Archive of ‘Let’s Get Serious’ category

To The Women I Nearly Shamed with my Silence: Me Too

me too solidarity tag woman with big eyes and tears

 

I have a confession: when I saw the Me Too (#MeToo) solidarity status on a friend’s Facebook wall I mentally turned the other way.

I think in all the years I’ve been blogging, I’ve only written two posts that I felt uncomfortable writing but knew I had to.

One was about my then 12 year old daughter. One was about my marriage.

This joins them.

 

I didn’t want to write this. I couldn’t bring myself to cast my mind back over the countless times I’ve been on the receiving end of unwanted intimidating advances from men, mainly in my younger years.

Thankfully it doesn’t happen so much now. I guess there are some advantages to ageing and losing all the bloody collagen after all.  Please forgive the humour. It’s the only thing that helps sometimes.

Because I really don’t want to dredge it all up.  It makes me feel dirty.

My stomach has started churning round and round in apprehension.  I can feel the familiar prickle on my back and my body temperature rising with dread as I start recalling the numerous incidents I’d buried at the very back of memory.

So I saw other women’s brave confessions…but I mentally turned away.

I think of the so-called ‘bandwagon cause’ posts that have filled our social media feeds these last few years:
the ice bucket challenge, the handbag/heart status to (somehow I actually know not how) spread breast cancer awareness, the 22 for 22 PTSD push-up challenge, the ‘je suis Charlie’ solidarity posts, the no makeup photo posts.

I’ve taken part in some of them myself I admit.

 

However, the #MeToo expression of solidarity started by actress Alyssa Milano on Twitter is NOT a bandwagon cause or shallow bid for publicity.

This campaign, cleverly suggesting that woman simply post the words Me Too on their profiles, if they too have been sexually abused/harrassed in any way in their lives, has caused a response both mind blowing and quite frankly depressing for the sheer scale of the endemic problem it has revealed. It has got nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with humanism.

Yet I mentally turned away.

On the very same day #MeToo started gathering momentum with thousands of women posting it on their statuses, Malta (where I now live) experienced one of its darkest days and most shocking news stories: the murder of a well known female journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. I can partly attribute my failure in sharing my own #MeToo incidents to this tragedy as I, like many people in Malta, was totally stunned and distracted by this news and in fact sat down to pour out my thoughts and feelings about it on screen.

But let’s face it, I can’t blame my failure to speak up about my own experiences of sexual harassment entirely on this. It’s something else.

 

As a British Asian women brought up with the ridiculous baggage we are cursed with (not that we have the monopoly on this!) a #MeToo confession just felt too inappropriate, too ‘washing of dirty laundry in public’.

I didn’t want to publicly or indeed privately recount the many times I’ve experienced it.

My eldest who reads my blog doesn’t need to see it (just yet). My family don’t need to know the details. My mother doesn’t need the heartache.

I mentally turned away.

 

It’s well-documented that predators like the Cosby’s, Weinsteins, Allens and the sick narcissistic bully in the White House RELY on this culture of silence…

…on women’s fear of speaking out, on the shame many of us feel. A shame we never asked for. A shame that is not our fault. A shame we never brought on ourselves because of ‘how we dress’…yes looking at you Donna Karan. You may have apologised for those comments and I’m usually a big believer in forgiveness but no…this time the shame is on YOU!

trump quoted on his sexual behaviour me too

 

 

I’m married now and have three wonderful kids. I’d rather be writing something funny about them.  Damn it, I’d rather be writing a funny post about anything right now.

It feels like it’s been dark on here for ages so yes, to my regret, I nearly shamed the women who’ve been brave enough to speak up, by staying silent myself and I nearly didn’t write this post.

But partly thanks to reading the brave revelations by a good blogging friend of mine, Mumbelievable, and partly because I know I have a duty to do what is right, I’ll just ignore the churning stomach, hot prickly feeling and the fact my throat has just gone a bit dry.

And I’ll break my silence.

 

I have never suffered the life changing destructive trauma of being raped. I am one of the lucky ones…apparently.

I ‘only’ endured the incidents detailed below… What a strange definition of being one of the lucky ones! To have never been forcibly pinned down and raped and yet to have been subjected to certain things as a very young girl, not quite understanding what was happening (not listed below by the way).

To have your basic right to just live free as a woman, in the way men do pretty much, absolutely robbed during everyday transactions and normal moments to the point where you actually couldn’t face walking into a meeting at work/a friend’s house party or anywhere. To be so nervous of men that you just could not make eye contact with them.

Oh yes. Very lucky to have experienced all this:

They guy who offered me a room to stay in

when I went backpacking after Summer Camp as a 21 year old in the USA and made it totally clear that it was only available if I slept with him. That’s when I found out how expensive New York hotels are and hardly had any money left to actually explore the city as a result.

The men who wouldn’t just let me walk down the street when I lived in Paris in my 20’s

but instead, hung out of their cars shouting in my direction getting irate if I ignored them. I used to dread the lights going red at a crossing and having to cross the road in front of them.

The idiots who couldn’t just let me stand on a station platform or ride a train…

…male passengers who would whistle relentlessly across the train tracks or sit down on the seat opposite me on the train saying hello and fixing me with a glare on repeat til I looked up. At one point I stopped taking the metro and walked almost everywhere so I didn’t have to endure the platform pests but then I had to deal with the guys in the cars!

The men who simply loitered with no discernible purpose

at the metro station near my apartment blowing kisses and uttering ‘bonjour’ with a wink in the sleaziest low breathy voice.

The passenger on the suffocatingly hot metro train in rush hour

who shoved his hand up my skirt with such force (sorry but I can’t bring myself to type what he then did next) causing me to instantly grab his hand from behind me and dig my nails in so hard that my hand hurt for days…and the tights I’d been wearing were torn.

I never saw the bastard’s face because we were packed in so tight like sardines that it was literally impossible to even turn my head to confront him. And I’ll never forget the woman who heard me shriek and reacted with indignation on my behalf as she tried to figure out which one of the commuters, standing immobile and expressionless, was the culprit.

The man whose job advertisement I responded to 

who stood behind me and placed his hands on my shoulders, then leaned over and brushed his hand against the top of my blouse while I did a ‘typing test’ for him. I’ve never run so fast in my life down a flight of stairs.

The seller (not that there was just one) at the Cairo souks

who waited til my friends were out of sight before making lewd sounds as I looked at his market stall wares.

The director at a major bank when I returned to London from Paris

who knew I had a boyfriend but just would. not. quit. asking me out to dinner with thinly veiled smiles that conveyed the message ‘If you don’t, I will at best make life difficult for you, at worst have you fired”.

The Harley Street specialist my employer sent me to

for treatment of my carpel tunnel syndrome, who asked me to take my blouse off even though he was just assessing my wrist! His lingering look that lingered and lingered over my bra. I look back and wish I’d  had the courage to say no but I was so scared in a room with a stranger and a closed door.

woman with head in hands in despair, black & white image, for me too post

And it actually has happened in my 40’s…

The friend of a friend who grabbed my bum at my husband’s 50th birthday party

….just months after insisting I dance with him deliberately waiting for his moment when my husband wasn’t looking.

Another friend of a friend who without any qualms commented on my underwear

that had become visible as I bent down to get some food. Was I asking for that Donna Karan?

The drivers who hoot as I’m out running

and get verbally abusive if I have the ‘audacity’ to protest and shout back at them

 

It just goes on and ON. Too many to list. So many I’ve blocked out. And the ones that WILL go with me to the grave because I just can’t bring myself to publicise them…

Because as I said my mother doesn’t need the heartache. My kids don’t need to see it. And I don’t need to feel it again.

There will be many women who do not wish to reveal the dark moments when they were victims of sexual harassment or ANY type of uninvited advances that the perpetrator knew made frightened their target. There is no obligation. And in truth, were it not for this blog i.e. my platform for talking about thiings, I’m not sure I’d have spoken out.

So it is not for everyone. But I felt I’d be doing a disservice to the women who’ve been brave enough to speak up, if I stayed silent myself.

I nearly didn’t write this post.

But I did.

So yes #MeToo

HAVE YOU BEEN THE VICTIM OF ABUSE OR HARASSMENT? DO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT ON HERE? 

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Malta, The Sunny Paradise With Dark Secrets: Caruana Galizia Murder

daphne caruana galzia murder image of journalist smiling against sunny backdrop

The despicable murder (and make no mistake: ALL murder is despicable) of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has confirmed what many of us already knew: that democracy in Malta is a dangerous dream and freedom of speech is a bad joke.

‘Be careful what you write’ I was warned by a close relative who called to express their shock.

And there you have it.

If freedom of speech really does exist in Malta, why should anyone watch their words when talking about one of the most shameful atrocities to take place in Malta?

If Malta – an EU member – is a democracy, why did the Caruana Galizia murder happen?

Be careful what you write… Well I’ve written about my views on self-censorship before. This time, however, I don’t even know what to write!

I’m sitting in front of the keyboard as a human, woman, mother, wife, daughter, writer feeling as sick as I did when I went to bed last night and when I woke up this morning.
I feel horrified over the actions of the people who felt they had the right to take her life, heartbroken for her family and more than a little scared for this country.

 

Forthright, outspoken, controversial, fearless, fierce? Yes Caruana Galizia was all of these things, whether your liked her or not. 

These were traits that clearly made her troublesome to the individuals she investigated in the political/commercial/legal spheres; individuals on whom she unearthed information in her relentless quest to rid Malta of the disease of corruption and the sense of unquestionable entitlement that has infected it for so very long

Whether one read her blog or not, one had heard of her.

Whether one appreciated her direct (many would say ‘confrontational’) style of writing, one had to admit she had nerves of steel that most of us do not possess.

 

I know all too well how defensive people get about Malta.

Any writer who gets a reaction to their work knows the power of words is immense. I learned this when I published a serious piece about my adoptive home a while back.  I took on every commenter one by one. And whilst it is still one of my most viewed posts some two years later (and received just as much of a positive response as it did negative), the sad truth of it was that it really did show me that this sunny country has a very dark side.

One wonders:

how many other ‘inconvenient truths’ she would have uncovered?

how many other people she would have terrified who wanted their illegal activities kept in the dark?

how many youngsters wanting to go into journalism, opinion writing etc are now discouraged after this hideous tragedy?

how being an investigative journalist (she is not the first to have died for what she did) could become this dangerous?

As the myriad of tweets that filled Twitter have said, how is this happening in 2017? How is this country going backwards so dramatically instead of forwards?

How do people like Ramon Mifsud – who expressed his happiness over Caruana Galizia’s assassination with the shocking comment: “Everyone gets what they deserve, cow dung! Feeling happy.” – make it into the police force? Worse: how do they stay there?

Let that sink in for a minute:
a policeman whose job
(or at least to my knowledge this is what the police force in any country is supposed to do)
is to uphold the law and protect its citizens, is rejoicing over the premeditated murder of a civilian who sought the truth.

This is someone’s son and worse still: someone’s father. Does he want his own son growing up in a country whose citizens can’t trust their government, law enforcement representatives and so on?

 

Many have been saying on social media since the awful news of the Caruana Galizia murder broke: that democracy in Malta has fallen along with the deceased journalist.

Galizia’s bank accounts were frozen and she had even been arrested for her work. Was democracy was ever allowed to soar in the first place?!

One just has to look at how people conducted themselves during this year’s Malta elections. People were torn to shreds by others for simply putting forward their opinions in a mature manner on their own social media profiles. Debate between so called adults turned into outright volatile hostile arguments. And let’s not even go into how the supporters of the winning party behaved after they won. You think Brexit brought out the nasty side of people…

Mexit was no better.

Freedom of speech in Malta? Please.

As Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew (who discovered his mother’s obliterated car and body after hearing the explosion) wrote in his heartbreaking searingly truthful Facebook post:

Yes, this is where we are: a mafia state where you can now change your gender on your ID card (thank God for that!) but where you will be blown to pieces for exercising your basic freedoms.

As I end this piece, I am well aware that someone somewhere (and as you know from the aforementioned Dear Malta post, I know this from experience) will probably say I have no business writing about this because I’m not Maltese.

Yes, that’s democracy and freedom of speech in Malta for you.

RIP Daphne Caruana Galizia.

 

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Are Men Like Weinstein Destroying International Day of the Girl?

Another year, another International Day of the Girl has arrived.

The sad irony is that before realising it was International Day of the Girl 2017, I had sat down to write something about raising girls following the appalling revelations about Harvey Weinstein.

Yet another scandal unfolds before us involving a famous/powerful/influential man (like Bill Cosby and too many other sex offenders who’ve gone before and are still to come) whose sordid predatory behaviour has damaged lives. When you are sick to the stomach as a mother, woman, human, how do you even begin to write all there is to say about this?!

 

I call it a sad irony that I intended to write about Weinstein, because of the timing of the news story and how it further deepened how I feel about raising daughters.  

When the news broke, it brought back all the despondency I’d been feeling and expressed in last year’s International Day of the Girl 2016.

So I would have much preferred to be writing something positive and uplifting as an International Day of the Girl 2017 offering. Therefore, the Weinstein scandal could not have come to light at a worse time. (There is no good time of course because this kind of thing should not even be happening to warrant being written about in the first place.)

It feels like it doesn’t seem to matter what good morals, belief systems and lessons we teach our girls when the world around us – and so many men who live in it – don’t share those same values.

 

It should be MUCH easier to TRULY celebrate International Day of the Girl 2017 from a place of confidence

It’s now decades after feminism worked its magic in many parts of the world eventually leading the way towards empowering women in their careers, parenting choices, sex lives and so on. Shouldn’t we, by now, be able to hand on heart say we are raising strong females?

Shouldn’t we literally know our daughters can make their way in life, free of intimidation and degradation by the opposite sex, in the same way our sons have the privilege of going forth in a world where sexual harassment by females towards men is a truly rare phenomenon.

Yet it feels like it just gets harder due to the message the media pushes to females from the time they are young girls, the relentlessness of the cosmetics industry selling a beauty ideal that feeds an insecurity complex, the misogynistic lyrics in pop music, the entertainers our children grow up admiring… It’s just endless and I guess our own parents felt this way (without the additional headache of social media in the mix)!

 

Worse than all of the above, however, the biggest threat to our daughters are (and have always been) the men like Weinstein…

…men who bully and intimidate their way through life, never accepting no for an answer, taking what they want, who they want, when they want. No matter how many positive male role models we may see, no matter that not all men are cut from this cloth, the fact is there are just too many of the other type of man around.

Are men like Weinstein destroying the concept of International Day of the Girl? Or is it men like this that make such days needed more than ever?

From boys who demean girls in the school playground to “great” men of power who destroy lives. Males whom our daughters have met/will meet.

international-day-of-the-girl-2017 woman with theatre makeup

 

It should be possible to totally encourage our girls in any career path they choose without wondering which one has a ‘lower rate of’ sexual harassment!

 

As the mother of a daughter who has always loved singing and acting and wants to go into the entertainment business THIS is one of the things I fear. I am worried about how many sick manipulative men she will encounter across the industry in her quest to ‘make it’. I met many of these men simply as a twenty something living in Paris and I didn’t even work in that industry!

 

In fact I think I fear this – the intimidation of young impressionable inexperienced girls by older men –

more than I do the risks of my daughter getting involved with drugs, in the industry she wants to go into! I can hope the lessons we’ve taught her will stay with her and serve her well regarding drugs. However, I really can’t do anything about a man who may force himself upon her, overpowering her. That is beyond my control.

 

Here’s to hoping that next year I will be full of a new found optimism on IODG.

In the meantime, here are some positives to end with, great quotes from great women!

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From the American Dream to an American Horror Story?

trump-post1

Disclaimer: I do not pretend to be a political expert and certainly can’t predict how Clinton would have fared as president, had she won the US election 2016. This article is not about Clinton’s eligibility for the role of President. It’s about her opponent’s eligibility. Maybe the millions who voted for Trump know something that those of us who are shocked at the US election result don’t. Maybe I’m a bleeding heart Liberal. What I do know is that I have some sense of a moral compass and an ability to distinguish right from just downright wrong. So the following is my view of the situation. Not as a political pundit. Not as a grandstander who loves the sound of her own voice. But as a mother and a global citizen. Some of the most intelligent, cultured, rational, kind, open-minded people I know are American. It takes all sorts, especially in a country as vast as the USA. I realise this. Nevertheless, the following is how I feel. (Who knows? I might even break an Absolutely Prabulous rule and use the f-bomb.)


I set foot on American soil for the first time aged 21, with a huge rucksack on my back and an ecstatic smile on my face.

I will never forget almost falling out of the airport shuttle bus with excitement upon my first sighting of the Empire State Building. My heart just leapt. New York, one of the symbols of the American Dream, the city of a thousand TV series and films…was finally in front of me. I spent two months working on a summer camp near Great Barrington, MA, before Greyhounding it around the States, East to West back to East coast; the best memories.

I returned to the UK two stone heavier with a ridiculous (thankfully shortlived) American drawl and an addiction to Mexican food and American pancakes.

A love affair with the USA had begun; I really did think it was the best at everything. There were frustrations too such as the lack of wordliness of most Americans I met and the belief that their country was the centre of the universe. But I was young and forgiving (naive?). The years rolled by. Many dreams of living there, several wonderful holidays to the States – including an incredible honeymoon – later, my husband and I applied to move stateside with our young family. We were denied the visa twice; despite having a very strong application and an excellent sponsor. I cannot deny, that for various reasons, I was actually relieved. I had decided, for so many reasons (how long have you got?) that it just isn’t a country where I would feel comfortable raising my children. The love affair had ended.  I take no pleasure in saying that and hope with all my heart that my friends Stateside are not offended.

Today, the day on which the US election 2016 results were announced, I walked into my neighbourhood café, stared open-mouthed at the TV screen and genuinely considered asking the barista to slip some whiskey in my cappuccino to take the edge off my horror.  

Note, I hate whiskey. The café was packed; the staff immobile watching the news aghast.  My friend Marilyn (alias) arrived to join me for a quick coffee.  The first thing she said was “I thought of you as soon as I heard the result and I thought Prabs must be so happy they never got the visa to move to the States.” (Well I think the very first thing she said to me was Holy F**k). And yes, I am thanking my lucky stars and stripes (see what I did there?) we didn’t move. The ensuing conversation consisted mainly of WTF and several more various expletives. “This is Brexit supersized”, she said. Well it’s the USA. Everything is supersized. [Ponders whether to elaborate on this…]

We finished coffee, I headed off to run household errands and then a while later, sat down to try to write something about this fateful day, the day the world became even more insane.

Which brings me to now. Frankly I’m staring at my screen paralysed, unable to process what has happened. The line ‘I don’t know how to explain this to my kids’ was never more true.  When your 12 year-old daughter asks “But Mummy why would women vote for a person who has zero respect for females or anyone?”…actually I can’t finish that sentence.

I wanted to entitle this piece A Letter to America, You are Still the Biggest and the Best.

But the American dream and horror film analogy kept whirring round in my head. But if I did write a letter to those in America who voted for Donald Trump, I guess this would be it:

So America you have spoken. The nation that has forever believed itself to be the biggest and the best, showing the rest of the world, the land of dreams where anything is possible…you have put a maniac with no moral code in the White House (well at least you proved that anything is in fact possible). Donald Twunt has made it to the Oval Office. A classless belligerent liar is replacing the famous stars and stripes with ignorance, chauvinism, hatred and division etc. You have shown that you value the nonsensical promises and locker-room utterings of a man who is unable to construct a coherent sentence.

In voting to Make America ‘great again’, you have actually made America an utter laughing stock. Except what has happened is no laughing matter; it is in fact utterly terrifying, an example of totally incomprehensible democracy. More American Horror Story than American Dream.

You, the country that filled us with hope in electing its first black president, have done an absolute u-turn and now handed the most important job on the planet to an orange-faced racist, homophobic, tax-avoiding sexual predator. I can’t help thinking of the TV series title. I guess Orange is the New Black now… This isn’t entertainment, though. This shit just got real.

Let’s not pretend that the gender of the loser was not a very real issue here. You see America, it’s no longer a mere glass ceiling. It’s a gigantic concrete one, painted an ominous black for all the world to see.

 You have declared to the world that it is perfectly acceptable to have someone with the intelligence and sensitivity of a spoon run your country as long as they are not a woman. It would seem a woman, on whom the only ‘dirt’ that could be found was an email scandal that turned out to be no scandal, is not to be trusted…whilst it is clear that a man, with an exhausting record of blacklistable offences, is the perfect contender for President of the United States of America.

You have decided it is safe to give the enormous responsibility of the role of Commander in Chief to an unpredictable toddler who masquerades as an adult. Just think about that America. A man who is incapable of controlling his words and behaviour – whether it’s his urge to grab a woman by the vagina or insult a terminally ill supporter – will have his finger on the button! Not a woman’s blouse button…well alright there’ll be plenty of that because he thinks that the sexual harassment of women is a sport and a man’s birthright…but no I mean THE BIG RED BUTTON.

You are comfortable having the USA represented on the entire world stage by a narcissistic showboater who can’t even behave himself in front of just a few hundred people and makes the most hair-raisingly inappropriate comments.

You have shown to your own flesh and blood that you place zero value on the existence or future of females or else why would you have put a contempt-filled misogynist, guilty of repeated sexual assault, in such a position of power? Female Trumpettes…you stagger me!

You have chosen to believe that a self-aggrandising bully has your best interests at heart.

 You have entrusted the overseeing of financial policies for the restoration of your retirement pensions and the rehabilitation of the American dollar to a man who has boasted about tax evasion, lost a billion dollars and is notorious for shafting his own employees.

You apparently see no wrong in putting at the same table as Heads of State, a raging racist. Oh the mental image America! Never mind Trump holding discourse with Presidents and Prime Ministers in the Eastern or Arab world. He’s only got to go north of the border: how long do you give it before he insults the Canadian Minister of Defence?!

You have found it in yourselves to invest a power hungry devil with the authority to nominate the Supreme Court members. The Supreme Court people! The most powerful entity that makes THE most important decisions that affect you, your partner, brother, sister, mother, father, children (God help us all YOUR CHILDREN!), your neighbour, your friend.  If that isn’t a horror story right there, I don’t know what is.

 

I understand that people are sick of the political elite and feel that the establishment has ignored them – but the idea that a billionaire, non-tax payer like Donald Trump is their anti-establishment champion is what baffles me. He’s not the answer, he’s part of that same problem. Jeff Gardiner, Author

 

So dear America. You really have gone from embodying the American dream to a total nightmarish horror story.

Whilst I be may be sighing an enormous sigh of relief over you denying us that visa, I can’t deny that you still are the biggest and the best.  Bravo. You elected the biggest imbecile and when you fuck up, you do it better than everyone.

Oh look, there’s the f-bomb.

prabs-signature

 

 


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Will We Ever Get There? (International Day of the Girl)

I tend to start my day checking my social media on my phone before I’ve barely drawn two breaths or gone for a pee.

What can I say?  Blogger.  A couple of weeks ago I saw something in my Facebook feed that caught my attention…and not in a good way.  This:

boy-vs-girl-magazine-cover

 

 

Yep my day had started with me feeling a bit riled.
I shared it on my Facebook page (link) and filed it away in my brain in the ‘pending’ compartment rather than shoving it right to the back of my mind as I had a funny feeling I’d end up writing about it.  Fast forward to this morning: cursory check of social media and I see something in my feed about some sort of World Day and almost ignore it as every day marks something or other (well with 365 days in the year, every day marks more than one thing).  I don’t know what caught my eye and made me hover instead of just scrolling past but I’m glad I lingered as it was a World Day that I could actually appreciate.  International Day of the Girl to be precise.   You may have seen the frames you could place temporarily on your Facebook profile picture in honour of it and to show your support for girls.  ‘Support for girls’…I can’t help wondering if this is a sad regrettable turn of phrase to have to use…

 

It’s accurate to say I’m usually late to the party, always the last to know etc so I’d never even heard of this day until today.  (Incidentally, blogger extraordinaire Motherhood the Real Deal who had heard of this day published a fantastic article with regards to raising girls; I really do think it’s a must read.)  I actually wasn’t going to write anything as I’d sort of ‘missed the boat’ with timing and I’m not a fan of hurriedly bashing posts for publication the same day as I usually regret it.  And I would love to write something positive and uplifting.  Instead I’m giving you this!

Something happened.  My eldest said something that was so very telling that I knew I had to write something.

I had asked her about her day – as you do while chopping the onions for dinner, answering questions from the other two at the same time and trying to drink that cold cup of tea – and she mentioned a learning assistant who is fairly new amongst the teaching staff.  She gushed about how lovely she is and I asked what she liked about her.  The first thing she mentioned?  Not the assistant’s teaching ability/professionalism/friendliness/nationality or even which class she assists.  No.  It was her looks.  I nearly cut my finger.  This is becoming more frequent; her talking about people…females…firstly from a physical perspective.

new-baby-girl-book

Image courtesy of Loryn Brantz Books

 

It’s not unknown for her to meet someone for five minutes and decide they are the nicest human she’s ever met being purely because she thought were physically attractive.

But who can blame her?  The media and entertainment industries endlessly pushes its version of the perfect female and what girls are ‘good for’ at us so you can’t blame past, current and future generations of females to buy into it and believe they are meant to be that version.  Hell, hardly any of us have been able to avoid the self-doubt, the desire to be thinner, taller, have perfect hair and skin and so on.  I honestly can’t blame my 12 year old daughter for judging other females first and foremost by their looks, hate it as I might, because she really is just a product of the society she’s growing up in.  The thing is, we’ve all done it and it’s a vicious circle.  How can we hope to be taken seriously by males when actually we ourselves judge one another on entirely the wrong criteria?

Our everyday language referring to females is full of references to beauty, princesses, booty, finding Mr Right (as if that’s the ideal).  Shouldn’t it Be More About Ambition Achievement, Humanity and Intelligence?

I think of those magazine covers that had annoyed me so much and the many magazines that have been published over the decades with nothing but beauty and fashion for girls, those damned tabloid newspapers that only manage to describe women in terms of hair colour and relationship status, beauty pageants, porn sites and those bloody Kardsashians who’ve done such a great job of making intelligence old fashioned.

Ultimately, however, I know no matter how well I teach my girls, no matter how many opportunities my husband and I try to give them in life, they are living in a society that still has far to go in improving its attitudes towards females…

run-like-a-girl

 

Are our girls’ very own attitudes part of the problem, especially if they are growing up in environments that don’t empower females or recognise they can do pretty much anything they set their mind to?

I’m not suggesting those brave suffragettes at the turn of the last century and the feminists of later decades suffered and struggled and raised hell in vain.  Not at all.  Women are better educated, wealthier, healthier, more independent and more accomplished than those suffragettes could ever have hoped for.  We have amazing athletes, people of science, artists, entertainers, heads of government, revered academics and so on.  But we also know there is still that glass ceiling.  We know that negative body obsession and failing mental health is on the increase. We also know there are far too many countries where females receive no education, too many cultures that have horrendously little respect for females and too many incidents of physical torture and sexual assault and then right here on our Western doorstep…those damned magazine covers!  Let’s face it, you don’t have to go East to India or the Middle East or down to Africa to encounter disparaging attitudes towards women designed to keep them down.

Thanks to the toupéed one who goes by the name of Donald, we know that the West will also never be rid of men with an ingrained disrespect for females…monsters who are making sure the ‘female struggle’ continues.  

As a mother I can’t help worry about this.  The obvious question of what world I brought my kids into comes to mind and I do feel that the struggle to raise females is real (don’t forget to read that post by Talya mentioned above once you’ve finished this).

I guess that’s where i’m going with this.  When it comes down to it, I have to ask how far have we actually come raising our daughters?  We want so much for them…

Will we ever get there?

back of girl in swimsuit about to jump into the sea

DO YOU HAVE GIRLS? DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH THESE VIEWS?

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How has it come to this and when will it stop?

How has it come to this title image of Prabs sitting on beach pondering

I thought a lot about the title of this post. I mean, how do you distil that feeling of ‘For crying out loud, what the actual heck is WRONG with people?’ into a snappy and less immature headline?

I also contemplated a fair bit how to write the post itself.  Sometimes, when you feel really strongly about a subject, the words just pour out of you, so fast that you in fact struggle to get them down quickly enough. Other times, you are so incensed, so utterly furious, it’s just impossible to find the words because you can’t even ‘think in a straight line’ through the hot anger.  The screen remains as blank as your mind.

Maybe I’m just premenopausal or highly strung and need to take a gigantic chill pill in the form of a massive suppository to put up my uptight bottom.  Yes I said that.  Keyboard warriors are welcome to latch onto that and do their thing.
Maybe I should just accept things have always been this messed up and it’s naiive to think it has not and I’m simply noticing it more now that I’m an adult and because of that pesky ‘can’t live with it-can’t live without it’ thing called the Internet.  After all, you can’t fight every battle and you just drag yourself down if you try.
Maybe I should just stay off social media as there is increasingly some sort of poison on there and the only way to avoid it is…well to just avoid it!
But I’m a blogger so social media is an essential tool for me.

Or maybe…just maybe…I simply care.
Maybe I simply give a damn in this age of apathy.
Maybe I’m really really tired of the dumbing down of society, of stupidity and vulgarity being the new aspiration whilst intelligence/intellectualism (which used to be the aspiration) is increasingly reviled and mocked.
Maybe I’m simply staggered at the malevolence and cowardice of keyboard warriors who probably shouldn’t be allowed within a mile of a device because of the long lasting damage they inflict with a comment that took seconds to type, without so much as batting an eyelid…

Blimey…what’s eating at her then?

Frankly, there have been many things causing me a heavy feeling of despondency and despair for some time but inevitably there is usually that last straw to break the camel’s back.

I MEAN I COULD:

Talk about my frustration over not being able to just let my children listen to the radio on the school run without me constantly assuming the job of lyric police because it’s become the norm, certainly where I live, to air songs full of the F-bomb during the day.  No 9pm watershed.  I could then go on to mention how it’s not just on the radio but at playgrounds, like the one near my kids’ school that also has an outdoor cafe where you can relax with other parents and chat over a coffee while your kids play.  Sorry, let me rephrase that: where you can relax while your kids play until the sound of their laughter is sharply interrupted by the foul words in the music coming through the speakers.   I could then further elaborate about my despair that this has spread to places including retail outlets.  Imagine just popping into town with your kids and as they’re in a changing room trying on essentials, humming along to some song, that same cool track descends into a shocking chorus consisting of F this and F that, leading your six and nine year old to look like rabbits caught in headlights.

MDK listening to music with headphones

How has it come to this?

How have we got to the point where those involved in the entertainment industry have so little integrity that they give higher priority to shock value and the almighty dollar than protecting young eyes and minds?
When will the foul language in the music our kids are singing along to stop?

I COULD:

Air my utter sadness and confusion over the endless breast feeding dramas that hit the headlines and wonder why there is such an outrageous incomprehensible double standard going on.  I barely have the energy to write much about this because frankly I’m tired. Tired of one of the most natural things being maligned by narrow-minded ignoramuses.  Tired of it being acceptable to see a barely clothed woman on a magazine cover promoting something banal like a hair brush, or to drive down a road past prominently placed advertising boards showing boobs spilling out of teeny weeny bikinis just to advertise sunglasses.

boobs-for-adverts-not-breastfeeding

How has it come to this?

How is it deemed perfectly acceptable for women’s breasts to be used in unnecessarily provocative images by the advertising industry but woe betide a woman who actually breastfeeds her child in public?  When will women stop being treated like lepers for using their breasts for one of the main things they were designed for?!

I COULD

Describe the ugly incident I endured recently when I went to a sports shop to collect the kids’ kits for their swimming course and was told to “shut the **** up” by the Neanderthal who barged into the changing room where my son was waiting for the correct size of trunks.  When I expressed dismay over him using such foul language in front of children, a barrage of further insults came at me…in front of my kids and other children.  Sadly, it was one of those times in my life where I knew that had I been a ‘lighter’ colour, this man would have had no issue with me.  In fact, one of the mortified female shop assistants agreed when I quietly mentioned this to her.  Equally sad, other customers simply looked on.  I’d be unable to stand by and do nothing if I saw someone going through that! Talking of the assistants, I pray there will be no employee of the year prize for the male shop assistant, whom I begged to help me, who simply replied with a hostile “What do you want me to do?”

This was just one week after a cyclist (in London) called me every name under the sun including a few I’d never heard when I mistakenly walked across a pedestrian crossing thinking the green walk sign was on.  Yes, I know, my bad (well actually my mum’s as I followed her) as it would have been nasty if he’d fallen off.  I get it.  (And maybe my face just invites trouble!)  But given there were no other vehicles on the road and he had ample space to ride, the tirade of abuse that continued in my direction was unreal, especially as he carried on shouting it from half way down the road, again in front of children who were waiting at the kerb.  I’m not some Dolly Daydream wandering about picking flowers and wondering why everyone isn’t singing the Sound of Music score all day (you should see me behind the wheel of the car here in Malta) but it’s the sheer level of hate that falls out of people’s mouths that just astounds me.

man-swearing

 

How has it comes to this? 

Why are people SO ready to just sound off at someone with unjustified vitriol?  How has society abandoned its belief in the importance of collectively raising the younger generation?  How have we got to the point where people don’t want to help someone in trouble?  If there is a fear of being attacked for intervening, fair enough I guess, but this is a small Mediterranean island, not New York or London, and that isn’t common here.  I’ve experienced this before (the infamous fishmonger incident) and again, people just looked on in silence.  When will apathy and non-reaction stop?

But actually, the thing that has really jolted my blog brain back into action after it was melting in the Maltese heat upon returning from my UK trip, because it has irked me so much, is…

the absurd reaction by many to the picture of Victoria Beckham kissing Harper, her daughter, on the lips.  I’ll just let that hang in the air for a minute…

Yes, VB, former pop star, now fashion designer, mother and occasional smiler, posted a picture on Instagram of herself and her baby girl in a pool with a caption wishing her daughter a happy birthday.  A picture that anyone well meaning or with two brain cells to rub together or just anyone capable of loving another human being, would surely view as a gorgeous testament to a mother’s love for her daughter (and presumably vice versa)?  Nothing more, nothing less.  Or am I just mad?

VB-daughter-kiss

Now, let me state I am not a fan of Mrs Beckham.  I’ve just never warmed to her, I think mainly because of the non smiling thing.  BUT I am a fan of common sense prevailing.  I am a fan of showing kids they are loved.  I am a fan of behaving with dignity and not spewing out spiteful rash remarks on people’s social media posts.  And I am a huge fan of butting the heck out of someone’s right to show their love for their kids rather than viewing them with narrow-minded suspicion.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second.  Let’s say we’ve all been played.  Who knows?  Maybe this is one of those fake ‘I’m the perfect mother with the perfect family and every day is wonderful and nothing bad ever happens’ posts.  Maybe this was the former Spice Girl’s PR team calculatedly planning that day’s IG feed.  Maybe it’s just an excuse for a spot of narcissism (isn’t the very essence of Instagram a bit narcissistic?).  In that case, I suppose if VB cares – and I hope she doesn’t – it backfired somewhat, given the nutty comments.

But I’m willing to bet money it’s just an innocent picture of a mother kissing her daughter.  That. Is. All.  There is no scandal here people! There is no wrong doing or image showing dubious intent here!

Can’t we just see images like this as a welcome relief from those we are seeing in this awful period of massive political divides, terror attacks, political party leaders treating their jobs like a game of Musical Chairs and the horrifying growing influence of that toupéed one they call Donald.  Some light in the darkness, right? No harm done, right?  Nope, apparently not.

Have people just seen so many images of global atrocities, paedophiliac poison, inexplicable murders and children being abducted, that it’s darkened their very souls leaving them unable to recognise a wholesome positive image when they see one?

Here are just four of the bizarre (in my view) remarks posted by people in response to the picture:

  • “Gross, it looks like they’re making out.”
  • “This is so inappropriate and so lesbian.”
  • “It’s weird.”
  • “It’s nice but you’re not supposed to kiss you’re children on the lips. I’m not trying to be rude but it’s true.”

I totally understand each to their own and all that.  If you’re not comfortable kissing your child on the lips, that’s your prerogative.  Just as it is Victoria’s prerogative to kiss Harper on the lips.  Making offensive judgemental remarks like the above is just mind boggling to me and I say to those specific commenters:

  • No it doesn’t look like they’re making out.  Clearly you don’t know what making out looks like.
  • The only thing inappropriate here is your own twisted reaction to this picture, not to mention your obvious anti-lesbian attitude as well.  Let’s trash parental love and have a sideswipe at female gays too while we’re at it.  Way to go. Two insults for the price of one.
  • Nope, not weird.  I’m looking at the picture trying very hard to spot the weirdness but nope.  I just can’t find it.
  • That’s just it, you are being rude actually.  Telling VB (literally stating it as if it’s gospel) that she is not supposed to kiss her kids on the lips (or in fact telling her what she is or is not supposed to do at all) is…  What’s the word?  Oh yes.  Rude!  As for the ‘true’ bit.  Seriously?  Obviously I can’t be aware of every law that was ever passed but I’m pretty sure that kissing one’s child on the lips has never been outlawed. PS What you’re not ‘supposed’ to do is batter your child or sexually abuse them.  You are supposed to shower them with love, however.

And then there are the social etiquette experts (there’s an expert for everything) such as Liz Brewer who claims “Normally with a member of your family you don’t kiss on the lips unless it’s your husband”.   You can read more in this BBC News article.  I have to say I would have thought someone who is an expert on social etiquette would realise that actually the only ‘normally’ should be that:

Normally people determine within their own family unit what they consider to be appropriate expressions of affection because this will differ from family to family, culture to culture.

(I also would have thought they would be aware that not every family has a husband and that there are different types of partner but there are only so many battles I’ll fight in the one post.)  We are not in the puritannical 1800’s or the repressed 1950’s where any form of public display of affection was frowned upon.  Now obviously, forcing oneself upon somebody is unacceptable.  Obliging another human being to engage in physical demonstration of affection against their will is not on.  And Cathy Bussey does raise some interesting and valid points on this whole issue about the blurred lines in her Daily Telegraph article.

How has it come to this?  

We can’t get away from the culture of sexualisation of our children from an early age.  The music they are hearing is filled with filth.  We are surrounded by provocative advertising just to get us buy a ruddy chocolate bar.  And there are those who raise their girls to be hot for the opposite sex from an early age.  But the trolls don’t bat an eyelid about these very real problems because apparently, they aren’t worth their energy.  Meanwhile a mother posts a picture of her and her daughter in what is an innocent affectionate act.  Keyboard warriors go crazy, call it sexual and turn a non-issue into an issue.  As blogger Helen puts it,

The world has become so angry and people’s minds explode over the smallest thing.

World’s gone mad.

When. Will. It. Stop?

If you liked this post and/or enjoy my blog, would you consider voting for me (takes literally seconds) in the Mumsnet Blogging Awards?  I’d be super grateful if you gave me a vote for the Best Writer and Best Comic Writer categories. Thanks in advance!


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