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My Tribes, My Squads, My Crews

I realise this is late as International Women’s Day was earlier this week, but it’s been floating around my head and, really, we should celebrate women, international and otherwise, all year long, shouldn’t we?

So I’ve been thinking about the women in my life. My friends, my family, my tribes and squads and crews. And there are several distinct groups, some of which overlap, some of which don’t, and I’ve been reflecting on how they help me and how I help them.

My family is full of kick ass women. My mom, who was one of the first computer programmers in the 60s. I wrote about how kickass she was here, on Jump!Mag. Who was divorced and single mom long before most people. My dad was around, but mom did the day to day school/doctors/ill child/sort childcare/take to birthday parties part of my childhood.

My sisters and sisters in law and cousins who are business women, world travelling ecology experts, clergy, stay at home moms and teachers. Who sort their children and their partners and their homes and their jobs still find time to join marches, wear pussyhats and raise my equally kick ass nieces and second cousins. The boys are kick ass too, but I’m talking about women here!

My local friends, who are the ones who I call when I need emergency Adam care, a ride to Ikea or a cup of coffee and a belly laugh. Who are also kick ass women coping with their children, their partners, their jobs, and the total insanity that can be Belfast.

My hussies, whom I’ve written about before. This amazing group of women who found themselves othered on a popular message board for daring to speak against the message board’s main ethos. Who banded together in a chat room and carried that bond forward to Facebook and elsewhere. I’ve only ever met one of them in person, but they are the ones I look to when I need some mojo. Hussy mojo is unstoppable and incredible and has done everything from help people land their dream jobs to have babies. It may be virtual, but sometimes knowing that a group of people are out there, thinking about you, helps you find that inner je ne sais quoi you need to get things done.

And what I think of as my Core Four (three plus me). Four women who come from different backgrounds and countries and life experiences who have managed to find each other through the internet and are my closest friends. I have never met any of them in person and we now live in four different countries (England, Northern Ireland, Germany and Cyprus) but they are the ones I run to first with my most joyous news and most disastrous downfalls. And we never tear each other down and we always lift each other up and they are the ones I wish were nearby. We have a dream of retiring to a beach in adjoining cabins, but first, we need to figure out which country!

Oh, there are others too. Some on Facebook. Some on other message boards. Groups and groups of amazing women. An MP, a life coach, a writer or two. Some artists and musicians and crafties. And we talk. And we laugh. And we cry.

And we are, slowly, being heard. Being loud. We get knocked down, but we get up again. We shout for justice. For equality. For everything we deserve as members of the human race.

We may, in stature, be small. But we are mighty.

And we may be told to stop. Sit down and shut up.

And yet…

We persist.

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Good Bye 2016!

Well, that was a year, yeah? Good, bad, and ugly, all together.

Personally, it was a good year. I met my two main goals (more on that in a minute), Adam is thriving and only 10 inches shorter than me (eep!), Simon is working hard and enjoying it and I just keep keeping on.

My two goals were buying a house and earning my Driver’s License. Check and check.

The license took longer than expected, but I did it! In my case 6th (I think it was 6th) time was the charm. And passed with flying colours at that point. I had something like 4 minor faults. So yeah. I know how to drive!

The house also took longer than expected that but that was because all solicitors are evil. Weeeel, all solicitors working for other people are evil. Our solicitor was great. The vendor’s solicitor was a dick and a half. But we got there, in the end, moving in on 24th October. And two months later I still get a fission of ‘Oh yeah! This is *our* house!’ at the most random moments.

The other really good thing that happened was the letter from my former California employer informing me that I had a pension I could cash out. A pension I barely remember having. A pension that was now worth a fuckton of money. So I cashed it out. And the cheque cleared a few days before Christmas. And we now have the money to redo our bathroom (which is livable but needs work to be perfect), buy some new appliances for the kitchen and do some other bits and bobs we thought we’d have to wait to do.

And I think most people agree about the bad. A never ending list of celebrities left us this year. Some were just old, 80+. Others were taken way before their time. And the younger ones hit hard. Really hard in some cases.

The personally hard ones were George Michael and Carrie Fisher. No, I didn’t know them. But I admired them. And both of them were with me through my childhood and/or teenage years.  And their deaths were so unexpected. And the last 2 seconds of Rogue One didn’t help me deal with Carrie Fisher’s death. At all.

And of course, the ugly. Brexit. President-Elect DT (I will never use his name. He deserves to be nameless. He gets no respect.).

So 2017 has a lot of stuff coming up. I imagine it will also be a hard year. Maybe not quite so many major celebrities dying. But a total world change with the UK pulling out of the EU, or at least starting to, and President-Elect DT living up to his campaign promises, even though he’s already gone back on several.

A line from the voice-over from Torchwood keeps going through my mind. “The 21st Century is when it all changes.” And maybe we’re already a decade and a half into it, but it is still true. I just wish that what voiceover meant (aliens) was what we were actually dealing with.

Instead, there are shades of The Nazi Party and WWII. Borders slamming shut to the those who need help. The definite ‘smell’ of WWIII in the air, if not actually in progress.

So what are my goals for 2017?

  • Write more
  • Knit more
  • Exercise more
  • Get our house to the state we want it to be
  • Crochet more
  • Sell more
  • Survive

So nothing exactly quantifiable. Or with a completion date.

But definitely achievable.

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I Am Angry

I am not blaming the people who are tired of same old same old and voted directly for Trump. I get it. I do. I don’t agree. But I can understand where you’re coming from.

I am blaming all of the people who said ‘HRC is worse than DT’ and split the vote.

You have allowed a racist, bigoted, misogynistic, asshole of the highest order become the President of the United States. You handed him the election.

::slow clap::

Well done. Assholes.

And fuck you all to hell.

(Feature image via Women Against UKIP )

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Living The Road Not Taken

I was currently on holiday in Northern California. My brother has lived there for over 20 years and my sister in law, Simon’s sister, moved there late last year.

I also lived there for about 10 years and was living there when I met Simon and moved to Belfast.

When I emigrated, the hard part wasn’t leaving my country, it was leaving my family. My oldest niece was three, her sister just a baby, and I had been a part of their lives since they were born. I more or less saw them everyday. In fact, it was the elder who named me Tee!

And then I was 5,000 miles away.

And now the three year old is 15 and taller than me and the baby is 12 and my height.

And every two years or so I get to experience the road not taken as I come to visit with my family and my mom hires us a house (with her and my step dad) and for a week or two I’m a local.

This year the house is right around the corner from theirs and so there has been a lot of tooing and froing and friends of nieces’ to be fed and engaged with.

And things like this text conversation between the eldest, her mom, her dad and me, as she was coming to our house for dinner after Ballet:

 

conversation

 

Do I have regrets? A few.

I would love to be part of more text messages like that. Having my nieces, either, both, I don’t care, over for dinner because Mom and Dad are out. Have them over after school because they don’t feel like going home and have a key. Have them babysit Adam occasionally, pick him up from school, maybe, on their way to mine.

Have monthly or so R and Tee days and S and Tee days rather than every two years.

And have, as my brother said, our kids know each other rather than know of each other.

As I was hugging her good-bye, our typical so long, don’t want to let go hug, my niece said ‘Are you sure you don’t want to move back?’

She knows the answer, really. It’s not a want. It’s a fact. We can’t afford the Bay Area. And our lives are here in Belfast.

For the first time I was missing my Belfast friends almost as much as I miss my family when I was there. Adam’s mates mum’s were putting all sorts of things up on Facebook and I was sad he missed A’s birthday and the Superhero day at the park and all that.

Even though I ache to see more of this:

Sara and AdamI made my choice 12 years ago.

And I’m usually  okay with it.

 

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Creating Community

As I’ve pulled myself out of my winter of illness (and discontent) (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) I’ve taken a deep breathe and looked around at my life.

And discovered that I suddenly have several groups of really good women friends.

Some of them are actually local to me, such as Adam’s friend’s mums. As was remarked upon at Sports Day last week, it really is awesome the way we all clicked at the pre-school gate. We’ve been hanging, helping, drinking, coffeeing and cheering each other and our kids on ever since.

Then there are two of my ‘left-over from Mumsnet’ local friends. One is also a client and great at giving me advice about what to wear, since she’s a fashion blogger. The other is my craft enabler who took me to buy my sewing machine a few weeks ago.

Then I have my online communities.

There is, forever and always, the hussies. We don’t talk as often as we used to, but we are still connected in various ways. And we all know if we vaugebook something? The rest will coming running to find out if we’re okay.

Then there’s a newer group, also acquired through Mumsnet, who are on a Facebook group now. We don’t talk all the time, but we are there for each other.

There’s the new group, as part of Jump! Parents. We are creating a lovely Facebook community of parents there as well. And I’m writing for the site, just as I’ve written for Jump! Mag. We have good discussions about parenting. And Ikea. And sometimes other stuff.

Finally there’s my best online friends, of which there is a group of four of us. We met on Mumsnet, carried on over at Twitter and Facebook. They are really the ones I wish lived down the street. That would be hard, as one of them lives in Greece, but we are talking about creating a commune at some point. 😀

Borrowed from http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-beach-homes-blue-sky-background-image614913
Our future homes. Really.

And altogether, they make my community. Maybe I can’t ring most of them for a cup of sugar or a quick coffee meet or child pick up. But I know I can rely on them to be an ear and a cheer on the other end of the ‘net.

And sometimes? That’s really all I need.

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There’s A Difference Between Being Bossy and Being Boss

I keep hearing, over and over, various places, that it is no longer okay to tell someone, girl or boy, that they are being bossy. Especially girls.

“Let them be bossy then they can be leaders!”

Yeah. No.

I have never ever in a working life that spans close to 30 years at this point had a good boss who was bossy.

Bossy is bad. And it’s not being a boss.

Bossy is telling people what to do, with no compromise or room for their interpretation. Bossy it pushing someone to do something they may not want to do because you want them to do it, even if it’s not the best thing for them or your company or what have you.

Being boss is not that. Being a leader is not that. Being a good boss, or leader, is guiding and listening and compromising and surrounding yourself with good people who disagree with you in a way that makes you think and change your mind and make you a better boss.

Oh sure, bosses have to be bossy sometimes. No one wants to be told to do something that they really don’t want to do and sometimes employees have to be told that something has to be done for the good of the company or what have you whether they want to do it or not. But being bossy does not make you a boss.

So, yes. Call that little girl or boy who is dictating like, well, a dictator, that they are being bossy.

And then teach them how to be a boss instead.

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Germaine Greer Turns 75.

And The Female Eunuch is 44.

So it’s nearly as old as I am.

And yet…

And yet the right wing in the US and the UK continue their war on women.

And yet women are not getting equal pay for equal work pretty much anywhere.

And yet there are countries that still treat women like property and give them less than second class citizen status.

So…really…

What was the point, 44 years ago?

 

 

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Is privilege the same as advantage?

I was recently having a conversation with a good friend, who I’ll call Beth,* about the use of the word privilege and why we use it rather than the word advantage.

Beth maintains that if we used the word ‘advantage’ rather than ‘privilege’ when speaking about things like white/male privilege people wouldn’t get quite so het up about it.

Beth meant the people who have this privilege, by the way. Beth thinks the word privilege is loaded with insult and presumption due to its implication of wealth and power.

Is Beth right?

Would it matter if we said male/white advantage instead?

I do think the word privilege is more loaded because so often privilege = wealth. The privileged can have things the rest of us can’t have. And it’s very very hard to join the privileged, even if you make millions you may not be included in the ‘privileged classes’ because it’s not just wealth that creates privilege. Privilege is automatically gained through birth, skin colour, gender and other, less tangible things, that can’t be changed easily, if at all.

Advantage, though, that can be gained. Through study, through patronage, through your own gumption you can gain an advantage.

So I will never be male and attain male privilege. But I can do many many things to give me an advantage over a male. Not easily, for sure, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

However, the one advantage I will, mostly likely, never gain, is to become a man. I have no gender identity issues, I am a woman and I am happy being a woman. And so will remain a woman.

So male privilege is not something I can ever gain.

So should we change the word?

No.

I like the fact that those with privilege get upset when I call them on their privilege.

Now, I am aware that we change language all the time to things that won’t offend people. But there is a huge difference between changing disabelist or racist language and changing this.

Because changing this? Would just be another privilege.

*Beth told me he/she had no problem with my writing this post, but she/he did not want to be identified. I’m not even saying Beth is actually a woman, it’s just the first name that popped into my head when I started writing.

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Personal Responsibility versus Victim Blaming

I am really really struggling with this.

There is a thread on Mumsnet where the Original Poster (“OP”) is asking if she was wrong to tell a friend that the friend was stupid for getting blackout drunk in a house full of strangers.

The OP goes on to say that her friend accused her of victim blaming, even though nothing happened to the friend.

And so the discussion begins.

Obviously if something had happened, it would have been in no way the drunk friend’s fault. Someone being passed out drunk on the floor is not an excuse to rape, hurt, steal from or whatever. It just isn’t. If I want to walk down Royal Avenue in Belfast starkers, it’s still not anyone’s right to attack me.

But but but…

But what about personal responsibility? What about how, in this day and age, how incredibly stupid it is to get that drunk in a house full of strangers?

Hell, the stats show that getting that drunk in a room full of friends is actually more dangerous, but that’s not my point.

My point is at what point do we have to accept that we do live in a world where there are people, friend or stranger, who will take advantage of us if we get in such a state? At what point is it our responsibility to make sure we are safe rather than rely on others to watch out for us?

In an ideal world it wouldn’t matter how drunk you got, no matter where you are. We don’t live in an ideal world, do we?

I think it’s one thing to wear a short skirt and makeup and high heels and expect to be left alone.

It’s quite another to be so drunk that you don’t know your own name, never mind where you are or who is with you. There is, of course, an expectation of safety, but is that naive? Is it living in a world that doesn’t actually exist?

I absolutely 100% do not blame any woman anywhere who has ever been raped. And I believe thousands of women all over the world who no one listens to when they say they’ve been raped.

But I also believe, 100%, in personal responsibility. It’s part of being an anarchist, actually. I don’t think it’s anyone’s business how I live or how I raise my son so long as I don’t tread on anyone else’s rights. But I also believe I have a responsibility to live to the best of my ability and be a good person and treat people the way I want to be treated.

And I think part of that is not getting so stinking falling down drunk that you don’t know your own name.

Because it’s not up to anyone else to protect you. It’s up to you to protect yourself.

But, as I said at the start, I struggle with this.

And probably always will.

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Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby…

And pop stars portrayal of same…

By now you’ve at least heard about, if not seen, Miley and Robin’s performance at the VMA’s. He was dressed. She was naked. She acted sleazy. He acted sleazier.

Of course, you only hear how Miley acted. Robin apparently did nothing wrong.

I mean, other than write an incredibly violent and misogynistic song and then pretend to have sex with a young lady on stage during it. A young lady who is, nearly, young enough to be his daughter.

But that’s okay. Right?

Of course it’s not fucking okay. The were both culpable in the sleaze fest that was that performance. And so were the VMA’s, both of their ‘people’ and whomever else watched rehearsals and said ‘Oh yeah, let’s put that on TV!’

And of course whomever thought the song was good enough to record and put on a CD in the first place. I blame them as well.

But mostly, I can’t believe I am going to say this…I blame society. ::cliche klaxons go off all over the world::

Seriously, though. What kind of society do we live in that multitudes of people heard that song, saw that performance and said ‘Yes! Let’s do it! Let’s put this horrible song about hurting women together with a sleazy dance and call it…art?’

And then there are some of the responses. Which aren’t, really, any better than the original.

Take this, the Australian Law Society group, Defined Lines parody of the song. It has scantily clad men and, actually…fairly scantily clad women. The women are degrading the men. The lyrics are about harassment and bigotry and are, supposedly a feminist reaction to the song.

Their reaction is almost as bad in the original. Why?

Because if you want make a statement about harassment being wrong, don’t harass others to do it. The lyrics are okay, I guess, but you can’t fight bigotry with bigotry.

You want to truly rock the world, people?

Do a parody where everyone is fully dressed. Where all parties are treated with respect and dignity.

Just as you can’t teach a child not to hit by hitting him, you can’t teach a man not to harass by harassing him.

You really really can’t.