Women You Should Know

A side step from the wedding stuff for a moment, and a look into some info on women we should know but most likely don’t. It’s International Women’s Day today and a chance to celebrate being a woman, acknowledge how far women and feminism has come, and to research all those women – who should be famous, but because they are women from history, we just don’t know about them. Or enough about them.

Yes, we know Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud and Galileo – and the list goes on. In fact, I just googled ‘100 Scientists to Shape the World’ and there was one woman who I had heard of. ONE! Marie Curie. Well, we need to get to know the other women who did amazing things. This is in no disrespect to the¬†fantastic things the above men did. It isn’t to compete. It isn’t to show women are better. It is to uncover history. It did happen. Men did amazing things, yet so did women. We should know about both.

So, without further ado – and with thanks to the Women’s Rights Page that I follow, let me introduce you:

WOMEN

  • Maris Mitchell was an astronomer in the 19th Century and discovered a comet. I never knew this. The comet was named after her as ‘Miss Mitchell’s Comet.’ I find this interesting that it needed the title ‘Miss’ – anything named after a man doesn’t tend to need the title ‘Mr’, but maybe I’m reading too much into it ūüėČ

  • Emmy Noether was an influential mathematician – again in the 19th Century, who was known for her contribution to algebra and theoretical physics. Go her!

  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell was an astrophysicist and discovered the first radio pulsars. I don’t know what these are, but she sounds clever ūüėČ

  • Valentina Tereshkova – still alive today – was the first woman in space,¬†(the fifth Russian cosmonaut)to go into the Earth’s orbit when her spaceship Vostok VI was launched¬†from Moscow.

  • Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin was a British-American astronomer and astrophysicist, who proposed in her Ph.D. thesis an explanation for the composition of stars in terms of the relative abundances of hydrogen and helium. Wow!

  • Lise Meitner was a physicist who worked on nuclear physics and radioactivity.

  • Caroline Hershel¬† – an amazing astronomer, who worked alongside her brother Sir William Hershel for both of their careers. High five for also managing a working sibling relationship!

  • Rita Levi-Montalcini:¬†A neurologist¬† who was a Nobel prizewinning Jewish scientist. She carried out her cell growth research while hiding from the fascists during the second world war.

You see, with my background, I have always been fascinated with women like Jane Austen, The Brontes, George Elliot (Mary Ann Evans) who were trying to write in a male dominated world – writing with pseudonyms in some cases to just get noticed. But, I haven’t considered the Science field before. The above women have all succeeded in Science (arguably an even more male-dominated field).

Their history is there in black and white: we just need to read it and share it ūüôā

Happy International Women’s Day!

XSXS

Tattoos: Too Tatty?

Tattoos are things that people rarely sit on the fence about. They are bit like marmite; people love them or hate them!¬† People can go a little bit crazy with them… and my rule is: if there is more ink than skin, then that ain’t a good look! And as for having people’s names tattooed – a bit boring, unoriginal and could result in disaster. You don’t want to get divorced and have to have a stain removed off your skin amongst everything else. I know, some people have their children’s names tattooed and not just partners – and children are for life like tattoos etc – -but to that I say: Do you really need a reminder every time you look at your arm of what your kids’ names are?!

‘Ah yeh, Abigail, Beth and Harry, my 3 kids, thank god I had them ingrained into¬†my¬†skin for hangover days when I can’t even¬†remember my name, let alone my kids’!’

Mmmmm…… that’s what post-it notes are for¬† ūüėČ But seriously, even when I have kids I won’t want their names on my arm/shoulder/back. I will love them but I’d rather look at them than at an inky representation of them. And if having kids is like what I’ve heard, then when I finally get a break from them, I won’t want that red ink screaming up at me and reminding me of Sammy junior’s tantrum that morning. (I won’t seriously call my child Sammy Junior, I promise!)

Because, that’s the thing isn’t? Tattoos are for life; not just for that wild, impulsive day you wanted to be ‘young’ again. They become a part of you forever. many people say that they will look awful when you are older and wrinkle up. Well, my response to that is: our whole body will wrinkle up, but with a tattoo we have a souvenir and a reminder of the¬† ‘good’ old days and we remember why we had it and the person we were then. That’s what I’m hoping anyway……

I have a tattoo. I must be one of the only people to have a tattoo and have absolutely no piercings! I don’t even have my ears pierced. Never been fond of having holes drilled into me – whether they can heal up or not. But I do see tattoos as a form of art and when I left University, my housemate¬† and I decided to get a tattoo to reflect that part of our lives. It was to signify the end of University life – the last ‘crazy’ thing we would do. (Now though, 6 years later – I know, it wasn’t the last crazy thing I did ūüėČ ) It was all very thought out and we¬†went to a Tattoo parlour to look at designs, we tried to create our own, we asked around and finally a few weeks later we¬† had them. I had:

The feminism/female symbol: One friend did joke once; ‘Have you had this so people know you are a girl?!’

 

It is the symbol for feminism and naturally used for women and females a lot too. I¬† studied feminism a lot at University as part of my English degree. I considered myself a feminist at Uni and also, as I left, I was a strong, confident woman waiting for the¬† next life step. So, for me, it was the perfect tattoo to get. Do I regret it? No… my only regret is that I didn’t get a bigger version of the symbol! I was such a wimp and so worried that it would a.) go wrong b.) I would regret it …. that I opted for it as small as possible. So, people need a magnifying glass to see it, but it is there! The plus point of this…. when I am older, I won’t be able to see it anyway! ūüėČ haha.

One reason people are put off- is the pain. I am the biggest wimp. I don’t even like tweezing my eyebrows! This didn’t hurt. That may be because it is a tiny dot of ink ūüėČ and also because¬† it is on a fleshy part of my back too. So it depends what you have an where – and what you are prepared to go through.

My boyfriend hates¬†tattoos and didn’t want me to have it. He was on holiday in Austria at the time. I spoke to him briefly on the phone the day before and he was not impressed! But since, it was a feminist tattoo, I was going for, I thought it would be kind of ironic¬†if my boyfriend stopped an independent woman doing what she wanted to do ūüėČ So I had it. And I love it. It is on my back an I can show it off and hide it when I want to too. I love telling people that I have it, because people always¬†seem shocked. I have no piercings as I said above; I am quite conventional in most ways; I am a book geek. My tattoo is my piece of wild ūüėČ

It was a radio show that inspired me to write this. They were asking listeners what made them want a tattoo and why they chose what they had etc. The one¬† woman I heard had all her grandchildren on her arm – yawn. But she did say that when you have¬† one, you do want more and this part I agree with. When I turn 30, I want another one to reflect that part of my life. Another small symbol I think – that can keep my other lonely¬†one company ūüôā

Some questions to leave with you:

  • Do you have one? Would you have one?

  • What do you think of children’s/people’s names on them?

  • And… what can I have for my next one?!

 

XSXS

 

Praise Song for Your Mother

Since it¬†is Mother’s Day weekend, we all need to think of our mothers, mums, mother-in-laws and other mother figures – past and present. What they do for us all year, how they help us, how they make us laugh, support us and most of all that they enrich our lives.

There is a praise song poem by Grace Nicholls called Praise Song for My Mother which celebrates all the reasons, very personal reasons – why her mother was special to her. ‘Was’ because her¬† mother has passed but she still lives on in this poem all day everyday. The use of ‘mantling’, ‘fathoming’ and ‘streaming’ shows that the love goes on and on after death. A beautiful poem really:

Praise Song for My Mother

You were
water to me
deep and bold and fathoming

You were
moon’s eyes to me
pull and grained and mantling

You were
sunrise to me
rise and warm and streaming

You were
the fish’s red gill to me
the flame tree’s spread to me
the crab’s leg/the fried plantain smell
replenishing replenishing

Go to your wide futures, you said.

Grace Nicholls

I love this poem and it inspired me to write my own version for my mother. I tried it with the past tense – and like Nicholls’s I think it is more powerful like that. But I just can’t tempt fate as I am lucky enough to still have my Mum here with us today¬† – so for this purpose it is in the present tense. My Mum is still all these things today, as always. See what you think:

Praise Song for My Mother

You are
music to me
clear and soft and singing

You are
perfume to me
fresh and sweet and clinging

You are
tea to me
warm and strong and comforting

You are
the wendy house to me
the joy of scrabble to me
the fish in sauce/baked beans
satisfying satisfying

Always drive carefully, you say.

Samantha Gray

I think I will print a copy of this poem off for my Mum – or even the blog as a whole, since she is a techno-phone and there is no way she will see this ūüėČ My boyfriend’s Mum (who I suppose can be called ‘mother-in-law’ but I always joke there is nothing ‘in-law’ about it as of yet lol), will read this though,¬†I hope, and know that she is very appreciated by my boyfriend and I ūüôā

Appreciate mothers everywhere…they gave us life. So we can not only thank them, but¬†share our lives with them and just generally celebrate life with¬†them this¬†weekend.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL!

Miserable Cinderellas

‘There is a castle on a cloud,
I like to go there in my sleep,
Aren’t any floors for me to sweep,
Not in my castle on a cloud.’

I saw two productions over half term. The Burton Operatic Society did a production of Cinderella at a local school. (I have discussed a production in a previous blog: https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/good-vs-evil/) I also saw Les Miserables (finally!) at  the cinema. Both productions were fantastic but naturally they are every different in terms of context and plot. But in this case, they are both musicals and me being me, I wanted to draw some comparisons from the characters. (Call me lazy if you like for not writing two separate reviews!)

I must confess that I didn’t really know the story of Les Mis. before I went. I know, I know, English graduate who has not read it or seen a version of it. Reasons, or excuses being, well for starters the book is reallllly long! I have since downloaded it to my Nook and it is a worryingly long 4000 pages! (You may not see so many blogs lately ūüėČ ) Also, I just never saw a production through reasons such as money, opportunity and I never particularly studied it. It was worth the wait though!

I loved the film of Les Mis. and recommend anyone who has not seen it, to go. Or wait for the DVD ūüėČ It was a brilliant portrayal of Paris after the French Revolution. It focuses on the poor – or asles miserables’ can be translated as ‘the poor ones,’ ‘the miserables,’ or ‘the victims.’ Then there is the juicy part of the plot of the June Rebellion also known as The Paris Uprising of 1832. This was good viewing and really gave a depiction of this battle between the rich and the poor man. I don’t want to go too much into the story because that isn’t the purpose of this blog. But just a few more thoughts of mine about the latest film version: the singing was good overall. I was well aware it was a musical and was fine with the characters singing when there was a vital part to the plot, when they had to sing their own thoughts or sing as a group¬† – fine. I wasn’t so sure about them ‘singing’ conversations to each other. That was a bit odd! I know that that is the case with all productions of Les Miserables but it just seemed a little odd to me. Russel Crowe singing seriously was even odder – he was the only one that I cringed in my seat a little when he let the notes escape his mouth. My other main point that comes to mind, is the children. They were fantastic little actors and really did the characters justice. Brilliant.

Cinderella I would think we all know a little about. It was a great production by Burton Operatics and an old story with a new twist, yet it still kept the original magic. I laughed out loud when the mice came out though Рas they were played by children, they were nearly as big as Cinders herself! The actress playing Cinderella was amazing and had that inner happiness to her that only resurfaced when she was with the mice, or day dreaming or when she meets the prince. She played the miserable and slave side to the character equally as well. (The other actors and everyone involved did a fantastic job too Рto risk a shout out!)

I started to¬†see the¬†old fairy tale in¬†a new light though last week. Possible because it was the first time I had seen it as an adult. It really is about a poor orphan girl, treated badly because of the times and bad luck of being left with an awful family. We are talking 17th century when this first was written, reflecting the role of women at the time. If women had no family or husband then they were worth nothing really. It isn’t until she meets her Prince Charming that her life becomes livable. The feminist in me, sobs at this.

This is what got me thinking when I saw Les Mis. Cosette is a lot like Cinderella. Think about it. They are both;

  • orphans and are left in terrible circumstances because of this.
  • slave like characters who like to dream and hope. The song at the top is from Les Mis. and sung by Cosette but it also reminded me of Cinderella.
  • young and beautiful
  • women in society who are not able to help themselves
  • (in the end) married to their heart’s desire who happen to rescue them from their misfortune. (I will admit Cosette¬†was already saved early on by Jean Valjean – but again saved by a man)

So whether fairy tales or historical dramas, women were still depicted and were indeed treated in the same, awful way years ago. In terms of fairy tales, I do sometimes think why didn’t Cinderella (or Snow White, or any other) put the broom down, go out get a job, fend for herself and forget about men? But as Les Mis. shows, it wasn’t as simple as that indeed in France or England or anywhere. I was horrified by Cosette’s¬†Mum in the film (played by Ann Hathaway) and how she had to have her head shaved to sell her hair and have her teeth pulled out for money. Definitely¬†showing the hardships of the time. Poor women then had to resort to prostitution if they weren’t lucky to get rescued by the Jean Valjeans¬†or the Prince Charmings of the world.

I suppose, though, the Valjean¬†character does show us just how hard it was for men too. He wouldn’t have been able to turn his life around (well firstly if he didn’t steal a lot of silver!) if he hadn’t the run and under cover, carving and scraping a life for himself along the way. But being a hero of a story, he still managed to save Cosette on the way also. Like fairy tales, there is some sort of happy ending.

So how many Miserable Cinderellas¬†are out there today? Women that have nowhere to turn or are so desperate that they turn to a horrible way of life. Because, unlike fairy takes, there isn’t always a happy ending in life. ūüė¶

XSXS

Women rabbit, witter, waffle, chatter…. Men talk.

Well I am resurfacing. I have to confess that Christmas has bitten me, chewed me up and swallowed me whole! I have been engrossed doing the whole preparation lark like putting up the decorations, buying presents, wrapping them and generally thinking what needs to be done. Being a woman and all, I like this and feel I have to do this whole process. Whereas, my boyfriend says he is not involved with anything christmas present related until the week before. He is lucky I buy all our family presents.

I have always been interested in the fascinating differences between the genders, as you can probably tell by previous posts. At university, I did my dissertation on how men and women communicate. I recorded conversations and looked in particular at how women are cooperative in conversation and men and competitive as these are two stereotypes often applied to the genders. This all came screaming back to me today as I recorded some conversations on my phone for some spoken language studies we are doing at school. I had to transcribe them too. Luckily these were short ones but back in the Uni days it could take a good ten minutes to transcribe 10 seconds of speech! I spent many an hour until 1am transcribing all women, all men and mixed gender conversations that I had got from recording my course and house mates.

It was really interesting stuff and I discovered that men tend to swear more. Especially in mixed gender groups. I think I linked this to the fact they could be trying to ‘show off’ in front of the opposite¬†sex. The same went for insults and jokes. Men definitely¬†tell more jokes and to take my feminist hat off a minute, I think men tell jokes better. Sorry to all the female comedians¬†out there! But men are good at being straight to the point and talking little, meaning a good gag with a punch line is usually delivered well. Women are good at telling funny¬†stories because they tend to use more hedges and fillers and ‘pad’ out their speech. Meaning a ‘joke’ becomes a bit long winded!

Naturally, this all comes from the stereotype that women talk more. My title above is actually from a poem called Men¬†Talk ¬†that I used to begin my dissertation. It says how women have all these different ways of communicating: chattering, waffling, nattering, wittering, tittling, rabbiting¬†etc. What do men do? They talk. They do it to communicate for a purpose a lot of the time, whereas women like the process and use it as a past time. I researched this as the time and found it can be said to stem from the cave man days. Men used few, key¬†commands to hunt. Women stayed at home and chatted to each other, supported each other and comforted each other. To some extend, don’t you think these stereotypes still exist today? When I recorded the conversations earlier, I did one with me, my mum and dad and one with me, my sister and her boyfriend. The male/female ratios were in favour of women yes, but boy did they dominate the conversation! Each male had one utterance and that was interrupted by a female each time! So is it just that the men can’t get a word in or do they not want to?

Women use 20,000 words a day on average, compared to a man’s 7000. Are they being sparing and choosing key words?! Apparently, as well, I looked at an article for my dissertation and it said than when a woman communicates, pleasure centres in the brain are activated. Major levels of dopamine and oxytocin are released¬† – which apparently is the fastest neurological reward you can get apart from an orgasm. Explains those 20,000 words doesn’t it?

Right, I’m off for a chat – even if it is with myself!

XSXS

Come Wine with Me

I am very lucky to have not one, but two, groups of very close girly mates.¬† And guess¬†what? They ply me with wine and cook for me sometimes too! I love having different groups of mates. last friday I had a girly night out with one group and we went to a Rock club (see Not Sloshed enough to Mosh?) Last night, I spent it with my other girly group (who are ex-colleagues and we have stayed close friends). We sort of do a Come Dine with Me evenings… you must have seen the programme Come Dine with Me? Each of us take a turn to cook….. except it doesn’t happen within a week but normally months apart and we don’t particularly score each¬†other but I think we should! I then started doing this with my rocker friends girl group and I am going to one of them next weekend. So yes, all yummy food and wine and chatter… Mmmmmm…

Last night, my friends did tapas and a paella. We try to do a theme each time. No prizes for guessing that last night’s was Spanish. It was yummy and much wine was drank. The chatter focussed around our friend who is engaged (see Two hearts, Two rings). She even tried on our host’s wedding dress from years ago in between the main course and dessert! See, just ike the programme where they nosey round each other’s houses and¬† try on random outfits!

One of our most memorable Come Dine with Me’s was a few years ago and we went to one friend’s flat and she cooked us a Mexican menu. It was great, we had fajitas, enchiladas, nachos etc. We even had creme caramels¬†and we had a game to see if anyone could suck a whole one up in one go! I failed miserably! We even made our clothes match the food that night and we came dressed Mexican themed! We had plastic toy guns,¬† a sombrero (borrowed from the Language department at school!), some tequila (for prop use only of course!) and moustaches to add a final touch. We all looked hilarious! Too hilarious to stay in a flat all night. After much wine and few tequilas, we decided that our outfits had to be shared with the world (well in our little town) so we went out to a bar. We got much attention as we were really five women dressed as moustached¬†men! I tell you, I have never had so much male¬†attention on my life!! I think it was the whole ‘up for a laugh’ attitude we clearly had and we clearly couldn’t¬†care less what people thought of us! The alcohol helped with that though. I may¬†have cared a bit if I was sober or in day light! It was a very funny night and one of those nights that are so brilliant just because it wasn’t planned and totally spur of the moment (well the bar bit!)

so don’t just come dine with me. Come and wine with me. Dance with me. And be a drunken Mexican with me!

See you tomorrow,

XSXS

Romeo, Romeo, you are a stud!

Evening guys, just a quick post tonight because I have had a pounding headache all day!!! Those damn kids… it has been my first full day today so that must have something to do with it!

We are studying Romeo and Juliet and an interesting point arose today in the lesson. It fits in very nicely with my post from a few weeks ago actually, Adding Fuel to the Feminist Fire. We were talking about how things were sexist in Shakespeare times and how, in some ways, they still are today. The pupils had to write down things they associated with the word ‘Romeo’, like if a man is a ‘bit of a Romeo.’ They came up with words like ‘romantic’ ‘a flirt’ ‘a ladies’¬†man’ ‘charming’ etc. We then got a dictionary definition and Romeo means ‘any man who is preoccupied with or has a reputation for amatory success with women.’ Mmmm¬†interesting…. The teacher (a male teacher if you were wondering ūüėČ )¬†then made the point of, what do we call a woman in the with the same definition? A Juliet? No sadly, that doesn’t exist. It will be one of the derogatory terms like slag, slut or whore. I had never thought of this before but I have thought about how men get to be called ‘studs’ when they pull lots of women, whereas women get called the above.¬† Like when men get to be called ‘bachelors’ when single yet we get the oh so lovely term of ‘spinster’.

So that’s¬†a thought to leave with you with today… and watch out for Romeos ūüėČ

See you tomorrow – hopefully headache free!

XSXS

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