invisible ink – a response

Whoa. So I’ve been bagged-out and demonised since I aired my long-held view about superfluous and gratuitous presence of grid girls at motorsport events. A lot of men have got their knickers in a right old mess over what I have said on twitter and here. None have countered what I’ve said with any direct academic points, but only repetition of their original premise: there’s no harm in them, and let a woman do what job she wants. Some have completely missed my perspective and retorted with more mixed-up whataboutery than I can begin to fend in a single life-time. neonbrand-428982From accusations of being jealous of youthful beauty to somehow offending the family and friends of racers because I have said grid girls have no place on the starting line? And a few have been abusive… which is ironic given they are supposedly defending women’s rights. Because part of being a woman and having equality, is society protecting my right to vocalise an opinion different from… well, men’s. Let it be known clearly, no woman with an opposing view has connected with me to discuss, just men pontificating. Or trying to correct me. My experience in similar jobs, background in marketing, love of motorsports, time in the Paddock, and being a woman, actually discounted as having any leverage in validating my view. This latter, I find hilarious. Like no one but men and the ‘girls’ themselves (I mean even the bloody job title they use is denigrating to women) can speak with authenticity. 

I know. I know. Most of you have recognised this conversation has taken a limited single-layered tone. And you’re absolutely right to be concerned. As world-wise and educated, wider-thinkers, we know. This is a much bigger, more insidious issue. It’s important.

I have been trying to find a way to explain, articulate my thoughts on the difference between a woman’s right to choose her employment and this. The purposeful contracting of young women by men, to wear specifically sexual clothing in a male dominated environment to entertain using only looks, for men. So I’m going to try and flesh (!) it out here.

I believe in a woman’s right in both choice of clothing, (how she presents herself to the world) and how she financially supports herself. Except this, this ‘girls on parade’, this pimping out for male pleasure, isn’t choice. It’s allowing yourself to be part of the male construct. It’s a male environment, managed, funded, and provided by men, for men. You are permitted to perform here. Are paid to be here. Purely and precisely for their financial benefit, and sexual gratification. A starkly different image, but possible comparison to explain further: the burka. I have absolutely no issue with a woman wearing what she wants, when she wants. But the doctrine, provision, and permission for women of this culture (see religion, institution, patriarchy) is managed, owned, and defined by men. I feel like they are similar aspects of the same issue.

We are led to believe empowerment is our choice… but it is actually and very essentially found in our freedom away from a masculine criteria. If each scenario could be held separate and still be relevant, then that is true choice. I believe, to a certain extent this also includes aspects of prostitution, stripping, and variations on acting – and whether you report directly to a woman for your paycheck or are employed by an organisation led by men – if the world in which these actions happen, can be isolated from male dominance or their conceptual infrastructure, if there is no direct benefit, profit, or manipulation by men, by their purely being male, that is choice… if not, it is existing for them, to support, or provide a service for them. Without real power, negotiation, status, or equality.

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invisible ink

I can hear the groans of grown men from here. Some of them not at all pleasant. They are imagining a life without scantily-clad women to gawp at when they go to the motorsport. Lorks! The anguish they must be feeling. The bereft state they find themselves in, suddenly, and with a bewildering shock. I can sense their dis-ease at the changing landscape. One that holds no hip-hugging-lycra ladies, nor free cans of Monster held out by a widely-smiling angel. The future must feel like a bleak and unfair place.

I read that the once beatific babes themselves are aghast that anyone should find them offensive. Question their right to employment, their empowerment. How dear we shrivelled and over-sensitive moral brigade call out the silliness of their status. Don’t we know, they will be jobless? A job they so passionately love. That a whole stable of sex-pots will be redundant. Negated, unheard and just not cherished enough. Sad days. Who will carry the brollies?

But wait. A surprising turn. For now we have a plot twist – and given the rarity of a plot at all – engagement and activism from both sides in joined pursuit of a mutually beneficial climax. I mean out-cum. Outcome. This is the stuff of fantasies. This is a coming together (rarely happens, it has to be said, have you seen the state of that beer-belly?) of a band of dubiously developed men, desperately wanting to protect the objects of their desire.

Feeding such simple needs, this scenario… hot girls become maidens in need of rescue, normally quiet impotent men rise up demanding retribution on behalf of the meek, the mewling minxes say No! We are strong and fighting and we stand tall in our stilettos. The men, at once, in thrall and engorged with purpose. An excuse to connect with objects of their affection, to offer affirmation. It is the story of centuries. A centuries-old profession. That of the sexy con. The gifted sweet smile in exchange for a good bartering. The selling of goods. She doesn’t mind they are her goods being sold but the boss-man’s products being bought.

These two are bit players on the set-edge of a yawning cavern of change. Their puppet-masters, aware of the shift and managing the stage carefully. Watching from aloft, while counting the revenue receipts as the entertainment settles in to a new groove.

What tweaks my nip most, is the vehement vilification of those who agree it is time for the removal of #gridgirls from our tracks and telly-boxes. Such a noisey chest-beating response by men, to what should be an obvious and positive change. And astoundingly nasty commentary from women…

“I saw a minger on tv saying it’s morally wrong… bet if she had a quarter of the looks these girls had she’d be doing it too!”

Yeah, because ugly* is the only reason a woman wouldn’t do the job, right? FFS. Honestly, bitch?

*When women are calling other women mingers, ugly… when females are using beauty values to dismiss someone’s intelligence and academic achievements, shitballs, we still have a massive problem.

Right, where was I?

From your keyboard you are yelling. It is Political Correctness Out of Control! Listen, your anti-PC insularity is not what this is about. The curdling cries of What next? No more ads featuring stunning actresses wearing red lipstick biting seductively at a chocolate bar to make us all a-titter? All the beautiful people banished into an underground dystopian world? Those self-replicating fembots making us wear loose sack-cloth from head to toe, hiding our man-memberage in case blood-flow takes a detour from the brain? People actually suggesting “… it’ll be the Burka before long, mark my words…” (can almost picture the shaking staff and accompanying spit at the dirt floor in curse). Because the choice of what women wear in a promotional role in public is that binary. Either your body is encased in figure-tight luridly-branded lycra or, only your eyes will be seen. A hijab though? More surface area for the branding, it has to be said – may be the way to go. Like a grounded zeppelin. Anyhoo. Are you all insane? Or is this just being male? Because that doesn’t make it ok this time.

And don’t start @ me about ‘The Feminists’. Please. That somehow heavy-hoofed he-women have pressured the cowering boss-mans of F1 and Darts, dictating in world-ending prophecy, that all femme-bodies shall be covered in breathable material, that they shall not endure long hours of posing atop ridiculous footwear, and henceforth be free from the pervy, penetrating, prying eyes of a guy being manipulated by sex into buying the latest sock for his helmet. This is about money, don’t let them make you think it is anything other. If the #gridgirls and promo staff bought in ROI that fiscally outweighed current misogyny, alienating the growing female demographic, and the just plain glamorous (see tacky, cheap, creepy, prostitution-like) tradition of it, F1 certainly wouldn’t be ceasing this plying of their trade. It is a business decision and not one based on morals but driven by dollars.

Your accusatory, aggressive, abuse towards Feminism makes me reel. From fear. Have we not learned to embrace and trust it; that Feminism is the umbrella (see what I did there?) under which women have grown stronger and more confident, sought shelter and shared stories. Feminism is the small space we give ourselves to find what we want to do with our lives, to then move forward knowing the path is made safer for us. And you women, calling out your sisters for caring about the generations to come, our daughters. For wanting the betterment of society for us all. For believing, and rightly so, that these roles perpetuate and support the objectification and sexualisation of females. Dissing us for wanting you to know:

you are more than just body parts

More than a nice face and a photogenic personality. By not hearing our voices trying to join with your own, you allow sexism to continue it’s “enduring, pervasive, systemic, cultural, and ingrained” existence (Reisenwitz). That faux-empowerment, the language you are using, mimics your overlords. Take a beat, girl.

Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes (Google dictionary, my dears).

The way in which we “define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes. This includes seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.”
(Wiki, see the definition is easy to find…)

Hell, it’s not a new concept – it is older than your bra-burning Grandmother. The word feminism has been around since the late c19 and whilst it’s evolution has seen the inclusion and understanding of intersectionality, it has rarely diverted from its origin. I am a Feminist. I strongly believe in the right to choose. Choosing life-goals, choosing careers, choosing not to have children, whatever the journey. Feminism is, at it’s very heart, a woman making a choice for herself. No matter how confused or misguided she may be, she is permitted that choice.

“A choice of circumstance, or need, or desire – it does not matter. If she has made that choice for herself, then it should be honored and seen as a feminist act – a conscious choice of her destiny in the world.” Sheila Hageman, ex-stripper

I do not argue against a woman choosing to use her body any way she wishes, to pay attention to her needs, to pay the rent. What I have always objected to is the need for this outdated and inappropriate marketing tool at motorsport. At any sport. The objectification of women, the premise that an entire gender exists for the gratification of another. It remains a poor example to our children, the new spectating generation – of all genders. Let’s teach them this is no longer acceptable. That women are not a reward given to men by other men, that you cannot buy them. That being beautiful on the inside is more important than beauty on the outside… lets teach them that. And along the way, let’s keep reminding ourselves too. Because I am not sure you men would weep so loudly, be so indignant, if these were not specifically the jobs of beautiful women.

Here are my questions: can the role of #gridgirl be carried out by anyone? Can brollies be held by any gender, ethnicity, appearance or academic qualification? Yes? Then, why aren’t they? Because sex sells. Marketeers know men are hard-wired to notice sexually relevant communication (to be fair, a lot of men are still very confused about this: boundaries, permissible behaviour, consent, etc but who can argue against Harvard studies, ay?). Because purveyors of goods sold around circuits around the world, know men will spend their hard-earned, diminishing disposable income, if they feel good. Women paid to make men feel good, are a marketing tool to increase sales. But I venture, this gig is up.

And whilst the #gridgirl is long-obsolete, if rider, racer, driver, really needs a wipe-down or to hide under an umbrella and their pit-crew don’t have enough hands, then lets muster people who can utilise their abilities, holding a brolly and holding a flag, whilst wearing actual clothes. Loads of people can do that, right? It’s not a complex skill. Widen the competition, an all-inclusive employment opportunity. The uniform provided will of course be H&S appropriate overalls and steel-caps, to protect them – I mean, why wouldn’t it be?


 

 

salt with your shot

I don’t want you to talk to me. You’re not required to smile. I don’t even need you to know I’m here. I’m not looking for a hook-up, an individual intimacy. I’m not here to make friends. I don’t desire your conversation. I am standing here, in the middle of this melee, for your energy. To be surrounded, engulfed, by a room full of anonymous vitality. I’m here to siphon. Be in noise. Breathe in the smell of humanity. Be charged with the end of week madness that draws and drives a crowd. In this, I cannot hear my thoughts. I do not hear the voices or my singular heart-beat. In amongst you I am lost. And it is good. Healthy. Perfect. I want to dance, give me space. I want to move to the music, so leave me room. If you stand in my space, I will smile, a hostess grin, big but dull. You won’t notice it is as fake as her tan. If you initiate conversation, I will be kind. I am mannered and noble. My eyes have glazed over at the thought of exchanging pleasantries, well anything, with you. Though especially words. But I know the game. To be afforded a safe-place, I must sacrifice. It is transactional. I pay the kind Barman for a drink; solicit a fleeting friendship. This too, a barter. He obliges the chat with my change.
And then you take my arm and drag me, smiling, outside for a cigarette. And I am tired of making excuses, exceptions. I do not have the fight to deal with your affront, if I say no. So I let you lead me. And you are full of banter and compliments and intense gazes. To accompany your full belly of beer. And I give you some mileage with my helpful narration of the people around us. You take cues, so easily crafted, and try to entertain. But you are boring me and annoying me and I have reached my tolerance. So request my leave, vaguely suggesting the loo, or call to a friend. And I have shrugged off the arm, or conversation, lightly, deftly. So as not to be rude, or hurt your feelings. So that you have no harm done, by way of me tonight.
And I am standing on the dance floor again. Having a sway and being alone in the throng. Having another drink; the music working it’s way into my soul, JDs in my veins. Smiling to myself at the privilege of being alive and enjoying life. And then there is another you, at my elbow. This one more inebriated, combative and forceful. Of course, you have been here for hours. This time, this you, wants to buy me a drink, suggests something foggy in my ear. And I am busted out of my reverie, to find your hand on my arse. A ring, I notice, on your wedding finger. Seriously? I match your certainty with an acerbity of my own. And at once you are angry and offended, and the defense is ugly on you. But you are like so many other yous in this bar, drunk and entitled. I am not ready to cower at your lurid comments or appease you for my own peace, this time. I am going to shut you down. You do not get what you want by bullying or harassment. And I will not let you. If politeness does not gift me a pass, you can have the whip of my honesty. I turn tail, and remove myself. 
Please. I am not looking for conversation, am not hoping you will initiate. I am here to immerse myself in the music, in the vibe. Please don’t think that because I am here by myself, I am seeking to change that tonight. If I am smiling, it is not an invitation to seduce. Pay me attention with respect, if you wish to make a connection. If I am interested, I will tell you. If you are interesting, you will know. 
[edited 27 November, 2016]

sugar and spice

Faking it, ay? I’ve never really had to consciously do this before; as a strategy to manage a relationship. I’ve been lucky. And privileged. My lovers and partners have been my equal, mostly. One or two, teachers. Interested and interesting. Keen to give as well as receive. Giving time and creating opportunity to flesh out what is fun or intense or powerful. Early lovers were as inexperienced, but I was a curious, explorative girl… so enjoyed the delight and charm of surprising and awakening a bed-friend.
In my first long term relationship, of almost 10 years, he was older. And kind. Sexy and a little dark. Certainly intense. And while towards the end, sex became more scarce, I loved him with all that I could. He had become my best friend and lover and family and we were forever bonded, no matter the passing of time or our distance. But I needed adventure, the world. And he let me go.
More recently, a Big Love, one that etched its scars on my heart and my personality, caused me to question my trust in the physical beauty of, and emotional sharing through, sex. He was a powerful man, strong of body and intellect. He vocally adored all the things I was – the passionate, social, tactile, nomadic, confident woman. The twist showed itself too late. I was already hooked. Smitten. Loved him. Monogamous and dedicated. Happy, and engaging in thoughts of future. Rare and scary for me.
Then things moved slightly, shifted. While he craved me in the bedroom, he started to censor my history, my passed lives. What made me who I am and the journey. The essence of me. He benefited from my experience and congratulated our prowess, but started questioning my journey to that pleasure. He would celebrate our specific union but chastise my general enjoyment. And slowly he began to make ultimatums. Requests that I remove male friends from my life, limit my social interaction with others. He’d ask me who I’d seen, what my history was with certain friends. He would memorise the list of my male friends on Facebook, and drop names from my past into conversation, feigning a casualness neither of us believed. He suggested I had been disrespectful to myself and allowed others to do the same. Surely and certainly he became obsessive. Demanding the cessation of friendships, some of more than 20 years… lessening our social activity, and increasing the reasons why I hadn’t quite measured up to his expectations.
And I was so in love with this man, I began to comply. I said silent goodbyes to a number of good men. Sacrificed connection with treasured friends, to appease my Lover. It was a relationship that started so healthy, so ‘good’. With fizzing stomachs and silliness and fun. Months of lovely. And became one of such highs and lows, intense, tumultuous, fraught. And there was bargaining and challenging and eventually my almost complete submission. But not quite. I couldn’t understand fully, his need to delete my past, and I didn’t delete my past fully. So at the height of his commitment to me, he removed himself. And that complete circle, that meeting and living and loving and losing, almost broke me. It has taken a long time to heal those scars. It undermined who I thought I was, made me question my innate attraction to both emotional and physical intimacy, and closeness and bonding, with a lover. I lost my sexual confidence; an ember starved of oxygen, no longer glowed.
I guess in outlining that story briefly, I explain the time it has taken to reconcile all the bits of me again. I have become a new version of myself; an almost me. Not quite who I was, the happy energetic, heart-on-sleeve woman that existed, but close. More wary. More weary. The cynical romantic, always hoping that someone will hold me in arms that keep me safe, but let me breathe. And yet never letting any one close enough to try.
I am reacquainted now, with the woman who was open and honest and explorative and comfortable with sex and intimacy. Mostly she is me. But then last year I met a man, who become a lover. An Almost Lover. Not exclusively mine; a journeyman plying his trade. And I was so in awe of him, of the wanting of him, that I found myself faking. Don’t get me wrong. The sex was good. Hot, passionate. As a female of the species, one who understands her body and loves it, I know I don’t need an orgasm to have wonderful sex.  I guess it was because after a while, I realised it had the same pace each time. The same scenarios. And endings. For the first time in my sexual life I had become hesitant, to ask for what I wanted, wonder out loud at what he craved, or direct us to a mutually fulfilling climax. That says more about me, and my lack of trust in him; for it to be ok. And also, at the time I really did think we’d have opportunity to learn each other’s desires so was in no rush. An illusion.
We didn’t spend long hours together. He was gone from my home quickly, like that thief in the night. Or early morning at least. But, in the nature of our bonding, I knew I needed to pretend. I was not gifted the relaxing moments a couple share; when just a small flex, a feline-stretching, can blow… minds.
Now, looking back, I don’t know who I was pretending for. Was I scared he would suggest it was me? My fault? My inadequacies? Would he quietly take it as a further judgement, withdraw privileges as a punishment? Perhaps it was for my own benefit; if I dented his ego, he would not return. And I did not wish to wound him with my needs, sensed somewhere that may sadden him. I think worst of all and more likely in hindsight, I subconsciously knew he would not care. That would wound me most of all.
Whatever instinct stopped my voice, he never noticed from my body. I don’t think. Maybe he did, and this at some level led to his repeated disconnections  and then returns. But I doubt it. The clarity of time, makes me laugh at my predicament. Humbly and with a lop-sided smile. Because for the first time in my adult life, I had chosen a lover who was not A Lover. Not a lover of me at least. His wham-bam was indicative of his feelings. Yet so sure, so certain, I chose to believe the romping would evolve into cherishing. And it turns out, I was wrong.

My mistake, in being honest. Making statements, sounding out my understanding, acceptance. Embracing pragmatically flaws and brokenness. And to the engaging heart just beginning to open towards my voice, it is heard as judgement. In my certainty, I forget the suspension of reality, the romantic game of illusion. And whilst my soul knows beyond all, they are quite the most beautiful of creatures, formed with a treasured mix of goodness and recklessness… they are already turning towards another. For to be giddily idolised, is more alluring than to be known.

spud club

Why are we even having this conversation still?

The article (linked below) from a couple of years ago, hit my Facebook feed this morning. And I usually ignore the pap these guys publish. But reading it, I oscillated from righteous indignation to vehement nodding. It’s pushed a button or two.

Read Good Men Project article:  The pros and cons of loving a ‘strong woman’…

If you have been reading my blog, you will know that someone who I was starting to care about, walked away leaving the parting suggestion in his wake, that I am “too headstrong.” And I was bewildered and saddened and confused by the seemingly barbed accusation. Still am. I don’t know what he meant. I know it was important enough to guarantee the demise of a short-lived entanglement. And I cried. I cried because he called me headstrong. That doesn’t seem very strong to me. I cried because I think I know what English men mean when they say this kind of thing about a woman. And it is never a compliment.

I was sad because I spent well into my 30s wanting to be the exact opposite of this horrible thing he had leveled at me. What I would have given to be soft and compliant and little and vulnerable, non-threatening… to appear like I needed protection, to be that perfect blend of needy and nurturing. I have never been able to strike this balance. I am not needy. I am independent and come out fighting more often than I should. I know this. I wont ask for help, rarely give ground – not because I am right, but if I admit a chink in the armour, I can be hurt. I have scars far too deep to let that happen again. The battle cry stays just at my throat. Not because I want to, but because this is what I have learned from life.

And as I type this I am weeping big ol’ silly slow tears. Because here I sit more vulnerable and scared and in need, than any one I know. Not many people have ever seen me cry. That is not something I do in public.

My Mother is a wonderful mix of resilience and resourcefulness. She is also beautiful, and petite, and feminine. She was sophisticated and elegant. In my child’s eye, I remember watching her; coquettish, complimentary, she would tilt her head back laughing prettily. Men were enamoured with her. I’m not sure she ever knew that. She only had eyes for my Father. Still. Still. Almost 50 years later. And I was so jealous of her. Her dark skin and big eyes and tininess. Men wanted to help her and rescue her, and fell in love with her. And I was a wobbly giraffe-like giant – I towered over her so quickly that it feels like it was always me giving her hugs not the other way around. Like we’d flipped roles. I was tall and ugly and clumsy, gorky and questioning and clever. And a lot of the time I was scratchy, like a wounded cat, terrified and backed into a corner. Least, that’s how it felt in my teens. Like I had to fight for myself, because no one had my back. Even as a little kid, no one seemed to believe the best in my intentions or support my dreams. I was a good girl without a voice, and no one seemed to know that.

I wont paint the detail into the picture here. It’s not the time. Lets just say I was bullied at school for being different. Even at 5 and 6 years old, sometimes physically. Taunted and ostracised. Add to that, the feeling that I never had the full or unconditional support of my parents. I always seemed to be the one in the wrong, the one being told off… even when I had done my very best. And I repeat, I was a good girl. My very best was usually for someone else, not for my own benefit. Anyway, they seem small things, these two contributors. But in a sensitive and innately empathic little girl, this was an anxiety-causing combination. I had to be my own hero, as the adults in my life had life happening. So I toughened up. I was financially supporting myself at 17, had been kicked out of home, had little contact with my parents. This is unusual where I come from. Rare in the community I grew up in. I was pretty young. So I got tougher. But on the inside, to my inner circle of trusted friends, still a softie who wore her heart on her sleeve.

So then add in that I am a Kiwi chick. A product of a country where equality is a bedrock of our culture. The pioneer spirit. Gender equality. We are expected to be independent thinkers, practical and pragmatic of attitude, partners in the true sense – not possessive or possessions. I like my space, I have an opinion, I have found my voice. I am sure of myself and am fully formed. Finally embracing the strong, confident, woman I have become, and being proud of the wise, thoughtful, sensitive little girl I was.

So yes, I am headstrong. Strong. In all the negative ways the article lists. In the unwanted, unbidden, ways the Lover implied. I am not what most English men have been looking for. I will not bend to their whim, or pretend a submission. I challenge status quo and have a fire in my belly. I speak up for an injustice – be it my own or others’ – in the bedroom or boardroom. But I am also the wonderful things that having a true partner offers; trust and loyalty and laughter and great sex. A confident woman will still have days when she feels frumpy and inelegant and not good enough. And she will speak too loud or too quickly when she is tired or scared. But she will be honest and open and want the best for her man.

But isn’t that the problem? All of this means there is a need for a man to step up and match the energy and faith a strong woman offers. And how scary is that?