Archives for posts with tag: Feminist

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  1. Pretty much everything you think you know for certain, you don’t.
  2. Plan pee breaks, know where the nearest toilet is…at all times.
  3. My waist is becoming a distant memory.
  4. The amount of fucks I give is rapidly declining; at the same rate my waistline is expanding.
  5. Never deny yourself pleasure. Eat. Drink. Being skinny does not feel as good as real Italian pizza tastes, or fresh sushi, bacon sandwiches, picanha with soy and wasabi. Devour everything.
  6. The internet is dangerous for bored husbands with mobile phones and penis in hand…
  7. Dick pics are rarely enticing.
  8. Don’t try and change people. Everyone tells their own tale, we craft our own narratives, become characters in our own stories. If their reality is different to your version, let them keep it.
  9. Never stop being a kid. Once in a while sing, play, build nests and forts, jump around and laugh until you cry.
  10. My teeth are divorcing, the distance between them is so great, whole sirloin steaks can be found in the crevices. Toothpicks loiter in all my handbags
  11. When you have heard all their stories, if you are not making any new ones…it’s time to move on.
  12. You are as beautiful, sexy, alluring or desirable as you want to be, this does not come from outside. Radiate you, give a giant fuck off to anyone who doesn’t get it.
  13. You can move across the world, twice, and still find kindred spirits, good hearts and wise women.
  14. An early night in your own bed is a moment of pure pleasure.
  15. ‘Just stick it anywhere’ is not a romantic phrase to hear in a tender shared moment.
  16. Never, never, Google your symptoms. Inevitably it will say cancer, then you will have to spend the next hour panicking and further couple of hours reassuring yourself you are not dying.
  17. Your friends will have children who are adults, how is this possible when we all still need to grow up?
  18. Dating is not a game, it’s a procedure.
  19. You have definitely heard it all before.
  20. People may say you are an inspiration or a role model. You remember the time you slipped over in your own vomit after too much red wine and keep quiet…
  21. Travel is wonderful exhilarating and exciting but you can afford comfort over authenticity.
  22. Do not be afraid to be seen, be judged, be stupid, fuck up, fall over, all you need to do is get up and smile.
  23. Sing. Loudly.
  24. Inhabit the body you have, not the body you think you should have. Touch the sides.
  25. No more waiting, the time is now.
  26. There are people in your life who have grown older alongside you, and these are precious gems.
  27. You will experience loss and you can survive it.
  28. The excesses of youth do catch up with you, recovery times are increased, at times I feel like my body is angry with me, I am ever grateful it never gave up on me, despite the abuses.
  29. There are some people you have to let go.
  30. And some that go but stay with you forever
  31. Manage your expectations, be content with the reality of people and not the projection of what you wish they could be.
  32. You will know the meaning of perimenopausal and start to look out for ‘changes’.
  33. Don’t blame others for the consequences of your choices, own it, overcome it and hope to choose better next time.
  34. Vigorous dancing, especially jumping, can result in a little leakage…
  35. Don’t let this stop you jumping and dancing, a life without leaping is a life half lived.
  36. Fear is fading fast, I am no longer as afraid, it is not courage, it’s survival.
  37. There is still so much wonderful music you haven’t heard.
  38. Create, create, create and surround yourself with creative people, this is the real life force.
  39. Avoid people who want to change you.
  40. Avoid people who want more than you can give.
  41. Spend time with people who know and love you exactly as you are.
  42. Birthdays matter less but always take the opportunity to celebrate.
  43. Age ain’t nothing but a number baby

anti feminist robertsonI would like to talk toady about a topic that is very important to me, feminism. Some people hate the word, some people are afraid of the word, many people have a very different perception of feminism to me. Pat Robertson does a pretty good job of selling it to me actually…

I am going to share with you my perception of what feminism means in 2014 and why I think it is important.

One is not born a woman one becomes a woman’ Simone de Beauvoir

This is the quote, with which, many years ago I started my undergraduate dissertation, the title of which incidentally was ‘Who put the post in post feminism’. One of my good friends at the time was studying evolutionary psychology (he is now a doctor of evolutionary psychology at London School of Economics in the UK). He was helping me to proof read and immediately disagreed with this opening statement. You are born female, he said it’s biological. Evolutionary psychology if you don’t know much about it posits that our psychology is a result of evolutionary adaptations.

For example; the cult of youth and kawaii in Japan viewed through an evolutionary psychology lens, would be attributed to a desire to procreate with a female who is a virgin, therefore ensure paternity. So, women who resemble teenage girls are always going to be considered more sexually attractive to males, it’s biological, my friend Olly would tell me. He now has a wife and children and I think he has assured paternity of his daughter despite not marrying a woman who resembles a teenager. An alternative interpretation of Kawaii could be to see it as female rebellion against accepted gender roles and perceptions of the female role as the key adult caregiver. Fundamentally, as I see it, however you interpret Kawaii, it is not a ‘natural’ state for a female it is a cultural construction, the basis of this construction can have various origins but it is not a fixed state of being.

When I read Simone de Beauvoir back in 1995 I saw in that quote a reclamation of my gender, a recognition that femininity does not necessarily arise from differences in biology, psychology, or intellect. Rather, femininity is a construction of civilization, a reflection not of “essential” differences in men and women but of differences in their situation. Situation determines character, not the other way around. Woman is not born fully formed; she is gradually shaped by her upbringing. Biology does not determine what makes a woman a woman—a woman learns her role from man and others in society. Woman is not born passive, secondary, and nonessential, but the forces in the external world can conspire to make her feel so.

And that has always been very important to me in my understanding of feminism and gender studies. My version of feminism has always been based on a seeking an understanding of gender that to some extent transcends biological or evolutionary principles. Yes, there are biological differences between genders but the myriad of influence we encounter beyond our biological imprint labels us woman not the chromosomes we are born with.

Feminism is important because it is primarily about challenging perceptions. What are our perceptions of male and female? How do we exist culturally, individually within these norms, how does it feel to step outside them and how do we respond to those around us who also cross or push the boundaries of our perceptions of male and female. A boy who likes pink, a girl who is aggressive…

The reason feminism is called feminism is because it is about deconstructing the way our society considers femininity as a category to be lesser than masculinity as a category. That necessarily affects feminine-identified people first and foremost — that is, women and girls. But that also means gay men, trans men and women, but also men. Why? Because the characteristics we label and denigrate as “feminine” are also (and firstly) just human characteristics. Feminists value the feminine human qualities in all people.

I was influenced in my thinking around gender through the poststructuralist theories of deconstruction and ‘différance’ and reading poststructuralists like Derrida, Barthes, and feminist post-structuralists like Helene Cixous and Judith Butler. I was reading these theorists when I studied literary analysis in the 1990’s. Post-structuralists like Derrida were concerned with textual analysis and the assumptions, ideas and power relations inherent in language, Also the idea that text could have many meanings, not always intended by their writers, outlined in Barthes ‘The Death of the Author’.

Feminist post structuralists like Cixous wrote about l’ecrriture feminine and utilised post structuralism explore creativity as source of female expression. I apply these theories still to my own writing; I am currently working on a collection of poetry and thinking about ways to encourage the reader to read on curve. (ppt8)

Reading Cixous, Derrida and Bathes allowed me to start to see the constructions of the world around me. By studying literary theory my eyes were opened, what I thought I knew I really didn’t know.

This has been further compounded by my move to International schools. I have been exposed to an even greater sweeping away of my understanding of what is normal, my perceptions of the world.  For example, I drink a lot of English tea, which you must make with boiling water (one of my most treasured possessions is my kettle). When I was leaving Brazil I gave my colleagues a gift of tea. ‘How do I make English tea?” my friend asked. “The milk must be cold, the water has to be boiling.” I told her, “Maybe I should buy a kettle then?” she said. I was surprised, I’d been in Brazil two years and still didn’t realize a kettle wasn’t a fixture in everyone’s kitchen, it was just my perception of what was normal.

So feminism is still important because the world is still full of repressive perceptions or misconceptions. Last week I was in Bali and saw this sign outside a temple.IMG_8718 So in some places the perception is that menstruating women are unclean or unholy. There is a need here for cultural sensitivity but I also believe that perceptions of female reproductive systems as innately unclean leads to woman being attacked raped or mutilated in other parts of the world and closer to home in Japan, the US and the UK. I believe there is a place for feminism because what feminism does at it’s core is ask the world to challenge it’s perceptions of women, men, femininity and masculinity as cultural constructions not biologically fixed or absolute truths.

As I prepared for this talk, it struck me the depth of the legacy feminism has given me. Most of my career has been working in schools seeking to break down perceptions, I am still doing it here in NIS. I constantly ask of myself as teacher to look at each student as an individual, to confront my perceptions of what they should do or should be able to do, how they should behave, how they should respond or what they should value. In my own teaching I am only ever interested in motivating students to think for themselves, to challenge the world around them, to question their own and others perceptions, for me, whether you are a scientist, an artist, an athlete or business person, true intellect, true knowledge, resides in those who question. Feminism asks you to question your perceptions at a very basic levels, it asks you to question your perceptions at the core of who we are as human beings. What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a man?

 

The world is an exciting ever-evolving ever-changing place. I am 41 years old and the changes I have seen I my life time have been enormous. Anyone who sticks to outdated perceptions of rigid biological based views of human beings is thinking reductively. We transcend our biology; we exist within a cultural, economic and psychological complexity, which cannot be explained by mere chromosomal difference. Men and woman are different yes, but more importantly people are different, we are individuals seeking our path through life and I believe we all deserve an equal opportunity to give this our best shot.

Feminism has a place in contemporary society because we need to continually challenge our perceptions of the world around us. Thank you.

 Bibliography

lady like in my yukata...

lady like in my yukata…

Or ‘Has Japan finally made me a lady?’

The New Year for teachers occurs at a slightly different time to the usual January celebrations. August and September is our New Year, a time for reflection and anticipation, new beginnings, a time for change. A fresh pencil case, filled with resolutions to mark more regularly, to plan more effectively and to create the perfect classroom display.

I like this time of year. I like the sense of new starts, the possibilities for change.

Yesterday was my Japnaiversary, one year in Japan and also a time for reflection.

A male colleague accused me of not being a good listener and as I replied, “I do listen, but only if people have something useful to say.” I reflected on my listening skills. I know I can be a bad listener, over eager to contribute and share, I can interrupt and talk over people. Like an annoying child trying to get the grown ups attention my voice cuts in over people who are still formulating thoughts and sentences. My tolerance for listening is better with children than adults, like so many things I am far more forgiving of young people than I am of my peers.

Over the past year in Japan I have been advised variously to ‘get more results with sugar than vinegar’, been told more than once I don’t listen and also accused of being patronizing and unprofessional. In darker moments I think that my passionate emotional nature has no place in Japan. That in this space I become a large, rude, boar, trampling over delicate flowers, smashing porcelain ornaments with my oversized opinions. In Brazil I felt embraced by colleagues and friends, we were all passionate people, overflowing with love and care. We drew together as a team and we gained strength from each other. I felt Brazilian, I felt part of that community, my big bum and big voice found a home there. I felt able to contribute to Brazil, my passion carried me forward, through the project we ran with the local school, through the creation of a new department, through friendships built and through the important changes I went through in my time there. That passionate country wonderfully healed me.

Japan is different. Japan is bringing lightness in to my life. Physically I am becoming lighter and stronger and maybe my interactions could also become lighter and stronger? My main sources of communication outside the workplace at the moment are smiles and nods. I can feel myself take on a foreigner version of the stereotype Japanese female submissive persona to excuse my mistakes and confusion. But this is not reality, from what I have seen Japanese women are not as they first appear, beyond our western assumptions and geisha images of servitude lurks strength. I don’t underestimate Japanese women instead perhaps I can embrace some of this poise whilst maintaining my fiery nature?

To a certain extent I have no desire to lose my Brazilian passion, if it means I sometimes talk over people, so be it. Most of my favorite people are as speedy, passionate and sharp as I am and our conversations zoom around losing each other and then reconnecting again.

But as my world grows and my horizons expand I am also connecting with wonderful, intelligent people who run at different speeds. They are sharp, smart, thoughtful and kind. They deserve my full attention. So part of me does need to change. I need to learn to listen.

For a long time this move felt like a temporary change to my life, that I would go ‘back to normal’ once I returned to the UK. But as my sense of what my normal is changes so does the thought of going home. How can I go back? I’m not the same as I was when I left. Two things terrify me about going back. Firstly, that I am so different that I am unhappy back in England and secondly that I end up being exactly the same as before and undo all the hard work of the last three years. So I stay away until the changes become sure and solidify, until I am ready to be different in the same place.

So, I try to hold back some of my over flowing emotions, thoughts and passions, I try to run, lift and jump, I try to choose better and more wisely, I try to be different and yet the same, I am afraid to change and yet so much more terrified of staying exactly the same.

So can Japan make me a lady? I doubt it, but it might make me a better listener.

Another year and a little bit wiser? 42 things i have learnt at 42…

  1. Go home, you won’t miss anything interesting, you will probably want to miss what happens and anything really good will be retold in better, elaborated and more exciting detail the next day.
  2. Nothing really interesting happens when you’re not there anyway.
  3. Being a drama queen is a young woman’s game. It is relief not to be arguing, crying or kissing a frog. These days I can sit back, happily sipping strong alcohol and watching it all unfold.
  4. Hangovers are much worse, the only real cure is to drink every day.
  5. Friends are beginning to get real illnesses and warn you not to be unhealthy. You try not to drink every day.
  6. Finally give up smoking, miss it like a favourite pair of shoes because I’m still convinced it makes me cool and a bit of my personality is missing without a cigarette in my hand.
  7. Change is infinitely more possible than you imagine, nothing is stuck, you are not trapped and there is a multi coloured world of wonder to explore if you just get up, walk to the edge and jump.
  8. Don’t be afraid to be alone. It really isn’t as bad as you imagine and it is infinitely preferable to being stuck with an idiot for the rest of your life.
  9. Friends matter. Old friends matter. There is no one else like the people who have known you for a long time. People who have seen you fuck up, forgiven you, held your hair when you were sick and will pretend to forget your fashion errors from the 90s.
  10. You never feel like a grown up, you just get more lines on your face and more grey in your hair.
  11. All diets work, every single one no matter how ridiculous the instructions. It’s sticking to them that`s the problem.
  12. Also a problem is that one last delicious full fat meal on a Sunday before the diet starts on a Monday.
  13. Every Sunday.
  14. Anyway being too thin makes you look older, a bit of flab keeps you young.
  15. The world is full of beautiful and wonderful things to see and experience. Find them, look at them. I wish I had invested more time and money seeing waterfalls, mountains, oceans, cities and jungles.
  16. You won’t always wash your make up off before you sleep, you won’t always go to the gym, you will sometimes eat too much, talk too much, cry too much, laugh in the wrong place and kiss the wrong people.
  17. If you are not still doing these things at least once a month, you should be.
  18. A smile is a universal language. No matter what you are able to say or understand, a smile can take you pretty far.
  19. Pear shape is an offensive term. Everyone’s shape is differently wonderful and bodies have no need for fruit based labels.
  20. Don’t be afraid of dirt and mess. Life is grubby, enjoy it.
  21. You can’t control anyone else, what they do, what they say, how they think or how they act. All you can control is your reaction to them.
  22. Equally, no one can really control you. Refuse to submit, refuse to be manipulated, take your own path, make your own map.
  23. Whenever you can, replace fear, frustration, and disappointment with love. It brings amazing results.
  24. Sleep is fantastic but you can mange with less of it than you think.
  25. Women: if he tells you he is a bastard, chances are he really is a bastard and you won’t change him.
  26. Men: telling her you are a bastard doesn’t make it ok to act like one.
  27. Wear an amazing coat, and the rest of life usually falls in to place.
  28. Banana skins are the most slippery substance in the world.
  29. I am proud to call myself a feminist. This doesn’t mean I hate men I just don’t enjoy being oppressed by them.
  30. Have a voice, don’t be afraid to use it. Be loud, be proud. If anyone doesn’t like it fuck them. Refuse to be silenced.
  31. Your past might create you but it doesn’t define you. The possibilities for reinvention are endless. You just need the right script and costume.
  32. Being yourself is a lot harder than it sounds but it really is the only way to be.
  33. Never cut your own fringe.
  34. Try to avoid regret and guilt these are empty emotions.
  35. You might regret cutting your own fringe though.
  36. Embrace imperfection. Life is not symmetry and straight lines.
  37. Don’t open the door for me because I have a vagina; open it because it’s good manners. Good manners have nothing to do with your genitals.
  38. Sometimes it is just about the journey. The destination only matters when you get there.
  39. Everyone looks good in black eyeliner.
  40. Know when to leave and get going…
  41. Some pain is good for you, if your knees hurt when you have walked The Great Wall of China, then you have still walked The Great Wall of China.
  42. Even at 42 you don’t know the answers, to life, the universe and everything.

You can read all the posts about Brazil in one place. I have edited them in to a small book. Available on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Saved-City-Lucinda-Willis/dp/149433495X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1386657746&sr=8-2&keywords=saved+by+the+city

  1. Go home, you won’t miss anything interesting, you will probably want to miss what happens and anything really good will be retold in better, elaborated and more exciting detail the next day.
  2. Nothing really interesting happens when you’re not there anyway.
  3. Being a drama queen is a young woman’s game. It is relief not to be arguing, crying or kissing a frog. These days I can sit back, happily sipping strong alcohol and watching it all unfold.
  4. Hangovers are much worse, the only real cure is to drink every day.
  5. Friends are beginning to get real illnesses and warn you not to be unhealthy. You try not to drink every day.
  6. Finally give up smoking, miss it like a favourite pair of shoes because I’m still convinced it makes me cool and a bit of my personality is missing without a cigarette in my hand.
  7. Change is infinitely more possible than you imagine, nothing is stuck, you are not trapped and there is a multi coloured world of wonder to explore if you just get up, walk to the edge and jump.
  8. Don’t be afraid to be alone. It really isn’t as bad as you imagine and it is infinitely preferable to being stuck with an idiot for the rest of your life.
  9. Friends matter. Old friends matter. There is no one else like the people who have known you for a long time. People who have seen you fuck up, forgiven you, held your hair when you were sick and will pretend to forget your fashion errors from the 90s.
  10. You never feel like a grown up, you just get more lines on your face and more grey in your hair.
  11. All diets work, every single one no matter how ridiculous the instructions. It’s sticking to them that`s the problem.
  12. Also a problem is that one last delicious full fat meal on a Sunday before the diet starts on a Monday.
  13. Every Sunday.
  14. Anyway being too thin makes you look older, a bit of flab keeps you young.
  15. The world is full of beautiful and wonderful things to see and experience. Find them, look at them. I wish I had invested more time and money seeing waterfalls, mountains, oceans, cities and jungles.
  16. You won’t always wash your make up off before you sleep, you won’t always go to the gym, you will sometimes eat too much, talk too much, cry too much, laugh in the wrong place and kiss the wrong people.
  17. If you are not still doing these things at least once a month, you should be.
  18. A smile is a universal language. No matter what you are able to say or understand, a smile can take you pretty far.
  19. Pear shape is an offensive term. Everyone’s shape is differently wonderful and bodies have no need for fruit based labels.
  20. Don’t be afraid of dirt and mess. Life is grubby, enjoy it.
  21. You can’t control anyone else, what they do, what they say, how they think or how they act. All you can control is your reaction to them.
  22. Equally, no one can really control you. Refuse to submit, refuse to be manipulated, take your own path, make your own map.
  23. Whenever you can, replace fear, frustration, and disappointment with love. It brings amazing results.
  24. Sleep is fantastic but you can mange with less of it than you think.
  25. Women: if he tells you he is a bastard, chances are he really is a bastard and you won’t change him.
  26. Men: telling her you are a bastard doesn’t make it ok to act like one.
  27. Wear an amazing coat, and the rest of life usually falls in to place.
  28. Banana skins are the most slippery substance in the world.
  29. I am proud to call myself a feminist. This doesn’t mean I hate men I just don’t enjoy being oppressed by them.
  30. Have a voice, don’t be afraid to use it. Be loud, be proud. If anyone doesn’t like it fuck them. Refuse to be silenced.
  31. Your past might create you but it doesn’t define you. The possibilities for reinvention are endless. You just need the right script and costume.
  32. Being yourself is a lot harder than it sounds but it really is the only way to be.
  33. Never cut your own fringe.
  34. Try to avoid regret and guilt these are empty emotions.
  35. You might regret cutting your own fringe though.
  36. Embrace imperfection. Life is not symmetry and straight lines.
  37. Don’t open the door for me because I have a vagina; open it because it’s good manners. Good manners have nothing to do with your genitals.
  38. Sometimes it is just about the journey. The destination only matters when you get there.
  39. Everyone looks good in black eyeliner.
  40. Know when to leave and get going…

Response to an article in ‘Elle’ Magazine.

I read with interest your opinion piece entitled ‘Feminism: did we really get it all?’ I resent the implication (that reeks of male post-feminist posturing) that having it all has become a burden. Firstly, what does ‘all’ even mean? When did we get it all? How would we know when we have reached that, mythical point? When can we say, I have it all now, so I’ll stop? Of course we don’t have it all, I doubt anyone ever will. That is the beauty of this existence , we continually grow and change and so do our priorities and goals.

Secondly, the idea that in wanting ‘it all’ women have some how become over burdened, that we work too had, and that we have too much to do. That is our punishment for being greedy feminists and wanting what men had. Now we have it, poor weak females, we can’t handle it. This idea that western women are struggling under the crushing weight of families, work, and trying to stay healthy, fit, beautiful and young. This is not imposed from outside, this is a self created situation. To lament the burden of this lifestyle is offensive. Do you think the Congolese women who were raped; who you were reading about on the way to your yoga class, would feel overwhelmed by the demands of the western middle class female lifestyle? Complaining about others demands on us, the hideous female martyr stance which disempowers women by setting us up as victims, powerless in our selflessness. The universal mother, here to care for others, at the expense of your own self. I don’t buy it.

We need to recognise that these pressures are imposed by our own decisions and choices. You say ‘Even if my life is too swollen, more men I know have lives that are too small’. Actually I admire the ability to only engage in what you want to; to take on only the responsibilities you enjoy and find fulfilling. Yes, this might sometimes mean that people are selfish and that they may run from responsibilities that they should stand up for and fight for. I respect the right of people to search for and create their own reality, to be true to their internal desires and dreams. I am tired of people who do things they hate, because they think they should, or because they are afraid of the world’s judgements on them if they don’t. Get married, have babies, sculpt your body, do any of those things as long as you want them and they make you happy.

I may be fat and selfish but I don’t punish myself with guilt at every missed gym appointment or piece of cheese eaten or glass of wine drunk. I wasted too long doing that and it has been blissful to leave it all behind.
Life is beautiful, take pleasure in every bite, gorge and enjoy every mouthful. Don’t spend your time waiting for others to see your sacrifices, waiting for an outside vindication of your hard work. Empowering women, feminism, to me these are terms which refer to finding internal strength and battling the pressure to be ‘something’ or ‘someone’ we don’t want to be just because we think we should. I don’t want it all; I want the freedom to be myself because for me that is everything.

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