Tag Archives: feminism

Boobs are fantastic

So in a recent post I explored (albeit briefly) the no existence double standard that suggests that women can (and do?) star at a man’s crotch with impunity, but if a man looks at boobs he is a pervert. I won’t really bother going over this again, it is a waste of time and energy.

But I would like to take a moment to discuss boobs. Boobs to a degree are seen as public property. That goes no matter what size you rock, or whether you have a small child latched onto the nipple.

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It is almost as if, as a community, we are all predisposed to have an opinion. For the record, I have large boobs, I grew them myself. And most of the time I hate them. I have been propsitioned by men on my walk to work and offered money to touch them, I have been attacked, man handled, groped and had items shoved inbetween, under or over them. I have had long discussions about their size, as if the cup size makes a different to most people. The assaults on my boobage is not gender specific and certainly not often able to be excused on alcohol. 

Every set, and often, the individual boob, is different. In the same way dress size, or weight is a bad way of generalising. So what might work for one, will not work for another. 

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A prime example is a conversion that cropped up on a friend’s facebook following something she posted that may or may not have been directly related to, boobs. It then descended into the ‘first thing I do when I get home’ discussion. Honestly, I LOVE not wearing a bra. Not because my inner feminist loves to spit in the face of patriarchy but refusing to wear the constraints passed down to me… or whatever bollox is behind bra burning. And let me ask you, can you afford to burn bras? I certainly cannot! But of course there was the argument for not wearing bras, that it is better for the boob etc. I pointed out that honestly, if I had smaller, or better positioned boobs, if I had boobs that didn’t run and try and hide in my arm pits at every opportunity, I would in fact not wear a bra. I spend more of my free time braless. Or rather, most of my time at home, after all my chores have been done, and I have no plans on leaving the house, braless. 

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At this point, not a single person had volunteered their bra size, and again all boobs are different so even a larger cup size does not mean that they would not be comfortable without a good underwire. But me? Nope. And of course someone chimed in to suggest I wear a sports bra. Because they are supposed to be more comfortable. Nope. Sorry no. When you get to my cup size you are pretty much just strapping things down to minimise any movement and therefore minimising pain. But I do know plenty of people who do wear them, they are generally speaking, wireless and this is a large part of the appeal. 

Now, I am trying not to repeat myself, but again, everything is individual. so what works for one may not work as well for another, when seamfree bras became mainstream I was so excited, the promises of comfort and support without things digging in or hurting. Yeah… no. They work great over a normal bra for extra support (or like me you just hate sports bras and aren’t planning on doing much cardio. I am going on a tangent. I was pretty offended that someone who had no idea about my personal situation or preferences, lifestyle or frankly, anything, would make a sweeping statement on what I should be doing in such a condescending way. 

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BOOBS ARE NOT COMMUNITY PROPERTY.

Unlike, say.. suggesting that wearing a pair of jeans to work out in might not be such a good idea.. when it is something so personal. But we all seem to have an opinion. We are all obsessed. We all love boobs, or have boobs, or are fascinated with them because you don’t really understand the attraction but… aesthetics ? 

One thing I will say, is that conversely, and with express consent by all parties, I have had plenty of discussions with other women regarding boobs, comparing and discussing issues we either shared or were unique to us. We are encouraged to check our boobs to ensure that there are no changed. We should be aware of our own boobs, shape, colour and encourage our partners to be aware. But please, please do not assume you know anything about boob life until you have lived boob life, and be aware, your boob life can and will be a different life to your friend, cousin, coworker or neighbours 🙂 

But boobs really are fab, be respectful though.

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What is good for the goose,

is good for the gander as the saying goes. But what is implied here is that in fact, women routinely look at mens crotch. I mean… yeah I guess we are expected to keep our eyes down and often that will lead us to examine many a belt buckle. I mean of course, we are traditionally shorter than men so our gaze would naturally settle lower… so obviously we are looking at the penis area imagining what is hiding underneath the clothing. It is why we love getting dick pics. I mean we literally have no imagination and require visual aids.

And as women, we enjoy being coy, and teasing, we love to put our wares on show but … hell, don’t even look let alone touch. Isn’t that right girls? Sorry, ladies! 

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You see the difference here is very simple, as simple matter of habit, or comfort, of conformity… I don’t know and really this isn’t the post to discuss it. Would it make for an interesting discussion?

Side Bar: A teacher in primary school once pointed out that we spend our time looking at the floor, and we should look up occasionally. It was actually homework. So you know, keep that in mind when you are out and about.

The fact is, women, are not really THAT interested in what you are packing, in a general sense. But what we do notice is when men don’t make eye contact. There is a very big difference between a casual gaze, we all do it for the most basic reasons when perambulating, so that you don’t walk into people. It is the searching gaze, the fixed gaze that settles on our breasts. Worse so when we are having a conversation with a man doing this. Or even if he is part of a social group and can’t manage to fix his gaze any further up. I mean that is why we jokingly ask ‘do you even know what colour my eyes are’.

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We all have boobs, they are all different sizes, shapes. We know they are there. We also know that they are sexually objectively objectified. So you know, it would be really lovely, if when talking to us, you could maybe … for a moment remember that we are human beings and not just objects. Which is exactly what looking at our boobs makes us feel like.

So, sorry Menninists, or anti feminists, or whatever title you will to offer yourself. If you honestly feel that women spend their time looking at your dick, so by suggesting looking at boobs should be allowable because we are all about being treated equally… I mean… 

Are you even kidding me with this? Are you even trying? How often do women spend their time looking at a crotch even when talking to you? I mean, random women, co workers, neighbours, how often do women find it difficult to tear their eyes away and look up toward at least your magnificent beard? I mean really, if you just grew a beard this really would be a non issue. I mean women can’t keep their eyes… oh sorry, getting facetious but the meme wasn’t even trying. 

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Hit (like) a girl

So, a friend posted a series of memes. I won’t give the originating page any credit. They don’t deserve it. It is just another page bashing feminists, or rather the idea of feminism and what is wrong, apparently, with being or identifying as a feminist. 

Now, of course, it is everyone’s right to both freedom of speech, and freedom of thought. It is not my place to tell someone they are wrong. They need to reach that conclusion by themselves. 

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Now the memes that were posted, the first is the featured image. It was reposted by my friend in an effort to highlight double standards. There are better ways of doing it. Frankly because what you have here is NOT what feminism has every been asking for. At no point did (or should) anyone state that they want equal rights, but they want them to be a little more equal. 

In this particular meme, it is very important to me, I have discussed violence, domestic abuse and self defence. So what am I supposed to take away from this?? Look at the wordings firstly, ‘women are brave if they hit men’ – yes, if a woman is able to STAND UP FOR HERSELF and DEFEND HERSELF she is brave. She is doing something that defies gender stereotypes, she is facing an attacker. You are damned right we should be commending that! Now, the second ‘Men are evil, brutal perverts if they hit women’ .. yeah sorry I am not sure how I can argue this. Why on earth is anyone being hit? What reason is there? Violence should never be the answer. Period. I certainly am not sure that ‘pervert’ is justified but it will depend on what the reason for the attack it?

Okay, now let us look at the image, in the first image, we have a ‘male’ stick figure in a prone position on the ground, with the ‘female’ stick figure standing over with the left arm drawn back, to punch? How is that okay, on any level. How would that image be okay reversed, both men or both women? It wouldn’t. And the second, we have a woman on her knees with the male stick figure standing over. Again, this is not okay. Of course it isn’t. 

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When you put the images with the wording, it jars, for obvious reasons. There is no correspondence between the first image and wording. How would anyone feel that beating down on someone clearly in a vulnerable position is okay? And the second, well… I am going to just say, it is not helping the ‘anti feminist’ cause. By suggesting that a man who pins, kicks and holds a woman down is brutal, and evil? Sorry are you suggesting otherwise? 

This is a case of 2 wrongs not making a right, abuse, violence, attacks. They are NEVER okay, it is not okay to use force, or surprise, to hurt or someone. It doesn’t matter whether it is animal, mineral or plant. Using superiority over someone or something is NOT OKAY. 

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I really hope that people understand, that fundamentally, feminists, me, we, I want equality. I want a woman to feel safe, I want a woman to know that she can walk away if she feels she is in a bad situation. I want her to have the tools to defend herself. I want her to know that it isn’t her fault. But you know what else I want? I want men to stop thinking women are weak, that they should be cowed, that a man who is unable, unwilling to defend himself is less of a man. That he is … a girl. That a man becomes emasculated with he admits he is in a situation, physical or mental, that he has no control over. I want that man to know that he can get help, that he knows where to get help. How to get help. But most importantly, that he won’t be laughed at, that he will be believed. That people, is what I am striving for. That is what feminism is about. It is not about double standards.

No feminist has ever stood up and said, suggested or implied, that they want to be able to hit men without reprisal. It isn’t a case of what is good for the goose, is good for the gander. It is more simply, looking that what is wrong with society, and addressing them so that they are fairer. Does that sound so bad? Does it sound like double standards, like feminists hate men? 

I have more of these memes to look at, so please stick with me!

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Asking for it

So, as an introduction to this blog post :

Myth: Wearing revealing clothing, behaving provocatively, or drinking a lot means the victim was “asking for it”.

Fact: The perpetrator selects the victim- the victim’s behavior or clothing choices do not mean that they are consenting to sexual activity

Two-thirds of rape survivors know their attacker; more than a third of rapists are a family member or friend of the victim. The statistics are even more extreme on college campuses, where 80 to 90 percent of sexual assaults involve students who know each other

Jaclyn Friedman, sexual assault educator and author of What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety, told Cosmopolitan.com via email. “There is evidence that rapists choose victims based on how vulnerable they’re perceived to be. Will they go along? Will they make a fuss? There is literally zero evidence that rapists choose victims based on how sexy or sexual they’re perceived to be. None. Not one study. If that old toxic myth were true, someone would have been able to prove it by now.”

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 It is the myth that a woman dressing in a provocative manner, or one that drinks, or any other behaviours that might suggest in a non verbal way that she may have loose morals, will be a more likely rape victim. This is harmful in several ways, and I want to explore this in the hope that it might help further dispel the myth.
The first way that this is harmful is that it tells girls that if they dress in a certain way, they have to be expected to be treated in a certain way. This might be directly, through family and friends, or indirectly in society, via pop culture. This gives the girl low expectations but also might lead her to make poor choices for a number of reasons.
The second way is that it tells girls who are not dressed in a provocative way, or not drinking, not going out or generally behaving in a way that society dictates as ‘unladylike’ that she will be protected. That it will never happen to her. 
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Now if you look at both side by side, it is equally destructive. In the first instance the rape or assault may go unreported because the victim doesn’t feel that anything wrong happened, or that she will not be believed. In the second instance, the victim may not have skills to protect herself, and may let it go unreported because she isn’t sure that anyone would believe her. On one hand, we have a victim who feels that she should have expected it, on the other a victim who feels she shouldn’t have expected it with exactly the same result.
And in both cases, society has trained the victim to accept that the reason she was attacked is through something she has or hasn’t done. Victim blaming, which is abhorrent but easily done, you list the things that led up to the attack. What were you wearing, what did you say, what did you do, did you drink too much, say too much? What could you have done differently? What would you do differently? And this is compounded by the treatment you receive at the hands of professionals (although they may be compassionate) but then you have society at large. The fact I even used the phrase ‘loose morals’ says a lot about how little society has not moved on. And because of this a victim will not want to say anything to family and friends, so there will not be the support network you might traditionally have. 
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I know many women who have been attacked, assaulted and in extreme cases, raped. The worst thing is, the figured I quoted at the beginning of the post, they are not lying. In most cases, the victim not only knew the attacker. But knew them well. Not in a passing, barely know his name, but enough to trust him.
A friend recently recounted an episode that thankfully was a near miss as her partner called, but she got into a car with someone she considered a friend to get a lift home instead of getting a taxi. A friend who proceeded to drive in the opposite direction to her house although he knew exactly where it was. She was tipsy but she was not drunk, and has since questioned what happened. Why as she picked, what was he thinking, how can she possibly trust her friends? This was someone she had trusted enough to have in her house on several occasions.
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Personally, I had a bad experience as a teenager which little experience of men. A friend, older, kept pushing boundaries, every so gently. Subtle even, to see what my limit would be. Thankfully, as inexperienced as I might have been, I did managed to extract myself from the situations with no physical damage (I can’t say mental as it has taken years to undo but I won’t go into it). But it makes me wonder how many other women, girls, might find themselves in a similar situation? And this was before the internet, mobile phones. So in a way I was less protected as I had no way of getting help if needed. But it also meant that I was able to cut him out of my life pretty easily.
Something that happened a couple of years ago, again makes me see a pattern of boundaries being tested. I was waiting to be served at a bar, suddenly a hand is touching my bottom. Not over my clothes, no, a man whom I hadn’t even noticed, let alone spoken to, had taken it upon himself to force his hands literally into my knickers. Why did he do it? I mean obviously it was because I was a little drunk, I was wearing a corset, full length tutu and pink wig, that must have been what made him think it was a great idea, or that I would be up for it. On my way to the bar, I was asked a few times if I was celebrating an impending wedding.. hen night maybe. Did this guy think that I was up for one last hurrah before getting married? (for the record, I wasn’t, I had dressed up for a themed burlesque show). He was drunk, he probably didn’t really think things through. My reaction was to immediately grab his hand and twist it up behind his back. Then calmly order my drink and take it back to my table. He spent the night stalking me. Because I was obviously a willing accomplice? 
Do you see what I did in that last explanation? I am trying to legitimise and justify the guys reaction. Because that is what you do when something, good or bad happens to you. You try and rationalise it, make excuses, explain it. 
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This is not okay, there is no stereotype for what a victim of assault or rape looks like, there is no stereotype. The fact is, you are more likely to be targeted by someone you trust and because of that, your defences will be down. Of course many, many people are attacked by complete strangers, but again this is not dependant on time of day, area, activity. It is a crime of opportunity, like many crimes. So to try and work out what you did wrong or could do differently is unhelpful.
The fact is, what you wear, how much you drink, how you get home, who you speak to and in what way, will have no bearing on your potential to be a victim. So we need to bury the myth that the way you dress has any bearing on you as a person. We need to stop searching for visual clues and be more understanding. We need to make sure that we are opening our eyes, and listening, and stop being so judgemental.
For anyone who may have been a victim of a crime and isn’t sure where to turn, this website may be of some help Victim Support UK and it is worthwhile looking locally as there are often support services and groups organised by local charities and or NHS trusts.
One last thing…… simple words…. ‘I believe you’.

Fighting Fit part 4

Well, since I have a couple of weeks off from training, I am being more than a little reflective about what the Combat Training means to me, personally and generally.

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You see, as I briefly looked at in my last blog in the series, self defence is to a greater degree, different depending on your sex. Men will find themselves in a protecting situation either protecting their friends, family or pride. Women often defend themselves against predators, against sexual assault or domestic abuse.

Now, in my formative years, leaving teenage years and becoming an adult, I spent a lot of time with a group of guys who were all very interested in martial arts. They trained with me, it was interesting and they wanted me to be able to protect myself. It often involved jumping out of stairwells at me or having a foot land on my head at random intervals (although let us be fair, I don’t think there will be a real life situation where this will happen) and at no point did they suggest I couldn’t do something based on my gender. Although equally they were very protective when we were all out.

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That said, I remember them coming home more than once having been attacked on the way home, and I don’t think, on reflection, that their years of martial arts training helped them. Not that they would ever admit it. But their ego and confidence rubbed off on me, I am a fast talker and have often found myself in situations where I have engaged my mouth before engaging my brain. False bravado. But, as close as I have got, and my absolute refusal to back down if I know that I am right… I have never, ever been in a fight with a complete stranger. Nope. Never been attacked. I have got close, and even jumped into a taxi in broad daylight when I realised that I was being followed, and that the direction I was going would lead me to a very quiet part of town.

But I digress, like i have just said, I have never been attacked by a stranger. Most women are attacked in domestic situations. That, is to say, I have been a victim of domestic violence. I grew up in a household that suffered heavily with domestic violence. So you could say, I should have seen the signs. But no, there were really no signs. Or none that I was prepared to notice.

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It was one of the men that I had known for years, it was one of the men that had protected me on nights out, who had taught me to defend myself, correct form, how to punch. It was the same man that I had had a relationship with, who I trusted.

I honestly don’t really think about it often, I compartmentalise. And it was only on thinking about my last training session, and how broken I felt following it. I was thinking about something that was said, about training my reactions so I am able to react in a positive way if I ever find myself in a situation that I have to protect myself.

And what happened when I was attacked? Well, let us be frank. It was not a slap, it was no a shove, and lets remember, I had trained with this man before. I still have a pain in my breast bone from when he hyper extended a punch directing it to my spine. Training. So, it wasn’t just a tap. It was a full on punch, that I was no prepared for, or expecting. It wasn’t during an argument or an exchange.

I shut down. I totally, and utterly shut down. I had no response, I lacked the tools to be able to deal with it. I didn’t train for this, because this was done out of maliciousness and not in a safe spce.

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This is why self defence training, combat training in ‘real life’ situations is important. It is why I will keep going. I will keep pushing myself. It is why I am working hard at the gym so that I am able to participate more fully in the sessions. Because what happened to me, that attack? That was exactly what the training is talking about. It isn’t about same spaces, with comfortable mats on the floor, with a referee and people cheering you on. With a bell to announce the start of the round.

The Combat Academy will continue to challenge me, it will probably break me, I will try, I will keep training in the gym to work on my fitness. And I will do this, so I know, so I am prepared. So if I do find myself in a situation I have no control over, I am able to react.

As always, if you want more information CLICK HERE

Fighting Fit part 2

Well, as you may recall in the first in this series of blog posts, I was unwillingly dragged to a combat training taster session by my co host and partner in crime. If you want a refresher on what happened and my initial thoughts you can read the first blog post here : Fighting Fit.

I have since been back for what should have been 5 sessions, although on my fourth session I had to take a step back as I was knocked sideways with a bad cold. But I did feel it was important to still go – rather than stay cooped up indoors. And it meant I got to snag some great photos and video.

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Now, I am feeling reflective over what I have learnt over the last few weeks – you see no week is ever the same. The second session took place in the wooded area and was more conditioning and muscle memory, working with different instructors and basically drilling what we had learnt in the first session. It was good to do it in another environment as it stops you being able to get used to a terrain. Because frankly this is about defending yourself, so you won’t be picking your environment. Prior to this was going over the basics of the psychology and getting to know the people we were training with and their motivation for training. Because at the end of the day, what we are doing required a degree of trust. We need to know the people we are working with and against to be able to do it. We need to have some empathy and understanding of their journey and background. What led them to this place. Okay, so that might sound a little … ‘touchy feely’ for a combat environment but honestly, it works. And you do need it, you need to be able to trust the person throwing punches at you, to trust the person dropping you to the floor. It also gives you a little extra confidence – you need that to get out of the chair and walk into the field or woods.

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Now the third session, that session killed me. I guess the honeymoon period was well and truly over by this point. Kid gloves off and we were thrown into a beasting session which involved a 10 min warm up. Which damned near killed me. I don’t consider myself unfit. But there are different types and levels. And I just was not keeping up. Which made me kick myself. The session was more drilling and concentrating on the basics – but if you think for a moment that when I say drilling it was the same as the previous session, or the first? Not at all. For example I have had different instructors each time, and even rotated instructors while in training. And the same lesson can be taught in different ways. At no point are you allowed to get comfortable. Because, just in case between paragraphs you have forgotten, this is combat training. We are training so that we are able to defend, protect and remove ourselves from violent situations.

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I will also admit something here, I went out on the previous evening, and may have stayed out a lot longer than intended, and drank more than intended. So I did think that I was struggling because of this, and was also very glad I didn’t throw up. However, it was very, cold, windy a little wet and I wore just a t shirt after the warm up did a very good job. I spent the following week sick as a dog which led to last weeks having to sit out the session as I could barely breathe, or stand. So my advice, do not drink the night before, and wear a base layer to protect from the elements.

Like I said, last week, I missed out on training but I was able to see as a spectator what you are put through, and actually something that surprised me, most encounters from engaging to floor are about 30 seconds. There are longer encounters. And I am certain that as we progress we will be challenged more. But that most encounters will be over or rather, can be over so quickly is something to bare in mind. It is also surreal because I know that when you are drilling aspects, it feels like minutes because you are trying to remember what to do, what position to get into, how to safely get to the floor and what to do when you are on the floor – how to have the upper hand, how to do it all without expending too much energy and avoiding damage.

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Now, onto yesterdays training session. Well… it was actually grading for one of the instructors – in that it was the end of her instructor training so was being graded to see if she was at a level to become a full instructor. It was brutal. The day was brutal. I only experienced a small portion of what she went through but I was done. I was finished. My comfortzone was in a different time zone. I was spent, I was finished, I was left holding onto the fence at one point because I wasn’t sure  that I trusted my own body to hold me up.

Every part of me was soaked through, I spent more time on the floor than I every expected to – I wrested, bucked, pulled and pushed people of varying sizes around, dropped them, was straddled, gift wrapped them. I found that my body was not physically able to keep working at the pace required of me. Again, I don’t consider myself unfit, I know I am far from where I should be, and know I rely on a quick recovery time to get me through. But yesterday showed me that I need to up my game. I need to be much more physically fit. At no point was I told that I am unfit, not up to the challenge, that I should train more, or harder or that I was letting anyone down.

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I want to make that perfectly clear – the distress and upset is all me, I am letting down myself, and also the instructors who give up time and put a lot of energy and effort in to the sessions. You do need to be relatively fit to do these sessions, this is just common sense, these are not 45 mins in a sports hall. These are a couple of hours outside, running, punching, throwing down. It is very intense – and I wanted to go back to what I was saying about trust. You will get screamed at, you will get shouted at. It isn’t pleasant, you won’t like it, you might cry (hands up, I did) but this is why it is so important to have trust in your instructors. You need to understand why they are doing it, and where it is coming from. That they are not picking on you, they don’t dislike you, they aren’t judging you. They just need to make the situation as real as possible, to make you understand what it might be like, that being cute, or giggling won’t help you.

I am just getting ready to go to the gym, I have bruises all over my legs, my thighs are agony. But I am glad I went, I am glad I am going, I am happy and proud to say that I am training to become an instructor and cannot wait to see where that journey will take me. I am going to make sure that I increase my cardio (clearly walking everywhere isn’t cutting it!).

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But I cannot express how supportive the instructors, and everyone else at the Combat Academy are – as much as the military aspect of the training is hard, and so against my own personality, it is necessary. But at the end of the day training is a small part of it, the psychology and theory is as important and helps you put everything in place. And the general support you get, your confidence grows with every hour you spend there. Every instructor having varying techniques. It is not standardised and this means that you are getting a much more rounded session each time. You are learning why people think a certain way, what leads them to a certain answer, it helps you make your own educated decisions and gives a broader understanding outside your own life experience. Every instructor is a different body type, height, training level  you name it – it means that you really don’t know what to expect and this again adds to the realism. And frankly I think the fact that everyone is so open, and caring makes the training much easier.

I will keep you updated on my journey – if you want to check out the academy here is their website : Click Here

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Fighting Fit

So, last weekend I went to Combat Academy, I was invited along with my Lifestyle:MK co-host Audrey who had met the brains, and brawn behind the enterprise earlier that week on a T.V show. On a Sunday morning, in a unassuming part of Leighton Buzzard which on the drive there led me up the garden path quite literally. To find out more – please CLICK HERE

We finally realised that we had arrived when we spotted people standing around in camo fatigues – is that even the right word? Berets were also employed. It all looked very serious. And I am not a serious person (despite all the ranting blogs I throw around!) so I was genuinely worried that I would immediately find a clash of personalities. There were smiles and warm welcomes from everyone, we were then ushered into the porta-cabin that serves at the head quarters. It was open with plenty of room, and the people already in the room were again welcoming. Not long after we sat down, we had another group of girls join us – who were also invited, including the utterly inspiring Rozana McGrattan who has been through so much growing up on the streets in Sao Paulo – she has released a book titled Street Girl which you can pick up easily on Amazon by CLICKING HERE (although I am sure other booksellers carry it).

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It was a lovely environment, we all talked about ourselves, that is, everyone in the room, staff, senior members, and of course, those of us hoping for a spa day (thanks Aud) and it was a really relaxed atmosphere. We felt a little closer to each other, breaking the ice. Once that was over, we had a little training session discussing common mistakes, issues and how to avoid, and what to do in certain situations. This was laying down the theory behind both predictor and prey and putting things into context before the laying of hands.

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Now, given the choice, I would have stayed out of the physical part of the day. I didn’t think I would be fit enough, that I would catch on, I was worried about my shape (I am squishy). Would I be able to do any of these things, would my leggings stay up? (the last is a legitimate concern!) And of course I didn’t want to make a complete prat out of myself in front of strangers, and worse, professionals who no doubt would be judging me.

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It got worse, after warming up, being show some simple moves, instead of being split into small groups, we would be going out in front of the rest of the group? KILL ME NOW! But the atmosphere was wholly supportive, cheers and clapping. And while you are in the moment, you actually do forget everything. It was fun, the first part of the training was about distance and how to keep the distance between you and your aggressor. Which reminded me of the boxing training I did all that time ago.

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As the training progressed, it got progressively harder, punches coming, remembering to block, and block well. Looking for openings and grappling with people who were making it harder and harder. Oh and did I mention that we also had to drop and pin someone? I am sure I am not using the correct terminology. But for those seconds (felt like hours) I wasn’t worried about what I looked like, I wasn’t pulling at my t shirt, shifting my weight, avoiding peoples stares. I was in the moment, I was doing my best, I was learning skills that I genuinely could use.

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During the time we were outside, there was a real sense of family, we cheered each other one, we congratulated each other. It felt like a group of friends, not people who to a degree had never met each other. We felt elated when we did well, we were not looking for our team mates to do badly, we were watching their techniques and cheering when they nailed it. At no point did it feel like we were being judged for anything other than how we implemented what we had learnt.

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Toward the end the session, we got to watch the instructors and regulars pitch against each other, it was interesting to see how simple techniques and ideas could be used in different ways. And inspiring, very inspiring! The day was finished off by a debrief where we all had a chance to chat and go over what we had learnt and how we felt about the day. Even though I initially had reservations about the boot camp, and given the choice, there are many, many things I would have chosen to do? I really, really enjoyed it! Four hours flew by, all preconceptions that I had when I first arrived were quickly, and thoroughly dispelled. There was no macho, regimented, army atmosphere.

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What you will find, and what I found, is a safe, supportive environment. You will learn a lot about yourself, about habits you have, what you may want to change. The thinking is based in fact, and practised. You come away with a lot to think about, and have the understanding of why, and not just how. And you feel like you made friends, and that everyone there wants to help, and support you, and for you to succeed. And you don’t get to go before a round of hugs. All barriers that may have been in place, any nerves, any apprehensions that you had when you first get out of your car…. all completely gone by that last hug.

And I am going back tomorrow for another round – wish me luck! 

The BiG oppression

I couldn’t want for TBBT to start. I have more recently given in to box sets, but before that, I too watched shows on a weekly basis. Once show that I really enjoyed was TBBT. I identified with Sheldon, worrying finding he quoted me. I found it a fun show, and as the series continued and new characters added – I found this did not diminish the show as one might worry that it could.

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But watching an episode this evening (actually happening right now, the SO still watches it religiously) and I noticed something that has been done time and again.. and i am not sure if the meaning or agenda behind it is missing the point or nailing it exactly. In the scene playing out in my peripheral vision, we have 2 cars, 2 occupants in each car. Male passenger, and female driver in each. Cut to another scene where we have a male character standing in a kitchen wearing an apron. Visual emasculation even if not directed.

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From previous episodes we know that Sheldon doesn’t drive, however, Leonard does drive so there is no reason for him not to drive. But it mirrors – so visually it is pleasing even if you aren’t really sure why, and it makes it easier to draw comparisons between the conversations going on in the car.

Back at the house, there are 2 male characters, and one female. But of course, yet again, we have the relationship of Howard and Raj questioned as well as Raj’s clear femininity. Does this make people uncomfortable? Or does it make the question usual gender roles?

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For me, yet again it is the idea of the ‘man child’ that is yet again bought up in the show, and conveniently, having female characters helps them overcome simple tasks that would have been met with confusion. Amongst the main (male) characters, we have Sheldon who doesn’t drive, Leonard does drive. Howard drives a moped, and although Raj apparently does drive, there is little or no screen time given to this fact. We have a scene in a previous episode where all the male characters are in the same car, and it breaks down. They understand the principal of the combustion engine but can’t fix their engine. So they are emasculated again. Isn’t this what would happen to a car full of girls?

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The boys in the show are so enveloped in their scholastic endeavours, they play computer games in their spare time, go to conventions, and collect comics. They to varying degrees have no social skills. Everything about them, their references, their hobbies, their job, speech patterns are all designed to make them stand out, to struggle to make themselves understood. And there are only so many series that could really be written about ‘and Englishman in New York’ so we find that Penny has more company, to help make sense of their journey’s, new directions and story lines can be written that gives the male characters more dimensions.

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And in this, strange alternate universe… the women are dominant. In subtle ways, we have Bernadette who is better qualified than her husband, Penny, who is charming, pretty, and fits into any social situation with no effort, and Amy who is on the surface a perfect match for Sheldon, mentally and in her employment. But somehow still manages ot have greater social skills.

The more I watch TBBT the more I feel that it is making fun of these men, that instead of us being able to passively able to enjoy a culture that we love in a main stream format, it is exactly what we love that is being used to get laughs. And instead of finding the female characters empowered, and raised in profile, they are just carrying out the same duties that their mothers before them stereotypical would have done, and are having to run around for these men, who are to all intents and purposes still children. I mean who reads comics as an adult, or plays computer games?

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Well the answer is a large portion of the population which is why the show has been so popular but I do genuinely suggest that the show at its very core is subversive in nature and I just don’t get any enjoyment from traditional gender roles being enforced but dressed up in a more modern way.

You want something different but positive? Watch iZombie, Kimmy Schmidt, Super Girl, Jessica Jones, hell go old school and watch Buffy.

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Geek before it was mainstream

So, this weeks show is all about box sets and I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle the question from my gaze. What am I going to watch maybe, or cosplaying from popular shows (like GoT) but with a modern twist. Which I did respond to my co-presented with a rather over enthusiastic essay about cosplay which I don’t think was deserved and would probably would have served better as a blog. Then I got thinking about how both Marvel and DC are releasing films and television series which are very much mainstream.

I came up with the second idea this morning, but having given it some thought over the day, I think I can combine both topic ideas.

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My love of cosplay is well documented and so it is obvious for me to look at this side of things. However, when looking at updating a character like Dany from GoT, it really depends on where you fall in cosplay. There are those that will copy a costume exactly, those who will cross play, do casual looks based on a favourite character, armoured Disney princesses are popular at the moment, and to stay with a theme for a moment, apparel like Twisted Disney. But the one thing that remains constant in these is that you are instantly able to recognise the character. It is very much a visible acknowledgement of the character you are portraying. We work in visuals when we cosplay, often we are sharing on social media, or building portfolios, modelling our handiwork. So the costume we design needs to be visually identifiable.

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Which leads me to the observation (that I am not alone in making) that I am winding my way around to slowly. That pre millennium, every show was cleanly costumed. Let us take a quick look at the X Men – leading the way for comic to film cross over. If you didn’t ever pick up a comic, you may have come accross the X Men as a cartoon. And remember all those individual and interesting costume designs ? Each one designed for the personality of the wearer. This goes back to what I was saying about a visual representation of the character. Because comics are primarily a visual medium in the same way films are, with dialogue being secondary (and that is an argument we can have on another day). But if you put the X Men films alongside either comic or cartoon that you remember, there is a marked difference.

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The costume is identical for each member, the individuality is left at school. Once you become a full member of the team you dress, like a member of the team. If you look at shows like Agents of Shield, even shows like The Flash, Arrow, hell let’s throw Super Girl and Jessica Jones in there. The body of the story, the content for the majority of the episode is conducted out of costume. The segments of the show that see our hero, or anti hero in costume (if in fact there is one) is very small and tends to be there to underpin rather than highlight the entire show.

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It is easy to point out that tastes change, and that what was fashionable in the 70/80 and early 90’s certainly isn’t what is attractive to people any more. That we like things to have a sleeker design, just look at our phones, our cars, our lives. I could talk about how the uniformity indicates an end of childhood, and that even while different you are part of a controlled group. But again, a topic for another group. The fact is that superheroes have always worn a uniform but recently the uniforms have changed direction.

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And that, that is what makes these shows more accessible. The fact that we are not made uncomfortable by people dressing up, making fools of themselves, that for the most part they dress like ‘normal’ people. Even in films like The Avengers, they spend as much time in ‘civvies’ as they do ‘in costume’. If you look at shows like Batman (yes, I mean the one with Adam Weston) then you notice that there is a distinct flip between the amount of time that was spent in costume and the amount of time in say, the more recent spate of Batman movies.

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It is about accessibility, you can relate and understand and it makes the shows, and films more palatable to a wider audience. It means that the shows will be watched by people who have no interest or understanding of the background of the film of show – as can be seen by the popularity of the films spawns by the Marvel Universe. This is a genre that has bought the Geek culture into the mainstream. super heros previously resigned to only serious collectors or fans, banished to childhood are now being enjoyed by entirely new audiences because now, being interested in Geek Culture isn’t seen as bad as it once was.And let us not forget, the Avenger that most people want to laugh at Aquaman …. he is had a total make over, and I really cannot wait for that movie 😉

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As for box sets that you might want to check out – Netflix has an abundance, there is my personal favourite – Gotham, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Daredevil. Available on Sky – we have The Flash, Arrow, Agent Carter and Agents of Shield with more being planned.

 

Look, don’t touch.

So.. going to take a moment to discuss the idea of male privilege. I realise that it is amongst many terms that are floating around our general consciousness at the moment.

But it is one that is to digress, misunderstand and to an extent is dismissed. But what is it and why am I among others, concerned with it.

Well, just now I watched a show where a man sued a women (unsuccessfully) for various reasons, and stated that he had a sexual relationship. He was referred to as a ‘sugar daddy’. He went on to say that while she was in his employ, he would ask to touch her and she would reply with ‘$60, $100’ etc for him to do so.

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That, that is male privilege. I have persona experience, the worst was being approached by someone near a mosque that my employers went during office hours, and I had assumed he had attended. I was on my way to work and he stopped me to ask about my boobs. At 8am on a weekday morning. I was a little taken aback. He asked what size they were and if he could touch them. I initially thought he was joking, and he then offered to pay me, upping the amount before I could finally extract myself from the situation that was rapidly escalating while I was also concerned that my employers would see this. I will admit, a small part of me wanted to take the money and think, fuck it. 

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This, this is what it is all about. Women are blamed in this transaction for allowing a man to touch them. Sorry, no, they are blamed for taking money. They are blamed for creating a situation where men can offer them money. And you know what, I can see why a woman would do it, it is easy money and while it is a quick boob cup, it is fairly harmless. But it is women are blamed for creating an environment where men pay them to touch their assets. Men are not blamed for assuming that it is okay to ask to touch a women inappropriately, and indeed, when asking does not get the answer they wanted, offering money. Or goods, or services.

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Of course, as with anything else, when someone suggests such a thing as Male Privilege even exists, the defensive back lash starts. Things like women being accused of being controlling or privileged for not wanting to have sex with this partner, but suggesting they have a headache. The counter argument is that a women cannot simply say no, she doesn’t fancy it, or she is tired, no, the only way out is to say she is ill. A simple no is not enough. Why not? Because Male Privilege dictates that a woman shouldn’t or couldn’t possibly have any reason to deny her partner. The Alpha Male, the head of the house. 

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Rape – rape is the escalation of Male privilege, where if a man is denied sex through normal means – dating, buying, or being emasculated, angry and wanting to exact revenge. It can be on a partner, a friend, a stranger. It can be premeditated or spur of the moment. I won’t quote statistics as we all know that they are an unreliable source of information. Instead I will just go through things that I have come accross over the years, one example that keeps coming back to me, and I believe is not isolated, is a judge in Italy throwing out a rape case because the woman was wearing tight fitting jeans. He ruled that it would have been to difficult for the perpetrator to have removed the jeans without her help, and therefore she must have been agreeable. 

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Lets look at the stereotype of the rape victim, that it is a girl dressed provocatively, who is suggesting by her attire that she wishes to have sex, and drinks excessively so therefore isn’t able to control herself or be responsible for her actions. It is certainly the excuse used in the Stanford Rape case that made headlines earlier this year. One thing that you will find when searching for this rape case, is unlike a lot of other cases, it is the male perpetrator and not the victim that is named. Brock Turner made headlines for the leniency of the sentence he received. There was certainly a split in the reporting, Male Privilege abound as there was sympathy for him, for his loss of scholarship at Stanford University and that he would no longer be going to the Olympics. That he should be given special consideration because he was the fastest swimmer. 

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He blames the culture and environment at the University for his actions, that he was merely the product of an environment of drinking, peer pressure, and promiscuity. That, in fact, he isn’t at fault here, it was bound to happen, because everyone was doing it. How was he to know that by jumping at a woman at random she hadn’t also read the memo and was not a more than willing partner. Of course this is not what happened, he blames a culture or drinking and loose morals. But what he did was not talk to a girl at a party and invite her back to look at his etchings (I blame my mother for that turn of phrase) but he either followed her, or happened on her outside, and forced himself on her by a dumpster. And when he was found by passers by, ran off. 

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This case is prominent for many reasons, the victim has chosen to remain anonymous – and this is her reasoning ‘That’s the beauty of it. I don’t need labels, categories, to prove I am worthy of respect, to prove that I should be listened to’ – what she means is that we are going to treat her as a victim of a crime, we are not going to go through her social media profiles, look at her face, we are not going to base reporting on what she looks like, how she dresses, what her skin colour is, what dress size she is. We are going to base our analysis of her purely on what she represents, a victim. It is a powerful statement. And one that is a direct juxtaposition to the treatment of the perpetrator of the crime. 

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So what is Male Privilege – a small part of it, but I hope it gives you an understanding of why it upsets people. And why it is something that needs to be changed. Women are not merely objects, they are not here to entertain men, they are able to enjoy sex, but equally are allowed to say no. Women are allowed to dress how they please, woman should be able to wear as little or as much as they want. They should be able to drink as much or as little as they wish and not worry about falling victim to a crime. Although interestingly – it is more often that women are attacked outside the environment we imagine – they are walking home from work, out jogging, open the door to a stranger. Male privilege is the idea that a man expects to be able to touch a women. That a women is a trophy to be bought with gifts or money. That women are the cause of this, women started this. That a women created the environment where they expect financial reward for men being in their company, touching them, taking things further. I would change the conversation to suggest that men assume that given enough money, they can have and or do as they please. That money is the answer, that women are just another product or service that can be paid for. Which to me, makes it feel that women are not equal in their eyes. That women are just something else to be bought.