University update!

So I know I said I would write about the course I’m studying at University, and I know I haven’t (I am so sloppy please forgive me thank you please). But anyway, so far we’ve read:

  • ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by Angela Carter
  • ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood
  • ‘Lives of Girls and Women’ by Alice Munro
  • ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ by Jeanette Winterson

Now I have to say all of these novels have been very VERY interesting, some rather worrying also. For example ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was perhaps my favourite, even though it was rather worrying. Basically it’s a dystopian society in what used to be America, now called Gilead, where the women are reduced to procreating and have no power whatsoever. The extreme patriarchal society.  Here is a more detailed summary if you happen to be interested (I recommend it, it is an interesting read and will get you all fired up most likely.) 

The Handmaid’s Tale plot summary

So having written about ‘The Bloody Chamber’ I now want to share my thoughts on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ Now as I sad it’s a dystopian novel where the women essentially have nothing. No power, no voice, no identity. This may come as initial shock but once you read the novel and start to relate it to certain things we hear every day on the news you realise that this is not that shocking. In fact, Atwood herself said that everything in the novel had already been happening in the world. Upon hearing this I was literally sitting there thinking ‘oh my god this could apply today.’ Who knows what could happen, we still live in a patriarchal society, and the events of the book are easily imaginable. A government overthrown, an all seeing government introduced. It’s unfortunately not an unfamiliar situation. Of course there are many other themes and layers to the novel but this is the main thing that struck me about it. That the novel, or at least elements of the novel could become a reality.

In summary it just makes me want to fight harder to make sure that it doesn’t. Even if it’s just by making more blog posts, getting my views across. Anything to even get a slither of the word out there.

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014.

So it’s 2014 *falls off chair in shock because seriously where did 2013 go?*

2013 was a reasonably good year for me. Well, in comparison to 2011 and 2012 it was an excellent year. My anxiety no longer takes over my life to the extent it used to and I’m finally sorting my life out in terms of university and career plans. I’ve had some ups and downs with relationships. Mainly downs, but hey, here’s to 2014 and its ups! I’ve become prouder of and happier with who I am even if I do feel a little uncomfortable in my own skins sometimes. But then again, who doesn’t?

Now 2013 was really the year I got into feminism in a big way. I’d always been a feminist, but never to the extent where I felt the need to voice my opinions on it. I always just used to kind of brush off sly sexist comments you tend to get in every day life as a woman, ignore the patriarchy because things were alright for me and it didn’t affect me. But I realised this year, that all of this DOES affect me. I don’t know what changed, what made me realise that this is something that matters a lot to me. That I can be a feminist and proud of it despite the ‘oh god she’s off on one again’ comments. Yes I’ve gone off on one and don’t expect me to stop anytime soon.

2013 is the year I started my ‘Feminism, Sexuality and Gender in Literature’ course and I love it. It’s the year I learnt a lot about myself and the way I want to live my life. It’s the year I stopped ‘putting up with’ inappropriate sexual comments, and inappropriate sexist comments. As little of a difference that it might make, it’s the year I decided that when and where I could I would speak out against sexism and felt the urge to yell ‘I AM A FEMINIST’ from rooftops. (Little note, I did not do that as I rarely go on rooftops to yell, but you know)

I guess you can say it’s the year I released my inner feminist. And wow am I happy I did.

HERE’S TO 2014.

This happened at work…

So whilst I was at work the other week, I had a bit of a shock. Now I only have a small part time job for a bit of money, but that isn’t really relevant.

Now I was getting on with my work, just having a chat with one of my co workers when he said, in relation to the conversation we were having (about what I cannot remember, something to do with restocking) ‘I’m a bloke I can’t be held responsible for my actions.’ Now as you can imagine I just kind of stood there looking a bit like a fish with my mouth wide open. I literally couldn’t quite believe he’d said that. In what kind of society do we live in where it is somehow ingrained into some men’s minds that they aren’t responsible for their actions? They are responsible for them. Just as a woman is. Everyone is responsible for their actions regardless of their sex.

That in turn got me thinking. How are children brought up, how are they taught? Is there some kind of vital lesson we’re not teaching in schools? Should we be holding workshops on these things? Are they being taught at home? Do we need to spell it out more clearly that a man is responsible for what he does? Do we need to reassure some women that they can say no? That they don’t have to be perfect, that there are more important things in life than relationships? This to me, is a real problem. From a young age, due to society, marketing, films, TV shows, even toys, girls are ‘taught’ to love pink, to be a princess, to wait for the man to save them from the castle. Whereas boys are ‘taught’ to be strong, to like blue, to be an action man. So what happens when this isn’t the case? What happens when a boy wants to be a princess, when a girl wants to be an action man? Do we encourage or discourage this?

I was one of those girls who wanted to be an action man. I played sports, and didn’t really like anything pink.  I mean I still don’t, but luckily my parents never questioned that I wasn’t girly. If I preferred action men to barbies, then that was fine, I’d get an action man for Christmas. However, as I grew older, started senior school, the negative comments started. Was I a girl? Why wasn’t I girly? Why did I never wear skirts? That I should act more feminine, that boys were never going to like me if I carried on dressing so boyishly. Over time I did start getting into ‘girly’ things if we can call them that. I started wearing make up, occasionally dresses, I don’t know why. I just did. Yet there’s still a nagging voice in the back of my mind. Telling me I’m a girl so I should act a certain way, even though I know that as a female, I am free to wear what I want and be who I am.

So yes, these things should be taught. Or at least talked about more. It’s the basics of feminism, that men and women are equal, they are free to like whatever they like, whatever toys, clothes, without fear of criticism. Yes I do think things like this need to become clearer, so that boys don’t grow into men thinking women are just there for the taking, and they can do what they like, and so girls don’t grow  into women thinking they have to act a certain way to please men.

 

A BLOG UPDATE

So first of all I want to apologise for not having posted anything in a while. It’s been a manic couple of weeks!

Anyway, about 5 weeks ago now I started the course ‘Feminism, Sexuality and Gender in Literature’ and let me tell you it’s been amazing so far. The books we’ve read, especially ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ have been fascinating, and hopefully not prophetic. The other aspect I find fascinating is the conversations we have. It’s pretty laid back, we all sit in a circle and discuss things for the most part. There is one male on the course and the rest female. What is also amazing is that a lot of the women on the course lived through the sixties and seventies so some of the things they tell us, from a first hand viewpoint are fascinating. So yes, I’m really enjoying it. We’re on the third book now which is ‘Lives of Girls and Women’ by Alice Munro, which is very much a coming of age story, set in the 1940s (I think if I am remembering correctly…if not must go back and read book in more detail obviously) and it’s great. I mean obviously women’s lives were different then, but the main character, Del, looks for an escapism through education.

Anyway, just wanted to do this quick update, hopefully I’ll get round to posting regularly again.

But girls can’t do that…

Recently, I’ve been having a long hard think about what I want to do with my life. What career I want etc.

And well, I have no idea, but that’s kind of beside the point. I have been looking for various university courses and jobs. I came across  various job roles. Most of them said on the application: ‘we especially welcome applications from female applicants.’ EXCELLENT. I AM FEMALE. THIS IS GOOD. Then I realised it was because these sectors are very much male dominated. Why? Traditional male roles perhaps? Just as mechanics, electricians etc are. That’s not so say there aren’t female electricians and mechanics, of course there are, but in reality, it is male dominated. This made me even more determined to apply for one of these roles. I want to show people that women can do these jobs, they can do any job, just as well as men can. Many people believe they can, but unfortunately, a large number are of the opposite opinion. ‘Women can’t do that, that’s a man’s job.’ (Don’t even get me started on a women’s job is at home in the kitchen or somethings along those lines.)

I want to know what makes it a man’s job. What? Is it just because there are more men doing these jobs, thus we think that it is a man’s job? A couple of months ago I saw a female builder and I was like YES and I told everyone about it. Some people were like yeah that’s pretty cool. Others, not so much.

Obviously women can do these jobs. Maybe part of it is that some women don’t want to do these jobs, and yes ok that is more than fair, but don’t tell me they can’t. They can. If I get one of these jobs where more men than women work there, I intend to show everyone (or you know, the people who think I can’t do it) that I can do it. To be honest (and thankful) I have yet to actually come across someone who has told me a woman cannot do one of these jobs, but I have come across people who think that they shouldn’t. Is that better? Is it worse? Thinking a women is capable but shouldn’t do it? Worse? Women can do these jobs if they want, and no one can tell them they can’t, or that they should be doing something else.

Stop telling me to cheer up.

So a couple of weeks ago I came across the project ‘Stop Telling Women To Smile’ which is an art series by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh that addresses the issue of gender based street harassment. The website for the project is here http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com and I urge everyone to go and take a look at it. The project is saying that street harassment is not ok, demanding a woman to ‘smile’ is not ok, objectifying women is not ok; women do not walk the streets for a man’s pleasure or to gain a man’s attention. They should be able to walk the streets without worrying about this unwanted attention.

When I first came across this project, it made me think about the unwanted attention I get. A lot. Every time I am out. It happened last night; I was out with my friends and we were in a club. At least twice, whilst walking across said club I was told to ‘cheer up.’ Why should I cheer up? I am not here to smile at you, random stranger. If I am walking across a club and someone tries to start a conversation with me, I will be more than happy to talk to you. Say hello to me, say something polite to me and I will enjoy speaking to you. I just don’t like being stopped with words like ‘cheer up.’ Smile at me, I will smile back at you because that’s just common courtesy and it’s nice to meet new people.

Just a lot of the time I get called ‘moody’ ‘a bitch’ I get told to ‘smile for god’s sake’ ‘just cheer up’ because when someone tells me to, I don’t smile.

And I’m sure it’s not just me that this happens to. Women, on the street, in bars, in clubs, are told to ‘smile’ at men. But why should we? A smile, a word, a conversation should be given freely, women shouldn’t be ordered to talk to someone. We have our own free will and we will, thank you very much, make our own decisions regarding who we talk to. The sad fact is that we are often intimidated by men who say this to us, this is the world we live in. We feel we have to smile at men, have to please them, because harassment is all too real and all too scary.

Every time I get told to cheer up, every time I get told to smile, I will more than likely, refuse to. I don’t appreciate being ordered around. I appreciate polite, introductory conversations, you know the ones that start with something along the lines of ‘hello…’

Reading feminism. Angela Carter-The Bloody Chamber

Hi there!

As I mentioned yesterday in my blog entry, I will be studying a course called ‘Feminism, Sexuality and Gender in Literature’ and I want to blog about my studies. Now my course doesn’t actually start until 16th October, but I have a list of books that have to be read for the course.

The first book is ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by Angela Carter, and I have just finished reading the first short story in this collection of  fairy tales which have been rewritten. I will come onto each short story when I have read them, but for today I’ll just talk about my first impressions of reading the first story in the collection, which is, incidentally, ‘The Bloody Chamber.’

‘The Bloody Chamber’ is based on the well known fairy tale ‘Bluebeard’ which is about a nobleman who murders his wives, and the story of one of his wives trying to escape her fate.  Upon reading ‘The Bloody Chamber’ it becomes evident that the Marquis, to whom the poor Parisian pianist, the heroine of the story, is married, has an evil air about him. He has had three wives already in the seventeen years that the young girl has been alive. To cut the story short, the heroine finds the Marquis’ secret chamber, where he has hidden the corpses of his previous brides. She tries to escape her almost definite fate of being beheaded, with the help of a blind piano tuner. At the last moment she is saved my her mother who shoots the Marquis in the head.

What struck me most about this short story is the fact that the heroine herself narrates the story, rather than the usual third person perspective of fairy tales. Thus the story doesn’t ‘happen’ to the heroine in a passive sense, it is more as if she is an active part of it, changing her own fate. The heroine is portrayed as a strong woman; she is strong willed, strong minded; an empowered woman. She is in the traditional male role of the hero, as is her mother; her mother saves the day rather than a knight in shining armour or some other fairy tale cliché. By writing not one, but two heroines in a story Angela Carter challenges the male dominated, hero world of the fairy tale. 

Of course there are other important themes in this story such as the sexual language and undertones, and themes of death and martyrdom. However, until I study it in more detail, I have just stated my first impressions (and own opinions, yours can be completely different, as is the norm with literature) of the feminist undertones of the story.

My first educational foray into feminism.

So, as you may have guessed by the title of this blog, I am a feminist fresher. That is not to say I haven’t always been a feminist. Of course I have, it’s just that I’ve never really wanted to study it until now. Recently I have found myself getting more and more interested in feminism and more and more appalled at the sexist, misogynistic patriarchal world that we live in. Hence the decision to study feminism.

So this blog will be my recordings of the course that I am starting in October which is called ‘Feminism, Sexuality and Gender in Literature.’ I am very VERY excited about starting it and have started reading the course books.

I hope you enjoy my little feminist rants that will no doubt go here, and I hope my learning curve into fully understanding and becoming more passionate about feminism.

As I previously mentioned I have only recently found the urge to truly study feminism. I have always been a feminist. All women are, and if they aren’t, then that’s a problem.

As Caitlin Moran states in her book ‘How to be a woman.’ (I have just finished reading it and I wholly recommend it. It’s a funny but informative take on feminism and the questions, as women, we all too often ask ourselves.)

She states:

“We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for 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 THE SURVEY?”

 

And she’s right. What part of feminism don’t you like? Do you not want to be equal to men? Would you have wanted to live in a time when we were owned by men? No. Simple as.

I have always wanted to do every single thing a man can do (well, you know not everything but you get my drift) I have always been a tomboy and remember being told at school that I couldn’t play football (or soccer depending on where you are in the world) that I couldn’t wear shorts or whatever, that I couldn’t play with cars, trains and action men, because I was a girl. I used to think why can’t I? Just because I’m a girl? How is that fair? So you know what, I played football, I wore what I wanted, I played with the toys I wanted to. I did what the boys did. Because I believed, rightly so, that as a girl I could do whatever I wanted to, could do what the boys do, and, possibly, do it better. So I did.

Now that doesn’t make me any more of a feminist than a woman who loves pink, and loves all things girly. I’d love to like that sort of stuff. I mean I like getting dressed up and putting make up on, I’m just not that girly. LET’S JUST CELEBRATE ALL WOMEN BECAUSE WE’RE ALL FABULOUS.

So yes, this is my professional, if you will, introduction into the world of feminism.

I am very very excited.