What is feminine?

What is feminine? When I think of the word, certain things spring to mind. The phrase feminine wiles; make-up; shoes and bags; pink; lacy; glitter; high heels and smiles; fancy clothes; wine (never beer); dresses and skirts; demure and gentle; not obese.

Why do I think these things? The word ‘feminine’ has been used in certain contexts my whole life, making my mental definition of the word a collection of specific constructs. I am not alone, feminine is seen as a specific way of being.

But what is feminine really? Let’s go back to the dictionary definition:

fem·i·nine  adj.  1. Of or relating to women or girls. 2. Characterized by or possessing qualities generally attributed to a woman. 3. Effeminate; womanish. 4. Grammar Designating or belonging to the gender of words or grammatical forms that refer chiefly to females or to things classified as female.

The second definition of feminine seems to be what popular culture looks at: “Characterized by or possessing qualities generally attributed to a woman.” But why are certain things attributed only to women? And do they necessarily have to be attributed to all women?

I’m more interested in the first definition of feminine: “Of or relating to women or girls.” That’s it. It’s that simple. Feminine is “Of or relating to women or girls”. I and all my interests are feminine. My daughters are feminine. Every female and all their interests are feminine.

Why is this important? Relating as female and not seeing yourself as feminine can be a cause of low self esteem and depression. Discovering your own gender identity and sexuality can be hard enough, without being waylaid by unnecessary doubts. A boy who likes dolls is no more likely to be gay than a boy who likes cars is likely to be straight. Interests don’t define sexuality. Interests don’t define gender.

I was inspired to write this after reading this article in The Guardian with the subtitle “The rationale behind hating all things pink is that there’s something wrong with being a girl.” I have problems with that statement, but it all boils down to definitions of feminine and girly; of masculine and boyish.

Last week my daughters had a non-uniform day at school. Mighty-Girl (7 & 3/4) only feels comfortable wearing leggings and long sleeve tops. She wore her favourite Doctor Who top. As we arrived at school she became so anxious that people would make comments about her top that she was at the brink of hyperventilating. Danger Girl (5 & 1/2) loves super heroes and adored the Batman underwear I found for her. On the first day she wore them to school, they had gym and her friends pointed out she was wearing boy pants. She hasn’t wanted to wear them since.

My daughters interests vary, and many of their interests may be ‘traditionally girly‘, but all I can see is a world that pushes them into only liking ‘traditionally girly’ because any deviation leads to potential ridicule and bullying, to being outcast from their female peers and defined as tomboys.

Cynthia at Musings of an Aspie blog writes so much that makes sense to me. Her latest post on Autism and Gender again had me nodding along. I grew up thinking I ought to have been born a boy. Having no interest in ‘female interests‘. Preferring comfortable clothes and science fiction novels to dressy clothes and glossy magazines. Worrying that maybe I had excess testosterone and would never be able to have children.

I am not male, or masculine. My interests are feminine because I am female. I personally would have been saved from a lot of misery and self loathing if I’d realised that earlier than I did.

Feminine is “Of or relating to women or girls”.

It’s not pink.

It’s not clothes.

It’s not interests.

It’s not thoughts.

It’s not beliefs.

It’s daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts.

It’s fifty percent of the planet.

It’s anything.

This blog is, of course, my opinion and I welcome discussion. What do you define feminine as? What would you like feminine defined as? Thank-you for reading.

Lazy Cooking

I’m a very lazy cook. I really can’t see the point of spending hours every day preparing meals. For me, life it just too short. Any meal that involves more than 30 minutes of my time will rarely happen.

I am far too slow at preparing vegetables and grating cheese to enjoy the process, and although many people scoff at the use of pre-grated cheese, ready made mashed potatoes, and prepared vegetables, they are my essentials.

We’ve not owned a microwave for several years, we can go for many months without take away food – although to be honest, we’ve been terribly naughty recently – and we don’t have desserts often so actually (most of the time) we eat fairly healthily.

Recently with my depression playing up, and relying on school dinners to feed my children healthily, I’ve not been making much more than sandwiches or pasta. But changes in the school dinner menu have meant that my children end up discarding most of their lunches so I’m going back to packed lunches and cooked weekday meals.

To help me along, I’m starting a series of sharing some of our lazy meals, and my progress at getting back into meal planning.

Our Week in Books #46

La la la… Okay, I buy too many books. But, but… Books! I will try very, very, very hard not to get any more this year.

Apart from Neil Gaiman’s Hansel and Gretel.

And The Book People have the complete Saga of Darren Shan, which I’ve wanted to read for ages…

Okay, okay… No more books :-(

Books added to shelves:
Where is Pim? – Lena & Olaf Landstrom (review book from Gecko Press)
Max’s Bear – Barbro Lindgren & Eva Eriksson (review book from Gecko Press)
Max’s Bath – Barbro Lindgren & Eva Eriksson (review book from Gecko Press)
Max’s Wagon – Barbro Lindgren & Eva Eriksson (review book from Gecko Press)
I Capture The Castle – Dodie Smith (2nd hand from charity shop)
Little Grey Rabbit’s Party – Alison Uttley & Margaret Tempest (2nd hand from charity shop)
Flour Babies – Anne Fine (2nd hand from charity shop)
The Fox Busters – Dick King Smith (2nd hand from charity shop)
Toad of Toad Hall – A A Milne (2nd hand from charity shop)
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat – Chris Riddell (bought from The Book People)
Ottoline Goes to School – Chris Riddell (bought from The Book People)
Ottoline at Sea – Chris Riddell (bought from The Book People)
The Adventures of Mr Toad – Tom Moorhouse & David Roberts (bought from The Book People)
Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy (bought from The Book People)
Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing With Fire – Derek Landy (bought from The Book People)
Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones – Derek Landy (bought from The Book People)
On Sudden Hill – Linda Sarah & Benji Davis (bought from The Book People)
That Is Not A Good Idea! – Mo Willems (bought from The Book People)
Go to Sleep or I Let Loose the Leopard – Steve Cole & Bruce Ingman (bought from The Book People)
Max and the Won’t Go to Bed Show – Mark Sperring & Sarah Warburton (bought from The Book People)
Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman – M C Beaton (bought from The Book People)
The Flower Colouring Book – Search Press (bought from The Book People)
The Angel & Fairy Colouring Book – Search Press (bought from The Book People)
The Art Nouveau Colouring Book – Search Press (bought from The Book People)
Cumulative: 583 (£917.26) (£3746.74)

Library books borrowed: none
Cumulative: 21

Books removed from shelves: 4 (1 to post; 8 still to give as gifts)
Cumulative: 166
49 eBooks. Net bookshelf gain 2014 cumulative = 368

Read 52 books finished this week:

Year progress: 319/365 = 87.4%
300 Picture Book progress: 335/300 = 111.7%
Read 52 progress: 72/52 = 138.5% (51/52 = 98.1%)

300in2014 A reading challenge from http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup

Blogfest 2014 Thoughts

I’ve written the me-centric feelings of going to Blogfest, so this post if going to focus on what the day was like (in my opinion!)

Going last minute meant that the structure of the programme was essential for me and I did base my day around going to each session / option on offer. As someone who finds social events a struggle, the low-key guidance was enough. Although either I didn’t hear or there wasn’t announcements for all session starts, which I would have found helpful.

The first session was a keynote panel titled Always On: How does technology shape the way we think? I don’t really take a lot of notice of titles, as panels and discussions often meander. I found the people in the panel interesting and amusing, even if they didn’t really have a clue about the subject. They made some good points, especially that our children do not have a “before internet” experience. I recommend reading Jax’s review of the panel at Making It Up including her excellent tweet notes.

The second session was a choice between How to find your funny, Google masterclass, and money making masterclass. I chose How to make Money, but I was also tempted with the Google one, which I might have got more out of. I now know how to monetise my blog if I’m the number one blogger, or a company in the US. That’s not an entirely fair representation, but the most useful part of the session was Tara Cain’s advice on how to build an audience and what to charge. Everything from that part of the session is in her post, which I think is an essential read if blogging is a serious part of your life – even if you’re not interested in sponsorship or brands.

Following the second session were Think Bombs – three five minute chunks of inspiration. Luckily they are available to watch on YouTube, although sadly Francesca Martinez is cut short. My favourite quote from Francesca was “Accepting yourself is an act of civil disobedience“.

A ninety minute lunch break gave plenty of opportunity for milling around the brand stalls if you wanted, or to chat. The time flew past and I’m not sure who I spoke to where or when to be honest. Having this time without sessions was lovely, but some quiet areas would have been much appreciated.

The third session was a choice between beauty, campaigning or advanced social media. I chose advanced social media because I don’t see myself as a campaigner (and have no interest in beauty) but perhaps I should have learnt more about how to change the world online. The social media session started late due to traffic and Paul Armstrong speeded his way through the presentation, referring to “as I said last year” a lot. He’s obviously on the forefront of technology but I think I needed “a few years ago” lessons rather than what may or may not be happening in the future. It was interesting though, and the slides are online.

The final choice session of the day was between between food blogging, youtube or round table discussions. Several of the round tables appealed, but as I hadn’t signed up to anything in advance I waited for spaces and chose the techie panel as I might be able to input as well as learn. Sadly having five tables in one room, packed with people talking and laughing, was absolutely no good for my hearing and I missed almost everything in the session due to background noise. Rachel, Jax, Alice and Sue were great with dispensing useful advice (from the bits I did hear!) and well worth following.

After another well needed break, it was time for the final panel of the day The Power of Writing. Perhaps I was too worn out at this stage or perhaps I’m just not a writer, but I wasn’t as inspired by this as most seemed to be. It was interesting (again) and I’m glad I was there but to be honest I can’t remember much of what was actually said!

The closing Keynote was hilarious, the drinks afterwards too noisy (but once I found my geeky corner, it improved immensely and I almost missed my train from staying too long…) and having now had gin for the first time, I think I quite like it.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. I want to go again now, and get more out of it now I know what to expect (but I got a lot out of it anyway, and I met friends I’d not met before, which was priceless.)

Was it worth £95? I do think you get more than your money’s worth just in terms of food, drink, entertainment and the goody bag. However, as someone not particularly interested in fashion, beauty, or cooking, the goody bag was mainly irrelevant to me. Personally I couldn’t justify the cost, so I hope there is an early bird discount for next year as I really do want to go back!

It’s Been a Rearranging the Furniture Sort of Day

This post is filler to make a post every day, but don’t have to think of anything new to write because it’s all copied from Instagram.

It’s Monday. I’m bored of this happening all the time:

I'm bored of this happening all the time #projectchaos

I’m continuing my impetuous streak by deciding to rearrange the entire living room. I have a plan. I have four hours.

I have a plan. I have four hours. #projectchaos #justdoit #whatsnormalanyhow

Step One: Transfer mess into kitchen so have more floor space in living room

Step one: transfer mess into kitchen so have more floor space #projectchaos

Step Two: Barricade yourself into room so you have no option but to continue

Step two: barricade yourself into room so you have no options #projectchaos

Step Three: Realise that wipes, a recycling bag & the vacuum cleaner might have been handy things to have in the room before you barricaded yourself in.
Add dusting and sorting the TV cabinet to list of future tasks.
Add a nice throw to hide plastic boxes from view to shopping list.

#projectchaos Step three: realise that wipes, a recycling bag & the vacuum cleaner might have been handy things to have in the room before you barricaded yourself in. Add dusting and sorting the TV cabinet to list of future tasks. Add a nice throw to hide plastic boxes from view to shopping list.

Step Four: Despair at making more mess in order to tidy mess.
Also despair at damp patch on wall that’s going to need sorting. Phone father in law.

#projectchaos step four: despair at making more mess in order to tidy mess. Also despair at damp patch on wall that's going to need sorting. Phone father in law...

Step Five: Realise that advance mental visualisation of steps missed some stages when the next thing on the list is to move that bookcase over there.

#projectchaos step five: realise that advance mental visualisation of steps missed some stages when the next thing on the list is to move that bookcase over there...

Step Six: Lie on floor and stare at empty bookcase for a while.
Especially as you know it has to be refilled before can finish tidying today, but it’s also going to need to be emptied and refilled again so it can be attached to the wall for safety.

#projectchaos step six: lie on floor and stare at empty bookcase for a while, especially as you know it has to be refilled before can finish tidying today, but it's also going to need to be emptied and refilled again so it can be attached to the wall for safety.

Step Seven: Decide that not only can that bookcase stay where it is for now (the games shelves need to swap with it), but this bookcase is too dangerous to have all the books put back on.
90 minutes left. Eek.

#projectchaos step seven: decide that not only can *that* bookcase stay where it is for now (the games shelves need to swap with it), but *this* bookcase is too dangerous to have all the books put back on. 90 minutes left. Eek.

Step Eight: Look at all the lovely crossed out steps on the plan.
Ignore the fact that the last line needs its own page of steps.
Email work & say you won’t be in this afternoon after all. Gain two extra hours.

#projectchaos step eight: look at all those lovely crossed out steps on the plan. Ignore the fact that the last line is slightly misleading and needs its own page of steps. Email work & say you won't be in this afternoon after all...

Step Nine: Wonder if you have achieved anything in the last four hours at all.
Also realise that you’re going to have to move one of the storage cabinets back into the other half of the room as it looks too cluttered where you put it.

Step Ten: Ignore the messy bits that you know shouldn’t be there, and are only there because there’s a damp patch to be sorted and two bookcases to attach to the wall, and pretend that you’ve achieved something.

This half sort-of passes. I know which bits aren't finished yet. #projectchaos

Step Eleven: Look at the corner that started it all off, and see no improvement.
Ignore it and take painkillers for your back.
Collect children from after-school club. Late.

This bit doesn't pass at all because none of it should be there. Ripe pickings for charity/sale/skip #projectchaos

On Being At Blogfest

I’m still processing Saturday, and it’s going to take a few days to write anything coherent about the day but instead of cluttering up a retrospective of the day with my mess of a head, this is the me-me-me focused post of how I felt.

I have wanted to go to a blog conference for years, and I am so grateful to Jax for giving me the ticket she won, and to my family and friends for jumping in with last minute childcare so I could swan off to London for the day.

I was a mix of excited and terrified at the prospect. After accepting the ticket on Wednesday evening, I had a stress meltdown on Thursday morning which wasn’t very pretty. This was mainly because I was stressed about something on Thursday anyhow, but the added thought of a highly social day probably didn’t help.

On Friday night I only woke up once during the night, which is about normal for me, and my alarm did wake me at 6am on Saturday. Getting ready I was full of butterflies, but I’d sorted out what I needed the day before so I hoped I was ready and left to catch the train.

I can't believe I'm actually going to #Blogfest

My phone is a bit rubbish so I only vaguely tweeted on the way, wondering how many people were on the same train. But I didn’t see any at Paddington when I got there, and I had to buy my train ticket there so anyone else probably went on.

I’d looked at Google Street View the night before and memorised what the route to the venue would look like, and thought it was a long walk but actually it wasn’t far from King’s Cross and there was a queue of people so it was easy to find.

I stood in the queue feeling anxious about not knowing anyone or where to go, but I was guided to the down escalator. My stomach was completely churning as I went down and saw all the people milling and chatting. But I also saw the sign for toilets so immediately aimed for there to breathe slowly and calm myself.

Busy #Blogfest yesterday

After creeping out I realised there was a cloakroom so managed another social milestone by checking in my duffel coat. So I’d arrived, got my name badge, found the right place, knew where to get a drink and the toilet, and checked in my coat. Honestly, these are huge steps, so that really helped my confidence.

I was scanning the room to see if I could see anyone I recognised (or anywhere I could hide) and I spotted Jax. So I ignored all the butterflies, and hovered nearby until I managed to show my name badge and say hi. I then basically followed her around like a shadow for the rest of the day.

Okay, not quite. I tried hard not to, because I do have a habit of sticking with someone I know and I know I can be annoying because of that so I compensate. Maybe I overcompensate. Every time I spoke to someone I probably looked like I wasn’t interested or I wanted to escape and I’m really sorry if I did because I didn’t but I have no self esteem at all so I didn’t think anyone actually wanted to speak to me and was waiting for them to make their excuses and move on.

So I tried not to follow Jax around for the entire day like a weird stalker, but probably did. Lovely Monika took me under her wing for a while (thank-you, Monika, you are too kind as ever), and I also tried not to stalk Rachel who is awesomely interesting to talk with.

That’s my self esteem issues coming to the fore again. I can’t just talk to people I enjoy talking to without thinking that I’m actually annoying them and I should just leave. Except, I think it was okay. I think. And at the end of the day I somehow managed to end up in a group selfie with a bunch of people I admire hugely. That’s just mindboggling.

I probably should have put the t-shirt on.

I did have anxiety butterflies several times throughout the day. I almost cried just the once (not bad). I thought everyone hated me several times (not good). I hid in the toilet once or twice too to get some quiet. And I did sleep all day Sunday to recover (thank-you, husband).

I definitely want to do it again now I know what to expect.

Our Week in Books #45

Blogfest.

Books added to shelves:
Tinder – Sally Gardener & David Roberts (bought from Amazon)
Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau – Andrea Beaty & David Roberts (bought from Amazon)
Station Eleven (bookswap at Blogfest)
The Good Girl (free book from Blogfest)
Cumulative: 559 (£861.76) (£3586.18)

Library books borrowed: none
Cumulative: 21

Books removed from shelves: 1 (1 to post; 5 still to give as gifts)
Cumulative: 162
49 eBooks. Net bookshelf gain 2014 cumulative = 349

Read 52 books finished this week:

Year progress: 306/365 = 85.5%
300 Picture Book progress: ??/300 = ??%
Read 52 progress: 67/52 = 155.8% (49/52 = 94.2%)

300in2014 A reading challenge from http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup

Blogfest

I’m going to Blogfest tomorrow.

I’m actually going to my first blogging conference. I’ve bought tickets for two before (BritMums 2013 & 2014) but then sold them on because I couldn’t afford the accommodation, plus I put myself off the idea before I’d even got there.

But then fabulous, wonderful, all-round awesome Jax (Making It Up, @liveotherwise) gave me a ticket she won. Wow!

Having only known I was going since Wednesday night – which involved hurried babysitting arrangements; MG and DG will be passed between three people tomorrow (four if you count Mr Chaos!) – I haven’t had time to change my mind.

Well, not to change my mind more than a few million times. And minor hyperventilation. Panic panic PANIC!!

I don’t really know what to expect. I didn’t even realise lunch was included. And there’s a goody bag. And wow, I’m going to meet Jax. And Beth. And Rachael. And Jax! (I’m quite terrified excited about this) And… too many lovely lovely people.

I’ve printed my ticket. Sorted out the children for tomorrow (Mr Chaos is still in stressed-director mode). Sorted myself out for tomorrow (I hope.) Found out train times. Need to write them down. And print out a map for the venue. My technology isn’t reliable enough, so I need hard copies of everything annoyingly.

So… I’m going to a blogging conference.

Tomorrow.

Say hi if you see me. I’m short, round, probably dressed in black, and have a bright red Oliver and the Seawigs canvas bag. I’m also very introverted, completely anxious, slightly deaf, and don’t do eye contact very well…

Panic.

:-)

Chaos Kids Comments #1

I write snippets of things MG(7) & DG(5) say on Twitter and Facebook so I don’t forget them. But Twitter and Facebook aren’t the best place to keep memories so I’m going to start collecting them up here as a semi-regular series. I hope it reminds me to write more of what they say down too. I used to, need to get back in the habit.

[I wanted to post once a day in November but not doing very well at it so am cheating and backdating posts…]

November 5

Posting every day is going tremendously well. Um. I do have a draft post from yesterday. The fact that it’s just a title with no content isn’t particularly helpful, but the thought was there.

This morning I’ve been playing with NewBlogTM. Writing content might be more useful, but I’m getting the plan and layout where I want it to be and I’m immensely proud of my css and php code changes due to my practically non-existent skills in those areas. I have changed wordings for ‘not found’ pages, and updated category page titles, and other random and not particularly amazing stuff.

Content. Must write the blasted content! That’s my current sticking point, my brain is in hibernation and I’ve no faith in my opinions at the moment. Also I’m torn between creating a database that will spit the code I need out (longer set-up, quicker in long term) or doing everything manually (might not be that much slower long term, and creating an application could be is probably a waste of my time…)

My mind is wandering all over the place and I’m easily distracted at the moment. My current conundrum is copyright notices I’m putting in a footer. If the concept for a blog is mine, and all the reviews and writing is mine, and the categories, and the tweaks to the blog layout are mine, does that mean the design is copyright me? But… I have an illustrator, who is making an idea into a reality with images from his imagination. So is concept copyright me and design to him? I don’t just want to say ‘illustrations by’ because it’s so much more than that. But I’m important too… I’ll ask. Just thinking aloud.

Bookish stuff soon. I have lots of gorgeous books to share. Just feeling slightly woolly still, I’ll get there.