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  • Gemma Speakman

Sexism, Spam & Soda Streams


Quote of the week: 'I thought it was nice to be told that I was beautiful or that I had a pretty little ass. This kind of compliment is nice.' Brigitte Bardot

What to write this week? It’s a thought that surfaces as regularly in my head as ‘what’s for dinner tonight’ as I consume the endless word soup of articles that like a virus hatch and form across various mediums (social, digital, radio), and also as I take some time to trawl through the archive. I’ve resisted until now broaching something quite serious and heavy but today I feel compelled, having read Uma Thurman’s harrowing account of her years of silent suffering at the hands of Weinstein and her one time so called friend and creative collaborator Quentin Tarantino in the New York Times.

Uma Thurman has finally spoken out

Twin this with the cascade of women’s tales of cruel men that since last autumn continues to haemorrage daily, its’s time for HIYOS to say it's ok to address more serious issues. I’m researching and reading and consuming a lot of viewpoints to gather a more rounded view but every day brings new revelations and truths. It’s a moving target. So let's just make a start.

While this isn’t (yet) the platform to pen a mid week essay on such vast and sprawling topics that pull, punch, revolve and retract depending on what you read and where you stand, but in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement, it’s certain that the landscape is a lot different now. Being made to feel like an object in very basic human every day situations because of your sex and then a failure to ‘bring it up’ because you feel embarrassed/ashamed or because you’re ‘making a fuss’ is to stand for the very reason that got us here - and it’s called complicity.

New truth - we and only we can help stop it. Let’s champion the attitude that sexual harassment and assault won’t ‘just be ok,’ ‘pass and blow over,’ ‘get forgotten over time.’ Your voice is a lot more likely to be heard today and tomorrow than it was last year. And if not for you then do it for your daughters and your sons too who need to know that by being men they are not inherent conspirators. And for the record, 'Performance Feminists' are not welcome at our party; those males who pertain (and are very vocal) about seeing women as equals but who in the next breath and action are uncloaked to be completely the opposite, because they forgot they were acting. Snore.

As Uma stated in her moving interview, “The complicated feeling I have about Harvey is how bad I feel about all the women that were attacked after I was.” What if she and all the others spoke up earlier? How many people would not have suffered? And that's what grinds her, until now. As Sheryl Sandberg at the beginning of her book Lean In asks, ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ A great question to ponder about any situation, however big or small in life. So if you can dare to think it, you can do it.

We can see the aftermath in plain view happening now. Small changes add up and together like anything, the power of numbers makes a big difference. Younger casual observers (our younger peers and our children) witness and hear the foot stamp that declare it's ok to no longer worship at the patriarchal altar and in so doing, embody what is right and in turn, pass it along and so it goes on. Yet the apparition of these ‘changes’ make us realise how bad it has been for so long. It’s like the Weinstein horror has woken us all up from a collective, subservient coma. Page 3 never was and never will be ok, ever. Last week it was announced there would be no more ‘Grid Girls’ in Formula 1 - hurrah, but then again why are we celebrating this? They shouldn’t have been there in the first place. What took us so long? This realisation is impacting far and wide. Recently Rachel Morrison was nominated for an Oscar for her role as cinematographer on the film Mudbound. She is the first ever woman to receive the accolade since the awards began in 1929. It’s only taken 89 years.

Mudbound, nominated for 4 Oscars, out now and available on Netflix.

We celebrate 100 years of women getting the vote this year. Those amazing women fought to the death to get that - but let’s resolve to not need an occasion or a date or an anniversary to remind ourselves to feel more worthwhile. Less of that 'underserved' feeling will expedite equality.

So show your support for your sisters and for the #MeToo movement or as the French put it with such Gallic lucidity #BalanceTonPorc (Expose your Pig). Unless you’re in the Catherine Deneuve camp with Brigitte Bardot who claim “Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression.” Thanks Catherine, could you while you’re there write a manual on what ‘insistent and/or clumsy flirting’ is exactly and at what point would you say it could tip into being disrespectful or indeed harassment and assault and do the same for ‘gallantry.’ Could you also ask yourself if you’ve actually internalised misogyny and ponder whether over the years it's been crushed down inside so hard that it's turned to stone and so now can’t find a way out? Or perhaps you and your peers measure your success, beauty, ego and overall validity solely on the level of male attention and flattery you get? Answers on a postcard.

Sorry you've got dragged into this piggy, the aggressors are much worse than you

A trip down memory lane

On to lighter matters in the usual weekly style. And to gastric nostalgia. As you trawl through social media, nosing around, filling dead time, trying to avoid talking to someone or checking how much FOMO you’re a victim of, you’ll have surely come across the ‘you’ll only remember this if you grew up in the eighties/nineties’ type posts. And therein starts the warm, fuzzy feeling that nostalgia does so well and the corners of your mouth start to upturn. But aside from watching Fraggle Rock, The Wonder Years and later Button Moon (with your younger siblings obvs), plus never, ever having a car seat but rather standing up on the little step that was the mound between the back footwells with elbows on the front seats as your Dad tore down the M4 (!) One topic less explored during these sentimental backward glances is food.

The stuff of legend. If only we had catch up back then, I would never have missed a show

It struck me as I was researching Heston’s The Fat Duck that actually the sensory melodrama aside, what he is trying to do is quite simple - it's for us to enjoy the journey he has captured. About the Fat Duck he says "Once there you can experience a trip full of playful memories and adventure." With that in mind, what do you recall eating when you were small? What was your favourite? What did you dread? Food is so sensuous and evocative. Chowing down bacon and cabbage with buttery potatoes takes me right back to the long Irish summer holidays when we decamped to my Nanny’s house in the very green West of Ireland for 6 weeks without a care in the world.

Then the horror of school dinners - canned spam (what actually is it?) with swampy roast potatoes drenched and swimming in chicken noodle soup (who the hell was prescribing these menus?!) Then I remember my mum’s sudden interest in woks and helping her chop a lot of garlic and ginger and eating crunchy veg - that felt very revelatory and ‘nouveau.’ Then of course, the BBQ, when my Dad would actually don our swimming goggles to avoid the plumes of smoke after dousing coals in suspicion electric purple coloured lighter fluid. Not forgetting the endless fascination and preoccupation with Soda Stream and it’s various syrups. Literally, HOURS of fun I had with that cream and orange contraption. But look I'm not Heston and I think if I tried to recreate this ‘playful’ journey for hopeful diners it would be shambolic but after the heaviness of the topic we started out with this is a good exercise to enjoy the mental equivalent of a warm comforting hug.

It doesn't look like much, but this made a lot of mess and was endlessly fascinating aged 8

Homewares in Asda

I popped into Asda the other day - it's not a place I shop as there's not a store near me. But I was mega impressed with their homeware section and ended up buying this lovely, sunny pineapple mug for a very reasonable £3.50. I also bought a bath mat that looks like a jumper my mum knitted me when I was small - it's very soft and awash with happy colours and a steal at £9 - the perfect home antidote as we wait patiently for Spring.

I kiss you on both cheeks 'til the next time X


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