Sunday, 29 March 2015

Books I masturbated to as a Teenager Part 1 - "An Anthology of Erotic Prose" *

*This isn't really going to be an ongoing series. Don't worry.

Essential Reading for every 1990s teenager. Possibly.
Essential Reading for me, anyway.
You know, even two years ago, I wouldn't have have guessed that at some point in the future, I'd be sharing my favourite teenage masturbatory literature with the whole of the world wide web. Yet these days, it seems positively normal behaviour. Talk about the most wanked-over book on my teenage bookshelf? Sure, that's a thing I would totally do. In fact, I'm doing it right now.

(Although before we continue, please rid yourself of any mental images that "wanked over" may have conjured up. I didn't mean it literally. I am a lady and therefore tidy and discreet.)

People growing up in the digital age now have a world of porn and erotica just at the other end of a WiFi connection what with your PornHub, Two Girls One Cup and every kind of erotic literature available from the deliciously romantic to the downright bloody weird downloadable onto your kindle in seconds.

Anyone born from the mid eighties onwards would struggle to understand just how difficult it was to get hold of porn before the internet. Especially if you were a well brought-up, massively kinky, somewhat conflicted burgeoning feminist who knew she didn't want to look at 'conventional' Razzle-style pornography but none-the-less wanted a bit of external stimulation to augment the ongoing 18-rated storylines in her head.

Best Value Shag Mag Ever, apparently. Occasionally available in hedges.
I bought An Anthology of Erotic Prose (ed. Derek Parker) some point in my mid-teens. It quickly became very well-thumbed indeed. This collection of over fifty examples of erotic writing was presented chronologically so it started with an excerpt from the Arabian Nights ("The Medinah Girl put her hand to his yard and handled it") and finish with Erica Jong's Fear of Flying ("The zipless fuck was more than just a fuck. It was a platonic ideal.")

The authors included the usual erotic suspects - John Cleland, Casanova, Anais Nin - obviously the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher Masoch both get an entry each. Not to mention half a dozen entries from 'Anon'. He wrote a lot of filth that guy.

Sade and Masoch. Everyone's favourite double act.
There were also a whole bunch of authors not usually associated with erotic writing like Mark Twain, Henry Miller and Gore Vidal. Basically the entire anthology was the equivalent of going through a bunch of books and just reading the dirty bits. Which, let's face it, is what I'd been doing beforehand. It was so much more civilised to have someone do the hard work for me and put inside a pretty cover.

Obviously not everything included in the book was a turn-on. In fact most of it wasn't. But you know it was the 1990s and I was grateful for whatever I could get. Even the stuff that it seemed like it should be my kind of thing (and we all know that my kind of thing generally involves spanking, yes?) didn't always read the way I wanted it to. The extract from Miss Coote's Confession gets off to a promising start when a young woman with a tendency towards thievery is being discussed: "Have they never tried a good whipping?" Miss Cootes asks regarding the girl's parents. She then goes on to offer to cure the girl as long as she is given carte blanche to punish the girl in her own way.

Her own way being a sound thrashing of course. So by and by, the girl is invited over, gets caught red-handed an finds herself stretched out with "her chemise rolled up" awaiting chastisement. I was very fond of this extract for the most part. Ideally I prefer a gentleman to administering the punishment rather than a lady but that's a minor complaint. There's a page or so of the actual punishment which I re-read on many occasions. "You bad girl. Your bottom shall be marked for many a day. I'll wager you don't steal as long as the marks remain."

Problem is the author (the prolific "Anon") blows it in the last few paragraphs when she says "All the spectators are greatly moved and seem to enjoy the sight of Selina's blood dripping down, down till her stockings are saturated and it forms little pools beneath her on the floor."

Ah, right. Blood. Yeah, that's not sexy. I prefer my damn good thrashings to be administered without blood loss, thank you very much. Still, I worked round it. On subsequent occasions, I just remembered to stop reading before I got to that bit.

Another favourite of mine in this anthology was an extract from Jean de Berg's The Image (1956) in which the narrator looks at some photographs of young woman to whom he has been previously introduced called Anne.
The buttocks are marked in every direction by deep lines, very clear and distinct, which crisscross the central crack, more or less stressed according to how hard the whip fell. 
This picture of little Anne chained to her bed, on her knees in a most uncomfortable position, is obviously more moving because of the cruel evidence of the torture she has undergone. The black ironwork forms a pattern of elegant arabesques behind her.
My favourite inclusion in the Anthology, wasn't even a work of a literary prose. Rather it was a letter written in 1785 by an anonymous correspondent to the editor of The Exhibition of Female Flagellants offering helpful advice to the engraver on how best to illustrate women having their backsides thrashed. It is clearly a matter in which he had a deep and resounding interest. "To see the representation of an agreeable young lady having her petticoats pulled up and her pretty pouting backside laid bare and seeming to feel the tingling stripes of a Rod is amusing enough." He recommends that the arses depicted should be "round, plump and large, rather over than under the size which the usual proportions of painters and statuaries would allow." Quite right too.

It was a hugely nostalgic experience reading through this anthology again after several decades. I couldn't find my original copy - I suspect it's up in my parents' loft somewhere so had ordered a replacement from Amazon which is happily exactly the same edition as my original. Everything - from the cover to the layout to the size of the thing (just slightly too large and heavy to comfortably hold in one hand, in case you're wondering) takes me right back to those furtive teenage fumblings. Proust had memories evoked by the taste of a madeleine dipped in tea. I, however, have eighteenth century perverts talking about arses.

If only I could go back and show teenage me what delights were awaiting me in the twenty-first century.That rather than having to trawl through books to find snatches of things that kinda sorta fitted my fantasies, there would be hundreds of books available containing just the sort of thoroughly stern and frequently romantic spankings that I wanted to read about. Just the Victorian and Regency section of the Blushing Books website would have been more than I could have wished for. If I had known back then, the range and variety of filth that would be accessible to middle-aged me, it would have blown my kinky, conflicted, horny little adolescent mind.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Book Review - Mob Mistress by Renee Rose

Want to know more about the book review star rating system? Or find out what other books I've reviewed? Check out this page here.
Only just this minute realised that the 'r' in Mistress is actually a gun.

Five Stars!

Despite my professed preference for All Things Historical, I can get as giddily as excited by a modern day romance as the next spanko. I absolutely loved and adored Renee Rose's The Bossman which is a modern-day romance about falling in love with a mobster.

In fact I loved it so much, that when I was briefly considering a career in book plagiarism, The Bossman was the book I started with because as I said at the time, "it's brilliant and sexy and far better than anything I could write. And if I am going to embark on a new life of criminality I want to be doing it for the right reasons - bitterness and jealousy."

When I reviewed The Bossman for Spanking Romance Reviews, I finished off by saying that I didn't want Renee to write a sequel. "Not because I don’t want to spend any more time with Sophie and Joey – far from it. I just don’t want them to have any more drama in their lives. They've had enough excitement. I am happy to leave them to the quiet uneventful life that they both crave."

Luckily Renee has found a way to write a sequel while still keeping me happy (and I assume that my continued happiness is the primary motivating factor behind Renee's writing career) by returning to the sexy Mafia world while leaving Sophie and Joey very firmly in the background enjoying marital bliss and the pleasures of parenthood.

Mob Mistress focuses on Joey's cousin, Bobby Manghini, an accountant working at the slightly more legitimate end of "The Family"'s business dealings. He's in the market for a new mistress and when his path crosses with Lexi, a down-on-her-luck hairdresser on the receiving end of  string of financial misfortunes - he wants to persuade her that he would be excellent Sugar Daddy material.

Despite the fact that Lexi only agrees to his proposal because she is up to her eyeballs in medical bills, debts and overdue rent, there is a fairly lovely and believable rapport between the two of them from their very first meeting. It is on the face of it, an utterly cold-blooded and mercenary arrangement. "Here’s the deal." says Bobby, early on. "You make yourself available to me. If you’re not working at the hair salon, your time is mine. You don't have to sit around and wait for me—I’ll text you in advance, but you don’t tell me you're busy, got it? If you have plans, you change them."

It's hard to believe that such an arrangement - with a member of the bloody Mafia, no less - could result in such a sweet and romantic storyline. But you know Renee Rose. "Sweet and Romantic" is her middle name.
In fact, I am going to assume that is literally true from now on
Lexi believes that Bobby is married mainly because he doesn't give her any reason to think otherwise. He's actually divorced but likes to keep all the sections of his life neatly compartmentalised. Which is why he likes to keep his mistresses tucked away tidily and out of sight until he wants to play.

And he really does love to play. The sex is fantastically written. There is one standing-up-against-the-wall sex scene early on in the story that got me terribly excited. Renee has a knack of describing such scenes in a way that makes it oh-so-easy to visualise.

And then there are the spankings. Of course there are. Bobby Manghini is very fond of spanking. Mostly the spankings are the fun, sexy type but there is also a wonderfully disciplinary spanking with a belt which Bobby administers after Lexi crosses a line in Bobby's neatly compartmentalised life. That's a very distracting scene, that one. In fact it caused me to miss my tube stop when I read it. You try giving that as an excuse for why you're late to work. (There are all kinds of disadvantages to reading Renee's books on trains, mind you. Lack of privacy for one thing.)

Not the most conducive of environments for engaging in a spot of self-love.
I probably enjoyed Mob Mistress even more than The Bossman. It's a close run thing, though. I'd rather not choose between those two mafia boys. They're both utterly delightful. How on earth does Renee Rose manage to write such engagingly lovely characters when they are both involved in the seedy world of underground crime? I should dislike both these people intensely. Instead I'd rather like to hang out with them. Particularly if said 'hanging out' involved a trip over one or other their laps.

I have no idea how Renee does it. It's probably witchcraft. I'm incredibly glad that she does, though. I hope there are more spanky mobsters to come! They're just so terribly good at the disciplinary stuff, apparently.

Monday, 23 March 2015

You Might As Well Live

This is a post about feeling suicidal. There are a few things I need to make clear before you read it. The first is that I wrote it well over a month ago. I wasn't, at the point it was written, feeling at my most chipper. However, time has moved on and I am actually rather happy with life at the moment. The passage of time, prescription drugs and the support of lovely people will help with that. I have been dealing with depression-based stuff for the last twenty-five years. However, writing it all down did rather help at the time so I figured I might as well share it with you. 

This isn't in any way a cry for help. I'm doing OK.

Although I suspect my real reason for publishing it is along the lines of "Well I've written it now. I might as well", I am justifying publishing it by telling myself it might help other people who are currently experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts.

If this is you, first of all please remember, you are not alone. No matter how lonely you might feel right now, there are people who give a shit about you. Phone them. Text them. Phone the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 if you're in the UK or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 in the USA. Or google 'suicidal' if you live anywhere else. There are people out there for you, I promise. 

I feel ridiculous trying to counsel anyone - even hypothetical blog readers. I am barely able to manage my own shit. But, hey, (as a certain High School Musical once said) we're all in this together. If I can ever help in any way, let me know.

Suicide’s a funny thing. Not hilariously funny, obviously but even these days when it’s kind of OK to admit that you have clinical depression, or have self-harmed or that you regularly employ the services of a therapist to help you sort your brain out, it’s hard to admit to suicidal thoughts.

It’s the one thing I have repeatedly lied to doctors about. When you go to see a doctor about depression, I think they are Hippocratically bound to ask you if you have considered killing yourself. My usual policy is to tell the entire truth to doctors. They can’t morally judge you or force you to do things you don’t want to or inform the police about your recreational marijuana use.  I told my GP about all the illegal drugs I took in my first month of pregnancy (I didn’t know I was pregnant when I took them, obviously) even though it meant that information was on the folder that I carried around with me to appointments for the next nine months. (Actually it was probably less than nine months. I probably didn’t turn up at my GP’s the moment I accidentally conceived.) The importance of them knowing about it outweighed the embarrassment.

But when a doctor asks me if I have had suicidal thoughts, I always say “no”. I imagine they have a big red button under their desk which they will immediately activate if someone admits to being a suicide risk. I don’t even know what the worst thing is that would happen if they did activate the big red “SUICIDE” button. It’s not like I expect men in white coats to come charging in and drag me off straitjacketed to a mental institution. The National Health Service doesn’t have the money for that. It’s hard enough to get counselling on the NHS. Even people who desperately want and need residential psychiatric care struggle to get it. You’ve got to work hard to be sectioned. The Health Service isn’t going to give a bunch of hugely expensive in-patient psychiatric treatments to every depressive who’s feeling a bit morbid.

I think for a long time, the worry was that Social Services would become involved. It was one of the things, when my daughter was little, that made it hard to reach out for help. Especially when I was self-harming. The horrible, horrible thought that some social worker might think that the fact I was cutting my arms up might mean I would ever do anything to harm my child. Although it is obvious to me that I never would, it’s possible this might be a thing, I don’t know. There’s Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy. There might be some kind of self-harming by proxy thing that some mothers do. I can’t bring myself to google it. Right now, I don’t want to know.

But my daughter is an adult now. It wouldn’t matter anymore if I were labelled as an ‘Unfit Mother’.  I can be as ‘unfit’ as I like these days. Nobody’s going to swoop in and put my kid into care.

My problem now is that the question “Have you been having suicidal thoughts?” is a little, well vague.

Everyone has suicidal thoughts sometimes, surely? You know when someone says “Shoot me now” and aims a gun made out of their fingers at their temples, that’s kind of a suicidal thought, isn’t it? Sure they’re only saying it because they’re stuck talking to some guy at the pub who refuses take Global Warming seriously, but it shows that even at a jokey, superficial level, we all acknowledge there’s a point where we think: “This is too much bother. I’m quitting.”

I remember reading something about suicide once which explained that suicidal thoughts happen at the point where one’s ability to cope is outweighed by the things one has to cope with. It’s probably self-evident, but it resonated deeply with me. Someone might have an otherwise perfectly normal ability to cope but have such terrible, awful, abusive, insurmountable things to deal with, that ending it all might feel like the only option. On the other hand, someone else’s ability to cope might be so low and so fragile that even ‘getting up in the morning’ might be more than they can realistically deal with.

I have, on occasion, found myself wanting to end it all. Not in a dramatic “Goodbye Cruel World!” way. Just in an exhausted, defeated ‘Let’s make it stop’ way.

Like ending an unsatisfactory relationship. Or more accurately, like quitting a job that you realise that you aren’t very good at and that you don’t enjoy doing.

“Look, I’ve tried this whole ‘living’ business and it turns out, I can’t do it successfully. Sorry for wasting everybody’s time but I feel you will function far more successfully as a team without me. I’ll let myself out.”

I won’t do it. Whatever happens, I’ll keep plugging on at this ‘life’ business. Like I’ve said before, I have a daughter. Who is, incidentally, quite the nicest person I’ve ever met. And who, for some reason, seems to be extraordinarily fond of me. Even if she wasn’t, having a parent commit suicide would be a maelstrom of hellishness a million times worse than having me stick around, even on my bad days. And I’m the only parent she has, poor sod, it’s not like she even has a backup.

And I have to outlive my parents. Since becoming a parent, I realise that this is the deal. I don’t want my parents to die (and they’re becoming noticeably older these days, it’s scary) but they have to die before I do. Everything else is monstrous.

I have, however tried to kill myself in the past. I made a serious suicide attempt when I was sixteen years old.  I didn’t know I had clinical depression, then. I don’t think I’d even heard of such a thing. I genuinely thought I was going mad.  I dearly hope teenagers these days with access to the internet are more clued in than my 1990s teenage self.

I managed to convince myself that my family knew that I wanted to kill myself and were impatiently waiting for me to get on with it. (Turned out this wasn’t even close to being the case, they totally bought my “pretending to be fine” act and, also, obviously, loved me dearly.)

My original plan of slashing my wrists didn’t pan out. I expected to hit some kind of vein geyser but instead spent half an hour hacking at my wrists with a – probably not sharp enough - kitchen knife with no more effect than causing a massive flesh wound and a load of blood on the sheets. So I went and collected all the painkillers from the first-aid cupboard, instead.  I even had a quick joke and a chat with my sister and her boyfriend when I ran into them in the kitchen on the way. It’s no wonder my family had no clue. I was concealing my feelings to a ridiculous degree.

I took over a hundred painkillers that night. I genuinely didn’t expect to wake up the next morning. When I did, it was with a disappointed feeling of “Oh well, that didn’t work then.”

But the drugs were coursing their way through my body and I obviously wasn’t right that Saturday morning. My mum must have already suspected something was amiss. It was the middle of summer; I had been wearing long cardigans to conceal my arms and most of my hands for months. She demanded I show her the cut on my arm she’d glimpsed the day or so before, saying she was worried that I might have septicaemia. When she pushed up my sleeves, she saw not only the deep gash I had made trying to slit my wrist but also all the cuts and burns I had inflicted on myself over the previous couple of months. She called a doctor immediately. Even then I didn’t mention the overdose.

So by the time the overdose became known – I was vomiting, there was a doctor on the premises, they figured it out in the end – I was already at  risk of organ failure. I spent a week in hospital. I assumed my suicide attempt had failed by the time I was rushed into Casualty. It hadn’t failed at all by that point. In fact, my chances of making it to the end of the week weren't guaranteed. People can die of kidney failure days later in these situations.

My parents were told by the doctors that this wasn’t a ‘cry for help’; that I had seriously intended to end my own life.

My poor parents. They were (and still are) the loveliest people you could possibly hope to meet. My inability to cope with life was never because of any shortcomings on their part. Hours of therapy have been wasted by people trying to probe into my childhood finding what terrible occurrences made me so dysfunctionally miserable.  It was only during my more recent privately funded cognitive behavioural sessions that I could move away from trying to find some non-existent childhood trauma and just focus on the fact that – for whatever reason – I do feel like this. Frequently. We are where we are. Where do we go from here?

Obviously I survived my teenage suicide attempt. In melancholy moments, I do wonder about the scar that would have been left on my family if my attempt at ending it all been successful. I appreciate from a butterfly-flapping perspective that my death in 1990 would have probably prevented the rest of my family history panning out in the exactly the way it did. But let’s assume it did. Let’s assume my brother and sister still married the same partners and had the same kids, Christmas wouldn’t have been the same, would it? How could a parent properly enjoy any of those festive markers when one of their own children had chosen to opt out of existing?

I couldn’t possibly have appreciated it at the time. Depression makes you selfish. Teenagers are selfish anyway. Depressed teenagers are the worst. But now as a parent of teenager, in fact as a parent of a teenager older than I was when I might have conceivably died at my own hand, it makes my heart drop like a stone just to think of it. Yes, I’m happy for my own sake that I’m still here. But far more than that, I’m glad I didn’t make my parents live through that alternative reality. Whatever shit I’ve given them since then (and there’s been plenty) it has to be better than that.

It’s probably obvious to most people. But, like I say, depression makes you selfish. And wanting to leave the party early is possibly the most selfish thing of all. It’s something that I need to remind myself of from time to time. I may not necessarily want to be here. But it’s really, really important that I don’t just up and leave.

Somebody needs to have serious words with that butterfly though.


The title for this post is taken from Dorothy Parker's poem, Resume:

Razors pain you
Rivers are damp
Acids stain you
And drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren’t lawful
Nooses give
Gas smells awful
You might as well live.

I doubt Ms Parker's words ever brought anyone back from the brink of suicide. I doubt she ever intended them to. Still, as a believer that there is literally no subject on earth that you shouldn't make jokes about, I am rather fond of that poem.

The most genuinely insightful writing about depression is written by Allie Brosch on her blog Hyperbole and a Half. There is nothing I have read as heart-breaking, insightful, relatable and hugely fucking funny as Allie's two depression-related posts: Adventures in Depression and Depression Part Two. I sincerely hope they're required reading for all GPs and mental health practitioners. 

I can't be happy that Allie Brosch wrote them because she seems like a genuinely lovely person. I had read her blog for years before the depression posts. I'd rather she didn't have to go through that. But, I am immensely grateful she documented it so wonderfully. "My fish are dead" has become shorthand between my daughter and me during times of not-being-able-to-adequately-explain-stuff. Nothing soothes the soul quite like someone saying: "wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though."

So, given that I probably should leave this blog post on a vaguely positive note. I'll leave the final word to Allie.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Saturday Spankings - “I’m like a dowdy, old maid.”

Birthday spanks!
You know how ladies over a certain age refuse to acknowledge their age? I have never been one of those ladies. It's my birthday next Wednesday. I LOVE birthdays,  I'm going to be 41. My forties have so far been totally fucking awesome. I fully expect them to get better,

In fact any of you who are in commutable distance of my house (in the general vicinity of London)  on the 25th March should get in touch. There will be tea and cake and chat and booze and stuff. (Email me

I don't, I realise, have any birthday-related snippets in my books. I do, however have an excerpt from the end of Lady Westbrook's discovery where our heroine ruminates on her own mortality.Nobody wants to grow old.

She climbed into the large bathtub, sitting in front of him and leaning back onto his firm chest.
“I’m afraid the bathwater’s not that hot any more,” said Felix. “It was a lot hotter earlier before you tempted me with your wanton desires.” 
Margaret laughed. “I think you’ll find that you were quite happy to – Oh no!” The last two words were said with such a tone of distress that Felix felt his heart immediately begin to quicken. 
“What is it?” he asked.
“Look!” Margaret held up her hands a couple of inches apart, the thumb and forefinger of each hand were pinched as though she were holding something thin and invisible.
“What am I looking at here, exactly?”
“It’s a grey hair!”
Felix peered closer. Sure enough held between the fingers of each hand was a single strand of silvery white hair. He chuckled. 
“Don’t laugh!” snapped Margaret crossly, hitting behind her in Felix’s general direction, causing the water to splash around them both. “I’m like a dowdy, old maid.”
Check out the other Saturday spankers this week!  

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Sjamboks, Spanking and the Wrong Kind of Torture.

I was introduced to a sjambok for the first time last Friday. I knew what it was immediately. I have been aware of the sjambok since I was in my mid teens when I read an Amnesty International advert in the newspaper about torture methods. The advert text mentioned beatings, canings and whippings. I had a very guilty wank over it. (Because human rights abuses = not OK. Just so we’re clear.)

The sjambok was the one thing mentioned that I wasn’t already aware of and I had to go and look it up. It’s a hippo/rhino hide or plastic whip used by South African police. So you know, not nice. Or at least not nice in those circumstances. I had only the briefest of introductions to it the other day. I would very much like to revisit.

Getting turned on by the wrong things is very much an occupational hazard for a kinkster.  (In fact, come to think of it, ‘getting turned on by the wrong things’ is probably the dictionary definition of a pervert.) Torture and judicial corporal punishment are inexcusable. I am the leftist of leftwing hippy liberals. I firmly believe that there is no possible scenario in which torture should take place.

Except in the bedroom, obviously.

Amnesty International have a bit of a habit of accidentally turning me on, it seems. Last year there were a series of London Underground adverts which provoked a reaction in me that was somewhat different from the horror and outrage they probably anticipated.

Seriously, at no point in their meetings, did someone not say “Hey, does anyone else think these posters look a bit Fifty Shades of Grey-ish?
I’m not making light of human rights abuses. I’m the fun-sucker who, when my daughter and I did the London Dungeon felt the need to point out that while it’s all well and good to laugh at Medieval torture implements, that sort of shit is happening all over the world right now. I am the same about cutesy depictions of pirates. Honestly, I’m no fun at all.

But regardless, I am also a lifelong spanko who gets immensely turned on by being bent over and belted and caned and whipped. And sometimes I respond at a fairly physical level to things that I know shouldn’t be turning me on at all.

It’s like when I read Kathryn R Blake’s excellent Corbin’s Bend book A Simple Misunderstanding. The heroine, Elly, is being abused by her husband. But the thing is, a lot of the abuse he meted out was quite BDSM-y in nature. Which in a BDSM-y type book (albeit a Domestic Discipline one at the sweeter end of the kink) is problematic. If Arthur had been smacking Elly round the face or punching her in her kidneys, then it would have been very straight-forwardly domestic abuse. But he didn’t just do that. He tied her up. He whipped her. He inserted butt plugs. And I ended up reading those bits feeling simultaneously turned on and ashamed about being turned on.

It was exactly like being fifteen again, to be honest.

I am hoping that my friend with the sjambok will give me a full demonstration soon. I hope it goes without saying, that my enthusiasm for being spanked by a ruddy great heavy whip, is in no way an endorsement of that implement being used in any non-consensual scenarios.

Actually, it’s “Swords into Ploughshares”, isn’t it? Let’s mount a campaign to take all torture equipment from oppressive Governmental regimes and abusive totalitarian authorities and redistribute them to kinksters.

Just think how much better the world would be.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Happy International Women's Day! Even though it's a terrible idea.

In recognition of International Women's Day today, the Amnesty International blog talks about women who are making a positive impact in the fight for gender quality, including Chinese activist Mao Hengfeng, Saudi Arabian activist Wajea al-Huwaider and the organisation Women for Afghan Women. They describe International Women's Day as "a  moment for celebration on how far women's rights have come, and to celebrate those standing up for equality."

It's all commendable stuff obviously, and it makes me feel a little bad for saying that International Women's Day is a crock of old shit.

But really, it's a crock of old shit, isn't it?

If you are advocating equality across the genders then singling out one particular day as Women's Day seems a pretty dodgy way to go about it. A whole day? Just for us ladies? Oh go on, you're spoiling us.

(And yes, I'm aware that there's also an International Men's Day as well but that's just fucking stupid.)

Women aren't a minority group. There are plenty of us about. You may know some. Hell, you might even be one. This insistence of making things exclusively for or about women just cements the notion that the default setting is male and anything else is a bit of a special case. Like in cartoons where every member of the team has a defining personality trait - clever, dimwitted, fun-loving - and one of those personality traits is 'female', (This is known as the Smurfette Principle.) Or that time when Comic Relief introduced a female mascot to go alongside its original one despite there being no indication previously that the original smiley face was male. You couldn't see his penis or anything.

International Women's Day was political in nature from its inception in 1909 (originally organised by the Socialist Party of America), but has since morphed in many countries into a fluffy little gift-giving holiday instead of a political one. Men in Russia and Italy and a whole bunch of other European countries give gifts of flowers to their wives, mothers and female employees which is so deeply patronising that it makes my hand involuntarily clench into quivering balls of rage. 

It's making it pretty hard to type, I can tell you.
That's not empowering women, that's patting us on the head and rewarding us for being good little girls. The video on the official IWD website tells us that on March 8th in Russia, "a woman receives more compliments than even on her birthday." Great. Because that's what we need to achieve worldwide gender equality. Fucking compliments.

So let's continue to fight for the opportunity for every woman in every country to enjoy the same rights as her brothers. But don't lets hang it on a peg marked "Women's Day". It's not just one day - it's every day. And it's not just about women. It's about all of us. Anybody who believes in human rights, is on the same team, after all. Even those of you with penises.