Feminism – What does the F word mean to you?

What does the F word mean to you? With today being International Woman’s Day, I thought I’d pen a few thoughts on what it means to me and why I think it’s so important to raise my son to be a feminist.

While feminism seems to be the buzz word of the decade, in some cultures, my own included, the word conjures up quite a bit of negativity. People envisage a feminist as a girl who talks out of place, has strong opinions and can’t be moulded. Heaven forbid you’re not able to mould and control her with your misogynistic and patriarchal ways.

For me, feminism is about equality between the sexes as well as a woman’s right to be who she truly wants to be and do as she wants to do, without societal norms defining her. And while I consciously think about it more now, if I look back at my teenage years, I was always a bit of a feminist. Whether it was sitting on the floor of Trocodero (an arcade) until a male friend admitted I was as good as him at Daytona car racing, insisting I be allowed to play football with the boys or getting my hands hit with a metal ruler at boarding school for sticking up for a male friend who was being unfairly treated. You see, I didn’t think I was better, I just believed I should be an equal.

But somewhere along the way, circumstances changed me and I lost that feeling of self-worth. Suddenly I believed I wasn’t good enough and wasn’t as deserving as my male counterparts…which led me to make decisions based on what everyone around me wanted and not on what I really wanted. My gut told me one thing but the voices in my head told me something else. And I allowed that to guide me for a very long time.

I remember struggling as a teenager with the fact that all around me, people believed boys were better than me. They got away with a lot more and they were judged a lot less. Even today, within the society I live in, women have to look and act a certain way to be deemed attractive to men while men just have to have enough money in their bank accounts. Women are expected to have children but look like they don’t and speak their opinions, but not too loudly. Self-worth (and what is on the inside) often takes a backseat, only to be replaced by what is on the outside. If we don’t see our own worth, how is anyone else supposed to see it?

What we say (especially to our children) and how we act plays a huge role in their belief system as they grow up. To me, it’s of utmost importance to raise S to see girls (future women) as his equals. I want him to be a feminist, to respect women and treat them as they deserve to be treated. We live in a world where the bias is still very much for men. Everything from toys to packaging of shower gel differentiates men from women. It creates an illusion that men are stronger, have tougher jobs and are able to take control. Even the font on shower gels aimed at women is more flowy with descriptive words like smooth, creamy and soft. Growing up, my dad taught me to build flat pack furniture because he believed I was an equal and my mum taught (tried to teach) me to cook. I don’t ever remember being told I couldn’t do something because I was a girl.

The second thing that I make a priority is ensuring that S is never bound by societal norms/expectations. My biggest learning experience came from a situation where I placed far too much emphasis on what was expected of me by society, rather than what my gut told me. I have no regrets because I believe every experience gives you an opportunity to learn and I wouldn’t change who I am today. I’ll even go so far as to say I am grateful for the experience because it was so necessary and had it not been for that experience, I wouldn’t have found the strength and courage to rise up against expectations and live my true life.

The statistics around men and suicide rates is another thing that I think about. I was in a shop last week and I could hear a little boy crying. I then heard is mum/carer say “Boys don’t cry! Stop crying!” and to hear this in London in 2019 worries me. Are we saying that boys cannot have emotions, cannot feel overwhelmed and shouldn’t express it in the most natural humanistic way? By shedding tears! If you’ve ever been overwhelmed and then cried, you’ll know what a relief it is to shed those tears. So why must boys not be encouraged to release their emotions? I have seen first-hand the product of boys unable to express their feelings and how it affects the people around them when they grow up. All that pent up anger and frustration has to go somewhere! There is no need for a façade. A man isn’t weak because he lets his guard down, being vulnerable will only allow more support into his life. I want my son to know this.

I often hear the phrase “This is just how the world is, this is just how things are.” And I implore you to ask yourself “Why?” The world is whatever WE want it to be, the sooner we realise that, the sooner we can start to create a world we want to live in – a fairer and more just world. I’m far from perfect and being a true feminist is a work in progress but my goal is to play a small part in leaving this world in slightly better shape than when I arrived. The power we have innately is the power we need to tap into, to do good, to be better.

To some it may sound like heavy stuff, but it doesn’t have to be. Feminism can be practical in a myriad of little ways. Speaking up for a friend, not indulging in mindless conversation about another, making choices because we want them, surrounding ourselves with people who lift us up, letting go of those that don’t, doing the right thing (even when it’s scary) and living our best lives. If you’re not sure what Feminism means to you, I suggest the book “Feminists don’t wear pink and other lies”, curated by Scarlett Curtis. It is a collection of 52 essays written by various women on what feminism means to them. Reese Witherspoon’s “Hello Sunshine” podcast is also another inspiring one to listen to and last, but far from the least, “We should all be feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I heard someone on a podcast say recently (I think it was Ellen Pao) that as women, we are wired to deflect praise like teflon but hold on to criticism like velcro. We need to all take the time to look around us and see what we’ve created and what we’ve achieved. We are tough, we are capable (of far more than we think we are – hello child birth!) and we need to remind ourselves of that more.

Happy International Woman’s Day!

Happy New Year

I know I know, it’s already the 5th day of the New Year…but in my defence, it is really the first “proper” working day of 2015.

I took a bit of a blogging break at the end of December as S and I jetted off to Dubai to spend the holidays with my brother. We had no Wi fi there and so the only posts that went up were our weekly ones which I scheduled.

Dubai was amazing (I’ll do a separate post about that) but after 2 weeks away, I was glad to be home. S has come back more confident and his speech has dramatically improved. I truly believe that travelling does wonders for children. Back in May last year, just before we took our summer trip, I was actually concerned about his speech but after a long holiday and time spent with my extended family and my nieces, his speech came along amazingly. And now I felt the same after Dubai. Maybe it’s the eastern environment, as we walked around the mall below our hotel, he would stop to talk to everyone and they’d happily oblige and chat back to him. His vocabulary has improved vastly and he can speak using 8-9 word sentences!

As the New Year approached, I was thinking about my goals for 2015. 2014, while fun and full of memories I cherish, was also a difficult year with many challenges. While I’m glad to see the back of it, I’m also grateful for the experience to learn and grow and to put old matters to rest.

I was reading a post over on Amie’s blog about choosing a word for the year ahead rather than making a list of resolutions. She’d read it on Dorkymums blog who’d got it from Susannah Conway.
Don’t you just love the way the blogosphere works!!

When I first read it, lot’s of different words flew at me. But I’ve signed up to Susannah’s 5 day email class to really find my word. Something that will fit my year ahead. A word that will inspire me and motivate me and carry me through the year.

I’ll share it with you all this weekend.

Happy 2015 🙂

Blogfest 2014

WOW, what a day!! Today was the much awaited Blogfest 2014. I bought my early bird ticket back in August and have been looking forward to it since.

To say I was nervous is an understatement. While most friends can’t shut me up think I’m a chatterbox, I’m actually extremely shy, until I get to know you. I walked into King’s Place on York Way feeling like I did my first day of university. Looking for a friendly face, wandering if everyone around me was as nervous as I was and hoping someone would come over and talk to me while I stood in the corner quietly drinking my cappuccino and pretending to take in my surroundings.

The morning started off with a keynote panel discussion between Sarah Vine, Beeban Kidron, Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, Susie Boniface, Tim Dowling and Anita Anand as the chair. The topic of discussion was “How does technology shape the way we think?” and inadvertently it moved on to how the internet and technology affects our kids.

Children born today don’t have a “before” social media/internet life. It’s all they will ever know. My 2 1/2 year old knows how to log onto my Skype and call my best friend in Ireland when he fancies a chat. Yes, 2 1/2!!

The concern that was raised was “Will our children struggle with their identities and self worth without their online lives?” Beeban Kidron mentioned a girl who decided to put her phone outside the house in a rubbish bin to stop herself from checking it when she woke at night as it was affecting her sleep (and probably her sanity!!) But one night in and she found herself outside, in the pouring rain, rummaging about in the bin looking for her phone (yeah, insanity!). Sleep disorders are on the rise because of our phones.

And when it comes to children, how do we police their time spent on the internet? It’s important for parents to make it their business to understand what their children are doing online. Although Sarah Vine has given her 11 year old a mobile phone, she’s installed apps that let her see what her daughter is doing on her phone as well as track her every move. While that may sound a tad overprotective, it’s an issue of knowing more rather than less when it comes to our children and the huge world wide web.

Some classic quotes from the session were:

“The internet doesn’t come to you, you go to it.” Tim Dowling

“A rat in the lab of Google” Beeban Kidron on being a young person surrounded by technology.

“If you don’t learn how to be alone, you can end up very lonely.” Beeban Kidron

We then had a coffee break before we divided into groups for a breakout session. I went to the “How to make money from your blog” session which was very informative. This was followed by 5 minute “think bombs” from Suzanne Moore, Camila Batmanghelidjh (who’s speech was so thought provoking) and Francesca Martinez who delivered a moving speech about what we call normal.

During the lunch break I met the lovely Amy Duthie in the line in the loo (as you do) just when I was starting to think I was going to be “natasha no mates” all afternoon. She introduced me to fellow third culture kid and mummy blogger Amie Caitlin.

Right after lunch I got to say hello and have a quick chat with Kate Sutton who’s blog I love and read regularly. I felt like a bit of a stalker knowing so much about her life but I guess that’s the whole point of the blogging community?!

I then attended Paul Armstrong’s Advanced social media master class. To be perfectly honest, a lot of the terms went over my head, I’m still quite a newbie when it comes to social media. But, I’m glad I went because I now have a head full of new ideas to get myself out there more (in the blogging community ofcourse).

There was another breakout session before the day started to wind down with a keynote panel discussion titled “The power of writing”. The speakers included Nick Hornby, Harriet Lane, Lynn Barber, Rachel Joyce, Lisa Jarmin and Erica Wagner as the chair. What an amazing line up!! I feel so inspired to keep writing after that session.

The closing talk was by the amazing comedian Lucy Porter who had the whole room in hysterics. The perfect end to what was an absolutely mind blowing day!

After a quick drink and chat with some of the bloggers I met today I headed home (in the pouring rain). But not before I collected my goody bag!!

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So, full of inspiration and lots to think about, you can expect more from me this month. Stay tuned for the perfect Christmas gift lists for those little boys and girls in your life…coming this week!

Race for life – running to kick cancer in the ass!

Today was a good day! Today, two of my closest friends and I ran race for life in Regents Park, London to raise money for cancer research. We raised over £1200 in 5 days! Really, credit should go to all the people who donated to our cause and so I’d like to say a big public THANK YOU!!

We did a Santa Run in Richmond Park, London back in December and raised over £2,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital. So often when people do these charity runs, they are doing it for the charity. And while of course, I’m doing it to raise money for the charity, I’m also doing it for me. Because running and fundraising make me happy. And when we’re happy, we can make others around us happy too. So expect me to be rattling my donation tin at you often!! 🙂

Jokes aside, why was this race important to me? I’ve had three too many people in my life battle cancer. One lost his battle, the second beat cancer and the third is kicking cancer’s ass as I write this. Today I ran for my aunt. Because even when she’s going through something I can’t possibly imagine, she laughs and she jokes and she gives great advice. It can’t be easy and yet she’s so positive. She was my inspiration today.

Here are a few pictures from this morning. And I wouldn’t be English if I didn’t mention the weather!! Not too hot, not too cold…but most importantly, it stayed dry! London you did good!

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Our race for life selfie

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On the official Race for Life 2014 t-shirts 🙂

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My family – my biggest supporters

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With S at the end of the race 🙂

My time was 36 minutes and 55 seconds. I was super pleased because it was approx. 6 minutes off my time since our Santa Run in December.