Monday, 17 September 2012

Let's get rid

Now - I consider myself quite worldly wise, I'm don’t believe I’m naive, I've been out into the big bad world. I've worked in journalism, publishing, PR. I've worked in male dominated, macho cultured organisations. I know there is still inequality for women in opportunities, in employment, in society, in all sorts of ways, and to all kinds of degrees. I do though like to feel that we have moved forward, that things improve with time. But for a couple of weeks I've been musing about some things that didn’t just make me feel uncomfortable, but disturbed me. It may be that things have been heading this way and I just haven't been aware - or it may be that there really is something going on, some kind of shift - backwards.

I guess it was visible most recently by the ongoing Assange case where, as everyone came out with an opinion, at least intelligent, considered, thoughtfully written pieces counteracted the odd, the extreme and the ignorant.

But this article below turned up in my daily regional (and usually very sensible) newspaper the Newcastle Journal. This link is to the writer's blog but was reproduced word for word in his column (of 'wit and wisdom') in the Journal. And I found it neither witty nor wise but disappointing and disturbing.

In focusing this particular piece on rape he describes a scenario that could come straight out of an episode of Mad Men (era late ‘50s). "She made her reluctance clear. I carried on". This is not a confession that our columnist appears ashamed of nor seems to want to apologise for - but rather he is relieved not to have got into trouble for it. Mr Hann then goes on to ridicule the fact that no means no "Of course the consequences for human reproduction will be simply disastrous."

At around the same time I came across something via Twitter - another article that was being RT'd by other (rather more respectable) journalists who had found it unbelievable too.

In his interview with classical violinist Nicola Benedetti the reporter immediately sets the snidey, sniggering tone for the whole article, "I must have hit a bum note after asking why the sexy Scot doesn't make more of her fabulous figure - when she suddenly flies off on one." Ms Benedetti's desire to talk about her music and achievements rather than any desire to take her clothes off doesn't stop him: "So I guess Nicola won't be posing for the lads mags anytime soon. Pity because she looks as fit as a fiddle." He is not interested at all in how dedicated, talented, creative, intelligent or hard working this young woman is.

Both of these articles depressed me but I'd filed them away in the 'must look into properly later' part of my brain until I read this Saturday's Guardian.

Deborah Orr's brilliant article you can read here focuses on The Sun and a new campaign to get rid of Page 3 but as it so rightly points out that this is just ‘the highly visible tip of misogyny's iceberg'.

And I think the two articles that had recently made me feel so uncomfortable are prime examples of what happens when what should be outdated attitudes are allowed to linger. They display such a misogynist, demeaning view of women and the only positive was that were plenty of people who had the same reactions to them as I did. They are truly dreadful pieces of ‘journalism’.

Yet they were deemed acceptable to be printed in mainstream newspapers. The writers, the editorial team, the editor all thought it acceptable to print them. No doubt if asked why the 'justification’ would be because it's opinionated/ humourous/ controversial/ witty.

It’s not. And this isn't a women versus men thing. I don't know of any man I’ve spoken to who have found either of these articles any of those things. Nor is it a sense of humour versus humourless thing, nor a freedom of expression thing. It's about a respect thing, a treating each other as you would want (male or female) to be treated thing, a being an intelligent species that doesn't need to put each other down in this way thing.
As Deborah Orr puts it so well “[Page 3] carries the message that objectification and exploitation are all that human beings can offer to each other or expect."

So, that's why I am signing up to the new campaign wanting to see the end of page 3. Getting rid is sending the right message that this is from an era that is well behind us or at least should be, that we have moved on, attitudes have changed (they have, surely...) – for the better not worse, that we have all grown up. Getting rid of page 3 would be empowerment for women - and men. Let's get rid of outdated pictures and outdated attitudes. And move to where I’d prefer to be living - in 2012.

The campaign’s on Twitter @NoMorePage3 and the petition is here

And one last thing to ponder – below is something also currently doing the rounds of social media. This, I believe, is a genuine article from about 60 years ago – just how far have we come?

Friday, 7 September 2012

Just lie back and relax

Recently my mojo has been more low-jo, I've been feeling somewhat out of the groove, rather off kilter, a bit off balance. I've been trying to get back on track this week and to help deal with what feels like stresses and strains of work, life, the universe and everything, I decided to go for a massage. Also, I had bought it as one of those Groupon things - those 'bargains' that so often, for me anyway, turn out to be a waste of money as I buy then forget about it until it's too late and the 'valid until' date is long gone.

I haven't had a massage for such a long time I realised and surely that would help me switch off, wind down and feel better... wouldn't it?

It was a newly opened place where I hadn't been before and the young, beautifully made up therapist was friendly and welcoming. I filled in the necessary forms, flagging up recent issues and opted for the aromatherapy (I was curious about the chocolate massage but decided it sounded more like it belonged in the Fifty Shades of Shite book).

I undressed as instructed, keeping just pants on and lay on my stomach before the therapist came in and started work. I gave up trying to make conversation, not just because I was supposed to be relaxing but it's also a bit tricky when your head is poking through that small round hole and you get a mouthful of towel if you open it.

It was then I realised that it had been such a long time since I had done this (not that it's ever been a regular occurrence) that I am now in the possession of two false boobs which, unlike real ones, remain pretty permanently pert and don't squish out under pressure. It wasn't that it was just a bit uncomfortable but given that Ive quite recently had a bit of plastic surgery I suddenly wondered if lying so heavily on them was a good idea. I ended up tensing up and trying to keep the weight off my orbs which, while being massaged very thoroughly and firmly (thank god I'd chosen the 'relaxing' option) on my back, was not easy to do. Nor very relaxing at all. 

The peaceful ambience was then shattered when the therapist removed the towel and asked me to turn over. My involuntary shriek of 'I need to stay covered up' took us both a bit by surprise. I had also forgotten that I have gone from Ms No Inhibitions (once happy to sunbathe topless, go skinny dipping, keep the lights off) to Ms Prude (cannot even cope with female changing rooms, swimming or saunas). She reassured me she was just holding the towel to drape it over me again once I turned over. I did and it was fine.

So, now to relax then. Except... I hadn't mentioned, as it always sounds silly, but I don't reeeeaally like having my feet touched. And yes she had now moved onto those. I bit my lip and strained to stop myself involuntarily kicking the poor girl as she gave what for anyone who likes having their feet touched is, I am sure, a relaxing rub. I think she interpreted my deep sigh of relief when she moved off them and onto my legs as one of contentment and calm.

I did settle down and enjoyed the leg part as I've just started running again and had some aching muscles - and I have no problems with my legs being touched - or being naked!

But I don't really like my head being touched either. I tried an Indian head massage once and it just made me want to both scream and cry at the same time. I don't even like going to the hairdressers for this very reason. A head massage wasn't part of this one though so I thought that wouldnt be a problem until she started on my face. Now I have never had a facial in my life, I have no desire to have one, and don't really like anyone else doing my make up or actually even like opticians getting all close up and personal. And I can now confirm that yup I don't like having my face massaged either. Not just 'don't like' but actually hate, actually feels-like-torture kind of hate. (I'd be such a rubbish spy - just give me a massage and I'll 'fess up to anything!). So I literally gritted my teeth and tensed up again until the massage/ torture was finally over.   

I came out just feeling oily, silly and quite cross with myself, and didn't relax until I got home and sat down with a cuppa. I now I know why I probably haven't had a massage for such a long time. And will remind myself of this next time I think it'll be a good idea. I will just have to find some other means of relaxing and treating myself.

But - as it was a special Groupon deal - I still have two massages/ torture sessions booked and paid for to get through... Anyone want to take my place??

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

I said no to the guinea pig...

As you may well know earlier this year I went on a trek to Machu Picchu (yes I did go on about it!). I'm writing something that I hope will be an e-book about the actual experience but wanted to share a recent article published in North East Appetite magazine that's actually mainly about the food (it being a foodie magazine...!