Mummy Bloggers v Liz Jones Continued…

Much as I despise the idea of giving the old shrunken womb more airtime than she deserves I thought I would very briefly clarify my position following yesterday’s Liz Jones-related post, which I perhaps articulated a smidge badly in a fifteen minute keyboard bash (though I should say I in no way go back on anything I said, all of it remains my view though some of the smart commenters beneath have given me food for thought too).

When I wrote that post I should’ve begun by clarifying that I in no way agree with anything LJ said beyond using her article as a jumping off point for my own concerns because I do think, though she put it with as much finesse and subtlety as a bull going crazy in Lladro, that writing – good writing – is an art and that the flooding of the market with over-ambitious bloggers high on networking skills and low on talent has begun to overshadow those, both bloggers and employed/qualified journos, who care about words and produce quality, worthwhile content be that hard hitting political analysis or musings on muffins.

Anyway…

Ms Joneses article was, to put it mildly, deeply offensive on so many levels.  First she’s woefully wide of the mark when it comes to her view that all Mummy Bloggers are apron-wearing Stepford Housewives.  The point she entirely fails to grasp is that feminism should be far less about crashing through a glass ceiling in a power suit than it is about doing, as a woman, exactly as you choose.  If you wish to stay at home popping out babies, baking and putting dinner on the table at six every night feminism says you can, if you choose to go back to work three days after giving birth feminism says go for it, if you prefer to remain childless and work your way up the corporate ladder feminism is with you all the way.

I have my own reservations where this is concerned, I don’t think the pressure women put on themselves and on other women under the banner of feminism and ‘having it all’ is a good thing, especially not where mental health is concerned.  Having it all, as I’ve often said on other forums, should never mean ‘doing it all’.  But that’s a small price to pay perhaps for the freedom we now have over our bodies, minds and lifestyles.

As far as the casual portrayal of the burka as a shackle foisted on women by controlling men in a controlling male-centric society, could LJ be any more insulting to those women who choose to wear the burka?  While yes it can be, in many instances, a patriarchal tool used to keep women in their place, but I have also come across a number of women, both in Britain and overseas who choose themselves to wear the burka.  Perhaps those women are freer and braver than those in tiny skirts, boob jobs and eyelash extensions, choosing to be judged on their personality rather than their looks while respecting their own culture and traditions.  I don’t know enough about the subject to argue for or against the burkha but neither do I imagine that Liz Jones (who appears today in the Mail modeling mini dresses from the Kardashian’s collection for Dorothy Perkins) is well-informed enough to cast aspersions on these women or those who choose to follow a life path in any way different to hers.

Mummy Bloggers v Liz Jones

Today controversial Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones has published a scathing and bitter attack on Mummy Bloggers (and Mumsnet users).  According to Liz, she of sperm stealing fame, bloggers may as well wear burkhas.  Um, ok…

Actually while I am, as a rule, extremely anti-Jones I do see why she might be a little upset in her position as a (albeit not terribly good) journalist.  For some time I’ve noticed that writers with experience and qualifications are being marginalised by the boom in blogging.  It’s depressing to find that bloggers, many of whom are lacking in writing ability and free and easy when it comes to research, are given more credence than those who slogged to get to even the measliest paying position on a local rag or low-traffic website.

It’s also patently obvious to anybody with any knowledge of the Mummy Blogging world that the success of blogs boils down in large part to popularity amongst your peers.  Just as there’s a pecking order in coffee morning cliques so there is in the blogging community, and clicks on pages are, one might suggest, produced not necessarily through genuine interest in the content of a page but in the person who produced it.  Successful blogs are not often made by natural means but by hardcore networking, a touch of nepotism and a good knowledge of how the web works.

I suppose you could say that successful Mummy Bloggers win the popularity contest that Ms Jones and her Prada bowling bag were never offered a place in.

To put this in to perspective, imagine if you worked in a bakery.  You might bake some of the best cakes in the country but if there’s someone baking crappy cakes but putting lovely icing on them and sending them out to all the other crappy bakers with cutesy notes ending in ‘xxx’ and all those crappy bakers start saying wonderful things about each other’s crappy cakes you’d end up going out of business.  It doesn’t matter that those other cakes are shit, because the sheer amount of cakes and the cake popularity contest has devalued your great bakes.

That probably makes no sense, it’s little wonder that I’m one of the first ones to lose their career as a journalist because blogs are easy money.

I know, I know, there are some great bloggers out there, I’ve met them, I’ve read their blogs – even the ones about knitting and baking and buying cute Scandi clothing for their kids and taking maternity leave (none of which make a Stepford Wife out of someone or equate to wearing a burkha) and I know Liz Jones is a heinous, bitter old shrew but for once maybe she does have a badly conceived point.  Of sorts.  Not really, but you see what I’m…oh, never mind *awaits anger of the Mumsnet Mafia*

How I Finally Believed In Carrie (Because Nobody Else Did)

At the end of last season’s Homeland I wrote about how disappointing I found the portrayal of bipolar in the American drama.  I felt as if another opportunity to explore a much misunderstood condition had been passed over in favour of a paint-by-numbers plot device.

However, since the beginning of season two there has been an aspect of Claire Danes’s character which has really hit home – her triumph at being vindicated and frustration at still being treated as unreliable.

A few years ago, as I’ve previously mentioned, I was ‘made redundant’ from a job and was later awarded (still unrecovered) damages for disability discrimination, sex discrimination and wrongful dismissal.  To cut a long story I was accused of being paranoid and over-emotional when I approached my then manager with to report  that a junior member of staff, who I had suggested for redundancy was deliberately undermining me in order to gain a promotion in to my position and retain employment.

Like Carrie I felt absolutely sure of my position (unlike her I had absolute proof) but was treated as unreliable and hysterical.  My award was made when it was proven in tribunal that following my redundancy the aforementioned member of my team had been given my post and that I had been negatively treated because of both my mental illness and my recent maternity leave.

Watching the first episodes of series two of Homeland I felt as elated as Carrie – SEE, sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re not just forgetful or devious or plain ol’ crazy.  And sometimes we’re just as good at our jobs as everyone else.  Actually, an awful lot of the time we’re better, many high achievers (Stephen Fry of course, Alastair Campbell, Isaac Newton, Georg Cantor among numerous other musicians, artists, writers, actors, scientists, politicians, philanthropists and business people) have been diagnosed – some posthumously – as bipolar.

This particular aspect of bipolar is the one that finally rang true with me.  I struggle with the idea of being treated in the same way as Carrie has been; I find it hard to believe myself, assume that others don’t trust my assertions and struggle to distance my failings from my bipolar.

For example I’m often forgetful or dissociative, which leads to the absolute conviction that I haven’t said or done something that I have.  I regularly forget conversations, miss appointments, ask questions repeatedly or fail to run essential errands.  The problem, however, is that sometimes I’m absolutely convinced that I’m right – that I’ve never said or done the thing that I’m told I haven’t – and usually I’ve simply forgotten or said/done it during a dissociative episode.

It happens so often that when I KNOW that I’m right I either assume my mind is playing tricks on me or that there’s no point trying to convince anybody else because I’m so often proven to be wrong and they probably think I’m just being bipolar.

To illustrate:

I made an appointment for 4:30pm at the opticians.  The receptionist later called and spoke to my husband, telling him that the 4pm appointment I had made would have to be rearranged.  I knew absolutely that I had made the appointment for 4:30pm, I distinctly remembered refusing a 4pm appointment not least because I now keep a strict diary (to avoid my usual appointment muddling).  I remembered in detail telling the receptionist ‘4pm is no good because the kids are in sports club until 4:15pm’ and her saying ‘how about 4:30pm?’ and me saying ‘Yes!’ and adding it to my diary there and then.

The fact of the matter was that whether the appointment was at 4pm or 4:30pm it would’ve been cancelled so really it didn’t matter a jot.  But I cried because I had doubted myself and had assumed that my husband would doubt me (he didn’t), all because it’s the sort of thing I would get wrong.

Homeland’s Carrie has an awful lot more self-belief than I do, not that it’s done her a whole heap of good.  But I finally feel that we’re being shown a very real side of bipolar and the way those of us with bipolar are treated, something I can relate to and hopefully others (both those with bipolar and their friends, family, employers and teachers) can too.