Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Blimey - Feminist Rant from Nowhere

Chopper came up for a visit this weekend, which was fun. It's interesting getting to know her better.

Friday night saw us chomping Fisher's Thai green curry and yakking (talking - not puking), then watching Sideways on DVD. I do like that film. Both characters are so deeply flawed, and yet you can't help liking them both. I don't find it as funny as some, but I like its air of the ludicrous and the hopeless helplessness of this pair of losers - one of whom is depressingly aware of his failure, the other utterly oblivious - and the ultimate hope their story brings. Also, it's about wine - so how far wrong can you go?

Next day, we went for a lovely walk at Balmerino, along the banks of the Tay and right the way up to Birkhill House, which appeared throught the trees quite suddenly, just as we'd decided to walk only a little further before turning back. There's a walled garden there, which is marked 'private' but I bet you can have a squizz round. We were too gutless to go in, but peered through the bars of the gate like urchins at a restaurant door. We then walked up to Birkhill House, which was built in 1692 - although some of the house is older by about 100 years, and admired it greatly. It's now a housing co-op called Talamh (which, I believe, is 'earth' in Gaelic), which has been going since 1996. It was bought by a bunch of friends in '93 who wanted to provide affordable housing for themselves, as well as sharing ideals of community, self-help, quality of life and love of the outdoors. The original members have all gone, but the co-op continues. I dunno - it always sounds lovely, and something which appeals to me greatly, but I can't help feeling it doesn't really work out, and if it doesn't, the consequences are severe. I shared a house with Koios for several years without incident, and so far so good with Fisher - but those are rather special cases. Plus, introduce Fisher the Hermit into the mix and you've got problems. Leave your shoes out of place one time too many and she'll stomp around the house slamming doors for days.

I imagine, if you were going to start up a housing co-op, you'd need to make sure everyone was already with their chosen partner, that everyone liked everyone to the point of being able to have a blistering row without long-term consequences, and that no great changes were afoot (so, preferably, those who were going to breed had already done so). Change, while exciting, can often put great strain on friendships. You have a comfortable status quo, then something or someone comes along and changes it ... I'd guess it can be tricky. No wonder these communities of friends don't last. It's hard enough when things change in a group of mates who aren't living together!

So, Fisher, Chopper, dogs and I had a little scout around, then headed back through the woods to the car. It was quite an interesting walk, in that the path was rather cross-country in places, and involved some stream-fording owing to broken bridges with ice on them. The dogs enjoyed themselves, even through Bri had to be kept on the lead. She ran off on her walk the day before and wouldn't come back when I called. She tracked me all the way home, but I was seriously cheesed.

We certainly got the best of the weather. It was crisp, sunny and very cold, but our exercise warmed us up, and when we got back to the car the sun was starting to fade, causing the temp to drop even further. Our driveway was very iced up. The postie could barely get out after dropping off the post, and even Keith the Drover had a moment of gliding when we got back.

We'd stopped off at Leuchars to go to the butcher and pick up some lamb shanks for supper, and also to get some hot chocolate, cream, marshmallows and flakes to make Fisher and Chopper some serious chocolatey goodness. This they did, while I went to the bottom of the garden and hauled in a bunch of icy logs, in case we decided to have a fire later on. Luckily, we didn't. They'd never have lit!

Fisher and Chops plonked themselves in front of Hairspray while I took the opportunity to play on my computer - and then, at around 6-ish, Sister and sons arrived in their usual whirlwind. Wrecker greeted us with a beaming smile, clutching his new teddy, Coco (ha ha ... Spartan'll love that). After greetings and settling, we fed the boys spaghetti bolognese, let Sister get on with bathing and putting to bed - while I started cooking the lamb shanks.

Once the boys were down, if not sleeping, we had a very pleasant evening of wine and chat.

Sunday saw Sister and sons head off at crack of sparrows, while the rest of us rose in a more leisurely fashion before heading in to meet them in Dundee for lunch. We went to the Twin Cities for mezze and falafel, then Chops, Fisher and I went to the DCA to see an exhibition by a short film maker (that's short films, folks, not a vertically challenged film maker) which I was much more taken with that I'd expected. There was a bit of rousing feminism from Mary Woollstencraft, which reminded me, still, of how far feminism has to go.

Case in point: the BBC reported on the barracking of Hillary Clinton by young students shouting "iron my shirt" as a 'moment of levity' or words to that effect. I wonder, would they have thought it as humourous if the students had shouted 'pick my cotton' to Barrack Obama? But, nowadays, it's deeply unfashionable to be a feminist. In fact, most people don't seem to see any difference between being a feminist and a feminazi. Complaining about laddish behaviour is considered petty and uptight, and women don't seem to mind that all things female are still looked at with, at best, patronising tolerance, but never equality. If men and women are equal, why are men still humiliated at the thought of being feminine? Why don't men crochet, or knit, or dance? Yes, I'm aware there are men who do these things, but they're unusual - just as there are woman, like myself, who would rather put their face in a food processor than spend the evening crocheting - and considered a novelty. (And before you ask - I don't crochet because I have ten thumbs and, personally, find it the most frustratingly boring thing in the word - not because I scorn it in any way). And it's not just about clich├ęs like knitting, either. Look up the word 'masculine' in a thesaurus. Then look up the word 'feminine' - and you tell me you don't have a problem with it!

I've been angry for so long, and it never makes any difference. Women just roll over and ask for their tummies to be scratched by men. They pander to their egos, defer to them, and never challenge them - because they want men to like them. Fair enough, you might say. The species has to continue, so men and women have to like each other. But my question is: why is it always women who defer?

I played tennis with Spartan, Pro and Phid a couple of years ago. Phid is a total beginner. Pro is a beginner, and quite rubbish. Spartan was relatively rubbish. I'm rubbish, but not as rubbish as the rest of them, because I play a lot, and at least know what I'm supposed to do - even if I can't duplicate it. But what struck me is that Spartan and Pro both decided to teach Phid how to play, despite the fact they didn't actually know what they were talking about. It was just confusing, as well as mostly wrong. In the end I split us up, put the boys together and gave Phid some pointers I remembered my tennis coach giving me. But the point is - why did the men think it ok to give Phid lessons? I noticed that, as Spartan was playing Pro, he wasn't keeping up a running commentary on how to play the game. And these are men without a sexist bone in their bodies. Why shouldn't they give Phid pointers on how to play? But why didn't I decide to give them pointers? Why, when I played Spartan again at a much later date, did I not point out all the things he was doing wrong and teach him how to hit the ball better?

Because I thought it would be humiliating for him. After all, I was beating the life out of him anyway, so getting lectured would have been rubbing salt into the wound. I can't help but get the feeling men only feel this way when playing other men. Playing women, they have very little expectation of being bettered, so it's ok to be pedagogical about it.

But it's not just playing sport. How many times have I sat and listened as a man lectures me on one or other subject - regardless of whether I know something about it or not? But there's the thing - likely, it's 'not', because I will ask people about things they know about and listen interestedly as they speak. I don't see men doing this. How many men have listened to me lecture them about dogs, or cooking, or writing, or singing, or tennis, or Shakespeare, or medieval history, or the Scots language, or any of the other things I happen to know something about? Readers who know me well might scoff at this, because I'm not exactly one to keep an opinion to myself - but that's not the same thing. I like to take an issue and discuss it and, yes, I might occasionally go 'off on one' and rant a bit - but I expect people to counter me, and I enjoy the discussion. I don't sit and give them lessons on whatever it is I'm talking about. I find that patronising. And yet, I believe that deep down a lot of women still instinctively feel a man's knowledge is broader than their own, and will sit and listen to him - whereas the opposite is not the case.

I can't emphasise enough, though, that I'm by no means certain this is the man's fault. I don't think women assert themselves when it comes to men. I think they're too frightened of being disliked by the opposite sex. I also think they quite like a man who is assertive, powerful and stronger than them. I suppose I have a different aspect, anyway, because I'm not trying to attract men. I like them a lot. They're great friends, and I enjoy their company hugely. To a certain extent, I can almost be more myself with them than I can with women. But it does piss me off that women are still subservient - something you can see in the evidence all around us - and it's not a situation that can be pinned entirely on men.

It's about time women stood up, looked the world in the eye and said: if I want to be treated with respect, it's about time I earned it. The trouble with stroking egos is that, in the end, the stroked ego is nurtured and strengthened above and beyond the stroker's. Fuck it. From now on, I'm conducting an experiment. In how many social situations will I find men talking and women passively listening?

I'll let you know ... the minute I have a social situation.

Christ, that came out of nowhere! Well - not nowhere. It's been simmering for about 31 years. I just don't know what triggered it.

Back to the weekend ...

After the gallery visit, we went on home and played with the boys until it was time for Chopper to catch the train home. I dropped her off at the station, went home and ate supper with Sister and Fisher (Fisher cooked teriyaki veg as we all felt a bit meat-tastic).

Next day, Sister and sons went out and had breakfast in Cupar, leaving the house quiet for the morning. Fisher worked, I pottered, and when the boys returned I headed out with them to St Andrews for a walk on the beach with the dogs, lunch at The Seafood Restaurant, a foiled trip to the Aquarium (shut) and then home. Sister headed into Dundee for shopping, so I looked after the boys on my own (with a little help from Fisher, who changed Wrecker's nappy after a noxious aroma all but had us crawling, gasping on our bellies ... and then we discovered no nappies in the house, so I had to go out and get some from Leuchars, after which I was damned if I was going near the foul stench) which involved a large chunk of watching TV, some playtime with a water-based toy, some drawing, and, lastly, Gemmill cooking his own omelette for supper. I also stuffed them with crumpets & jam, carrot sticks, oat biscuits and brambles - so at least they were well fed! Sweetly, when I brought Gemmill a plate with crumpets on it, he looked up from the TV and said:

"You're being very kind!"

To which I responded: "That's what Aunties are for!" A statement he greeted with natural skepticism, and rightly so.

Sister returned just as Gemmill was creating his gourmet omelette, so I was glad to collapse in a small heap and turn over responsibility to her more capable hands. Food, bath, bed - accompanied by much mischief from Gemmill, who claimed he was "sooo thirsty" but, it transpired, he only wanted a glass of water so he could put his weird maize-puff type toys in it. We should have twigged when he rejected the beaker of water Sister brought him, and insisted on a glass.

Cheeky brat.

Meanwhile, Fisher was having a small meltdown in her workshop, so took a break to collect Thai food for us all. Mmmmm. Gooooood. Then we watched TV and went to bed. I was asleep by about 12.30 - unheard of! But I was also up at 8.30 to see Sister and the boys off on their trip to Glasgow for Wrecker's hospital appointment (residual burn stuff), so I'm glad I had an early night.

Is this blog the dullest thing on the web?

Could be. And thus: