Thursday, 28 May 2020

FEMINISM NOW


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgp9MPLEAqA

I have an interesting reader who often poses interest questions.  A bit of a welcome break from Covid-19, I think, 

Thank you for your post Bjorn, (on the previous blog) there is much to digest there, particularly with applying the feminist perspective to everything, which I think probably applies to most western countries, not just Sweden.   I should perhaps explain to readers that students of literature when deconstructing a text will examine the text from a Feminist, Marxist, Psychological etc, perspective.  For example, Mary Shelly's Frankenstein from a Feminist perspective; The creature had no name -  neither did women, male obsession, 'workshop of filthy creation'.  From a Marxist perspective - the creature was made up of many parts and more powerful than it knew.  From a psychological perspective, obsession, narcissism, batshit crazy.  Applying a feminist perspective (thinking) when reading a text means actively seeking anything that highlights womens' subjugation and male patriarchal dominance.  Of course, quite rightly, 19th century literature is littered with it, even to the point where talented female authors had to use male pseudonyms to get published.  As Virginia Woolf pointed out, history is HIS-story, all the records of our past were recorded by men.  Even up until the last century, women (working class) were only educated enough for a life in domestic service.  Shakespeare's sister Judith (imaginary) would never have earned a living as a playwright, more likely she would have ended up in prostitution and penury.  

I have always described myself as a feminist, simply for the fact that I have never considered myself in any way inferior to any man.  Not since, I was 5 year old and learned to fight twice as hard! But I have never felt inferior, I have never felt I didn't get a job or indeed anything I went after because I wasn't a man.  That of course may all be down to attitude, I had a crazy mother who didn't accept any of society's rules, so it was probably nature and nurture. That's not say I don't acknowledge blatant inequality and that societies still exist who treat women as second class citizens.  But my answer to every question along those lines is education, education, education.  

So what is feminism now?  It's used by the right to promote corsets, high heels, botox and looking good on a man's elbow - see entry requirements for WH female staff.  The Left embrace all forms of victimhood and nothing makes you a victim more than being born the wrong sex.  I wish they would stop telling young girls that they are disadvantaged, or somehow weaker than their male peers, but that is the dialogue that has been established.  How about telling girls how great they are, and how they can change the world?

Real feminists for me, are women who celebrate and embrace their gender, women who achieve their goals without whining about the opposition and asking for concessions because they are women.  It's like trying to get an advantage by claiming you have a physical handicap, and it irritates me intensely.  I don't know how any woman can claim a victory if they didn't compete on a level playing field.  I think it is heart breaking that talented young men (geniuses waiting to be discovered?) who are discarded from opportunities because of their gender.  How can we find the best among us unless opportunity is truly equal?

When I think of feminism, I think of the most prominent 'Feminists' of today.  Those who have attached the label to themselves, or had it attached to them by the media.  Ivanka Trump, desperately in need of a 'cause' when she entered the Whitehouse, thought I'm a woman, in a cabinet predominantly made up of rich old white men, I'll be the representative of women, the successful ones.  To be honest I have a big problem with Ivanka's female entrepreneur schemes.  She is going into extremely poor societies who's cultures she does not understand and is offering cash only to women.  What about the men?  What about the husbands and fathers, the traditional breadwinners? How does her brand of philanthropy work in patriarchal societies?  Does she think she can change their culture with cash?  I really don't think you should fight gender discrimination by creating a new brand of it by discriminating against men.   

On this side of the pond, we have Labour MP Jess Phillips, not nearly so glamorous or interesting, who thinks women should be more man like.  Or, perhaps that should be more lad like in their speech and behaviour, louder and more offensive but ready to cry  'anti women' the minute she starts losing.  To be honest I don't know what her feminist causes are, other than the right for middle aged, middle class, middle income, foghorns like herself not to be offended or chatted up (as if!).  I've always had a problem with many of the prominent women who pitch and campaign on behalf of women everywhere, because when you start to dig a little deeper, you find that their pitching and campaigning relates only to issues that affect themselves.  How many of us, for example need a panic room?  You don't see them p&c ing for working class mothers, women who can't for love nor money, get the feckless fathers of their children to pay child support.  When young, frightened mothers were being fitted with ankle tags for not handing their kids over to potentially dangerous dads, Janet Street-Porter was writing about leg room on luxury airlines.  

Feminism won't reach down into the masses until it applies to the majority of women in the form of equal pay, equal opportunity, free childcare,  free school dinners for all, those very real, very basic, practical obstacles that make the playing field unequal for women.  But they are not headline grabbing issues like 'Lesbian MP has brick thrown at campaign office window', or 'Labour MP threatened by trolls on twitter wants a panic room'.  I think of those suffragettes who stood on orange boxes and chained themselves to railings, who went before her and sigh.  

The majority of working class women, and the majority of women are working class, do not like, or indeed take any notice of ardent feminists, mostly because, they have never, in any way, been relatable to their lives.  For the two parties, the distain is mutual.  Unfortunately for radical members of any cause, whilst they are able to get themselves all worked up into a frenzy over something trivial, passing that frenzy on is not so easy.  Especially as we love, with all their faults, the enemy we are supposed to hate.  Most women don't hate men. they have fathers, husbands and sons that they love.  They have never been on board with making men the enemy.  They actually like men, the non PC ones, the confused ones (the majority) and even the cheeky chappies.

Given the long or is it short, history of Feminism (200 years?), we have probably made a giant leap to about half way there.  That is, within just a few generations, most of the wrongs have been put right, but there is still a long way to go.  In my opinion there is still a debate/argument to be had as to which path we take.   The problem the most radical feminists have, is that the women they are trying to influence, Do we carry on much the same as we ever did, especially as it was probably being non PC that got most couples together, or do we veer towards the sensitive feelings of those who just can't make their minds up?  I have no problem with anyone being whatever gender they choose, indeed I always celebrate those brave enough to embrace their uniqueness.  

Those who upset me are the androgynous, 'how dare you gender assign me' ones, who I fear want us all sporting short, back and sides and sporting grey onesies.  No pink toothbrush and blue toothbrush, let alone miniature kitchens and baby dolls for the girls or plastic grenades and A47's for the sons.  Now you can buy my little ponies for your sons and tanks for daughters, a giant step for mankind.  Parenting must be hell these days, but my heart especially goes out to those with 'woke' parents.  But the gender assigning deserves a whole blog of it's own, so I will put it aside for now.  

Returning to the points you raise Bjorn, because as you say, Sweden is known for it's freedom and egalitarian ways, I don't think anyone seriously thinks Swedish women are oppressed in any way.  I personally think it is a good thing that men and women are so different, vive la difference (wish I knew how to do symbols), it's what makes the world go around, ultimately, how can any government legislate against human nature?  Misogyny still exists, as it always will, but a wise woman knows how to turn that misogyny back on the man enough to make him squirm.  She teaches her daughter how to do it too.  Like most of the unpleasant beliefs and practices from the past, open misogyny will simply become socially unacceptable.  

I don't stand by, with, or anywhere near the so called Feminists of today.  I think the 'Me Too' movement is a huge step backwards.  Those turning trivial, instantly forgettable instances of inappropriate touching as life changing traumas are the weakest among us, not role models.  Their sensitive, fragile, natures, I would imagine, have taken all of the fun out of the workplace. The young and flirty and even the old and flirty were always the most fun to work with. When you take all that away from an office environment, what's left?  What makes you go in every day at 9.00am?  A love of typing and filing?

Feminist thinking I fear Bjorn, accompanies a clampdown on our language, our Anglo Saxon vernacular (the swear words), our innate humour, our lawful right to laugh out loud at situations we find funny.  If we go by Orwell's vision of the future, we have a dark and gloomy world ahead, one in which we all wear androgynous grey suits and sport 'back and sides'.  Who on earth wants that?









Saturday, 9 May 2020

JOIN THE DISCUSSION, COVID, BORIS AND IS THE WEST MOVING TO THE RIGHT?

This week, I feel we have gone even deeper into the Twilight Zone.  I have been following the statistics for Covid-19, and even I, a non scientist or expert, can see we are still at the peak and likely to go very much higher.   If  over 2,500 people  are testing positive each day, then how many people have those 2,500 infected?  How do you trace the contacts of 2,500 every day?  It's an impossible task.

I feel the government is trying to woo us into a false sense of security in some kind of Orwellian way.  It began with the VE Day celebrations (first in my recollection) with people quickly abandoning all their weeks of quarantine to go party with their neighbours.  This week has seen the beaches packed and the streets come back to life.  It's like 'social distancing is so over'.  Why?  When I first starting checking numbers, Kent, for example, had 18 confirmed cases, now it has nearly 5,000 and I'm supposed to feel safer?

Within this blog there are those who think this global pandemic is an almighty hoax, seriously.  But they can have their say.  My first question to them is however, why?  Accusations have been thrown at Bill Gates for example, he apparently, wants to inject every citizen of the world with some kind of microchip that will turn us all into automatons. Unfortunately, that is not even a good plot for a bad sci fi movie, for what purpose for example?  And of course, Bill Gates, has never shown any signs of wanting to rule the world, no diamond collared white cats or gold toilets.

But I won't rule conspiracy theorists out altogether.  There has never been a better time, for those so minded, to harvest masses of private information about us.  I was surprised to learn for example, that all those with access to mobile phone data can literally check an area on a map to see if the population are staying inside.  I found that mind blowing, but of course, right now, there are all sorts of computer whizz kids working on 'apps' that will track and trace the infected (sorry about that, watch way too many zombie films).  We literally won't be able to go anywhere without being tracked and traced.  Scary huh?   

To be honest I gave up on privacy a long time ago, almost as soon as I joined the internet.  It's just not something I would obsess over.  I don't care that my laptop keeps me offering me personalised adverts for fat, fifty and funerals, and I don't care that the Co-op knows I occasionally treat myself to a box of fine chocolates or that I have a penchant for googling 'spooky movies'.  Stores know what our tastes are, as do banks and the machine that dishes out tickets in the car park.  They also know this is the second bottle of pink gin I have bought in 4 weeks.  All that personal information has been harvested by political parties and wanna be despots for decades.  Just for a bit of useless information, buy avocados regularly and you move up a demographic.  

Anyway, we have a good discussion going, Covid-19, Boris, Donald and is the West moving to the extreme right?  Come join us.

___________________________________

How much do I hate Trump?

I know I should be talking about English politics at the moment and the hapless case of Boris Johnson and our own soaring Covid-19 cases, take it on the chin he said, you too can have a stay in ICU with a team of physicians watching you constantly, followed by a sojourn at Chequers and a short spell of paternity leave for your sixth, or is it 7th child.  Could you imagine Churchill taking time off during WWII to learn how to make bottles and change a nappy?

But as much fun as it is having a dig a Botchit Boris, he is not half as interesting as the as the lunatic in the White House.  I miss his nightly briefings, you literally never knew what was going to happen.  What dumbass idea he was going to come up with.  And tis true, I secretly hoped that at some point the men in white coats would appear, or the Cavalry at least.  Trump loves the verbal sparring and it's funny because he thinks he is winning.  His capacity to delude himself must break all previous records.  Step aside all you Napoleon Bonapartes and Julius Caesars, Donald Trump has spoken; 'I alone can fix it'.  And I suspect, if it wasn't for the Evangelists, he would push God aside too.

Now it shouldn't be entertaining to watch someone have a nervous breakdown, and I feel bad about it, but I'm going to watch anyway, I'm not going to avert my eyes.  We are all living in a time of huge change and huge turmoil, our descendants will wonder how we felt and what we saw.    How we, living in a democracy, came to elect the absolute worst of humanity as our leaders.  We haven't been pressured, we haven't been threatened or bribed, we are here as a result of free will.  How will our descendants interpret that, will they see us as greedy, selfish, inhumane?

We Brits had our opportunity to choose unity, compassion and equal opportunity, but we (not me) voted for a government that we already knew to be heartless, manipulative and probably corrupt.  For my readers in the USA, you still have hope!  That is, within a few short months, you can vote in the grown ups.  Donald Trump's toddler brain is not cute in any way, it is downright dangerous.  You have, waiting to take over and fix everything that has been broken, compassionate statesmen and stateswomen, who understand how government works and how legislature affects ordinary citizens.  Will Trump for example, be held to account for the chaos that ensued following his instinct to ban all flights from Europe?  The thousands trapped in crowded airports for hours on end?  Trump doesn't think.  Johnson has the same problem.

It is bizarre on every level, but especially from the perspective of an onlooker from across the pond.  Your leader has abandoned his leadership and is pretending the coronavirus isn't happening.  True, our leader has also abandoned his leadership, but at least he doesn't think it is a hoax foisted on us by the Labour Party and China.  He also, hasn't as yet, suggested we inject bleach.  I suspect Trump's delegating his powers to the States is because he can see disaster coming and he would prefer the Governors to be held accountable and not he.  Globally, 50million died as a result of the 1918 pandemic, 675,000 in the USA, so right now he is a man with a lot of wriggle room.  Handing responsibility for the pandemic over to the Governors individually, is probably the weakest and most cowardly tactic he could come up with, but he has no idea how to lead and he doesn't have the humility to ask for advice from others.  If Hilary Clinton were President right now, she would have Bill, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and probably George Bush as well, to turn to.  Trump has no-one, because he thinks he is a stable genius and he alone can fix it.  That's scary, see his business history.

But Trump has 100% faith in his ability to bullshit.  More particularly his ability to bullshit the uneducated, who he professes to love.  But he doesn't love them enough to ensure they have the same testing and protections that he and his White House staff have.  Not that they even got that right, as I write this, two members of staff close to Trump and Pence have tested positive for coronavirus.  If the hapless Trump administration cannot keep the virus away from the President and the Vice President, how does that bode for the rest of the USA?  Trump's main tactic, it would appear, is to pretend the virus has gone away.  All his wishes haven't come true, but he is acting as though they have.  There is a sad little boy in there somewhere, but there are a lot of bigger problems to cope with right now.   

I don't judge the American people by their ghastly President and the deplorables that follow him.  I love them for their confidence, their honesty, their sense of fair play (most of the time), I never miss Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, the two Jimmies, Kimmel and Fallon, and not American born, Trevor Noah.  I love their writers, their actors and comedians, and of late, their glamour.  And of course, I love everything Hollywood.  All the cool people, it would appear, hate Trump and his destruction of culture.   It's weird how those on the right always want to destroy art rather than celebrate it.  Perhaps because art, literature and music carries the history of their wrong doings.   Trump will do all in his power to cover up the number of deaths, the number infected and the number unemployed.  Whilst he has all the power he can alter public records.  That won't help anyone, but he will argue, China did first.

He can't however distort the truth in the way he would like.  He has tried 'pay no attention to the man behind the curtain' a couple of times, and it's never taken.  Journalists are fact checking him on every lying word that comes out of his mouth and it irks him.  Some say he is constantly off his head on Adderall and Sudafed, maybe even cocaine.  He certainly sniffs a lot and his eyes look as though he has hayfever, so it's a possibility.  To me, he brings to mind, every time I have ever been cornered by some drunken, braggadocious old man at a party.  When I was younger, obviously. That is, they/he repeat over and over again for fear you did not fully take in details of their large apartment with room for a pony. Err, yeah, heard that several times - still don't like  you.  I swear if I were in that press gaggle I would get everyone to question him about ventilators, just to take the pee and off script.

My kindest wishes to all my readers, wherever you may be.  Take care.  

JUST MUSING, ROYALTY, STREET PARTIES AND HOW NOT MAKE RICE PUDDING

 One of my readers has taken umbridge at my praise of Sweden's Princess Sofia as a role model and the response from my scholarly Swedish contributor, Bjorn.  This lovely, modern, 21st century Princess responded to the corona crisis by quickly taking an online course and going straight to work in a hospital caring for Covid-19 patients.  

His anger, I think, was the notion of a Princess being a role model, that is ordinary people are doing every day what she does, why should she be singled out for praise?  Is that right?  I wonder dear Reader, if you have ever come across the expression 'it is as it is'? I confess, I did not come across it, or pay any heed to it, until I was in my 50's.  The younger me wouldn't have tolerated that at all, to me those words and 'that's the way we've always done it' was fighting talk.  I wanted to change things and I knew I was right, (but not popular), but I would push ahead regardless. The aged, experienced, wiser me, says go make a rice pudding instead.

But back to Royalty,  being role models is pretty much all they have these days, well that, and diplomatic relations.  The Swedish royal family live lives much closer to ordinary people, than the Windsors, but they are still of interest to their nation and worldwide.  Your neighbour dear reader, or friend (if you have one) may be working 16 hour shifts and be deserving of praise, but, putting it bluntly, ordinary people are not of interest to the general public. It is as it is.

The idea of royalty being role models probably began with Queen Victoria who wanted her family to be seen as the ideal model family, something every British citizen should aspire to.  Being respectable, not (getting caught) committing adultery, not getting drunk in public and not saying anything controversial.  It is their strict family code.  They cannot risk becoming unpopular.  And we, a collective we, do look to our Royal families, perhaps more than we look towards celebrities and media stars, for guidance, or at least a nod, as to how we should behave.  If a royal princess dons rubber gloves and joins those on the front line fighting this pandemic, it sends a powerful message to millions.  I won't say it glamourizes the menial, humble, tasks she has taken on, but for many young people, they may think if a princess can do this, so can I.  

For me, it brought to mind our own Merry Monarch, Charles II best known for his dalliance with a certain buxom seller of oranges, Nell Gwyn.  Lesser known, is that he was a veritable hero during the Great Fire of London in 1666.  He jumped straight into action. Not only did he utilise the full powers of his office, sending troops to control the spread, he worked on the scene day and night fighting the fire directly and instituting and managing aid for the hungry and homeless.  I try, whenever I read anything about him, to remember that.

I agree Bjorn that what Princess Sofia is doing comes straight from the heart.  She could have chosen a 'safe' job but she chose to endure what ordinary Swedish people are enduring in the hospitals, she has quite literally, gone straight to the front line.  That's pretty awesome.  I was also quite touched to see the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate, delivering food parcels with her children.  Now there's a 'Diana' influence!

I have to say I like our own Royals, the Windsors, far more than I used to. My change of heart happened literally within one lightbulb moment.  Sadly, it was following the bomb at the Arianna Grande concert in Manchester.  I watched the Queen (90+) visiting, the mostly young, victims in hospital.  I was mesmerized by the power of her presence, the positive, glowing effect, her smile had on the patients and the staff.  All my viva la revolucion went out the window, I was deeply touched that a lady of such a great age came to offer comfort to the victims and the NHS staff caring for them.  Now as we are in the midst of this century's Great Plague, I find myself heartened and reassured by her words.  The Queen endures, the Monarchy endures, England endures.  I am picking up all those messages, and yes I know they are carefully planted there by spin doctors, but I'm OK with that.  For once they doing something for the good, they are boosting our morale, a strategy that worked during WWII and a strategy that works now.

I was sorry to see however, that loving Queen and Country, went to such crazy lengths yesterday to celebrate VE Day.  Months of lockdown and a day of lunacy!   Now I am not normally a purveyor of doom and gloom, but fffffs sake, have any of those people partying yesterday, even glanced at what happened the last time the world was hit by a global pandemic?  For their information, we have gone through the first wave, now we are just waiting for the big one.  Think of all those people standing on the beaches in Indonesia when the tide went right back and everything went silent.  That's where we are.  

But I don't want to end on a sad note, I am currently enjoying my new OCD, a scientific approach to cooking!  The lashes have been abandoned, it is difficult enough to read recipes through a magnifying glass, throw in a pair of 'thick and flirtys' and I'm working blind!  There is also something a tad ridiculous in wearing full camera ready makeup with PJs and an apron.  True, Barbara Cartland used to do it, but sans the apron and lounging on a chaise longue.  I don't have a chaise longue.   But I digress, I have spent many years moaning about all my dishes that went wrong, now I am on a quest to recreate them, no matter how many tries, or how many failures.  The most recent, a basic rice pudding ffs, and I'm gulping back tears here, was a disaster.  I baked it in the oven for two hours as directed, but I missed the bit where it said stir halfway through!  The result?  Not a soft, creamy, happy memory of school dinners but what can only described as a slab, think breeze block, with a pool of gone off milk around it.

Oops, and there's another sad note, but my kindest wishes to all who look in, it's hard to imagine that we are all pretty much in the same boat just now, albeit socially distanced, in that we are looking for ways in which to keep ourselves occupied and a lot of people have turned to cooking.  I can finally, after decades, put a tick beside perfect Quiche Lorraine (60s bacon and egg pie) and Lemon Meringue.  I think we are all now being more creative because we have to use what we've got!  I'm getting more obscure items online, one vanilla pod for £4 (I know!), gelatine and presently awaiting 3 nutmegs.  I am still recovering from the trauma of the last rice pudding, but I will try again!  Take care everyone.      



Sunday, 3 May 2020

ON MAKING PASTRY

In response to a charmless poster on my last blog who seems personally affronted that I am spending my days putting on makeup, binge watching Netflix and cooking.  Forsooth!  What outrage, perhaps I should go outside and break a few stones just to make the Methodists feel better.  

As it happens, cooking is my main preoccupation these days.  The make up not so much - it's impossible read to my faded Delia book through false eyelashes, no matter how natural they are and I always fear they will off and land in the batter.  Reading the small print of a recipe is an ongoing problem, and I've never got used to my bifocals, they make me feel permanently drunk without the fun bit.  Happily I have a large magnifying glass that I got in the pound shop, it was handy for checking fat and sugar contents as I used to go round the supermarket.   

I have now spent several days trying to make perfect pastry.  True, I have treated every pastry shell I have baked as 'it', the 'yeah I done it' moment, but it's not true.  The first looked amazing but had a soggy bottom :(  The next, burnt around the edges with a bottom that would break teeth.  Picture perfect, but dentists would not recommend.  I think I know where I went wrong there, apart from the over cooking.  A slip of the hand while adding the water and the addition of more flour to soak it up, destined it to be hard in the first place.  Doh!  All those basic lessons I learned in the Domestic Science class room, why can't I get it right?  I feel very much like Dr. Frankenstein, I'm not giving up until I achieve my goal!  Should point out my own workshop of filthy creation is more covered in flour than blood and guts.  

I haven't mentioned the quiches and flans that went before, but the above were made after watching every perfect pastry video I could find. I have discovered that if you take the pastry case out of the oven before the outer edges burn, you will have a soggy bottom.  If you cook the bottom, you will have burnt outer edges.  The solution, I'm hoping, tin foil which I was not able to get but have now.  My plan, to cover the outer edges of the pastry case with tin foil before they begin to burn, foolproof huh?  Watch this space.

On the plus side.  I have discovered I can make good (though not yet tasty or divine) pliable shortcrust pasty with minimal involvement of my hot little hands - the fault of all my pastries from years gone by. The solution, I no longer rub in the butter and flour, I use a mixer.  This has opened up a whole new world on the cooking front for me.  I no longer have to plan quiches and flans in advance by buying shop bought pastry, I can rustle it up whenever I want and make something yummy out of whatever I've got in the fridge!  A small step for mankind I know, but a giant leap for me. 

In case any pastry makers are looking in, and just musing here, I was taught, at school, half fat to flour and the fat should be half butter and half lard.  The butter for the flavour, the lard for the shortening effect. Most recipes now call for all butter, which I have been doing, but something's not quite right.  Could be, musing out loud, that I am using salt free butter, but not sure that's it.  Perhaps the lard does have it's place?  On the taste front, I'm sure I do not add enough salt, that is, I use a literal 'pinch' and unsalted butter.  The lard I think, will be trial and error to find the correct ratio.  

Next week I am expecting via ebay and Amazon, vanilla pods and gelatine.  I have never used actual vanilla pods before, so looking forward to giving them a try.  I have always had a bit of a mental block with gelatine, having grown up with cubes and quick jel, but I would love to learn how to use it.  Panna Cotta is one of my favourite desserts, definitely in my top ten meals on death row, but I have never attempted it due to lack of vanilla pods.   I love foods with a soufflĂ©, mousse like texture so looking forward to trying some out.  

It would seem from social media, that making do is bringing out our creative sides, especially on the cooking front.  I would love to hear about your efforts.  

For now, my kindest wishes to everyone, I hope that you are keeping amused and finding new or even old interests to amuse you.  Try not to let down your guard, even for a moment, you are safe because you worked towards staying safe, never forget that.  Take care.