Browsing Category | feminism

Three Thinks: Sex work, Gender & Feminist Dating

Sex work, gender, and feminist dating - rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com

I’m still finding it hard to sit down every single Sunday and write. Last year it was really important to me to do so, because writing here was so tied up with giving up alcohol that I felt if I didn’t write every Sunday I may as well go back to drinking and the two – writing and not drinking – became inextricably linked. Now I know I can happily not drink just by, you know, not drinking.

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Feminist Fatigue

Feminist Fatigue - rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com

You may have noticed that blogday has been missing for a couple of weeks. I have no excuse for this – I wasn’t moving house (thank goodness – I’ve already done that 5 times since starting this blog) or on holiday or ill or anything special at all.  Well, I had a few exams and was prioritising revision, but if I am brutally honest with myself the revision was a blessed excuse not to write.

I didn’t write because…I had nothing to say.

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“I wish we talked more about…” Part 2: Periods

wishtalkpart2

periods2Part 1 – women and sex

Part 3 – Sexual Health

A while back one of my fellow humourless killjoy feminist friends came up with the idea of a list of “Things we wished people spoke more openly about”.

The conversation that ensued lead to several revelations amongst the group and numerous exclamations of “I am SO glad we’re talking about this” and “OMG I thought this was just me” and “why don’t we talk about this stuff? This is GREAT.”

So this is part two of my ongoing but irregular series – “Things we wish were talked about more openly.”

Just like last time, I am going to add a lengthy content warning, mainly for the benefit of my family who might not want to read about my intimate shizzle.

This blog, and indeed probably the whole series, will feature talk of things like sexual acts, body parts, bodily functions and fluids and other things that often make people (right across the gender spectrum) feel uncomfortable. It’s almost certainly going to make my family feel uncomfortable, so if you’re related to me, you might want to stop right here.

I am going to say, straight up, that a lot of the things that are likely to come up are things that I personally find really difficult to talk about. I spent a lot of time hating my body and not really wanting to look at it, feeling awkward and anxious about sexual acts, being ashamed and scared of things my body did and generally feeling unable to talk about it. So just as you might be leaving your comfort zone to read this, I am going out of my comfort zone to write it. So we’re on this journey together.

And so…

“I wish we spoke more openly about…

Menstruation and PMT”

I recall that my school education session on periods was woefully inadequate. It left us all with the impressions that:

  • If you have sex, you will get pregnant. So don’t.
  • When you are on your period you are gross KEEP IT A SECRET AT ALL COSTS
  • Periods are gross and icky. DON’T TALK TO BOYS ABOUT THEM
  • It’s just a few tablespoons of blood (LIES)
  • Vajayjays are dirty. Try not to touch them
  • EEEUUUW

I was never really told what was coming out of me was pretty amazing or marvellous or perfectly ok. It’s taken me decades to be able to unpick all this.

What does get talked about a lot is PMT – but it’s usually framed as a big joke as to why women are in a bad mood or being grouchy. There’s a lot of talk about OH LOL HORMONES BE MAKING GIRLS CRAZY BITCHES but it’s not taken terribly seriously. But PMT symptoms can be really serious, and varied and honestly? They can really really suck. Treating PMT as some ‘bitches be crazy lol’ thing does a great deal of harm to women who are having real physical and mental symptoms. So forgive me if someone makes some bullshit “on the rag lol” joke at me and I imagine ripping your fucking nipples off. It’s easy to be a humourless bitch when you’re not actually being funny.

periodxkcd

But there is no ‘once size fits all’ for PMT – and women experience all sorts of different symptoms. Some lucky ones don’t get any. Personally, I get really mood swingy, teary and grumpy and find it hard to concentrate. I don’t always connect the dots sometimes; I spend 3 days wanting to kill things/other people/myself and crying at fucking adverts and because of my history of mental ill health every time I’m like THE DEPRESSION IS COMING BACK. 3 days later I’m like “oh. Hello womb lining.” I have to pee way more, my IBS flares up. I don’t want to do anything. At all. I don’t even want to write this blog. I had to force myself to sit at this laptop today. My body temperature is higher and I feel hot all the time. Boyfriends haven’t always understood why I don’t want to snuggle when I am on my period. BECAUSE I AM MELTING GET OFF ME. I don’t get cramps – for which I am eternally grateful – but I do get hormonal migraines. Regular as anything, once a month. Full on, someone-is-trying-to-stab-their-way-out-of-my-eye-socket-with-an-icepick migraines. periods1Painkiller resistant, soul destroying, please kill me now migraines. Every period. I’ve been having periods since I was 14. So in theory I’ve been having migraines every month for over 20 years. That’s more than 240 migraines.

Only I haven’t, because (with the agreement of my GP) I run packets of pills together to avoid having periods for several months at a time. This suited me down to the ground for many years, as I still believed all the things I learned at school about periods (refer to the list above) and therefore was really happy to not have gross blood doing gross things euw gross.

A lot of crap is  talked about hormones and what they do (see the ‘boys will be boys‘ rubbish excuse) but that’s sort of the point isn’t it? Hormones are punchlines or excuses and that detracts from being able to talk about them in a meaningful way.

 

It took me many many years to get over the idea that my vagina-during-my-period was gross and untouchable. Vaginas are naturally self cleaning. Period blood is seen as a waste product, like poop or pee – but it’s not remotely the same thing. It’s the uterine lining that a woman’s body has prepared to grow a foetus. If you think about it, that’s probably the period3cleanest thing ever. It has to be – it’s going to grow, nurture and nourish a tiny potential life which hasn’t got its own immune system. It’s…kind of amazing when you think about it. But it also isn’t just blood. There’s all sorts of weird stuff coming out of there. Weird textured stuff. Clots. Weird stringy sticky stuff. I swear I thought I was completely abnormal for YEARS because this ‘couple of tablespoons of blood’ they’d told me about at school bore no relation to this flood of weird Xenomorph-acid-like substance. I thought I was ill or weird. It took a long time before I felt comfortable enough to talk to other women about this and you know what we discovered? We ALL thought our discharge was weird and we all wished we’d just talked about it years ago.

So why don’t we talk about this? When talking about it helps us understand each other better? Helps women feel they are normal and not alone, and helps guys understand what women are going through. It’s such a huge taboo that it has an entire Wikipedia page about it. Why is it such a huge taboo? In these enlightened times, does it need to be a taboo at all?

IfMenHadPeriods-24376Gloria Steinem wrote a rather marvellous essay imaging a world in which Men were the ones that menstruate. Of course, it’s satire, and not entirely serious. But it’s a refrain I’ve heard often. If men had periods, toilets would always have sinks inside the cubicle. Sanitary products would not only be not subject to VAT, they’d be FREE. If men had periods, there’d be allowance in job laws that allowed flexible time off for PMT.  If men had periods, it would be a sign of strength, not of weakness.

It’s been a ‘man’s world’ for a long time, and feminism has been making gains over the last 40 years in leaps and bounds. It may seem like a weird ask, but I would like a next big leap to be for the taboo over talking about periods to die in a fire. It’s not just an issue here in the UK with girls feeling confused and alone and scared/wary of their own bodies – in other countries it has serious ramifications for the education, welfare, safety and wellbeing of women and girls.

We need to be able to talk about menstruation, our own, other women’s, those of women the whole world over, without fear or revulsion or jokes or snarky jokes. Boys and girls both need to learn how normal and natural they are, that they aren’t dirty or weird. Men and women need to learn how to communicate properly about what their bodies do.

Periods are perfectly normal. Let’s talk about them.

 

 

 

 

woman to woman: we need to talk

womantowoman

bullshit memeI didn’t have very many female friends as a young teenager. I didn’t have many male friends either, I have to say. A combination of moving around a lot and being pretty socially awkward and (with hindsight) not finding it easy to recognise people meant I found it hard to form close friendships. Or even casual ones. I was quite late into my teens before I found a group of friends (mainly thanks to Sir Terry Pratchett.) Continue Reading

Consent: Not actually that complicated – Animated!

CONSENTanimated

tea

A bonus blog day for a Friday, partly because I am away this weekend and don’t know if I’ll be able to have blogday as usual this weekend, and partly because I have been sent this awesome animation by Blue Seat Studios of my blog about tea and consent.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

I absolutely love how simple the animation is, and that they kept it gender neutral.

There’s a common rhetoric that suggests that it’s always men making the tea and women drinking it, which is hugely harmful to people’s sexuality and to notions of consent within same sex relationships. It buys into a narrative which denies male rape – by both men and women. It buys into a myth that women aren’t sexual beings. It buys into the myth that men always want sex, or that an erection is consent. An erection is no more consent than a woman being drunk and unconscious is. As pretty much every teenage boy  ever discovers during puberty, male bodies can react in physical ways without reference to emotional desire. Erections can happen on their own, or in response to physical stimuli even if the man doesn’t actually want it to happen. In short, just because it’s up, doesn’t mean he’s up for it.

Reducing consent to [men asking / women accepting] also erases gay sexuality- where consent is obviously just as important. Men who do men need to make sure they are both up for what they’re doing. Women who do women need to make sure they’re both up for what they’re doing. And while you’re mid-coitus, if you’re engaging in different acts, you need to keep checking in that your partner (assuming you’re not super familiar with them already, that is) is comfortable. Or, to use the tea analogy, if you’ve both been drinking Rooibos, don’t suddenly hand them an Assam without telling them, or checking that they’re cool with Assam.

This is why I deliberately wrote the original blog  to be gender neutral, as consent affects all genders, all sexualities, all kinks, all activities. I love that the animation kept that neutrality.

Also I love they kept the swearing because seeing stick figures swearing is totally hilarious.

Edit 15th May 2015 – people have asked for a swearing free version for use with younger children – here it is :)


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Creative Commons License
Tea Consent by RockstarDinosaurPiratePrincess is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com/2015/03/02/consent-not-actually-that-complicated/.

harassment is not a virtual issue

virtualharassment

I was going to write something about drinking this week, because it’s been a while, and last week’s post was kinda feministy and I like to usually mix things up a bit in between the being Really Angry About Things but something, well, two somethings but really the same something, happened this week which made me, well, Really Angry about Things.

Thing 1 – Sue Perkins – cake botherer, national treasure and all round amazing person – was hounded off Twitter due to some baseless rumours that she could be in the running to present Top Gear. For non UK people, Top Gear is ostensibly a program about cars, but for many years has basically been a vehicle (oh, lol) for the champion of the sort of people that say things like  “I’m not a bigot but I should be allowed to say these things it’s political correctness gone mad MAD I TELL YOU.” The completely fabricated rumour that she was in the running, prompted by some Screenshot from Twitter. Text reads: Clarkson's Law: The reaction of many Top Gear fans to Top Gear demonstrates the need for changes to be made to Top Gearbetting activity, led to death threats so severe she left twitter. No doubt to a celebration of the Top Gear fans and any other people who just like sending women on Twitter death threats.

Thing 2 – Just a few days later, Jack Monroe – austerity chef, anti-poverty campaigner and down to earth ‘accidentally famous‘ blogger – was also hounded off Twitter. In her case she hadn’t done anything as egregious as be at the centre of rumours so much as simply being a lesbian, or a ‘militant queer’ in the words of one of the messages. Continue Reading

"I wish we talked more about…" Part 1: Women and Sex

dinosaur_sexEarlier this week one of my fellow humourless killjoy feminist friends came up with the idea of a list of “Things we wished people spoke more openly about”.

The conversation that ensued lead to several revelations amongst the group and numerous exclamations of “I am SO glad we’re talking about this” and “OMG I thought this was just me” and “why don’t we talk about this stuff? This is GREAT.”

So this is the first blog of what I intend to be an ongoing yet occasional series themed around “Things we wish were talked about more openly.”

Before we go further, I am going to add a content warning. This blog, and indeed probably the whole series, will feature talk of things like sexual acts, body parts, bodily functions and fluids and other things that often make people (right across the gender spectrum) feel uncomfortable. It’s almost certainly going to make my family feel uncomfortable, so if you’re related to me, you might want to stop right here.

I am going to say, straight up, that a lot of the things that are likely to come up are things that I personally find really difficult to talk about. I spent a lot of time hating my body and not really wanting to look at it, feeling awkward and anxious about sexual acts, being ashamed and scared of things my body did and generally feeling unable to talk about it. So just as you might be leaving your comfort zone to read this, I am going out of my comfort zone to write it. So we’re on this journey together.

And so, lengthy pre-amble complete, let’s get it over with.

“I wish we spoke more openly about…

Women’s masturbation, sexual pleasure & orgasms”

It’s pretty much accepted that boys wank. It’s a common trope in fiction and a frequent joke punchline. There are a million (hilarious) euphemisms for male self pleasuring, and you can make up a million more by just “Adjectiving the Noun”. Hugging the giraffe. catchphraseWrestling the one-eyed dragon. Marinating the sausage. Feel free to suggest your own. It’s most entertaining. While there’s a great deal of humour over the subject, male masturbation is generally accepted as a normal male act, part of healthy development and generally a pretty fun way to pass the time if you’ve got not much on and there’s nothing of interest on Netflix. But if you’re a woman, and you make a joke about “adding that to the wank bank” there’s often an awkward silence. Women’s masturbation, even in our relatively sexually enlightened culture, remains a taboo subject and jokes about women taking a walk in their own lady garden are OMG TOO SOON.

But yes, it’s true. Women do take themselves into their own hands. As with men, some will do so more often, some will do it a lot; some with a lower sex drive might not do it that often and some might just do it to pass the time and when there’s not much on Netflix. There should be no more shame in women having a solo joy party than a man doing so; but it’s so much harder to talk about. In part this is down to women often being seen as passive sexually; as not being sexual agents or having sexual desires of their own so  much as being something on to which male fantasies or acts are projected. A woman getting herself off doesn’t fit into this idea.

But not only is it super fun, and totally a feminist act (it so is. You are demonstrating your sexual agency as a subject. Totally a feminist act. Not just because there’s nothing on Netflix.) it can also be really valuable for a woman to explore herself; to learn what she likes and how, how she wants to be touched and what gets her excited. If she learns her own body, she’s going to be able to better guide her sexual partners to what she likes, to mutual sexual satisfaction.

Mutual sexual satisfaction in a relationship isn’t something that just happens. Every one’s body is different, and people take pleasure in different things. So it’s really important if you care about your partner and their happiness that you both find out what you enjoy, what they enjoy, and what you can do for each other. The frustrating stereotype that women spend their time avoiding sex with their male partners that never get enough is not only pretty offensive but perpetuates the idea of a passive female object for the pleasure of sextimesmen. For this chap buying his darling beloved a latte for Christmas, my main thought was “well perhaps if you were more interested in pleasing her than getting yourself off she’d enjoy the sex more, and you’d get more sex”. Sex shouldn’t be a transaction, bought with gifts and begging. If your partner isn’t totally into the sex with you, then maybe you need to be having a conversation about what you can do that will please him/her. And if you can’t have conversations like this without either of you getting embarrassed/awkward/upset/turned off it’s kind of a red flag. If you can’t communicate about what makes you both happy sexually, perhaps you need to think about whether you have a good relationship in the first place, as the key to a good relationship is communication.

One of the big problems here is the pervasive myth of the vaginal orgasm. It was in 1905 that Freud claimed that vaginal orgasms were something that ‘adult’ women had, while ‘adolescent’ women had clitoral orgasms. Freud had absolutely no evidence for this assertion whatsoever. No studies, no facts; it was all based on  his own theories of sexuality. Despite our understanding of human sexuality, biology and psychology moving on significantly  in the intervening one hundred and ten years we’re still clinging onto this outdated view of orgasms – which let’s remind ourselves was based on exactly no actual evidence. The theory has been heavily criticised ever since  but somehow the myth clings on.

Movies, TV, books, porn, magazines; they all continue to perpetuate this myth that women have these big old screaming orgasms from penetrative sex when actually the vast majority of women simply can’t.  It’s not because their male partner’s penis isn’t big or wide or hard enough, or because the man isn’t good at sexing enough; it’s because most lady parts are just physically not designed that way. Our culture is obsessed with the idea of P in V penetrative sex when that’s one tiny part of a whole range of super awesome fun times you can have, many of which are more likely to result in *mutual* pleasure. It’s no coincidence that lesbians tend to have more orgasms than women in straight relationships; it’s because they are engaging in a whole lot of ‘extracurricular’ activities that directly stimulate all of the best places.

If you’re a dude, and you’ve got this far (good on you!) and you’re looking sidelong at your girlfriend, wondering if she’s faked it, don’t be too hard on her. Many women will admit to faking it because they’ve had fun, but know they aren’t going to climax, and they know their partner is holding out for her, and she wants him to enjoy himself, and so will fake it to help him make it. If you get me. But if you’re only ever doing the P&V thing and your girlfriend isn’t up for it that often then leave off the sarky picture macros and the passive aggressive comments and just talk to her. It’s not your penis, it’s her vagina. Just because parts other than her vagina need need stimulation from things other than your penis doesn’t mean she doesn’t really like your penis (or the man it’s attached to.)

We need to stop thinking about sex as simply being “place penis in vagina and pump for a bit”, and thinking of it as a whole range of sexual acts which please everyone involved. Forget the word ‘foreplay’ – that suggests that all the other stuff is just the prologue, when for many women the ‘other stuff’ is most of the novel, with the actual penetrate part being the epilogue. Or maybe even the acknowledgement. And as with women’s masturbation, this all links back to society’s difficulty in seeing women as sexual beings in their own right, as likely to be horny, with desires and pleasures of their own, and wanting some sweaty love times as much as men.

(And if any of my family are still reading, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

 

Part 2: Periods & Menstruation

Part 3: Sexual Health

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Splitting hairs

Even Dinosaurs were hairyI remember when I first tried to shave my legs. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t really even have any hair to shave. I’d just picked up from the magazines I read (because everyone else was reading them) that it was A Thing Teenage Girls Did and that to not shave would be unthinkable. I used a disposable razor I found in the bathroom and some talc. Yeah. I know. As you can probably imagine, I made a bit of a mess of it.

A few years later real hairs actually grew, I worked out how it was done without looking like a victim of Freddie Krueger. It never occurred to me to question the whole shaving thing. Not once. Shaving legs and armpits was just what you did. You’re a girl, puberty has arrived, and therefore you shave because girls aren’t meant to be hairy.

I didn’t question that for decades. Not until I started playing roller derby, in fact, and met some girls who didn’t shave. At first I was shocked. Because girls aren’t meant to be hairy, right? The girls who didn’t shave had all, at some point, received actual verbal abuse for having hair in places where girls aren’t meant to be hairy. Keeping hair where hair grows, it turns out, is actually a radical political statement. Whether you chose not to shave because you can’t be bothered; because you have sensitive skin, or due to religious reasons, or for an actual political statement, being a hairy girl always ends up coming across like a political statement. Because girls aren’t meant to be hairy. But if girls aren’t MEANT to be hairy, how come we, y’know, grow hair?

A couple of years ago I developed one of my random allergic reactions. This happens to me occasionally. Some part of me will swell up, or burn, or flake, or itch or look like it’s trying to fall off. I will spend months trying to work out what the hell is causing it, cutting all sorts of things out of my life and then slowing bringing them back in one by one to try and work out what the fuck is making my life temporary hell. Sometimes, like accidentally watching the first part of a two part CSI while you’re sick off work and finding the second part isn’t on next because these things get shown in some bizarre order known only to some time travelling daytime TV scheduler, I never actually discover the culprit. The one that developed a few years ago that mainly affected my eyes, ears and patches of skin across my back and shoulders and made my skin extra sensitive was that unfinished two-parter. I had to cut out pretty much every strong chemical substance. For months I could wash only with expensive allergen free shower gel and put nothing stronger than coconut oil on my face. This also meant no shaving, so sensitive was my skin.

Whatever it was that caused this particular reaction left my skin permanently sensitive, so that I have to be really careful how often I shave it – unless I want to be a red flakey itchy burny mess.  And having spent rather a long time not shaving, I was out of the habit. And also starting to question why it was so important anyway. And wondering whether maybe it was better to be a bit hairy than a red flakey itchy burny mess, even though  I knew this would automatically put me into Not Shaving Political Statement territory.

Have you ever wondered WHY aren’t girls meant to be hairy? According to mental floss it’s all thanks to Harpers Bazaar (of course. Women’s Magazines. Have I mentioned before how much I hate women’s magazines? I am not sure I have. But I do. I hate them. I’ve hated them since I realised that on one page they tell you to be happy just as you are, the next page the best celebrity diet, the next a page shows you how fat this celebrity is, the next page worries that this celebrity is too thin. The next page points out that you don’t need a man to be happy, the one after tells you how to ‘bag your perfect man’ and in between all those pages are adverts telling you without these products you’ll be a fat, skinny, old, young, ugly, stupid, single trapped-in-loveless-hell frigid slutty wallflower harridan who no one will ever love who has to love yourself. So yeah. I HATE THEM.)

So, I decided to stop shaving for a bit just to see what would happen. And, well, not much happened. To be fair, it was winter, so the only time hair was ever actually visible was when I went swimming at the Ladies’ Pond, which is the least judgemental place I’ve ever been in my life. There are women in their 90s who’ve been swimming there every day for over 50 years and they couldn’t give a flying banana whether the other women there are shaving their legs or not, quite frankly. If you ever want to learn a lesson in Giving Exactly Zero Fucks then hanging out with nonagenarians who swim regularly in -0 degree water is a pretty good start.

As spring has drawn near and my shirtsleeves are getting shorter it’s got harder. I don’t really like the look of the hair under my armpits. To me it looks, well, kind of ugly. And knowing that this is decades of cultural GIRLS ARE NOT MEANT TO BE HAIRY isn’t going to just make me get the hell over that. If it was that easy to shrug off powerful media conditioning we’d all be much happier (and buy fewer things, and the beauty industry would pretty much vanish). But I was determined to persevere. And not only persevere,  but try to spread my message of STOP SHAVING THROW OFF THE HAIRY SHACKLES OF THE BALD LEG BEAUTY STANDARDS. Because if my friends all stopped shaving too I wouldn’t be the only hairy one. I started discussing it with other feministy friends and questioning their epilatory routines. I started questioning why women felt the need to remove their hair for OMG NO REASON STOP IT.

I started re-writing the lyrics of a certain Disney song to become a feminist anthem about binning your razors and depilatory cream.

Let it grow let it grow
don’t want to shave any more
Let it grow, let it grow
Slam the bathroom door!

I don’t care
What they’re going to say
about my skin
I’ll wear shorts anyway

Let it grow, let it grow
Think of the time I’ll save
Let it grow, let it grow

You’ll never see me shave

Here’s my hair
And here it stays

Razor in the biiiiiiiin

My skin never bothered me anyway!

YES WOMEN I was shouting. WE MUST ALL REJECT THIS NOTION OF HAIR FREE WOMEN AND EMBRACE OUR HAIR.

And then, a conversation with a group of friends stopped me in my tracks. (Which is probably for the best because That Song being in my head, no matter the lyrics, probably will actually drive me round the bend.)

One friend was talking about an incident where her son had been playing with hair on her toes, and how it had led to an exchange between her male partner and son where her partner said something along the lines of “Son, when you grow up, society will tell you that women are more attractive without hair, and you’ll have to think about whether you agree with that.” (He probably didn’t say it in James Earl Jones’ voice, and probably didn’t call his son ‘Simba’ at any point but that’s kind of how it ended up in my head). What I took from this conversation SHOULD have been “what an amazing supportive partner and father, how cool.” What I ACTUALLY thought was “toe hair? Women have…toe hair?”

A whole conversation ensued, right in front of me, about toe hair. About how one of my friends shaves her toes more often than she shaves her legs. How one friend’s boyfriend thought her toe hair was ‘cute’ and hadn’t met any women with it before and wondered whether that was because they always shaved it. One friend then mentioned the agony of tweezing out the hair from her nipples. Another about having an awkward conversation with her children about women and moustaches. Another saying that if she didn’t tweeze her chin hair, she could probably grow a full on Kung Fu Master beard within a month.

My mind had already been completely blown by the toe hair so the rest of this conversation rendered me speechless (and that almost never happens.)

As soon as I got home I took my socks off and stared at my feet. And then I stared at my lip and chin. And, yes, I also stared at my nipples. My nipples were bald as anything. My lip does have downy hair on it but so downy pale you can’t see them unless in a certain light. My toes did in fact have one or two wispy little hairs, but they were so white blonde that they were pretty much invisible.

As an argumentative opinionated sort, who generally thinks she has a good grip on this whole intersectionality business, it was rather a shock to be confronted with an example of my own complete lack of awareness or knowledge about what other women deal with.  The idea that ‘girls aren’t meant to be hairy’ message is incredibly powerful, and is not going to disappear over night, and it’s certainly not going to disappear with pale blondie soft downy haired types like me haranguing our more hirsute female friends into not shaving their body hair and making them feel bad about having it. Especially when as a pale blondie soft downy haired type I even caved last week and shaved my armpits because I had a new tattoo and needed to wear sleeveless dresses for a bit and didn’t want to go to work with hairy armpits.

It’s terribly easy for me to stop shaving as a ‘political statement’ because as a natural blonde, the hair on the parts of me that are hairy is pretty damn fair. I am not actually, when it comes down to it, really very hairy at all. I can swan around going YEAH EFF YOUR  BEAUTY STANDARDS but in the right light actually not really showing much of a deviation from those beauty standards in the first place.

My friends had inadvertently slapped me in the relatively hair free face with a privilege I didn’t even know I had. Blonde privilege perhaps? Follicle privilege? Whatever it was, I had it. And I’d never realised. That’s the thing about Privilege – the capital P kind – we don’t know we have it because it’s a Privilege. The important thing about Capital-P-Privilege though, is what we do about it once we realise we have it. And what I need to do is stop thinking that I am making a grand political statement about letting my wispy pale hairs blow in the breeze, and stop making other women who don’t have the luxury of wispy pale hairs feel bad if they want to remove theirs to help them feel better about themselves.

Sure, Let It Grow, if you can, and if you feel comfortable doing so. But if you don’t, that’s ok too.

Society will tell you that women are more attractive without hair, and you’ll have to think about whether you agree with that.


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Tea Myths and Sympathy

I’m going to be upfront about this – I am experiencing an online form of performance anxiety. My blog, up until Monday evening, was bimbling along with an average of perhaps around 13 views per day. I was pretty happy with that to be honest. I’m happy when ONE person reads it.  Since posting the Consent/Tea blog, I’m currently averaging around 30,000 views per day, my twitter hasn’t stopped buzzing and my mum messages me every hour to ask me how many hits my blog has had. (She’s a blogger too, so of course she taught me everything I know.) All week the question has been bouncing around: what the hell are you going to write next Sunday. I usually write about something that’s been on my mind in the week before, but this week the only thing that’s really been on my mind is, well, last week’s blog.

The comments and messages I  have received have been overwhelmingly positive – with people taking the metaphor and extending it in ways that never even occurred to me. My favourites including “If they ask for Earl Grey, and you only have Assam, don’t give them Assam until you’ve checked that’s ok” and “if they ask for soy don’t give them dairy milk and afterwards go HAHA it was really  cow milk all along, gotcha lolz”.

There were two distinct types of feedback that struck me most –  for very different reasons.

Feedback type 1

I received a higher number of questions than I would have liked that asked a variation on a theme of “What if they say they want tea, and you drink tea with them, and later they say they never really wanted the tea and then RUIN YOUR LIFE. This happens a lot!” This, ladies, gentlemen, dinosaurs and others, is a TEA MYTH.

Actually, let’s move away from this tea analogy, because I don’t want anyone to get muddled here. Rape Myths are beliefs about rape which are often widely accepted but wrong and/or distorted which actively prevent genuine justice or appropriate support for victims. There are many rape myths – all very damaging and I think all of them featured at one point or another in the comments section, but none more so than the ‘false rape accusation’ one.

It can be tricky to discuss this particular rape myth – because – and this is important – false accusations of rape are very serious, and they can ruin someone’s life. When I say that false rape accusations are part of a rape myth I am IN NO WAY suggesting that 1 – they don’t happen (they do) or 2 – they don’t matter (they do). The issue is one of equivalence.

To illustrate my point  I am going to use this risk assessment model ‘borrowed’ from a project manager friend of mine.

RA_Myths

This model is often used when establishing what resources an organisation needs to put into a particular aspect of their work, and is a useful way of discussing difficult issues. If something appears in the top right it will need more resource/focus than something that appears in the bottom right. Something in the bottom right should not get more time/attention/money than something in the top right. If it’s in the bottom left then you might want to think about forgetting it entirely.

So, let’s add some badly drawn MSPaint wotsits to this model about the topic in hand.

RA_Myths_edited

The Crown Prosecution Service’s report of 2013 found that in the period of study there were 5651 prosecutions for rape, and 35 prosecutions for making false rape accusation (prosecuted as either ‘perverting the course of justice’ or ‘wasting police time’.) That means for every 1 false rape allegation there were around 160 actual rapes. I don’t call that even remotely equivalent.

False rape accusations are extremely rare, and even those accusations themselves are often complex. Sometimes numbers that make up ‘false rape allegation’ statistics aren’t even, well, false at all.  So to bring up the risks of false allegations in a discussion about consent is not only misleading and disingenuous, it’s downright dangerous.

Feedback type 2

These were harder to read, but infinitely more valuable.

I received a number of messages from people telling me of things that had happened to them in the past, and how they’d blamed themselves, or never quite dealt with the feelings, or never quite been able to move on. They said that my post had made them cry, or laugh, or just feel believed or understood. Some said that they’d used my post to talk to their children about consent. A few said that my post had given them a sense of release from their past, a way of dealing with their past experiences, a sense of understanding that what happened to them wasn’t their fault. One said they wanted to tell me “what a difference you made today”.

To have people say they enjoyed your words, to see them shared over and over and to see people going YES, THIS was bewildering and wonderful and strange. But those messages telling me that I didn’t just write something funny or clever but that my words actually had real impact for people; to know that my brain ramblings have affected people, touched people and even helped them is an extraordinary feeling, and one I will treasure, even if no one ever reads this blog again*.

My life has also been changed by this experience; in that I will never be able to answer the question “fancy a cuppa?” without smirking.

*But I hope they do. 


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