Why Women Take ‘Ages’ To Get Ready

December 9, 2012

Women hear this complaint a lot. “Why does it take you so long? What are you DOING in there? Sometimes smoke comes out under the door and I can hear ritual chanting!” To which I say, firstly: if I have to summon The Dark Lord Satan to get my ass into these jeans then that is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, SIR, and secondly: I would like to see you shave even ONE of your legs in under five minutes, considering your face takes you at least ten.

But in all seriousness, if you want to know why ladies take so long to get ready to go out, I’ll tell you. In fact, I’ll compare it to the things you have to do, for extra clarity.

What men do to their hair before going out:
1: Wash it. Just shampoo, no conditioner. Sometimes just shower gel. (MEN: I KNOW YOU ARE DOING THIS.)
2: Rub it with a towel.

What women do to their hair before going out:
1: Shampoo.
2: If you’re a real stickler for the instructions on the label, shampoo again.
3: Condition.
4: Comb through heat protective spray.
5: Do vicious battle with eight billion knots.
6: Towel dry.
7: Blow dry.
8: Style.

The fact that I can do my hair before the average day at work without getting up two hours after I go to bed is, frankly, a miracle. You think taking three quarters of an hour before a date is bad? Please.

What men do to their body before going out:
1: Jump in the shower.
2: Apply Lynx shower gel.
3: Get out of the shower.

What women do to their body before going out:
1: Get in the shower.
2: Apply shower gel.
3: Apply exfoliating scrub.
4: Apply baby oil.
5: Shave underarms.
6: Shave legs.
7: Shave anything else that might require shaving.
8: Pat dry.
9: Talcum powder.

It has taken me like seven years of ‘womanhood’ to get this routine down to ten minutes and I am seriously pretty impressed with myself. I don’t even accidentally wound myself with my razor any more… or at least, you know, not too often.

What women do to their face before going out:
1: Cleanse.
2: Scrub.
3: Moisturise.
4: Apply foundation.
5: Remove half of foundation.
6: Apply some more foundation on the bits which, it turns out, needed foundation after all.
7: Try to copy a fancy eye makeup technique from Pinterest.
8: This will always look shit, so remove it and just do your regular eye makeup.
9: Apply mascara to left eye.
10: Jab yourself in the right eye with the mascara wand, causing tears to pour down your face and ruin the mascara you already applied AND your foundation.
11: Give up, settle for damage control, try not to think about it too much.

What men do to their face before going out:
1: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING EVER.

If you can’t tell, I’m pretty bitter about this part of the routine – I’d skip it entirely, but whenever I wear no makeup at all someone asks me if I’m feeling ill, and I’d rather spend a few minutes sponging goo onto my face than deal with the embarrassment. A female boss once told me I looked ill when I turned up with no makeup on. I felt fine, but I was so offended that I agreed that I felt shitty and went home. The lesson here is: DON’T COMMENT NEGATIVELY ON A WOMAN’S FACE EVER FOR ANY REASON. At least not if you don’t want to do all of that day’s data entry yourself, bitch.

What women do to their nails before going out:
1: Remove existing nail varnish.
2: Butcher cuticles with a little torture stick.
3: Attempt to stem the bleeding.
4: Buff.
5: Polish.
6: Polish looks like it was applied by a shaking five year old. Remove and reapply.
7: Polish looks worse than before. Remove and just apply clear polish.

What men do to their nails before going out:
1: Chew them if they’re looking a bit long.

It should be noted at this point that I don’t often have nails that can be described as anything other than ‘ragged stumps’, so that part was largely conjecture. Seems accurate, though.

How women get dressed before going out:
1: Reject the outfit you had originally planned.
2: Put on another outfit.
3: Remove.
4: Repeat.
5: Eight times.
6: End up in the original outfit.

How men get dressed before going out:
1: Jeans.
2: Shirt.
3: Shoes.

I just… ugh. You know what, yes, I could get ready in the time it takes you. Say it takes you fifteen minutes. In fifteen minutes, I could stand under a shower, put some goo on my hair and let it rinse out while I gave myself a cursory once-over with some shower gel. I could blow-dry my hair to the point where it merely looks damp and stringy instead of full-on drowned rat, and I could put on an outfit I know I like – say, some Levis and a hoody and those boots that make me look like a piratess in a gay bar. Maybe there would be a few seconds spare at the end to dig a lip balm out of a drawer. My teeth might even get brushed. But I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to sit opposite me in the fancy restaurant if this was all the preparation I had undertaken, and you’d feel pretty ripped off when I ordered the fattest, most expensive steak on the menu. Which I would. You think I’m joking? I once ate a 32oz steak and made room for dessert.

The thing is, it doesn’t benefit men to complain about women taking the time to get ready, because we take that long for the sake of men. You think I care if my legs have a two-day stubble?! Do you know why I shave them? Because of the boyfriend who once called me ‘velcro’ for two weeks after I didn’t bother shaving for one date. Do you know why it takes me five minutes to apply what I consider to be the ‘correct’ layer of foundation for an evening out? Because of the dude who told me restaurant lighting makes womens’ skin look ‘blotchy’. Do you know why I will try on eight outfits and end up in the first one I picked? Because of the boyfriend who couldn’t be bothered to offer a single opinion while I was clothes shopping but would wrinkle his nose at ANYTHING I bought the second I got it home and took the fucking tag off.

You see, guys, you might think your girlfriend ignores your opinions, but let me assure you: your ignorant, ridiculous bullshit IS getting through to her. You want to know why your girlfriend stinks of fake tan and has acrylic talons and staggers around in heels that are obviously causing her agony? Because you – yes, YOU – give her the impression that that’s what she needs to do to impress you. You, who doesn’t even own a fucking moisturiser.

Now I know, I know, this doesn’t apply to all men. Or even to all women. It’s just that you hear this old standard – that women take FOREVER to get ready OH MY GOD – so often, and it’s so irritating, so cliché  and so ridiculous paired with the equally constant subliminal message that women must look their best at all times. Yes, I want to look nice. Not particularly so society will accept me, but because I feel more comfortable knowing I am clean and well-presented, and while my boyfriend makes it very clear he loves me and is attracted to me even when I wake up with last night’s eyeliner all over my face and my apparently sentient hair attempting to build a cosy birds’ nest, I enjoy his appreciation when I do put in some extra effort. You just can’t have it both ways. I can take ‘ages’ to get ready and as a result have shiny hair, smooth legs, a nice outfit and an even skin tone, or I can do it in fifteen minutes and look like the most important thing I have to do today is get the bus to Tesco.

The thing is, either way: it’s my choice, and it is none of your goddamn business how long it takes.

‘Banter’ and Rape

February 26, 2012

 

RAPE.  It’s a horrible word and a horrible thing.  Rape, rape, rape.  Does it make you uncomfortable just to read the word?  It should.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.  Sometimes the most uncomfortable conversations are the ones we most need to have.

We live in a society where honest conversations about rape don’t happen very often, but jokes about rape happen all the time.  We live in a society where men are sold magazines filled with language that is indistinguishable from the language rapists use to describe their crimes, and where over fifty per cent of women believe that rape victims should take some responsibility for their attack.

(If you’re interested in either of those last two facts, by the way, you can read up on them here:

“Women say some rape victims should take the blame”

“What do lads’ mags and rapists have in common?”)

I don’t feel like anyone should have to actually point this out, but sadly I do: women shouldn’t have to avoid being raped.  Men just shouldn’t be raping women.  End of story.  A woman’s clothing, reputation or blood alcohol level have absolutely nothing to do with it.  To clarify: the problem is not the people who are getting raped.  The problem is the people who are raping people.  It seems like a subtle distinction, but it’s important.

In case you didn’t read the article I linked to about lads’ mags (because who actually clicks the links in blogs, seriously?) the gist of it is that when presented with a selection of phrases, some taken from statements given by convicted rapists and some taken from the lads’ mags we all see on the shelf every week, people only guessed the source of the quote correctly 50% of the time.  They found it very difficult to decide between the two.  Another study, run at the same time, asked a group of 92 men aged 18-46 to state which of the quotes they identified with.  Horrifyingly, more of the men identified with the quotes taken from the convicted rapists’ statements.

Not surprisingly, all the lads’ mags refused to offer any comment on the news articles reporting these studies.  It’s interesting that they have nothing to say about their shameless promotion of sexual violence towards women – and that’s what this is.  They  might not actually be saying “go out and rape someone” – although there was that incident where a columnist recommended that a man cut his ex-girlfriend’s face, “so no one will want her” – but language like this is aggressive, and sexual.  It’s a threat.

A friend of mine was walking down the street minding her own business recently when a man walking past with a group of friends – a total stranger – loudly declared “God, I’d smash the death out of that!”  I sincerely hope I’m not the only person who is incredibly saddened that in today’s culture, this isn’t just a regular occurrence, but one that is actively encouraged.  When my friend mentioned this on Facebook, one of the first responses (from a man, I should note) was “I bet a little bit of you was flattered though, haha!”.  To me, this response is as telling – and almost as disgusting – as the original comment.  Not only is it ok for a man to offer this vile and unsolicited opinion on a woman’s body in the street, but the woman should be glad of the attention.  Sorry… what?!  That’s not much different to expecting a woman to be flattered if someone came up to her and said “I would rape you.”  If you want to pay a woman a compliment, pay her a compliment.  Say “your eyes are beautiful” or “that outfit looks really lovely on you”.  This sort of language isn’t about making a woman feel good.  It’s about fitting in with your mates.  It’s about being the alpha male.  It doesn’t matter at all whether the woman hears the remark, or whether she’s flattered or offended.  These comments are about power.

The thing is, rape isn’t about sex.  Rape is about power.  It doesn’t matter if you’re dressed up in a tutu and a bra or wearing jeans and a sweatshirt when you’re walking through the park late at night, because a man doesn’t rape a woman because he thinks she’s beautiful.  He does it because she’s vulnerable.  Because he sees an opportunity.  Because he can.  So no, a woman should not be flattered to hear that a man wants to “smash her back doors in” (a phrase, incidentally, that I have had directed at me).  Other phrases I’ve heard include “I’d destroy that” and “I’d break that in half”.  I notice it’s never ‘her’, always ‘that’, which is pretty much the dictionary definition of objectification – but even so, it’s never “I’d cook that a nice dinner and then make sure it has at least one orgasm before I do.”  Cheers, guys.  Really encouraging.

While we’re on the subject of sexual assault, here are some slightly more ‘minor’ incidents that I have personally endured.  I’ve woken up on a coach with a man breathing in my ear and sliding his hand between my thighs.  I’ve been spanked while standing at a bar.  A man put his hand between my legs while we were dancing.  Another man walked up behind me on a dance floor and without even seeing my face, tried to put his fingers inside me – and if I hadn’t been wearing tights he would have succeeded.  To be honest, these all sound horrible written down, but they don’t particularly haunt me, and haven’t particularly affected me.  I was raised to know that my body is my own and I have an absolute right to refuse to let someone else treat it however they want – so I stood up on that coach and pointed and screamed until the man jumped out at the next traffic lights.  I got the guy who spanked me kicked out of the bar.  I kicked the guy who slipped his hand between my legs in the shin and threatened to find the bouncer if he didn’t leave.  When the man in a denim waistcoat who was old enough to be my father tried to finger me on the dance floor I turned around, grabbed his collar and yelled “what the FUCK do you think you are doing?” into his face – and he looked shocked.  I was absolutely baffled.  Does that normally work for him?  Do the girls normally stand there and let it happen?  After a few seconds, he stammered something I couldn’t hear, pulled himself out of my grip and staggered off.  When I tell this story to people, it tends to come off as a sort of “Ugh, that club is full of arseholes, let’s not go there,” but really, in a deep and uncomfortable part of myself, I know it was more than that.  A man tried to force a sexual act on me, in a public place, while I stood elbow to elbow with my best friends, where I should have been safe.  And I know it’s not uncommon.  In fact, I know from his reaction that it’s more uncommon for the victim to react, and the only reason I can think of not to react to this sort of behaviour is fear.

I reacted because I was not afraid, and I was not afraid because I was raised not to be afraid.  I know my body is mine and mine alone.  I know that nobody has a right to make me feel uncomfortable and that my safety is far more important than making sure I’m not embarrassed.  So I’m not embarrassed to say “a man tried to put his fingers inside me” because, you know what, that’s exactly what happened.  That’s just a fact.  I shouldn’t be ashamed of it, but that man sure as hell should, and when I looked at his face I got the satisfaction of seeing his shame written all over him.  But not everyone reacts this way because for one reason or another, not everyone has that conviction that they are allowed to say no, to scream, push away, make a scene.  And really, that’s the saddest thing of all.

By all accounts, I can see why women are scared: because even other women place at least some of the blame for sexual assault on the woman.  The statistic, actually, is 50%.  It’s hard to get an accurate idea of the percentage of women who have suffered a sexual assault or an attempted sexual assault because part of the problem is that a lot of these incidents are never reported, out of fear, or shame.  But I think it’s safe to say that at least half of all women have probably, at some point in their lives, been on the receiving end of some sexual behaviour they weren’t comfortable with, be it an unpleasant remark, an unsolicited grope or a full-on rape.  And yet, we blame ourselves.  It’s a pervasive and very, very damaging idea that women in some way invite these behaviours.  It’s also damaging to keep insisting that rape jokes are ok.

The Unilad website made big news recently when it shut down after an article was published containing the following quote. I want you to read it a couple of times, and really let the horror of it sink in.
“If the girl you’ve taken for a drink won’t spread for your head, think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported.  That seems to us to be fairly good odds.”
The site put up an apology – one that I don’t think is likely to earn them back much respect, in the circumstances – and I’m going to post some of the responses to that apology from Unilad users:
“Nobody minds a bit of casual rape banter.”
“Rape only happens because lasses can’t handle the banter.”
“Proof women don’t understand freedom of speech and banter.”

For the record, this ‘banter’ thing is getting on my last nerve too.  Let’s take a look at the dictionary definition of ‘banter’, shall we?

ban·ter
n.
Good-humored, playful conversation.
v. ban·tered, ban·ter·ing, ban·ters
v.tr.
To speak to in a playful or teasing way.
v.intr.
To exchange mildly teasing remarks.

Hmm.  You know what, guys, it’s funny but I just can’t see the part of that definition that explains how ‘banter’ means ‘laughing about women getting raped’!  It’s weird how you can see that bit and I can’t, huh?  Oh I know.  It must be because I have a vagina and therefore don’t understand how all of a sudden, ‘having a sense of humour’ means ‘the ability to laugh at something that causes untold misery to millions of human beings’.  Is the holocaust funny yet?  It’s just banter!

Let’s look at how funny rape is, shall we?  I bet some of this stuff will really make you chuckle.

* 31% of rape victims develop PTSD at some point in their life.

* 30% of rape victims will experience at least one major depressive episode in their lifetimes.

* 30% of rape victims have considered suicide.

* 13% of rape victims have actually attempted suicide.

* Rape victims are 13 times more likely to have a major alcohol problem, and 26 times more likely to have a major drug abuse problem.

Rape victims surveyed about their concerns following their ordeal said they were concerned about the following issues: their relatives finding out about the assault. People blaming them.  Their identity being revealed in the media.  Becoming pregnant by their rapist.  Contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

I know.  Pretty hilarious, right?  And for those who are saying “the guys reading Unilad aren’t actually going to go out and RAPE someone, get a sense of humour” I say this: how the hell do you know?  Maybe those guys are buoyed up by how funny their friends think that joke is.  Maybe they make some obnoxious comment to a girl at a party and their friends all pat them on the back like they’re some kind of hero.  They get a taste of the power they can feel from making a woman feel bad about herself through a sexual comment.  Maybe the next time they’re buying a girl a drink they get a little pushy.  Maybe she’s reluctant but they don’t take no for an answer.  Maybe they convince her the next morning that she’d seemed like she wanted it.  Maybe that girl goes away blaming herself, feeling that what happened was her fault.  Maybe she doesn’t tell anyone because she’s ashamed.  Maybe she becomes depressed; maybe she catches HIV; maybe she kills herself.  It’s easy to say that the boys on Unilad aren’t rapists but it starts somewhere, and the fact that jokes like these are not only common but encouraged is not helping.  So it’s time to accept that Unilad didn’t have to apologise because women ‘don’t have a sense of humour’ – it had to apologise because forcing sex on a woman who does not want to have sex with you is wrong, and jokes about it are not funny.

It is desperately sad that women who have suffered rape or sexual assault of any kind have to spend the rest of their lives feeling that they are the ones who are damaged – that many of them feel that it was their fault, that many of them will feel shame and fear until the day that they die – while young men in pubs and classrooms and offices casually ‘banter’ about ‘smashing a girl’s back doors in’.  I’ve met women who have suffered sexual assault and rape, and I don’t like to think of them as victims, because out of a rapist and the woman he raped, who is the more damaged?  Surely it is the man who is such a failure of a human being that he believes he has a right to force himself on someone against their will?  Surely the woman who endures this and then picks herself up and carries on her life doesn’t deserve sorrow and pity but respect and admiration?  These women – who go on to have careers and friends and social lives, to have successful relationships with men who love and respect them, to raise sons who would never dream of using force on a woman and daughters who would never dream of blaming themselves for the assaults others may make on them – are brave, and strong, and wonderful.

The reality of rape is that it happens because of men, not because of women.  The reality is that while you’re laughing at some ‘banter’ about girls not wanting to ‘spread for your head’ (what a vile phrase, by the way) there is a woman out there being raped, and that woman could be your friend, your sister, your mother, your daughter.  Imagine that, for a second.

I bet it doesn’t seem so funny now.

 

(Statistics on rape victims were from this very helpful webpage: http://www.musc.edu/vawprevention/research/mentalimpact.shtml)

Funny Girls

January 24, 2012

I imagine every single one of you has, at some point, heard a man express the opinion that women aren’t funny.  Some of you may even have suffered through the late Christopher Hitchens’ essay "Why Women Aren’t Funny", in which he essentially claims that humour only exists so men can use it to get laid, and that women, who get laid mainly by having breasts, don’t need it and are therefore no good at it.

                                 lizlemonchicken

Hitchens seems to believe that men actually deserve to be funnier than women because they have fewer obvious charms than we do, saying that "women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way.  They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift."  This is an only slightly less offensive way of saying "we want to sleep with you based entirely on your appearance and couldn’t care less about your personality."  He does (rather grudgingly) concede that there are a small amount of funny women, but follows up by saying that these rare examples are mostly ‘hefty, dykey or Jewish."  Sorry ladies – unless you’re fat, gay or kosher, the men aren’t being seduced by your wit.  Although if you’re gay, I don’t imagine it’s a major concern.

You don’t have to look very far to see funny women.  We’re everywhere!  Just look at your television, take a glance at Twitter or, I don’t know, the rest of the internet.  Tina Fey, Ruth Jones, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Sarah Millican, Caitlin Moran, Lucy Porter, Sarah Silverman, Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler, Victoria Wood, Shappi Khorsandi, Joan Rivers, Miranda Hart.  Apparently some of their jokes are even about things other than tampons. 

Let’s not forget that because all the people saying women aren’t funny are, funnily enough, men, we’re being judged to a male standard of humour.  So guys, I’m sorry if I can’t fart as loudly as you can, ok?  Really, I’m very sorry that I don’t make jokes about disabled children, or sexual abuse.  It’s just that women are a little more emotionally intelligent (oh, I’m sorry – do you not like being told we’re better at something than you are?) and so we’re not the biggest fans of making jokes that make people cry.  We’re generally of the opinion that jokes are meant to make people, you know… laugh.  Just in case it wasn’t obvious enough, my two examples were digs at one Mr Frankie Boyle, who might not be a miserable enough person to name his autobiography "My Shit Life So Far" if he didn’t spend most of his time saying horrible things about people who don’t deserve it and trying to pass it off as comedy. 

Possibly the most fascinating part of Hitchens’ ridiculous foray into idiocy (sorry, I meant to say ‘essay’) is the quote "it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny."  To say that this hits the nail on the head is an understatement.  Every preceding paragraph is full of reasons why men feel they NEED to be funnier than women, and none of these reasons actually preclude a woman being funny. 

He then goes into a very long-winded explanation of his ultimate theory: that women aren’t funny because they’re too preoccupied with the serious and dangerous business of having babies.  He ‘proves’ this with excerpts from Kipling’s poem "The Female of the Species" and then goes on to waffle for a couple of paragraphs about men being ‘terrified’ of women’s ability to produce children, and about how women don’t have time or patience for a sense of humour because they’re constantly too worried about their babies dying, before ending on the note that "for men, it is a tragedy that the two things they prize the most – women and humour – should be so antithetical."  Which seems a bit rich when just a few hundred words ago he was pointing out that men don’t really want women to be funny because they’re threatened by it. 

If there are less women than men out there who prize humour over other aspects of their personality – and I haven’t counted, so I’m not saying there aren’t – then surely it has something to do with the fact that men like Hitchens make it perfectly obvious that no, they don’t want women to be funny.  They are often threatened by a woman who can work a room better than them, and for the record, yes, a lot of men are definitely threatened by a woman who is obviously more intelligent than them.  So with men apparently not wanting funny women, and women wanting men (men in general, any man will do, OH GOD WHY IS THERE NOT A RING ON MY FINGER YET) despite the fact that a lot of the time we can do perfectly well without them, what are we supposed to do but suppress the urge to be funny and work on our cleavages instead?  Clearly I am being sarcastic, but the point remains.  Women are constantly told that A: they need a man and B: being smart and funny doesn’t have the same husband-catching power as having a nice rack and not minding doing all the washing up.  Maybe some women are sacrificing their own sense of humour because they don’t think it’ll get them anywhere, which is really sad, but if Hitchens’ article was a call for women to be funnier – which it seems to become, if a little awkwardly, in the last two paragraphs – he clearly didn’t understand that it was men like him, spouting opinions about women ‘just not getting it’ and taking everything too seriously who are the cause of the problem in the first place.

Another problem is that Hitchens totally misses the point of being funny.  Perhaps it was his own experience that being able to make a woman laugh was the only way he could get her into bed (and perhaps this isn’t surprising, and if you don’t know what I mean by that then you should go type "Christopher Hitchens" into Google Images) but that’s not what it’s really for.  I’m pretty sure cavemen weren’t telling caveladies witty jokes to lure them back to their caves… and yet the human race evidently survived past the stone age.  Humour isn’t an evolutionary tool.  The reason people get laid is because people want to get laid and it takes two (at least) to tango.  People laugh, on the other hand, just because they want to.  It’s enjoyable.  Comedians work their way up through the comedy club ranks for little immediate reward because they want to make people laugh.  Being funny makes you feel good about yourself because it makes other people feel good – and women enjoy this just as much as men do. 

As someone recently noted on Twitter, the phrase "women aren’t funny" is often used as a stand-in for the less macho phrase, "I can never impress funny women", and I think this is the truth at the heart of the matter.  I know plenty of wonderful men who love funny women.  Ask any of my male friends what they like about me and I bet at least half of them would mention my sense of humour before my boobs (no offense to the other 50%, obviously.  I do have pretty nice boobs.)  Every time I’ve heard the words "women aren’t funny", they’ve been coming out of the mouth of a man who would have a hard time making me laugh if he fell face first into a bag full of whoopee cushions. 

So to those men, I say: just because I have tits and you don’t, you get to hog all the laughs?  I don’t think so.  Maybe if you want to have some appeal other than your razor-sharp wit (i.e. dick jokes) you could cut back on the beers and spend some time at the gym instead of just trying to cut me down to your level by denying that I can make a decent joke.  In the words of just one of the many funny women I know: please do one.

(Note: I am aware that Christopher Hitchens is dead.  Unfortunately, this point of view isn’t.)

The Daily Mail loves the Sisterhood

October 2, 2011

A few weeks ago the Daily Mail website ran an article titled “Self-critical, can’t take compliments, always focus on your own failings? Why ARE we women so hard on ourselves?”  It also ran the following:

As Katie Holmes shocks navel-gazers… the ins and outs of a beautiful belly button.
This piece starts by suggesting that anyone on Earth gives a single solitary shit about Katie Holmes having an ‘outie’.  It then goes on to describe a procedure you can have to ‘fix’ your protruding belly button called an umbilicoplasty, and presents the findings of a survey on belly button preferences in which “nobody expressed a preference for an outie”.  But hey: love the skin you’re in!  You’re perfect just the way you are!  Except that tiny little thing on your stomach which, you know, kept you alive until you got out of the womb.  That thing is an eyesore and you need to sort it out.

Don’t make a boob on the beach! Bikinis for the fuller figure
This article suggests that “before you even think about hitting the High Street” you get a tan.  Fat and orange, apparently, is fine.  Fat and pale is not allowed.  The bikinis themselves are pretty nice but the model demonstrating bikinis for fatties is no bigger than a size 10.  You will quickly notice, when you read the Daily Mail website regularly, that there are two very distinct types of plus size: the models they use when they’re trying to sell something to ‘plus size’ women are size 10 but with boobs over a D cup, and the women they use in articles about how bad it is to be plus size, who barely have necks.  The Daily Mail thinks Kerry Katona is a fatass after a week on the takeaways, but it thinks Christina Hendricks is the epitomy of female beauty.  I know; I don’t get it either.  (In all fairness, it has to be said, Christina Hendricks looks like the Greek goddess of tits and I love her.)

Fashion mismatch: unwashed hair, gum, tattoos – is this Wimbledon or Glastonbury?
Ladies: nobody gives a shit if you are an incredibly fit, ambitious woman excelling in the male-dominated arena of competitive sport.  GET A BLOW DRY.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed but all that running around whacking a racket at things is rather undignified.  You’ll never attract a husband like that, darling.

Nancy with no obvious means of support: Dell’Olio arrives at summer ball seemingly without a bra
Your underwear is not your decision to make.  You owe it to the public to have those babies hoisted as far up on your ribcage as they can go – even though it would have looked fucking ridiculous in that dress.  Nobody cares that you’re like 50 years old: the Daily Mail are VERY upset that you denied them the opportunity to crow over your wrinkled, leathery cleavage.  Very upset indeed.  How do you even sleep at night?

Little bit Close to the mark, Glenn? Damages actress wears thigh-skimming dress
Glenn Close wore a dress on the red carpet.  ‘Thigh-skimming’ is an accurate term only if you understand that it was skimming the knee-end of her thigh.  But of course, the second your hair goes grey you have to put your legs away.  Nobody wants to see that shit any more, grandma.

‘I can’t get a man!’: Charlize Theron bewails being single.
Because being a beautiful, talented, successful millionaire is pointless unless some dude is putting his wang in you on a regular basis.  I can’t believe you thought your glittering career and offensively massive bank account was enough without a man to validate it!  Go and cry over your Oscar, Charlize.  You are worthless.

Women feel invisible to men once they hit 46 and confidence plummets
This one sort of speaks for itself.  YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED, LADIES.  ENJOY PEOPLE GIVING A SHIT ABOUT YOU WHILE IT LASTS.  Your children hate you and you will die alone.

What I am getting at here is that I really can’t believe the balls it must take to be this openly duplicitous.  On the one hand it’s “Why can’t we all just get along and realise that everyone is fabulous no matter how fat or old they are!  Yay sisterhood!” and on the other it’s “Oh my god will you look at that disgusting slag. She’s put on a good five pounds since she won that Oscar and started dating that gorgeous millionaire.  Bitch.”  The Daily Mail particularly has it in for Jennifer Aniston who, it seems, is still crying into her pillow over Brad Pitt, burns effigies of Angelina Jolie, and is generally a joyless figure of public humiliation and widespread pity.  Or could it be that women are jealous of her beautiful hair, amazing figure, vast wealth, astounding property portfolio, and frequent flings with attractive men who she doesn’t have to depend on for anything?  Hmm.

While obviously it’s too much to expect the media to be without bias, the Daily Mail has something of an obsession with certain celebrities – mainly Lindsay Lohan, who has done nothing of note apart from act like a spoiled little bitch and get increasingly skanky-looking for like the last five years, and the Kardashians, a family of women with gigantic backsides who seem to be famous mainly for shopping a lot and being engaged to American athletes.  It’s not the bias I mind though; it’s the double standard.

Mischa Barton puts on a couple of pounds (or just wears a particularly unflattering pair of slacks; whatever) and she is ‘out of control’.  The blonde one from Steps packs on yet another three stone and is ‘curvy’.  Lady Gaga has a ‘worryingly thin frame’ but Lara Stone is ‘full-figured’.  It’s fair to say that it’s all getting a little bit fucking ridiculous.  How do we decide which famous women are allowed to put on weight and which aren’t?  It seems to be completely arbitrary.

What bothers me is that this sort of thinking – “It’s ok for YOU to be a size 16 but holy fuck doesn’t Kerry Katona look fat in that size 10 bikini” – is everywhere.  And no matter what anyone says, it is damaging.

The Daily Mail itself has the gall to run a story along the lines of ‘how dare the Topshop website use pictures of a skinny model thereby causing an epidemic of anorexia on the same day as it runs a story about how chunky Kim Kardashian’s taller sister has been looking recently, and this really doesn’t help anyone.  It can’t decide whether it’s more concerned about anorexia or the ‘obesity epidemic’ but at the same time, anyone who dares to be average-sized and in the public eye is slated for some aspect of their appearance.

If I ever get famous I’m going to get some tshirts printed up that say “Hey, Daily Mail!  Look how fat my ass is today!” and make sure I get papped entering and leaving a gym, visiting a lipo clinic, and spending 10 hours in a Krispy Kreme all on the same day.  Because I wouldn’t want those poor journalists to have to do any actual WORK, or anything.

Kindling

April 20, 2011

I should probably start by apologising for that title.  I imagine a billion other happy little book nerds have written blogs or reviews with this ‘clever’ title.  I have no delusions of originality, here; I just couldn’t come up with anything better.

I have a history of being skeptical about e-readers.  Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement – I have a history of outright, vocal disdain for e-readers.  In fact I still think the name is ridiculous.  Luckily for me, though, when I eventually executed a spectacularly hypocritical u-turn on the subject, I bought a Kindle, which means I can say “my Kindle” instead of “my e-reader” in much the same way people say “my iPod” instead of “my MP3 player”.  I don’t have an iPod, by the way.  Even my market-dominating status-symbol gadget of choice marks me out as a nerd, which makes me something of a no-hoper in the ‘coolness’ stakes.  I’m sort of ok with this.

My main objection to Kindles (or whatever you use – I just don’t want to keep typing “e-reader” over and over again) was, perhaps a little paradoxically, “I like books”.  Many people were confused by this, thinking that as a book-lover I should be filled with joy at the thought of a neat little device which would allow me to carry and browse through an entire library AT ALL TIMES, but no.  When I say “I like books”, I mean it in the way people who collect vinyls mean “I like music” – i.e. “yes I like that thing you like, but I like it in its purest form and I am therefore superior to you, you serf.”  When I say “I like books”, what I really mean is “I like looking at my gigantic overflowing bookshelves which contain absolutely no chick-lit and thinking smugly about what a great and true book-lover I am”.  In this sense, toting around a little grey gadget thinner than the thinnest paperback I own doesn’t appeal to me.  How are people on the bus going to see what I’m reading and start a conversation about it now?  (This has happened more often than you might think, by the way.)  If I had read Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ on a Kindle, how would I look back over the tattered pages and remember clearly where I was when I first read every life-changing passage (yes I am this pretentious)?  In short, I had some valid – if incredibly snobby – concerns.

The weakness in my critical view of the Kindle was this: as much as I love books, I also love gadgets.  And as much as I like books and gadgets, I like things which combine things I like with other things that I like.  And so, the Kindle snuck up on me, and after several days of lurking on the Amazon Kindle web page and making surreptitious lists of my favourite books and checking which ones were available for download, I eventually thought: ah, fuck it.  I’ll give it a go.

And so, as Stephen Hawking changed his mind about black holes or whatever it was (I’d find out the details but I’m in a bit of a grump about how much his books cost in the Kindle store) I changed my mind about the Kindle.  I bloody love the thing.  I take it literally everywhere, including the gym, because by god if I’m going to spend half an hour on a cross trainer I’m going to be as nerdy as humanly possible while I’m doing it.  I am unreasonably delighted by how perfectly it fits into my favourite handbag.  I spend hours lusting over handmade Kindle cases on Etsy but haven’t bought one yet because I like them all so much I can’t choose.  It is frankly pretty fucking embarrassing how much I love this thing I used to have so much fun slagging off.

I love the user-friendliness of the Kindle.  I love the speed of download, the ridiculously amazing battery life, the screen quality, and even the design.  I LOVE reading single-handed!  I love never losing my page!  But what I love most about it is its simplest and most basic feature: it allows you – even encourages you – to read more.

In a world full of ringing phones and shitty TV and boring meetings and smelly bus rides, this is no mean feat.  Carrying around a traditional book, bearing in mind my tastes lean towards lengthy ‘literary’ tomes of several hundred pages, is not exactly conducive to small handbags or a quick two-minute read in the queue at the bank.  But with the Kindle, if I have so much as a spare 30 seconds I can slip it out of my bag and read a few pages.  In airports you can read whatever you like for a decent price instead of whatever overpriced Tess Gerritson gore-fest WHSmith happens to be hawking that week.  You can read while you eat your cereal, while you exercise, while you tidy the house – while you do pretty much anything that you can do with one hand.  In a month, I have read nine books.  Nine new, not previously read books.  I consider myself a big reader and my average before I got the Kindle was four books a month, three of which I’d usually read before, because I am not made of money.  On the Kindle, books are usually far cheaper than their print counterparts – and if you really can’t afford to splash out at all, you can get hundreds of the buggers for free (as long as you’re willing to put up with old-timey – i.e. written over a century ago – writing, which I’m usually not, but still).

So, Kindle, I take it all back: you are lovely, and I’m sorry about all that stuff I said.

On the other hand, Haruki Murakami’s books are currently not available on the Kindle, and nothing will ever stop me buying the hardback of a book which has changed my life.  I may love my Kindle, but my bookshelves aren’t going to stop groaning any time soon.


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