Blowing in the wind

Watching the Winter Olympics in complete awe of the bravery, determination and talent shown by the competitors, it upset me to hear that the female ski jumpers had to fight for years to finally be allowed to jump in the Sochi Olympics four years ago (apparently one argument against it was that their reproductive organs may get damaged on landing) and even now they only get one event, while the men get three.

There are still, as we know, huge inequalities in sport across the board: from prize money, to coverage, to access…it makes for depressing thoughts and until there are more females holding top positions on boards, progress will continue to be slow. Women are underrepresented and therefore open to exploitation and abuse.

The female snowboarders competed in horrendous winds in Pyeongchang a couple of days ago and most people, including the competitors, felt it should have been postponed as it was dangerous. Yet the message that came across was that the female athletes hadn’t made their voices heard. That they hadn’t wanted to make a fuss, to rock the boat. To me this mirrors the bigger picture of where female athletes see themselves in the pecking order.

Women need to have a voice in sport – they need to make themselves heard!

As I was pondering this inequality (and I ponder it often, as my daughter is a footballer) I thought about how important it is that we get girls into sport and keep them there! The vast majority give up sport as teenagers.

Teenage girls are incredibly self conscious and I’m convinced this is one of the main reasons why they quit sport: the outfits, the gear, the sweat, the performance- it all draws attention to them at a time when they prefer to hide behind screens with filters and two hundred takes for that perfect look.

How do we convince our girls that sport will rock their self-esteem far more than 100 likes on Instagram and more than comments such as ‘beaut’ and ‘hotty’ ever will?

How the hell are we going to convince them, when actually there’s not enough action coming from the top? This is the problem.

IF we are going to get more girls into sport, we’ve not only got to smash stereotypes at the ground level, we need to get a huge momentum going at the top end of the sports themselves.

Yes, we need sportswomen as role models, we need females in the boardrooms, we need female coaches, we need a VOICE!

The struggle is real. Sadly I think that we are years away from big change. As an International female Taekwon-do competitor, as a Taekwon-do coach, as a mum to a female International footballer, as an avid spectator of sport, I see and have seen terrible inequality.

In my sport I teach people how to fight in the ring. As a female it can often feel as if every step towards equality is a fight. Not all women are taught to fight. The ‘fight’ response is often quashed by gender stereotyping at a young age. While boys are told to ‘man up’ girls are conditioned to be ‘like a girl’ – both are wrong.

But the fight is on!

We must all play our part. We must not allow our voices to get lost in the wind.

      Stepdaughter fighting in the ring

What if?

Whenever a debate opens up about female objectification, the waters always get muddied with ‘what if’s’: what if I want to compliment a woman on what she is wearing? What if I want to wear skimpy clothes? What if there were male grid boys? What if I want to ask a woman for a coffee? What if a 60 foot banner of David Beckham in pants is adorning Piccadilly Circus? What if the grid girls enjoyed their job? The list is endless as the debate goes on.

Yes, muddy waters.

#metoo has now become muddied. People are asking if it’s gone too far? Is the movement sexist towards men?

At a time when the heated debate around the inequality of women is moving on a pace (faster than any meaningful action) I think we need to rewind and consider history.

Women have always been and still are unequal to men. But let’s for a moment rewrite the history books.

What if men as well as women had always been objectified? Human nature loves a beautiful form (beauty, of course, being subjective). Women are sexual beings with huge sexual appetites. Women love to lust over semi-naked males. Women are apt to flirt, to tease and to touch. So what if the male form had, since the beginning of time, been championed as something to openly admire? What if there had always been grid men and males in speedos telling us what round it is in the boxing ring? What if products aimed at females had always been sold by the objectification of the male?

Because women love that too – right?

If we rewrite history, where would we be now? Would there be equality? Would women have always been paid the same as men? Would girls not be growing up thinking that their feelings matter less than men’s? Would women be less harassed?

We’ll never know. It’s complicated. It’s muddy and ‘what if’s’ seem a little pointless.

History has been written in a tangled web of words, emotions, actions and conditioning. It is going to take years to untangle the mess it has become.

100 years ago women stood together and gained the right to vote. 100 years on and women are arguing with other women about the meaning of equality. Sometimes accusing each other of jealousy if they don’t agree with women wearing bikinis and parading as eye candy for men. Suggesting that fellow females are exaggerating harassment or criticising them for not speaking out. Some are saying that women’s rights have been taken away by the end of the grid girl.

So, what if we focus on our children? What if we teach our sons and daughters that they are equal? What if we reflect this in our actions? What if we don’t limit a girl’s potential by always referring to her first by her looks? What if we tell her that it’s what she thinks and feels that matters most and not how someone reacts to her? What if we tell our boys that ‘no’ means ‘no’ and girls that it’s ok to say it? What if we stop telling our sons to ‘man up’ and stop crying ‘like a girl’? What if the future, 100 years from now is a more gender balanced place?

‘What if’ doesn’t have to be pointless.

Click on the link:

Not just ticking boxes

When I did my teacher training (PGCE) over 20 years ago, we were encouraged to plan our lessons to the minute. To set out our objectives to the students at the beginning of the class and to summarise what they had hopefully learnt at the end. All of this is important, and yet through this admirable meticulous planning I think that sometimes, something gets lost, perhaps forgotten. That is the very people who we are going to teach. Our students.

You see, as we are focusing so intently on our lesson plans, we are perhaps seeing the lesson through our own eyes. We are imagining how we are going to teach it. How we are going to get our points across and how we are going to make ourselves understood so that boxes can be ticked.

Through many years of experience I have come to realise that this isn’t the way.

When I blog I use my own voice, but as I write I imagine the reader. I think about how they are receiving my words and what it will mean to them. I try to put myself in their shoes as the receiver, rather than concentrating on myself as the giver, the planner, the font of the knowledge. I took the same approach when writing my book. I wrote it as if I was the consumer, which tragically meant laughing at my own jokes!

When I teach my Taekwon-do classes, I see every student as an individual. Everyone has a different goal. Even those students who are grading for the same belt will be approaching it in very different ways. This is why it is so important not to just tick the boxes. This is why meticulous planning must remain flexible and it is why Instructors must approach the lesson from the student’s viewpoint and not just from the point of view of what they want to get across.

This approach, although it sounds sensible and obvious, actually takes a flip in the Instructor’s head. It probably takes confidence that perhaps comes from experience. It means that every time I address a student, I am trying to think about what I am saying from their point of view and not just thinking that what I am saying is imparting great knowledge.

Each student hears things differently. Each student walks in to the dojang with a different agenda. No student fits in a perfect square box. When I take the time to immerse myself into each of my students’ heads, then I know that their goals will be reached and their individual boxes will be ticked.

Photo credit to Radnor House

 

 

Melting worries

I turned to my 18 year old daughter the other day and asked her if she’d ever smoked. 18 years old and I’d never asked her before. It seems I’d only just got around to it. As I was rather pleased that I had finally thought to ask one of the questions that is surely in the parents’ guide of things to ask, I asked her one by one if her sisters had ever smoked (just in case I didn’t get around to asking them myself).

This morning I was thinking about this as I remembered how, when my daughters were really little, I was dreading the fact that they might smoke when they were teens. Of course, even now I don’t want them to smoke. But the point is that I forgot to worry about it when they became teenagers. I forgot to worry about it because bigger worries came along and took up my head space. I worried about them taking drugs and then this worry was displaced with a worry about screens and now this worry has been displaced with a worry about dreadful things happening to them when they get drunk.

Of course I am not suggesting that I am only capable of one worry at a time, but it made me realise that many of my worries simply melt into nothing and are replaced with trust.

When we reach a point with our teenagers that we feel able to trust them, it feels as if a huge weight has been lifted from us. We are quite literally able to take a big step back and observe.

We can observe their fuck ups. But we can also observe that they are doing just fine.

As parents we will never, ever stop worrying. However, we must not smother our kids with our worries. I don’t think there’s any harm in letting them show either – it makes our children feel secure and maybe, perhaps, think a little more about how they act and what they do.

A teenager needs to feel trusted, because just as parents we feel more relaxed when we trust, our teenagers will gain in confidence with the knowledge that we trust them.

A hope

I really don’t feel that we’ve got a hope. I use the noun specifically because this entity is, I think, severely lacking right now. We must still cling on fervently to the verb: we must hope, but when I open my eyes and turn on my ears, a hope can be hard to find.

‘Be kind’ we tell our children, whilst silently praying that they will find the right group of friends to see them comfortably through their school years, without loneliness or dread. ‘Be kind’ we tell them, whilst silently praying that they are not a bully. Then I scroll through my Facebook feed, feeds on forums that are only for mums. They are exclusive in this way, partly because we are all of the same ilk; we are going through the same shit on a daily basis and if not the same then very, very similar. This means that we are easily able to empathise and to offer advice…or so you’d think. Yet frequently I read these feeds and I don’t feel we’ve got a hope. Mums judging other mums. So brutally and so publicly you could be mistaken for thinking that they are modern day gladiators: fighting in a very public arena and vying for the moral high ground. We would be disgusted if this were our children, yet this is how people are and this is how our children learn. We haven’t got a hope.

When Donald Trump was elected President of the USA, like many (many, many) I felt that we didn’t have a hope. As a female, all the talk of the way he treats women added to this feeling. Then there’s his first week in office. It’s too depressing to write it out again here, but you know it anyway, because like me you have no doubt read and watched in disbelief. His narcissism must render him deaf, dumb and blind and his advisors, stupid. We haven’t got a hope, I thought over and over again and then I saw the photo of the six men bearing witness to the signature being drawn on an executive order that will affect millions of women’s access to abortion, and another hope was gone.

We haven’t got a hope when our Prime Minister won’t publicly take a stand against him. We haven’t got a hope when all Muslims are treated with suspicion, when walls are being put up, rather than torn down. We haven’t got a hope.

Yet despite all this, now is one of those times in history when we absolutely must not give up hope. Because to do this would surely be giving in – playing right in to the hands of those who call the shots.

Where we haven’t got a hope, we must find one and then we must fight for it and protest and remain open minded and fair. We must do this for our children, or we haven’t got a hope.

 

Age is Just a Stupid Number

A few years ago, I think it was in my 40th year, I was in a coffee shop slurping on a latte, when the chap sitting next to me started engaging me in conversation. During the course of which he said that I looked young: 16 years old, he said. I spat out my latte with a snort of laughter and he continued assuring me that I looked like a teenager.

Now, before you all snort out your own coffee and judge me for being a sad old cow, who takes compliments from elderly men (oh, had I not mentioned that he was old…) and spouts them as gospel – I didn’t. I thought: you joker, but I’ll take from it that I don’t look too old and wrinkly just yet. I did, however, return home and whoop away to partner how someone in Neros had said I look 16 and when he asked how old that person was, I had changed the subject.

Ever since that day, periodically, partner has made a sarcastic comment in passing about me, ‘only looking 16.’ It generally comes up when I remind him that he is nearing 50 and is older than me and so on – it’s his weapon of mass sarcasm.

This morning on the dog walk we got chatting to a fellow walker and she was asking about the ages of our kids. “You don’t look old enough!” She exclaimed. “You only look 37”.  When we’d parted company, I looked at partner and glowed. I grinned like a Cheshire cat and I couldn’t help myself saying to him: aren’t you lucky to have such a young looking partner!

Crikey, he replied. From 16 to 37 in 5 years. You’ve aged 20 years in that short time. Life has been hard on you!

That’ll teach me to gloat.

Fail!!!!!!

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FAIL!!! Oh, and I’ve just used too many exclamation marks…FAIL!

This did make me laugh. I tried to leave a reply to a lovely comment someone had made on my blog and instead what I got back, clear as day, in black and white was: Please try to say something useful.

Omg! What a put down. I was literally floored. I have 5 tween/teen/21 yr old girls and I know what it feels to be put down. Seriously, I do. If you do not have girls aged 10-21 years then you will not know what I mean. If you do, you will be nodding. They can cut you down with a look. They don’t even need to speak to you. Non-verbals are a teenage girls’ language. They rock those non-verbals like it’s party time!

I comment that they are wearing too much make-up for school. Cue: the look.

I comment that their skirt is too short. Cue: the look.

Oh, I’m sorry that I am unable to say anything useful at this time. But, tbh that’s simply your opinion and, as you felt my comment was too short, I can quite happily bore the crap out of you for the next hour on why I think your opinion sucks…on why you are wearing too much make-up, on why I feel that your skirt is too short.

Actually though, this is pretty much what my girls might say to me. Perhaps I was just being given a taste of my own medicine (eeuuckk!)

You know what, Mum. If you can’t say something useful in relation to me spending the night with my boyfriend when I’m only just 16, then ERROR!

I’m speechless. Floored. I’m where my girls want me most of the time, because that’s when they can walk right over me.

Oh Crap…

For the past three days, dog 1 has had the shits. I say, ‘days’, but this obviously includes nights and I’m bloody knackered. It’s like having babies all over again. Wtf…the kids are currently in 6 different locations, none of which are here, but still we get no peace to do anything remotely romantic, except pretend to be asleep when he needs letting out again at some ungodly hour. Talking of which, to all mums with young kids: what are your top tips for getting out of the middle of the night/very early morning wake-up call? Do you take it strictly in turns with your other half? Or, do you have a special duvet over the head technique you’d like to share with me? I need more sleep!

The shits cause huge problems on the morning dog walk too. You know the scenario: there are people walking behind you and your dog has a crap. You make a big thing of pulling out a nappy sack (I’d forgotten how awful the fragranced ones smell – every jacket pocket I own smells like a whore’s boudoir) and leaning over as if there’s an Oscar at stake, to pick up aforementioned poo. Tying the sack up with a flourish and a smug look.

The trouble is, when it’s the shits, there’s nothing to pick up. This happened to us twice yesterday. Dog 1 squatted exactly as if a perfectly formed turd was going to descend, but instead it was slop. There was a man walking behind us, so I gestured to partner to pretend to pick it up. He gave me a weird look and his performance wouldn’t have won an award, but he’d gone through the motion for the sake of our fellow dog walker. On straightening up, he looked at me as if to say: what the hell do you want me to do with this empty poo bag, so I diverted everyone’s attention by pointing out that dog 2 was weeing directly on dog 1’s head. With that, the bugger only went and squatted again. Partner shot me a look and handed me the nappy sack. Oh bloody hell. The fellow dog walker had now caught us up and I got a hot flush with the pressure of it all. Divert, divert, I was silently screaming to partner, who was just standing and watching me, arms folded.

Kids, dogs, they’re all the same. Well, dogs are a hell of a lot easier, of course, but they’re all high maintenance. The thing that I have come to value most about the dogs though, is that they can’t answer me back. In a house full of teenagers, this one factor goes a long, long way and for that reason alone, I shall do the midnight shit run with a huge smile on my face and not roll over and hide.

This post is dedicated to my friend’s dog, Monty. Who sadly died suddenly today. RIP Monty.

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