burkini

I was up later than I should have been a couple of nights ago and I can no longer blame it on the disrupted sleep pattern my body was forced into by two night shifts a couple weeks back. It’s not the rota coordinator’s problem anymore, it’s all me. I’ve failed to self regulate and I find myself meandering into intemperance and insomnia more nights than is healthy. On this particular night, I had just finished watching a documentary on Donald Trump (will he become President, won’t he? Is this all a dream?)  with my dear old Dad, and casually flicked through the channels with the intention to head to bed. As I flicked, I came across 3 naked women, standing in booths, and another woman scrutinising their bodies as a presenter teased her, asking what she thought, who she liked best. I saw the title of the show, Naked Attraction. Ah, this was the show I had heard others talk about and had determined not to watch. The nudity wasn’t as shocking as the sheer banality of it all. Clearly, TV has run out of ideas. And when you’ve run out of ideas, naked women will generally keep the party going for a bit.

We’ve all seen nudity on screen, be that via an X rated site, a film or even an advert for washing up liquid. This generation of westerners is suffering from nudity fatigue – we’ve seen so much nakedness it no longer excites in the same way.  The existence of Naked Attraction is just one more story to add to the particular secular liberal narrative that wants us to believe that nudity (women’s in particular),  is sexually liberating.

France’s recent ban on the burkini, a modest swimsuit cleverly named to allude to the burqua, was met with astonishment and derision by many liberal media outlets.  It’s a shocking display of disregard for religious liberty. It polices women’s bodies. It makes Muslim women bear the burden for the atrocities committed by a few renegade terrorists who many Muslims would not even consider to share their faith. It’s oppressive. I agree with all these statements, but I wonder how we can separate the ban from the prevailing attitudes towards female bodies and sexual liberation that we have incubated in the West for the past 50 years, as if the two aren’t directly correlated.

The reason why the burkini is so ‘other’ is not merely becuase of the head covering although this is significant part of it. It’s also because of the idea of modesty and covering the female form that is such a stark contrast to our current social norms.

We live in an age where some women can propel themselves into fame and fortune sheerly off the back of sex tapes large bottoms and where women, (black women especially) with considerable musical talent often face overt and subtle pressure to act in an extremely sexual manner in order to achieve success. (I specified race because fuller figured black women who sing better than Adele and like her, aren’t overtly sexual, are not achieving her level of success, and yes, it’s at least partially a race thing).

Despite this being to my mind obviously oppressive, there is a relentless insistence from some sectors of society that these women are sexually liberated and concurrently, the subtle suggestion that modesty and covering are rooted in oppression. Although many liberal pundits in the wake of burkini will loudly proclaim that it’s a woman’s choice whether or not she dresses modestly, we have created a culture where uncovering is by design. Our fashion magazines, our shops, our advertisements and our media all propel us in a direction of nudity under the guise of freedom and despite declaring that we support women in whatever choices they make, we have created a culture that celebrates, orchestrates and rewards nudity. Is it any wonder then, that in our subconscious mind, the burkini is an assault on our ‘value system’? Could it be that despite condemning France for her actions, we have as a collective, played a part in facilitating an environment where to be modest is to be constantly othered?

Arguably, the situation in other countries that are less secular ,where women are forced to cover is far worse than what we currently have in the west. I would be the first to say I would much rather live in a country where I could be naked or burqua’d without retribution (and France is now excluded from this), but oppression is not always as bold as morality police and Taliban soldiers. Both societies have failed to reach a place where women’s bodies are not dissected for mass consumption, where women’s bodies are fully their own without the enduring threat of breaking under standards that are constantly placed on them without regard for their emotional, mental, even spiritual well being.

When I cannot walk into a high street shop and with ease find a dress that does not have a random hole cut into it, a thigh high split, or plunging cleavage, in a not-so-subtle way, I am being told how I should be as a woman. There are a thousands of items of clothing, but so few that allow me to not be forced to conform to the narrative that I a freer when I am less covered.

We may rightly condemn France but we are wrong if we do not examine how, maybe almost imperceptibly to some, we have all allowed this to happen.

rape culture

 

I’m sure the phrase victim blaming has been around for a fairly long time, but it certainly became extremely popular shortly after 2014. Twitter feminism (which I feel has now qualified as its own wave of feminism) is particularly fond of using the phrase “victim blaming”. They’re not wrong for using it – there is plenty of victim blaming slithering across both the cyber and non-cyber universe, even in 2016. I’ve heard it with my own ears, seen it with my own eyes, and continue to be disgusted by it.

However, as much as the phrase is correctly targeted at men (and women) who suggest to victims of rape or sexual abuse that it is somehow their fault, of recent, it’s being chucked at anyone who would dare to suggest basic safety measures to women .

Someone: Try not to walk around unaccompanied in secluded areas at late hours of night or early hours of morning.

Feminist: WHY ARE YOU VICTIM BLAMING?????!!! What about the women who come home from work at 3 am, do they deserve to be raped? What about women who have no friends or family to accompany them? Most women are raped by people they know!!!!RAPE HAPPENS BECAUSE OF RAPISTS!!!! KEEP YOUR ADVICE TO YOURSELF! View Post

michelle o

As far back as I can remember, my dream life has included an old Edwardian house with a massive back garden, 2 very cute children, and a very tall husband with kind eyes. The recurring image is generally of us, in the garden, him making mud pies with the kids and me pouring glasses of homemade lemonade into tiny plastic cups for them. It’s all very idyllic and archaic. Nowhere in this image is me hurriedly pouring the lemonade with a pair of A and E scrubs on, kissing my husband on the cheek and grabbing a child in each arm to hug them as I rush out the house to work.

The probability is that my future life is far more likely to be similar  to the second image, than the first.

The working mum isn’t a really a ‘thing’ anymore, is it?
Not many people raise their eyebrows  at the idea of a working woman having a couple of little ones at home. In a lot of circles, it’s assumed that you will go back to work after pregnancy, possibly take a year or two at the most.
All except conservative Christian (or other religious) circles.

Recently my denomination voted against women being ordained as ministers. It was a controversial vote mostly split along cultural lines. Many of  those in the West tended to be more in favour, and non- Western countries tended to be opposed to it. I haven’t studied it enough to make any informed commentary and so maintained a fairly neutral position although my natural tendencies lean towards being pro-ordination.

Aside from discussions about ordination, I was interested in the conversations about the different roles of women and men in the home and society. I’ve found Christian men have much more of a tendency to be in favour of my 1950’s daydream than other men. In fact, one of the women who spoke against women’s ordination stated that despite her current leadership position in a church organisation, that (loosely quoting from our denomination’s most important female leader) ‘her highest calling will be when she is a wife or mother’. Although I agree with the quote she used in it’s correct context –  I found it firstly, dismissive of those women who will never be called to be a wife or mother, and secondly, rooted less in sound theology and more in Victorian idealism.

The idea that your most important life work is to love and influence your immediate family is one that I subscribe to – but this is equally true of men and women. Interestingly enough, this argument is never used to prevent married men from occupying positions of leadership or demanding jobs even though the Biblical imperative to take care of your home first is actually directed at men and not women.

The concept of men going out to work and women staying at home is fairly modern concept. In times past, especially the time period  in which the Bible was written, men, women and children often worked alongside each other in the family business, women sold their wares at the market, and the concept of a ‘stay at home mum’ vs ‘working mum’ was non-existent. Women often worked from home, or took their children with them as they worked outside the home. Everyone pitched in to make enough money or produce for the family to survive – the family was a working unit.

My Mum worked in a demanding and fairly high powered job  for most of my childhood and I don’t feel like I missed out because she wasn’t “there” as much as she would have been if she had stayed at home. Like most Mums she’d managed the art of being ever present even in her absences. Sometimes she would bring me into work with her during school holidays and seeing her as a black woman in a senior management position was extremely empowering for me. I would sit at her desk in her office, spin around in her big chair and pretend that I was the boss.  I have no doubt that a major part of my confidence and success came from seeing my Mum at work. Also, I was fortunate enough to have great nannies who looked after me and my brother and my experience of the world was enriched by my time with them – I consider them to be part my family.

If I’m honest, if  I ever do have children  I do want to be at home, at least when my children are young. I’m even warming to the idea of home schooling. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger spending more time with my children at a young age than me, even if my own childhood experience of that was great. But if I am called to work outside of the home, that does not make me less ‘virtuous’ than if I stay at home.

I refuse to believe that God wanted me to get a medical degree simply to pass time while I wait for the right man to whisk me off my feet and provide me with an expensive set of cooking utensils to facilitate his fabulous career. I’m also very confused as to why women who are significantly more intelligent, innovative and able than some men shouldn’t share this with the world but instead should feel some sort of moral burden to stay at home, concocted from a hodgepodge mixture of Victorian ethics and misused Bible texts, instead of discovering the cure for sickle cell. Lastly, the idea that being a stay at home Mum isn’t a job in itself, is insulting. If a woman stays at home both parents are working – one is working inside the home and one is working outside. Both are equally viable choices that families should make for themselves – without being made to feel guilty for either.

What do you guys think?

“Good morning…say, it looks to me like you had sex last night?”

“Sure did!”

“Looks like you’re living your best life!”.

This is an excerpt from a video that has gone viral recently featuring entertainer Amber Rose. Titled “Walk of No Shame”, the sketch shows Rose leaving a man’s house after the ‘morning after’, and the positive response from people she meets on her way home. Dressed in a form fitting, cleavage enhancing dress, she skips merrily along unashamed of the fact that she has had sex with a man who we find later on in the video, she has no intention of contacting again (he runs after her stating that she forgot to leave her humber, she coolly  replies that she didn’t forget).

Comments on the video ranged from the predictable (She just a nasty slut…that’s why Kanye don’t wantchu Ambeeerr!) to the very predictable (omg this is so empowering, like, I totally am like, HERE for this  intersectional discourse of post feminist non-body shaming ambulatory experience.. go Amber!). View Post

gender-roles

I grew up in a household where my Dad is about as feminist as a conservative Christian man can be.

On women’s ordination: “Your Mum would probably make a better pastor than a lot of men I know”.

On stay at home parents : “If someone needs to stay at home, whoever earns the least should stay at home, and if that’s the man, tough luck for him“.

On earning more than a man: ” Never be dependent on someone”.

This was, however, inevitably interrupted with the proclamation “I AM THE HEAD OF THIS HOUSEHOLD!” at various critical moments in my childhood.

Despite that, the overwhelming ideology I grew up with was the idea that although men and women were different and that my faith called for different roles within the family, outside of the home I was destined to be a super-duper CEO/Prime minister/consultant neurosurgeon, large and in charge and no one, certainly no man, could tell me anything.

I still passionately believe that having women at the top of their profession is not only positive, but necessary, and I get more than a little bit excited when I see women, especially black women, running companies, heading businesses and being exceptional in their field.

In a relationship though, I like the man to be in charge.

And it’s not a reluctant acquiescence or a part of my faith that I struggle with. People that suggest that every woman SHOULD stay at home and look after children and that their primary function in life is to incubate and birth offspring? Yes, I find that insulting (especially to women who will never get married) and frankly, silly..But the man being the ‘leader’ in the relationship? Nope, it actually comes as a massive relief.

Being the type of women who is relatively successful in most people’s eyes, and has had the privilege of a good education and hopefully a developing career, I actually welcome having someone make decisions on my behalf sometimes. Of course I want a partnership where there is mutual respect and admiration, but I choose to be in partnerships where the man takes on a leadership role. That’s just me. I simply cannot abide passive men who let me drag them through the whole relationship by the scruff of their skinny fit jeans. Simply put, I need Tyrone to get a spinal cord and some vertebrae to go with it. A spinal cord that I cannot easily crush with my manicured hands.

Now, I’m sure some feminists will see this as a level of Stockholm syndrome. Perhaps I’ve been so indoctrinated into viewing women’s role as being naturally in subjection to men, that I’ve not only accepted it, but begun to like it….and I don’t really care.

In fact, my brief internet browse on this topic didn’t yield much apart from a lot of articles where feminists were in a quandary about whether the fact that they liked men to dominate them in the bedroom made them somewhat un-feminist. Most of them (inevitably) concluded that as long as they had decided that they liked it, it was fine. Obviously I’m biased, but I’m inclined to think that part of the reason some women feel drawn to these sexual behaviours is because we’ve managed to erode so much of what I believe are natural roles within male-female relationships. Men and women are different – yes, biologically different. Their brains are structurally different. We’ve had a tendency to exaggerate these differences and use them to state that women are incapable of certain things, but the solution to this is not to deny that differences exist, the solution is to redress the imbalance.

We’re scared that if we adopt traditional gender roles at home, we won’t be able to switch it off at work, and we won’t be able to fight the continuing battle against unequal pay, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the massive glass ceiling that exists for women.

I’ve become very comfortable in my own gender ethics. I’m perfectly happy being a super-boss in the workplace and having a traditional home life. I don’t find it contradictory or confusing – the office is not my living room.

The problem is that the majority of women want to be romanced, have men open doors, buy them dinner on the first date and all the other things that 13 year old day dreams are made of. If we are striving towards a form of egalitarianism proposed by some branches of feminism that eradicates gender norms, then of all that has to go with it. At the very least those practices can’t be gender specific.

I don’t feel bad about demanding equal pay for equal work while wanting someone to pay for the first or second (Or all?) dates and eventually coming home to scrub his shirt collars. It’s my belief system, it’s my choice.

There’s no need for all this wrist-wringing – just relax and release. You can lean in at work and then come home and lean over the hob if you want to. With no apology.

Ladies, what’s the deal? do you like men being in charge? What do you believe? Men, do you like being the ‘leader’? Or do you  think it’s unfair to burden you with that responsibility?