The following exchange has been doing the rounds on social media, of this woman who was abused for her choice of profile photos.
The following exchange has been doing the rounds on social media, of this woman who was abused for her choice of profile photos.
I turned on my computer this morning to find links to four separate articles about working versus non working mums on my Facebook newsfeed.
I have no issue with people discussing the topic, after all, it’s a difficult and often heart-wrenching choice for anyone to make, and deserves discussion. This is especially true today, where the costs of childcare often make the financial side of having a career almost irrelevant, and yet the costs of living are so high that every penny counts. This dynamic forces women back into the workforce where they might otherwise choose to stay home, all for the couple of hundred pounds difference between the salary they receive from their employer, and the cheque they hand over to their childcare provider each month.
We also live in a time where taking five or ten years ‘out’ to have kids, often results in the way back ‘in’ being an impossibility. All very well while the kids are at home, but most of us are hoping for another thirty or forty years of more than waiting by the school gates once they’re out of nappies. Feminism is in the spotlight more than ever, and the debate is still raging whether your parenting choices reflect your opinions on equality of the sexes.
Yes, there’s a lot to say on the topic. If you fancy, we can go out for coffee and I can tell you my own story of how I came to work part time. The bits I like, the bits I don’t like so much. The guilt I feel when I ignore my 9 week old for an urgent deadline, the happiness I share with my 4 year old who I am lucky enough to pick up from school every day.
Oh no, sorry. I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to the organisations and media outlets who want to get up close and personal with me. Who know what’s best for me, my husband, and our children more than I do. The newspapers who have clearly had a quick look at our yearly income and budget and know how much we need to get by. The university lecturers who eavesdrop on me and the hubby in bed at night when we discuss our work/life balance. The research bodies who know how good I am at my job, and how much my kids like or dislike their childminder, who understand without even asking what my plans for the rest of my life are, the personalities of my children, the aspirations of my other half. I am just so glad that they feel like they know me well enough to give me their opinions as scientific fact as to how I live my life.
I’m talking to Harvard University, who for some reason are putting manpower and funding into research that tells us that “the daughters of working mothers enjoy better careers, higher pay and more equal relationships than those raised by stay-at-home mothers.” Well, I’m somewhere in between on the working scale, so my daughter isn’t completely screwed up then, but I’ll be sure to tell all the strong, unselfish women I know who have made the hard choice to stay at home with their kids that their offspring will be minimum wage women in abusive relationships. Cheers Harvard.
I’m talking to the National Childrens Bureau, who have asked “whether ‘outsourcing’ motherhood is the best way to create a healthy society”. Give me a minute while I call all the fantastic women I am proud to know who work both in and out the home, whether it’s to make ends meet, or to be excellent role models for their kids, or simply because they are bloody great at their jobs, and let them know they are contributing to the loss of functional society as we know it.
I was referring to the EU council, who have thrown their two cents in, calling the “number of mothers working part time… a social challenge.” May I just take this moment to apologise to the whole of Europe, for the gall I’ve had to dare to find some work/life balance in our household. I can’t believe I ever thought I had the right to do a job I enjoy, at the same time as attempting being a hands-on parent.
That’s just three examples, all from the month of June, outlawing working mums, stay at home mums, and part time working mums. In one calendar month. Can you just stop to think for one second what an article that suggested that men were “outsourcing fatherhood” would be like? What the reception would be to the suggestion that the sons of stay at home dads are going to be incapable of forming well adjusted relationships or holding down jobs?
I have hardly met a mum in my life who doesn’t carry around some level of guilt for the choices she makes in terms of her career and kids. The ridiculous thing is, it’s clearly a completely personal decision, based on your finances, your family planning, your own goals, or simply how much you enjoy both your job and being with your kids all day! And yet so many incredible women carry regret or uncertainty, fuelled by the ridiculous media attention and the questions they force on us collectively every time we switch on the computer or open a paper. “Should you wait to have kids? Do you work too much? Is there ever a right time to go back to work? Should you give in to social pressure to find a job?” The list goes on, when the only question any woman needs to ask herself is, “Is this the right choice for my family?”
We’re there already media, we’re judging ourselves right left and centre. We really don’t need your help.
Steve Miller has suggested something which sounds cruel, preposterous and unnecessary. He claims that on Wednesday January 7th 2015, we should all find a chubby friend and let them know they are a heifer. Tell a friend they’re fat day would be an annual event, and would kick start people’s weight loss in what he hopes would lead to better all round health, as well as raising awareness of the obesity epidemic worldwide.
And then the internet broke. Twitter filled with indignation as people argued right left and centre that this was a nasty scheme by a man who had no right to dictate to people on weight and health, and plus size advocates everywhere took to their blogs to let us all know how dangerous this kind of attitude can be for anyone with an eating disorder or any kind of weight issues. That it is the same as bullying, that it is nothing more than ‘fat-shaming.’
And three years ago, I would have agreed with them. But then again, three years ago, at 5”1, I was also nearly 200lbs.
I’ve never found weight particularly easy. And by this I don’t mean that I was always fat, as I don’t think that’s true. Photos of me as a kid are pretty standard, and even as a teen, although I distinctly remember feeling bigger than my friends, I wore size 10 (UK) jeans at 16, so I suppose that wasn’t the case either. I mean I have never had a good understanding of what I look like. The scales never seemed to ring true to me, and even when I saw them go higher than my peers, I tended to excuse it as my shape or my curves. Maybe I was right. I was 160 lbs at my wedding, and felt slim and beautiful, even while knowing I had been 20lbs less than that two years previously. I’ve recently had someone look at a wedding photo of me and express surprise by how much larger I was.
Even after I had my son I was sure I had ‘dropped the baby weight’ right away, and yet a year later, I was standing on the scales for the first time in 2 years, shocked that I weighed in at 198 lbs. Wasn’t I still a size 12/14? Yeah, I had bought that size 22 dress, but wasn’t that just so it fit over my bust? I know I got that denim skirt which was a 20, but I’m wearing it low, and some shops just have ridiculous sizing…. don’t they?
Somehow, I had become obese, and even at that point, I didn’t believe it. No one had ever told me. I had definitely said things to test the waters, to compare myself to other people and see what my friends thought, and no one had ever told me I wasn’t just your average curvy girl. I suppose people were embarrassed to point it out to me, they didn’t have the tools or the language to be sure of not upsetting me, they just didn’t know what to say.
I started my weight loss journey, which is still ongoing, but involved losing around 60 lbs over around 18 months. I worked on portion control, food groups, my eating habits-including time of day and self control, exercise, and most importantly, the underlying emotional issues which most overweight people carry around on their person just as often as they might carry a KitKat. No part of me regrets stepping on those scales and being woken up to the reality of what I was doing to myself and my family, and the future I was building for us by letting myself be morbidly overweight. Can someone that is a size 10 be as unhealthy as a size 24? Of course they can, but then you have an obligation to tell them that too. Steve Miller has made a day that perhaps should be called “Tell a friend they’re unhealthy day” but as massive an issue as obesity is in this generation (no pun intended) I can see why he has zeroed in on one clear issue.
So do I think you should randomly walk around on January 7th pointing at everyone with a double chin and yelling out “fatso”?! No, I most certainly don’t. People are more complex than you could imagine, and it takes knowing someone truly well to be able to approach them about such a multi-faceted issue as weight. So maybe the flippant sounding title of the day should be addressed. But if you have a friend who is more than just your average curvy girl, who doesn’t have an underlying physical or emotional disorder, and who has never told you that they know they are fat, who never mentions starting a diet, and describes people far smaller than themselves as larger…. and you care about them enough to worry about their health, is it really so cruel, preposterous or unnecessary to have a quiet and sensitive word?
I wish someone had had one with me.
It’s that time of year again, and my newsfeed is littered with pictures of apples doing honey bucket challenges, and smiling families wishing everyone a happy and sweet new year.
For Jewish people around the world, this year has been pretty much the opposite of happy and sweet, and the situation in Israel has been foremost in all of our minds. The homes of the three boys who were taken and murdered earlier in the year will have empty places at their tables this Rosh Hashana, and many Israelis are still living in fear. But despite this, I have received calls and texts, messages, emails and even the odd card through the door, wishing me and all the Jewish people all the best for the year ahead. And it makes me proud.
Earlier this year, a teen evoked a small media frenzy, and a slightly larger social media backlash to a photo she took of herself at Auschwitz while on a class trip. The world erupted with anger at the ‘Auschwitz selfie’ taken at the scene of so much horror and tragedy, and that she had the nerve to stand smiling with a face full of make up at the site of murder and genocide.
And I knew at once why she did it. (Or rather, I knew at once why I would have done it. As it turns out, it was some kind of memorial to her late father, and she had none of the intentions that I jumped to conclusions over, but it got me thinking.) So here is why I would be proud to take an Auschwitz selfie.
I was 19 when I visited Poland, in the year of mourning for my dear father, and a few months on from my year living in Israel. I had probably never felt quite so close to God, and if I’d realised how fragile and transient that stage is, I would have appreciated it a lot more. I remember being told that concentration camps were a place of death, and it was right to be sad and to cry. But cemeteries, they were a place of life, a place to rejoice. If these people had graves, with names on, with markers or even headstones, that meant that someone buried them. Someone lived on after them to remember them, to place the memorial, to visit and to upkeep it. We were there now, reading these peoples names, wondering and imagining about their lives, and then most importantly, going home to continue our own, because of them and others of their generation and their bravery.
A selfie at Auschwitz? A smiling face amongst all that terror and death? I see it as a flag, a symbol of our endurance. After all, there are no smiling selfies of Nazis. Just last week, a Nazi of almost 100 years old was prosecuted for being an accessory to nearly 300,000 murders. But we Jews? We are still here, we exist, we live on. We smile.
And as I look over my newsfeed, at hopeful and excited faces and witty cartoons, happily taking the place of the videos of Hamas insisting Israel are driven into the sea, calling for the death of each and every one of the Jewish people, I can see life everywhere I look. It is our ability to look to the future, to believe in the strength of our faith and our homeland, and to smile in the face of terror that keeps us united. More than that, it is what keeps us alive.
Wishing a happy, healthy and successful new year to each and every one of you!
Most people like to think of this as a generation of sexual liberation. We have greater freedom to express ourselves, better laws to protect ourselves, and with the Internet-a wider forum than ever to indulge in whichever proclivities take our fancy.
But there is something strange about the way us 21st century women, us beacons of a sexually emancipated generation, read and view the act itself.
We are in a time of gay marriage, of open relationships, of fetish wear for sale right next to the frilly nighties. No one can deny how far we have come. So WHY am I surrounded by so many sexual myths in popular culture and opinion?
Like so many other issues, I believe the media has a lot to answer for, and that we haven’t really taken any steps forward in well over a decade when it comes to imitating life through the art of television, film or books.
I remember being 15 years old, given free rein for the first time on the wide world of the web, streaming episodes of Sex and the City, with one finger poised over the minimise button and one eye on the door in case my mum walked in. While the show has become less of a ‘guilty’ pleasure, it still holds a massive fan base, myself included. And I would argue that entertainment today cannot hold a candle to its honesty and realism when it comes to relationships and sex.
You’re crazy! (I hear you shout.) What about Girls? What about the 50 Shades phenomenon?
Is this really the next level for us in sexual expression? Shock? While SATC might not have got as far with BDSM as a descriptive spanking scene or images of nipple clamps, and while Girls may arguably present a more realistic version of financial life in our twenties, there is absolutely nothing remotely modern or real in their presentation of relationships.
There is no doubt that we’ve made leaps and bounds in the “how far can they go” factor. If you want someone to congratulate, find whoever is responsible for ratings and censorship, because they have had a hell of a time since the new millennium. It would seem nothing is too shocking, nothing is too sacred to plaster across screens and pages with abandon when the last ‘hardcore’ topic of conversation becomes old news, as everything eventually will.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, if it’s your cup of tea. Sex, as in the act itself has never been more revealed. But don’t mistake that for something entirely different. Because sex, as in the relationship gender battle? I believe it’s as hidden in entertainment as it was before the likes of Carrie Bradshaw ever hit our screens, erasing all the hard work those writers ever did.
I’m not talking about the extremes of Samantha and Charlotte, looking for complete opposites in the dating pool and there to surprise and reassure us respectively, giving us their own version of that “shock factor”. I mean the typical Carrie that is inside all of us while we are dating, or in any long term relationship for that matter. Not sure whether we’re searching for Mr Right or Mr Right Now, The One or the One that suits my current situation. Wondering how or if to fix challenges between partners, and how much to share of ourselves. Carrie’s relationships pushed the boundaries and honesty of sexuality and notably gender further than anything else has since.
It could be dispelling the myth that sex doesn’t get better, with Carrie and Burger’s self professed “quiet” first time leading to a meaningful relationship (pre post it of course), or the propaganda slaying of the opposing dragon, that your partner needs to be ‘the one’ to enjoy a physical relationship, her brief fling with the jazz man giving her the ‘most intense orgasm’ of her life. Either way, where modern culture may have screamed ‘sexually incompatible’ at Carrie and Burger, or placed a ‘happily ever after’ neon sign directly above the happily uncommitted latter duet, Carrie did nothing of the sort. She persevered with Burger, accepting that mood, nerves, lighting, and just simply getting to know one another better, all factor more than the world would let you believe, and after happily finding herself ‘life incompatible’ with physically compatible guy, bravely discarded him to the bonfire of relationships past.
She lived her life. And the men did too. Was Big always there in the background? Yes he was. And that’s okay too. Because her life wasn’t portrayed as a mess without him, or more importantly still- not a mess with him. Her choice (and his too) at the end of the day was to be together, whereas for Samantha her equally legitimate choice was staying single. For Charlotte and Miranda it was marriage and kids, all portrayed as decisions with pros and cons and strings attached, and not a happily ever after in sight. Just life, with all it’s ups and downs, regardless of gender or choice.
Entertainment is there for just that, to entertain you. It’s okay to get swept away in the story, romance or drama included, the same way as you might enjoy fantasy without looking for a vampire at every turn. But can you separate the fantasy of the supernatural in Twilight from the equally farcical nature of Bella leaning on a man at every turn to save her? Find Christian Grey sexy without craving Ana’s virginal experience?
I hope so. Because it doesn’t look like anyone’s creating any alternatives for us any time soon.