Intergenerational Feminism & Media Manipulations

It’s been quite some time since I wrote anything here, but the article I wrote about my mothers inadvertent feminism, which was inspired by the skewed and inaccurate reporting of feminism over the ages, compounded by a comment an editor from the Guardian made has forced my hand into putting it here, so that anyone who watches the video I intend on making about this whole issue can read it if they so wish.

I knew the chances of my article being published were minimal, so I’m not upset it wasn’t. Though the editor who wrote to me did seem to completely misunderstand what I was trying to achieve. That he was male may or may not have had something to do with it. But it was this comment:

 “the centenary of women getting the vote has been covered quite heavily this week so I don’t think we’d be looking to do too much more for a while”

that did annoy me. So, see below the article. I could have written something similar about my own life, because the assumptions about women of my generation are as inaccurate and assumptive, but it’s easier to write about someone who isn’t you with a greater level of objectivity. Anyway, this is it:

My mother – the inadvertent feminist

My mother. Mary, was born in 1923 in a small town in Yorkshire. The only child of a post office worker and her stay at home mother. Her father had yearnings towards literary greatness, and was eternally resentful that his family had not allowed him to go to university. He knew numerous artists and writers of the time, many of them household names (Walter De La Mere and H G Wells for example), and ran literary and artistic groups in Bradford. My mother never liked him. She was resentful for some reason, but she was far more like him than her mother, and his experience drove her towards fulfilling her ambitions.

She was an intelligent, if plodding child (by her own admission), who wanted to go to Oxford. As you might imagine, getting into Oxford from such a background, and as a woman, was not easy to achieve. But achieve it she did. She read English Literature at St Anne’s college, Oxford in the war years, studying under Tolkein, amongst others.

She met and married my father in the late 40s. He had a troubled past, not relevant here, but it did mean it was hard for him to earn enough for the family to survive in the early years. So my mother got a job in the House of Commons working as a secretary and PA for various Labour MPs and cabinet ministers. This in itself was an achievement, but a greater one was that when I was born she took me with her, in a carrycot and later with colouring books to keep me amused. I have many fond (and some rather less fond) memories of my numerous hours spent there.

When we read of women of that time, it would appear barely any of them worked, and those who did were largely in menial jobs which paid peanuts. Admittedly, working in Parliament did not pay especially well, but we would do well to remember that not all women followed the supposed path of the day. That she was able to take a small child with her is remarkable. No one commented on it or saw it in negative terms. It was simply embraced and accepted.

When I was 7 she moved to Camden Social Services, where she remained for the rest of her working life, rising quickly to a management position, and being valued and appreciated, as well as being quietly powerful. Alongside this she worked with the terminally ill, was professionally involved in supporting those who suffered the fallout of both the Marchioness and King’s Cross disaster, and got a Masters in statistics.

As a result my experience of being a woman was (and I suspect remains) different from most. An only child, like my mother, and also shy, yet experiencing what a woman  could achieve. Like me she was never much motivated by money, but never cowed or repressed by anyone. It has, in part at least, made me who I am, and my mother’s inadvertent but impressive feminism has, from the start, caused me to believe what is actually true: that I am equal to any man, and should be judged on my behaviour as a human rather than because of my sex. I have rarely been subject to misogyny, though when I have I’ve had no qualms about questioning it and demanding it should cease. I’m aware of the glass ceiling when it comes to employment, which is one of the reasons I chose to work for myself from my thirties onwards. It’s important to remember we are not only the product of our society, but what we’ve been immersed in as we grow.

I want to mark the life of this extraordinary woman in this important year for women. She sadly died in 2009, but was born only 5 years after women got the vote. Her life has much to teach. When I read the numerous articles about women over the years, and what they did and didn’t do, my mother always comes to mind, along with my own experiences which often contradict historical and current beliefs regarding women.

 

 

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Darkness

It’s really wild here tonight, has been for a couple of days. Storm Barney I believe. What a ridiculous name for a storm. Anyway, earlier this evening the power went. Only for a few minutes fortunately. A couple of years ago they put circuit breakers on every pole round here so that they automatically reset and only the very small area of the damage suffers for longer. But you don’t know how long it’s going to be, when you’re plunged into darkness. And when the lights go out here it’s dark. Pitch black.

I sat there, in the middle of nothing. No sensory input other than the sound of the wind. It makes you think. I remember the last time there was a power cut that lasted a few hours, and the painting I did, under the light of an oil lamp. That’s one thing you have to do out here. Make sure you have other sources of light, heat and food.

But I keep meandering off where I’m trying to go with this. In the darkness, where there’s no input, no sea of endless information and interaction or entertainment, where you are thrown back onto the inside of your own head, you can be reminded of both the smallness and infinite space you’re surrounded with. Somehow, that engages you with reality.

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Nothing to see here

For a while now I’ve found the internet increasingly tedious. But, in that much used phrase (about other things, anyway) if you’re bored of the internet, you’re bored of life. After all, isn’t all life here? Well no, not really.

I fully accept that what I’m looking at is an incredibly small corner, and that it may say more about me than it does the internet itself, that it’s how you use a tool that matters. I’ve been around a long time, and travelled through many a medium and group. It was new for ages because it was so quickly evolving, and the options and opportunities seemed vast, were vast.

But it’s not just me. It seems as if a few things are happening. One is that in an almost entirely business model, human interaction is the product not the motivation. Selling us the ‘freedom’ to do what we used to do anyway, means that the material becomes increasingly byte sized, and ever more trivial.

Then there’s overkill. Over stimulation and excess of options which oddly ends up with everything competing for your attention, so that attention becomes shorter than that of a gnat. And the less attention you have the more you find yourself skating over the trivia and sliding right off the edge because it’s all geared to attracting you, not intriguing you.

Human nature plays a part too. The desire for more and more attention, which causes a decreasing quality of output. The false raising up of the ‘celebrity’ and the intertwining of expression and income source. Our human frailty and tendencies to be drawn to conflict and of feeling in the right because someone else seems to be in the wrong. A focus on either what is wrong with everything, and a failure to appreciate real value; or a focus on all that is wonderful and an avoidance of difficulty.

We have a tsunami of information, images, chatter, argumentation, homilies, and more, and we are washed away.

I have no wish to tell anyone else what to do, that’s not the purpose of this. I have a sense that I’m at the beginning of a new chapter of some sort. Not online, in life, whatever that may mean. I’ve always found that when I reach a place thrumming with nothingness, I need to accept and embrace that. And when I do, the new chapter can begin.

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What if we didn’t look?

We’re bombarded, or rather we bombard ourselves by looking, looking, looking, at the media. We see the world is a dark and difficult place, where people don’t seem to care any more. They would rather argue, fight, bemoan, hate, criticise, condemn, fear, regret, feel helpless. The alternative to get involved in petty distractions, avarice and the hypnotic foolishness that seems to represent entertainment.

The addictions are those repeated small lever pressing hits of buzz, of satisfaction, that like any ‘good’ addiction don’t quite provide the satisfaction needed to stop doing it, as we sit, transfixed, before screens which promise us the world and deliver a dystopian one where nothing is quite as it seems. But what if we walked away? What if we went back to lives where reality was what we actually experienced? What would our lives be like if we returned to our bodies and accepted the only reality was the one we could touch, taste, see, feel? It’s hard to say.

It’s not something you can undo, this opening of Pandora’s box. Now it’s all flying about the place and we can’t put it away. Even if the whole thing crashed and we no longer had that window onto the world that isn’t, we would be forever changed. Or would we? I wonder how long it would take for us to re-find our smaller reality that connects us to the earth, yet curiously also to mankind, to nature, to each other. That smallness that is infinite, rather than an illusion of influence and meaningfulness that isn’t. Or maybe it’s still there, and we’ve become overwhelmed by the sea of so called information, drama and manipulations we can’t see the wood for the trees.

If I look at the life I have it bears little resemblance to the one I’m told I have. It’s so easy to become entangled in the whirling mists of media hype and agenda’s, when actually, really, what has changed? Do I care any less? Suffer any more? No. I am as big and small as I ever have been.

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All is Constant, All is Change

A transcript of this video: http://youtu.be/IGuaU4bZ0ts

Which was made for a patron at my Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/Lorelei

“All is constant, all is change. What that all about then?

This is my strapline at YouTube, and has been from the start. It might seem enigmatic, but it’s an attempt to sum up the way I think, explore and feel things out. As with any relatively simplistic statement it fails to achieve that. Perhaps it’s more food for thought than the provision of an answer, so being asked what I mean is an excellent challenge. Can I explain and describe it succinctly and clearly? You may be able to tell me after watching this video.

Many of us seek specific, clear and fixed answers to life, or to the problems and issues it presents. What is not tends to be jammed to fit into structures and systems where it does not truly belong. This ranges from the most pragmatic, like the bodies we inhabit, to the beliefs we have concerning our own constancy, more ephemeral beliefs we have or mind maps we’ve created for ourselves due to life experience.

In part this is due to our need to feel we can predict the physical nature of reality and keep ourselves safe, but also to protect ourselves from the great unknown, from a fear of ceasing to exist, or suffering, or loss. Yet having this linear or binary notion misses out so much of reality as to leave us helpless and adrift or to behave in ways which do neither us nor those around us any good at all.

Both constancy and change coexist at all times. Though constancy can only be measured in terms of slow change, even taking into consideration that the physical universe tends to behave in fairly predictable ways. The variables are so many that in order to be able to predict these with any level of accuracy requires us to understand a massive complexity of factors and the coming together of various elements and influences.

The more ‘simple’ matters, such as our bodies requirements for survival and well being, or the sun rising every morning and setting every evening, are also in constant flux, either in a cyclical way, or in the rise and fall of our biology and the influences of the ageing process, or of our genetics and the external influences which have played a part in our existence. But even these cycles have a beginning and an end, whether you’re looking at a human or a solar system. That it seems constant is only due to our relatively short lifespans and the senses we have to perceive it.

Even our certainties may be pulled out from under our feet when we least expect it, or we may cling to apparent certainties which actually cause us to sabotage our best interests.

In many ways that’s understandable. It’s a lot easier to live with a fixed set of beliefs about what will keep us out of trouble (or in it if that’s our preferred modus operandi), feeling righteous, and not having to make too much effort to look at each and every situation. But it’s not realistic, and often it’s not helpful either. A level of uncertainty or openness to new information is important, and that includes the ability to accept one’s personal sense of reality and constancy may be far from complete, and that change or the incorporation of more understanding is almost invariably helpful.

Change and constancy are not at odds with one another, as it may appear. They operate in tandem, are part of the same spectrum, are not a this or that. Constancy and change go hand in hand in pretty much every aspect of life.

The fundamentals of all talking therapies include the notion of exploration, understanding, development, and change. Of looking at that which has been assumed to be fact and applied to life in general, ascertaining whether it can be so globally applied, or whether it pertains to the specific situations where it originated alone. In other words whether the assumption regarding the constancy of human behaviour can always be extrapolated to all life.

This is largely in the belief it will protect from further harm, but can actually have the opposite effect, by causing us to look at others in a biased or unrealistic way, or for us to have diminished or faulty beliefs about what we are and aren’t capable or worthy of. It can be easily identified with the tendency to say ‘all (insert any group here) are like this’. Not only is that never the case, but it leaves us engaging with a mirage rather than a reality.

I’m as prone to this as anyone else. It’s natural to learn from periods in our lives which leave scars or lasting effects and be keen to avoid a repeat performance. But most of you will also know at least one person, maybe including yourself, where the desire to avoid these repeats causes us to somehow walk straight into them endlessly. There are a host of reasons as to why this happens, and it would make this video too long to fully explore them. Fundamentally, we become blinkered by false lessons, assumptions or partial understanding. We see constancy where it doesn’t exist, we impose that on our reality, and jam anything seeming to relate into it. We then become the master of our own downfall. We create the self fulfilling prophecy, so can say ‘See? I told you that always happens’. Yet the common denominator, the constant in this scenario, is generally us. And a power lies in that knowledge.

Caution, avoidance of certain situations which are harmful are valuable. Knowing that plunging your hand into a fire is going to burn you is helpful. But this can rarely be applied to all of human interaction in the same sort of way. Looking at what you believe about life and whether those lessons learned are actually applicable in all situations can be liberating. Every difficult situation offers an opportunity for greater understanding, but the key is in discerning what there is to be learned, and adjusting accordingly.

A visual illustration of this could be a light painting. See here. This image exists, yet what is contained within the image never did. The movement of the light gives the appearance of something solid and real. You know it isn’t, yet it looks as if it is. These lessons we learn about life can be very similar. We draw together various experiences, bits of information, emotional responses, and then behave as if it’s a solid reality, even though we kind of know it’s not. Daring to explore that doesn’t nullify anything. Any pain or wounding we may have as a result of that experience isn’t invalidated, but it can be seen as only applying to the situation where it originated. Then we can permit similar experiences into our lives without predicting a repeat performance of what went on before. Caution is wise, treating everyone as if they’re the same is not.

Change is the nature of life. That is constant, though not at a constant pace or in a constant way. How well we engage with the apparent constant and the endless change has a huge impact on how well we flow with life, and how effectively we meet our own potentials, or are able to encourage that in others.”

 

Riding the wind

The wind is getting up, again. 75 mph winds predicted. It’s quite exposed here. What amazes me the most, at this moment anyway, is how the birds seem to manage to negotiate it. From the tiniest to the largest (which is quite a difference round here) they take to the skies. Because they have to to survive. What masters of the air they are! I see them flashing past the windows at speed, carried by the wind, focussed on riding it and arriving at the destination they set out for. That’s quite some skill.

A couple of winters ago I saw a seagull airsurfing. He stayed in the same position, aloft, for ages, making tiny minor adjustments to his wings and body to stay there. Then, he misjudged and the wind took him. What was especially interesting was that he circled around and came back to the same spot, to repeat the experience, which he did for some time. He was as expert a surfer as any of those who ride the sea there, and it’s one of the most challenging and dangerous beaches in Cornwall.

This reveals two things to me:

1 We underestimate other creatures, by a long way. Or perhaps better stated we overestimate ourselves.

2 Times are windy, stormy. We cannot avoid that reality. But how do we deal with it? Do we do our best to learn the art of difficult flight? Or resort to other behaviours which seem, from this perspective, delusional and harmful?

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Popularity, success, quality?

There was once a time where if your work was much attended to it was probably (though not inevitably) because it had merit. Art has in the last half century or so had exceptions to this, but then art has always been a bit of an odd one in that respect. The ‘what is art’ debate will probably continue unresolved for as long as humans walk the planet. So this piece doesn’t fully include that in its considerations.

Since YouTube burgeoned into a money making platform anyone who has spent time there will be well aware that success frequently doesn’t relate to quality content, but to the appeal to trivial amusement, shock value, the apparent desire for the emotional hit drama brings, and the lure of cash. I’ve sidestepped pretty much all these repeatedly. Offers have been made on many an occasion. For some time it meant I had quality viewers and commenters, but as time went on it meant I had barely any new ones as Google steered eyes towards money making enterprises and away from the more altruistic or content and community motivated. Granted, some have succeeded in doing both, though I don’t feel unhappy I’m not one of them.

But this is not me moaning about the inevitable lure of cash and apparent success. This applies in any online venue I’ve encountered. Flickr is a more recent discovery for me. I put any of my photos I consider have any merit there. Success there is much more hit and miss. Some people seem to have found ways to give the appearance of popularity by favouriting everything certain people produce, with the hope they will do the same in return. There are some groups where being selected brings guaranteed success, but those who are truly talented may or may not end up being successful. Some will do fantastically well, while others will languish unnoticed. Essentially, talent and ability is no guarantee of success.

This applies in many other online venues. I’ve been talking recently with someone about the fact this also applies with writing, short stories, fiction (and probably most other forms of writing). There are many books out there which are successful but the writing is dismal, others who have rare talents are unnoticed.

It seems that opportunity for all (or all who have access to the internet, which of course is far from all), rather than discovering real talent, seems to have dumbed it all down, made it increasingly difficult for those who have something to offer to break surface. I suspect in part this is because the push is towards celebrity, money and popularity, rather than the quality of content.

This might sound like sour grapes, but really, it isn’t. I’ve always rather foolishly perhaps, avoided being noticed, so my place in the scheme of things is entirely down to me. Perhaps not in my best interests, but that’s not objectively related to this. In part there’s something rather beautiful and wonderful about most people having opportunity. This never used to be the case. The chosen few would glide effortlessly to the top of the pile and everyone else (with the odd notable exception) would know their place. That was no better. Perhaps its current motivations which skew the whole thing in a less than helpful way. Because within it there are opportunities for some wonderful connections and wholeness which wasn’t present before. I can’t quite work out if that skewing is down to human nature or to corporate greed. Or something else.