Monday, 23 October 2017

#MeToo - Why is it important?

The #MeToo thing has been sweeping the internet recently; women standing up and declaring that they have suffered sexual assault or harassment and that the time has come to say 'enough is enough, no more suffering in silence'. And I know that many women have found it hard to stand up and join in. I have thought long and hard about whether to write this post and even harder about whether to press 'publish' and send it out into the world. I guess I decided that if this was important to so many women then I couldn't stand on the sidelines and remain silent.

Like almost every woman I know I have experienced sexual harassment to some degree, less so now I'm older but that's not the point here. From the older brother of a friend who thought it was ok to get us to lift our skirts and drop our knickers to the man on the bus who thought it was ok to run his hand up my thigh; from the work colleague who thought he could just reach out and grab a breast to the cold caller who thought he could call me 'love' or 'darling'. We've all known what it was like to be objectified, to be grabbed against our will, to be made to feel dirty.

I grew up in the 70s and as they say times were different then. Casual racism and sexism were facts of everyday life. Try going upstairs on the bus in a mini skirt and listen to the comments. But there was more subtle harassment going on and it didn't always come from the boys. 'You'll never get a boyfriend if you won't let them touch you', 'You'll never keep a boyfriend if you won't let him cop a feel', 'If you won't let him grope you he'll think you're frigid/a lesbian/a feminist'. All things my girlfriends told me as I was growing up. No wonder the boys thought they could do as they pleased with their hands!

But there is a more sinister side to all this. If men grow up thinking they can do whatever they want to with a woman's body then it comes as no surprise that some men don't develop a filter. They don't hear 'No' they hear 'Try harder/be firmer/force it'. For many years I heard stories from girlfriends of the times they'd had to fight off the unwanted attentions of a man, sometimes with little success. I've had many tearful conversations with girlfriends who ended up having sex with a man just to get rid of him. How terrible does that sound?

And some men take things further. I have been assaulted by a man who took no notice when I said 'No'. For years I thought it was my fault: I had fancied him, flirted with him, found myself alone with him. So it was my fault for putting myself in that position, wasn't it? No! It has taken me many years to know that, to know that it was his fault not mine, to know that I was a victim not a co-conspirator of some sort.

Of course it's all about power. The power men feel they have over women. That a woman's voice is less important, that a woman's body is not truly her own, that woman just need 'persuading' when they say 'No'. That is why it is so good to hear women across the world taking power back, saying that although these things have happened to us it's not ok and it's not cool and we won't be silent anymore.

Because that's how it all thrives, in our silence and passivity. We warn each other about the office letch, the man you never stay in a room alone with, the octopus at the office party, the dirty old man with wandering hands. We need to shout out, to confront the men who make us feel uncomfortable with their attentions, to tell the world that it's not ok and we won't stay silent anymore.

So I say these things have happened to me, they were not ok and I stand with all the women who are posting #MeToo. Together we may be able to save other women from feeling silenced and passive and powerless. 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Book Review - Making Winter by Emma Mitchell

'Banish winter blues and embrace the frosty months by cosying up with Emma Mitchell's nature-inspired collection of crafts'

As someone who has followed Emma on Twitter for a few years I know how passionate she is about crafts, making and the life affirming benefits to be gleaned from doing something soothing and productive like crochet or baking. She is a successful crafter, running workshops to promote the joys of making. So I cheered when she said she was writing a book. I knew it would be beautiful and witty, like the lady herself, and I was not disappointed.

This is so much more than just a craft book. There are yummy recipes which are destined to become firm family favourites, there are things to do with twigs and twine so there is an unashamed crafty element to the book. But what Emma does so beautifully is invite you through her words to pull up a chair, sip a warming cuppa and relax into winter. A Fenland hyyge if you like with added cake and doggy cuddles.

The illustrations are beautiful. Emma has photographed the area where she lives and its beauty is breath-taking. Lots of pictures of the crafts being done aid her clear and often witty instructions. However the real joy is the simple, stunning line drawings by Emma, who is truly talented and gifted with a pen or a brush.

The crafts and recipes are really tempting - I am looking forward to making the Chelsea buns and the streusel cake - so there should be something to tempt most folk. My only issue is the lack of knitting projects. As a non crochet person I was longing to knit some of the creations so would have liked similar patterns for the knitter. But I know Emma is all about the hook and yarn so I will forgive her.

So if you fancy popping out for a ramble and picking some leaves and twigs you could do worse than grab a copy of Emma's book and find ways to transform your finds into lovely home decorations. As Emma says, you may even 'replace the feel-good brain chemicals that may falter during these dingier months'. And that must be a good thing.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

For Paula

Passing ships, some light, some dark
Drift across the ocean of experience.
Some brush against us so subtly, so softly,
Hardly rippling the glassy surface.
Others barge past, pushing us aside,
Demanding the right of way.

We meet so many people on our journey
Through life, over the years.
Many we meet briefly and forget,
Some stay with us for years
And others only for a heartbeat.
Our loved ones, our companions, our friends.

Paula was a carnival of colour arriving over the horizon
One weekend in springtime.
She lit the room like a sunflower,
All colour and laughter and light.
A rainbow warrior woman grabbing life by the hand,
Shaking the tree of experience until all the fruit fell.

Lovely Paula.
You taught me to believe, to smile, to enjoy,
To celebrate each moment of each day.
You saw a spark, a talent in me
Which I was pushing down, hiding, denying.
Thank you for the words, the encouragement,
The love which shone through.
Thank you and goodnight
Beautiful, wonderful, gentle Paula.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Prompt 156 - Should

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

She should concentrate on her maths lesson,
But those handsome boys would run up and down
Outside the window playing football.
If only she could tear her eyes away.

She should get home in time for tea as she was told,
But it would be such fun to play just one more game
Of hid and seek in the sunshine with friends.
If only she could remember to be good.

She should take a coat in case it got cold,
But her outfit was so stunning she wanted
The world to admire it as she walked into town.
If only she could stop shivering she'd look oh so cool.

She should stay in and finish writing her essay
But it would be such fun to head into town,
Watch a band and dance with friends.
If only she had more discipline.

She should go to bed early before an early start,
But it would be a shame to miss the end of the film
And never know who the killer was.
If only she wasn't so tired already.

She should listen to her friends advice and say 'no',
But it would be a shame not to go on a date
With the hottest bad lad in the whole town.
If only she had been more street wise and sensible.

She has a few regrets, as she should,
She would never advise you follow her advice,
She could be an angel, if she wished.
So, tell me, should she?