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

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