Baby Gender Norms

Friday 24th July 2015

We took our baby on a four day mini break to Amsterdam. I know, I know. Some people think that Amsterdam is a more 'grown up' holiday destination. But I think you're never too young to get interested in clogs. So it was fine.

Plus we have a very smiley, social baby who is bored of us already and wants new adventures. Arguably with clogs. Or the Van Gogh Museum.

On the flight, baby Phoebe looked around anxiously trying find people to dazzle with her smile, and struck up a smiling and giggling dialogue with one of the air hostesses.

I should probably mention that Phoebe was dressed in a dinosaur outfit, becasue (a) why not (b) girls can like dinosaurs (c) boys don't own dinosaurs (d) putting gender ideals onto a baby seems insane (e) surely everything for children should be unisex anyway (f) we don't want to feel like we've contributed to an oppressive system that has negative consequences for boys and girls respectively (g) can't we just all get along (h) it's all marketing bullshit anyway (i) yes we are those hippy sounding parents but I don't care, (j) we do put her in pink sometimes; and (k) we just want Phoebe to feel free to be anything she wants.

But I do totally appreciate we had made her look like a boy.

The air hotestess said, 'ooh, he's really flirting with me!'

And I had to say, 'Actually, this is a girl. Um, we just dress in her unisex clothes because we don't want her to feel restricted by gender norms as she grows up.'

To her credit the air hostess tried to style it out and said, 'Oh. Well such a lovely smile!'

I kind of wanted to say, 'It's OK, my baby could be gay for you. I mean even if this was a boy, I don't think he was trying to get lucky. I mean god, what kind of ego do you have? Oooh. Even babies fancy me.' 

But I didn't. The air hostess was lovely. And she was occupying my baby for 30 seconds so I didn't have to.

But it did make me realise how early our responses to babies conform to social expectiations. Boys are active flirters, while girls are passive smilers. And thus the treadmill of repression begins.

It kind of makes me want to dress Phoebe 'as a boy' forever to see what else people will do differently.

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Why Shepherds Bush is Great

Saturday 25th April 2015

I love Shepherds Bush. It's a great place to live. It's done many brilliant things with itself. First, as seen previously, it named a newsagents especially to entertain Game Of Thrones fans. This Newsagents knows NOTHIN.

Secondly, it named a pawnbroker with a jaunty pun, to entertain the people who need money quick. Just because Shepherds Bush is getting gentrified doesn't mean the people who are slowly being priced out like the rest of London, can't enjoy a laugh.

Thirdly and this might be my favourite of all of them, it has a twinned toilet. Yes, you read that right. 

But what the hell is toilet twinning you might well ask. Well it's this. A cunning way to give to charity. I saw this particular twinned toilet in a church hall toilet, where I had taken my 10 week old baby to a music class which she mainly ate through.

This charity exists because 1 in 3 people across the world don't have somewhere safe or hygienic to go to the toilet, and bad sanitation is one of the world's biggest killers. You make a donation, your toilet gets twinned, the money helps build a proper toilet somewhere that needs it and you get a certificate. It's pretty great, and it's funny because... toilets.

This is how the people of Shepherds Bush choose to help charity. And this is why Shepherds Bush is great.

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This Newsagents Knows NOTHIN

Monday 20th October 2014

This is my favourite thing I've seen for ages. 

It won't mean much to anyone who doesn't watch Game Of Thrones. So you know, start watching it. That's on you.

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Sunday 19th October 2014

I may have been sitting at my desk too long, but I think there's a ghost or a murderer standing in the window of the house opposite. Or the sun is reflecting weirdly. Or I have gone insane.

You all see the creepy ghost, right? I haven't just been cooped up writing for too long..

Honestely, some writers will go to any lengths to procrastinate. Not me. I am being genuinely haunted. (Or it was a mistake to barely leave the house for the last few days). But I think it's far more likely there's a ghost next door.

This haunting isn't a procrastinating tactic. It's real I tell you. If I wanted to procastinate I'd tidy my house.

The murdering ghost was there yesterday and it is back today. But who am I going to call? Aha ha.

I'm going to monitor the situation. And then confront them like in Rear Window. I'm pretty sure that ended well.

Or do more work. Or get some fresh air. Or call a preist. Definitely one of those things.

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Bring Back She-Ra! (Wait, hear me out)

Tuesday 2nd September 2014

Reading The Guardian I came across this article:

10 Lessons from being Guardian's Women's Editor

Loads of it is interesting/depressing/hopeful (delete depending on how optimistic you feel about the world) but one of the things that jumped out at me was the bit about parenting and toys.

"When my son was five, and my daughter two years younger, he said he wanted to be prime minister when he grew up; the height of her ambition was to be a princess. It didn't take this job to tell me how wrong that was, but it has revealed how strong the pressure is to put them both in a gender straitjacket."

I completely agree that on the surface that sounds like as a society we/toy companies are failing young girls, encouraging them to pick vacuous things instead of proper ambitions.

But I would still say this:

Both 'Princess' and 'Prime Minister' are high status positions of power. You get to rule over a nation, make important decisions and people have to listen to you.

Maybe young girls have to turn to fiction for their more commanding or impressive 'role models' because there are so few real ones for them to emulate.

It comes back to the idea that 'you can't be what you can't see.' (The thrust of feminist film Miss Representation). 

As a child of the 80's I grew up under a Queen, a female Prime Minister and headmistresses (as apposed to headmasters). So it didn't seem to me that women couldn't become positions of authority.

Admittedly, I was aware that Margaret Thatcher was probably the most hated person in the country (certainly by my left-leaning family) but that wasn't the point. The male politicians were also hated and lambasted in my house. Women were equal to be just as disappointing as men.

Also as a child I loved She-Ra, the kick-ass female alternative to He-Man, who was sort of Royal, on an important mission against bad guys, and constantly fighting and winning.

As far as I can tell the modern day closest to this is the Princess in Disney's 'Brave.' But as far as I can remember (and my memory may be flawed) She-Ra never said things like, 'I'm just a woman but I can still do stuff,' or 'but I don't wanna get married to secure the Kingdom, please don't make me.'

She-Ra never begged. She never had to justify herself or her status at all. The creators made up their own universe, with it's own rules, and she was just She-Ra. She didn't have to worry about it. She wasn't tough 'for a girl' she was just tough. 

(again, that's my recollection. Maybe the show was littered with sexism that I didn't pick up on at the time). But the impression it gave me was one of equality.

And the thing is, I grew up feeling like I had unisex rights on all toys. If I wanted to play with girly pink stuff I could; if I wanted to run around and get covered in mud pretending to be She-Ra rescuing people, I could do that too. Maybe that's what's missing now.

I don't think there's any point taking Princesses away from girls. Or ridiculing their choices if that's what they like. (Why be another voice limiting their ability to accrue self-esteem by reinforcing the idea that girly stuff is rubbish and to be derided?) But maybe we could add a few more options and alternatives so that they can make more informed decisions? We've got the lego scientists, now come on, let's bring back She-Ra!

PS - and/or get more women into prominent positions of power not based on their looks.

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Give Advice Like No One Matters

Friday 3rd January 2014

It's about time I did another work displacement activity, I mean blog.

So I have decided to pointlessly dissect the advice in that famous song or poem that optimists sometimes quote at each other. You know the one. It goes something like:

"Work like you don't need the money. 
Love like you've never been hurt. 
Dance like no-one's watching. 
Sing like no-one's listening. 
Live like there's no tomorrow. 
Fear like a stone."

I'm pretty sure attacking this lovely sentiment is hack territory but it's not like this is a huge platform that's meant to be full of a grade material. So there. In fact, if I was trying to write this into stand-up right now, I would have no interest in it. But because I am supposed to be updating my website and working on the next draft of something, it suddenly seems like an alluring and brilliant use of my time.

My problems with this sage advice are as follows:

Work like you don't need the money. - Then no one would EVER do ANY work! Are you insane? If I had to work like I didn't need the money I would do a really shitty job on everything I ever did. The only reason I don't is because I am afraid I will be told off or sacked. If everyone suddenly pretended they were Scrooge McDuck society would crumble. Or at least, it would be a bit like that episode of the Simpsons when everyone copied Bart's 'I didn't feel like it' attitude. Seriously, better advice would be 'Work like you have a deadline you actually care about.'

Love like you've never been hurt. -I put it to you that your blank-canvas love is insubstantial without the experience of hurt to give it depth and contrast anyway. And also, you don't have to have had your heart broken to be able to use your imagination to work out that that would be a horrible experience. If you have ever seen a film or read a book you'll have the gist. So if that's what they meant, they should have phrased it: 'love like you've never seen a Woody Allen film and are unable to predict that sometimes things end badly.' But even then, as I say, I don't think the love of a moron with no foresight is actually as impressive as the love of someone who understands pain and still risks it all.

Dance like no-one's watching. - I dance like everyone's watching. And also that they hate me. This is why alcohol exists. But thanks for reminding me that I am a repressed, slightly socially-phobic, lowly-functioning borderline alcoholic. A better activity to do like no one's watching is shoplift.

Sing like no-one's listening. - I'm tone-deaf, so in a way that's what I always do. But it's certainly better if we just tweak this to 'sing WHEN no-one's listening.' You need to be sure. Especially if you sing as badly as me and don't fancy everyone wittily comparing you to the dying animal of their choice. As ever, this advice is all about the big idea, but doesn't have to deal with the actual consequences of the apparent bravery.

Live like there's no tomorrow. - Live in ABJECT TERROR of my imminent death? What's wrong with you? If I spend all my money and tell everyone I love them, and then there IS a tomorrow, I'm going to look pretty foolish. I'd have to end the world just to get out of the social awkwardness I've created. Terrible advice. Really irresponsible. 

Fear like a stone. - This just feels like a mis-translation down the line. Are stones really that famous for not being afraid of things? I thought they were more famous for being inanimate objects, incapable of human emotions of any kind. Also being hard and dense, and helping geologists work out how old the world is. But you know, sure, whatever. If you just meant 'Don't be afraid of stuff' maybe that's what you should have said instead of trying to show off all the time.

The thing that annoys my misanthropic side about this wise counsel, is that it is all too saccharine to really be practical. it is crappy advice disguised as a lovely idea and therefore meaningless, and part of the problem, not the solution. But then, maybe I'm just jealous because I'm incapable of doing any of the things on the list.

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Writing Is LIke Cooking

Thursday 21st November 2013

I've decided writing is a bit like cooking. Everyone has their preferred method and there's different ways of getting there:


If you want to be organised you can chop up all the vegetables into nice neat little pieces before you start. Then you can fling them into the pot at the perfect time for the recipe and everything runs smoothly to a schedule.

The writing version of this is planning everything out meticulously carefully at the plotting stage, so you have a tight synopsis to stick to, with no surprises.


Or, when you're cooking, you can chop the veg as you go along, so that some of them are cooking while you're chopping the next lot. This saves time if you feel like you're up against it. But it does mean the onions might be burnt by the time your carrots are ready.

The writing version of this is like when you don't have time to finish the plot/synopsis properly before you have to start writing it up. So you spend the whole time thinking, 'Uh oh, I’m not sure if that bit really makes sense there now, shouldn't that bit happen first? Ah, no time!' But you kind of have to carry on, thinking, 'I'll sort it out at the end!'


Sometimes when you're cooking you ignore the recipe entirely, thinking, 'this'll do! This will probably be better. Sure it said dice finely, but I think big chunks are nicer.' Then you spend the rest of the time trying to chop the unwieldy big bits of vegetable with a knife while they are floating around in a bubbling pot, and thinking, 'why didn't I dice them when I had the chance! This makes no sense now. It's too late to take them back out again. I've started, they're half cooked. Why did I do this? Why? Why?'

One day I will stop being method C. But evidently not today.

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Good Signs

Sunday 8th September 2013

I could post up some really beautiful photos of scenery here...

But where's the fun in that?

So here are some of my favourite signs and sights from our holiday. (I've numbered them as I can't work out how to separate the pictures and do a caption under each one).

1. Mad Vomit Plate

I think I have found the exact opposite of that famous scene from When Harry Met Sally - "Don't have what he's having."

2. Wine & Drugs

I like the refreshing honesty of this sign. Though I worry what it says about our reputation that this is how Italians think they need to cater to British tourists.

3. Needle

Evidence of the aforementioned drugs.

4. Clothes Sign

This confirms my fears that the reputation of Brits abroad precedes us. Maybe they have seen our reality TV shows and are trying to avoid a Geordie Shore re-enactment.

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My Favourite Thing To Ever Happen In A Cathedral

Monday 2nd September 2013

We went to the Cathedral of Amalfi. It's old and beautiful and impressive and all those things. Sometimes I like to pretend I am educated enough to get off on architecture, but I was soon distracted by a man doing what I think was a brilliant thing.

It was this man. I don't know him, and he's quite far away in this picture, as it seems kind of rude to just post a stranger online. But it's way polite if you do it from a distance so that no one can recognize him. Right? Right.

He was posing with the Madonna and Child statue as if they were real celebrities that he was super excited to meet. It was like he thought he was at Madame Tussauds, and thrilled to stand near the wax Beatles.

I used to work developing photos, so I know how everyone does the same pose by each celebrity, and they all pose 'ironically' like they were there in the center of things. (Except the Kylie wax statue on all fours - all the men stood behind her like they were doing her and were the first ones to think of it).

But this guy reminded me of the people that stood happily in the midst of a pop group that changed the world, grinning away, and pretending he was in with them, and if anything he was one of the main ones too. It really made me laugh. Which was kind of inappropriate in a Cathedral.

Maybe one day he can trick his grandkids (while they are still quite young) with the picture... 'Those guys were really nice in real life. Yeah, I taught Mary everything she knows, it was actually my idea to go to the stable that time. I let them say it was Gabriel’s idea because it was better for PR reasons, but actually, things would have turned out very differently if it wasn't for yours truly.'

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Sunday 1st September 2013

We went on a sightseeing bus tour of the Amalfi coast. The audio guide mentioned a saying they have, about how beautiful the area is. It goes: 'When judgement day comes and all the people of Amalfi go to heaven, they won't notice the difference.'

Now that's confident. Bordering maybe even on arrogant. I kind of admire it. Admire the confidence. There is so much-taken-for-granted confidence in that sentence.

Firstly, the confidence that there is definitely an afterlife. Secondly the confidence that it's your version of the afterlife that is definitely the correct one.

Thirdly, the confidence that you (and everyone in your area) have been good enough (according to the rules of your religion) to definitely get into the nice bit of the afterlife that you believe in.

And then fourthly and almost least importantly, the confidence that your area is so beautiful, that god has probably copied your decor, and it will be home-from-home when you finally make it to heaven.

So I have invented a new saying: 'As confident as a Mediterranean.'

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