Marriage and Feminism

Since the whole engagement thing happened I’ve been thinking a bit about marriage and what it means. Traditionally it’s a very conservative institution with the father of the bride “giving her away” to another man (to love and own). So can you be feminist and progressive AND married? Some groups of hardcore feminists would claim that to be married is hypocritical and contradictory of feminist beliefs.

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Whatever group or faction you identify with, it normally comes with an “ideal” and a framework of traits for how to live your life. There’s a general consensus of what a feminist is, both from within and outside of the group, and when you don’t follow this framework some people would call you a “bad feminist” who don’t practice what you preach. You have to live up to everything that is feminist, or you’ve failed.

It’s not hypocritical to be a feminist and get married, it’s not hypocritical to live in a traditional family with two parents and children. And it’s not hypocritical to be a housewife. What is hypocritical is to CLAIM you shouldn’t get married, and then do it anyway, or to CLAIM that the “mum, dad and child” construction is bad, but have it anyway, or to CLAIM that you shouldn’t be a housewife, but then be one anyway cause it worked out more convenient that way.

If you make a decision based on your feelings, needs and opinions, and that decision is informed and equal and works for your life and your family, then no matter what it looks like, you’re not a bad feminist or a hypocrite.

Historically, the feminist fight wasn’t just about getting woman out of the home, it was about giving her the choice and the opportunity to leave the home, to do what she wanted on the same conditions as man (and to give man the same opportunities as woman to stay at home and have more responsibility in caring for children). So doesn’t it sound a bit absurd to say “generations of women have fought and sacrificed so that you have the opportunity to do whatever you want! Just don’t do these things that are considered traditional… OK!?

The issue I think is that we confuse normative and norm… eh… matching? So, just because I want to counter a certain norm, it doesn’t automatically follow that the behaviors that follow the norm are wrong. Let’s take an example. A) I think it’s wrong that people are expected and presumed to be straight and want to live monogamously and have children, and that it’s difficult to be or want anything different. This is a norm that I question and criticise. B) I am straight, I live in a monogamous relationship and I will most likely have children.

A and B are not contradictory. Criticising the norm means that I question the expectation that everyone should live like me. It doesn’t mean that living like me is wrong. In the same way I question the norm that implies you should weigh a certain amount and look a certain way to be considered attractive. That doesn’t mean I condemn people who happen to fit this norm.

I recognize that none of us have true free will, free from society and its effects on us. Of course our decisions are influenced by norms and structures. That’s why I try to push for a more thought through, joint, informed and conscious decision. If you’re conscious that the choices that you’re making are problematic, if you question the norm, but still come to the conclusion that this is what you want and this is what works for you, then you at least have a better perspective.

Getting married does not have to mean submission, or changing your relationship. It can mean just marking your love and intentions towards your partner and celebrating with friends and family. Of course, beyond the emotional there are some practical aspects. We can (and maybe should) question the law, but as it stands many things become easier when married; inheritance, children, medical decisions etc.

So although I question the pressure from society to fit into a certain ideal, I don’t see an issue with voluntarily choosing to “conform” (as far as free will goes). Obviously there are lots of other aspects of weddings and marriage that we could discuss as well (like its massive commercialisation and the fact that some people spend more than a years salary on it!), but I think we’ll leave that for next time.

When life gets in the way

I feel as if I’ve neglected my virtual diary a bit lately. But actually now that I look it’s only been two and a bit weeks since I last posted. I guess a lot has happened which makes it feel like time goes a bit faster. Both work and social life has been fully packed lately with project deadlines, low staffed office with people on holiday and lots of exciting things happening to both myself and a lot of my close friends at the same time. Birthdays, passing viva’s, engagements and all sorts of life events lining up one after the other.

Capture

Dave proposed back on the 18th July in what I’ve been told was a romantic movie setting (I said yes…), on top of the hill in the pouring rain while walking home and sharing the smallest umbrella in the world. We got the actual ring (to replace the fantastic 3D printed one) last week and it’s amazing! (might start a wedding planning category on here) Things seem to be going pretty well in general, not just for me but for a lot of people I care about, which is just great really!

Dave finally got his viva date set for the 22nd of August, yes that’s next Friday, and we’re off to Sweden for a week the day after. I did book afternoon flights so that we both have time to recover from the hangover that is sure to set in after viva celebrations – I’m of course assuming he will pass.

Other then that, me and Orsi have been keeping up with the gym nicely. In fact I haven’t missed a single session in, what is it now…? 8 weeks! Thinking about upping it to 4 times a week as this plateau that everyone speaks of is kicking in. Will have to see if there’s time.

So as for my virtual world there’s a lot of things I want to do on here. I still have every intention doing a theme highlighting the women leaders, and I will most likely share all the wedding planning ideas on here (when they eventually kick off). I will also try to keep updates of the training progress (mostly for my own sake, as I otherwise have no way of remembering this stuff…).

Heavy Stuff

I don’t think I mentioned this 6 weeks ago when I started, but I’ll say something now. I started going to the gym (again). I didn’t say anything because part of me worried it would be like all those other gym attempts which fail after a couple of weeks. So what was different about this time? I love bullet points so here are some:

- I have a goal (beating Martin at a Power-lifting competition before Christmas, 6 months after starting. For those uninitiated that’s the heaviest you can do one repetition of in three categories; squat, dead-lift and bench-press, added up and scored against your ‘potential’ baseline against your age, sex and weight.)

- I have a buddy(!), Orsi, who I can’t let down, as going at it alone is boooring and where I’ve failed in the past

- I have a plan. Made by a professional fitness person :) It’s simpler and less complex than any plan I’ve had before. But it also covers more, and makes me work harder than any other plan I’ve had.

So, this I guess is my 6 week progress report. The main exercises I’ve been doing are the following, switching between “Day 1″ and “Day 2″ every other time I’ve been.

Day 1 Plan
Weighted Squats: 5 sets of 6 reps
Seated Rows: 5 sets of 12 reps
Overhead Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 10 reps
Dead lifts (light): 3 stes of 10 reps

Day 2 Plan
Dead lifts (heavy): 3 sets of 5 reps
Press-ups: 4 sets of 8 reps
Step-ups: 4 sets of 10 reps (2 sets per leg)
Abs: 3 x planks

So how have things gone? Well… Pretty damn good! I’ve pleased and surprised to say that I haven’t missed a single session in 6 weeks. And have I improved? I think so! I feel stronger and I feel really motivated after all the metrics were taken again at 6 weeks. Progress so far includes:

Squats started at 20 kg, now at 35 kg. Had an issue for a couple of weeks with my knee and kept weight increases low afterward as I’ve been focusing on technique.
Rows started at 17 kg, now at 23.75 kg. Really trying to focus on correct technique here as well. Moving from the machine to the free weights with this.
Shoulder Press started at 10 kg now at 14 kg. Yes I know my upper body is ridiculously weak.
Light Deadlifts started at 30 kg now at 45 kg.
Press-ups started at hip height now down to mid thigh! Slowly moving towards the floor
Abs started with 30 second planks and worked our way up to 1 minute, and now we’re on to one legged planks which are a killer!

Picture stolen from Orsi's Insta

Picture stolen from Orsi’s Insta

I know that my upper body is still significantly weaker than my lower body, and although I’m eager to add more stuff onto the routine, I’m convinced that I need to work my way down to full on floor push-ups in good form before there’s any point in over complicating stuff. The fact that it’s easy to track how much stronger I’m getting is very encouraging. I’ve been trying to keep my food intake high enough to build muscle, and have even started taking Whey Powder (something I mocked other people for in the past), as I wasn’t getting enough protein.

My body is definitely changing as well. I weigh pretty much the same now that I did 6 weeks ago, but I’m significantly denser, having lost 3.5 cm around my waist and between 1 and 2 cm around thighs, arms, belly, hips and everywhere else. Bye bye fat, hello muscle!

I’m really keen to see what happens in the next 6 weeks!

Got a spare 2 hours?

Then you should watch this! This is the event I went to last week and the speakers are phenomenal, like really. Some people have the ability to put into words what others are thinking. And doing it in a way that awakens the interest of those who might not have thought about it before.

I want to continue and address what each of these speeches are trying to say. But first, watch it, so that we’re on the same page!

#womenleaders

Goodness me, we’re loving hashtags these days innit! I went to Women in Leadership event last Wednesday that I’ve been wanting to write about, but there are so many things to say, and so many great women to lift that I think it’s gonna have to be broken down into several smaller bits.

I just wanted to put this here for now, so I don’t forget about it! So maybe something of a #womenleaders mini-series on here would be nice? It really did inspire me, and humble me to see so many amazing women who are different in personality with different lives and experiences, still showing up at the same place, fighting the same fight.

These were the five speakers at the event that I’ll be expanding a bit more on in the coming days/weeks!

Liz Bingham, Managing Partner for Talent at EY
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty
Ceri Goddard, Director of Gender at the Young Foundation
The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress

A word on advertisement

In my last post I shared a video (advert) from Always where they highlight the phrase “like a girl” and how most people associate it with something bad.

I first saw this clip over a week before I shared it, and my initial reaction was not to share as it was made by a multinational corporation who were already getting a load of free advertisement with their clip going viral. In the end I did decide to share it anyway as I thought there was a good message behind it. So although I don’t regret sharing the video, I do feel like I need to insert some refection here on what it actually means.

It’s my firm belief that feminism and capitalism can never work in symbiosis. After all capitalism is based on the foundation that some people are better than others, whereas feminism’s pillar of foundation is everyone’s equal worth. So when a company like Always (owned by Procter & Gamble) release this ad – yes, I do think it’s a good message – they are doing it to make money. Perhaps I didn’t think about it as an advert much as I don’t personally use any of these products, but in the last week (reading several long discussions about it) it’s dawned on me that it’s a source of insecurity for many young girls and teens growing up (myself included around 15 years ago).

Always (and more widely, P&G) are a company who make money off that fact that they have created “problems” that girls are made to feel insecure about. Then they market products to solve these problems. Such as scented pads and tampons. And even though we know that this video is in fact an advert (their logo is plastered all over the place), and we think we can make an active choice, 90% of the messages we get though media are received subconsciously. So the next time we’re stood in that aisle in the shop, choosing what product to buy, the fact that this video has been circulated millions of times has given Always an upper hand. All for free! And the people they hire who make these campaigns are well aware of that.

To shift the balance of this viral video back into (more of an) equilibrium, here are some other stuff that P&G do – proof that they don’t actually give a shit about women and girls confidence:

- They sell Venus razors, promising that hairless legs will make you a ‘Goddess’
– All their TV adverts for Ariel only ever show the woman doing the laundry
– They “feel a responsibility to celebrate African-American women and challenge the sometimes difficult ways our beauty is reflected in popular media” all the while making profit from selling skin-whitening creams in Africa and Asia

So although I really do support the message that’s given in the #likeagril video. I’m very weary of it being fed to lots of people for free. And I think it’s important to reflect on any message that is in fact put out there with the purpose of selling a product.