‘female’.. is funny. I am a woman. So are 50+% of the population. I am not embarrassed or ashamed to be a woman. So stop treating my gender like an insult.

C’mon folks. Think before you post stupid shit like this.

 

* Newsflash, not all women use or need tampons. Not all women menstruate. Imagine that. Diversity of biology within our gender.

 

Last week my daughters and I changed the flat tyre on my car on the way to school. We didn’t need any assistance.

And I did it in heels.

When I say that the girls helped me, I’m not being generous in that enthusiastic parenting kinda way. They actually helped, amidst much giggling. They helped loosen and unscrew the lug nuts (lug nuts!), pull off the flat, pull the doughnut (doughnut!) out of the car and lower the car with the jack.

Their teachers at school were very impressed and the girls were very proud of their greasy hands.

Many women I know are perfectly capable of changing a tyre, but I also know a few that don’t know how. The bottom line is that if you drive, you should be able to change a tyre. And jump start your battery. And a few other things.

So I thought I would do a post with some guidelines on how to change a tyre. I hope it’s useful.

1. Be prepared before you get a flat tyre
First of all, check your tyre pressure regularly. If the pressure is too low, you will damage and ruin your tyres.

Check that you have a spare and that it is in good nick. Your spare might be a ‘doughnut’ (American term) which means it is smaller than a full spare, or you might have a fifth version of what’s on your wheels now. It shouldn’t make a difference. Either will work, but make sure you have one and its functional. The last thing you want is to pull out your spare and find out it’s flat too.

Make sure you have a jack. The jack is the bit that lifts the car high enough for you to change the tyre. You might want to make sure it works. Mine was pretty darn stiff so it might need a bit of greasing. Make sure you have a handle to operate the jack. And lastly, make sure you have a spanner, or something to loosen the lug nuts. These things might be tucked away in little cubby holes in the boot. If you are ever buying a second-hand car, you should make sure these items are present.

To summarise, you need a spare tyre, a jack and jack handle and a spanner.

2. When you get a flat

You should be able to feel it when you get a flat. The car will feel uneven, like you are driving on a bumpy road. Pull over to check, but make sure to stop somewhere safe. If you are going to have to change the tyre, you’ll want somewhere flat with a bit of space.

3. Loose the nuts

So now you’ve pulled over, you’ve got everything you need and you’re ready to get started. The first thing you have to do is loosen the lug nuts, and this is important, before you raise the car. Otherwise the tyre will just spin.

To loosen the nuts, remember to turn lefty-loosey (righty-tighty). You may have to use your weight to turn the spanner. I usually do. Don’t be afraid to stand on the spanner. The kids thought this part was fun.

Loosen all of them until you can easily turn the nuts by hand. Then you can raise the car.

4. Raise the car! (I like to say it in my head like I’m saying ‘Praise The Lord!’)
When you place the jack you’ll see that there are notches under the car where the jack can be placed safely. This is always between the tyre and the middle of the car, not the tyre and the bumper.

Place the jack under the notches and using the handle, crank that sucker up. I usually turn it by hand until it reaches the underside of the car. Raise it enough that you can not only remove the flat tyre but fit the fresh one on. So a bit higher than you think you might need.

5. Remove the flat
Unscrew the nuts by hand and put them somewhere safe and close by. You wouldn’t want to lose one!

Pull the flat off. Grunt loudly while you do. It’s satisfying.

Put it in your car.

6. Put on the spare
You’ll need a little muscle to put on the spare one, but not that much. Push it in as far as you can and make sure it’s straight, not on an angle. Holding the tyre in place screw the nuts back on (aren’t you glad you kept ’em close?) as far as you can by hand.

7. Lower the car
Crank that sucker back down! If my five year old could do it, so can you! Keep going until you can pull the jack out from under the car and wind it all the way down by hand.

8. Tighten the nuts
Using the spanner, tighten the nuts as much as you can. Really. You can’t make them too tight. Check them all.

9. Put away your gear
Stand back and admire your handy work!

Now go get that flat fixed or replaced and you can always have the people at the shop check your tyre is on correctly if you are unsure.

I recommend doing a dry run for practice. The whole process should take about 20 minutes.

And one more note, don’t forget to gleefully turn down offers of help when people stop to help.

Recommended phrases include, but are not limited to: “No thanks, I got this” and “everything is under control” and “I’m kicking ass on my own, thanks!”

Now go forth and change thy own tyres!

20130319-221745.jpg

Not about craft

November 1, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged something that wasn’t craft. The problem with time passing is that the more that passes the more you fear returning to the blog. It’s like when I’m running late for a meeting there is a part of me that thinks it might better to just not show up at all.

Naughty thought, so I’m ‘breaking the seal’, ‘ending the dry spell’, ‘breaking the fast’, pick your favorite metaphor.

I could blame being busy… actually, that’s quite legitimate.

I joined another committee (the Titahi Bay Village Plan Steering Group). Work is getting busier, I am finally being made permanent and will start teaching on Monday and am helping develop 4 courses, redeveloping two soon and managing the intake for our students.

My third part-time job, administrator for Imagination Doors is getting inundated with Xmas present requests (we have like 35 doors on order). Yes, I have a second part-time job but that’s been relatively quiet lately.

I’m still volunteering and oh yeah,

  • two kids
  • two dogs
  • two cats
  • plus fish

(The birds escaped… so they are super easy maintenance at the moment)

But it’s other things too. It’s kids birthday season, so every weekend means organising a kid’s present and going to a party. Some are fun, it basically means hanging out with my mates, but some mean socialising with people I don’t really know and I. just. can’t. be. bothered some days.

And Xmas is just around the corner. I’m writing lists and checking them twice. When you like hand-making presents, you have to plan ahead.

So crafting is a relaxing activity and so therefore I have stuff to blog about. I then link to Pinterest and people have started following me. I giggle when I think about how the Pinterest based blog followers will get a wee shock when I do my next big feminist rant! You can follow me on Pinterest if you like.

I have actually been writing. I’ve written three pieces for the final issue of Muse Feminist Magazine. I’ll post them here once it’s been published.

Plus I have too many ideas, so I thought I would put them out to you and list the ideas. You tell me which one you would like me to blog about:

1. Challenges of being an atheist parent

2. What I like/don’t like about the show ‘Misfits’

3. What I like/don’t like about the show ‘Embarrassing Bodies’

4. Next generation and Star Wars

5. Films I want my girls to see and why

6. Feminism and how I’m doing it wrong

7. Confession: I’ve never watched Buffy, but I’m going to!

So comment away and help me focus!

a gendered war

September 24, 2011

Today I co-presented to a small group of young(er) woman who are the administrators of the Wellington Young Feminist Collective. (Check them out on tumblr and facebook). My co-presented was Natalie the Manager of Wellington Rape Crisis where I sit on the Governance Group. We had been asked to talk about how to support a survivor of rape and sexual violence and discuss ways of dealing with disclosures.

Because apparently, they’ve had to deal with this a lot. I mean a lot.

There is this thing that happens when women start creating spaces where we can talk about the hard stuff. We start talking about it. We start listening, sharing, listening and we cry together, get angry together and sometimes, like this group and many others, we get political together.

I love the good men in my life, I really do. But I feel a kinship and solidarity with women that men may never understand. That feeling of kinship comes from a deep unspoken knowing that on some level, many of us have been injured, many of us are angry and many of us feel like we are in some kind of war. A gendered war*. One where the fact that we are women means we start out with a target on our backs and empty ammo cartridges. It’s not a fair fight.

This next paragraph was supposed to be positive and optimistic about how much progress we’ve made but I keep thinking about the fights we are still fighting on so many different fronts. We are still battling for full and undisturbed rights over our reproductive health, body image related problems are getting worse, rates of violence are still terrible and not a week goes by where I’m not outraged by some disrespectful and degrading headline in the news.

Yes, great strides have been made, I just hope in ten, twenty years time we can claim even more successes.

 

*Just want to point out that men are abused too, in shockingly high rates. I mean that overall, on top of sexual violence there are many additional problems faced by women, which men don’t face, or face much less.