To be asked

I recently had a conversation with a friend about weddings. Now – as I progress through my twenties this is something that happens with increasing frequency. Although instead of this being with a friend that was recently engaged and in the planning stages, or someone that is already married and asking me such offensive questions as ‘Was I ‘sure’ about breaking up with my boyfriend at the ripe old age of 25′ this was more intellectually engaging as it dealt with the topic of marriage proposals. More specifically, in this day and age, if it was still appropriate for a partner to ask a girls father for her hand in marriage before asking her.

As the personal relevance has never been something close to consideration for me in any of my past partnerships, nor is this something I am currently considered with, this is not something I have given much thought to. Yet in speaking about it, it really got me to to thinking. And no – in this day and age I do not think it is appropriate for a partner to ask a women’s father before asking her if she would consider a proposal of marriage. My reasoning simply being that it is not his place to answer such a question, it is her place. This tradition is predicated on the arcane notion that a girl was the responsibility of the father, and by asking her father he is receiving permission to take on the responsibility of…of, what? Of looking after her? Of caring for her? Making sure she is financially secure? I am not entirely sure. The question in my mind therefore clearly becomes – why? Why would you need that permission? Is the women in question still in some way being looked after by her father, and the man would be asking if he could fill that role? Do you therefore need to ask the mother as well?

When asked explicitly these questions ring with a sense of out-dated gender norms. When confronted with this reasoning most people like to refer to lack of relevance as inconsequential and cite the notion of ‘tradition’. That while the practice may no longer be necessary considering the lack of necessity of the principles of the matter – what matters more is the historical practice itself. But does it? In my opinion if traditions continue to enable to the persistence of an inequality and practice that I fundamentally disagree with (ie., the role of the male in the relationship is to ‘provide’ for the female in a way that was previously considered to be the responsibility of the father), then we should actively disengage from them. I think that what then becomes important is to ask and reflect on what is the role of the parent in our evolving society and how do those parenting roles relate to the engagement of two people.

I do think it is important then to recognise and respect the role that parents played in the growth, development and continued support of a child (both male and female), and perhaps more importantly what is the active status of that relationship. Therefore, perhaps the question just needs to be re-framed to reflect the shifting balance and equality that I would like to think our society is trying to achieve, and that I would like to believe my future relationship would be a reflection and active participant in. That two people are equal partners in a relationship – and that after you both have agreed that marriage, or spending the rest of your life together is something that you would both like to do, then it would be considerate and respectful for you both to have conversations with the respective parents of each other to seek their ‘blessing’. To recognise the fundamental role that parents play in the support and care of their children and that by entering into a committed partnership you are agreeing to move into the role of primary caregiver for that other person, a role until previously was generally1 that of the parent.

I recognise that this is just an initial reaction to a complex and personal practice. I am aware that there are far more reasons and responses, of which I would be interested to explore and develop. However, after two days of consideration this is where I have come to in my thoughts on the matter.

Next topic to tackle: Is it therefore still relevant that a man ‘propose’ (especially on bended knee) to his partner. Why is it that the man still have the onerous to ask? And why do we so passively wait to be asked?

1. I say generally – as I recognise this might not be true for everyone, or even for each parent

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Remarkable…Project Unbreakable

At times you come across things that make you realise how increadible powerful and incredibly destructive people can be – ‘Project Unbreakable‘ is one such instance that reminds us of both abilites of the human spirit simulaneously.

When I see this work – I first think of how incredibly brave, powerful and strong the women are that have not only endured and lived through such atrocious acts – but have the ability to write down the words that someone tried to use against them as weapons and break them. The pen, the pencil, the words are mightier than the sword, the threats, the violence indeed.

Then I read the words, I speak them in my mind, and I am outraged at the digusting capacities of people. At the destructive force that attemped to break another person down and violate them so horribly – and I am frozen.

I am torn apart but the potential of people to overcome and potential of people to destroy. In a society in which 1 in 3 women will experience sexual assault in her lifetime, rape jokes are permitted with awkward laughter, and the word ‘frape’ can enter into our lexicon without a second thought as a mere reference to somebody writing a status update on facebook.

Project Unbreakable reminds us how important it is to support survivors of sexual violence. Even if our support it so basic as stopping the permutation of language that diminishes the reality of their experiences, and providing survivors the space to reclaim those words for themselves.

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Why would you want to vajazzle your vagina?

At this year’s Southbank Centre’s WOW weekend festival on March 11th there will be a panel ‘debate’ on the topic of ‘Can you vajazzle and still be a feminist?’. I know this as I was nearly a panel participant. I say nearly because unfortunately they found someone else to argue the ‘No’ position before I could send my follow-up email to the panel organiser – missed opportunity – sure. BUT I figured that missed opportunity could be turned into a blog premiere on FAC (some would say an even better opportunity – I would be that person). And rather than just presenting at a panel discussion – I could present to the entire FAC blogsphere for discussion & commentary some of the thoughts I had about the topic of vajazzzling. I would also like to note here thar E-R has already provided a great post on the topic here.

So – can you vajazzzle and still be a feminist? Well – first off I want to say that whatever a women wants to do with her vagina is her own business! If she wants to wax, pierce it, sparkle it or mohawk it with blue hair gel it is none of my business (unless of course it is my vagina – then I will do what I please to it). And whatever she choses to do with her vagina, who I am to tell her if that does or does not make her a feminist!? So clearly I take issue with the premise – but I guess for arguments sake we can let that go – and focus on the ‘spirit’ of the topic – which I think is more/less ‘What would make a women want to vajazzle her vagina – and if she did, could she call it ‘feminism”.

Now – What would make a women want to vajazzle her vagina? What would make a women want to have all the hair ripped out of her vagina and when it is red, swollen and and its most sensitive have dozens of sticky little crystals stuck over the freshly opened pores? Opening one of her most delicate area to potential health concerns of pasting artifical glue over what could be salon bacteria…scary! I racked my brain – I googled it – I asked friends – one of which replied ‘Vajazzling – [insert explanation to friend here] – is THAT what that is !?!- I thought it was a new work-out thing like Jumba or Spinning class – why would anyone do that?!’ Why indeed?

My mind kept coming back to one word – Shame.

SHAME! This notion that women should be aSHAMEd of our bodies. That not only is your body not good enough when you don’t eat those extra pieces of cake, only wear the revealing yet fashionable clothes, when you conform to an unattaiable body images (see: H&M protest at computed generate bodies post), and when you pluck and wax the hair off in all the right places, but THEN you need to roll it all up in a rhinestone package in the (you can even get it in the shape of a bow) so it is not even recognisable to the natural state you started with!

Excuse me – but this ‘beauty treatment’ is going even further than just perpetuating the consistent message I get from nearly every clothes, beauty, and mobile phone ad that a women’s value is barely skin-deep. Vajazzing violates our most personal physical manifestation of ourselves as women – our vagina – and asks us to ‘buy in’ to the notion that it is not good enough without a bit of sparkle. That our worth as women – is no longer confined to what the outside world can see of us – but now is invading our bedrooms, showers and vulvas – and telling us that to ‘look our best’ naked we can never be truly naked – because that would just be gross!

Therefore – when I think about if a women were to vajazzle – could she call this act feminist – I would have to say a resounding NO! When I think of feminism as its most basic level I think of empowering women. And when I think of vajazzling and the message it is sending to me as a women – I do not feel empowered.

I feel degraded. [def. Reduced in quality or value – That my vagina is not something I should value unless it has been changed.]

I feel disgusted. [def. (1) to sicken or fill with loathing (2) to offend the moral sense, principles, or taste of – Infuriated that someone could try to make me feel ashamed with a part of my body that I do not even choose to share with them.]

I feel commodified. [def. (1) to turn into a commodity; make commercial. (2) to treat as if a commodity. Sickened by the financial obligation I should feel as a women to ‘enhance’ myself so I can be worthy of attention and admiration.]

I feel that vajazzling is vile and to quote E-R

So, porno-culture merchandisers [and associated celebrity puppets] can take their Swarovski crystals and glue them where the sun don’t shine. That’s right, Assjazzle yourself.

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Glass

As a firm believer in the ‘you learn something new everyday’ adage – I was amazed to learn that the first glass objects were created all the way back in 2500 BC (wikipedia even states it goes back to 3500BC in Mesopotamia)!

Honestly I was walking, meandering, languorous walking my way through the Fitzwilliam again this weekend- when I discovered a number of gorgeous glass pieces from all over the BC era. I think this knowledge gap is grounded in my early  museum experiences in Arizona, as many would contain coveted blue glass pieces from the 1800’s as ‘artifacts’. In my mind displaying something  that originated over 4000 years ago as an artifact of the pioneer settlers era is a tad misleading.

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In case you were worried…

In case you were worried – I did a little writing yesterday – I wrote my niece a lovely little card on some beautiful stationary I bought at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

My niece is only 8 – and while I know I get to communicate with her on skype occasionally – I think it is nice to write a little card every now and then – cause how else are ‘kids today’ going to learn about the post?

The card looked a little something like this…

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2012: The year of the friends

2012 has not been a great year for me thus far – scratch that 2012 has been a pretty shit year so far. Without going into too much details I have had numerous visa problems, rejections, computer break down and pervasive uncertainty of what the hell I am going to do with my life if all the plans I made fall to pieces around me. What I have been continually amazed by however is the support and encouragement of my friends. I take comfort in not only just the presence of my dear friends – but in the countless ways they show concern for me.

Yesterday I had a friend look at me and say in the most beautiful and honest way ‘Are you okay? And it is alright if the answer is no’. So simple – yet the recognition that saying ‘yes…I am okay’ is an automatic response we default into – and validating that this is not something I have to say for them, but in reality they are truely interested in my well being – is touching and so deeply comforting.

That friends will call – to hear the bad news, to let you be honestly sad and unguarded with your emotions, and not say something to make you feel better – but just sit with you in the emotional well you have descended into – that is friendship. Friends sit along side you – recognise that what you are going through is hard – so hard that you can’t pretend to smile and shouldn’t have to. That they will be there when you are not at your best, when you are not funny, or happy, or even close to being a pleasure to be around. But good friends – like the ones that I am really lucky to have in my life – will be there.

So 2012 might not be my year – it might be the year that my life plans crumble in front of my face, that I potentially get deported from a country I have lived in for nearly four years and that I get knocked down so hard from so many directions that I don’t want to get back up – I am fortunate that on those days I have friends that will pick me up.

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Lent: Not just an arbitrary goalpost for Catholics anymore…

Maybe it was those four years I spent as a Catholic schoolgirl, or maybe it is just because my dear flatmate Pete mentioned ‘giving up alcohol for Lent’ today, or maybe I am just a girl that likes a 40 day challenge, but I am taking up a new task for Lent.

Now – unlike those that use this period of self reflection as an excuse to attempt to faux-diet, see: 90% of Catholic schoolgirl giving up chocolate, fizzy drinks, fried foods, etc for Lent. OR even worse, those that think ‘giving up’ masturbation is something they should do, cause god-forbid that we should derive pleasure from understanding our own body – oh wait that whole ‘god-forbid’ IS the where they got that silly notion – well never-mind that. What I was getting to was that I am going to use this as an opportunity to write more. That means more blog posts, more letter to my gran and more expressing myself without feeling that my writing is inadequate for public consumption.

Let’s be honest – slim to no one reads this blog – and I kinda like it that way. Not to say if you are reading this now I don’t value your random internet hit (thanks random person in the universe!) what I mean is that the lack of an audience is freeing to write without concern of censor. I know what your thinking – why write a blog at all – just keep a damn journal – touche internet individual for that valid point – but the benefit of the blog is the accountability! That this is something published in the public domain and by slacking on my goals I have more than just personal accountability – I have world wide web accountability.

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