Here’s To the Women

Happy #InternationalWomen’sDay, which is probably my favourite day to skim social media, because today between the ads, the clickbait, and Trump’s mis-tweets there are so many stories of amazing, strong, fearless women.  We got this!

Me?  I’m not sure if I’m strong and fearless, in fact, I can think of more times when I’ve been the exact opposite.  But, I’m almost certain that during those weak and fearful moments, 9 times out of 10, I’ve been picked back up by womankind.  So, let’s raise a glass (or a mug, in my case!) to the women who scoop up other women and help them to stand tall again.  Here’s to them and their small acts of heroism.

Here’s to…

…my Aunt, who tells the most amazing stories, has travelled the world (sometimes even on her own) and is absolutely determined to learn how to use her computer.

…Brown Owl, for letting me phone home as many times as I wanted on Brownie Pack Holiday when I got homesick, but also for absolutely refusing to let me go home under any circumstances!  Would I have ever gone to University or moved to London if I hadn’t survived that week away from home?  Who knows.

…the “Swot Brigade”, I mean sure, it took us about a month longer than everyone else to work out that we could roll our skirts instead of just wearing them down to our ankles (the fashionable midi skirt wouldn’t come into fashion for at least another ten years), but  hey, we were our own brand of cool and stuck up for each other all through High School.

…the Bishop Girls of 2001, who decided that it was high time that girls were allowed to choose whether to wear skirts or trousers to school.  It was my first experience of feminist protest and we won!

…my Mother-in-Law, for losing months of sleep working on a case against the local health board whose negligence killed your mother, and for helping make my big move to London so much easier than I thought it was going to be.  Oh, and for cooking Aloo Gobi just because you know it’s my favourite 😉

…Rach, who bought me Chicken McNuggets at the end of the second year when I had no money left (of my overdraft) and was bawling my eyes out because I’d just said goodbye to my future husband for a whole year.  For telling me that she always looked forward to my Night Out Debriefing MSN Blog Posts and Photographs.  For teaching me that when Easyjet batters your luggage beyond recognition that you’ve got a right to storm up to their desk at the airport and demand that they damn well pay for a replacement – and for so, so, so much more. ❤

…the Random Old Lady on the Saturday Morning train from Swansea to Cardiff on the 17th of November 2006, who told me that I had vomit in my hair and offered to get me some water and paracetamol when I emerged from the train toilet in the midst of my first real hangover.  Cheers for that.

…my Year 7 English girls, for being so scary smart (watch out, those girls are going to run the world), for letting me know when my eyeliner was “on fleek”, for teaching me what “on fleek” means, and for that time that I said I wanted to be a writer when I grew up for saying, “Aren’t you already grown up, Miss?”

…Missy, who kicks ass in Westminster every day, never turns up empty-handed and ALWAYS sends a thank you card.  For trying some of my worst culinary creations, including a Kirsch Cake (vom) and a Jelly Baby Cheesecake (diabetes on a plate). She’s the finest lady I know, and the most hilarious drunk.

…my Year 12 Computing Teacher, for being a women who thought computers were cool and for making me feel like a total badass for being one of only two girls in my year to study for an A Level in Computing.  (Oh, and for that time you accidentally told us to “go ahead and shove our floppy dicks into the drive”)

Nina, for being my first fan. 😉  And all the other blogger babes.  You guys inspire me every single day.

…Is it me or is this slowly turning into my Oscars Best Actress speech…?

…my Mamgu, who instilled in me the importance of spoiling oneself with tea and cake and other sweet things.

…my Year 12 History Teacher, who told me to stop sniffling and get studying when I failed my first AS History paper.  You taught me that it’s okay to fail as long as you don’t give up.  Because of that pep talk, I worked hard and totally aced the resit. 😉

…my Mum, for inadvertently starting my obsession with Women’s History (I know you don’t remember teaching me about Madame de Pompadour when we went to Versailles, but yeah, you did.  That one’s on you!).  For being so brave when Dad was sick.  For having the spirit of adventure whenever we went on holiday and forcing me to try everything – no one has the “when in Rome” spirit quite like you do.  For insisting we stop and take a photograph ALL THE TIME.  For introducing me to eye-makeup remover (I’m so sorry I ruined so many of your towels growing up!), and for teaching me how to make the perfect Victoria Sponge… and then for not complaining when I decided to ruin it by experimenting with it.  For encouraging my car-singing (“I should be so lucky” – you, not so much for having to listen to it over and over again!).  For not being afraid to laugh loudly on a quiet airplane in the middle of the night.  And everything else.

Here’s to the Women.  Which women are you raising your mug to today?  ♀️

International Women’s Day: Four Bold Books

I loved history lessons when I was in school.  Yep, I was that brace-faced nerd in the front row who always had her hand up in the air and could rattle off random facts about people who’d died hundreds of years ago.  Still am.  Minus the braces, obviously!  But I was never completely satisfied by what I heard in class – all these stories about men and what they did.  Where were the women?

Even today, school history lessons have that old bias.  A handful of Tudor Queens, the suffragettes and Florence Nightingale if you’re lucky… and that’s about it.  Women’s voices are whispers in the footnotes, or on a single, patronising, end-of-topic page about ‘Women’s Roles’.  Wives, whores and witches.  If you want more, you have to go looking for it yourself.  The truth is, that women’s achievements and their place in the history books has – for a very long time – been undermined or belittled by the men (and women!) who were afraid of them.  Like Catherine the Great, who – despite all the amazing things she achieved in her lifetime – still can’t seem to shake off that horrible (and completely untrue) rumour about her and the horse!  And it’s sad, because history is bursting with brilliant and bold women whose stories deserve to be heard in the classroom – not just by girls, but by boys too – particularly right now with the rise of retro-sexism.

Today is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange. So, here are four bold books about Women’s History that I love.

The Weaker Vessel by Antonia Fraser.  If you’ve never read an historical biography before or you’re just starting out in Women’s History, then Antonia Fraser’s books are the perfect place to start.  She’s written books about Mary Queen of Scots, Charles II and various others. Her biography of Marie Antoinette (which later inspired the Sofia Coppola movie) was the first book by her I ever read and I loved it so, so much that I went on to read the rest.  She writes in such a sympathetic, chatty, story book sort of way that makes the history so easy to digest.  The Weaker Vessel is all about the lives of different women during the Seventeenth Century, when the roles of women and their rights were beginning to change.

Liberty by Lucy Moore.  I’m really into my French history and my Mum was super chuffed when she picked this book up for my birthday one year.  Liberty follows the lives of several different women leading up to, during and after the French Revolution – flashing between them as they get involved in the changing politics, persecution and violence.  Brave ladies.

Hypatia’s Heritage by Margaret Alic.  These days there’s a huge panic because not enough women are getting involved in STEM subjects; stereotypically labelled as “boy’s subjects”.  NOT TRUE.  Women’s fingerprints are on some of the biggest STEM achievements in history.  I picked up Hypatia’s Heritage on Amazon Marketplace and it’s all about women in science right from the ancient world to the nineteenth century – including two of my favourites: Émilie du Châtelet (who dressed up as a man to talk physics in French cafes of the Enlightenment) and Ada Lovelace (child mathematical genius and the very first computer programmer).  Smart women.

Scandalous Women by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon.  I found this book in Barnes and Noble on holiday one year and refused to leave it behind.  Split into sections like Wayward Wives and Warrior Queens, Scandalous Women is essentially a selection of short biographies written by blogger, Elizabeth Kerri Mahon.  Funny and very easy to read, it’s a good one to dip in and out of, and includes a wide range of women from Zelda Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker to Cleopatra and Joan of Arc.

Who are your favourite historical women?  🙂

When are we going to be on our own side?

Something happened last Sunday afternoon; Cosmopolitan UK shared an “article” (read: gif-heavy, typo-laden list-post) entitled; 15 things you should know before dating a girl who blogs.  

What was supposed to be a sarcastic, self-deprecating snigger at the quirks and clichés attached to today’s typical blogger (is there such a thing?) instead came off as a suggestive, resentful side-swipe at an industry on the up. Oops! While bloggers were quick to put the magazine in its place via Twitter (while irritatingly quadrupling the article’s page-views at the same time), a lot of us were left feeling a bit, well, bemused.

Oh!  But it’s okay because it was written by a blogger!  Oh, I get it.  It was supposed to be funny, where’s your sense of humour?  Oh, but not all bloggers are like that – I was only talking to a tiny minority of single, self-obsessed, coffee-swigging, consumerist, social-media junkies.

Right

Well, I have two theories as to what’s going on here:

Theory one surrounds the sad decline of the print industry and glossy mags in particular; when today’s women are more likely to bookmark their own online glossy of trusted fashion, beauty and lifestyle blogs rather than fork out £5 for a magazine full of ads and airbrushed models, then where does that leave the magazine industry?  No wonder it’s choosing to both embrace bloggers and then smack them down when their backs are turned in true Mean Girls-“Oh I love your skirt!/That’s the ugliest effing skirt I’ve ever seen!”-style.  Keep your enemies close, eh?  Nice.

The second, and more realistic, theory is that the female blogging community just has a huge chip on its shoulder.

But is it any wonder?  Bloggers work bloody hard to put themselves out there.  They’re an entire magazine production staff rolled into one single person; editor, writer, photographer, programmer, PR/digital media guru, advertising exec, accountant, designer… the list goes on.  The vast majority hold down full time jobs and full-time lives alongside blogging – while those who are lucky enough to earn an income through blogging alone have to put up with the perception that blogging just isn’t a “real” job, and that a normal day at the office involves slobbing around in PJs, snapping selfies, scoffing egg and avocado, going to “meetings” and waiting for that latest box of “freebies” from such-and-such a company to turn up on their swank doorstep.

As a result a lot of bloggers feel like they’ve got to something prove.  Trying to find your own voice in a community already over-saturated with incredibly talented individuals is – quite frankly – terrifying.

So, when someone takes an insensitive stab and sarcastically suggests that bloggers don’t take what they do seriously, or worse, then they’re just as entitled to hit back as teachers are when some ignorant twonk utters that infuriating phrase, “Those who can: do.  Those who can’t: teach and get six weeks off every summer.” Grrr!

But it’s a million times worse when bloggers actually subscribe to and promote that kind of belief themselves!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a bit of self-deprecation and obviously having the ability to laugh at ourselves every now and again is important – but not when it completely undermines our worth and belittles all our hard work.

If we’re not going to be on our own side and hold on to the belief that what we’re doing is important in some way, (even if only in so far as being a bit of laugh on the side), then what’s the point?  We should be proud of our hard work and creativity, not poke fun at it!  Blogging should empower us in the same way that Cosmopolitan empowered us back in the eighties when it stepped out and gave a voice to women who wanted to take control of their careers and their sexuality.  It’s our loud-speaker, our voice. We shouldn’t be ridiculed for using it and for whatever we decide to use it for – whether that’s post after post of lipstick swatches or discourses on what modern feminism looks like – and especially not by the medium that pretty much inspired a lot of us in the first place.