It’s International Women’s Day!

“IWD”. At work, I taught a Theatre Studies class – all female. Slightly cynical teens:

“What does it even mean…?”
“It’s a Google doodle…”
“Yeah, Google, thanks for my day…”

I’m a man, yes I am, according to biology, male, as far as our limited stock of gender definitions go… This kind of blogcommentarypost, man talking about talking about women, can be fraught with difficulty, if one thinks about these things. The point of such a day is surely not about what I think about it, really, is it?

No. From an extensive suite of articles related to IWD in the Independent:

International Women’s Day 2014 has the theme ‘inspiring change’ and celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women, while focusing world attention on areas that still need further action.

IWD, simply, as an opportunity to recognise the often unacknowledged work women do teaching, organising, parenting, sporting, engineering, writing, making music…

Yet inevitably snippets of imagined pub discussions echo round my brain:
“Thanks, sisters…”
“Shouldn’t we be doing this every day anyway?”
“Huh, there’s no International Men’s day, is there?” (Yes, in fact – 19th November.)
“Huh, EVERY day is men’s day.”
“Well, we were all being ground into the dirt by the super rich and their lackeys last time I looked…”
“Anyone fancy a pint?”
Etc, etc.

Derailment! It’s International Women’s Day. This post is not going to rehearse any sniping about “wimmin”, or heavens help us “feminazis”, for that way lies idiocy.

An idiot, recently.

An idiot, recently.

Nor will it, hopefully, exhibit too many organic beard fluff Neo-Nu-Man, or whatever I’m “supposed” to be being this year, tendencies.

Talking about “inspiring change”, in the UK, the Queen’s New Year Honours List has a higher proportion of female recipients for the first time, 51%. Way to go, Your Majesty. While still in many ways a story of privilege rewarding privilege (checkety check), the high proportion of mentions for charitable or voluntary work is also encouraging.

There is a huge number of ways in which one could talk about the importance of “change” related to women and how fings are in society. Women are still disproportionately represented in politics. In the UK there are currently 147 female MPs, out of a total 650 members of parliament. Half the population, 1% of wealth, as Echobelly once observed.

Or putting up with violent nonsense. In the news today also is “Clare’s Law”, (links to a report in the Indie again). The so-called ‘right to know’, a kind of DBS check for relationships. A social good – or perhaps a further step towards our living in a police state of thoroughly alienated individuals, rather than an empowering measure to protect people from psychotics. The unfortunate Clare Wood was killed by an ex-boyfriend. Regarding physical violence against women, I was glad to have had Kurt Cobain as an influence when I was growing up. He said:

“The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape.

As to other types of thoughtlessness, non-physical imbecile male actions… well, yeah. Soz. To keep throwing the words of dead male pop singers at you, I’m doing the best that I can (Lennon)…

My hopes for my lover are that she can do what she wants and that I can help her do that in whatever ways. As a father to a female, I hope my daughter will grow up literate, emotionally supported, able to make her own choices, play an equal role in society… design buildings, make hit records, overthrow tyranny… whatever she wants. Not get paid less or be expected to stand in a certain way in a certain place just because chromosomes.

Today, International Women’s Day, I note I have a daughter, the incredible N, and a female partner, the incredible J. They are both the most important thing in the world to me, every day. And word to my mum… and to my sister, and to my aunties, and godmother, and mother-and-sistren-in-law, and my now-departed nan and nana. And every female friend I have… Gosh, there are a lot of you in here. As Freddie Mercury suggested: “Sister – I live and lie for you.”

And on that note: music by women!

Pop songs, my favourite reality filter.

Well, awkward ending… I dunno, are there supposed to be flowers as well? Is that just patronising? Shall I get some wine in then? Awesome. Love you!

Woke up early, before five and daylight, and the sound of first one then two birds twitting loudly right outside the window stopped me from dropping off again. Shortly I found a more familiar bite in the guts. This could have been due to different dietary effects wrought by seasonal feasting, or perhaps the scary movie we watched late last night (recent adaptation of M.R. James story Whistle and I’ll come back to you) and all the attendant restless dreaming I knew would be induced by considering the ghosts of living people and the alien landscapes of our minds, thoughts half-bidden foregrounding.

By this I mean I had some perhaps hilariously elaborate dreams, the last
of which I recall ended with me and twenty or so of the rebels (Ivorians, Palestinians, Yugoslavs and Free French) running through fences and scrub to flee the tanks and CGI wicker basilisks, escaping in a descent down endless stairs along which thick nets of cobwebs had been left as a simple natural first line of defence. I realised this halfway down and ducked while running, but the guys behind me kept forgetting and were showering me with insects and arachnids as they tore through the webs. I knew as I kept pounding down the stairs a particularly hairy spider would later emerge one leg at a time from the neck of my olive fatigues as we sat round the campfire. Maybe it just meant I needed a good crap, but anyway, there was that bite. I eventually acknowledged it actually meant I would have to get up and write.

[This is now being typed up from handwritten notes, from a green hardback with lined pages. My spidery scrawl continues:]
In an earlier notebook, maybe it’s this one, I likened the feeling I get when I’m writing, really *getting those words down*, to being underwater. What I probably meant was trying to convey the feeling of suspension of breath, and of time, a slowing of the pulse, noise filtered away, the weird refractive light, and the sudden sound and colour, the splashing, when returning to the surface. Funnily, when writing *this* down, bits of paper and card I’ve tucked into my notebook fell out on to the sofa where I’m sat, curled up, resting on the left arm with a cushion across my knees and my nose about four inches from the page.

Among the addenda bombing the shallow end are two pieces of paper torn out of a notebook, folded roughly. It is pages from a dream diary I was keeping. I remember I removed them because I had higher designs for that particular notebook. The date on the front sheet is 02.01.10. The note describes a hilariously elaborate dream, one of those detailed-yet-pretty-hazy-on-waking ones you may be familiar with. It starts with a comment that ‘my dreams were telescopic’, which as I’m writing this now seems a nice image, my inner eye at the other end of whatever tube it is I’m looking down [and as I’m typing a short while later I am thinking of moon maps and naval eye-patches]. The dream had me watching Bruce Springsteen somewhere, from afar, and as I made my way nearer, through lines of crowd and police, into the seven or eight-sided chapel that was the venue – not the Union Chapel, though that would be an awesome gig… this one was a bit more of a dilapidated castle, with battlements crumbling to create steps to allow people through… I’ll let me-in-January 2010 take up the recount:

‘…the direct route in seemed too obvious, the exit crammed with hipsters + early adopters – inside Bruce played to a collegiate crowd, The Gaslight Anthem (steampunk) playing but kind of modified to this bearded combo of Fleet Foxes, Women, Olivia Tremor Control. The singer making announcements that sounded like stage chat but then could have been recorded songs, weird psychedelic exhortations to learn about everything, using the internet to access [playing as backdrops] videos of massive underwater polyps, Qabalah diagrams, compleat histories of esoteric tradition, films about witches, documentaries on puritan rebellion, popular revolt… then talking with the singer and enthusiastically explaining how I could really relate to all this – see, when I went to University first in 1992 this was all a pipe dream, but this is what was in the dream, information, the chance and the knowledge that we will all just have this stuff in our heads and that’s how the great leap forward next will happen… I did tell him that I had been doing a bit of acid, [thinking about stuff with friends like] total thought communism, this idea we played with one night spangled, and here it all is. The creeping thought stole upon me that he wasn’t listening – concerned with grooming his beard – his American bandmates crowded round, talking of the ramifications of immigration, the custom people coming to disapprove. He was like what would Jesus do? And I said he’d probably say let your freak flag hang, man. All those pacifist reveries and the platonic reasoning and other dreams of expansion through technology masked, by apps, public relations, property recycling, money, money, money. Waking up I was thinking, where did our sense of wonder, fun + excitement go? Email – why don’t we call it spacemail or something? We’re wheeling round in circles and there’s a universe to explore – keep the wheels turning, onwards, avanti avanti avanti!’

That’s how I tend to get round the new year, all enthused about getting into a fresh groove, mixed with the usual post-god/alcohol goldfish bowl cocktail pescimism. This new year, looking back round the spiral, I have to acknowledge that my dreams of global enlightenment through music and talking cock about the daft shit we think up remain tantalisingly 5,000 miles adrift. But look, this internet tool, it’s amazing! ‘The information age’, constantly effervescing and elephantine, 2010 bringing up actual sci-fi-like cyber warfare, as the Grauniad panted excitedly… clearly the experiment will continue to have a lot of explosions and sooty faces as we mix substances to see what goes green and what goes bang, but like an actual brain, mainly, the more exciting and energising stuff goes in, the more excitement and energy comes out. My output on this blog has been scanty, as a direct consequence of action in the offline part of the world. This old year I left my job in London to come home to Yorkshire, where I’m studying to be a teacher. Good friends of mine have gone abroad, to teach as well. People I haven’t seen for years tag turn out to be inspiring writers. Information has again realised the capacity to slip its handlers and make its way to receptive people. 2011, for me, will be aimed at nurturing all that.

There’s my dream interpretation/farewell to some of that message, if that’s not just a pointlessly 20th century, Viennese finger up the nose bit of a sucrose sentimental self-examination concept to tolerate, O reader. Hauntings and hall of mirror comedy dream reflections refracting and conspiring to bring me about full circle, thrice widdershins to see my own boss-eyed self gurning out from the porch, going flibbalubbalub across my lips with the other forefinger, knuckle deep in one nostril in the Alfred E. Neuman style as new year fireworks pop and fizz about.

Dreams, hauntings, visions, ghost stories, I love them and acknowledge them for what they are, most likely minds trying to make sense of masses of data, dancing silly spooky dances round ourselves. For 2011 I resolve to get more of my waking life into enjoying writing, and reading, then getting those enthusiastic spider scratchings on these spacepages.

The wider the spread of this story, reported using remarkably similar phrasing and poorly-punctuated translation by the BBC, New York Times, Guardian and others, about the Iranian cleric who suggested that immorality could provoke a judgment from god, no shock or horror, through Facebook groups and so on…

…and the more I read the same tiny quotes from what was probably a lengthy sermon which seems, on the basis of the sections I have been able to find, to have used ‘earthquakes’ at least a couple of times as a trope, again, not particularly shocking or horrifying in the context of a religious sermon in a region given to earthquakes (physical and social), or particularly worthy of comment given the sheer eye-swivelling wrong-headedness of the suggestion that actually, physically, promiscuity in women, whatever that means, might cause tectonic plates on the earth to shift (… in fact what the headline should have said was ‘cleric says promiscuity makes god cause earthquakes’ which is a not at all shocking statement for a cleric to make, as noted by “Sabretooth” at LucasForums)…

…the more I grow uneasy that there is some kind of black propaganda at work, perhaps intended to make everyone in Iran seem atavistic, not quite the full shilling, clearly unworthy of being allowed anywhere near fissile material, nay READY to be invaded, perhaps destroyed in order to be saved.

Almost like the misquoted speech from Ahmedinejad about “wiping Israel off the map” was.

I am not in favour of repressive regimes or religious fundamentalism, but neither do I favour one-sided conversations. In fact, my unease is supported by a colleague just then reading the story aloud and suggesting that Ahmedinejad and Sedighi’s quotes were both from Ahmedinejad. Because those mad mullahs all look the same from here, presumably. People get as far as the leading headline and then go off on one.

Full transcript please, and stop trying to wind people up with half a quote.