Monday, May 11, 2015

Parenting - Why Can't we Live & Let Live

It's 8.30am on a Monday morning. My son left for school 40 minutes ago so I've been catching up on the news and some social media (cough). I have already read two articles with subtle undertones of parental judging. Why the heck does parenting have to be juxtaposed with what other parents (presumably "bad" parents), are doing wrong? Why can't we just get on with it; live and let live?

The first is the most subtle kind. It's about abortion, but it's not nasty and ranty. It compares the story of a woman who was heartbroken to have to abort her pregnancy with the writer's story, where she chose not to. The writer declares, about reading the former story, "I wept, not out of joy, but out of compassion". But then we read her comments about the first woman "She saw only darkness. She believed she couldn't give her child a good life". Ah, the first signs of something wanting. And then the true colors - "Women who abort their children do it because they say they want a better life. But it's not a better life they want - it's an easier one." Where is the compassion in that? I read nothing but judgment sandwiched between words like "I feel your pain" and "I wept as I read it".

The second was of the "I'm such a bad mother" variety which seems to be the new, judgy trend at the moment. (Just Google "Slacker Mom"). I must admit I only got half way through reading about how this mom/mum sometimes forgets to have her kids brush their teeth in the morning and (gasp) sends them to school with a non-healthy (but only just) snack or lunch. Yawn. While I welcome a mild backlash against Type A mothers who put everyone else to shame, this new movement of self-appointed slackers is possibly more annoying. Their "sins" are so benign, mot of us have been quietly doing them for years. Why the need now, to shout if from the rooftops? And the comments in the discussion thread are even worse, with people signing up for the slacker bandwagon as if they were being offered three weeks in Bali without the family.

Please people. No two parents are alike in their parenting styles and - klaxon - That's OK!

PS. Yes, this is a judgy post, but I"m judging people's judging, not their parenting.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Rise of the Faux-pology

When did we stop apologizing? When did the word "sorry" become unhip? Have you noticed that the faux-pology is everywhere now?

I thought I'd made this word up but it's in the Urban Dictionary (sigh) - "When a person makes it sound like they are apologizing when, in fact, they are just shifting the blame or using twisted logic to argue their way out of responsibility for their actions."

Examples you'll have heard are "I feel terrible that.....", or "If anyone was offended...." and - if you've been following the recent Micheal Bublé sh*tstorm, "For the record, it hurts me deeply that anyone would think I would disrespect women or be insulting to any human being. I regret that there are people out there who found the photo offensive." 

What the heck is that? He's upset? He is almost blaming the people who found the photo offensive. And unless I can no longer read, I didn't see the words "sorry" or apologize" in that so-called apology.  Which makes it not-an-apology. As the Daily Kos explains, what would-be apologists like Bublé should really say is - "I meant my remarks humorously, and to my deep regret, I failed to convey that properly and offended you. Upon reflection, my attempt at humor was inappropriate, and I apologize for the hurt my poor judgement caused."

I was called a racist the other day on Facebook for using a British English word which, due to the accuser's lack of global knowledge, he took to be derogatory. Other people weighed in to explain it (I won't bore you with the details), and when he eventually realized what a fool he looked, his faux-pology was "Regardless, my tone was regrettably harsh." Er, yes, it was. When others wouldn't let him off the hook with that, he did end up apologizing for his "impulsive over-reaction", however when I then explained my context and said we should just move on, he just couldn't resist another dig. Completely undoing the apology. Sigh. 

A real apology (using real apology words) is very effective in preventing an issue from completely blowing up. There really is no answer to a genuine apology other than to accept it and move on. (OK, some people then start correcting your grammar but they're just spoiling for a fight and should not be given any more air time.)

So come on people - if you're sorry, say it. And if you're not really sorry - keep quiet. You're not fooling anyone. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Good Mothers versus Badass Mothers

I swear, if I read one more article by a wannabe badass mother I am going to self combust. Here's the latest, telling us what good mothers do and proudly exclaiming her badass-ness because she doesn't do them. (It seems to be a made-up or arbitrary list of "good" parenting habits by the way.) Interestingly, "reading to your child" isn't on the list of good parenting points. Not sure what that says but I'd do that before I forced them to eat vegetables.

"Bad" seems to be the new "best" way to parent these days. I'm such a slovenly mother that I'm not going to wash my kids for two days. Ooooh. (You'll notice in the article that she's so Un-badass she has to give us a reason. Real badasses don't feel the need to justify.) I hate to pick on this mother in particular because goodness me, there's a post like this almost every week now.

And apparently "bad-mothering" is now a movement, to counter the saintly "good mothers" we used to read about, although personally, I knew very few like that. There's even a bad-mom blogging genre, for heaven's sake. But as this piece in Salon illustrates, the slacker moms (another badass term) are every bit as judgmental as any other preachy mothers. I quote - "The issue with all this bad mothering, besides the culture of reverse bullying it has created, is that it doesn’t do much to undo the good mother myth that it was set up to squash in the first place."


How insecure do these badass mothers have to be that they write books about how bad they are? And let's recognize the massive elephant in this particular room - no real, honest-to-god badass mother is going to sit down and write a book - especially about her parenting style. Get real. She doesn't preach, she just does her own thing. And the kids of pretend badass mothers are probably perfectly "normal" too. It's a bit like confessing that you never take your make-up off at night, when you have flawless skin. You're not going to proudly confess that one if your entire face is covered in zits now are you? Any more than you're going to fess up to being a slacker mom when your first born is in a juvenile detention facility. 

So once again, I say unto thee - Just do what works for you and stop looking around to see what everyone else is doing. My guess is, we're all doing the best we can. 

Incidentally, here's a real badass mother

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Taking Medical Advice from Celebs - When Will we Learn?

Angelina Jolie is the latest celeb to weigh in on a medical matter. Admittedly, her double mastectomy a few years ago apparently encouraged many women to get themselves checked, and her recent ovary-removing surgery will hopefully highlight the drastic improvement it can have on ovarian cancer prognoses, but as this article points out, Jolie has touted some very dodgy medical claims in the past. (I'm not hatin' on Angie by the way.)

And she's by no means the only celeb to opine on matters that she really has no business opining on. Who can forget Gwyneth Paltrow's recent advice to get thee straight to LA to steam your vag. Or something. I quote - “You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al. It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels. If you’re in LA, you have to do it.”

Why? Why do they think they have the knowledge to advise others on medical matters? And  more importantly, why do people listen to them? As a selfless act of public service, I have delved into the matter a little further, - reading a meta-narrative analysis from the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) no less. Apparently we "consume endorsed items to acquire the endorsing celebrities' traits, which have become associated with the product." So in popping off to LA and steaming our va-jay-jays we are subconsciously hoping that we'll get Gwynnie's pert little bum and glossy hair as a by-product. It's called the "Halo Effect" - "The specific success of celebrities is generalized to all their traits, biasing people to view them as credible medical advisors." In short, if we liked Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, we will probably also think she knows what she's talking about in the medical field. 

And when we don't follow their advice, we experience "cognitive dissonance" - mental stress or discomfort experienced when we receive new information (from said celeb) that conflicts with our existing beliefs, ideas or values. So, even if you raised an eyebrow at Gwynie's claim that a vaginal steam douche could "balance female hormones", were you a fan, it would stress you out to admit it. Even worse, we also apparently follow celebrity medical advice to gain social status and shape our social identities. How shallow. 

So - next time you hear your favorite actor talking about how this plant or that cream can save the planet, pause for a second. Not only should you be asking where this person received his or her Medical Degree, you should also be asking yourself what crazy personal need is driving you to act on the faux advice. 

Time for some introspection methinks. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Social Media - Assume The Best

That's my mantra, and I'm really trying to stick to it. When on social media, don't jump to conclusions you have no basis for. Assume the best.

With the written word, it's very easy to read comments with your own mood or bias as the back drop. I was shocked recently to be called "malicious" on a serious discussion thread. A woman had left a comment about third world sweat shops, cheap clothing and what we can do to improve the situation. I simply wanted to expand on her comment. We were so on the same page. Admittedly I should have started mine with "Absolutely" or "Agreed" instead of just launching in to more of what she was saying. Her response to my response was stunning. She was absolutely livid with me and thought I was being a complete bitch. It took me about five readings of my comment to figure out how she had come to her conclusion and I never got to explain myself because the newspaper closed the thread. Pah!

If you think about it, almost any comment or Tweet can be taken at least two different ways. It's a minefield. Try saying this in an angry, accusing voice and then in a genuine, inquiring one -

"How did you reach that conclusion?"


"Why would anyone do that?"

Sigh. Once on the "being offended" path, there's almost no going back for most people. One side tries to explain what they really meant and the other side can't swallow his/her pride and accept it. Instead s/he remains righteous and indignant, and it becomes "Well, you should have......" etc. and all judgmentally.

So let's all try to pause, read a comment twice and look for the best instead of the worst shall we? And let's remind each other from time to time too.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bullying - Bringing out the Best in People?

As I mentioned in my last few posts, there's quite a lot of bullying on t'Internet isn't there? For reasons we have yet to figure out, people seem to think that if they're not physically next to someone, they can say or do whatever the heck they like.

Sometimes though, it brings out the best in people. Other people, that is. People who could really just walk away, ignore the troll or sink to that same vile level, choose to be the better person.

Last week, we had the truly spiteful (and probably very damaged) Katie Hopkins, trying to lambast the very talented Kelly Clarkson for her post pregnancy weight. Thing is though, it only served to show us what a lovely, confident and yes, generous person Clarkson is.

Another unbelievable example of fat-shaming and bullying happened when two utter A-holes took photos of a heavy set gentleman having fun and dancing in a pub. Apparently they were laughing so hard at him, he stopped. Just look at the shame and sadness on his face in the second photo. Breaks my heart. The post said "Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing." Way to go there folks. Your parents much be so proud.

But this is where it all gets good. Rightful outrage led to a Twiiter hashtag #FindDancingMan and...well, here's the story.  He's being flown to LA for a huge dance party, with famous DJs and musicians now offering to help. Brava to the young lady who started the campaign to let him dance.

And then of course, there's Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban as punishment for her outspoken views on the regime and for her call for education for young women. Her assassination attempt caused international outrage and more than 2 million signatures on the Right to Education Campaign. This in turn, led to the ratification of Pakistan's first right to education bill. Malala is now a global advocate for the right of young women to be educated and she is c-founder of The Malala Fund. In 2014 she was co-recipeint of the Nobel Peace Prize and has gained international admiration for her work.

So I guess what I'm saying is that, bullying may be all around us, but it's usually met with an even greater force!

As Cassandra Fairbanks (who found Dancing Man) said - "I hope people realize how easy it is to do something good. I didn't even leave my couch and look at what happened."

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hatey Katie (Hopkins) - Who Else Shares the Blame?

Much as I detest Katie Hopkins' public persona (I don't know her personally so can't comment) I am also furious at a few other entities. Yes, she spews bile on a weekly basis, usually in the name of free speech or "a bit of fun", but why do so many TV shows hand her a microphone?

For those blissfully unaware of this monstrous woman, Katie Hopkins is a so-called journalist for The Sun newspaper in the UK - which pretty much says it all anyway. She also goes on TV to criticize fat people, lower class people, people who don't call their kids names she approves of, and anyone else who isn't a mirror image of herself. Her latest salvo was aimed at Kelly Clarkson when she began Tweeting about Clarkson's weight. I won't repeat the Tweets here, let's just say they were pathetic and intended to hurt. Oh and by the way, she says there's "no such thing as fat-shaming, only skinny-blaming". Yes, she's lovely. (For her part, Clarkson had no idea who Hopkins was - ha ha ha - and wasn't bothered by the remarks, saying she wasn't seeking "acceptance" from her. I am crushing on Kelly.)

Anyway, back to my question about why people give her so much air time. Rhetorical question really as we know it's all about the ratings, but these shows are also promoting hate by having the vile woman on in the first place. She's correct when she says she has a right to free speech (although there are some limitations in the UK), and so far has managed not to get herself booted off Twitter, where she spouts most of her nonsense.

The TV shows that allow her to give vent to her ridiculous views though, are just as guilty as Hopkins for spreading hate and intolerance. It's one thing to have a right to say hurtful things, but quite another for producers to encourage it through live TV appearances. That would be like me inviting her to guest blog about her insanity rather than criticizing her.  (Not that she would accept, 'cause I'm from the north of England and didn't called my daughter India.)

There's enough intolerance in the world at the moment. We don't need to promote it through ratings-hungry media so I'm pointing the finger at ITV's "This Morning", one of her biggest megaphones. Also Huffington Post who give her a voice, and Access Hollywood in the USA, who recently pretty much did a segment special on her. Y'all may be trying to demonstrate the hate within her, but narcissists like Katie Hopkins really don't care. They're in front of a camera, people are giving them direct access to an audience. You cannot shame them. 

So please - do the world a favor and leave her to wither on the vine.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Female celebs against Age-ism. Oh really?

So you probably saw or heard about the tumble Madonna took at the Brit Awards last week. Ouch it looked like it hurt. 

Twitter was ablaze, as you'd imagine, with some very nasty comments about her age. The newspapers inserted "56" wherever they could, and then came the "opinion pieces" about whether or not Madonna should be trying to be younger than she is, (who cares?) or whether she's giving the whole age thing the middle finger. (She is and she isn't.) 

In one respect Madonna's defying age because she has the body you don't expect on a 56 year old woman. Given her work-out regimen, she can probably outlast any 25 year old in the gym and bench press more than most men. Impressive. She's quoted in the latest Rolling Stone mag as saying 

"Because women, generally, when they reach a certain age, have accepted that they're not allowed to behave a certain way," ..... "But I don't follow the rules. I never did, and I'm not going to start."

She may be age-defying, and she may be ranting about age-ism, but I don't believe she's defying it, as some have suggested.  Sure. she's cavorting around in a way that many think is "unbecoming" for a middle-aged woman, - and god bless her - but what about the face? And the gloves? 

It looks like she's had quite a bit of work to keep the wrinkles at bay, and ever since the snide remarks about her old-looking hands started, she has reverted to the 80's fingerless gloves she popularized back in the day. I must point out that Maggie Smith's hands probably look younger than mine, so I feel Madonna's pain and I don't blame her for hiding them - but again, it's not really "being your age" is it?

We also have Cindy Crawford in the news for possibly having this body. 

At first it was supposed to have been released by her, which would have been refreshing, if a little hard to believe, given that she has a range of "age-defying" skin creams. Now Crawford is suing because the photo has apparently been doctored to make her look worse. I can't blame her really. If you work your butt off (pardon the pun) to have a nice body, you don't want people thinking you look like any old saggy-stomach'd 48 year old. But again, that's my point, she may be age-defying, but she's playing into the whole Hollywood ideal that beauty means looking younger than most other women your age. 

Here are a few women who, in my opinion, are really defying age-ism and not getting enough credit for it. 

Real beauties - rocking those laughter lines. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Social Media - I Promise to Block You If....

I'm taking a stand against insults in my own little way. Spending a considerable amount of time on social media, I am often dismayed at the way people "speak" to each other. Using words like "End of" and CAPITAL LETTERS to effectively shut down another person now seem to be par for the course. I wonder if those same people deal with differing opinions that way in real life. I suspect not.

Can you imagine getting into a discussion at a party or in a pub with someone you barely know, say a friend of a friend. This happens a lot on social media. You can be on a friend's Facebook page, having a heated but respectful debate and then another 'friend' comes in and starts telling you you know nothing, or you should "get over yourself" and so on. Really? Would you do that if we were both at that friend's house? I think not.

And although it's almost impossible to have a discussion in 140 characters, this happens even more on Twitter. In the past few weeks I have been called an "abject moron" for wanting responsible gun handling laws, a "Commie Brit" for pointing out the lower incidence of gun homicides elsewhere, and a "pedophile supporter" - not quite sure what that even related to. Of course, it's a little less controlled on Twitter as anyone can pick up on a comment you make; they don't even have to be following you.

But, - and here's the secret - you can block them! Yes, really. It's not a sign of weakness, especially if you give them fair warning. My fair warning usually comes in the form of "Ah - and now the insults. A sure sign that you'e out of ideas". Yes, it can infuriate the offender rather than makes them pursue a more rational line of debate, but who cares? You're just about to block them and they know that whatever their next salvo is, - you can't see it! Quite takes the wind out of their sails.

So I'm taking my own personal stand - and it's even on my Twitter profile. "I promise to block you if you start hurling insults."

Try it - it's very liberating!

Or just send them this!