Personal

Ireland is a bit like LotR.

I’m drowsily typing this from a B&B in almost the most westerly point in Europe – Dingle, Western Ireland. It’s pretty magnificent here. The kind of landscape reminiscent of the kind of epic films whose morals are founded in loyalty, bravery and which perhaps features occasional, intense, homo-erotic eye contact between Hobbits. With mountains.

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The best way to explore it is on horseback. The best way to achieve this is to allow your father – who has recently adopted the sport and cherishes it like a beloved child – to tag along with you so he can pay for it (pony trekking is not cheap).

There’s something radically authentic about seeing Ireland happen from the back of a horse. You don’t really feel like a tourist; tourists hop into their hired cars and drive around the narrow, winding cliff-top roads, churning out noxious fumes by the cubic something-or-other and gleefully flinging their Maccies bags out of the window, cooing at the various attributes of the landscape but also keeping their eyes very much pealed for the next opportunity they might snatch a drive-thru. No. We are not tourists like these! We are not afraid to don our waterproof coats/trousers/gloves/socks/panties yet still somehow get soaked right through to the skin, we relish the opportunity to have our faces plastered with sand and our mouths filled with grit from the flying debris churned up by the horse galloping on front of our own, OH NO. We enrich our lives with the awe-inspiring sight of the Irish countryside from a sympathetic, non-polluting viewpoint. It makes us realise how small our presence on this Earth truly is, allows the trivialities of everyday life to slide gently, effortlessly into perspective and allows our imaginations a little freedom (the horse I was assigned, Blasket, looked a little like the one Aragorn was given by the Rohirrim in The Two Towers, so mostly I pretended I was in Middle Earth, doing some quests and shit).

Dear Reader, I hope you have realised all that soul searching talk was satirical, superfluous bullshit. Pony trekkers are just as pretentious as the car hire-ers. Dad and I went pony trekking ’cause we fucking love ponies, man. And LotR.

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Look at his smily little face.

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Rants, Reviews

“A new species would bless me as its creator”

Maybe it’s ten months worth of enforced indoctrination, but since I’ve studied Frankenstein and read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go as an afterthought, the effects of unethical science (particularly in a distorted, dystopian, futuristic setting filtered through the eyes of Kathy H.) have sort of played on my mind.

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With its being a gothic Romance/social commentary which endorses her father’s views, Frankenstein is, in some ways, a bit OTT. The principles are there: crazed, power-hungry narcissist wants to have a stab at making “a being like myself” supposedly for the good of humankind but really just to get a glittering reputation as a fabby scientist, but, of course, completely disregards any sense of duty towards his would-be child and rejects him purely on the basis that he is a bit of an ugly duckling. Obviously our Creature is denied everything that is core to a fulfilling human existence: conventional beauty, companionship and “the possibility of love”, forever associated with monstrosity since, like in classic mythology, he is composed of an assortment of ill-fitting body parts; think of your Centaur and your Minotaur. This leaves him lacking a secure position within a cruel, scrutinising and narrow-minded society, which is destructive to anyone. This is where the wordy, dramatic duologues in which quotations from Paradise Lost are chucked haphazardly into what appears to be some kind of oxymoronic battle of eloquent chaos happen a bit, and so does the Creature’s inevitable lust for revenge. Not saying that Shelley thinks it’s fine for the oppressed to pursue a bloodthirsty form of justice, but it does reflect the way the working classes, the proletariat, the “body politic” were treated unethically, were perceived as abortive or monstrous,  simply because they didn’t have a residence in town, or a hat for every day of the week, or didn’t take afternoon tea with Lady Catherine de Bourgh twice a week. So perhaps Frankenstein is more centred on society’s defects rather than practising science without ethical bounds, however it could have been a wake up call to contemporary scientists like Galvani (the guy who made dead frog’s legs jump with electrodes), whose scientific advances were more sensationalist than beneficial.

Although you could probably say the example of unethical science in Never Let Me Go might just benefit humankind, the very fact that a large group of human being is cloned, grown and harvested purely to prolong the lives of the “normal”, sexually-reproduced people seems to me like another quest for glory. The glory of long life. Long live the human race! (But only the right ones). The cloned kids are chucked into boarding schools, given manky hand-me-down playthings and clothes to cherish, not taught an awful lot about their future as involuntary vital organ donors (except that they are obligated to take great care of themselves) and are considered to by the wider world to be lacking a soul – unless they can make pretty artwork. Either way, they are forced to carry out the formulaic life that was mapped out for them years before their asexual conception; care for their dying peers, begin dying themselves. The most terrifying thing about the novel is that there is no rebellion. The victims of the so-called ‘National Donor Programme’ DO NOT march up to the besuited figures of authority, look them in the eyes and say “this is wrong”, no matter how much the reader wishes s/he could her/himself. They sit back and accept that they have no rights, no ownership of their bodies, that fellow humans are prepared to cut them open, dig around in there for  a kidney, a lung, a heart – and leave them to die. It’s this acceptance of their lot, and perhaps the 90s setting that, for me, makes the novel more terrifying than Shelley’s classic.

When something like the narrative of Never Let Me Go seems to manifest proximity to our own lives, it’s bound to unsettle us. And it barely takes a second to find comparable prospective projects which have been considered in the real world. One of the least ethical experiments I’ve heard of is the idea of separating twins at birth, placing them in two different environments and observing their entire lives. However, the pursuit of a “regular” life would be impossible since every part of their existence would be strictly controlled, from diet to climate. It’s the only way you could do it without all the stigma of cloning people in order to experiment on them, but essentially, the principles are the same. And all this, because we’re not quite sure about the concept of “nature vs nurture” yet. It’s a gap in psychology which we NEED to fill for some reason. And then you’d probably find people wondering “wouldn’t this make simply WONDERFUL television? Think of ALL THE PEOPLE who would get viewing pleasure out of such an idea?”. Then we’d find ourselves with a real life Truman Show. Then there’d be such a motive for the press to tip the experimentees off about their staged existence just for the scandal and the money – these two lives would become pawns in the game of money, fame and morality. Or lack of morality.

I just think that as a race, we’ve shown that we have the capacity to switch off our consciences sometimes, even in day to day matters. These authors, they have a point. We should listen.

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Personal

Just a thought.

I’ve been an anxious person all my life, and though my imagination has depth to it, it is sometimes destructive. A tendency to concentrate on particular negative thoughts for hours on end becomes tedious, consuming, even nightmarish. I think we are all susceptible to our minds’ capacity to provoke worry and gloom. So, I did this a couple of weeks ago.

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This is not just a new innovative form of procrastination (although I freely admit I put Frankenstein down to pursue this). I wanted to externalise all these things that cloy my thought processes because fixing on a particular thought is often inescapable. I hoped that some psychological snag would unravel itself on closing the jar, as if I would feel as though I could banish it from my mind too. And yes, sometimes I indulge myself and read the things that have gripped me like some cognitive plague because it is important to contemplate. Only then can you twist the jar shut, and move on.

I’m also very conscious of losing sight of the positives. We are guilty of despairing when the minutest detail ceases to fit our expectations. We let the most ridiculous instances ruin any harmony we have in with ourselves. That’s why the “Things to Smile About” jar is there.

And, you’ll see, it’s quite full.

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Rants

On another of my increasingly frequent Tickld visits, I stumbled across this and decided to wing a surreptitious little post out of it

Behold:

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(Not all feminist finger-pointing this time, although she makes a good argument)

Here we see a child, the best kind of child, the kind of child discards her plastic princess idols disdainfully upon the floor, tugs at the hem of an adult’s jacket and points out the silly little things that lots of us accept as the norm.

Consider for a moment the glorious days of Cartoon Network. Some of the happiest days of my childhood were spent sprawled out on my grandparents’ sofa, indulging in the Sky TV I was cruelly denied at home. It only just occurred to me that the programmes themselves, were fine. Well, no. They were amazing. Absolutely totally awesome and cool and rad. But this delightfully fringed young woman suddenly reminded me of the ad-breaks.

Weren’t they just gender stereotypes served to us on a plate, garnished with promises of a better life after having purchased whatever crappy lump of overpriced, mass-produced plastic they were advertising?

It was all toys. Toys everywhere. Toys as far as the eye could see. But they’re all so distinctive. There is always an indisputable forcing of the product on a particular target audience and it nearly always goes like this: here is a toy only for boys, here is a toy only for girls.

Example: some sort of weird metal in the background with some sort of flashy miniature automobile thrust on an angular backdrop of harsh colours. And fire. Usually fire. A shouty, bordering-on-aggressive male voice yelling at the young viewer: YEAH. AWESOME. LOOK AT THESE EXPLOSIONS. THIS CAR TURNS INTO AN MACHETE, TURNS INTO MP5, TURNS INTO A TANK, TURNS INTO AN APACHE HELICOPTER. Welcome to a world of heroism, warmongering, power, “proper action and shit”. And nobody is allowed to cry.

Fourty-five seconds later, the scene transforms and manifests itself as a sugary, glittering, pink-and-purple chunderfest. We hear something like the ambient tones one encounters in a lift, and are presented with plastic babies with demonic eyes, ponies and arts ‘n’ crafts. Hello young ladies. Look! It’s your married life pre-made in plastic. We’ll even show you what kind of creative to be, isn’t that USEFUL?

It’s a load of bull. I defy you to remember a single unisex toy advertised back when we were nippers, or a boy playing with a teeny tiny plastic kitchen, or a girl mucking about with toy army paraphernalia. I don’t see what right advertising has to define our roles for us before we’ve even decided what they could possibly be, for the sake of dollaaah.

However, I have nothing against Playmobil. That shit is about as unisex as it comes.

This is why I love that this child exists. To question the things I was too immature to as young’un. Just something to think about.

“Some girls like superheroes… Some boys like princesses.”

Aside
Rants

Feminism: Ruder than the c-word.

As a regular teen I love to avoid my workload, which often means scrolling through websites purveying pictures of cats in clothes among a multitude of other hilarities for hours on end completely by accident. Today, I stumbled across this:

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Observe this graphic. If, by any chance, you are in possession of a penis, you will most likely find yourself smirking away and murmuring phrases of amused agreement under your breath, though still probably suspicious that a strident feminist is hiding somewhere in your bedroom, poised to leap out at you and make you the receiver of a hefty slap with a rubbery dildo. Women may find this equally funny, either out of incredulousness or sympathy, but I would like you to know that I FOR ONE am NOT BEST PLEASED.

And I’ll tell you for why.

I’m fairly certain that most people would agree that generalisation, or indeed ‘stereotyping’, is negative in most cases, since it removes scope for personal identity and any kind of morsel of food for thought. When one generalises, one applies a general identity which condemns a group to sameness, to circularity. Internet, are you really telling me ALL men are reasonable, whereas ALL women aren’t? Imagine you’re sat in a bus shelter, you’ve picked up your coffee from the place around the corner with your name scrawled haphazardly on the side of the cup and while your nose is determinedly shoved into The Guardian, a fellow being approaches, occupies the seat next to you, turns and says: “Muslims. Bunch of bloody terrorists. All of them.”

Now imagine the scenario again. This time, our hideously prejudiced friend’s piece of insight is: “Feminists. Bunch of bloody supremacists. All of them.”

I’d like to think that everyone would find the first comment totally ignorant, unacceptable and inciteful of a disgusting tendency towards race-hatred that should be punished. I’d love to think that everyone thought that the second comment, too, was ignorant, foully sexist and born of a complete misunderstanding of and contempt for the term ‘feminism.’ The same principle of generalisation has been applied to both groups: in both cases I’ve gathered together evidence of the existence a few extremists, scrawled it on a metaphorical post-it and fixed it to the back of every single follower of the respective ideology. And it seems to me that most would consider the first as hideous abuse; the second, a bit of a laugh.

Internet culture seems to have bred a new type of feminism, a type which portrays every feminist as one who wants to go above and beyond the boundaries of equality – a radical feminist. It’s true of a tiny minority, but not of the whole. And in my experience, most people, whether they profess to be a feminist or not, consider the desire for female supremacy as totally skewed and against the principles of feminism itself.

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Please. If I saw this crazy specimen, I’d be all like “Gurl, if we, as a race of men and women, want equality, we don’t hit anybody. Or we hit everybody.”

Essentially it’s become a taboo, littered with negative connotations and I guarantee that if I were to stride flamboyantly into that same bus shelter, tap you briskly on the shoulder and say: “Whaddup, I’m a feminist”, I would not be taken seriously by you. Partly because of the context. And my manner of addressing you. But the point remains: it’s become this aggressive, accusatory title, making people recoil because it highlights the fact that us girls still don’t always feel on a par with the blokes. It’s even used as a form of insult. Belittled and undermined by a hip new meme trend – how can feminism contend with the power of the Internet?

Cue Caitlin.

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Gather round. This woman is without a doubt, indisputably and undeniably fabulous. She even has deliberate grey streaks in her hair. Do one, Garnier, this fine woman doesn’t need to conceal her age, it only further accentuates her worldly wisdom. Moran argues that although there are still enormous issues such as equal pay and forced female circumcision in the Third World (this is where young girls are taken off to some sordid little tin shack to have their clitorus promptly sliced off with rusty tools without the use of anaesthetic in order that they get no pleasure out of sex, in the hope that affairs become a futility. Grim stuff.), there are “littler, stupider, more obvious day-to-day problems with being a woman”, silly little expectations like:

Thou shalt shave thy pubic hair. This is not a myth: On asking my male and female peers, and generating a great sense of unease amongst them, a vast majority revealed that they were very uncomfortable with female body hair, foof-related or not. One young man even righteously claimed that a unbeshaven vagina was “unnatural”. Incorrect. And unbeshaven vagina is a wonderful thing. It is a sign of maturity, adult development and even some form of hairy identity which means one hasn’t conformed to the vast array of bald pornography published to the Internet. I even decided it would be prudent to embarrass some my male counterparts further, by asking if they kept their private parts, armpits and legs trimmed and shaved? The answer was universally a scornful snort, and “no way.”

Of course, “mowing the lawn” is entirely a choice, but I think it’s important to examine the expectation that a woman’s foof should resemble a naked mole rat.

The way I see it, feminism is fundamentally in place to combat sexism. I don’t think anyone would deny the existence of that. And yes, double standards, sexism works both ways. So why can’t feminism? It’s all about equality for both sexes, it is not an attack designed to point out the faults and flaws in the entire male race; if it is ever used in this way, it is a gross misrepresentation. Chaps, don’t be frightened of the word because its prefix is “femin”. It doesn’t make it a girl thing. If you separate the two syllables of “history”, you get “his story”: much of it was written and made by men, but it’s not a boy thing; an awful lot has also been made by us chicks.  So let’s share it. As Caitlin says: “A male feminist is one of the most glorious end-products of evolution.” And you don’t have to let us drag you on bra-burning expeditions (nobody does that anyway, I LOVE my bras), you don’t have to open doors ‘because we’re women’ (we open those doors for EVERYONE because it’s polite), all we have to do is respect each other, really.

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