Transferable Rules

So it seems that every woman, publication and blogger has tackled the the ten pound  note, the feminist and the twitter abuse story.  An excellent summary is here:

I’m not going to weigh in (this time) about how we should report abuse, or what twitter’s responsibility is and how the technology of it all should work. What I’m interested in this time is the transferability of rules. 

It’s something that I keep coming back to when there is a big outcry about something, and I wonder; how often do we question how the rule we are calling for translate to a different setting? 

For example, could a twitter ‘report abuse button’ be used to silence genuine and not abusive voices and how do we make sure that doesn’t happen? 

Similarly, the Government has recently been calling for a porn-filter on the internet. Does this mean we need a violence filter too? If it is being said that watching pornography (or only violent pornography?) changes behaviour are we back to saying that video games can cause young people to become violent? 

Testing the action we are calling for on a different scenario can make things seem an awful lot less clear cut that it might have seemed, and suddenly the knee-jerk reaction doesn’t seem quite so obvious after all. 

The Vocal Chords, the Tear Ducts and the Hope

I had my appointment with the neuro specialist this morning to get a second opinion about whether I need surgery on my spine. 

I had expected this to be an in depth discussion with me maybe pushing for surgery, because the initial letter following my MRI had dismissed surgery as an option. 

In fact, my consultant seemed to think that surgery was the obvious option (without pushing that decision onto me). 

So now I have 2 different options of what to do next and it all feels a little bit overwhelming. 

At one point he asked me what I felt. Have you noticed there’s a nerve that connects your vocal chords and your tear ducts? So often I think I am ok until I try to speak and suddenly my voice breaks or disappears and tears appear instead. 

So now I have the choice of opting into surgery, with an 85% chance of it sorting out the worst of my pain and having a relatively normal life afterwards. Albeit still with 3 discs that seem to be degenerating. 

With it comes the first glimmer of hope. Also there is the anxiety of choice and the worry of making the right one. There is a moment in the film Doubt (it was on late-ish one night, don’t judge me), where the woman says that she is frightened of every decision – if someone offers her children a lift to school she worries that accepting means the car will crash, but then not accepting and letting them walk could bring its own disaster, and she doesn’t know how to switch that off. It sounds a little extreme, but I know what she means. 

I have had many many lovely messages of support this morning, and many asking how I feel. 

I think I need to just not speak for a little while. The nerve connecting my voicebox to my tear ducts might kick in. 

Feeling Helpless

Helplessness is something you have to learn to deal with when you are in pain all the time. There are things I cannot do. There are things I can do, but they hurt, and so if someone else is around it makes sense to let them do it instead. The list of things I can do that don’t hurt is feeling a little small at the moment. 

There are two levels to being helpless; the first is the actual physical limitation on your life, and the second is the emotional impact this has on you. I hadn’t been consciously aware of the emotional impact of being dependent. 

The emotional impact is bigger than feeling weepy on occasion. The real shock has come from the erosion of confidence. I still describe myself as a confident person, but I have moments of realising that the things that make me nervous or feel daunted are all things that I would have thought of us small things, or indeed not even given any thought to: such as long car or train journeys, giving my child(ren) a bath, doing bedtime for both children or just running an errand or two that requires getting kids in and out of the car several times. 

A close friend said to me recently that I am still new to chronic pain. I am still resisting it. She’s right, I am. Because giving in to it means being the person who is daunted by everyday tasks, giving in to it means accepting that I have to say no to things indefinitely and it means saying goodbye to so much of the me that I really rather like. 

I’m not ready to do that yet. 

It’s Only Anger

Anger. It’s a crappy emotion isn’t it? Full of violence and lashing out and doing away with rationale. 

Or is it? 

I’ve been doing some reading, and some thinking (not necessarily in that order), about how we like to deny anger. One of the articles I was reading talked about the fact that in particular girls are taught to be passive and are not encouraged in learning about how to deal with their anger and how to use it positively. 

A woman who I used to work with, and who is an amazingly talented performer (not quite sure what that’s got to do with it, but it felt important to say) started something called The Fury Project a little while ago, all about exploring anger artistically, particularly around expressions of gender and race. It’s here, if you want to take a look:

It’s all led me to wondering how to teach my daughters about anger. There’s no doubt that it’s easier to parent when they are passive, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. I want them to be able to stand their ground in the classroom, in the workplace, in the boardroom. I want them to be able to cope with expressions of anger, both directed at them and their own, I want them to have a healthy relationship with a healthy emotion. Because let’s face it, there’s an awful lot to be angry about. 

So how do I, (and I hate confrontation), teach them about anger?  Answers on a postcard (or comment box) please. 


On Friday I have an appointment with the neuro team who will look at whether I need surgery on my spine. 

This is making me feel nervous; nervous about potential surgery on my spine and all the risks that go with that and nervous about not having surgery and what that means for living with pain. 

I have decided that I need to write down all the things that I need to know, and have wanted to ask over the last couple of years, but every time I sit down with my pen and paper my mind goes blank. 

All I can think is: will the pain be forever if I don’t have surgery? 

Humourless Feminist (or More Aware Than the Rest)

Do you know about Lewis’s Law? It was a sentiment coined by Helen Lewis (Deputy Editor of the New Statesman), who said that the comments after any article about feminism show why we still need feminism. 

It’s a fairly nifty rule of thumb, and one that so far has turned out to be true (in my very scientific study of,  me, reading feminist articles when I want to – which is quite a lot, obviously). 

Take this comment piece on the Guardian’s website today:

It is about the Renault Clio advert. This particular paragraph about sexism is one of the better ones I’ve read recently: 

“Here’s a handy recap: men still hold a disproportionately high number of powerful positions in politics and business, so sexism is an institutional problem. The world remains fundamentally unequal for women. That’s why it’s not particularly “humorous” or “fun” to portray them as erotic props to help you sell things. That’s why you need to think a bit harder about how you represent women in advertising and that’s why you should choose camera angles that show their heads as well as their breasts. Not a lot to ask.”

She’s right, it isn’t a lot to ask. And the comments underneath are suitably scathing about her being a humourless feminist, or have been removed by the moderator. I am a feminist.  Since reading the excellent How to be a Woman I call myself a strident feminist. others call me a humourless feminist. 

Yes, they may be right. But I wonder if that is because their sense of humour is a bit shit really, or because they are  not very aware about what it actually means to be a woman in 2013. 

Part of the reason I am a humourless feminist is because I clearly need to be. When I was a teenager in the 90s it felt like we were on the cusp of something. I remember reading articles in Cosmo magazine about how in the future women would choose not to change their name on marriage, and it would be as common to keep your maiden name as it would to change it (albeit next to an article about how to get your guy, and then how to keep your guy happy in bed, but let’s leave that one for now). I remember the introduction of the term Ms. I remember thinking that by the time I am raising children and I am in my 30s the world will look different for them. 

It does look different. We’ve gone backwards and it makes me angry. I remember being able to play with the same lego that my brother had (he was older, no gender comment there!) and not feel like I needed to build stables and kitchens out of pink and purple lego while he built spaceships. Is there a term for snowblind when the colour you’re being blinded by is pink?*

For the love of sanity, can we get some actual creative from marketing companies, who are brave and bold and recognise women as human beings? Is that too much to ask?

So for now, I’ll remain a humourless feminist, and I think those that label me as such are wilfully ignorant. 


*Let it be noted that I don’t hate the colour pink for itself. My daughter loves it too. I do object to it being the only choice (or the only colour out of bounds) because of gender. 

The Bitch Inside

So it turns out that co-codamol turns me into a bit of a bitch. 

I have realised that I am feeling consistently more hassled and more annoyed than I used to. I have less patience. I snap at my kids (and others). This adds up to there being many moments throughout the day where I don’t like myself very much. 

There is a lot that is tremendously difficult about being in pain all the time, but adding not liking your own personality into the mix makes the mental side a bit too much to deal with. Thankfully one of the people I like most on twitter made the observation that co-codamol makes her feel bitchy and horrible, and I realised I am at my worst when I have been taking it. 

It is one of two drugs I have been prescribed. 

It doesn’t help with the pain. In fact, I can’t even tell I’ve taken it. 

I have decided to stop taking it.