Archive for the 'Feminist Fury' Category

The look/feel connection

NS November 19th, 2010

I read Heather’s post on appearances and how much they matter with interest. But as I read the comments, I became more and more disturbed (and a bit sad, to be honest) by the number of women saying that how they look seems to have a direct impact on how they feel. Talk of the psychological effect that looking ‘together’ or ‘stylish’ has compared to the way looking ‘plain’ or ‘grubby’ has, it is evident that many women, even subconsciously, equate how others perceive them with what kind of mood they will be in and, subsequently, their self-esteem.

I don’t pretend that I don’t sometimes feel the same. There’s been many a day where I hadn’t showered before the school run and made sure to slap a hat and sunglasses on and days where how I looked did put me in a better mood.

But thinking about it, I wonder if it isn’t the other way around? Maybe I wasn’t in a great mood and had gotten little sleep on the day I decided to hit the snooze button twice instead of getting up to take a shower and put on a clean top. My looks were only reflecting how I felt about myself or my life at that time — tired, frazzled, grumpy and time-starved. On the days where I got out of bed early, had a shower, applied a bit of makeup and wore something besides food-encrusted pyjamas for the school run, I had probably awoken in a good mood and with enough sleep to give me the energy to do so.

If we truly believe that the link between how we look and how we feel is psychological, maybe it’s time for some reverse psychology.

Noble Husband on fatherhood and work

NS November 5th, 2010

I read this article in the Guardian today about how fathers are supposedly happier if a) they have two children, b) their partners work and c) they share the household chores.

More cynical women than me might think it a load of hogwash, but, personally, I found it heartening and heartfelt. If 82 percent of working fathers would like to spend more time with their families, as this survey found, then that is a fantastic thing.

But.

How much of this professed desire to be more domestically involved is all talk and how willing are men to put some action into making it happen? I really want to know!

So, under strict instructions not to be afraid that I would use his answers against him in a personal capacity, I asked the Noble Husband what his thoughts are on this subject. Here’s the result of our ‘interview’, which took place over email and IM. Note: I tried not to refer to myself in the first person because I wanted him to think objectively, though I slipped up a couple times in the IM conversations.

1) Do you believe that childcare is primarily a mother’s responsibility or are both parents equally responsible?

It isn’t necessarily any one parent’s responsibility, but in a relationship where one partner earns the bulk of the family’s income it is likely that the other partner will predominantly take on this role, certainly during the weekdays. At the weekend, it should be much more of even split, perhaps even swinging more to the breadwinner.

2) If you believe that it is both parents’ responsibility, how is the childcare divided between you and your partner? Are you happy with the current arrangement?

I try to spend time with the children when I get home from work, even if it is just half an hour. They like to play before bed, cook, watch a bit of a movie or read stories with me. At the weekend I try to take the kids out of the house, usually on my own, to give my wife a little time to herself or with friends. Alternatively she may carry out a few tasks that are hard to do when looking after the children during the week.

I wouldn’t say I’m entirely happy with it as I tend to only spend a couple of hours with the children during the week but this is unavoidable when commuting to a job in London. At least I catch up with the kids at the weekend.

3) Current research suggests that men with two children whose partners works full-time and childcare is shared are happiest and least stressed. Why do you think this might be? Are you happier when your partner works?

Spending time with my children is a great way of winding down from a stressful day or week at work. When I’m with them, any thoughts about work instantly evaporate. Thats not to say the thoughts don’t return after they have gone to bed, but children put me in a better mood the moment I walk through door.

[After submitting this answer via email, I asked NH on IM if he could talk about how he feels about my work, which is part-time and done from home]

I’m happy that you make a contribution to the household income and that you’re “using your mind” a little too. I remember how just dealing with kids day in day out almost drove you mad.

Me: So you think I’m happier for working [at a paid job] a bit?

No doubt

4) In an ideal world, and if work/financial constraints were not an issue, how would you balance your professional, personal and family commitments? Would you like to spend more or less time at work and with family?

Ideally, I would work at home 2/3 days a week and be more active in taking/collecting them from school and spending more time with them afterwards e.g. playtime and homework. However, I would still feel part of “the team” at work though, by being there on other days.

5) We all know that women have had (and still have) numerous struggles within the workplace and balancing their careers with their families. Do you see men having the same struggles within the home, trying to spend time with their children and be accepted as adequate parents?

If I did work at home, I too would worry that colleagues without children would be favoured for career opportunities.

6) In your view, are fathers genuinely interested in having greater flexibility between work and home?

I’m not sure. I think most men would like the idea of being more active at home during the week but may shy away from it a little if it actually became a reality. I can imagine how hard it would be to carry out some of my work from home with the distraction of children – its the old joke that men can’t multi-task. Also, detaching oneself from office interaction and culture would be quickly missed by most men as well.

[I asked NH to expound upon this by IM]

Me: Do you think women are less inclined to find working at home difficult and miss office life, or just that they’ve had to get used to it?

They are better at juggling work and kids. A stereotype perhaps..or maybe they do learn to deal with it.

Me: Yes, that’s what I was going to ask, if you think ‘juggling’ work and children is something women do naturally or only do because they have to? Of course, I think it’s the latter but am fine if you disagree. Be honest!

I don’t really know. I suppose it depends on the person rather than the gender but on the whole, I’d imagine that women would be better. I’m certain that you would be better than me. I know I get easily distracted and would really struggle to work on a complex report if I had the “Daddy, Daddy” treatment from the kids.

At this point he had to get back to work, as did I, so our conversation ended. I would have liked to explore a couple points more in-depth, particularly how he imagines I get my work done while looking after the children if he believes it would be a struggle for him. I guess he doesn’t realise a) how much I shout and b) how much the TV is on when I’m working. Hey ho, another day, another interview. Until then…

Your intrepid gender relations investigator,

NS (with special thanks and love to NH)

Sexy mustard

NS October 18th, 2010

I think of this spoof ad every Halloween when I start seeing all the ‘choices’ women have for costumes in the shops. Personally, I’d go with Sexy Lobster. [NSFW]

Women-only events: sexist or sensible?

NS September 22nd, 2010

News that a handful of men are entering (and often winning) races and marathons put on mainly for women has created a bit of a stir. Are these guys douchebags who enjoy exerting their superior physical capabilities over The Ladiez, ruining the spirit of the event, or is it unfair for these races to be exclusively aimed at  only one gender in the first place?

Some people like to trot out the familiar argument that if women want equality with men, it has to be enforced in all areas. No female-only gyms, no ladies’ night drink specials, no women-only events or groups. Some go a step further and say that women shouldn’t expect separate toilets, exclusion from the military draft or even be eligible for maternity leave. You need to pee or have a baby? Well boo frickin’ hoo, you wanted to be just like the big boys and you GOT it, ladies.

This, of course, is called being a giant JERK.

The thing about this argument is that it assumes that women who fight for their rights think that men and women are exactly the same, with no biological deviances or differing practical needs. It’s also more than a little patronising. Men (and some women) often use this argument to try to ‘trap’ feminists into reneging on their arguments for equality. Much like the groups of white people who cry ‘Reverse racism!’ when minority groups put together an event celebrating their heritage or form a group exclusively for those within that minority group, there seems to be a wilful ignorance and refusal to acknowledge historical power structures in these protestations.

Reverse racism against whites is impossible because minority groups lack  the political or societal power to enforce their alleged biases. In the same vein, women as a whole lack the amassed authority required to actively oppress men and deny them their basic rights based on gender. So when someone cries ‘Reverse racism! Female sexism against men!’ they mostly need to be told to stick a boot in it.

On the other hand, I can see how the ‘women only’ thing can seem a bit unfair at times, especially if it has nothing to do with physical strength or biological differences (unlike sporting events and having babies). I’m no fan of ladies’ nights, when women get into bars and nightclubs free of charge while men pay full cover. That’s very unfair and also pretty gross since the only reason establishments do this is so that there’s more tits and asses in the bar for the men to ogle. It degrades both men and women.

Even if female-only races are, at their core, unequal, I still think that entering a race full of women just so you can win is pretty tacky and mean-spirited. Not only does it prevent a woman from garnering that top glory (since she is very unlikely to win an event that includes both sexes), it can take the sheen off that ‘we’re in this doing it together, girls!’ camaraderie that events like these can help foster.

What do you think? Would you be upset if a man entered a women’s running event for the sole purpose of winning, or do you think it’s his prerogative?

Photo credit

Hair issues, I’ve got a few

NS August 16th, 2010

I’ve been meaning to do a review of The Idle Parent because I liked it so much.

Alas, as  I was ignoring the children this morning while attempting to finish something I was doing on the computer, Noble Boy scribbled all over its pages with a brown pencil.

If ever there was a good reason not to be able to review a book (at least if it requires re-quoting passages), that one should suffice for this book’s author.

Anyway, that’s not the reason I’m writing. In a subsequent not-really-ignoring-but-not-really-paying-that-much-attention-either episode later in the day, just after lunch, my strongly-held opposition to culturally-ingrained gender stereotypes was tested.

As I worked at the dining room table and the children played outside, drawing (on paper this time) and cutting out pictures from an old magazine, I became absorbed in my news-gathering (part and parcel of the ol’ editing job) and didn’t notice when Noble Girl disappeared from the table and strolled over to the shed, scissors clutched in her hand. It wasn’t until Noble Boy came to me crying, pulling at my hand to get up and see what had happened, that I realised with a growing sense of dread that something was very amiss.

My 4-year-old daughter — the one with long, beautiful, blond hair — stared at me with a mixture of confusion, fear and sadness in her eyes.  My jaw dropped when I saw the choppy mane hanging in ragged layers around her face and the piles of hair around her feet. I looked down at Noble Boy, who was still crying, and saw that she’d worked her scissor magic on his (already sparse) hair too. Where there had previously been fine wisps of white-blond hair, there were buzz-cut patches of intermittent baldness. I looked from daughter to son, son to daughter.

Readers, I am ashamed to say: my first reaction, in my head, was, “She looks like a boy! All that beautiful hair is gone! And my son, he looks like a regular thug. Whatever will we do?!”

I pulled myself together, gave myself a few internal slaps and worked rapidly to calm and reassure both children. A few hours later a pixie haircut at the barber shop and a stop by the drugstore for hair wax to make it stand up a bit and instead of a Poor Little Girl Who Looks Like a Boy With a Bad Haircut, we had a Super-Cool Rock Chick! All is fine, she loves her new do (mostly) and the crisis has been solved. We have to decide whether to leave Noble Boy’s hair alone and hope it grows out somewhat evenly or just complete the buzz cut Noble Girl started.

I’m still struggling with my initial reaction though. Obviously I haven’t managed to completely escape the GIRL = LONG HAIR trope. Oy vey.

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