Live-Blogging Eurovision 2011 – Part 1

I can’t believe that I’ve got a blog old enough to be doing an annual blogging event. This year my partner in crime is sadly across the country but you can keep up with her comments here. She actually knows stuff about music so her coverage will probably be better.

I remember that girl being more gothy last year. Lena is it? They love her!

Anyway, my lasagne is getting cold and my Pimms is getting warm so I’m going to dive right in with Bosnia and Herzegovina

(Amy’s covered the first country Finland here. I wonder if Paradise is that guy’s real name. Also awwwwww! )

I think I’d like to go to Dusseldorf. It looks like fun. I also think Herzegovina is a great name for a cat.

So onto Dino Merlin and ‘Love in Rewind’.

Love love love that jacket. And her hair.

You can never go wrong with a tambourine involved, if you ask me. Except she’s not really making the most of it. Not like that guy with the guitar/ukelele style thing.

If all the music in Bosnia is like this I’ll bet they’re all walking round with a spring in their step. Unfortunately Bosnian history suggests that isn’t the case.

That was lovely 🙂

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Check out Amy’s coverage of Denmark and their rip off of Jedward’s hair here.

So Lithuania for me. Evelina Sasenko with C’est La Vie.

Ooohhh, Graham Norton says it’s Andrew-Lloyd-Webber-stylee. I’m excited…

He was right! It’s a bit Wicked or Les Mis. This is a good thing, if you ask me. I love a rousing chorus. And a smoke machine.

I love the camera work on Eurovision. It’s all over the shop, kind of makes me feel dizzy but it keeps me on my toes.

Okay this girl is rocking my world with the sign language. Reminds me of ‘Imagine’ in Glee when people do that!

Could have had a slightly more emotional ending and a belted out final note a la Mercedes in Glee. But I like it 🙂 Can you tell I’m in a positive mood? It’s because I’m wearing pyjamas.

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And now you’re expecting me to become negative because it’s my turn to blog and I’ve got Ireland and Jedward. But it’s not their fault that people are buying their singles? It’s the British public’s fault, so I will not hate. Just as I refuse to hate on Beiber or Rebecca Black, despite their less than … and Graham Norton says I’ll end up smiling.

(Check out Amy’s comments on the retro-pop sensation that was Hungary. Feel like I’ve heard that song before)

Gaga-stylee. Awesome jackets. They need the big hair to balance out the massive shoulders.

It’s very Eurovision. I feel like Jedward were born for this role. And they’re fulfilling it very well! I’m nodding my head along in a ridiculous way, which is a good sign.

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Review: Bossypants

So I’m a Tina Fey fan girl. Aren’t we all? Bossypants, her comedy memoir, is a recent addition to my bookshelf, and a very welcome one at that.

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But not everyone has been quite so enthusiastic. There seems to have been a lot of criticism that Fey doesn’t go into sexism in comedy writing/performing enough, that she glosses over the real issues at stake. But Fey is not a professional feminist. She is not Jessica Valenti, she is Tina Fey. She writes comedy, and this book is no different. And for a comedy memoir it’s pretty damn feminist.

It’s written almost like a series of sketches, with breaks in the story for amusing bits, such as her responses to some Internet trolls. This is not a warts-and-all kind of story, there’s no tragic confession and Fey barely mentions her family and her husband. This isn’t sordid scandal. I was disappointed only by the lack of ‘Mean Girls’ based stories, as that was the moment I discovered Fey’s brilliance and remains one of my favourite bits of her work.

My favourite bit was the last chapter. That was where I felt the comedy mask slipped a bit, and the neurotic worrying about where to go from here reminded me of pretty much any woman I’ve ever spoken to. The stress of being torn between what you want, not knowing what you want, wanting to do what other people want and expect from you, not knowing what they want, feeling obligated and confused is probably something that everyone can relate to. Or maybe I’m just neurotic. But to me this really summed up what it’s like to ‘have it all’.

This whole book seems to be about ‘having it all’, trying to work and be a mum and a wife and a friend and keep it all together. And what I liked was that it was possible for Fey to discuss all the difficulties of juggling so much, but that it didn’t come out as a treatise on working mothers as a whole. Her vulnerability, her ‘triannual’ sobfest in her office doesn’t make her a bad mum or a bad employee/r, it just makes her human. Like all of us are. It is possible to have it all, you just have to try not to expect too much from yourself.

It is inspiring to someone like me to read about someone as successful as Tina Fey’s problems and compare them to my own anxieties and insecurities, but to realise that it is not a barrier to success. This is a feminist book because whilst Tina may not want to go and march and make a noise about the sexism she has experienced, she demonstrates perfectly that you can be a woman and be successful in a fast-paced industry. This is a feminist book, although you might not notice if you’re not already a feminist. She addresses sexism, she addresses double standards and the unrealistic expectations put upon women. And whilst she maybe doesn’t deal with them in quite the way that feminists would like, the very inclusion of them is surely as much as we can expect from someone whose job is not to break down the patriarchy, but to make fun of it, and of everything else.

I have been thinking a lot recently. as you may have noticed (or not, since not many people read this blog…), about the realities of being a feminist. About how it’s hard to be one, how you face conflicting viewpoints on how to behave – torn between following the feminist part of you, who knows what’s going on, and the part of you who’s been socially conditioned to behave against those feminist principles. To me this story about a feminist photo-shoot and the use of Photoshop sums up nicely exactly what I’ve been thinking about:

If you’re going to expend energy being mad about Photoshop, you’ll also have to be mad about earrings. No one’s ears are that sparkly! They shouldn’t have to be! You’ll have to get mad about oil paintings – those people didn’t really look like that! I for one am furious that people are allowed to turn sideways in photographs! Why can’t we accept a woman’s full width? I won’t rest until people are only allowed to be photographed facing front under a flourescent light…

Some people say it’s a feminist issue. I agree, because the best Photoshop job I ever got was for a feminist magazine called ‘Bust’ in 2004. 

It was a low-budget shoot in the back of their downtown office. There was no free coffee bar or wind machine, just a bunch of intelligent women with a sense of humour. 

I looked at the two paltry lights they had set up and turned to the editors. “We’re all feminists here, but you’re gonna use Photoship right?” “Oh, yeah,” they replied instantly. Feminists do the best Photoshop because they leave the meat on your bones. They don’t change your size or your skin color. They leave in your disgusting knuckles, but they might take your some armpit stubble. Not because they’re denying its existence, but because they understand that it’s okay to make a photo look as if you were caught on your best day in the best light. — Tina Fey, Bossypants 

To me, that’s the reality of feminism. Whilst we fight the good fight, we still have to live in the world we’re fighting against. And so it’s okay to sometimes concede a little to the patriarchal ways of doing things. We can’t expect everyone to be superwoman and not to care about superficial things. And that’s kind of what this book is like, Fey still has to sell copies and keep up her image, and so she slips in some feminism rather than making it all about that. So I leave you with that thought, and encourage you to buy the book, if only to make you look ridiculous trying to laugh silently on a long train journey…


I can’t be a feminist blogger…

… because I haven’t done a Women’s Studies class.

… because I haven’t read Judith Butler

… because I’ve never been on a march

… because I believe in feminist porn

… because I like to wear high heels and short skirts

When writing this blog I often get anxiety about how other people will view my writing. No doubt that is the case for many people who write, but this anxiety rears its ugly head most when I write about feminist things. Maybe because feminism is the topic closest to my heart, and so I want to get it right. But I think mostly because I don’t feel like I have any authority on the subject.

Most feminist blogs that I read are by super-smart, super-informed people who put me to shame. Most of the stuff on here is just my opinion, and a lot of the time I’m scared that someone will come along and tell me just how wrong I am. I’m afraid of offending people, or at least the good people, and of ignoring groups of people or ignoring my privilege or just being plain wrong.

Now, those probably seem like silly things to worry about in the scheme of things, but as someone who has lofty dreams of being a feminist writer some day they are important to me. I want to get this right. And I often feel like I haven’t got the experience or the authority to do that. Why would anyone want to read *my* feminist opinion when they could just hop over to feministing.com and get the real deal?

The list of reasons above is not just why I don’t always feel like a feminist blogger, but also why I don’t feel like a feminist. Disagreeing with strong feminist voices is hard (and yes, I know how whiny that sounds). I am still finding my feminist blogging voice and it’s surprising me how much courage it takes to just put it onto this tiny corner of the Internet where only two people a day drop by.

I know in my head that the reasons above don’t exempt me from being a feminist. I believe very strongly in feminist ideals and try to live a feminist life, and that surely is enough? I’m not trying to tell anyone else what to do here, so what’s the problem?


Laughing Like A Loon on Loon Tablets

I have been celebrating my freedom from essays this week by re-reading the Georgia Nicolson books by Louise Rennison. And catching up on the ones that have been published since my teenage years.

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These books make me laugh out loud more than any other book ever has. Granted my literary tastes often lean more towards the ‘serious’ side of things but even so this is a high accolade.

And more than that, they remind me of school. They remind of what being a teenage girl in an all-girls school is like. Not because I was anywhere near as vivacious and interesting as Georgia, but because there are some things that it seems are universal. Like giving nicknames to cute boys, sitting on the radiator at lunchtime, coming up with strange dance routines, dissecting every little conversation and torturing teachers.

The madness of Georgia’s family is what makes me laugh the most, however. Her manic cats and her odd but lovable little sister Libby are brilliant comic creations that lift these books into ‘genius’ category. For me at least.

So if you have never experienced the brilliance of these books before I urge you to go out now and pick one up. And best of all, for all you recovering English students out there – you don’t have to engage your brain, analyse or take notes on them! And you can easily read a whole one in a day. So go forth and giggle my dear readers, I believe you will thank me for it.


Paris

I have recently been perusing a few fashion blogs, particularly befrassy.com. The author lives in Paris and it just looks so idyllic and makes me long to be walking along Parisian streets in the sunshine in summery dresses, or sipping wine outside of a cute little bar, or getting lost once more in Louis Vuitton. Although, I would prefer not to get as lost as I did the last time I went to Paris with some friends a few years back! I swear, that place was a maze -there was an up escalator but no down!

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It’s very easy to idealise Paris, it really does seem like the most romantic, beautiful city. Although I remember being far too poor to afford *anything*, so I guess it isn’t always so ideal. It was amazing walking back at night after, crossing the many roads around the Arc de Triomphe, all lit up against the dark sky.

I need to travel more, really. I don’t always like going to new places and being spontaneous, it makes me anxious because I’m a control freak and I *hate* being lost. But whenever I have been somewhere new I’ve always enjoyed it, so I should just suck it up really. Venice was equally beautiful, and I’d love to go there again, although after I’ve been to Rome. As a Classics geek it’s really a prerequisite to go and nerd out over the Colosseum.

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Sadly this year all my spare money is going to pay for my education, but fingers crossed for a city break next year!


Conflict About The Gaze

Being a Gender Studies geek with a lot of train journeys to go on, I’ve recently been enjoying the ‘Beyond Masculinity’ podcasted essays from 2008. The essay that has so far stood out to me is ‘Gays and the Gaze’ by Hammad Ahmed.

Ahmed goes into detail about the various theories surrounding the gaze and why they do not apply to his experience as a queer South-Asian-American man, and it’s a very interesting listen and certainly provoked some thought from me.

It is generally assumed that women are the objects of a male gaze, and that this is a negative thing. I do not wish to refute that fact because I’m not that au fait with the various theories, but I wish to discuss some of the problems.

Ahmed states that he understands why women get tired with the over-attentive and potentially dehumanising gaze that they experience on a daily basis, and yet he himself longs to be the recipient of the gaze. I would argue that women sometimes feel that too. Women are socialised in this world where, as a general rule men look and women look pretty and so to experience the male gaze is to receive approval and validation.

The gaze can feel very threatening; in a society where women feel almost constantly at threat of sexual assault, violence and judgement, there is no surprise that a prolonged stare can be an unpleasant reminder of these threats. I know that I often walk with my head down when I have to pass a man in a situation where it is just the two of us, in order to avoid his gaze and the Gaze.

This is not to say that all men are trying to objectify me; they may not give me more than a cursory glance as I walk by, but the potential is still there. The gaze is often accompanied by silence, something that is in itself unpleasant; I used to have to walk past a group of teenagers who would hang around on my street on the way home from school and they would silently glare at me as I walked past. Their lack of conversation was the worst part because it is impossible to know someone’s thoughts – they become just an anonymous figure gazing at you and it can feel very threatening, even if you are not sure what you are afraid of.

However, in a society which objectifies women and who judges women through the gaze, women (or at least, this woman and I am sure I am not alone) can feel conflicted in their feelings about the gaze. If being objectified is a sign of approval, even if it is shallow patriarchal approval which reduces you to your body parts as opposed to a person of substance, then it is unsurprising that some people want to feel objectified.

Not because being objectified feels nice, because as a rule it doesn’t, but because to be objectified is to be approved of and women are socialised to seek out that approval, to cultivate their appearances to elicit that approval. I avert my eyes to ignore the gaze but if I was to look and find that he was not really interested in looking at me, then there would be a tiny bit of conflict there – the relief that there was no threat combined with the sadness that I am not deemed worthy of the gaze.

Now, of course this is all kinds of messed up and perhaps it is my own ego that makes me feel this conflict, but I feel pretty sure that I am not the only woman to have experienced this. We feel offended when someone wolf-whistles us, but if no one was to wolf-whistle us ever (especially on that day we made an effort to look nice) then no doubt it would only fuel our insecurities about being undesirable, and therefore, by society’s standards, unimportant and unseen. A lot of people who have low self-esteem claim to feel invisible, and that is seen as one of the worst things to be – everyone wants to be noticed by someone, right? And this could be seen in connection with the gaze, or lack thereof, that these people are the victims of. Or perhaps it is the opposite, they are only gazed upon and never truly seen. I couldn’t possibly say.

This is not to say that we should sustain traditional concepts of the gaze and further encourage this objectification. Just that it is important to recognise that women, even feminists, are not immune to social pressure, and that conflict about the gaze is central to tackling the issue of objectification.


Feminism At Royal Holloway

I’m so excited about all of the awesome feminist events happening at Royal Holloway in the next couple of weeks.

I’m currently organising a feminist exhibition (like the one described on the Feminist Coming Out Day website) and a party with live poetry readings, music, speakers and a DJ to let everyone celebrate International Women’s Day in style!

And the next day is the first RHUL Feminist Society event; a debate on whether ‘Is feminism still relevant?’. The answer is of course yes, but there should be some interesting discussion going on.

Since I’ve been a feminist I’ve got most of my feminist discussion from the Internet. Which is awesome, of course because there are some fabulous feminists out here in cyberspace. But there’s something so brilliant about sitting around the pub chatting with people who you don’t have to persuade that feminism *is* necessary and no, it’s not hating men, and no, I’m not a hairy lesbian and even if I were what would be the problem with that, hmmm?

Royal Holloway used to be a women’s college. Emily Davison, the woman who was killed by the King’s horse during the suffragettes’ struggle all those years ago attended the college for a couple of years. The Royal Holloway colours are purple and green; the same incidentally as the suffragettes. I’m off tomorrow to the Archives to look at photos of women’s activism connected with the college. I’m so happy and proud that we’re bringing this back. Although it makes me sad that I’ll be leaving it all behind in a couple of months, I’m excited to see Royal Holloway becoming a real part of student feminism.