Relationships: a blogpost getting way out of hand

less sex
Exhibit A: some yoof having less sex than we did

We picked the theme of relationships for a recent discussion group – more specifically: How have relationships changed? The first question I thought we would have to ask would be “Since when?” When the group actually took place, it provoked so many more questions that instead of simply writing this one post, I have inadvertently started an unending stream of words … which is what probably what a blog should be! Consider this part one. And here we go!

In our discussion group, we soon established our time zone, because most of us are similar in age: we zoomed in on how the war affected our grandparents and parents and then on how that has played out in the generations since. Being all women it was hard not to focus on how relationships have changed for women, but that was plenty to talk about (and don’t fight who you are…). We soon acknowledged substantial shared experiences and it became apparent that romance would probably fall off the agenda, if it was there at all.

Talking about the social developments of the twentieth century is a surprisingly effective way to view one’s own experiences (as a woman over 40) in a more objective light than usual. I was reminded of my grandmother’s joy at being in the Land Army as a youngster, and how last year I had powerfully symbolic dreams leading me to recognise that her life, in some crucial sense, went downhill ever after. She had managed to convey to me her excitement and pride at being in the LA, but never her regret at her transformation into wife, and mother of my mother (and four others). This solved the riddle for me of why this competent, jovial, affectionate person barely connected with me as her granddaughter: because she could not know or show what she ‘wanted for me’ as a woman. And because her real joy in life was at odds with the roles she embodied and modelled. She made great cookies, but she rarely looked me straight in the eyes.

Her last words to me were “I hope you find what you’re looking for.” I thought she meant “You’re a fool to jeapordise your marriage for your studies – chasing after something unwomanly, I can’t imagine what.” But perhaps she meant “Keep going and you will find your way back to the land and to yourself, for both of us.” Perhaps she was not being sarcastic.

Needless to say, changes in womanhood underlay much of our discussion and eventually I realised that I was joining in a discourse where the undesirability of heterosexual coupling, for women, was almost being taken for granted. It’s not that we had that outlook which surprised me. We each had faced significant past obstacles in hetero relationships. We had each freed ourselves from those, with varying degrees of difficulty and varying levels of damage sustained. We shared the statistics: the happiest subgroup in society (in these terms) are married men, the unhappiest are married women, and the highest level of divorce by age is by couples in their 50s. Single-person-households are still fast growing and may be (if I remember correctly) the biggest group.

What did surprise me though, is that this angle within the conversation flowed so easily for me, even while I am in a relationship that I love being in. This triggered a plethora of new questions, including:

  • It is comfortable or comforting for women across cultures and ages to hold a collective view of men as ‘trouble’ or ‘hard work’ in order to build solidarity and gain a solace which they cannot get from men?
  • If not, what does a community have to look like, in order that women-in-company can share their reflections in a balanced way, on men’s strengths and weaknesses, gifts and flaws? Can we start that conversation? Do we have the motivation?
  • Do women find themselves increasingly saying No to hetero partnerships because ‘men have got worse’, because women have become ‘more assertive’, or what?

On the whole, the most interesting spin-off question for me wouldn’t be “Since when?” or “What kind of relationships are we talking about?” or “From whose point of view?”, but “What are the major imminent changes that every generation is facing, right now?”

Young adults and adolescents are famously creating all sorts of new-fangled alternatives to apparently washed-up models like hetero marriage, not to mention ‘young people are having less sex’ in general (here’s my quick search which brought up no less than ten different articles reporting on this … take your pick of newspaper!). Many young people are reportedly scared of getting into relationships in the way that, perhaps, a majority of young women were ready and eager to do when we were their age. Is this because of the general precarity of adult economic life now? Quite possibly this is mixed, for both sexes, with confusion, or simple repellence, at the complexity and politics of hetero relationships in our time. I can’t imagine how much the appearance of likely happiness, long-term success, and equal treatment within hetero partnerships has changed in the past 30 years.

Hopefully this uncertainty is creating a fertile spawning ground for new configurations of family, romance, sexuality, companionship, solidarity, community building and shared living. It’s completely disorientating to begin regretting the demise of the nuclear family model after decades of criticising it with a vengeance.

This moment reminds me of a story I was told about the Great Storm that hit the South-East of England in 1987. An older friend told me he noticed many weeks of penetrating torrential rain, before the winds came and lifted all the trees out of the soggy earth. We saw the tragedy of millions of trees lost. Nature cares not for the 30 odd years it takes a tree to grow up.

Hearing the various statistics which each show how the nuclear family model is becoming less and less common – with 55% of children in school now NOT living with two biological parents – I do feel anxiety for young people now, in a temporary forgetting of how much I have voiced my criticisms of that model, and more importantly, lived through the hellishness of it. I pine for how my children will manage to cultivate love and perhaps even parenthood without these structures? What a fucking crock. Not only is the critique of the nuclear family a sound one, but when I was young I didn’t give a shit about how my parents did things (except to the extent that it gave me something I could be better than them at). It’s precisely because they never ‘succeeded’ in creating a nuclear family environment that I was determined to be one – and what a nice mess that made of my kids’ childhoods …

What comes to us as genuinely new is by definition not knowable in advance. Will it be better, or worse, or both? And is there anything new in the human world that isn’t, if you think about it really carefully, kids learning from their parents’ fuck ups?


Book Launch! May! Quick!

All welcome to celebrate the FIRST AND DOUBLE ‘That Woman’s Press’ BOOK LAUNCH featuring Why do only men die? by EBM Humphreys and poetry compilation An Open and Shut Case … on Saturday and Sunday 26th & 27th May 2018 in Kemptown, Brighton.Event image FB WDOMD

Running as an integral part of the Open House Art Installation based on Why do only men die?, the launch is a drop-in opportunity to view the books, and experience a unique collaboration between the author and local composer Philip Milburn who worked together to create an immersive, intensive and stimulating one-of-a-kind emotional and philosophical experience. Then enjoy a stimulating conversation over tea and cake – in the back garden if it’s not raining! We will also have on sale the latest Shine So Hard Brighton poetry compilation.

See the exhibition event page on Facebook to find out what visitors have been saying about the experience so far!

If you can’t make the event in person, never fear, you can read more about the books using the links above and look out for a video version of the collaborative audiovisual installation coming soon to a Youtube near you … or maybe even Vimeo … and don’t forget to enjoy the music here on Soundcloud in the meantime.

Once again thanks go to our authors and to Philip Milburn of Life Music for creating his wonderful composition, and of course to all our visitors over the three weekends of the May Arts festival so far.


Sex and Taboo – a discussion review

ShhhI recently attended a Café Psychologique meet-up-style discussion in Brighton: a good turnout of probably 30-odd people and a talk by local author / academic / researcher Katherine Johnson set a good scene. Ultimately though, my friend and I were unsatisfied all the way home with the depth of discussion and I find myself still wondering why.

Sadly I didn’t take notes on Johnson’s talk, so I can’t give a summary, much less any accurate reflections on how well or directly she actually spoke to the stated theme of the evening: Sex, sexuality and taboo. She was very engaging though and the ground she covered was naturally what is close to her own heart, issues relating to LGBT*+ research/experience and latterly work with trans kids. This leaves me with the uneasy feeling looking back, that as a group we were positioned to discuss sex and taboo/s, or sexual taboos, as if LGBT*+ issues are or have been the entire field of what is considered taboo in our lifetimes.

It wasn’t at all long before someone referred to paedophilia as an example of a taboo though. Before the evening I felt strongly that it might be a good context to begin a safe discussion on this topic – still scary, but not threatening. I was relieved and heartened when others did this, and I suppose, not surprised that the room didn’t all rally to begin a movement there and then to transform the way society discusses paedophilia. A few interesting points were made and I got my chance to bang on a bit when people got stuck at cross purposes and needed to be unhooked. A young guy at the back, very articulate and with interesting experience informing his views on a number of topics, put forward the view that paedophilia is not a type of sexuality, that it should not be considered listable alongside homosexuality, heterosexuality et cetera. Exploring this question properly would be fascinating and I may well do that in another post. What truth does any sexuality label express about a human being? Does listing by sexual object (same sex adults, opposite sex adults, children), confer legitimacy on that form of sexual desire? If so how, why and who decides?

However, while it is only one issue, not some kind of de facto pinnacle of sexual taboos (I’m pretty sure nobody mentioned bestiality, more’s the pity – suggesting it is more taboo), this fundamentally important topic was eventually made light of, which I could not understand. Yes, it might seem like a cliché to name paedophilia as a taboo, but that is because it’s taboo. (Almost) no-one wants to talk about it.

For me, attending was motivated by intrigue as to what/which taboos might be discussed in ways which could educate and enlighten me, and by a nebulous anticipation that I might somehow be unburdened from the struggle of holding in or suppressing some previously forbidden thoughts, opinions or feelings – in short, catharsis – nebulous because I was unable to tell myself what these might be. Yes, I saw a political opportunity to raise an issue which I still believe most people are just too squeamish to address head on, but it’s not one which fully belongs to me. Which taboos do? I didn’t find out. And are our intimate taboos only sexual?

Towards the end of the evening a little attention was given to the fact that what constitutes a taboo for a particular individual may not be at all these big flagged-up paraphilias but apparently tiny personal details, like the size of our bum or a desperate need to have our head touched. Things which we cannot say for fear, these are taboos. On reflection I feel the conversation could have got to this point much sooner, leaving time to explore the mechanisms by which taboos in real lives get created and maintained – and even more interestingly and importantly, how they get unpicked, challenged and de-tabooed, drawing on first-hand accounts. I suspect that could be emotionally transformative for many.

I’m not critical of the organisers, who did a grand job to get 30 odd people out on a cold, wet, January, Tuesday night and an interesting professional speaker. However, if I am complaining that it was a missed opportunity, without wanting to be critical, I ought to call it instead an opportunity: for an evening of discussion on sex and taboo/s which is curated to dodge the pitfalls. Taboo is both noun and adjective, both personal and cultural; all combinations are a tantalising pull for audiences; the organisers need to find a firmer but still flexible format which can deliver. It needn’t be a problem to have a broad discussion (only) about what is or is not a taboo in wider society, because the why is always going to be juicy. It’s just not quite what it says on the tin, especially if the general public still want to avoid the difficult ones.

Letter to my boss

It wasn’t me

You are not my boss. I stopped working for you and your organisation a while ago. Now I am an independent freelance self-employed person having extended annual leave. Your structural position doesn’t legitimise my economic personhood and neither does your lifetime professional achievement.

When you were my boss, you were not my boss. I was an independent, freelance, self-employed person working for you and your organisation on an unwritten contract with a crudely described remit which was both essential and dysfunctional precisely because of the entrenched nature of unsayable faults within your working practice. While these features of a job are not entirely new to me within the patriarchal structures that pervade the contemporary British workplace, nevertheless I was shocked and confounded by the practices and relationships I was led to discover. You were many people’s boss.

Those people were far kinder to you than I ended up being. Although my apparently confrontational choices were difficult for you to understand, they were made based on my realisation that it would be worse for you if I did not make them. I made a sacrifice because it was the best way there was to go forward. The people who you were the boss of, needed me to make those choices even more than you did. They had suffered long enough.

Although there was and still is a lot of affection for you in the organisation, it became radically harder to see exactly who felt it and to what degree, and how they could feel it fully and genuinely while feeling all the other feelings that they must have been feeling based on the things that you did and did not do that made their jobs immeasurably harder. The real mystery was and remains, not how they managed to still feel or feign affection for you despite your blind spots about yourself and your practices, but how you manage to continue to be so hopelessly blind.

This question may or may not be answerable, but it does answer the question as to how they managed. It seems that when one person is hopelessly blind to their own major flaws, this creates an insurmountable wall of deafness around them, and even a false reality. It is like a reverse Babel fish is at work, where any criticism or suggestion of change that is spoken aloud will be translated into the boss’s ear as a hostile or deluded expression of the speakers’ problems. Learning this quickly, workers devise alternative strategies to get by.

If a team can develop and share the awareness that the reality is false, and band together to work-around, then their mental wellbeing is more or less preserved. But if there is doubt about this, for example because some team members don’t or can’t see it, or because the opportunity for self-advancement by being more on the boss’s side than others gets in the way of the team’s solidarity, then deep internal conflict can occur. Yes, this is a lot like an abusive marriage or childhood, because the boss ultimately controls the pay of the workers, having the power to directly or indirectly jeopardise the workers’ income, which determines their basic security, and for some even the stability of their family life.

When a boss has a lot of blind spots and a huge ego which thebossy parade around like the Queen of Sheba, it is fairly easy for external stakeholders to observe this, and to hone in on the competencies of the organisation and make the best of it, and even bring in a little novel sympathy and advice for workers. Of course they might also be the same type, running overtime on ego which they fused together from childhood specialness and illusions of their own success.

What about a boss who brings in experts to help the team all look together at their blind spots, explore ways of being emotionally open with each other, and learn how to use Johari’s window to further individual personal development? When your boss replies to every criticism with ‘We’re all human, we make mistakes’, without making one step forward in witnessing their own blind spots, that’s when you should maybe worry that this boss is beyond recovery. But it’s okay, because you’re not my boss.

  • Top image credit ‘HBR staff’. If that’s you and you don’t want me to use it I’ll take it down.

Feminism-ism, or something

Be what you are

It seems to me that as feminism enjoys a necessary resurgence it is becoming slightly easier to formulate the critique we need to get beyond it. What do I mean by beyond feminism? Possibly not what I thought I used to mean.

For a long time now I have been sitting uneasily on the feminist sidelines, refusing to refuse the label of being a feminist. Not only am I genuinely disturbed by the thought of feminist friends or any other women I know thinking of me as a non-feminist, a woman who doesn’t think women’s problems (such as structural inequality), are real or serious or worth campaigning or complaining about, I also feel by turns passionate about discrimination against women in its many forms, vile, violent and mundane, and that’s a central feminist sentiment right there.

What’s the but? I often come back round to the term pro-feminism, especially with all the waves overlapping and with post-feminism being such a hopelessly compromised term. What does it mean to be pro-feminist? What could it mean? I wonder whether identifying as a pro-feminist marks me out as not-a-woman somehow.

What does it mean to be pro-feminist if that means not quite feminist, or not feminist? Are there well-developed strands of actual feminism which I am simply not doing enough reading or research to discover, which perfectly situate me and my feminist perceptions?

To me, being pro-feminist is an essential ethical position for a man in this political and cultural moment, and I think it’s great that many more men now identify or describe themselves as feminists per se, often with explicit reference to their wives, daughters, relatives and friends, and the struggles and treatment they witness them withstanding. Is one better than the other? Is being a pro-feminist ally different from being a feminist ally? If you are a man, perhaps not. If a man calling himself a feminist was ever considered to be stepping on the toes of a woman’s identity, that time seems to have well and truly passed.

If you are woman however, and you are uneasy about the degree to which the philosophical essence of feminism may (or may not) be self-defeating, perhaps being a pro-feminist is a more honest position. Or perhaps it is just cheating, evading an honest position. If I want to support feminist causes and campaigns, but fear that there is a self-limiting aspect to the wider project, the best thing would probably be to be braver and say that I don’t identify as a feminist (because I cannot get fully behind it philosophically). But that would leave me estranged from my feminist friends: women who might be working harder than I am to effect real cultural change, which I will benefit from… back to square one. As a woman, my very indulgence in philosophy is probably indebted to past feminists.

It seems time may be a key factor. My wishfulness may be another. My perspective on men and on humans in general is obviously heavily involved, but perhaps it is the self-perpetuating nature of -isms that is at the heart of the issue.

Looking into the future I want to see feminism become redundant; arguably any feminist who doesn’t want this is a weird kind of feminist (a career feminist?). It can’t be that I want this more than most, so that therefore I distance myself from the movement in an ultimately pointless gesture of comforting, delusional futurism, or something. It can’t be that I think gazing into a post-feminist future helps anyone win battles, and it doesn’t help me feel less angry or less vulnerable each time I witness or learn about new (or old) affronts to women.

My thoughts are pushed forward by the inevitable question of what will result from our actions, or inactions. There are plenty of examples of things getting worse because of inaction and plenty of successes achieved. But where each of these are amalgamated to promote an overarching movement or philosophy, we must draw on huge generalisations – like men, and women. These are always dangerous. The million dollar question is: do they obscure far more than they reveal? I suspect they do.

My pro-feminism is about wanting to support a just cause without becoming an -ist. I have long felt happy to abstractly denounce ‘isms’ in their own right, and so this remains the simplest thread in my memory of doubt in adopting the feminist label, as my daily life and other struggles (related to my structural position as a woman and a mother), push and pull me so very far from this place where my intellect gets the luxury of forming opinions at all. I like to give isms a wide berth and I’m not afraid to say so, so why can’t I refuse (femin)ism? Because saying I am not a feminist aligns me with anti-feminists? This is the danger with isms, they are world-views, and thus by their very nature they encompass everything, and that includes everyone. If you’re not a feminist you’re part of the problem.

As a way of analysing gender relations in order to redress social inequality and improve the cultural attitudes towards women which have crushed them, feminist movements are superb and vital. Analysts still regularly provide new conceptual tools with which to assess common behavioural patterns which are covertly or demonstrably gendered power-plays, leading to real-life improvements for many people. How many of these particular gains could be achieved, or not, without the rubric of feminism? That’s not a rhetorical question. I know I don’t know.

Meanwhile, what if holding our image of ‘men’ firm, so that our project retains coherence, could prevent us from witnessing, and maybe even conceiving, the future we want where all individuals are held equally responsible for their own behaviour towards others (and, crucially, deserve the assistance of all others if they are not taught well in the first instance)? Maybe the categories of man and woman underpin a feminism-ism, an ideological layer which perpetuates the adversarial thread within gender relations. We know not all gender relations are adversarial, hell we love each other don’t we? And boy are there some noxious women about. Sure, some women’s noxiousness is rooted in their patriarchal subjection and identification. That’s exactly the same place men’s is rooted. They are still women, suffering the loss of a more enjoyable life, in the same way horrid men do.

Women aren’t responsible for teaching men how to treat women mind you; well yes in a way, but not any more than anyone else. We are all responsible for each other, because we are never really individuals in more than name. Are women responsible for their own abuse because they allowed it to happen? No. Maybe every woman who has been abused by a man because she trusted him had a father she could trust. Maybe every woman who has entertained a dangerous man even though she did not trust him had a father she loved but could not trust. Is it therefore every father’s fault if and when his daughter is abused? If not, can it be the fault of mothers that their sons abuse women and girls? How? Maybe every man who has been abused by a woman inhabits a special minority category, which we should research and give a label to? Maybe, maybe not.

To go beyond feminism used to mean to me: envisioning a post-feminist world, in the sense that major feminist goals were realised and the discourse around it fell away, and became a matter of historical interest and reflection, a celebration in fact. But it won’t be that simple. I am certain that there are fundamental obstacles to a true re-visioning of gender relations which the feminist framework holds in place. I still believe we need thousands of concerted ‘feminist’ actions and campaigns to keep bringing a better future closer, and to prevent the conditions of life for women from getting worse. I also believe we can make massive contributions to social change using feminist networks and women’s networks. Going beyond feminism means finding something which does all the work we need feminism to do, even better. It’s a sexy challenge, no?

I suspect that class now underpins virtually all social and cultural sexism and gendered abuse. (I believe that there are some evolutionary psychological reasons why it served societies to demean and devalue women. But it does not serve women, and the costs to societies of this strategy is now painfully obvious.) If ever there were a time when male and female persons were treated with a fundamental asymmetry of justice, within coercive social structures, and class was not a relevant factor, that time is literally prehistoric. The fact that men are a bit bigger is pretty interesting, but a strong person bullying a weak person isn’t sexism, it’s simply violence, it’s human immaturity. It’s also really easy to imagine through hypotheses about the work males have done while women nurtured babies, which they simply did a lot.

My basic understanding of humanity is that a civilisation or tribe or society which does not condemn almost all internal violence is more or less unheard of, and yet, yes, in every case still it erupts. I am categorically not an expert in evolution or anthropology, but I think the class roots of most contemporary sexism and oppression are sitting there waiting to be found.










What do I want? Part one

friday1Over the weekend I’ve learned that I am not as good as saying what I want as my b/f, because he pointed it out to me. I love that he is so able to say simply and clearly what he wants or needs without any fuss. Of course at times life throws spanners and blindfolds, but in general it seems to be a natural process for him. Not so for me.

I immediately wondered whether I am less good at even knowing what I want. It’s not the only factor, for example I do know that I have a real thing for wanting to appear amenable, flexible, easy going, willing to adapt… I am always getting people to express their preferences so we can go and do things that I know for certain they are going to enjoy. When I get a massive passion for something and persuade people into doing it with me who wouldn’t normally be into it, my tension and confusion about whether they are going to like it and whether that ultimately matters, can spoil it for me, and so sometimes I like to do things alone, just to make sure I don’t spoil it for myself!

And what about when there are choices that don’t make me burn up, choices I can sweet-talk others into making? I wait until they have expressed a preference, then suddenly perhaps I find out how I feel about the options for the first time. It’s easily said that choice can paralyse us, even though it’s touted nowadays as the be all and end all of market driven society. But this paralysis isn’t something new that comes with the explosion of consumer goods and entertainments. Surely it’s an older dynamic, which comes into play wherever we are not quite sure of our footing. If we are constantly unsure of our rights, our power, our relation to the other parties if there are any, choices are inevitably fraught. How does this become a trait? By being overdone, relied on too heavily for too long? Have I been punished for my choices? Well yes pretty much.

But it’s time to know what I want. An excellent piece of advice to know what you want from a relationship before you go looking for one was given to me by a great friend and it stuck fast. I had just separated from a 9 year relationship and was determined not to jump into another one as seems to be my way. Although I never wrote the checklist, it compiled itself steadily in my head in all it’s logical, illogical, deluded glory, until the moment when I met my new boyfriend and I had to completely burn it.

Not knowing how brilliantly good for me someone I had never met could be, my little list was composed of wants that I thought would make life easier or better. The real person makes life fuller and richer, partly because he enables me to be more me. Some of the ways in which we are similar aren’t even things that we would call good – but when we see ourselves both doing them, instead of despairing we laugh.

That said, there was one massive new criterion on my list that another friend gave me in post break up advice, which the new guy meets. “Maybe this time you should go out with someone who likes you.” If you have never tried this, I can tell you now, it rocks.

Getting what you want isn’t achievable just by list making, unless you interpret your list with extreme retrospective pragmatism. But list making and list thinking focusses the mind and can give you a massive leg up when it comes to assessing a complex real life situation with confidence. I have started to think about how I can improve my ability to know and say what I want in the moment.

One part will be less chatter in my mind about the options (Tea or coffee? That’s a good question, did you know they contain different types of caffeine which do different things?…). One part will be literally tuning into myself more deeply to increase focus on the things that really matter in my life so that I can stop sweating the small stuff. I will know what I want. I will work hard to find out. I will probably bend people’s ears. As always, writing will help me get there.

For example, I need to think through what it is about the place where I live that I like and dislike, so that if I ever move I will be choosing somewhere that has or offers or is, what I want. Compromises and surprises are inevitable, but I’ll have a logical illogical list to start me off. Tuning into this question will be fun and illuminating, and I’ll be back to write about my utopian visions very soon.


Writing / Sex / Mistakes

headinhandsHaving got officially sick and tired of hearing myself think about blogs I might write complaining about not knowing what to write (having exhausted in reality the topic of complaining about being too afraid/too anxious/too busy to write), I am back and ready to write actual stuff.

Not that these topics aren’t important at all, but certainly I am hoping to develop my ideas into a conversation other than the one with other writers about the experience of writing. But you know, one day I will look back at the obstacles I faced from a distance (she says willing this to be true) and on that day I may well see something more interesting than what I’ve had to say on the subject so far.

I ought also to wonder whether the book I’ve written (but not published, or sent out very far) is ultimately a veiled account of what it feels like not to write. I wrote it precisely while I was supposed to be writing a PhD. It was an escape from a harder task, and it caught me up in its deeply satisfying mental-health-giving properties. My blog posts about writing itself have probably all popped out when I have not been at work on it for some time.

In fact the book is about a lot of things, a great many, and on my to-do list long before approaching publishers, is to re-read it expressly to find out what my themes were (sex, gender, justice?). I like to describe it as a philosophical stream of consciousness confessional, but hey, who likes them? Maybe lots of people would like it, but equally, maybe I wrote it just for me. When I say it’s philosophical, I mean it’s full of questions. Literally, it’s full of questions. When I re-read it, it will take me back to them all and maybe from there I can get some clarity about what it matters most to me to write about. (Sex, gender, difference.)

Because I am only just beginning to bring the strands of my life together to see that my obsessions actually matter. For instance, this week my work bit me hard in the personal-interests department. For that piece of code, read: my ‘boss’ called me ‘rather a strident feminist’ to a male colleague because I called out sexism. I reeled at the grilling I was given, though I should have expected it and, logically, it’s a fair cop; I tried hard not to name names and events, so my claims must have seemed pretty vague. But the real reeling is in the insane laziness of this characterisation. He was literally implying that if I’m a feminist then my view of sexism is inherently inflated. Worse, his emotional reaction (in a nice way) at being called out suggests that he thinks his workplace practices are feminist. He obviously doesn’t know that this is the right word for the things he is proud of in his workplace, not to mention in his personhood, but it is.

In fact I was really trying to call him out for his sexist positive treatment of arseholes. I suspected that a particular issue affecting two women colleagues would illustrate this weakness. In fact people thought that the guy in question was the root of the sexism I was calling out. What a fricking mess.

When I say sexist, I mean shockingly blind to an affection (weakness) for certain men who personify a brash confidence, but are rude or mad. Perhaps they got good results, but they were paid more than and treated with far more respect than the women whose jobs they made infinitely harder. It’s painful to throw another stereotypical judgement onto my own karmic log sheet but these guys are in marketing. The sex of an arsehole or an empty suit shouldn’t matter, and women should get employed for their skills and competencies, and men should not get employed when they lack these. And I should know better than to think I can fix a very old and entrenched psychological problem by flagging up how it disadvantages certain staff, using the method of professional observation and reporting. Apparently I have “a bee in my bonnet”.

Before I run screaming back into gainful relative unemployment (I’m freelance so it’s nicely vaguer than that), I need to reap some ‘lessons’ from this that are going to make me real goddamn happy but not smug. And I need to finish the work on my plate like a grown up, albeit a grown up in a team of grown ups with an overgrown child at the helm, calling the shots and giving me glare-eye.

Are there lessons? Hell yeah – you’re reading it now… I am coming to realise that, even if my report was strictly speaking true, my belief that it would work was in contradiction with the reality I know. Each time I tell myself that I don’t really know what I need to write about (sex, gender, sexism), I am making a temporary escape from dark shit that depresses and scares me. Then I go about my daily life thinking that all the tools we need to fix things are just there and we can use them and change things. Well they’re not. They need making. I need to remember that, much as I hugely value making discoveries through direct human contact, writing is a way to create some of these tools.