Sunday, 18 November 2012

Women and men. But mainly women.

Well, they do say write about what you know...

This isn't going to be one of those concise, to-the-point blog posts. (You know, 'cause I write those all the time.) I've got a couple of small, half-baked ideas knocking around up here (you can't see, but I'm gesturing at my head), but mainly I just like putting thoughts down on paper. Or screen. It's with a certain amount of anxiousness that I draft these kinds of posts, because they're inevitably more personal. And those of you who know me, erm, personally, will be joining the dots and going "Yeah, I know what that's about". Or, "Yep, well, that's a reference to me. Good".

It's just been a long three days, that's all. Without going into too much detail, I really, really can't handle arguing with certain people. My family, that's fine. We shout and storm at each other and it's forgotten within a few hours. But I can deal with that, because your family have to still love you. That's not a connection you can break that easily. Friends and anyone closer than that, I can't. It scares me; it makes me feel guilty and restless and like a kicked Bambi. And tearful. I cry at everything anyway; the little man in control of my tear ducts has quite the itchy trigger-finger - but when faced with the threat of fucking things up between me and someone whose good books I'd quite like to stay in, I'm like a human water feature. Charlie Dimmock could put me in your garden and I'd just spout away.

It's probably just a woman thing, to a point. Catch me at the wrong time and I'll be weeping at puppies, small animals and the "It's not all doom and gloom" bit at the end of "Russell Howard's Good News" (gets me every time). If a girl is being ratty, boys sometimes think it's funny to say "Oooh, is it someone's time of the month?" If this ever happens to me, I'm going to say "Boy, you have no idea." I don't think I'm selling out the sisterhood to say, yes, we are mental (adding "sometimes" is optional), and it's often to do with pesky hormone gremlins running riot in our brains turning us into arational, stroppy, tearful little monsters.

Sometimes, however, I've been forced to contemplate the possibility that it's not hormones, it is in fact my personality.

So yeah. On the one hand, I know that stupid rows are going to happen from time to time (I should know this by now, having had my parents.) I wish I could be more carefree when throwing strops, and not constantly be second-guessing myself and thinking, "Am I justified in feeling like this? Am I being reasonable?" I admire people who, when they're upset, just come out with it, throw a bit of a shit fit and move on. I'm hoping that by, say, the end of my twenties, I'll have learned to not feel guilty for having feelings. I can't say progess is going to be swift.

On lighter notes, this week, I've gone back to 'Girls', HBO's sitcom du jour. I think it hits some kind of stride in its third episode, certainly in terms of humour - though it is still only funny in a "smile knowingly" sort of way.

This episode (S1 E3: All Adventurous Women Do) also happened to feature what I'd like to call "the least sexy line ever delivered that was meant to be sexy". During an awkward encounter between Marnie (the slightly uptight one) and some artist guy, he tells her, "the first time I fuck you, I might scare you a little, because I'm a man and I know how to do things". On watching it, I had to rewind to hear it again, going "Did he really just say that?" Good GOD. I'm sure the correct reaction to this would be, "I really hope you're not going to scare me, because I don't tend to have sex with men that scare me. I'm glad you know how to do things though, that's always nice, so could we perhaps downgrade this 'scaring' nonsense to 'pleasant nervousness'?"

 Or even, "Mate, you've scared me enough with that sentence right there, I don't need to know what else you're capable of," while backing away, then turning and breaking into a run.

It seems to work on Marnie though; she has to run to the ladies' room to spend some time by herself, if you know what I mean.

And so to take it back to a serious note, you'd have to have been hiding in your shed all week to have missed the desperately sad Savita Halappanavar case making the headlines. Yes, it made me cry (shocker). Briefly: Savita Halappanavar was taken to University Hospital Galway, 17 weeks pregnant but starting to miscarry. Due to legislation, doctors were unable to do anything while the foetus still had a heartbeat - abortion being essentially illegal in Ireland. Savita reportedly asked repeatedly for doctors to remove the already-dying foetus, but nothing was done. She contracted an infection and died of septicaemia and E.Coli about a week after initially presenting at the hospital.

I'll say that important bit again: the already-dying foetus.

I know the doctors were bound by the legislation of their country; I am well-aware of that fact. But surely, as a doctor, when you spend so much time wading in the murky waters between life and death, you are well-acquainted with asking yourself, "Are we doing the right thing?"

The best thing that can happen now is, obviously, a change in the legislation regarding abortion. As someone cleverer than me pointed out, if you let a woman die for the sake of her already-dying unborn child, you probably need to ask yourself how "pro-life" you actually are. And yes, there needs to be carefully-examined, extensively-considered laws where abortion is concerned. No-one in their right minds would dispute that. But abortion is a medical issue, primarily. The priority should be the physical and mental health of the mother, and then of the child. And once those things are straight, then we can talk beliefs. But not before.

To lighten things up once more, in Friday's Times, there was a piece headlined "Why Bella from Twilight is the new feminist icon". 

I'd link you, but the article is hiding behind a paywall ('cause the Murdochs need all the money they can get, right?). Anyway, the title of the piece was on the front page, and it caught my eye, and prompted me to 1) say quietly, but clearly "What the FUCK?" in Waitrose, 2) hope desperately that it was an ironic piece, and 3) spend £1 on the paper. Fortunately, Caitlin Moran has a two-page feature in Friday's Times, so it wasn't a total waste of my money.

It wasn't an ironic piece. Apparently, because Bella is all glammed up when she's a vampire (does that make her a glampire?), and gets a bit ass-kicky, she qualifies as a feminist role model for our tweenage, Twi-hard sisters. What, after she's married Edward so he feels better about having sex with her and upon getting knocked up, literally dies so her vampire-human hybrid child can live? Righty-ho.

I think I need to chill out after all that. I'm going to listen to this in order to do so:

Sunday, 4 November 2012

If you haven't seen the new Bond film, look away now.

After waiting for what felt like ages, and what was actually a few days, on Wednesday, I saw the new Bond film. And if you've seen it, I'm not going to be telling you anything you don't know when I say it was cool, funny, dark, hot (Daniel Craig rocking the country casuals look in Scotland? Oh yes please. You work that Barbour jacket), and had possibly one of the best film villains since Heath Ledger's Joker. Javier Bardem, you hero. Oh, and Q is quite frankly adorable. I know that's an adjective the boys will be shuddering at, but he just is. 

A couple of days later, an article by Giles Coren caught my eye. Turned down by The Times, he felt so strongly about the piece that he got his wife to post it on her own blog. I'm giving you the link, in case you're, you know, really bored. (And as you're here, what other assumption am I supposed to make?)

I'm all for a bit of quibbling over whether something is sexist or not. I'm all for strong female characters in films and books, and whatnot. And I don't really know what people think of Giles Coren - though a former university lecturer did call him a twat during a seminar on language in the media. But I have to disagree with him on this one. Giles, I'm sorry, I do.

Yes, you're right - the first girl does meet a nasty end. But a) it's no good berating Bond for being "smug" and "smart-arse" - he's Bond, it's what he does; and b) I would say it's a bit much to say she shows no sign of being interested in him. They seemed to be eye-fucking the living daylights out of each other for at least a little while. The fact that she's killed so thoughtlessly is there to showcase the villain's unhingedness (totally a real word), not take a sweeping anti-women stance.

It's also true that M dies. We can take this as a statement about how the entire franchise views women as disposable background creatures - or we can be sensible, and say "Well, we've had the same M for ages, maybe it's time for a shake-up. And who knows? Maybe Judi Dench wants to put her feet up for a bit". Furthermore, killing a key character in a film or TV series gives that actor a significant responsibility - I'm not sure it's that easy to die convincingly and movingly on camera, unless you're the dog in Marley and Me.

As to the Miss Moneypenny thing, well, yes, but does anyone want to go back through Ian Fleming's entire body of work and re-write it from a feminist perspective? Admittedly, saying "Well, chill out Coren, it's just how Bond is" isn't exactly good debating technique, but it's not a documentary. I'd put good money on MI6 having a strict equal opportunities policy. The Bond franchise isn't claiming to make deep and meaningful gender-political statements. You want to start taking issue with sexism in films/TV programmes/video games, go ahead. There are plenty of opportunities out there.

Feminism's been having a moment over the last year or so, I think. It's realised how to get everyone involved - it's getting a bit cooler, and more relevant. Here in the UK, we have Caitlin Moran spilling the gory details on womanhood and just generally being awesome, and over in the US, we have Lena Dunham writing, directing and starring in "Girls" - the sitcom that's not afraid to say that your early twenties are often a bit shit and, you know, not exactly Friends. (I'm still undecided on it though - I had such high hopes for it but so far, I think the weakest character has been Dunham's Hannah. She's just a little bit too passive. Time will tell, I guess.)
Tina Fey is having wonderful moments like this:

So maybe Mr Coren is getting on the bandwagon. Bigging up women is what all the cool kids are doing now, so maybe he's trying to get in there. But he's missing the point. Or picking the wrong battle. I also have to add, while I remember, this:

Call me crazy, but I'm fairly sure that 0.09-0.16 is in there for the girls and the gay guys.

Yes, Bond might be a bit sexist from time to time, but the first Bond novel was written in 1952. That kind of thing was still OK then. Say the word "feminism" to the average kid on the street and they're still probably going to think of boring, humourless, man-hating women. A lot of people still roll their eyes and go "Not this shit again" when the subject of feminism comes up. And part of the reason people do that is because of this nitpicky kind of behaviour. So, with all due respect to Giles Coren, he should back off for a bit. When we want his help, we'll ask. We're allowed to fight our own battles now, has no-one told him?

Just one for you tonight: