Monday, 30 March 2009

Women's Liberation

In keeping with my age, I'm nearly wholly ungrateful for the massive leaps in human rights and freedoms that my previous generations afforded me. Perhaps ungrateful isn't the right word to use. Maybe "oblivious" would be better. Or "ignorant". I just seem to take these things for granted. Do you know what though? I reckon that was the entire point of gaining those freedoms in the first place.

Did the Suffragettes fight for the right for women to vote so that we'd remember them and honour their memory? No, probably not. They fought for the women's right to vote so that women could vote. The same thing goes for the Women's Lib movements in the late 50s to 60s. Do they want us to contemplate every day that they managed to make women a more equal species? I doubt it. They'd be happy that girls like me managed to get raised equally, go to University without any hassle over my gender, and generally get treated like a Human as opposed to one of those silly Female types who would be much better suited to the kitchen in their suburban home. I am truly happy and thankful for this. I enjoy being educated and going to bars with male friends and generally using me equality to its fullest. I just don't go on about it too much. We all love coffee and iPods and showers, but we don't get down on our knees and pray to the Humanist Society every time we remember what a great addition to our lives they are. They were invented to make our lives easier, or to give our days a little bit of luxury. If I saw the guy who invented tea bags, I'd probably shake his hand, but I don't think about his greatness every single day. You just get on with it, don't you?

I'm not saying that I don't care about women's rights. I clearly care deeply about them, being that my life is hugely affected by them every single day. I want to enter into a profession that was undoubtedly a man's world up until fairly recently when I graduate. The fact that I am getting the chance to graduate is pretty good in itself. Here I am, sat at my computer, making political choices, reading the paper, speaking my mind on a format that enables others to read my opinions (although whether people do is quite another story). I definitely wouldn't have been doing anything like this in the 30s, or even the 50s. I do care about these things. What I don't care about is the way that women's rights and women's lib has become another way for women to get their snide comments in on their favourite subject to belittle - men.

Feminism was an important movement in its time. It helped push ideas forward, and enabled male minds to be opened up to the suggestions that perhaps females had the same capacity for learning as they did. (As you might have noticed, my favourite outcome from the fight for women's rights is the educational side of it.) Here's where I get into arguments with fellow members of the sisterhood that is being-born-and-happening-to-be-a-woman. I don't think it's very necessary anymore to have fiercely feminist beliefs. I think aside from the alienating nature of them, they are detrimental to a woman's success. It shows you are intolerant to men. Perhaps you have god reason to be, perhaps you grew up during a time of repression. For that you can be forgiven to a certain degree. However, if you're young enough to have lived through a time of enlightenment (and I do realise that's a bit of a strong word to use - yes women are still repressed in places, glass ceilings etc etc but I'm talking about Britain and my own personal experience here) there really is no reason for an open resentment of men. Here is just one example of what I'm talking about:

If women don't want to be treated like this, then what the hell gives them the right to treat men this way?

We fight so hard to be treated equally, to move away from stereotypes, and to live equally. Why then, are some women so keen to pigeonhole themselves as "strong" or "intelligent"? Why can't they just be strong or intelligent? Why do they need to stamp it across their lives, brashly offering female chauvinist views on "the problem with men"? Surely we've come too far in the search for equality to start repressing some other sector of society. Yes, some women do aspire to be that strong, career-driven woman, but the only poster girls I've seen of them are the self-made Bridget Jones' of this world, curling up on sofas to watch Sex and the City (even though they know it's a bit derogatory) eating aspirational ice-cream and moaning about how men don't want an intelligent woman.

They probably do, but they also probably didn't enjoy being completely alienated the last time you went for a drink with them and repeatedly aired the opinion that men were useless. Why is getting a man so important to successful women anyway? Oh right, because it's actually OK to want to feel loved, and it doesn't make you weak or anti-feminist. Thanks.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

When did "Impartial Information" start meaning "Subtle Shock Tactics bordering on Propaganda"?

As a whole, the British public like to think they are quite well-informed about drugs. They are informed enough to know that all drugs are bad and scary, and to know that you will definitely die if you ever take them. At all. People know all about the large amount of drugs there are on the streets, how they are causing the country to slowly implode inside itself like a squatter's version of a black hole. They know that people who take drugs are low-life scum, or selfish party-goers, students, youngsters, threatening sections of society or more recently Middle Class kids and Come Dine With Me-esque dinner party guests. (As seen in the Guardian and the Daily Mail amongst many others.)

People know drugs are bad. Quite why they are bad is another story - yes, there are dangers involved, risks perhaps, but there are with a lot of our everyday British habits. Our penchant for binge drinking is reported with periodical panics, as is our love for fast food; smoking is now all but outlawed in our streets, and seemingly if you actually believe everything you hear, it isn't even safe to pop to the shops for some potentially blood-pressure-raising fizzy juice because you might just get shot, stabbed, happy-slapped or arrested for being a terrorist. Drugs are an easy thing to become indignant about. The uninformed know they're bad - they are illegal after all. There is no grey area. Easy peasy argument to have.

There isn't now going to be a scientifically-researched rant about how cocaine is less harmful than a battered sausage, or about how Ecstacy might be better for kids than their usual half-litre bottle of vodka. I don't roll that way. Drugs are drugs are drugs. Whatever anybody says about them, the stigma they have earned over the centuries (whether rightly or wrongly placed - think racial connotations in anti-cannabis propaganda in the 50s) will stick. Of course it will. Personally, I think anybody who discusses the health benefits/mind opening experiences of any particular substance in depth is truly, intensely, amazingly boring. Not much else. Yes, some aspects of drug culture fascinate me - it's a whole culture after all, and I am addicted to looking at society and all it's little quirks - and finding out where things are from and how they are made has been an interest of mine ever since I watched Come Outside as a child and they showed how crisps were made. It doesn't matter how many people group together and explain how brilliant all drugs might be, people will never accept them as an acceptable way of passing the time. It's because they feel threatened and scared by them. After all these years of scare tactics and shock stories, is it any wonder? Unless every illegal substance was suddenly declared legal, placed under strict regulation, taxed (Oh, the government would love that, wouldn't they?), sold in clean-looking modern shops, and given brand names and packaging, parents will not be satisfied with the pacifying stories of "I did it, and I was fine".

In a way, it's good that the majority of the public are afraid of drugs. Most are stupid enough not to bother with moderation or any other safety precaution that thousands would probably die if drugs were legalised tomorrow. Just look around town on a Saturday night. They can't even drink properly without going temporarily insane. Most probably still think that when you get your drink spiked, it's just a generic pill, called a "drug" that does it. No specific effects or name. All drugs are the same.

Any answers? Well, yes. People should be educated properly, so that when they find a mysterious bag of sparkledust in their beloved kiddy's sock drawer they know what they are talking about, what it does, why they are doing it and how they are taking it. Flying off the handle and checking their child into the Priory is not really the super best option to jump to. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned, people just don't realise this. Say the word "drugs" to a normal, friendly, moderately-educated parent and they instantly think "addict". "Needles". "BAD". Here I get to my main point: Talk to Frank.

Frank has been a useful resource for people to find out about drugs for nearly a decade now. We could argue and nit-pick about the quality and slant of its information, but essentially, it is providing a service to kids and adults alike, of which there was nothing like it before at all. Billy off his tits on LSD? Frank can tell you what he'll be feeling like tomorrow when it's worn off (probably very embarassed, given that he was off his tits in front of his Mum, but there you go). See, useful. So, in the 21st Century, when everyone was starting to make slow progress on the path of true drugs-awareness, why has Frank decided to become a scary website with animations of grotty teenagers having panic attacks?

Why are we now trying furiously to go backwards? Re-classifying cannabis to a Class B drug raised a few eyebrows, but you could argue that this was necessary given the strength of new strains of the plant. Fine, I accept that. But for a 14 year old and potentially his/her parents to log on to this site to find out what exactly it was they tried at their mate's house at the weekend, and be confronted with what can only be described as unnecessarily scary anti-drugs propaganda is unnecessary. Frank is meant to be impartial. Frank is meant to inform and educate. Give Frank the raised eyebrows and wagging finger of a reproachful adult, and kids will not log on anymore. They need this information. Being pushed away from it is only going to damage this country's attitudes towards drugs even further.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The Death of the Beautiful Text Message

My friends used to be such lovely people. So hilarious. Their quips would brighten my break time at work, or make me smile on my journey home. I'm sure they still are as wonderful as they used to be (or are they becoming complacent? more on that later...) but due to a recent circumstance I have realised that the quality of everyone's text messages has eroded to an almost unrecognisable level.

Now, it might just be that the people I know have just stopped caring about me. Hey, it happens. But I'd much rather blame something else, of course I would. And who do I blame?

Those bloody Social Networking sites.

Social networking, you say? Those wonderful places where we can yell our every inane thought into the dark and people we know can comment on them and verify our existence? How can they be destroying our connections to people? We've all had more friends than ever since we could sort, add, edit and scrutinise them efficiently. There couldn't be anything bad about them.

I didn't say that I hated social networking sites - I am a member of nearly all of them, after all. As a narcissistic insular weirdo, I like writing personal bios and seeing exactly what people think about my comments on what I'm having for my tea. All I'm saying is that people are becoming lazy. I see my friend's face online, that instinctively means they have seen me, we both know each other is alive, therefore no conversation is needed. This happens more than you'd think. Since the advent of Facebook Chat, I have talked less to my friends than ever before. Yes, it is useful to chat aimlessly with people you already talk aimlessly to for hours and hours, but say you hadn't talked to this person for a few months. Surely it's a bit odd to suddenly 'pop' into life at the bottom of their screen, brandishing a commanding red square and taking up about four minutes of their life as you say "hi" to each other and then realise awkwardly that you haven't got anything to say. Which is why you fell out of touch in the first place. It's the online equivalent of meeting an old schoolfriend on a train. You're trapped. They saw you, you saw them, it'd be rude not to chat. But you're stuck together for the remainder of the journey. What on earth do you talk about after the initial "HI OMG I HAVEN'T SEEN YOU IN AGES!"?

Here, we return to my gripe about text messages. There is little need for me to text my friends hilarious nonsense anymore, because I can just say things to them in real time anytime I want. It has stopped breaktimes being a fun part of the day when I look at my phone and realise somebody has sent me the entire lyrics to "Buffalo Stance" by Neneh Cherry. I never get anybody contacting me to spell JOHN MERRICK out in capitals these days. I miss being told that I am missed, and I miss texting people longer and more elaborate text messages than "ok" or "in a bit". Text messages are now a means to an end, they aren't a way of keeping in touch anymore.

This makes me sad. Bring back the extra-long sentimental surreal text messages of yore. The ones you thought through for ages because you only had 10p left so each character was edited brutally. My contract phone has killed off my friends. I want them back.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Post Secret

Every Sunday I remember that I've got another page of brand new secrets to read. I love Post Secret, it satisfies a voyerism in me that would otherwise have lain dormant, save for the times when I listen to conversations on the bus (people say such open things when they're surrounded by strangers. I think it gives them a sense of release).

This week was no exception, there were secrets that shocked, secrets that were clearly attention-seeking shock tactics, and the odd postcard that made me feel genuinely in touch with a complete stranger. It's what we do with friends to feel closer isn't it? We share secrets. Well, at least you're supposed to, but I'm not so good with secrets. I always think I'm an open book, that my life is there for all the world to see and read and judge, but I'm learning that there's much more to me than that. Not to get deep or in any way personal (god forbid), but I'm beginning to see that everyone, no matter how well-balanced or settled they seem, has secrets.

I think that what's most enjoyable about Post Secret is the way that you have no idea who is sending in their deepest thoughts, and sometimes, the thing that's bothering them is so adorably shallow or unimportant to the layman that you wonder why we get so worked up about such tiny things. The best part is when you find a card that says exactly what you feel, but it was sent in by a complete stranger you'll never know in America.

Their books are just as good, but I like the Sunday morning thrill of reading other people's carthartic scribbles.

Go look for yourself.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

The Games

Here are some games to play when you're laid up in bed, unable to move due to the immeasurable amount of alcohol, shame and nicotine in your body. None really involve any effort, so they are also perfect for playing when you're in hospital, wehn you're on the floor in a club or if you've forgotten how to get out of bed.

1. What's that Noise?
A simple game to play in that waking half hour before complete nausea sets in. There's an unidentified sound coming from somewhere. Too quiet to be a siren. Too high-pitched to be a phone. A dripping tap? Or has the kitchen got indicators? Is that a car alarm or an air raid warning screaming 35 miles away? Nobody knows, and only you will dare to dream.

2. Rehydrate
The rules are simple - how long can you put off getting a glass of water before your brain dries up and the inevitable happens?

3. My Fucking Phone!
Hilarious fun for all concerned. You think you hear your phone vibrating somewhere on the floor, but no! It's gone! The beauty of this game is the sheer amount of situations that can now arise from here. Where did you go? What did you do? What was that taxi guy's name? Who were you talking to last? As with many classic hangover games, there is no real answer until you sober up and ring every bar in town desperately pleading for the handset that now represents your every major downfall and the dawning of a new era where you "never drink that much again". This game is sometimes called "Holy Grail Phone".

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Calm Down Dear - It's just a pseudo-democratic regime masquerading as a police state

Before I begin my possibly misguided and probably misinformed rant of epic proportions, I'd like to thank my friend Chris for providing me with the title for this particular slice of pure car-smashing anger.

Paired with university studies and reading on my own (finally, I've discovered I won't just learn by sitting on my arse refreshing my Facebook page and drinking endless glasses of cheap red wine) I have become, over the past fortnight, the angriest and most powerless small pretend writer girl in the whole world. I'm a ball of flames, a tiny shaking epicentre of nano-rage. I want to break things, to hurl abuse and bricks from my windows, to stomp to London and place pulse mines under Number 10's floorboards and laugh maniacally at the splintering wood and roof tiles (I chose pulse mines specifically - they are quite rubbish and rarely even injure the things you aim them at. I don't want death or even injury. I just want to smash stuff).

You see, before this term of my life, before I worked in the real world on placement, before I had lessons in how politics worked, I didn't care. It was worse that that - I didn't know how to care. I didn't understand how politics affected me, or how little I affected the democracy we live in in this country. I still don't understand fully, more's the pity. As previously mentioned, I'm misinformed and cynical without knowing proper facts, therefore I am the least useful person to write a piece on feeling under-represented and resented in parliament. What I do feel though is that far more people need to reach this stage of dawning horrible realisations. Once people suddenly wake up and feel that disconcerting empty space in their stomach when they realise that perhaps their government doesn't care about them after all, maybe things will start to change. We need to do something about this.

Now, I'm not suggesting we have a revolution. I'm definitely not saying that. What I am saying is that we all need to be demanding to be fully represented. Our needs should be taken into account, not skirted around as "issues" to be dealt with later, much later. What politicians want and what the people want are completely separate. We are told to vote from an early age. I didn't and I feel extremely guilty about it. But WHO DO WE VOTE FOR? In a country where Labour now tread to the right of the spectrum, and where people are seriously thinking about voting for the BNP what hope do we have of changing things for the better? When people are so dissolutioned with the state of their so-called democratic government, the high and mighty, those who know what's best for us, that they're spoiling their ballot papers in disgust, what hope do we have?

I say "so-called" democracy for a couple of reasons, namely though, that our cries over important issues fall on deaf ears. Our protests, our pettitions and our marches are met with the stony glares of people who have already made up their minds. Charlie Brooker wrote last week that "politicians have nothing but contempt for us". I hate to admit it, but I feel he's absolutely right. We get in the way of their schemes. We don't want a third runway, we don't want to carry on polluting the world to extinction, we don't want to be at war, we don't want the police to be able to detain people uncharged, to torture, to be allowed to carry guns and shoot suspected - SUSPECTED - terrorists on sight. We don't want to be filmed every waking minute of our lives, and have our details saved and then subsequently lost by an incompetent secret service. We don't want to ignore the pleas of starving countries, we don't want to pay for failing banks to get back on their feet, we don't want to have to live in an economically derailing country where the people at fault are given disgusting pensions and bonuses instead of being remanded in custody. Our futures are ruined! Uncertain at best! And what, please tell me, is being done about it? Because I don't know enough about these things to feel consoled. I just feel numb, disenchanted and completely unempowered.

Tell me how to feel less like a small drowning drop in the ocean, because I don't know how much longer I can holdon to my sanity. I'm angry, ill-informed, moderately educated, and I want answers. Pass me that balaclava, the summer of rage is on its way.
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