Senselessly mutilating flowers

All right, now I've got your attention with a title that intrigued but didn't scare you, I'll confess: this is not about floral brutality - that was just a metaphor. But you felt it, didn't you?  You felt the futile anger of an onlooker as a thoughtless idiot kicked the blooms to their death.  You saw the petals fall.  You mourned the loss of their beauty.

Now imagine that was not a flower, but a vulva; and it was not kicked, but slashed at, mutilated, and sewn up.
Yes, this is about female genital mutilation (FGM) and no, I'm not going to go away if you find this uncomfortable.

Up until recently, I, along with many teachers (I suspect), saw FGM as a hopeless minefield of difficult issues that was best dealt with by 'others'.  This was also a proxy for a general feeling that it only happened to 'others' and that, if I closed my eyes and thought about flowers, it wouldn't be something I would need to deal with professionally. I don't blame y…

Education Trumps Ignorance

Dear reader, are you a teacher or a parent, trying to explain to your children the importance of the US election result today?
Me too.  It’s hard, not because my kids don’t understand what sexism or racism is,, but because they are used to a safe world where we arbitrarily pick teams and root for them.  They see politics as an extension of that.  Usually it is.   Sometimes I ‘don’t like’ politicians; almost always I ‘mistrust’ them.  Usually I am frustrated by the conventions of the political system that mean I can’t pick policies over people, that I have to align myself to a party when I don’t really feel represented by any of them.  I always vote but rarely feel heard. I have been guilty of using hyperbole to describe politicians in the past or making cheap judgements about them.  I have interpreted their bland political statements in the ways I find convenient.  I have swallowed soundbites about them.
But this is different.  I can’t know for sure, but I’m as certain as I can be that T…

Our proud nation: a homily

Dear Reader,

Would you describe yourself as patriotic?
Are you a flag-bearer, a face-painter, a football-shouter, or an anthem-singer?

That's okay, isn't it?  Of course it is.  You feel proud of your country,  You support them.  You cheer when they win - when we win.  You are part of this great nation of ours, this humble, worthy, polite nation who have come a long way since the days of colonialism.  Although that's ok too, really - you're not ashamed of our past.  It's what makes our country great. You would have cheered when we won back then too, although it was lives and not goals that were saved and lost.  Why?  Because we're better, somehow, than others - we fight harder, we carry ourselves prouder, we deserve victory that little bit more.  We're winners, aren't we?  Even when we lose, we'll come back fighting, we'll be better next time, we were robbed or cheated or denied our rightful gains.

Why are we different?  It's our values, see.…

8 ways women can help their own cause when it comes to equality

Dear Reader, Have you ever complained about sexism?  Ever felt discriminated against because of your gender?
What are you doing about it?
What?   You're female, and it's up to the rest of the world to change?   Think again.
We’re living in a rapidly changing world, thank God.  But while we’re well on the path to equality in some ways, us females are still struggling with a serious 24% pay gap, as well as on average doing three times more housework than our male partners.  It’s all too easy to focus on the man-made hurdles constructed daily in front of us, cursing the penis-wielders of the world for adding to our burdens – both domestic and professional.  But we’re smart enough to recognise both society as a whole and the micro-society we create at home is also our responsibility.  Here’s some ways we can help ourselves to eradicate gender boundaries at home  - now and for the future generations we’re raising, who see EVERYTHING… (This is written from the point of view of a hetero wom…

All your eggs are belong to us

Dear Reader,

What did you do for Easter?

If you believe the supermarket TV adverts, Easter looks a little like this:

1. Mother (no other member of the family because only mothers own purses and vaginas and both of these are necessary for food shopping) goes to said supermarkets and fills trolley with lambs - sorry, lamb -  fresh vegetables, and rosemary sprigs.

2. Everyone comes over and Mother (no other member of the family because only mothers own hands and eyes and both of these are necessary for cooking) serves up the moist and delicious meat, surrounded by glowing succulent vegetables that all the children joyously eat without throwing them on the floor.

3.  Everyone puts on their adorable bunny ears, gathers their beribboned baskets and takes to the sunny garden, where the weather stops its constant pattern of RAIN!WIND!SUN!CLOUD!HAIL! for a whole day and they run around discovering the hidden eggs, jewel-like, that peek out from behind old painted watering-cans and under sheds.…

Taking up space

Dear Reader,

Have you ever been referred to as 'big'?
Was there an accompanying gesture?
What about 'large', or 'small'?

How did it make you feel?

One of the interesting ways gender imbalance can make itself felt is through the simple mechanics of personal volume - how much space you take up.  Generally, men are bigger than women (although this is not true for boys and girls until at least aged twelve, whatever the clothes manufacturers would have you think).  How does this manifest itself in language and attitudes?  Well, the word 'big', for a start.  Compare 'he's a big guy' (powerful, intimidating) with 'she's a big girl' (fat, pitiful, unnattractive).

Being large of stature, for men, is usually positive.  Tall men earn more and are more attractive to women.  Carrying extra weight - up to a point  -  can be seen as bulky, dominant, commanding. Large is imposing and threatening, with no need to do anything except just be a men…

A poem for my daughter

I love you so much more than you may think

But through all the hilarious clamour
of other huge people with their huge mouths and huge eyes wide
Huge hands flapping
Huge heads bearing down on you
Through all the rotten noise of everyone else always telling you
how high, how deep, how impossibly wide and stupid their love for you
I am afraid you will not hear me.

My voice will not go that loud
Because it isn't coming through the loudspeaker of emotion
The microphone of hyperbole
the megaphone of urgency

I will love you quietly, with actions, instead.
I will shower you with a thousand tiny kindnesses, like a snow of daisies.

My darling, the world is loud and false
and, because I love you, I will not be.

I promise I will not shout at you
But I will listen
and think
and consult
and pause
and smile subtly with you