Mea culpa, dimitte mihi

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Another of my Lent thoughts.

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness.
I’m wondering what the impact is of living a life unforgiven – both from the point of view of forgiveness for something you have done, or from the perspective of just not being able to forgive something done to you.

I like to think I’m good at forgiveness.
The boyfriends who dumped me?  You know what, you were probably right.  It was awful at the time. But I’ve a lovely husband and an adorable son and wouldn’t have it any other way.  That wouldn’t have been possible without you. See?  Easy.

But forgiveness is not easy.

Simon Wiesenthal’s book “The Sunflower” detailing his experience during the holocaust shows how seriously the concept needs to be taken.  Could you have offered forgiveness in his position?

People that impress me are not the Beckhams and the rich and famous. These people have done well for themselves, but ultimately they are not really heroic.  This week we went to Warrington (not the town centre, just the IKEA) and we talked about what it mean to us.  To my husband who grew up in that area, it’s the memories of his childhood.  To me, from nearly 300 miles away, Warrington is a name with other connections – sad ones.  I think of the IRA bomb that killed two children.   Colin Parry, father of Tim, is a hero.  His forgiveness of the people that murdered his son so indiscriminately, so futilely, and his continued pursuit of peace are what impresses.  “Forgive and not forget” is at the heart of his message. 
And there must be days when he has to deal with the people that did this when the anger, the hurt, these things ressurge and forgiveness seems impossible. 
Forgiveness after all, seems to me to be dynamic – it has to be worked at and remembered or it slips away. 
And always the question, if it was you, could you forgive?

The scale of forgiveness required can be awesome.  Can you forgive, but not forget, and move on at more than an individual level?  Well, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa had a go at it after apartheid and is generally thought to have succeeded.

In Matthew 18:21- 22, Peter asks Jesus “How many times shall I forgive my brother? Seven times?” 
And Jesus says, “not seven times but seventy times seven (seventy seven times in other translations)”. 
Obviously he didn’t say the bit in brackets… and the actual number is not important, the point of the story is that the Law (for which the rabbis at the time has said forgiving twice was sufficient) is now being fulfilled by Jesus who was saying that forgiveness mattered so much that it should not be a simple matter of enumeration. 
And it may be even more important than that.   In Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus says “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Jesus forgave on behalf of God, with an audacity that shocked (in claiming to forgive sins commited against others and against God, which is God’s prerogative, he was claiming to be God). 
And we are called to forgive too.  It’s there in the Lord’s prayer – forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.  We say these words but do we think about what they actually mean? Is forgiveness for ourselves conditional?  Is refusing to forgive a sin?  
Who are we to stand in judgement over others?  It’s not just about specks and planks in our eyes, it’s about how we stand in God’s eyes. And it’s by God’s grace that we can be forgiven, given how badly we measure up against his standards.  To see what I mean try Philip Yancy’s “What’s so amazing about grace?” – still one of my favourite books 7 years after being given a copy by a friend from church. 

Of course recognising the importance of forgiveness is not just a Christian thing.  Google “why is it important to forgive?” and you get 10,700,000 results, and that’s only in English. From this life coach to this islamic questions website, there’s recognition that peace in your heart can only come from forgiveness.  
Lily Tomlin summarises forgiveness like this:  “To forgive is to give up all hope for a better past“.
It’s about letting go, stopping trying to “what if” the past away, stopping trying to rewrite it, stopping trying to find someone to blame, stopping the anger.  And it is so, so hard.  But not being able to forgive burns, eats away, and hurts you so much.  And that’s whether you can’t forgive others, or whether you feel unforgiven and can’t forgive yourself.  It’s no wonder that everyone encourages you to try.

So we have to make an active choice to forgive, and once we’ve done so, we need to remember that we have done so, and why we have done so, and to not bring it all up again with all the anger and hurt as fresh as the day it happened.  And it’s easy to talk about it, easy to know that we should forgive as everyone tell us to, easy to believe that of course we’ve forgiven but that it’s somehow ok still to be angry and recount and mull and… Lilly Tomlin’s right.  We have to give up all hope for a better past.
Can we live a full and healthy life without forgiving? The only references I’ve found to this are people talking about never forgiving an abusive parent, but not allowing it to interfere with them getting on with their lives.  Every other reference to forgiveness on the internet (and I’ve been looking at this for an hour or so now) says that only by forgiving can life be lived to the full.  

I’m not good at forgiving.  I’ve just been extrordinarily lucky in my life to be able to.  So far.
And it’s not easy at all.
But the freedom, the grace that comes with being forgiven and from letting go and forgiving, that’s worth the inner battle.

Lent – not just a past participle…

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Embarrassing incident at work today. 

As I walked through reception I saw a colleague I barely know with a dirty mark on her forehead.  I thought about telling her, but decided as she was about to get into a mirrored lift that she’d see it herself in good time. 

But when I got back upstairs, I saw another colleague with a mark and said “ok, I’ve missed something, what’s the mark about?”

“It’s Ash Wednesday”, said my colleague.
Of course it is. What a fool I felt.

I made pancakes last night for Shrove Tuesday (embarrassingly good since they were made from a Betty Crocker instant batter shaker, and it made me wonder why I’d bothered making them by hand so many years). 
I won my only real school prize for Scripture, writing an essay on the origins and meaning of pancake day (see this post for more detail).  As they said on the TV news yesterday, we’re all so used to thinking about pancakes and live in such a relatively prosperous and increasingly secular society that we’re forgetting that they symbolise something.

But the ash marks reminded me that not everyone’s forgetting. 
My colleague mentioned the services that were taking place at Westminster Cathedral and asked me if I too was Roman Catholic, to which I replied no, C of E, and that I’ve not seen that for years (the universal tradition is to burn last year’s palm crosses from Palm Sunday to make the ash, which in itself is a symbolic act).
She suggested looking up the Westminster Abbey website to see if my denomination was doing it too, which was kind of her.  One thing about working on equalities issues is that – far from the way that we see equalities described as being about the sweeping away and secularisation of society – it’s about celebrating and recognising our diversity and that that’s what makes life interesting.

But it reminds me of a conversation with a friend last week.  We talked about giving things up for Lent and how hard it was this year (I’m trying to give up fruitless worrying about the future, she’s giving up alcohol).  Both are small, commemorative acts of personal use rather than big dramatic acts clearly visible to all.

She mentioned that her parents were unlikely to consider what she’d given up “enough”, but she hoped that it would be understood and would not be held against her getting a pass to heaven.
I’ve pondered this last point, because its on this precise issue that we pass for the cultural to the spiritual and a small but significant difference of view.
It’s easy to forget what is cultural (rememberance of the 40 days in the wilderness) with what is spiritually necessary (that is acceptance of Jesus’s gift to us, God’s forgiveness, that the price of our sin has been paid and God’s law fulfilled). It’s not about trying to fulfil a standard – Jesus’s whole message was effectively that this is pointless as no one on their own merit will ever be good enough to meet God’s perfection.
We’ve seen this reflected in so much of religion, both within Christianity and in other faiths, the hope that by setting rules that must be obeyed you’ll be more what God is looking for, or trying to buy your way in to God’s good books through good behaviour. And of course we know that rules that set out to help can become a hindrance by being too hard to meet or becoming the aim themselves rather than the glory of God. 
Christians know from Jesus that nothing they do will be good enough, that it’s faith in Jesus (known as justification by faith) but even then the issue is complicated, with James 2:24 in the New Testament the point being made is that what you believe modifies your actions. As wikipedia sets out unusually clearly, true faith in God results in a desire to follow his instruction to love one another, and thus would result in good deeds.  But that’s difficult to get your head round – resulting in many heretical positions down the centuries.

Lent reminds us of a hardship endured, and ultimately a sacrifice made for us. It reminds us to lend part of our thoughts to this, for this short period (the classic 40 days to Easter).
But Lent is not just the past participle of “to lend”, it’s a real thing affecting the way in which millions of people in the UK live their lives (and with larger population for C&E Europe, possibly a growing number).  We may not have the parading in sackcloth and ashes of the mediaeval world but the connotations of fasting and repentance (conveyed by lack of decoration in church) and regarding the world a little more contemplatively do echo on.  Typically we’ve hung onto the fun of the pancaking feasting which the population forgets the follow-up fasting.

But the echoes are now rebounding more loudly.  Combined with increasing willingness to show religious faith publicly, whether wearing headscarf , turban, skullcap or cross, even if there are consequences because to those doing it it’s a mark of what is important in their lives. The ash marks are both traditional and the latest manifestation of this. Yes they are symbols, the symbol of the thing rather than the thing itself, but symbols matter.

Let’s think about it, while we digest.

Why Mumsnet politics matters

mum in boden
Oh dear – Janet Street Porter seems to be upset about having been invited to a party to celebrate Mumsnet’s anniversary.

I’m a member- but not a regular user- of Mumsnet. Also of Netmums, and a couple of other parenting websites.
It’s a legitimate forum for parents to come together and share common experiences.

I have a bit of Boden in my wardrobe (not too much – Johnny seems to imagine that yummy mummies have breastfed so long that they have lost any semblance of cleavage so I can’t buy the majority of the tops).  I thought the dresscode of “Boden” she mentioned was very funny, very knowing (as in that’s what they think of us shorthand irony).  Yep, I wear it both to work and socially, but never to “hubbie’s office dinner” because – do you know what?- in our working lives to date, it’s been my jobs that have generated all the out of hours socialising-as-business events.  And some of those have been black tie… ah, but those days are over now.
But then I’m problably the suburban middle class mother that JSP would despise. 

The Mumsnet discussion of all this shows the diversity of the women involved.  The common thread is motherhood but age, job other than parenting, marital status, location, interests, and frankly spelling ability and ability to articulate are hugely varied.
Yes, as with all online forums there’s an element of bullying.  But I don’t find that there’s a received way of thinking – far from it (a debate with a politician felt like it got hijacked by the home-schoolers recently and while no one says why on earth would you do that, it was hardly a mainstream concern shared by all – but the questioners were about to make the points they wanted to and get a response on an issue that they could have spent years writing to DCSF about and not had anything as clear or direct).  
And Mumsnet can’t be said to speak for all mums.  My favourite stat is the if you had all the members together physically in one place, say a football stadium, rather than online no one could say that they should be overlooked- but of course the point is that you never could do all that and no one would expect them all to be friends or have a common view or purpose other than the specific one that’s brought them together. A bit like football fans actually.

But JSP is wrong to suggest that it’s the kiddie sick element of parenting that would form the main part of conversation at a party like that – if Mumsnet were inviting the sort of people that post it’d be so much more interesting than that. JSP herself says that it is likely to be “packed with high achieving women”.

And that’s the point.  Mumsnet and other online forums can’t easily be dismissed as JSP points out because it is expected that women will be the swing voters in the coming election.
Talking about being parents is not enough though – if the high achieving women of Mumsnet are intelligent too, they are unlikely to be impressed simply with an “I’ve got a family too and I love them” approach by politicians (although I have to say that unless you’ve been a parent or raised a sibling etc. you really don’t know what it’s like to be one!) unless we’d got evidence that they too had had childcare logistical arrangement trauma, needed both parents to work to meet the bills, fought to get into the right schools and all the other little day to day dramas that parents deal with everyday but which I could not have possibly anticipated would be so complicated until actually faced with handling it.
(As an aside, I once asked a schoolfriend of mine who had three children and was pregnant with her fourth whether she’d gone back to work.  Bless her, she didn’t actually cut of contact or shout at me but with just one I can now see how naive a question that was!) 

I would have thought that – if women are to be the battleground – vocabulary like “swingeing” public sector cuts would be dropped given that that is more likely to affect women than men as they are more likely to be working in the public sector. 
And far from calling it “smug”, why don’t we just acknowledge that women, whether SAHM (stay at home mums) or working like me, using their own little vocabs on the web like DH for darling husband (no worse than football fans, or car owner forums etc.), are a legitimate voting demographic?  
Yes, so are the “women over 40, single and divorced” – interestingly JSP’s own demographic on and off- both are valid.
But that dones’t mean mums are irrelevant.  And politicians
have found a direct way to talk with some of them, which both parties like (many politicians like to extrapolate from the specific to the general – Alan Johnson said on BBC4’s “The Great Offices of State” this week that he liked to get out and talk to policemen on the frontline rather than just read briefs compiled by civil servants, as if the specific expereinces of a few could be presumed to be similar to those of the whole – which is of course the basis behind sampling too).

But please, JSP, can you help celebrate that some women, and not just those working like men, or with lots of money, or for whom children didn’t happen and could focus wholeheartedly on careerbuilding at the crucial 20s-40s period and who have climbed the greasy poles are getting their voices heard too?  It’s shouldn’t be either/or, it should be “yes! And now let’s make sure the next group can also be heard! ”

Mums, whether working or at home are voters too, and the politicians are recognising it.  So the willingness of senior politicians to be participating in Mumsnet debates matters.
If it could be done in a non-patronising way that’d be great.

Women and violence – shouldn’t we pull together?

violence18 (Image from – please do read this site!)

Two very depressing statistics in the news this morning.

The first was that  one in three women apparently now think that women who are raped need to bear some responsibility for what has happened to them. The figure came from a survey of 18-50 year old men and women in London.  We’ll come back to this in a minute.

The other statistic was that one in five boys think its ok to be violent towards their girlfriend while one in three teenage girls think that its only to be expected.  This was related to a campaign being released on youTube to combat and try to denormalise this idea.

This is really, really scary.

Radio 4 this morning interviewed Dr Linda Papadopoulos (who I remember as the Cosmo agony aunt and who is always very sensible).  The frustration in her voice was palpable: she spoke about “learned helplessness”  -that it’s going to happen, that the values of our culture are that we have taught girls primarily to desire to be desired, while – with boys playing video games that reward them for gunning people down, driving riskily and committing violence against women.
She stressed that it was almost “as if the feminist movement never happened”.
What’s scary is the control issue.  It’s not just about physical forcing of teenage girls to do or not do certain thing, it’s about the psychological control – the girls talk about being not “allowed” to do something, that he checks her phone messages, that he “cares enough” to behave like this, that sometimes you just “have to” to keep him happy.
This was girls as young as 13 talking.
I guess its one thing in a long term relationship (by which I’m talking years, not weeks or months) to occasionally think I’m not really up for this but conjugal rights and the continued bonding and closeness in a relationship means I should at least try. But that’s one thing when you’re in your 30s or 40s and the craziness of life is getting in the way of time and libido.  It absolutely should not be the case on a regular basis, or if you’re a teenager with their whole life ahead of them!

Now I know Channel 4 “Skins” is a heightened reality drama, not a documentary, but sex is presented in this show as a normal and early occurance in teenage relationships and often just as part of social interaction. As if teenagers are actually bonobo monkeys.
As with drinking and other age-limited activities, it doesn’t really seem to matter that the age of consent is 16 in this country. Very few 15 year old boys are ever actually likely to face rape charges for sleeping with their 15 year old girlfriend.  And if its consensual many people would say fair enough.

The problem comes though in defining consensual. The “no means no” message seems to have got lost somewhere over the last decade or so.
Women are presented in the media – and often in magazines aimed at women themselves – as really only being of value if primped and preened to perfection, dressed in high fashion or revealing clothes, make up, jewellery etc., as if there’s no intrinsic value to their company, no worth to their words or point in listening to them unless there’s an outcome at the end of the night. And when words aren’t important, what value does “no” have?
The huge number of stories in the press about sexual violence against women seem to be split between famous-people-accused and she-was-lying coverage – I generalise greatly of course. There’s also the gang-rape-of-teenage-girl-by-teenage-boy-gang-on-council-estate coverage.  And we get so desensitised to the stories that we forget the ongoing trauma that the victims suffer, especially give how few successful prosecutions seem to be made which means that the perpetrators must quite often be getting away with it.

Getting rape taken seriously has always been a problem, and when I learn that its used as a tool in war, take Rwanda for example, to subjugate the local population (leading in that case to the rapid spread of HIV and the birth of thousands of HIV positive babies whose mothers die and the misery caused perpetuates through the wider family, village and down the generations – this story on Comic Relief left me and others in tears) I felt so angry that I could happily condone enforced castration for the perpetrators.

The upsetting thing in the statistics out this morning was the number of women who felt that “no means no” was offset by the behaviour of the women that had been raped.  The idea that two people can share a bed and not have sex seems to be regarded as quaintly old fashioned, the supposition is that they will. And if it gets as murky as forced sex when consent had been given to share a bed but not to sex (seems it was quite specific), well, the survey this morning said that a third of women thought that the woman must bear some part of the responsibility.

So even a third of women don’t believe that men should be able to control themselves, that no means no, or that actually the most important thing that we as women can do is stand up for and support each other.  Trying to get to have sex is a basic function of men – hardwired into not just their psyche but their physionomy. And sadly some need to be devious and worse to get that to be the case.

There’s a lot of political organisation that tries to address all this: UN level, EU level, national government (and indeed local although the message gets somewhat diluted when for example Sapphire centres get their funding cut).
But we had feminism demonised for decades, laughed at, and even dismissed by women themselves (from Thatcher’s “I owe nothing to women’s lib” and the page 3 models claiming that what they do is liberating, to the ongoing pressure from mothers to dress more femininely to attract a husband) and I’ve blogged before on how I think that it has lost its way.
Feminism shouldn’t as far as I’m concerned be just be about the right of women to dress as provocatively as they want and sleep with whoever they want whenever they want.  It is about the hard economics of both childrearing and women’s place in the labour market, and it is also about recognising where we need to be supporting each other.

This morning’s stats are revealing of just how far we’ve still got to go.  We need to fix the sisterhood so that it’s image is not just Germaine Greer and earnest American academics, but so that 13, 15, 17 year old girls have too much self respect to just accede to their boyfriends’ demands, so that women’s contribution and role in society is valued.

And it’s not even 9am yet!

Bearing gifts to the Greeks?


Or Oi! Desmond! No!

So the outcome of the emergency meeting on Greece’s financial situation was – unclear.  A whole lot of commentary by the British press focusing mainly on whether:
1) Greece going bakrupt would mean the end for the Euro;
2) the British taxpayer would be bailing out Greece.
As it turns out, neither happened.  Yet.

A very sensible commentary from the FT’s City editor pointed out that, in the USA, cities and states go bankrupt all the time (California did so recently) but no one talks about the US dollar collapsing as a result.  It’s a big deal yes, but not a ginormous one.

But something had to be done.  Whether explicitly or tacitly, Greece needed to be helped by the stronger Euro countries.
In part this is a Treaty requirement. The Treaty of Rome set out that it is desirable that the Member States regard their economic policies as a matter of common concern. As EUpedia points out, Article 103 stipulated that they should consult each other and the Commission on the measures to be taken in the light of the prevailing circumstances. 
But in the end the risk of the “contagion” effect – making investing in the other Euro countries, which in turn would affect investment in economies such as ours in the UK which have such closely linked economies- meant that there was self-interest as well as altruism in acting. 

So self-interest dictates that something had to be done, and it will be, probably.  The agreement reached was not exactly a master piece of clarity.  But it will do as a starting point and the seriousness with which it is being taken was illustrated by stern words from Angela Merckel and the brilliant commentary by an unnamed German diplomat to the effect that other Eurozone members did not want to see their economies suffer so that the Greeks could have nice lives.

e15546507 image from the must-read

And will the UK have to bail out Greece? 
Peter Mandelson has been in the press recently saying that “talking down” the UK economy (whether that’s -say- to international audiences, for which also read competitors at Davos, or making unflattering comparisons between the UK and Greece’s economies) and he has something of a point, not least because of the contagion effect explained above.
And it seems that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, has been robust in saying that this is a eurozone rather than an EU problem.  But remember what I said about the contagion – it is not in the UK’s interests for the Euro to fail, particularly since – because of the way in which Treaties are written- we are still technically supposed to be lining up to join the Euro and therefore have a convergence plan.

I have not had a chance to read the agreement that’s emerged after the meeting, but I imagine that the text will not shut the door on whole-EU action at some unspecificed future point if the alternative was total economic collapse… and so in that way I suppose the UK taxpayer could at some future point still step in to support the Euro.

But I just can’t see how that corresponds into that headline “Now We Have to Bail Out the Euro”.
Firstly, define “now”?  As far as I can see that’s an inappropriate use of the word.  France and Germany, primarily, seem to be bailing out the Euro.  Not Britain.
But hold on… may be this is a new pro-European “we” that I would not previously have expected from the Daily Express where the impact of the bail out on the French and German taxpayers (amongst others) is being expressed as a kind of pan-European shared pain? Somehow I suspect not…

Was this all fair on Greece?  Criticism of Greece which the Prime Minister has angrily refuted covered everything from alleged lying in accounting to the fact that the retirement age for public servants in Greece is 47. 
47!!!  It’s currently 60 here, going to 65, but I can’t help thinking for my generation we’re going to be minimum 70 and probably til-we-drop before we can think of retiring. 
And Germany – due to a low birthrate and the complete lack of childcare that resulted in women having to make a choice between being out of the labour market and having children or remaining childless in order to work – is also facing a pension crisis.
No wonder that German diplomat was so scathing… not so much Greeks bearing gifts as what must be borne by others to prop their economy up…

The Greek Prime Minister blamed the previous administration for most of the problems – that’s par for the course from most public officials facing problems.
But he also blamed the European Commission for not having kept enough of an eye out and not having stepped in if it expected problems.

Interesting stuff.  That’s what some people I know would call a “Belgian” approach to the EU – if it’s hard to keep your own house in order you call for the EU to provide a solution.  But to blame the Commission for not doing something it’s not supposed to do? And somthing which, if it was proposed that it should do, we’d have an issue with?

Why can’t the British press do something useful like take the Greek prime minister to task for this sort of expansionist approach to the role of the EU rather than print what turned out to be a completely untrue story?  But that’s too much to expect.
Although the Daily Express did manage to put out an apology for the ludicrous “EU spouts off about our milk jugs” nonsense they published the other day… well done @EULondonRep!

Welcome to my world!

Hello world!
I’m Jo (rose22joh) and I’m almost a trainer… with over 3 years professional experience but a block of maternity leave in the middle plus a move out of a specific training role means I’ve only just got around to trying to complete my certificate in training ppractice.

I’m currently trying to build my own training business so I’m looking to use this blog – linked to my own blog where I look at issues to do with my specialist subjects European politics and gender equality as well as a wider range of issues – to build my knowledge, my networks and contacts, join the debate in the professional training community and get some debates going.

I hope that you’ll visit and I’ll be syndicating posts there (under Business as EUsual) from this blog and vice versa…

Looking forward to engaging with you all.

Why this image makes me unspeakably angry

bounce and spinWhat on earth is all this about???
Have you ever seen a pink zebra?  Why is there any need for a pink version of a perfectly good black and white “bounce and spin”?  Yes it’s a lovely, happy girl in a green t-shirt that’s riding it, but honestly, who came up with this – “y’know, we’re selling loads of the bouce and spin zebra, so I don’t know, let’s make it appeal more to girls. What about making a pink one?”

Let me calm down for a moment. And visit Pink Stinks as an antidote.
 Natasha Walter’s book “Living Dolls” is getting a lot of coverage at the moment.  The criticisms of this book seems to be that, in getting older, Walter has lost a sense of perspective, that feminism that has got us to where we are has given women “free choice” and that if they choose to strip off as “empowerment”, fetishize pink, be judged on their looks etc. etc. then that’s their choice. She’s even been accused of not having a sense of humour. 
But she has a point. Several in fact.

She points out that Marks and Spencer markets toy irons as “Mummy and me” – and they do.  My son loves the realistic toy iron at nursery and shows off to us how he can use it.  But I am finding it hard to buy him one for playing at home that isn’t pink.
Toy kitchens seem to have pink plastic all over them – yet my son loves Cbeebies’ “I Can Cook” and carries around a measuring cup and wooden spoon shouting “yum! Taste!” when he’s watching it.  Sure I can buy him the pink kitchen, but why on earth is it pink?  Our kitchen is black, white and charcoal with flashes of lime green in the accessories – my son wouldn’t associate pink with kitchens.

I love buying him clothes, but it doesn’t matter where I go, I’m lucky if the section I get to choose from is even half the size of the girls clothes section.  He has school shoes, wellies and a pair of crocs for the beach, but again the choice is much more limited for boys. Do baby girls have more feet(!)?
But we’re teaching our kids that girls have to have more choice (or more clothes).  And when that includes croptops for tweenagers, push-up bras for nine year olds and sexually provocative slogan t-shirts, as opposed to combats, cheeky monkey-bad boy t-shirts for boys we have to wonder what we’re playing at.  

This isn’t something new for me to worry about.  When I was at university I had a column in the university newspaper “Bare Facts”. 
It came about because I had been submitting sports reports on a regular basis (at the time I was dating the American Football team captain, which apparently made me the First Lady and gave me a responsibility to do things to promote the team), and because a friend and I had written in to the letters page about the clothes being worn in the Union.
As we were writing we had a bit of a problem.  We were feminist not prudish, felt that women should have more self-respect than to dress as they were rather than because it was something from which men should be shielded for fear of their actions being uncontrollable, and while we were grateful that the women had the choice to dress that way if they wished we had to wonder what led them to choose to do so. This was the mid-nineties and we were observing a trend that Natasha Walter has now written about… 

I’ve never been silph-like, but I was a happy 12-14 and I think made the best of my particular best assets.  I didn’t object to the bratops being worn with microshorts that seemed to be increasingly popular because I couldn’t wear them, but because these were women studying for degrees, and as Dara O’Briain puts it in “Tickling the English” surely getting a degree means not having to expose your body to get anywhere in life.

My worry is that in accepting “glamour modelling”, lap dancing and pole dancing as empowerment, sacking of older women from anchor roles for wrinkles on TV but accepting older men as having “gravitas”, focusing on women as individuals rather than on society and family (hence the debate in the press on whether maternity leave has damaged women in the workplace rather than whether by concentrating just on women rather than parental leave it has damaged a family’s free choice to arrange childcare between the parents),by businesses not considering how culture in workplaces including presenteeism damage the chances of women who do not act like the men do getting to the top means the problem perpetuates despite starting off with loads of very bright women lower down in the workforce, that some how we’ve missed the point of feminism.

It wasn’t supposed to be about us getting the right to sleep around, dress provocatively and behave as badly as the men in the name of free choice was it?  I really hope not.  I hope that if anyone tries to write a book on the new feminism now, they realise its ok to say that it’s still a work in progress…

Time on my hands

… or the art of procrastination.
I am busy.  Rushed off my feet. By tomorrow evening I will have seen my husband for 16 hours since Monday morning and we’ll have been asleep for more than 12 of those. Not good.
We’re still surrounded by boxes from moving house (but as of today we have a bed for the first time in 4 months – oh the luxury! I feel like I’m in a hotel! But the strategically placed shirt hanging off the window frame in lieu of the blinds that have not yet arrived will no longer be at the right angle to block out the street lamp – d’oh!)
I’m busy trying to stop my toddler scratching his hugely increased eczema, stop him leaping off the now-higher-than-he-expects parental bed and get him away from the joys of BBC iplayer and into bed so that he can get to nursery without tirdness dark circles under his eyes.
There’s no respite in the day either.  I’m busy at work with so many things happening at the same time and a general election in the offing which adds to the unpredictability.  On top of all this I’m trying to finalise my final project for the qualification I’m studying for – no mean feat when that’s additional to the day job.


So why have I now got rather fabulous “East village” In a New York Minute NYC nail color-painted nails? And why do I find this so pleasing?
(image from the fabulous – do visit that site! East village is the nail varnish at the top).

There’s too much going on.  I’m trying to manage it with lists and reminders in my phone.  I’m using all of my skills that I define as “ruthless prioritisation”.  But to keep sane I need some “me” time.  now many people would get away from it and go jogging, to the gym, may be jog to the gym.  But the toddler prevents this when there’s no other babysitting available.
I’ve bought myself more time by minimising my Facebook and Twitter time, but that’s freed up less than I think either my husband or I expected. I was hardly a heavy user (yes it’s the language of drugs – yet another report out today warning of the addictiveness of online life and warning that Facebook friends are not “real friends” – which is bleeding obvious when there’s no possibility of them minding the toddler for you while you get 5 minutes peace… only real in the sense of continued contact with people you care about or are interested in).
I’ve backed off for the next couple of weeks because it’s too easy to get sucked into commenting on the Pope’s pronoucements on the Equality Bill, Chris Addison’s spam friends email address problems, yummy mummy regime issues or Barroso’s Commissioner portfolios.  All this rather than just get the wretched CIPD project written!

So tonight I’m doing some work on my CIPD CTP project. I’m so tired I can barely remember what the acronyms stand for.  And the PowerPoint slides need me to manipulated the data first, to identify the method by which participants feel they learn most effectively. I need my toddler to be asleep to get to do this, but working on this after work means I’m tired and when I go to get into the nice new bed having done some of the assignment, I can’t switch off and so the whole cycle just perpetuates with me getting more irritable and less suitably in a frame of mind to do the best I can.

So I’m taking a few minutes out in what seems like pointless procrastination, painting my nails and getting a bit of a break before getting back down to it. Spending time on my hands, even though I’ve no time on my hands at all really. And writing this of course.   Taking a few minutes up could also free up my mind and allow for some of those leaps of inspiration, or even genius (but let’s not get carried away now).

Besides, they look pretty.