Sunday, 17 February 2019

Sex Tapes and Selfies: In Defence of Kim Kardashian.

Keeping up with the Kardashians…. A programme that divides and unites. I’m assuming that you’ve seen at least one episode but even if you haven’t, you’ll have most definitely seen and heard about the various members of the family. In my experience it tends to unite people in their shared negative opinions about their vacuous, vain, uber-privileged life style and perceived lack of discernible talent. I am here today to put forward an argument that most of the vitriol aimed at this family, in particular the daughters and specifically KIM, is based on internalised misogyny and double standards and that there is more to selfie culture than just vanity.
Lets get started with the first thing that people think about when the name “Kardashian” pops up: Kim’s 2003 sex tape. I haven’t linked to it, not because I don’t approve of it, but because it was sold without her consent. What, a woman didn’t give consent and the guy didn’t face any consequences? Welcome to the rape culture of the 21st Century peeps! But the fact that she didn’t consent for it’s publication, doesn’t detract from the fact that she was a willing participant in that tape. Enjoying a lovely sexy time with her then boyfriend, Ray J.
And that’s what I think so many people, including scores of WOMEN have a problem with. She allowed someone to film her enjoying sex with her own partner. What kind of woman would DO that? What kind of dirty, depraved whore would lower herself like that? The puritanical disgust that woman like Kim K, Paris Hilton et al have made sex tapes is astounding to me. Why on earth is it a problem? What is that disgust based on? It’s based on a dangerous, deeply rooted belief that is still prevalent in our society…. Women who enjoy sex are whores. And whores are bad. Because I don’t see Ray J being accused of being a whore? Oh but he’s a guy! It’s OK for him to have sex and it’s ok for him to enjoy it! Ugh.
This fetishisation of women as virgins or sluts, stems from a culture still heavily influenced by values of a patriarchal religious society. And as a result I believe most of these attitudes about women who enjoy sex and their own sexuality are not even conscious. It’s a default response to be horrified by them. Open any magazine or newspaper and the representation of women who have dated/slept with a lot of men is starkly negative in comparison with the “Lothario” type male celebrity who is back slapped or at worst, eye rolled at.
This is the double standard I can’t cope with. Kim Kardashian had a sex tape. It was published the same year Keeping up with the Kardashians aired, in 2007. Did it help launch her career in the public eye? Almost certainly. But so what? Good for her! She took back some control when she had none. She’s made millions marketing her remarkably rotund posterior. She’s harnessed that sexual attention, she’s acknowledged the male gaze and she’s taken back control. Her body. Her choice.
Talking of her body, we come to the next point. Selfies. The other accusation about the girls in the show is that they’re vain, selfie-obsessed airheads. Rather than astute business women with an eye for marketing that’s made them millions, specifically harnessing their “looks” and using them to sell make up to the millions and millions of young folks clamouring for a taste of Kardashian glamour.
Selfies are seen as vain and I find this a problem. It’s now so much a part of life, that a recent Austrialian study has discovered that 90% of selfies are NOT for the soul purpose of self promotion. Most bloggers I know use selfies frequently in their work to connect with their readers and followers. As the keen photographer in my family, I often will take selfies when we’re out and about or at family event, because if I didn’t there wouldn’t be any evidence that I was even there!
In an age where the pressure to look and feel attractive is arguably more intense than ever before, it seems strange to me that we would castigate those who have the confidence to put themselves out there. Rather than branding people as vain, I think we should be rewarding self love. According to this article, one of the ways to overcome the affect of the male gaze (in short the objectification of women/femmes), is mirror therapy. To centre yourself and become familiar with your own reflection rather than see it through the eyes of others. Not for vanity but as a form of self acceptance.
So whilst I wouldn’t say that the Kardashians are totally unproblematic… promoting weight loss aids, cultural appropriation and benefiting from a level of privilege most people will never experience etc., I don’t believe they deserve all the vilification they receive. Sex tapes and selfies shouldn’t, in my opinion, equal shame. And if you think differently, then shame on you.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Gender Neutrality for kids: Busting the myths.

Let’s tackle some ridiculous myths about not labelling kids toys and clothes with specific genders OK? Because flipping HECK, I’ve heard some bloody stupid stuff making the rounds. From people who really aren’t stupid and should definitely know better.

It’s over a year since John Lewis took down their signs for “boy’s clothes” and “girl’s clothes” in store but it seems there are still a lot of people out there who haven’t grasped the concept. I’m gonna break it down for you:

Gender Neutral Clothing / Toy sections aren’t full of beige clothes / toys or not trucks or dolls.

This is the silliest thing I’ve heard so far. That all kids clothes will become grey and beige…. akin to when you hedging your bets buying baby clothes pre birth. No. It means that we stop deciding for kids what colours they are limited to wearing / toys they are limited to playing with. If anything, the best thing any clothing or toy shop could do, right now, is add MORE colours to their palate. I’ve lost count of how many mums have complained to me about the lack of colour options other than pink or cream for girls. And boys like reds, yellows, greens, oranges and EVEN PINK. Just start widening the selection’s not hard! The same with logos…. Not all clothing needs to be fairies / unicorns vs superheroes / trucks. What about just having dinosaurs and pirates and cars and teddies in ALL colours?

YES IT’S OK IF YOUR GIRL WANTS TO WEAR PINK AND YOUR BOY WANTS TO PLAY WITH CARS. This isn’t the issue here. It’s to give ALL kids the choice of ALL the colours/toys. Both my kids play with Lego. Both play with the (pink) Walkie Talkies my daughter was bought for her birthday. (But why are they pink????)

Let’s not force stereotypes onto kids and start pigeon holing them before they can even spell pigeon! Not all girls want to play mums and dads, not all boys want to be policemen or doctors.

Gender Neutral Clothing sections aren’t going to make your kids become transgender.

This is a biggie…. unless your kid suffers from gender dysphoria …of which only an estimated 0.08% of the UK populationcurrently being born is, then they will not be “made” or encouraged or persuaded into becoming a trans person. This is very important. Broadening clothing choice and letting your boy play with My Little Pony is not going to have any impact on his life other than to make him happy.  Gender dysphoria is not common, it’s an inherent condition over which the child has no choice. Sure there are kids who want to experiment with different looks, clothes, toys…. Some of those will have gender dysphoria and will go on to seek treatment and possibly surgery once they are 18. Most of them won’t. 

But if your child does have gender dysphoria then the last thing you want for them is to be made to feel more at sea by clothing brands telling them what they should and shouldn’t be wearing to feel accepted and “normal” in society.

Gender Neutral Clothing / toy sections aren’t going to make your kids “gay”.

Again with the “breaking it down for the dumb”. Firstly, this section is purely for those who think homosexuality is in anyway a negative. Secondly, people are born with their sexuality. Just as they are born with gender dysphoria or not. So nothing external, like a pink fucking t shirt, is going to make your kid gay. Kids need to have access to whatever toys they want (within economic reason!) because it encourages their imagination and creativity. If you take that doll away from your little boy, then you’re an idiot and you’re doing your child a massive disservice.

Gender Neutral Kids Clothing isn’t about Androgyny.

It’s not about taking ANY gender away from kids. There are some schools of thought (and literal schools!) who think that taking any gender markers away from kids’ means that children won’t be constrained by the barriers of their gender. E.g. girls might be more likely to go on to study stem subjects, boys won’t grow up with toxic masculinity. Some may see this as a step too far, but as a general rule, just rallying for clothes/toys to be made and marketed with both genders in mind would be a good start.

Has Gender Neutrality gone too far?

Some people seem to take it as a personal affront that other parents let their kids decide what clothes they wear or toys they play with?! I’ve been met with the opinion of “taking this gender neutral business too far!” when a couple of friends saw that a little boy was ALLOWED by his parents to wear a dress in public. Why IS that though? Is because you are bringing up your kids to laugh at kids with different taste to theirs? No? What are the genuine fears they have of kids dressing how they want, based on?

So until any kids feels safe walking down the street with their friends wearing WHATEVER they want, then nope. The conversation about gender neutrality hasn’t gone far enough.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

How Clean is YOUR House? #Hincharmy Update!

I often wonder how clean other people’s houses REALLY are. You see, I am an awful mix of complete neat freak and terminally lazy. I think people who often have WAY too much going on in their heads often have neat-freak tendencies. If I can “just sort this room out” then my brain will be all calm and my thoughts will be in order. Perhaps it’s a sign of an anxious person? “I got all these things to think through AND a stinky, messy pit to clean up…GAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” 

Actually.... that does sound like me.

And I like my house to be clean. REALLY clean and tidy at ALL times. But it isn’t. And it never has been. Even before I had kids. Even when I only had one cat or even when I lived abroad and had NO cats. It was never, ever shiny spic and span. Because as with everything in life, my expectations do not meet reality.

So then I wonder how clean other people’s houses are. Because I am secretly weirdly competitive about stupid things like this. Now, I am not talking about the super messy, life’s-too-short brigade where stuff is everywhere and no fucks are given. And just for the record, I have NO ill judgement of that either. I don’t care if you live in a pit. And I do envy your no fucks given attitude too. Because if I had that attitude, I’d either have been chasing the dragon, or have had my brain entirely re-wired. My M.O. is worry about everything at all times and that includes the state of my house. 

(It’s not necessarily the best M.O.)

I am talking about the ones whose houses are relatively clean looking and tidy, as much as they ever can be with small kids involved. So usually one room, at least during waking hours, will resemble a jumble sale but that’s NORMAL. But how often do they really clean their kitchen floor, change their sheets, wash the towels, dust the shelves, hoover, scrub the bath? Do I do it enough? Sorry, I mean do WE do it enough? Is it weird to ask? Would you tell the truth? Is it normal to care? Is it a feminist issue?! 

The reason I got to thinking about this is two-fold. Firstly, this month is the start of having one full day a week with children in school. I was thinking this is a great opportunity to do some stuff around the house that we never get around to but also to clean and get up-to-date with washing...perhaps even IRON something. But it's also a great opportunity to write and exercise a creative muscle that's been on the back burner for a good while now. (thanks meta anxiety!) Which would make me happy but would it make me happier than a clean house?  

Secondly, if you have an instagram account then you MUST have heard of Mrs Hinch and her #hincharmy? A bonkers girl from Essex with killer lashes and an obsession with Zoflora. She's hilarious. A few weeks ago she had a couple of thousand followers. Thanks to her crazy cleaning stories she now has 500k! It's made me a teeny bit jealous. I mean, I just don't think I am committed enough. She was even on This Morning this week! 

Secondly, and this is apt, whilst we were all out ignoring house work one weekend, I stumbled upon the fantastic and seemingly anachronistic 70s book “Superwoman” by Shirley Conran. Its preface stating “Life’s too Short to Stuff a Mushroom”. I had actually picked it up to scoff at its outdatedness…. Who gives a monkeys about being a domestic goddess these days?! Pah! GET with the times, love! But then I actually started reading it and I was HOOKED! It’s ace! It’s witty, and funny and SO handy! A million tips on everything to do with running a house, from making your own washing liquids to weekly budgets and shopping tips. Having done a little background research I’ve discovered it was quite trailblazing publication. It was aimed at the emerging working woman who had little time to dedicate to cleaning her house.

Of course it IS vastly dated in that it suggests you never ask your husband for help, even if you ARE cutting corners a bit in your domestic duties! My reply to THAT is here. But some of the tips are fantastic! This is a good one:

Clean one room at a time because you can stop right there if time runs out or you get bored. Stop half an hour before you had planned, because then you won't be too exhausted to clean up properly.

So true! My normal cleaning mode is “OMG so and so is coming around in 10 minutes and I need to vacuum the whole house and clean the bog at LEAST.” By the time the person has arrived I’m a sweating heap and in need of a rest, and they have to make their own coffee!

But one big thing I took from the book was the LEVEL of cleaning that was expected, daily weekly and even annually. I mean, do you take down your curtains every spring and have them dry cleaned? Do you EVER hoover your sofa or mattress? (This is a weekly job apparently). Is part of your weekly routine to clean all the cupboards out and the fronts and dust all the high bits in the room and door frames?! How the bloody hell did women ever get anything done if this was a guide to skipping corners! How is taking down ALL YOUR CURTAINS skipping any corners?

My thing is, if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it! Cupboards need cleaning when something spills (including fronts); curtains need cleaning if some outside force has interfered….spillages / mould / cats; cobwebs get dusted at BEST when I can be bothered. I’d LOVE to have someone else do all of those things for me weekly but even I know that this is beyond reasonable.

But as I said before, I am weirdly competitive. I need to know if we’re normal or if we’re scumbags.

So. In 2018: How clean IS your house? What are your weekly routines? Are you a Hincher? I need to see if our level of cleanliness meets acceptable standards. Comment, Facebook or Tweet me. I NEED TO KNOW, like NOW!!!!!

Monday, 30 April 2018

If you think Anxiety is fun, try the new improved META version!

What the heck is META anxiety? It’s anxiety about anxiety (also known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder). And up until a little while ago, I was suffering from a big fat dose of it. It’s not fun.

If any of you have experienced episodes in your life where you’ve had anxiety or panic attacks, you’ll know it’s one of the worst feelings you can experience, ever. I wrote about it here. As I say there, it’s hell. But usually when we suffer from episodes of anxiety, there’s an underlying cause that’s definable. E.g. grief, stress at work, post-natal depression etc.

Usually when I have experienced anxiety it’s linked to events or circumstances which I could identify. I had generalised anxiety when I knew I needed to change my job in 2001. I changed jobs and within 6 weeks my anxiety symptoms disappeared.

Previous Periods of Anxiety

In 2004 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, just as her mother, my beloved Nana, was in hospital with secondary cancer of the womb. 7 weeks later my Nana was dead. I developed anxiety whilst my mum was receiving chemo. After a traumatic year, my mum had recovered well from the cancer and I went travelling in the Far East for 2 months. My anxiety went.

Four months after my first child was born in 2009 I developed post-natal anxiety. This time I used therapy and an increase in anti-depressants to deal with it. I’d gone on anti-depressants in 2005 for depression (I wasn’t experiencing anxiety at the time). I knew that I couldn’t just “change” my situation! I had to deal with being a mum because it’s for keeps! So therapy and increasing my drugs helped me overcome the anxiety. It took a good while, a couple of months, but then having a baby is a pretty big adjustment!

I got a small bout of Meta anxiety about four months after having my second child in early 2014. I’d assumed that I would get post-natal anxiety with her because I did with my first, but of course the second time around everything is different. You know the sleepless nights will eventually get less frequent, you know the crying will stop, everything is a phase. So when I got anxious, I went to see my therapist and she told me I was anxious because I was expecting to be. There was no reason for it and within a week, my symptoms disappeared again.

Between now and then, I’ve THANKFULLY had hardly any brushes with anxiety. The odd panic episode (not even enough to call a full attack). But mostly I’ve been completely free of it.

What's Happening Now

Just before last Christmas I had a panic attack. It was a one off based on cumulative stress but I think it might have opened the floodgates. The fact that the panic feeling seemingly came out of nowhere (e.g. not one specific event to trigger it) made me feel a bit more vulnerable to it. If I could feel panicky about CHRISTMAS, which is historically my most exciting time of year, then I could feel panicky ABOUT ANYTHING AT ANYTIME.

So when I got ill at the beginning of March with a flu during heavy snowfall that kept us house bound for 4 days, I started to get anxious. And after my daughter had also come down with it and I’d been stuck inside for nearly two weeks, I felt the full force of it. I couldn’t eat or drink properly, I felt sick and shaky the whole time. Desperately exhausted from the adrenaline pumping around my system 24/7. I couldn’t concentrate on much. I couldn’t look forward to any plans because I couldn’t see that I’d ever feel normal again. It makes you so incredibly insular and in a way, selfish too. You can’t think about anything other than the anxiety.

I went back to my therapist and after my first session, I felt better. I could see why it might have come back, quite often people can feel quite down after a viral illness so I expected that it would just peter out, the way it has done in the past.

Except this time, it didn’t. It lingered. That nasty, pervasive, gnawing feeling that things aren’t quite right and you might at any moment start REALLY panicking and lose contro was there almost constantly. And I didn’t know why! It impacted every part of my life. I couldn’t fully enjoy anything because I couldn’t ever relax. Thinking about plans I’d made pre-meta (!) filled me with  dread because there was an evil voice in my head telling me I might have a panic attack. I MIGHT properly lose my mind and unravel in front of EVERYONE. Even though intellectually I knew it was unlikely. There’s a lot of evidence from my past to suggest that I have lived a happy, non-anxious life for MOST of my adult life (and almost all of my childhood/teens). But I might. I might start to feel that rising panic, crawling up my throat from my jelly-like stomach, making my legs weak, my heart beat faster, my head feel lighter and my throat drier.

At the next session I had with my therapist, she reminded me that what I was experiencing is Meta anxiety/GAD. I cried. I cried because it felt like I was going to feel like this forever. It felt like I was never going to get rid of it. It felt like if anything remotely bad happens in my life, I won’t be able to cope because I’ll be in a permanent state of anxiety. I cried because I am ashamed that I can’t cope and I don’t know why. I cried because I didn’t know how to stop it.

We talked some more and she reminded me of the fact that I haven’t always felt anxious so I won’t always feel that way. It WILL go. 

I was unconvinced.

But guess what? I am fine. I am over it. For now. I am back to not waking up with crippling stomach ache and feeling shaky. I wake up and don’t even THINK about it. I am NOT worried about feeling anxious in the future. If anything I feel emboldened by it, I've proved to myself that I can get through it!


The only positive thing to ever come out of a period of anxiety is how grateful you feel afterwards for everything good in your life. Right now I am absolutely thrilled with life! Woohoo! Let’s DO this!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Feminism has Changed. Time to Embrace it!

What it means to be a Feminist has changed. It’s constantly changing and definitely for the better. We live in a society where we are aware of what everyone thinks about everything is broadcast all over social media 24/7. So Feminism is becoming more accessible and less exclusive. It’s less about anger and more about wanting everyone to have equal opportunities regardless of gender/race/sexuality and ability. And being aware of your place in the privilege hierarchy whilst you’re doing it.

I really became aware of what Feminist meant when I was at Uni. I never felt like boys and girls weren’t completely equal and thinking otherwise was absurd. I'd grown up never consciously feeling "less" than my male peers. But now, at Uni, I had a name for this feeling. So I decided to do a gender studies course which of course confirmed that yes indeed, I was a feminist. However, this was the mid-90s. It was the 3rd wave of feminism…. what I learnt about feminism then intimidated me. So much so that I never felt confident actually saying I was feminist, lest I be interrogated about my beliefs and forced to account for my make-up wearing, men shagging, leg shaving, Patriarchy-kowtowing ways! I wasn’t able to articulate why I was interested in being attractive to the opposite sex. I certainly didn’t feel brave enough to try and defend myself to the bare-faced, hairy, natural-fibre clad, Birkenstock-wearing, uber feminists!

Feminist at this point very much seemed like a militant, all-in-or nothing stand point. And even though I agreed with it wholeheartedly, I wasn’t prepared to come out as one! I was 19 and I was not ready!

That was until the 4th Wave, which started a few years ago (by now, my mid 30s). The emergence of social media in our everyday lives has means that people are much braver in what they “put out there”. You have the edit / delete function. You can craft your arguments much more succinctly and articulately than when you’re sat in a lecture hall or a class room. So women have been starting to say, more and more, “No! This is STILL not OK!” We still have a massive gender divide in our society. We still have unequal pay, we still have victim-blaming, slut-shaming rape culture, disfiguring a woman is seen as acceptable in Afghanistan if she attempts to go to college, until recently women weren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, Female Genital Mutilation STILL EXISTS. There are endless reasons why feminism is still a very much a conversation we need to have.

But. Saying that. I have friends who don’t want to call themselves feminist. They don’t like the word. They think it’s associated with extremism...bra-burning, man hating anger. Which, in the 60s and 70s it was a bit. But then in the 60s and 70s, women were angry! The distinction between how the sexes were treated was stark. Things have definitely improved in terms of equality since then. We have a long way to go but things are definitely changing. The face of feminism is changing. People want to be seen as “equalists” not one favouring one over another. My answer to that is this. For time in memoriam the pendulum has swung in favour of men. That pendulum has to swing back the other way before it settles in the middle. That’s part of why we have women only events, awards, grants etc. Where are the men-centric equivalent? Note: See all of history!

But thanks to the likes of Caitlin Moran, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lauren Laverne, Malala, Meghan Markle even flipping BeyoncĂ© (A POPSTAR….shock, horror!), people are talking about Feminism more and more. It’s becoming much more of normal thing to call yourself feminist. Modern feminism isn’t concerned with what you wear, who you sleep with, or what you look like. We aren’t saying we are superior! We are saying, just budge up and give us ALL room at the table! Give our Trans sisters and sisters of colour some room too! Let’s get intersectional & trans-friendly around here, OK?! 

The emergence of the #MeToo is further proof the war is not over. For all the women who use that hashtag, there are more women/men coming muttering about how some of the famous women are fame whores who just want some limelight. There’s still suspicion that SO many women have experienced abuse/harassment. And then there’s the super helpful (!)  “Not All Men” hashtag, a tasteless, badly timed response which totally detracts from the female experience to make it yet AGAIN about them. (Writtenabout quite brilliantly here.)
My outlook on this definitely changed, not just as I got older and more confident (the bonus of ageing to counter those wrinkles… you care less about them!). But having kids has made me see the world through their eyes too and, more importantly, the future. I don’t want my daughter to be faced with a future where her only options are pink and sparkly and I sure as hell don’t want my son growing up thinking mummies are domestic slaves and it’s OK to do a cheeky rape if you’re all drunk, especially cos she was wearing a mini skirt! No way.

We need to keep this momentum going, this sisterhood which is emerging across the social media world. The word of 2017 according to online dictionary Merriam-Websterwas Feminism! We need to keep spreading the word, it’s OK to be feminist! It’s GOOD to be feminist! We’ve all got your back! The future is Feminist!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Is Christmas Stress a Feminist Issue?

Christmas is without a shadow of a doubt my favourite time of year. I am super lucky because growing up my family really invested in creating traditions and making it a magical time of year for us. Not with money, we didn’t have much of that growing up, but just with making such a big fuss of the season. So for me it’s still a magical time of celebration, happiness and fun with the added bonus of living that magic vicariously through my children.

But this year, something changed. The stress outweighed the excitement of the season and I almost had a breakdown. I started to have panic attacks and I had to go and see my *counsellor to get me through the holidays. I can’t say I actually decompressed until several days after Christmas day, despite having lovely times in between. But I just wanted it to be over. I couldn’t cope with the weight of expectation laid so heavily at my door. Laid at the door of the wife, the daughter, the mother, the granddaughter, the daughter-in-law. And that’s why I think it’s a feminist issue.

What was it this year that felt too much for me and why is it a feminist issue? Because I did it all. I did it all, on my own. As do so many other mums, daughters, daughter-in-laws, wives. And this year it was too much for me.

I’ve stated before that my husband and I are a team. We share all household/child responsibilities equally. It’s ace. But the running of extra curricular stuff is always up to me. I mostly want it this way. I like to have control, I feel like my memory retention for things like birthdays and school work is better and I am more invested in our social lives because my husband would probably be happy living as a hermit (with us and the cats, obvs).

This year I realised that I don’t think some of our partners have any idea of what goes into the organisation of a Christmas season. And from talking to other mum’s, I know this is most definitely not my experience alone.

I saw a light-hearted segment on This Morning where they bought in a blokey bloke who claimed to do Christmas himself and bragging that he got it all tied up by shopping at 5.30pm on Christmas eve...and a snorting woman, who was the other extreme, and pretty hostile and derisive to the boasty/deluded bloke. Not helpful! The points made were that women make a big fuss about everything and that it’s easy and blokes could do it with little to no effort. Eamon then underlined his point by saying: “I just want it to be simple, like when I was a boy.” To which Ruth replied: “Yes, when your mother did everything.” TouchĂ© Ruth.

There are several points to be made here. Firstly, there is an assumption that we put pressure on ourselves to to make everything perfect, sparkly and special, as if that’s what we alone desire. That we don’t HAVE to go to so much effort to lay a nice Christmas table or pack a pretty present with a bow. The effort we go to isn’t to fulfil our own glittery expectations but that of our families...specifically the children’s. There’s also increasing pressure from social media to do things we never had as a child, elf on a shelf, Christmas eve boxes etc. A mum the other day told me her kid had asked her why they didn’t have an elf on the shelf!

Secondly as much as your partner may protest at you bringing stress on yourself with all the effort, has he ever told you the tree is over dressed? The decorations are too much? The lovely wrapping paper is too gaudy, you have too many Christmas cards, the food is too delicious, the presents are too shit and thoughtless? But these are minutiae in comparison to the real effort that goes behind the organisation of Christmas.

These are things I’ve heard being said by male partners at Christmas:
You are going to too much effort! You don’t have to invite family, I don’t care. You don’t have to send my family cards / presents / photo calendars. You don’t have to invite them for lunch / dinner / to stay.”

It’s not that simple though is it? Unless you genuinely dislike your partner’s family and really wish to banish them from your lives, you will always make the effort. Not just for his relationships’ sake but for the sake of your kids’ relationships with said relatives. The maintenance of familial bonds almost always lies with the wife / mother / daughter.

I don’t care about presents. Don’t get me ANYTHING”

Has anyone ever actually been brave enough to do this? To actually get your partner NOTHING to open on Christmas day? Whilst everyone else sits in their own tornado of wrapping paper? And how has that gone down?

Just tell me what do, and I’ll do it!”

Firstly, it isn’t just a matter of “doing”. It’s thinking, planning, booking, ordering, paying, wrapping, packing, sending….the list goes on. The actual “doing” part is usually the bit at the end which requires no thought, effort and very little time. Therefore it’s usually pointless and too late.

My Christmas stress breakdown this year wasn’t caused by my partner not pulling his weight. Whilst I was fretting and doing ALL THE CHRISTMAS THINGS, he was quietly behind me doing the washing, cleaning the kitchen, feeding the kids… doing his bit. There were also some stress-inducing situations, it was a super busy time of year at work, and one of my children decided now was a good to time to give up on sleep and develop a teenage attitude problem to rival Sid in Toy Story and as a result I got a bout of insomnia too.

But even with the support of my husband, it’s a tough time of year for us Mamas. And for many, I think it’s still a feminist issue. There is definitely a disparity in gender roles at this time of year.

Below is a little (not little) time line of the things I did in the run up to Christmas. The list is pretty long. It might be quite dull to read and it’s not essential to the post. Some of it people will deem unnecessary, a waste of money/time. There are definitely things I won’t be doing again to save my own sanity. There will be lots of things on there that most mums do every year however. Enjoy!

*Let me put a little disclaimer: when I walked into my counsellors’ office, the first thing I did was blurt out how ridiculous I felt having panic attacks because I couldn’t cope with Christmas. And how of all the Western-First-World-Middle-Class problems there out there, this had to be pushing for top. I am aware this could sound crazy to others who have lost people they love at Christmas, or are in hospital with loved ones at Christmas or any of the plethora of other, “PROPER” reasons to be stressed/anxious at Christmas. My counsellor told me this statement was unhelpful for addressing my own anxiety. I still felt like an idiot nevertheless.

That's me, sifting through the kid's pressies, trying to write a list of who sent what. Mum in apron behind me going to check potatoes. What else do you see?  
A timeline of Christmas tasks for 2017

Previous December 26th/27th
Brace sales IRL (in real life) or online to search sales for next year’s:
1) wrapping paper
2) Christmas cards
3) Christmas pjs for kids
4) Christmas jumpers / or outfits for kids
5) Crackers / any decs / lights that have broken
6) New Family Calendar for coming year (which you’ll spend ages transferring all birthdays / significant events / term dates / inset days onto)

Start thinking about Christmas pressies and panicking about where the money will come from.
Sort secret Santa in work/help decide venue for Christmas meal/quiz etc.

Book father Christmas visit as soon as tickets go on sale. (Super popular venue)
Panic more about lack of funds. Shop around for credit cards.

Apply for credit card. Await it’s arrival nervously
Start buying THOUGHTFUL presents for all extended family members (12 people).
Buy stocking presents (non thoughtful!)
Arrange & Book venue for blogger Christmas meet up
Buy presents for kids and husband.
Help Dad buy presents for Mum.
Spend a fortune / painstaking hours creating online photo calendars from the last 12 months for older relatives.
Buy stuff for Christmas Eve box
Take kids to Winter Wonderland.
Buy advent calendars
Sell 100 Scout stamps
Book Christmas shop slot. Leave it too late, get rubbish “click and collect” Asda slot
(this requires thinking about all the food and drink we will need over Christmas period)

Take proceeds of sold stamps back to Scout hut. Feel guilted into sorting Scout post after work. Have strop with Scout leader and don’t go.
Write Christmas cards
Send photo calendars.
Order school pics. Promptly lose school pics before Christmas and have to send out in January.
Send Scout cards, International cards, UK cards
Wrap all presents. (Emlyn did half)
Pay school for panto trip
Buy sets of tickets for all concerts for all times for all relevant people
Add and replace various items for ULTIMATE Christmas supermarket shop
Book time off work for concerts
Attend a few birthday parties (having bought and wrapped presents)
Sort 2 x random kids costumes for concerts, remember to get them to school
Make gingerbread cookies (not essential but a tradition)
Make Christmas decoration for work competition (!!!!)
Attend concerts for all relevant family members
Wrap “fake pressies” for Scout Christmas party (!!!) Remember child has party, remember his Christmas jumper and entrance money
Remember to dress kids in home clothes / Christmas clothes on various different dates throughout December
Put up decorations (kids do tree...wait til they in bed, re-distribute a few items)
Get extra green bags/food bags in case we get snowed in *hollow laugh*
Buy all bottles of booze and or chocolates and or flowers to take to parties / relatives
Pick up Christmas shop on 23rd, realise half stuff is missing, go to another shop to find missing items.
Plan/make food for boxing day visitors & freeze
Make food for Christmas day
Keep a note of who got what and from who.
Write/ hassle kids into writing Thank you cards
Send Thank you cards
Contact absent family members to wish merry Christmas/happy new year

26th December… brave the sales for next year….. and repeat….

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Motherland Depresses The Shit Out Of Me.

Motherland is a relatively new comedy series on the BBC that follows a modern, middle class white working woman and her struggles with balancing childcare, cliquey playground mums, an unhelpful grandparent and an absent/selfish father. Whilst I do think it’s very funny, and in some ways quite perceptive, I am also depressed as shit about a few key details. And I actually don’t think it’s helpful to have another TV series which represents childcare as solely a woman’s responsibility, however hilarious and possibly true to life it is.

I do get that art reflects life so in this instance the popularity of this show is down to the fact that mothers see their lives reflected back at them. That IS the experience of many women in the UK right now. They work and they struggle and they sort out the childcare. But if we keep portraying that as the norm on screen, it’s not going to change anything is it? At some point, instead of saying this is your experience...isn’t it shit? How about challenging the stereotypes and having a comedy which represents BOTH parents struggling? Because it IS the responsibility of BOTH parents.

My biggest problem with Motherland is the representation of men. They are either entirely absent – the husband of the main character (Julia) is always off at the football or a stag weekend or at his “more important” job. OR they are simpering weirdos who the female characters either tolerate or are mildly repulsed by. WTF? WHY?

Why are the fathers depicted like this? Like they don’t give a shit about their kids parties or schooling or have any interest in their lives at all? Is this the experience of the writer? Because if it is, I feel sorry for her. Of all the partners / fathers I know ...even the ones who are the most self-absorbed and Neanderthal in attitude (thankfully not many) NONE of them have ZERO interest in the lives of their kids. I’d say at the very least most fathers would be present at their kid’s birthday party, no?

And if they ARE totally absent, as much as that is totally shit, it’s also surely partly your responsibility for putting up with it? There’s a point where Julia is on the phone to her husband, at a stag weekend and he asks, albeit insincerely, if he needs to come home. YES. YES YOU FUCKING DO YOU SELFISH PRICK. And she says no, it’s fine. I’m sure many women relate to that. You feel guilty asking them to help because “they need a break too”. They work hard too. Sure. But when do YOU get a break? Why isn’t he organising the kids party and navigating the social awkwardness of kids parties with cliquey parents? Why aren’t YOU off on a canal boat with a donkey hat on, swigging Pimms and singing songs about vicars and tits?

Because you’re a woman. And that’s your job. According to TV adverts, soap operas, comedies, dramas. Woman sort the kids out, men go to the pub. Still. Now. In 2017. W.T.F.

Also, a small note here as well….the writer, who LIVES in London, doesn’t seem to have noticed ethnic diversity either. Which is odd, given that only 44% of London is White & British according to the 2011 consensus. But perhaps I am being picky here? One thing at a time, eh?

The one character I do really like and I think IS true to life is Liz. Liz DGAF. She’s single, she’s always trying to get a date, she takes parenting with a pinch of salt and she’s singularly unimpressed by the bitchy mums. She’s #squadgoals for me. But what IS Kevin? Does ANYONE know a Kevin?

My plea to the BBC is this…. Can we PLEASE have some Fathers in comedy who aren’t totally shit? They do exist. And even if they don’t exist in abundance, then seeing them represented on screen can only help encourage them to be less shit? And maybe encourage some mums to put up with less shit? Surely? PLEASE? In 2017? Yes?  
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