There’s a lot of reasons why people love yoga and on the internet everyone seems to go on about it, and in real life too, and I imagine if I didn’t already do yoga, I would not want to hear any more about it. I am sometimes one of those people who blathers on as such, and when I’ve had a few drinks when I’ve even been known to use the phrase “it changed my life” (then I usually apologise). A lot of people say that their favourite thing about yoga is that it teaches you to change the way you think, so that you are not always getting carried away by a rush of thoughts or to-do lists or focusing on a point in the future when your life will be perfect. You realise, your life is today. This thing, this “living in the moment” as it is probably most clearly described, is the thing which is transformational. The present becomes more gift-like, less burdensome.

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I DO love this about yoga. I love this very much, and I also know that there are lots of other non-yogic ways to move towards this way of thinking, if you want to. But what I often think is that I love yoga because it has made me strong in my body. This morning I went to a class then I came back and did the kind of housework that would have previously made my back hurt and my arms ache. I used to be so weak. I’m not, not anymore.

Also, feeling strong detracts me from concentrating on how I look, and most of us knows that if you’re not careful you can spend much time and huge amounts of energy wishing yourself to be prettier. Anyone who has done this knows how exhausting and fruitless it is. We spend so long hearing “it’s what’s inside that counts”; we know that we when we get to know someone funny and clever and interesting of either sex they start to look more beautiful, but we still have trouble believing it and keeping on believing it. What I think when I see women walking across a room, or applying make-up in the mirror in the ladies toilets, is that much of their life is, amongst many other things, a slow coming-to-terms-with not being as beautiful as they would like. It’s almost guilt you can detect in their self-consciousness. The look on their faces is not that far from being an apology.

I’m sure there are lots of women who do not care, who don’t feel like this; good for them. And it’s not just women who we judge on appearances. A new friend wrote this, which I loved for many reasons, but particularly because it acknowledges the variety in how we experience things. But being a girl has themes, of course, which is what much of this blog has been about.

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A few nights ago, the night before International Women’s Day, I sat down to have dinner in a restaurant in Hackney with some female friends. At one point in the evening a woman came down the stairs in front of us and all of our jaws dropped; we couldn’t stop staring at her because she was so tall, so thin, so beautiful. For a while we talked about what it would be like to be that beautiful, the up and downsides of people finding it nearly impossible to stop staring at you. I think in the end we stopped discussing it because all that talk of very beautiful girls was making us feel inadequate and a bit depressed. Then we talked about the John Berger book I read recently which discusses the way the world (including women themselves) sees women. He says:

“A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. While she is walking across a room or while she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping … She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself as another.”

When I read that I realised I had been walking across rooms like that for as long as I could remember.

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This week I noticed a very attractive young woman on the arm of an older, not so attractive man, and thought, why has this been a cultural pattern in our society? You could posit: because men have traditionally had economic power where women have traditionally not; because men have been seen less as objects of desire than women have, but also I think it’s because they have been busy doing other things which distracts attention from just physical appearance and so we have thought “isn’t Charles Dickens a brilliant writer! Doesn’t he have a wonderful, inquisitive mind?” instead of “Charles Dickens could be more handsome. He is ok but is nose is not right.” Now women in the west get to do more than ever before which you would think would distract us all from how they look, but still we can’t stop seeing them.

What a drag it all is! How good it feels when you can let it all go!

If you look at domestic violence statistics in this country or read about sex trafficking or FGM, it feels frivolous to consider such issues. But anyone who tells you your concerns are not valid just because someone else has it worse is missing the point. In the West, a lot of the work still to do is shaking off how we see each other and are seen by others, and in other places the work is different and of frightening volume.

Eve Ensler, who organises One Billion Rising, did an extraordinary interview in the Guardian recently entitled We should be hysterical about sexual violence. You should read every word of it. Some people talk about compassion fatigue, or not being able to grasp the full horror of an atrocity, and the most effective way of explaining something in this case is to focus on one story (that’s why charities use case studies.) My yoga teacher told me recently about some women she used to teach who had been victims of sex trafficking; when she met them, they were staying in a hostel run by the charity Eaves. They loved yoga because it made them feel strong, because it was a bodily practice which was not about horror and punishment but about control and quietness and being kind to yourself and maybe the yoga, and the other work they were doing with other kind people who were helping them were the things that made them want to live. But she told me that it was a yoga practice very modified from the one she taught most of her students, and that a lot of it was about making your body small and protected, of being in a safe ball or foetal position and that she never, absolutely never, taught poses that involved opening your legs.

I couldn’t take that in for ages. Still, I can barely think about it. If I ever feel like I can’t get my head around something as truly awful as trafficking or rape as a weapon of war, I think about those women and what they can no longer countenance. IWD is supposed to be a celebration, so I hope I haven’t depressed you too much. Human problems could be counted on a scale from one to ten, on a scale to thinking to feeling to seeing to hurting. But Eve Ensler says “Women across the world are in this together”. She also says that we can end violence against women, and you should read the article to find out why this might not be so crazy and idealistic as it sounds. Happy IWD.

xxxxx

All photos by me on Instagram except for Victoria’s


“our minds reshape these memories, sending them through a rose-tinted filter that redefines them as “good times”. Experiences … can be reconstructed in our minds to seem better than they were, because they represent periods in our life that are now gone forever.” – (BBC science and nature article)

What is more English than a village fete? The Wikipedia entry for fêtes says:

Village fêtes are common in Britain, although their numbers are declining.

Their numbers are declining. So much pathos in fact.

Only in England features photography by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, both great capturers of what we call Englishness from a bygone era. The world always seems to change fast when you live in it, and makes valuable astute observers who can chart visual history. When your universe has disappeared, little is of more comfort than a picture of how it used to look.

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I’ve been thinking about Tony Ray-Jones, whose photography isn’t just output from the 60s/70s nostalgia factory, produced to hang us together and stop us falling to pieces - Steptoe and Son and cream teas and piers and Morris Minors and stuffy churches and hot summers and so many cups of tea. It’s more than this: each image is complete with a set of utterly aligned characters, as if they’ve been moved gently into place and tweaked and tweaked again until some kind of timeless symmetry between humans has been established.

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His contact sheets are on show and for most shots, it looks like he only took 2 or 3 gos to get it right. Hemingway churned out near-perfect work the first time, while everyone else floundered and wrote terrible first drafts they had to burn and bury in shame. When people say “a rare talent” I think they mean people who have to work less (not less hard) before they make something amazing.

Ray-Jones died when he was 30, of leukaemia. He wouldn’t have known how little time there was to create something special.

I wish it was the 60s, I wish I could be happy. Thom Yorke feels it, evokes it in 12 words, that longing for a past that’s impossible because it never happened that way, it never felt like that. At the time, it just felt like life. But history seems to have a heightened sense of romance to it, a specialness that we think we see when we look back.

It reminds me of the joke about how much more simple life was when everything was black and white.

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(look at how magical Piccadilly Circus looks here.)

John Berger says:

“The past is never there waiting to be discovered, to be recognised for exactly what it is. History always constitutes the relation between a present and it’s past.”

Wider history and personal history do this. They’re in cahoots to constitute what you feel when you see something.

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Just try and unwire yourself. It’s impossible. Ray-Jones’ images spoke to me because they were taken when my mum and dad were in their 20s, in a world that is now gone forever, a place my mind has imbued with a hopeless romance.

His pictures remind me of another visual of a few decades before but also created in the 70s, Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s children’s book Peepo!. Each view is what the baby in the story sees: a baby-eyed view. Every illustration is busy but expertly balanced, packed with tiny period details of wartime Britain (and more cups of tea.) It was one of my favourite books when I was little.

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Some of the words are:

He sees the shadows moving on the bedroom wall
And the sun at the window
And his teddy
And his ball

, words that are comforting to me in their profound familiarity.

In the brain, an image kicks off a feeling. Ice creams from the van two hours before dusk. A pub garden. A trip to the pictures. A steam train chugging away. A picnic by a river, then the light fades. Times change fast and we cling onto the past to get a handle on the motion. But of course it’s gone; we can’t get it back.

Only in England is on at the Science Museum until 16 March


I went to Kenya when I was younger and we’d go on these night-time game drives, chasing after animals in the dark. In the headlights of the truck we could see the hind legs of creatures jumping out of the way of tyres, and the dry plants of the bush moving like a flick-book in the light.

If you stopped the engine and turned off the lights you had to confront all that space, land that just did its thing in the darkness and silence, regardless of you. Such experiences are disconcerting because humans always think they’re so instrumental to existence, to anything’s existence. But the dark makes you realise that small worlds are revolving without you, and animal dramas are playing out, and earth is shifting.

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It was strange to hear that utter silence, to understand you were tiny, you were tiny enough to be nothing. But still, we confront ourselves as well as the world around us, we confront our lives. Is it panning out the way you thought it would? Are you happy? Do you have everything you want? We have to absorb ourselves in ourselves, even though vast plains and large galaxies exist out there. A conflict: we’re tiny and we’re all we have.

Certain landscapes give you quiet, a space to contemplate. If you try and sit quietly in the city you know that there is always noise, that you cannot rely on silence to give you peace. What I have been thinking about recently is that under noise there must be silence, in a similar way how life continues in the darkness – we just can’t see it. It’s comforting: it makes quiet accessible inside yourself. I once read a very strange book by a writer called Sara Maitland called A Book of Silence, which is a memoir about a slow, quiet (personal) revolution. As a long-time student of silence she says that it has a sound, it’s kind of like a sssssssshhhhhhh (try and get your head around that.) If silence makes a sound then if you listen hard enough, sometimes you can hear it.

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I came across the poem below, Archaic Torso of Apollo by Rainer Maria Rilke, in Ali Smith’s brilliant Artful. She says:

“the ‘you’ of the poem becomes not just the seen thing instead of the art, but something seen so utterly, so wholly, that ‘there is no place that does not see you’. It’s this being seen (met in the act of looking) – the exchange that happens when art and human meet – that results in the pure urgency for transformation.”

The pure urgency for transformation. I think about this poem in art galleries when I stand and look at something and minutes go by. I think about the last line whenever I feel “clarity” about a desired change. In Hollywood films and lazy literature, transformations are whole and permanent and pre-cursored by a montage and a lightbulb moment, where everything falls into place. Real life is more piecemeal and change is long: you realise things and then they don’t seem true anymore, or you change your mind, or you keep forgetting, or you don’t listen deeply to what’s under the noise, or you do but you cannot hear it. Most people rarely make big leaps; it’s often only when you look back at longer passages of time that you see the big themes emerging. Sometimes you wonder: are wheels turning, in places you can’t see them?

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Rainer Maria Rilke


Copyright The Roland Penrose Estate

“Four Women Asleep”, 1954 (Lee Miller, Leonora Carrington, Ady Fidelin and Nusch Eluard)

I’ve just finished re-reading Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman from 1969, a novel whose protagonist is tormented by a steadily advancing aversion to food. Vitamin pills remind her of eggs laid by an insect, meat of its fleshy animal origins, and all of it makes her run to the toilet to involuntarily purge herself of the offending articles. Today, when we took my nieces and nephew to McDonalds after a festive theatre visit and I unwrapped my chicken sandwich and glanced at the beige, tepid meat, I had to suddenly scurry over laps and scarves to the outside air with the blood rising in my face. “I think I’m going to be sick,” like a million fragile types before me. In case I had forgotten I was alive, there was my life, imitating someone else’s art.

A break at Christmas makes you remember all the things about you, the things you want and the things you fear, your chief emotions, familiar history, repetitive themes, coming at you like revelations and not the disguised traditions they really are. No wonder watching old films makes us feel better, as if the old-fashioned trains and old-fashioned phones and Old Fashioneds can connect us to something simple and good (the magic isn’t just in remembering things but remembering remembering them!) Running on a treadmill, away from imperfect moments. And better still if our palms are getting hot with phones begging us to share bits of ourselves, selected parts or unedited awkwardnesses, making those simple and good moments louder, more thing-like. Remember the first time you read that memories are rarely fresh but just a memory of the last time you recalled them? Every Christmas, an apt epiphany.

Internal wrangles of would-be writers are dull, self-pitying, repetitive, long as a dictionary and a million times as pointless; talking about them is more so. But here we are. Here is the subject not writing, unwriting, here is the subject doing this for months. Here she is running her fingers over the novels of Doris Lessing in the second hand book shop (holy christ look how many), then looking at pencil illustrations by Sylvia Plath drawn in what we could call a prolific spurt. Here is the subject kicking her tantrum legs in the living room, art dry as a bone, only one line and an impassable gulf away from not writing. 

It is a strange place that is both full to the brim and sealed shut. If you pricked it liquid would yap out all over the place, unformed, with some potential but with no essential shape or colour.

For ages I wanted a tattoo in the way that you passionately want things, that is heavily and then suddenly, heinously not at all, until the cycle begins again. And one day my sister said to me: you don’t have to have a tattoo, and that felt good, for a while. Until I wanted one again, heavily, all the time.

My boyfriend’s sister gave him a great book about writing and he read it and lent it to me, and in bed last night I started to read it and then had to immediately put it down, as you do when something has more truth in it than the moment it is held in. One of the things in this book is:

“I try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony.”

In case you had forgotten that being happy, being anything, isn’t a moment but a long-term project requiring hard work and more importantly, revision, here is Christmas break to remind you. Here it is with its hard and beautiful truth, kicking you in the shins, just in case you had forgotten you were alive.


Crawl

06Oct13

This is an entry for the FEMFLASH 2013 writing competition from Mookychick Online. Enter now.

The shorts were covered in sequins and clung tight on her buttocks, rising high on the hips and leaving a slice of black, wobbly flesh in between her waistband and bra top. A woman put her hand over her mouth as Janelle passed the bus stop and she laughed: today, walking felt like her feet kissing the earth.

3522886588_0ef18c32ab_oSo when she heard the car slow down and the low animal noise, plural, somewhere between a hiss and a growl, it felt all the worse against her buoyancy.

“Hey baby. Baby. Baby. We’re talking to you, baby.”

She felt the car trailing beside her and her body begin to tremble, and told herself sternly to stop.

“Don’t be so shy, baby. We’re only being friendly.”

She shuddered, her legs wobbling like a heat haze.

“Let’s check out the goods, boys.”

His hand met the sequinned shorts, and from her shaking mouth she felt the familiar fire erupt and spurt forth like a torrent of water. The car stood scorched like a toy engine devastated by a blowtorch, two dazed bodies inside, one trying to crawl away.

She bit her lip. Fuck it, she had to run, else she’d miss the starters.


I’m left handed but my phone usually sits to the right of me, close by, and usually I’ll check it every 20 minutes or so for a message or some kind of news or event or really, some kind of happening. Sometimes I realise I’m just holding it and it gets warm in my palm, a hot metallic broadcast to and from the world. Often I’ll just unlock it without meaning to, and stop, and lock it again. Until the next time.

Imagine if a bell rang every time my right hand reached for it. Imagine if someone was counting my checking and watching and locking and unlocking.

The other day I threw it across the room to land with plonk on the armchair, so I could have a break from my constant relationship with it. It’s not like throwing a part of yourself across the room, an arm or a heart. It felt like getting in, shutting the door behind you and finally being able to drop the heavy shopping bag on the floor.

It’s all new, isn’t it, and things are changing so fast that we have no time to learn good ways to use them.

I love what Louis CK says in this clip because he identifies what is often happening when we reach for our phone. I read this piece by Daniel Engber about how Louis is wrong (clickbait, anyone, Louis is never wrong) and that there is something of the Luddite in his accusations about the smartphone, in a similar way to the people who claimed that television would make us stupider or that telephones would mean we would never be peaceful again.

Yes, it is easy to point to new technologies as essentially mistrustful compared to the legitimate, “antique” media we’ve got used to. There are all sorts of things we do because we are bored or lonely or sad, not all of them dysfunctional or pernicious. So while blocking out the “essential sadness of existence” with a smartphone might not be that different to blocking it out with anything else, and while there’s no reason to assume that the future of Facebook is a boot stamping on the human face forever, Louis’ is still a decent reminder to ask ourselves exactly why it is we do certain things.

There is very little social media sharing that is not in some way connected to the deep parts of us. The profoundly secure as well as the rusty unguarded bits. The need for attention, however temporary, the longing to be admired, the desire to project a view of ourselves, the frightened centre. In our micro interactions with it, in our choice of language and representation, in our choice to blog vs tweet vs write in a private journal vs Facebook vs write a private letter vs write an open letter, is all the neediness and platitudes and nuances inside of us.

Smartphones are not televisions in your living rooms. They’re not even phones in your pocket. The multi-function, connected constancy of them is possibly the most significant technological advance ever in terms of human psychology.

The internet changes everything.

I will stop writing this.

And then I’ll press publish.


Frances Ha

13Jul13

**CONTAINS SPOILERS** (well one actually, i.e. the end)

I could watch Frances Ha running through the streets of New York forever.

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How perfect to see her running free. Germaine Greer said she hated high heels because they constrain you, and there is nothing that quite matches a symbol of freedom as running towards something (she was partly wrong; most things are fine in moderation.)

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Frances Ha shows us something that used to be fairly rare in film and TV, a three-dimensional woman who’s ultimate concern isn’t finding a man. It breezes through the Bechdel test. Frances is adorable in a quirky indie way without being nauseating (take note Zach Braff), clever and funny and unpunctual and unsuccessful, making bad decision after bad decision as 27 year olds are wont to do.

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And it’s a love story about female friendship (FINALLY), about how close friends go out of orbit but the best ones zoom back in, making you remember why you love them. “Who are you making eyes at?” asks Frances’ dance teacher, and we expect her to look over at the cute, male, potential love interest. “That’s Sophie,” she says, and gazes at the girl across the room.

Frances Ha is out in the UK on 27 July


Psychogeography: “… A whole toy box of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities … just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of their urban environments.” (Joseph Hart)

In the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Jiro, who has been making sushi every day for seventy years, knows that the only way to get close to perfection is to do the same thing again, and again, and again, every day, for years and years.

Every day he slices the fish, presses it onto the rice, glazes it with a flourish. He says he still isn’t bored. He says he still isn’t quite happy with the result.

Something happens when you are able to make friends with repetition. I don’t mean monotonous tasks that take you to the edge of your patience. I mean something you can love. That thing is that slowly you gain a deeper understanding of whatever your subject is. And at the same time you teach yourself about how good it can be to take your time.

You’ve got your whole life to get good at something. A woman said that to me once.

You run round the same park. You move back into downward-facing dog, again. You wake up to the same face in bed opposite you.

Last night I walked back from Islington to Hackney, against the path of the canal, invisible to me behind the wall: past the gardens of de Beauvoir, across Kingsland Rd from N1 to E8. I felt the of joy walking inside me, and it didn’t matter that I walk or cycle that same route every day to and from work. It felt new. Virginia Woolf used to go out “to buy a pencil”, even when she didn’t need a pencil. She noticed how walking shifted ideas around your head. As I walked last night, I had a new idea about something I want to write, and a new idea about the way I want to write, and I saw a building on the edge of the canal against the break in the skyline that I wanted to put into a story.

Moments of meaning don’t come often. You have to catch them before they flutter away.

photoI looked down at my legs as I walked, the legs that were carrying me home. For years I would look at them and notice the imperfections, the things I wanted to change. Last night I thought: I will have the same legs for the rest of my life. Even when I’m seventy (I hope they get me to seventy). They’ll change and veins will streak like lightning and the skin will shrivel and wrinkle. We have to live with getting old. But the same legs. For once they weren’t something to compare to a girl in a magazine’s. They are my amazing legs; they are taking me places.

I don’t think I’d ever thought this before. In all the times I’ve ever walked anywhere.

In the pub, we’d met some really cool people, two actors, one photographer. They bought us a drink and were so friendly and interested about what we were doing and writing. One of them, the actor said: whatever you will write will be good, you’ve just got to keep practicing. Keep trying, keep trying, be honest, it won’t fail to be good. The other said: when I was first a photographer I was the worst photographer in the world. He said: it’s true what they say about 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration.

He said: everything you do is a step on the path to getting better.


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If anyone else says “Spring Break forever” I’m going to lose my shit

Spring Breakers, in which I review a film I feel largely indifferent about

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

I felt excited about Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers after watching the exhilarating trailer and hearing all that hype about it.

I wondered if I’d feel shocked or offended or have some kind of feminist breakdown over it, or if Korine would manage to do something different and surprising with his Girls Gone Wild pretext.

I just didn’t expect to be so bored. I’m still not sure how such a level of violence and sexual antics could end up being so dull, but I imagine it had something to do with Korine’s attempt to create a dreamy drug-like experience instead of a traditionally structured screenplay – a laudable aim but one that was only partly successful.

Repetition can be a powerful device used skilfully, but not when the same self-involved, whiny characters repeat the same, badly scripted lines over. And over. AND OVER. I really didn’t want to watch one more shot of the characters standing around in their bikinis stroking each other’s hair like a group of snivelling primates, but Korine showed me one more. And then another. And then a lot of boys squirted a lot of beer and liqueur over a lot of girls’ tits, which was a right royal waste. And you thought we were in a recession, ladzzz?

There were some interesting takes on the relationship between hedonistic sex and greedy capitalism, in one of the film’s two very funny scenes involving James Franco’s character Alien throwing money, guns, clothes and a bottle of Calvin Klein’s Escape around and screaming Look at all my shit!!”. But it wasn’t enough next to so much average material.

And after a while the jiggling arse and tits ‘n’ beer shots took their toll. Like all things raunch culture, things become very unsexy very quickly, and very, very boring. Korine isn’t exactly satirising this culture because if you read anything about him you know that Harmony loves trash, and he wasn’t exactly celebrating it, because some Really Bad Things happen to the characters and a lot of the time they feel Really Bad, which accounts for all the standing-around and hair-stroking. But I found it rather depressing to watch, and queasy afterwards at exposure to these idiots, like I’d walked in on someone I hate having sex and hung around to crunch some popcorn in the corner.

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Srsly I’m so fricking bored right now those guns are the most boring guns I’ve ever seen

I read some women’s reactions online who felt refreshed by the agency of the female characters, and their excessive comfort with their bodies, but I couldn’t get excited about a version of womanhood that so closely resembled a high-school jock’s Friday night wankfest. I don’t have any problem with naughty girls (I know plenty of naughty girls), but it’s such a one-note version of sexuality – aesthetically synced to MTV Base; and brassy and public, the big show-offs; and bordering on mandatory, in terms of the expectation that young people (especially women) should be frequently sexual and sexually available. It’s depressing, when I think of all the mighty girls I know, and all the things about them – their sense of humour and their jobs and their compassion and their children and their PHds etc – that this is another version of naked girls who just loooooove to fuck. Plus it’s a mean-spirited sexuality: it’s only for thin girls, and you can bet they don’t want you in their gang. I like shy people; I can’t warm to exhibitionists because it’s always all about them, and these girls made me want to give them a cardigan and a lesson in good manners and make them watch Antiques Roadshow on a 10 year loop. ❤❤ Antiques Rooooadshoooow foreva bitches ❤ ❤

And of course a lot of guys watched it and “craned their necks in delight every time a new pair of boobs bounced across the screen, and said things like “aaw yeah,” “work it,” and “dammnn gurl”” instead of seeing it as a piece of art.

But we can’t expect every film to be a feminist fist pump, and I guess we had our Bridesmaids moment, didn’t we Girls? Last time I get sucked in by this kind of trailer-trickery:


From what I remember of feminist research methods from my uni days, the idea is to remove the masculine model of objective interviewer and subjective interviewee, the idea that there’s a tangible reality that an unattached scientific observer can uncover. Instead there is a collaborative spirit, a sense that the researcher and the researched can learn from each other and produce something new only by both parties giving something to the process.

It’s a technique that has had more influence than you might imagine, even if the words “feminist research methods” don’t exactly get you all hot under the collar. Interviews with musicians, artists, writers and so on frequently take on this two-way approach, but they work best, of course, if both parties have something fascinating and relevant to say.

Kathryn Ferguson’s short film, released on International Women’s Day, is a beautiful bit of feminist film-making. Featuring Caryn Franklin, Bella Freud, Zaha Hadid and Wah Nails’ Sharmadean Reid, the screen regularly splits into two, three, four, including all four women’s experience as equally valid and showing the breadth and variety of influences and opinions. The women also ask each other questions, becoming producers of an inspiring story.

(As an aside it’s sponsored by Selfridges, which makes all-time fucking legend Caryn Franklin’s comment all the more poignant: “I appreciate creativity more than ever … I see the beauty that people make, but I also see the corporatization of creativity and the driving force of money over everything.”)

Showing a multitude of views and individuals is a worthy thing to do. Surely the biggest and best thing we can do for young people – and all of us – is show them a variety of paths. Want to wear a dress, even though you’re a bloke? Want to be an architect, a nurse, a nail technician, a dad, a welder; want to listen to the Smiths or the Roots or Lady Gaga? Fine. If kids spent all day watching inspiring people speak – education a la Ted talks – the world would be singularly amazing.

International gender reinforcement day

I’m sometimes wary of the whole “celebration of women” idea (as I would be of celebrating men – what, all of them?) as it can so easily lead to that idea of some innate quality in either sex – as if traits of nurturing, empathising, competitiveness, creativity or strength can be aligned with one sex. But of course, we missed out on quite a lot of celebrating of women over the entire course of human history, aside from that whole mother/whore/precious flower worship, which makes it all the more important to tell and retell the stories made by women.

Which is why photos like this, of some girls about to make the world better, really rather cheering and jolly.

Image

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone.




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