Rocking Horse

Object No: 85/2060 Rocking Horse
Object No: 85/2060 Rocking Horse

Few years ago, my husband and I (and our then 3 year old child) were asked to go down to Sussex to stay with some friends for a Tennis Weekend. I didn’t play tennis, but I am a keen learner and I thought it would be a perfect place to pick up this new game surrounded by an enormous garden, new friends and a beautiful house.

Our arrival was met by enthusiasm and we were shown around the gardens soon afterwards. The few people on the two tennis courts had already started playing.

They all wore white. I felt anxious and upset that I had failed to bring the essential kit. I had interpreted a friendly tournament to mean lots of laughter, kids on the greens, balloons in the sky and colourful tutus as dress code.

I was badly mistaken. The tournament was organised with full seriousness. The white clipboard displayed a list of players, and the bottles of water and new tennis balls still in their plastic packaging were on sight next to the court. I even spotted a ball girl.

My name wasn’t on the list. I felt relieved. With my green tutu and a baby on my hip I would have been an odd addition. And so thought the hostess. With a big smile and ostentatious hospitality I was soon led to the attic where a rocking horse and lots of toys were promised to make me have “a splendid time in the house”. “I hope you don’t mind if your husbands stays with us. We’ll all have lunch together at 1.30” said the hostess and left me with the baby on the top floor of the house, where the chatter of the players could still be heard through the small windows too high to look out from.

Mnemonics

One day my daughter came back from school very happy – she had finally managed to memorise the order of the planet system. It goes like Mars, Venus, Earth, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. I still can’t quite remember the order but that’s not important. What’s important is that someone had come up with such an amusing mnemonic that the whole class happily repeated it every morning.

MY VERY EDUCATED MOTHER JUST SERVED US NOODLES.

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles, happily chanted my 6 year old daughter. My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas, sang the other.

In the country which prides itself on an exemplary gender-equal society my children are daily schooled with an already well established stereotype that once women become mothers they get confined to the kitchen. 

When so many women worldwide struggle to pursue their careers and instead end up cooking away for their husbands and families shouldn’t we be worried about how this might become a normal visual image for our kids?! Why can’t we use something less stereotypical, more interesting and exciting to describe what mothers can do? e.g. My Very Energetic Mother Just Sat Upon (the) North Pole, My Very Enthusiastic Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets. Or should women just stay home and serve noodles?!

Why we need to feel guilty in order to feel happy

I don’t cook, I don’t iron, I don’t clean, I don’t wash, I don’t scrub, I don’t sew, I don’t change sheets, I don’t do washing up, I don’t babysit. And that’s because I am on maternity leave. I look after my baby and I feel extremely guilty about it.

When I had my first child I had no idea what maternity leave really meant. I didn’t know that I couldn’t get any sleep after a sleepless night, because there was no one else to look after my baby. I didn’t know that after I’d spent an hour cooking the most organically delicious made-from-the-scratch meal, it would end up on the floor and my child would be wailing from hunger. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be able to look at my iPhone(I admit) whilst walking and pushing a stroller with a baby inside on the street  because I would be intimidated by disapproving looks; I didn’t know I would never again have a cheeky relaxed boozy lunch with a friend on a Friday. I didn’t know that for hours I’d need to pretend I was half of my size and sit at a child’s table and sip an empty tiny cup of tea! that I would need to clean, wash, tidy, sweep, scrub (and whatever other verbs there are) not just my baby but the whole two floors of our flat. The added challenge was to be as quiet as not to wake up a strugglingly fallen asleep child, and to do it during the precious 2 hours I got to myself when the baby was asleep.

I wish I had read Esther Walker‘s Bad Mother, or Why Stay-At-Home Moms Should Earn A $115,000 Salary so that I’d felt more confident saying no to the things that left me exhausted, tired and with a feeling of never wanting to have a baby again.

It took years to figure out that I actually earned a lot as a stay at home mum. And a lot more than what I got paid at my job.

I added the cost of ironing,  washing and tiding, cooking and babysitting and decided to “slash” some of the costs and outsource the other duties. As no one actually paid me £100K a year it was rather easy to do.

I hired an au pair who cooked for the baby and us, I hired a cleaner to scrub our very precious wooden floors, I took sheets and shirts to a laundrette, I signed up for Monkey Music Classes and a local singing group (they do the same but the difference in price is £130).  And I still “virtually” earned for looking after my baby, reading and playing with her, picking up my other child from school, helping her with homework and taking them to bed. But the difference is that now I can enjoy it all.

The only disadvantage is the constant feeling of guilt! But I hear that comes with motherhood.

Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy of Arts

A few days ago I went to The Royal Academy of Art that just opened the most comprehensive exhibition about Abstract Expressionism since Tate’s 1959 New York school survey in Britain. The exhibition claimed to acknowledge the “lesser-known artists who contributed to the movement”, but entirely focused on the male group of known/or lesser-known individuals. Even the official page didn’t list a single female voice of the movement “This autumn we bring together some of the most celebrated art of the past century, offering the chance to experience the powerful collective impact of Pollock, Rothko, Still, de Kooning, Newman, Kline, Smith, Guston and Gorky as their works dominate our galleries with their scale and vitality.” The retrospective did feature few works by the “lesser-known” Lee krasner and I think one work by Joan Mitchell but it was disappointing to see that even today an exhibition of such scale failed to acknowledge the contribution and the importance female artists played in the movement. The media very much focused on the “big boys” and the “giants” and so did the curators of the show. The four main rooms were dedicated to Rothko, Pollock, de Kooning and Clyfford Still. And the rest of the works were presented as part of the “thematic rooms”. It very much resounded the piece “Do Women have to be naked to get into the Met. museum”, as it featured more works of naked women from de Kooning’s series than the works of female artists. Out of 169 works presented only a handful were by leading female Abstract Expressionists.
It seems RA is not ready to host anything beyond the mainstream.
For comparison here is a link to the Denver Art Museum’s recent exhibition titled ” Women of Abstract Expressionism”.   AAARGH!

I am not an academic Feminist!

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I am not an academic feminist. I haven’t read Feminine Mystique, The Beauty Myth or The Female Eunuch. I’ve tried to, once I first discovered them few years ago but without much success. It’s not because I don’t think they are seminal works or because I don’t absolutely agree with what they say, but the truth is, I find them difficult to read.

Here is a sentence from The Beauty Myth as an example:  “ It is inconceivable to the dominant culture that it should respect as a political allegiance, as deep as any ethnic or racial pride, a woman’s determination to show her loyalty – in the face of a beauty myth as powerful as myths about white supremacy – to her age, her shape, her self, her life.”  There are so many beautifully written books in the world  I could be reading instead…

I am a feminist and I’d like to call myself so. I’d like to say to a person I meet, “Hey, I am a feminist!”, instead of “Hey, I am not an academic feminist!”, but the problem is when I do say that, they respond “Hi, have you read the new Caitlin Moran book?!”. And the answer is “no, I haven’t! I already have a very long pile of must–read feminist books next to my bed, which I’ve been planning to read for the last 5 years. I can’t add another 500 pages, however funny…

The other day I was hiking with some friends and discussing the lack of women in Parliament and how we need to have a proportional representation, and the next question I am asked is whether I think punctuation is essentially a masculine addition to the English syntax. Hell yeah. There is a massive correlation between the masculinity of punctuation and women in Parliament.

But that basically sums up my dilemma. There are so many things I’d like to fulminate against (without discussing grammar) that I’ve decided to start a blog. Please read and feel free to contribute.