Greer on a Bike!
A v.broken attempt to explain my relationship with feminism. It’s all over t’shop – I do apologise…
Another of the reasons I disagree with marriage between a man and a woman is that same sex couples are not allowed to do it. Oh, of course, they can have civil ceremonies, but that’s not exactly the same thing, is it? If it was the same thing, it would be a wedding and a marriage, not a civil service and civil partnership. Aside from the fact that it’s called something different, married gay couples are not entitled to the same benefits as straight ones. Evidently, I don’t understand why anyone would want to marry at all, but that aside, why are same sex couples denied the option to have a marriage with as much import as straight couples? If people are forever encouraging straight couples to marry, why aren’t gay couples encouraged to for the same reasons? Could anyone ever say that gay couples are less in love? Of course not. That’s absurd. Love is love. Whoever* it’s happening between. Do people take offence because it’s “wrong” in the eyes of God? If so, then presumably, any marriage that doesn’t fit into those strict guidelines would be “wrong.” It would be wrong to get married if you weren’t religious, for a start.
This is not an argument in which I’m going to bang on about the fact that placing someone into a box like “Gay” or “Straight” is ludicrous. I’m not going to wax lyrical on how sexuality is fluid and how it makes no sense to take such offence simply because you don’t understand why one person is attracted to another. Some woman married Nick Griffin of all people – I don’t understand it, the v.thought knocks me quite sick in fact, but I don’t think that it warrants me burning crosses on her lawn or condemning her to Hell. The man may be a slimy, hate-filled, Nazi with a brain the size of a poppy seed; he may resemble the creature from the black lagoon, or something that’s been plunged out of a drain never before unblocked, but there’s no accounting for taste, is there? All it boils down to is attraction at the end of the day and how can I deny a person that?
I’m not going to bang on about gay rights, because this post isn’t about that, no matter how strongly I feel that homosexuality (should there be a thing so easily labelled in the fickle nature of human sexuality) streaks through us all and that you‘re just attracted to the person, not the gender. This blog is not about how disgust is a man-made feeling, designed to control our actions – in terms of hygiene, it does this v.well; in terms of disfigurement &c., not so much. Still, boundaries bind less than one would think and the blurring edges merge and converge until one subject cannot be broached without summoning another. So it is, in part, relevant to allude to these things… no matter how much this post isn’t about them.
On the subject of gay marriage, I recently had the following conversation, which I think sums things up nicely:-
T’OTHER PERSON: I don’t care if people want** to be gay, I just don’t think they should be allowed to get married.
ME: Why not?
T’OTHER PERSON: Because marriage is between a man and a woman***.
ME: Well, actually, if you’re going to be parochial, marriage is between a man and a woman in the eyes of God.
T’OTHER PERSON [with no small degree of vehement concurrence]: Yes! Exactly! It’s sacred.
ME: Oh… I didn’t know you were religious!
T’OTHER PERSON: I’m not.
ME [stunned pause while I wait for the nonsensical aspect of what “t’other person” has just said to sink into their heads]…
T’OTHER PERSON [clearly losing argument and so roaring slightly]: It’s tradition!
Of course, this person hadn’t ever thought about why they felt the way they did – they’d just been told somewhere along the line that it wasn’t the done thing and run with it. This person knows nothing about gay people other than that they fancy people of the same sex – something this person’s learned to think of as abominable. Would this person dare to judge a straight person on their heterosexuality alone? No, of course not. Would this person claim to know enough about a straight person to make a judgement of them? Again, of course not. But, apparently, the majority of society sees the act of coming out as a way of eradicating every other quality, quirk, flaw and idiosyncrasy. As far as the ignorant are concerned, if you’re gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual &c. then that is ALL you are and it isn’t the way they want you to be, so you definitely shouldn’t be allowed to mingle with the “normal” people.
If people are going to make offensive sweeping statements, they should be able to give you a logical, well-reasoned argument for thinking that way. And they should damn well know enough about the subject to be able to hold a consistent, balanced conversation about it. And if anyone ever says to me: “… because God says so” I swear I will reflexively chin them. That is not a valid excuse to go to war, and it is not an argument for racism, homophobia, misogyny or any other misguided, misinformed, loathsome features people may choose to adopt. Be religious, if you must, but don’t be a bigot in the name of “God.”
I was asked recently in a conversation, after I had admitted that I didn’t agree with marriage, why I didn’t want to commit. I’m not one for soppiness, especially not in public, but I was somewhat taken aback. I guess it depends on what your own personal definition of commitment is, but to me it means a degree of self-control, a quality of compromise and mutual respect, and the knowledge that if you were needed by another to lean on you’d be there for them… I’m pretty sure I’m already doing that.
If you’re not sleeping with anyone but your partner, you share decisions with that person and make plans with them then I don’t see how you could be more committed. If you don’t need to lean on them, but know that if you did that person would be there for you and vice versa; if you move v.much in your own circles and congregate from time to time and know that you’ve missed their presence, then surely what more could they ask of you? I don’t feel that forcing someone to announce that they’ll be there for you would mean more than the unspoken knowledge of knowing that they would be. Actions speak louder than marriage vows.
Marriage lost its clout the minute divorce became a possibility. It continues to lose its clout with societal evolution and, like organised religion, must learn to change with the times if it is to be embarked upon for generations to come with any rational rationale.
AIN’T NOBODY’S BUSINESS
There is something else that niggles me about marriage as much as anything else that I’ve mentioned and it’s this: why should I have to prove myself or my love for someone else to everyone else?
A v.close friend of mine recently got engaged. I am happy for her – it’s what she wants. But I know that she and her partner are crazy about each other. I know that they have a great relationship. I can see that they are in love. I do not need her to parade around in front of me in a lovely dress (and I’m sure it will be spectacular affair because she is stunning) to prove that she loves and wants to spend the rest of her life with this person; I can see that. I’ve been able to see that for years. Much as I believe that love generally doesn’t last forever (and the love that doesn’t is no less valid than that which does I hasten to add), I can honestly see these two people being together for the duration, so well matched are they. I love this couple – they are a beacon of joy together, and are so as individuals too. They have chosen to get married – I don’t know what for, but I v.much hope that I’m still invited. As I said in the first paragraph of my first post on marriage: I love weddings.
But I know the above couple love each other. I didn’t need them to announce it formally to me. If there are people who don’t understand how much they love each other, then they obviously haven’t seen R— and I– together… ever. So, if R— & I– know that they love each other, and if everyone who sees them together knows that they love each other and want to share a life together… what’s the marriage bit for?
Someone once said that being with me was like being with the Ice Queen. I’m not particularly proud of this and I hope that my current partner doesn’t feel that way. That a partner could feel that way is a serious issue, but I don’t really care what anyone external thinks of me in terms of my relationship or past relationships. I don’t feel that I have to validate my love for my partner by announcing it or shouting about it or tweeting about it (or even blogging about it – I’m v.uncomfortable with this whole paragraph, truth be told). I don’t want to have a party about it where everyone can tell me how “cute” we are. As long as my partner knows how I feel (and I hope that they do), I don’t see what it has to do with anyone else. Most weddings appear to be all about being the biggest, best, most dazzling, sparkling, regal couple for a day as if this proves that they love each other more than people who don’t go down that route. As if the whole day is to out-love other couples. But if you’re comfortable in the knowledge that you love each other, why do you need to prove it?
I LOVE YOU
Internally warm and soppy like a fuzzy love-bundle, inside tearing up at silly romcoms and getting a lump in the old throat when I hear words of love, I realise that I am, externally, a bit of a cold fish. Although I rarely say “I love you” even to my family (I know I know – bad Emily), I hope that my loved ones know just how much I love them. I would hope that they never see these strong opinions of mine as a sign that I don’t care or that I don’t value my relationships or the relationships of others. From my Mum to the wonderful explorer that is Michelle Jones, through John Magee, El Kitten (and hubby Mike Infinitum), Rose (and fiancé Ian) to my partner, and many many others (I merely haven’t mentioned you other wonderful people because a. I’m scared of missing someone vital out, b. I don’t want to impinge upon your privacy and c. I can’t be bothered typing out all those names), I can say with absolute honesty that I may have fingers in many pies, I may be able to cope without you, but I absolutely wouldn’t want to – my relationships, romantic or otherwise, are the foundations on which I build everything else. I would hope that, despite my not wanting to officially bind myself to any of you permanently in the eyes of “God,” and Goddess knows who else, you know that I wouldn’t ever not want you to be in my life.
This blog is not anti-love, it is anti-brainwash and I’m happy to be signing off with love… a love that has no need of marriage. Because as long as you guys know that I love you all v.v.much, that’s enough for me.
* People should definitely be allowed to have sex and/or fall in love with whoever they want, as long as the other party is wholly consensual (and neither young child nor animal).
** First mistake. T’other person clearly about to embark on an argument when they obviously haven’t got the faintest clue what they’re on about
*** Yes – already a weak-arsed argument
Cunt: A Declaration of Independance ~ Inga Muscio (an appreciation of the wonders of the vagina, the etymology of the word so many people find shocking and words of wisdom for women everywhere.
The Edible Woman ~ Margaret Atwood (an unassuming work of fiction on the subject of societal pressure)
The Dying Animal ~ Philip Roth (a v.dark, fictional tale of love, marriage and sex)
The Women’s Room ~ Marilyn French (a novel about women, marriage and feminism)
The Female Eunuch ~ Germaine Greer (a seminal discourse of women and their position in society – common sense for everyone)
Lady Chatterley’s Lover ~ D. H. Lawrence (or watch the TV series with delicious Sean Bean and the delectable Joely Richardson)
The Canterbury Tales ~ Geoffrey Chaucer (filthy, pious, sexy, devout, ambiguous and still relevant. I highly recommend David Wright’s adaptation, if you don’t want to struggle with Ye Olde Englyshe)
The Stepford Wives (the original Katharine Ross version, not that new shite with Nicole Kidman!)
I often overestimate society and believe it to be more tolerant and forward-thinking than it actually is. As I said in the first paragraph of my first post: I am constantly offended by people telling me that I should get married, that when I meet the right person I will want to get married (the insinuation being that I have simply never loved anyone enough) and that there’s clearly something wrong with me (not society – oh no – it’s all me!) Last night I had the conversation yet again. A friend and I went to the pub after work and were met by another friend who announced that they were getting divorced after ten years of marriage. So, naturally, the topic turned to my opinions on the matter. I was both shocked and appalled by what followed; suffice it to say that I never wish to speak to the friend with whom I originally went to the pub again.
I am more than happy to listen to the opinions of others; however, when I say opinions, I mean rational, well thought out, logical points of view, not bald statements. Of course, what I got was a load of bald statements.
Conversation the first, had with the soon to be divorcee who joined us:
ME: Well, to be honest, I don’t understand why anyone would get married. If someone can give me a good enough reason, maybe I’ll change my mind, but I doubt it…
DIVORCEE: Oh you should get married – our wedding day was so much fun
ME: But if I want a big party, I’ll have a big party
DIVORCEE: But it was just nice having people there to celebrate it with us
ME: Celebrate what, though?
DIVORCEE [pause]: The day, I guess. It was just loads of fun – you should do it
ME: I just don’t see why I need to get married to be with someone
DIVORCEE [beginning to look condescending]: Oh, when you meet someone you’ll want to marry, it’ll all change
For a few moments I was speechless with rage at the injustice of that comment, I reeled, and both of the people I was with took this as their opportunity to turn their conversational backs on me and start talking to each other disgustedly. Finally, on the way home, the original pub friend began again.
PUB FRIEND: It’s what holds our society together
ME: That may be how people perceive it, but I really don’t think, in these changing times, that it should be the case. Explain to me why you think that
PUB FRIEND [more than a little patronising]: It just is sweety.
ME: But you must have a reason for thinking so
PUB FRIEND: Well, without it, society would fall down
ME: What the fuck are you on about? Explain to me how
PUB FRIEND [still patronising]: It just would. That’s just the way it is. Marriage is about creating a union in the eyes of God… [at this point, my friend looks a little bit shocked at what he’s just said, what with him not being in the slightest bit religious]
ME: But you’re not religious
PUB FRIEND: No I’m not, but it’s not about that
ME: Um… you just said that’s what it was about. So you think married people are more important that we are [my “Pub Friend” is a 54 year old singleton, I hasten to add]
PUB FRIEND: Ah… no… well, yes, actually. Yes
ME: Do you have any idea what you’re saying?
PUB FRIEND: Ah… Look, marriage is what we base our society on
ME: I’ve already asked you to explain that. You’re just trotting out propaganda – explain to me how that is so
PUB FRIEND: It’s how adults conduct relationships, sweety
ME: Um… that makes absolutely no sense. So you’re saying that a relationship between two people is nothing without marriage?
PUB FRIEND: Yes.
ME: Do you percieve relationships that don’t involve marriage to be everything that’s wrong with the world?
PUB FRIEND: Well, yes.
ME: So, I’m everything that’s wrong with the world?
PUB FRIEND: In that respect, yes, I guess so
ME: But you’re not married…
PUB FRIEND: That’s different [pub friend lives with a similarly-aged lady and has done for several years… I mean, since the ‘80s]
ME: How? I just want you to explain how you’ve come to these conclusions. Do you have the first fucking clue what you’re on about? [yeah, so I was getting cross… wouldn’t you be?]
PUB FRIEND: Oh… [looking superiorly over his glasses]… sweety… your ideas are 30 years out of date. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.
ME: I don’t want to talk to you right now. You’re not making any sense and you appear to have turned into a patronising, misogynistic arsehole. In fact, don’t talk to me until you can actually answer my questions instead of making statements you can’t support!
Proving that, unlike the evolving society I like to think we are, we are, on the whole, just a bunch of brainwashed, walking clichés who don’t know why we think what we think and don’t want to question it in case it rocks the societal boat. So depressing.
I have been attempting to write this blog for three years and failing miserably. One of the difficulties is that it has been steadily growing at a rate faster than I can type. I write a paragraph, I save it, I read it back, I add some more. Sometimes I bring the subject up in conversation; it’s controversial, I get some more opinions, I add some more. People begin to question related subjects, such as gay marriage; I try not to explode in their faces, I add some more. I start a new relationship; I’m grilled about it, I add some more.
It has been a tough post to keep a handle on and no doubt I will refer back to it in the future and, shaking my head in resolution, add some more. It’s a piecemeal affair and neither elegant nor eloquent. But, since I am often offended by what is socially acceptable, I feel that it is unfair that I should have to keep quiet for fear of causing offence.
(I am posting this blog post in sections, so if you want to ask me a question/answer one of my questions, it may be something that comes up in a later post, but feel free to do either anyway.)
I love weddings. I do. I get caught up in the moment easily, I love getting dressed up, I love seeing Brides blushing with anticipation and guests flushed with champagne. But I don’t understand it – I don’t understand the need to bind yourself with another. What follows are my thoughts and questions on the matter. I am not attempting to belittle anybody’s marriage or relationship. I am not trying to tell anybody that they are in the wrong. I am opening the floor for discussion. I do not want to get married and I do not comprehend why anyone else does. If anyone can give me some answers, I would be v.glad to hear them. You never know, you just may change my mind… I doubt it, but stranger things happen at sea.
To my wonderful married (and potentially to be married in the future) friends: I love you all, I love your partnerships and corresponding loin fruit, I loved and will love your weddings – they are (and will be) beautiful, graceful ceremonies full of gorgeous people. Go, prosper, grow, breed – ignore your friend Emily, for she is clearly a lunatic to question a thing like marriage when you are all such glowing examples. I envy your clarity of mind and your resolution and your lovely, clean houses (also a mystery to me – how do you achieve that?). But, nonetheless, questions I am having.
THE START OF IT ALL
I’m not sure when it dawned on me that I would never marry. Somewhere between my third consecutive serious relationship and the two that followed, I guess. It wasn’t an unwelcome revelation, by any means; the realisation didn’t come wistfully clouded in hopelessness. On the contrary, it was a relief. A blessed, refreshing relief. In one, unbidden thought, I had absolved myself of the massive weight I hadn’t even realised I was carrying; the society-driven pressure that most women place upon themselves to find a husband had been lifted. I was me and I always would be me… I was free. And I couldn’t stop telling people.
What I failed to realise, in those early days, before I’d seriously considered the impact of this understanding, was that simply voicing what I considered to be a wonderfully freeing fact such as this was not only going to invoke pity in any listener, it was going to make them angry. V.v.angry.
It begins with a look of deep sympathy. A frown, a wonky, patronising, sad smile. Then comes the sentiment: “Don’t worry – it’ll happen for you one day. You’ll find someone &c. &c.” The automatic assumption being that I want to get married but haven’t met someone who wants to marry me. Or perhaps that I have never met someone that I loved enough to want to marry. Which is utter hogwash on both counts. I have been loved. I have been in love. Crazily, stupidly, illogically, want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you, truly, madly, deeply, head-over-heels, can’t-live-without-you, painfully, torturously, in full on clichéd stylee love. And, in that state, the urge to lock a relationship down, to preserve it, to do anything to make the other person reciprocate your love to the same extent is incredibly strong, I get that. No, my reasons, of which there are many, for opposing marriage have nothing to do with an inability to find love. I do believe in love, I honestly do! Just not in the way that people expect.
THE FAIRY STORY
We thrive on stories. With our art, music, acting and writing we can cause anguish and pain, we can make people cry and laugh, we can cause depression and anger and contempt. We like a good fable, an old-fashioned fairytale, a thumping formulaic read with some hot gypsies thrown in. We understand the black and white of the thing – learning the black and white is the basis for understanding that there are only shades of grey in life. Swathes and swathes of suffocating grey. And so, when the grey gets a bit too much to bear, we fill some of it in with black and white again… in our minds at least.
Fairy stories have a lot to answer for. Tales have always been a way to control societies; these days we have stories in the media too that churn out similarly damaging propaganda, but we still have those more traditional fairytales to remind us of what we should strive for in life and to warn us of the dangers of not living how we should. It is brainwashing of the highest order and it is the thing, above all else, that causes niggling feelings of guilt and failure in our lives, no matter how we live them. The fairytale has crept into everything; it’s in adverts and films and books and songs.
The basis of a fairytale is to take a young, pretty, thin girl; weak and vulnerable and sweet-natured, of course; and put her into a difficult situation, which inevitably gets worse and, just when we as the audience despair, along comes a man (generally rich and dashing and noble) to save her. And then they get married. Happily ever after. The audience is so glad it’s a “happy” ending. Life will be swimmingly easy for them. Isn’t that what we want? Love, happiness, riches, an easy life…? Well, we may as well get married – that’s a start, ey? And it’s the “right” thing to do. Don’t ask why, it just is, ok?
And then along came Disney. Despite the grim nature of some of our original fairytales, Disney manages to turn each one into insipid nonsense. True, I will quite happily sit down and watch the Little Mermaid or Snow White &c. when I want to allow my brain to have a snooze, or when the grey bits in life really get me down. But I know that I’ll have to swim back into the sea of grey at the end. Children, however, think that the fairytale is gospel, as they do the… well, the gospel. We are all brought up with these tales and they stick with us because, unlike the story of Santa Claus, they are still taught to us in varying formats throughout our lives. And everyone gets married, don’t they? It’s like growing up, it just happens. So when it doesn’t happen the way we’re told it should, we feel like failures; whether we failed to marry, failed to meet a mate, failed to be happy in marriage, failed to stay married, failed to be straight – we feel responsible. Because the other thing that fairy tales teach us is that if you are a good person and do as you are told, all the good things will happen to you and you’ll get your happily ever after. And they teach us that if you don’t get married/can’t get married/stop being married/don’t fancy who you’re supposed to, you’re probably a bad person because you’re not even trying to follow the story that someone else wrote for you long before you were even born.
It’s something that is fundamentally flawed in society – the need to promote the married and fecund above the single and childless. David Cameron is just not helping society to progress, but I don’t have time to go into that diatribe right now. Society as a whole is constantly changing and, v.slowly, it’s trying to evolve into something more modern and, for want of a better word, tolerant. But perceptions of marriage stand stubbornly archaic against that evolution of acceptance and, unless the way in which we view marriage changes with the times, this out-dated institution will hold us back in part, and exclude more and more people from its clique.
Another thing we thrive on is drama. Let’s face it, the majority of us Westerners lead pretty mundane lives and a lot of the time it’s a strain and an effort and we don’t see much for it. So we spice it up a bit. Probably as a hang-up from more devout days, we attribute meaning to every token – we take things as a sign that we’re meant to be with this person or that person. We make booming declarations of eternal love that seem so v.real at the time, but in hindsight are embarrassing, undignified and rather absurd. But then, you will prostrate yourself at the feet of someone who has said they want to leave you and scream things like: “I can’t live without you! I want to die! Oh, can’t you see we’re meant to be together?!” because that’s what you do when you love someone, isn’t it? Um… in films maybe.
“ONE TRUE LOVE”
Let’s start by looking at the concept of “The One”. Even if there were such a thing as “The One,” in a world of approximately seven billion people, what are the chances of that person being in your hemisphere, let alone in your country/city/place of work/bed? But incredulity aside, let’s suppose you’ve met someone who you consider to be your “One and Only” and let’s suppose they feel the same way about You. They feel the same way about this You, the You you are now, not the You you were five years ago or the You you will be in five years. Different books are right for you at different points in your life: you can read a book at twenty and hate it, yet read it at twenty seven and adore it, and vice versa. I believe that the same theory works if you substitute the word “books” with the word “people”. Cue outrage
That’s not to say that people can’t change together, but life takes so many different turns; events and situations change you so v.much. Even if you were to live out of each other’s pockets (and this is v.unhealthy both for your relationship and your own personal sense of self, I might add), the two of you can never have the same reaction, emotional or otherwise, to any given thing, so the likelihood of you changing into two different people who love each other is slim. Opinions change. An incident could occur to your partner that turns them from a liberal, free-thinking hippy into a bigoted, racist homophobe. You might have so adored your partner’s smile and twinkling eyes, yet the death of a loved one causes a bout of depression so deep that their eyes become dulled and the mouth never again curls upwards in mirth. It’s easy in theory to say that you would love that person through thick and thin, no matter what the cost, when the going is rosy; but if everything a partner says to you becomes tinged with scorn, for example, would you patiently take the flak and continue to love them as vehemently as you always did, regardless? Of course, history in a relationship adds a certain something; but surely that is akin to loving the memory of how a person was, rather than who they are now. And presumably the urge to stick is tantamount to the age old excuse of doing exactly what you’ve always done because it’s harder to not do it.
But, again, let’s suppose that you’ve been with your partner for years and that you’re still emotionally compatible… what is there to say that you’re still physically attracted to each other? What is there to say that your sexual needs have morphed into the same craving? What is there to say that there isn’t someone else out there who would fulfil your “needs” more?
We are driven towards partnerships, but I think Tim Minchin, as he so often does, succinctly sums this up perfectly with his song: “If I Didn’t Have You, Someone Else Would Do.”
We interrupt this incredibly important and vastly interesting three part injuries blog (ahem) to bring you this topical piece on the recent country-wide rioting.
(I began to write this blog on the day following the riots. Any allusion to “yesterday” or similar, is in reference to the events of the 9th August 2011)
THE EVENT & THE KNEE-JERK
It seems that there’s always stuff going down in London town: shootings, lootings, terrorist attacks, robberies, grand theft auto &c. &c. London is big news and all the time. Still, it was a shocking moment when it came to my attention that, not only were the riots that were breaking out in small pockets all over the capital not quashed on the afternoon in which they started, but that they were spreading. Even more shocking was the moment when it was made perfectly clear that they were spreading like a viral zombie outbreak up north. In other words: in our direction.
Now, Leeds in particular has a history of rioting, it not being the most affluent of places overall, and having a rather aggressive football presence. So, when word got out that there had been some “minor acts of violence” breaking out around the less prosperous parts of the city, our concern proved to be unwarranted. I can only presume that the West Yorkshire police are so deft at diffusing this sort of situation that it was nipped in the bud before it had even begun, but I could be wrong. At around 4:30pm on 9th August 2011, I rang my mother, who had recently e-mailed me the news of the suspected spread to the North East, and said that all appeared to be under control. What my mother didn’t tell me, is that she could hear police sirens starting up in the distance where she was. Manchester. At approximately 9pm my mother rang me and told me to put on the TV*.
I just want to take a moment to say that I wouldn’t call myself particularly patriotic. I love this quirky little country for its oddities; my family and friends are here, of course, and, although generally cold, wet and windy, we don’t have to concern ourselves with surviving hurricanes or monsoons and the like. I would have said that I had a minor attachment to Manchester and Glossop, but that I could take or leave it. But the minute I saw the destruction in Manchester city centre, my hackles rose and I v.nearly heaved. The next thought that ran through my head was, get in car, drive to Manchester, grab nearest little scrote and squeeze his throat until he turns purple, all the while shouting: “Get your hands off my city, you fucking wankers!”
… Yes… well…. quite…
I surprised myself with the violence of my feelings. I even jumped to my feet and did a little pace up and down the room while I calmed down.
Usually an early-to-bed-early-to-rise kind of gal**, I stayed up until midnight contacting people via the various social networking sites that I frequent to check that everyone was present and correct.
And, rather tangentially, I have to say: bravo for open social networking! Here’s to microblogging and Facebook. Blackberries may have allowed these riots to happen, but Twitter encouraged the clean up of the city and I would have given anything this morning to go to Manchester and help to eliminate any trace of scummer madness. And not only that, Twitter was a constant source of information, advice, footage, photographs, consolation, support and much needed humour.
Similarly, but of course in no way shape or form comparable in terms of tragedy, to the footage of the attacks of 911, I could not stop watching the same bulletins over and over of streets that I’ve worked on, bars that I’ve been tiddly in, shops I’ve shopped at, restaurants I’ve had dates in, curbs I’ve tripped over and, more importantly, the v.heart of a city I’ve called home for twenty seven years, being vandalised and raped in such a slap-dash, carefree fashion. How. Very. Dare they?! New recordings were being submitted throughout the night – images of young teens in hoodies, generally dark in hue***, were leaping from vans and running in swathes to pillage their own city. They looked like a small, evil army of hoods. They looked like terrorists. They were akin to the Klu Klux Klan. Like some sort of beastial, soulless creatures from a horror film. And the average age appeared to be around the fifteen years mark. So who was driving them?
Of course, the media didn’t help. As usual the emotive language was a laughably obvious ploy to whip everybody into a frenzy that could only serve to create more drama and more news. So nothing new there then.
THE CALMER ANALYSIS
I could go on until I wear myself out about the effect it had on me and the events that went on until the wee hours of the morning. But I won’t. Clearly, I haven’t previously seen enough action in such close proximity or I wouldn’t be flapping as I am, and people all over the world have been through much worse things and kicked up less of a fuss, so I’ll put my knee-jerk reactions to bed.
I do, however, want to delve into the cause and effect, rather than the event itself. Because, even though it’s taken me this amount of words to reach my point, I truly believe that what has happened to Britain over the last few days should be enough to make the people who can make a difference in the world take a step back and realise that something is v.amiss if we have children fighting the class battle for us.
For it is a class battle. True, these kids are running around with state of the art Blackberries and credit has a lot to answer for in this modern world which we inhabit. And, true, when asked why they were rioting and looting, these kids gave mediocre to downright preposterous answers like: “I fuckin’ ‘ate the police – they treat us like we’re all thugs, innit?****” and “Well these rich bastards ‘ave all got plasma screens, so why ‘aven’ I, innit?” Even if these children understood the class war they were waging, they certainly got the wrong end of the stick when they started trashing little kebab shops and independent news agents; when they moved away from the rich chains to ruin the livelihoods of people just doing their best in the world.
But, regardless of the fact that, yes they were all vitriolic little fuckers with not a second thought for anyone but themselves, and, yes they rioted rather than protested, and did so in a hugely threatening manner. In fact, yes, it was terrorism through and through. Regardless, I say, of all this… they sort of had a point. And we all know it – somewhere deep within us. It’s there, we just don’t like to address it. The way we don’t like to address the human rights of criminals; see both sides of the story when it comes to biased media coverage; acknowledge the homeless and accept that something is v.wrong if a dog can live its life in perfect luxury because a human being will take it in and feed it, but that a man can starve on the street because he made a few improper choices.
Once the rage brought on by the riots had gone, I started to analyse the situation and went through many trains of thought. The first (and most important) being that “we,” the majority of my friends and I, were not well off growing up: our parents struggled, scrimped and saved, and probably still do, to provide us with the v.best that they could. So how the hell could these scrotes, these vermin, these nastylittlethanklessfuckers possibly say that it’s because they didn’t have enough money to buy the things that we have? Looking back over the long-winded question, I think it speaks for itself… it’s because our parents did do that for us. They sacrificed things so that we could have the things we needed and they let us know that they had done it – not to be mean-spirited, oh no; they let us know to instill in us respect and an understanding of the world, and to teach us the value of work and money. We working class kids were given the opportunities these rioters never had, not in the form of clothes and gadgets, but in the form of instruction and self-worth. With their unequivocal sacrifices, our parents taught us that if we wanted to be anything in the world, we had to damn well work for it, and they taught us that they loved us, would do anything for us because that’s how important we were. How important we are!
A SINGLE SCENARIO
A friend of mine coined the rioting kids “The Broken Condom Generation.” How v.apt. A teenager from this underbelly of society, which we try to pretend doesn’t exist, gets pregnant. She has no money, her parents give her no guidance or support; maybe they throw her out. The father of the child wants nothing to do with the pregnancy, and now her; after all, she is a slag, our teenage mother, and that kid could be anybody’s, innit? She doesn’t see the point in asking for help; she could go to a doctor, but s/he’d probably treat her like a slag too and what would be the point in talking to a posh bastard like that? So, she doesn’t look after herself and feed herself well – probably couldn’t afford to, even if she wanted to. The baby comes and our teenage mother is frightened, but knows that to ask for help will probably do her no good. She resents what this thing has done to her life and her body. She had nothing before, she has even less now. She’s angry, was angry before all this happened, but now she is frustrated beyond belief. She sort of loves this sprogger, but has no idea how to tell it. She treats it the way her parents treated her, because she has no reference point for treating it any other way. She has no help with the child and can’t afford to have it looked after, so she can’t get a job, not that she was thinking of getting one when she can just sign on, and anyway, she can’t do anything, she’s not good at anything, nobody would give her a job and she’s not going to suffer that kind of rejection. This child grows up in a similar vein: has never been encouraged or taught anything by its once teenage, now greying and haggered, bejogging-bottomed mother, so probably ignores the education that was shoved down its throat, because what’s the point in knowing all that stuff when the posh bastard teachers don’t give a fuck about you – they’re just paid to be there. When your parents don’t give a fuck about you, why would anyone else? The sense of worthlessness will fester and mutate with every generation, just like it did with every generation before it. And with this sense of worthlessness comes a resentment for the people who value themselves.
This, of course, is just one scenopsis in which we end up with the hooded hoodlum who stalks the streets with open beer cans braying abuse at anyone who isn’t like him/her. But, as far as the scummers are concerned, the people with self worth are the people who could help and they don’t and they’re so fucking smug with their plasma screens. And maybe we are. The media has a lot to answer for: it sells us the perfect lifestyle, the ideal home, it tells us the way we should look, the things we should own. It intimates that the people who don’t live this way are insignificant. So, we strive to live as we’re dictated to live; which means that we get into debt trying, work in full time jobs we hate, scrimp, save &c. We’re proud of our achievements. We’re proud that we aren’t like the scumming class. We look down on the scumming class. We look down at scummers… right down into their dirty, pocked faces. We call them scrotes, we call them scum, we call them pikies and chavs and scallies and skets. We can’t stand these people who use our tax to abuse the benefits system – tax that we’ve paid to enrich our own society, which we feel those types shouldn’t have a place in. I know, I feel it too – I can’t help it. “I work hard so that they don’t have to” is the condensed viewpoint. But the cause of this resentment from both sides is dividing the classes still further, to the point where the scumming class is actually being ostracised from society all together. We’re pushing these people out instead of looking at the class division and analysing why things are in the state they’re in. The sense of worthlessness swells through a sick sort of osmosis, and with it swells our distaste. We don’t look at the cause of poverty that has manifested itself thus… we just want it to go away and stop threatening our lives. We make them ever more inferior and the situation ever worse. But then again, why would you want to give some scumbag the time of day? One average person against one average chav is likely to get abused in some way, no matter how much respect said average shows said chav.
THE SO-CALLED “RACE” RIOT
(and perhaps another tangent)
Another problem caused by unemployment and unemployability within the heart of the great unwashed is that a burning grudge is held for anyone who has a job. We live in a blame culture and this blame v.much includes racial minorities, especially within little white pockets of the poverty traps. As far as the ignorant are concerned, our ethnic minorities are “taking our jobs,” even if these ignoramouses are not personally concerned with employment. When I looked at the hooded army going to war, what I saw was, yes the odd black face, but a mainly white mob of skinheads. And what they looked like to me were the type of people who vote for the British National Party. Who vote BNP through ignorance, and lack of education and understanding. Who vote BNP because they have hatred inside of them and need somewhere to direct it. Who vote BNP because it makes them feel part of something (like the family they lack); who vote BNP because it gives them a sense of purpose. This was a race riot as much as it was a stand against the unfair distribution of wealth in this country – as in, it wasn’t. Whilst these kids are making a point, they make it unknowingly. They are angry because of the class divide, because they are povery-stricken; yes, ultimately, that is true. But bizarrely, they are just using it as a fish story to let out the pent up aggression they feel as a result of this treatment . They don’t understand that there is a v.real reason to protest. They inadvertently fight the battle they’re just using as an excuse to make a noise. Like a child throwing a tantrum, they want attention; they want to be seen and heard, but now that they have the floor, they don’t know what to say. They are frustrated, but nobody has ever taught them to try to understand the inner fury, or how to harness their anger and use it to get themselves heard rationally, like adults. And if anyone tried to teach them, would they listen? This unleashing of bitterness has been brewing for some time, and now it has happened in the least effective way, leaving hard working people to pick up the pieces of their broken lives. This wave of hatred has washed over us, leaving nothing but more resentment in its wake.
And, just as an aside: I think some of our minority groups did us proud throughout this rioting. A great big hand should go to the Turks. Good effort!
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The problem that now presents itself is rather severe. These scrawny, scruffy little gits are going to become fully grown adults. They’re going to become physically more powerful. They’re going to have more children. They’re going to be able to vote! We can’t take that away from them even if we wanted to, and, really, what’s taking their rights away going to achieve if not more ascerbity?
If we could bodily take each individual scummer and dedicate our time to teaching each and every one of them the lessons they should have been taught about life from their parents; if we had the time to impress upon them the importance of their existence and make every attempt to hone them into people who wouldn’t pose a threat to our flimsy society, but instead enhance it, we could maybe make a difference. We could at least make a difference with some, if not all. But we don’t have the time or resources and inclination is wavering. Maybe an exceptional few will pull their socks up and decide to take a different path in life. But, essentially, here we are, with these soon to be fully fledged adult animals. The obvious thing to do would be to teach their offspring; start from the beginning, if you will. But you can’t take a child away from its mother just because you don’t like her, or because you have different values and, as the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. There seems to be v.little way to get through to this class.
And what of punishment? Our commonwealth hinges on recognition and retribution and the rioters must face disciplinary action. They deserve it. Much as I am erring on the sympathetic side, the rioters are still responsible for their own actions and they were not ignorant of the fact that they were breaking the law. We cannot appear to be approaching this issue all softly softly. People are outraged and justice must be done, as much for example’s sake, as much for peace of mind as anything. But we can punish these kids as far as the law will allow and then we’ll send them home again; back to their barren lives where they will feel even more rejected by the world they so wish to inhabit.
These people need representation. They need a voice. They need help and direction. We want to be an educated nation, but how can we be when a large part of the nation won’t listen to anything they’re taught, even if they do stay in school? We cannot shun these people and expect them to quietly live their lives on the edge of the western world, out of our way. We cannot ban them from having children and we cannot round them all up and monitor them – Hitler may have found that to his liking, but we do not live in a dictatorship. We might abhor the underbelly, but cannot want to live in a police state, even if we would be amongst the chosen ones. Surely it is in our interests, in so many ways, to face the music and deal with this situation. Do we not appear weak as a nation when we are not a united force, but fighting pettily amongst ourselves over the acquisition of “stuff”? If we begin to treat these people with genuine prejudice we will be starting a constitutional war. As a famous bard once wrote: If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
RECOGNISE THAT THE OTHER PERSON IS YOU
We need to recognise that, given different circumstances, we could have been those people. And then we need to take a good, hard look at the shallow consumerism that engulfs us and the celebrity that we strive for, and choose a social order that doesn’t pay footballers £16 million a year just to let half of our society rot in their own dearth like an inconsequential annoyance to be endured from time to time. In short, we need a national brainstorming session, and we need to listen to one another to figure out where to go from here. But my money (my own money, which doesn’t amount to much, but which I earned through my inherent self-respect) is on us going down the lazy root; the root that doesn’t involve the fat cats relinquishing their grip on more money than they have to. We, as a nation, will continue to excommunicate fellow human beings and call ourselves decent people. We will blame “them” for crimes, and they will blame “us” for their poverty, when each party should just stop with the ineffectual and destructive blame, and start working with the other.
* Rather difficult when one doesn’t have a telly!
** Yes yes, ok – I don’t mean when I’m out and about of an evening
*** The hoodies, not the people wearing them
**** I never know if that should have a question mark at the end of it by proxy. “Innit”, as a derivative of “is it not,” surely should have. And the thought of a chav ending his sentences with “is it not” is highly amusing.
Ragtime ~ E. L. Doctorow
The Bonny Lad ~ Jonathan Tulloch
This is England
BODILY FUNCTIONS & HAIR REMOVAL
It’s been a v.long time since I had a period. For the majority of my adult life, my menstrual cycle has been put on hold with progestogen and progesterone. Initially, this was to alleviate the severe pains I used to suffer as a teenager* and later on became necessary to avoid the droppage of unwanted sproggers. Now that I find myself uncoupled, I’m reluctant to let the crimson wave invade my life once more. There have been occasions in the past where I’ve taken breaks from internal contraception to “sort my body out,” but all I‘ve discovered is that two weeks before a period, I turn into a snarling, snapping, whining, bitching, illogical, nasty, frustrated, irritated, worn out, emotional, violent, tearful, depressed, annoying twat; followed by dreadful bouts of teenage skin and bleeding that is not only painful, but leaves me drained of all energy, bloated, in pain, anaemic and often squicked out**. Add to this the inconvenience of being unable to wear light colours in case of leakage, the expense of buying tampons*** and the dilemma of to screw or not to screw (can I be bothered washing it out of the sheets? If we do it in the bath, will that just make the water look murky? Although they are wipe-clean, is it really hygienic to liberally spatter menstrual blood on the kitchen work tops?) Oh, I can’t be bothered any more. Implanon will be replaced when I finish my first three-year round in November.
But for most women, menstruation is v.much a reality and, for most women, v.much as I’ve described above. You boys have no idea! As well as the physical discomfort and the hormonal turmoil, entertaining Auntie Flo can also be a cause of deep embarrassment. A worrying amount of men flinch when periods are mentioned. It is more surprising to find a man that will quite happily take the topic in his stride than one who immediately blanches at the first mention and says: “Too much information…” or a variable thereof. I happen to be v.lucky in this regard – the men in my life have all been v.understanding and, in the not so frequent occurrence of my being on the blob at the monumentally inconvenient moment of being in a position of intimacy, have all carried on regardless, without hesitation or squeamishness. However, I have had the following reaction from male colleagues, teachers and the like (not during sexual encounters, I might add):-
THEM: Are you ok?
ME [bent double in agony]: I’m fine
THEM: What’s wrong?
ME: Period pain
THEM: I really didn’t need to know that
The insinuation here is that I should have invented a reason for my bellyache. But what? Presumably nothing relating to arses or fannies. It’s just another layer to add the ethereal image women try to portray. Germaine Greer, to return to that particular sage, suggests that we taste our menstrual blood. Well, I’m pretty sure the stuff has ended up in my mouth at some point, but I’m happier when any fluid that comes out of my body doesn’t end up in my mouth. After all, it’s coming out of my body for a reason. I don’t think eating your own blob is a way to accept the natural occurrence of its monthly appearance; I’m toilet phobic, but I don’t think drinking my own pee (or worse) is a way to accept that I have to do it. Learning to hide so diligently this so fundamental of female bodily processes is perhaps the foundation on which we build the greater deception assumed by most females as part and parcel of being a woman.
We shave our body hair. Whilst I understand the attraction with a smooth pair of legs, I don’t understand why the attraction, or why it doesn’t extend to men. We deal with armpit hair and back hair and sack and crack hair and yet the thought of a woman with hair in similar places is rather objectionable. Even women wrinkle their noses at the thought, so deeply ingrained is the ideal of the smooth woman. In fact, the only hair I can actually understand the removal of is pubic hair: of course, hair removal is at your own prerogative, but if you choose to allow your pubes to be unruly, at some point, some poor sod is going to end up with a mouthful of curlies and that is not going to be pleasant for them. Still, despite my lack of understanding, I will continue to remove any hair that isn’t on my head because to not do so is just not on the agenda. Does it not smack of the worst kind of brainwashing that I do not understand the need to do this and yet go ahead and do it anyway? My only motivation is other people. I don’t want to wear a skirt or short-sleeved top and have people see that, on occasion, hair grows out of the places that are on show. And what a ludicrous reason to do anything!
It goes further than waxing and shaving the hair on our bodies. A friend of a friend of mine recently invested in removing something else. Something that required anaesthetic and permanent mutilation. Her flaps! It seems that I was much mistaken when I took women with no flange flaps to be the same as people with no earlobes. People actually want this! I’m not saying that if you only have little flaps there’s anything wrong with that – maybe you’re just naturally neater – but why would you change something that you only ever show to someone with whom you are comfortable being intimate? For a start, that’s going to desensitise a v.sensitive area to some extent and that’s the last thing women need. I’m really not savvy enough on the subject of bajingo surgery to understand the rationale behind it, but I wouldn’t cut part of my genitalia off if you paid me. Since hearing of this outrageous act against muffs, it’s all I’ve been able to think about****. Perhaps they could take the removed flesh and pad something else out with it, since apparently the most effective way to become more attractive is to hack parts of yourself off and shove foreign articles in.
And then there’s anal bleaching! Presumably this is to give an effect of cleanliness, but here’s the thing: a bleached anus is even less clean than a non-bleached one on account of this equally ludicrous procedure causing anal leakage! “Oh, yes, I smell like arse, but at least I paid a lot of money for the privilege.” Here’s a news flash: your anus is the colour it is because of its main purpose in life and no matter what you do to it, that will still be its purpose!
I find the thought of medical procedures in general to be a rather extreme way of enhancing looks. I’m all for make-up as a way of enhancing what’s already there, but even then there is the fact that men don’t do it. Again there is hair removal – plucking the eyebrows. For dark-haired ladies with hair on their top lips, I have been told that bleaching is the best practice for disguising. We cover blemishes and dark circles, change our skin tone†, augment our cheekbones and brow-bones with highlighters and shadows. We make our eyelashes darker and, in my fair case, the eyebrows we lovingly tweezed. If one is to go the whole hog with make-up, the face is wiped out by primers and foundations, only to be redrawn over the top in deeper shades. And men don’t have this hassle. In fact, unless you’re Eddie Izzard or Tim Minchin, male make-up is rarely seen outside the circles of rock and/or drag. Yet I am all for wearing make-up. Make-up that looks like you’re wearing make-up. My eyes have gone from doe to sixties wings to fifties flicks to rockabilly ticks. But never did it occur to me to not do it. In fact, I find it slovenly to not do it – it’s part of getting dressed for me. There always comes a point when I start a new relationship and the person I’m seeing goes: “You look different somehow…” and I have to explain that my face is actually underneath the paint and that the reason I look different is that I’ve taken the paint off. I realise that this isn’t the case for all women, but there’s no denying that there is a great deal of pressure for women to look a certain way and regardless of what anyone says, constantly being bombarded with images of women that have been airbrushed to “perfection”, pouting, dark-eyed, ruby-lipped and vacantly-expressioned really gives us ladies a run for our money.
But at least these images are false: the face has been drawn on, the hair has been backcombed, sprayed, dyed, blow-dried and that’s before the final projection is tampered with. These are realistic goals to strive for, if that’s what you really want. It is possible to go someway to achieving the look of the moment, if the word “achievement” can legitimately be applied here. Of course, some stars go a step further and have plastic surgery – we accept this since they are something of a mythical “other” anyway. The rich and famous, for those of us that aren’t, are fabulous untouchables. They almost cease to be people. They are the beautiful husks, designed for our entertainment and amusement, to which we attribute whatever personality we feel like, since we don’t know them and never will. Somehow, for them to present themselves to us as perfect packages is wholly acceptable, since we effectively pay their wages and if a proportion of the billions we spend on music, films, magazines &c. goes towards a bit of rhinoplasty, then so be it. It does, after all, make the Beautiful Untouchables better at their jobs. But plastic surgery is slowly creeping into the high street. These days it is perfectly normal to see busses rolling by advertising cosmetic “enhancement.” It is no longer beyond our means to afford this sort of luxury.
What I can’t get my head around is that people would actually pay to have someone cut into their flesh for no other reason than that their nose was a bit wonky or their breasts smaller than they would like. The v.thought actually knocks me sick. Having had surgery, and I mean minor surgery††, I can’t entertain the thought of paying thousands of pounds for someone to do that to me if there is nothing wrong with me in the first place. Going under the scalpel is scary, for a start: a person injects you with something that renders you unconscious, which can cause health complications (and in some extreme cases, death), once under you have to trust another person to wield incredibly sharp implements over your naked body and then to actually slice into you. Now, let’s just suppose that everything goes to plan and you awake unharmed – firstly, you’ll probably vomit violently. And you will be in pain. Severe pain. You can’t expect to have your tissue hacked into and wake up feeling fine and dandy, of course you can’t. You’ll feel dizzy and confused, parts of you will hurt that didn’t even have the surgery, because bodies are funny that way, and you’ll probably be full of tubes. I don’t know what the recovery time is for plastic surgery, but after I had my appendix removed and my laparoscopy, it was a good two or three months before I felt ok again and the scars still ache from time to time to this day. And, the pain aside, what happens if you don’t like the finished result? Do you go back for more to correct it or quit while you’re ahead? What happens if, say, you have a wonky nose, have it straightened and then discover that it makes the rest of your face look wonky? What happens if your new nose suits your younger face, but as you get older starts to look out of place? There’s a limit to what surgery can do. And reversing age is another limit it cannot transcend.
So, it’s painful, it’s expensive, there are health risks… but what about just plain unhealthy. Liposuction, for example, is the procedure of sucking the fat out of a person’s body. Just as it is unhealthy to be underweight, so is it to be overweight, yet we have developed a way of reducing the fat in a person’s body without exercise or dietary revision. Bit of a no-brainer, that one. And we all know this and yet about a third of the people I asked said they definitely would have plastic surgery if they could afford it (mainly women), a third said they would consider it (a few more men crept into this category) and the remaining third said they wouldn’t (mainly men).What is this need to be uniformly beautiful? And why do the majority allow the media to dictate what being beautiful entails? True, we’re visual creatures… those of us who are lucky enough to be sighted, at least. I’m not denying the fact of attraction, but surely we are able to decide what constitutes beauty for ourselves. And surely there is an appeal in the irregular features that make one person different from the next. Maybe there are similar pressures for men when it comes to image, but I don’t see that men spend an inordinate amount of time preening, plucking, dyeing, curling, straightening, buffing, filing, painting, waxing and cutting off parts of their genitalia simply for the aesthetics, dressing up like damned male peacocks or tottering around on their tippy-toes.
* I mean pains that spread up into my chest and down both legs. Pains that made me faint and vomit. Pains mainly caused by Endometriosis, it later transpired.
** I am squeamish of all blood – my problem is not the location of the bleeding, only the fact of it.
*** Although, should I choose to return to my natural state of affairs, I shall be purchasing a mooncup. Sounds cleaner than plugging my muff with cotton wool, in which nasty germs can grow, and would work out cheaper on account of being a one off payment.
**** A colleague asked me recently why I was staring into space and all I could say was: “I’m thinking about flaps.”
† Historically women would put arsenic on their faces to bleach the skin. Unfortunately for pasties like me, in this day and age, the trend is to apply unnatural shades of orange to create a healthy glow
†† Appendectomy, laparoscopy, lapascopic womb scraping, contraceptive implant &c.