Banknotes, Boycotts and Backlash

Oh, Sheldon. I finally understand what you were feeling when you uttered my favourite line in The Big Bang Theory. “There isn’t enough chamomile tea in the world to quell the rage in my heart.” I feel the same way, but with Mini Milks.

It seems like every time the feminist movement takes a small step forward (in this case, Jane Austen replacing Charles Darwin on the £10 note), it takes two steps back. I won’t go into my personal feelings about Austen replacing Darwin in this blog as I feel another post would be necessary. That’s not the problem, it’s the tirades of abuse the leader of this campaign has received on Twitter over the past few days along with the reaction of some people I’ve been made aware of.

Since the success of her petition, Caroline Criado-Perez has been the target of frankly horrifying abuse. No woman should ever be the target of rape threats and yet the users responsible for her abuse still have accounts on the site. Criado-Perez reported the abuse she was getting to the manager of journalism and media on Twitter. His response? To protect his account. Clearly to Mark S. Luckie, a problem ignored is a problem solved. For those interested, there has been a petition started to draw those in charge of Twitter to action here.

Upon learning of this earlier this morning, my feed lit up with journalists being horrified and sympathetic to Criado-Perez’s plight. These women are often the subject of abuse (from inside the feminist movement also) and are tired of having their opinions on twitter silenced.

Not being one to back out of a confrontation myself, I’ve been told I’m “too ugly to rape” among other things, for daring to comment that criticising a Wimbledon champion on her looks is not appropriate. This cannot be tolerated.

These journalists, namely Caitlin Moran, Helen Lewis and Suzanne Moore, have proposed an idea. That women who do not want to stand for this abuse and being silenced on social media silence their accounts for one day, to show what the social media site would be like if instead of standing up, women just left. It’s not the greatest idea ever, but what else is there to do if the site itself isn’t acting?

I’ve said it before, the most detrimental thing about feminism today is the constant in-fighting between the women (and men) involved. When this idea was proposed, it was met with the usual suspects who automatically decry anything Moran or her journalist allies say saying it’s a terrible idea. Fine, but do you have anything better to suggest?

Instead of providing something positive, it always appears to be much easier to just shit all over someone else’s idea. Would Moran’s cause have more merit if she was just out on the streets of Crouch End bawling at random strangers to fuck the patriarchy? At least these more high-profile feminists are trying to do something, instead of sitting at home criticising others’ attempts.

And so it rumbles on, my frustration reaching a fever pitch that not even Mini Milks can calm down. Sheldon, I really do feel your pain, though perhaps another one wouldn’t hurt.

How To Be A Woman – A Sort-Of Review

As I wrote about in my post on Kindles,The Scarlet Letter and Of Human Bondage, the first actual piece of “light” reading I have done on my kindle has been “How to be a Woman” by the lady pictured above, Caitlin Moran. Moran is a British journalist who writes for the Times (though I must admit I haven’t read many of her articles due to the paywall on their site), but like many journalists reaches a greater audience through twitter. I have been following Moran for as long as I have been using the site, and her procrastinating tweets and links proving “fashionable” does not always mean “stylish” do brighten up my day. So, when she brought out her book about linking aspects of her own life to stages in becoming a “strident feminist”(please note my use of inverted commas here is to quote Moran, not to look down on the idea of feminism. If you don’t believe me, look at the rest of my posts), I was curious.

As an aside, kindle books are far cheaper and easier to source than hunting around for cheap second hand copies of books.

Alas, I shall begin my review, along with a few personal things in my life which tie into what I have read. This may wind up being almost as long as Moran’s book itself, mostly because it’s quite short and I agree with a lot of what she’s written about (especially later in her book when she writes about celebrity culture and meeting a woman who makes my eyes bleed – Katie Price).

In my 21 years of residence on this planet, I’ve come to the realisation that I have a pretty good grasp of what it takes to be a fully fledged member of my gender. I may not feel like an adult, given my lack of financial independence, yet I feel like a woman and not a girl. I’m not sure I was aware of my mind maturing alongside my body and yet here I am. I am woman, hear me roar!

“How to be a Woman” is part memoir, part manifesto. Moran ties anecdotes from her life growing up in a very poor household, with steps towards declaring “I am a strident feminist!” to herself, in front of a mirror. I think Moran initially started out with this book attempting to further dismantle the (ludicrous) idea that all feminists are militant, man-hating, bra-burning feminazis (though if that’s the way you want to rail against patriarchal bullshit, you go ahead). She shows that women just want to be on the same playing field as the rest of “The Guys”. We see eye to eye on this point – “Seeing the whole world as ‘The Guys’ is important. The idea that we’re all, at the end of the day, just a bunch of well-meaning schlumps, trying to get along, is the basic alpha and omega of my world view. I’m neither ‘pro-women’ nor ‘antimen’. I’m just ‘Thumbs up for the six billion’.” And here here. If you see others as either better or worse off than you, nothing will change. You need to see everyone as being on the same playing field to work out how to achieve total equality (which in the end is what we all want, right?).

In talks of puberty, Moran talks about her first experience of menstruation. I think any woman reading would laugh and wince in equal measure at the graphic imagery. Men on the other hand may find the brutal description very off putting (but hey, at least you’ll get to find out what we thought on first experience of a type of bleeding no plaster will fix!). I remember thinking along the same line as Caz, Moran’s sister, when I reached this horrific milestone: I want my entire reproductive system taken out, and replaced with spare lungs, for when I start smoking. I want that option. This is pointless.” I never took up smoking to the extent where I needed spare lungs (they taste absolutely disgusting), but my reproductive system serves no purpose. I’m not having kids, so give my eggs to someone who wants them.

Although Moran’s book is about feminsm, it’s far from a serious work on feminist theory. It’s actually funny! Especially in her discussion of the confusion which is involved in the simple task of shopping for clothes. But now it seems you find “the dress”—but “the dress” must have “the belt,” and a complimentary but not overly matching bag must be found, which works with not only the correct hosiery but also something to “throw over,” if you become chilly. It’s like fucking Dragon’s Quest—an endless list of things you’ve got to run around and try to find, possibly in a cave, or under a sage. The thing you “throw over” can’t be an anorak, or a picnic rug salvaged from under the stairs, by the way, but a deconstructed cardigan, a hacking-style jacket, a £200 pashmina, or a “shrug,” which unfamiliar item seems, to my untrained eyes, to be a shrunken cardigan made by a fool. It all looks bloody knackering. It’s going to cut into my bread-and-butter-pudding-making time severely. I don’t make bread and butter pudding, but she’s right. You can’t just go out and buy one thing for a night out – a whole new outfit is expected to be bought. I love shopping, but it’s so much more complicated than it needs to be.

It’s very clear thoughout the entirity of “How to be a Woman” that Moran just wants everyone to be content with who they are. No matter if that’s a woman who wants to be a housewife or one who wants to be a CEO. It doesn’t matter if a man wants to go to the football or go out in a pair of stilettos – if that’s what you want to do, then do it! She has very strong views of her own about a woman’s pubic hair, proclaiming that every woman should grow herself a great big muff. I don’t agree with her in this respect. I don’t like being hairy…anywhere. I’m happy removing my hair, it makes my skin feel nice. And as long as I’m happy with that, I’m sure it wouldn’t cause Caitlin Moran to lose any sleep.

Moran encourages the reader to make up their own mind about issues. If you want to have kids, that’s great! There’s a chapter entitled “Why You Should Have Children”. If you don’t want to have children, there’s a chapter about “Why You Shouldn’t Have Children” too. So long as you’re happy with your choice, go with it! Be who you want to be.

I thoroughly enjoyed “How to be a Woman”, I found the book to be honest, funny (to the point I was laughing out loud on the bus) and included a new viewpoint about “new feminism”. I can happily recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy a bit of lighter reading. If her opening prologue: The Worst Birthday Ever doesn’t sell you on reading more, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.

In one last stand out lesson to take away from this book, it’s how to work out if you’re doing something down to “Patriarchal Bullshit”. Ask yourself, are “The Guys” doing this? For example, take your body hair. Do you think “The Guys” are worrying about removing every last follicle below the neck? If you see yourself in a better light with some fur, then you put the razor away. It’s not something women should be worrying about. Some guys shave, some grow enormous beards. If you want a beard on your face or your fanny, then grow one!

Kindles and Reading Challenges

 

Kindle Touch

Kindle Touch (Photo credit: kun530)

I love my kindle, and am so, so so grateful to Chris for giving it to me for my birthday. I actually have no excuse to put off reading something I’ve been meaning to read for months, or maybe years. I spend so much time on the bus, and that makes for so much potential reading time, that I should have stopped making excuses months ago. I wasn’t sure about how I would feel about reading without being able to feel a book in my hands, and having the physical movement of turning the crisp pages, but I really enjoy reading my kindle. It’s one of the most special presents I’ve ever had (I know how long Chris had to save up for it, and knowing he’d cut back just to get me that means so much). If you travel a lot, I’d definitely say it’s worth it.

 

Woman reading

Woman reading (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

The kindle store has so much choice, books I read when I was much younger, books I’d never heard of, books I’ve always wanted to try reading and books I’d never read in a million years. Actually, seeing Fifty Shades of Grey sitting at the top of the bestseller list filled me with so much rage. When the Fifty Shades fever (which I wrote about, wishing it would go away) took off, I started getting looks as I was reading “Broadmoor Revealed”, quietly passing judgement as they assumed I was reading that heap of crap. So thank you, EL James, you’ve created a whole new kind of literary stigma.

 

Broadmoor Revealed was the first book I read on the kindle, and I was surprised as to how easy it was to read. I very quickly got used to turning the pages, and the screen was surprisingly easy to read. It helps that the first book I read was so very interesting, telling stories of Victorian criminals who were placed into Broadmoor hospital because they were mentally ill. I’ve always read a lot of non-fiction, and most of that was about serial murder. In the past I’ve found books on certain serial killers terrifying (I must confess to hiding a book about BTK under a pile of laundry so it wouldn’t get me when I was sleeping), but on the whole I find them utterly fascinating.

 

I then moved on to downloading books termed as classics, not just because they were deemed as books everyone should read, but because they were free and I’m on a limited budget. I decided upon the next book I read – The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I’d only heard of it through the film Easy A out of my complete ignorance. I’ve never seen the movie version mentioned in Easy A either, where Demi Moore takes a lot of baths. I wasn’t quite aware of what I was letting myself in for.

 

Have you ever had a book, which you know is written in your native language, but you’re not quite sure it really was? I’ve never been more thankful for something to have a built-in dictionary. I found the archaeic language almost completely impenetrable, and the slow progression I was making was frustrating me. I’m far from a slow reader, and the kindle uses percentages as opposed to page numbers. Seeing the numbers creeping up so slowly was disheartening, but I strengthened my resolve to get through it. I’m a person of the “I’ve started now, so I won’t stop” mentality, and I hate not finishing things. It was difficult, but it wasn’t going to defeat me. So I persevered.

English: Hester Prynne & Pearl before the stocks

English: Hester Prynne & Pearl before the stocks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over time, I got used to the fact it was going to take me a long time to get through. I stopped feeling like I was swimming through mud and began truly appreciating the complexity of Hawthorne’s writing. He is a great lover of metaphor, which is something I really appreciate (I love being able to picture my own image of what the world characters are living in). The symbolism of Hester’s scarlet letter shifting from a symbol of her sin to that of her own identity, eventually coming to stand for “Able” was also very interesting, it shows how society can place one idea on the scarlet letter, but owing to Hester’s actions, society became able to move past that idea, and the A could eventually come to symbolise “Acceptance”.

 

I found myself coming to care about Hester’s happiness, instead of wondering why I was reading a book which I found so inaccessable. I wanted her to be with Rev. Dimmesdale, for them to come out in public and be happy together. I was upset when Rev. Dimmesdale died, because after all Hester had been through, I just wanted her to be happy. She deserved it after having borne the ire of the people around her for so long by herself, and never implicated the Reverend.

 

My new reading challenge, as suggested to me by Chris, is Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham has started out in much the same way as The Scarlet Letter, though this time I feel my progress is even slower and the book is lacking the archaeic language. When Phillip was young, I felt very sorry for him, and I felt the pages drag in much the same as his days did. Where I am at in the novel just now, he is happy and I’m finding it a much easier (though still slow) read. I’m starting to see the subtleties in Maugham’s writing now too. I just needed to give it time.

 

Up next, is something totally new, and totally different. Whenever I finish Of Human Bondage, I’ll be reading Caitlin Moran‘s How to be a Woman – the first book I’ve paid for to read on the kindle.