Feminist – yes. Whinging – not so much. At least not today.

It’s been a week of personal reflections on soisaystoher and it’s been really enjoyable and challenging to remember that feminism is not just a political ideology but a transformation of your vision. It illuminates and broadens, at times it distorts and at others it sharpens focus.

I’m getting ready to launch back into some political and social awareness raising, the danger zone for accusations of whinging. While feminism is ultimately about celebration and unity the conversations we need to have in order to cut our way through the crap can tend towards the critical and divisive.

So before we get on with the difficult business of kicking down doors, I want to mention 3 things that are making me smile this week. Three stories and experiences that represent things we can celebrate here and now.

1. The fact that both La Roux and Lady Gaga are making music and the kids are loving it.

The thing with this one is, I went to see La Roux on Saturday night in Dublin and it was a fabulous show. She is so young and yet carries the head and heart of a woman who has both ‘been there, done that, messed around’ and has loved deeply. Her style and sexual expression is alluring androgyny, unassuming and strangely humble despite the apparent flamboyance. Her boyishness is beautifully balanced with her etherial vocal. In short, I’m a fan. And on the other side of this continuum we have Lady Gaga… who does not do it for me whatsoever. I’m not of the belief that we can conduct a sexual revolution in the uniform of slavery, which is what I see when I look past the bubble rap and fake penis. She talks about standing for sexual freedom but ultimately she has built her brand on tired old images of sexual availability.

What I love however, is that both of these female icons with their catchy tunes and bags of confidence can achieve popularity. The fact that some young women identify with Lady Gaga’s assertive style and her party tunes about riding on someone’s disco stick, and others are inspired by La Roux’s defiant rejection of the dictates of feminine fashion and her songs about love, loss and longing… this is something to celebrate. Diversity. Choice. The freedom to interpret our own experiences of our sexuality and find women who inspire us to exercise that freedom, no matter how different they may be.

2. Maisie Chapman

She’s the 82-year-old lady who fought off some intruders with a brush and a bible on Saturday. The media have described her as “feisty”, that one size fits all label for any female who doesn’t faint at the first sign of distress. When I saw her on TV there was something about the way she discussed her attack that made me grin from ear to ear. Especially this bit:

“I started to scream when he pushed me onto the bed and he told me to stop but I didn’t stop and I just kept screaming.”

She was defiant in the face of violence. Despite being described as “shaken” by the BBC journalist, she did not allow fear to be the response that shaped this interaction. Two men attacked her and she dug them, she whacked them and she didn’t shut up when they told her to. She is an inspiration. And she reminds me of my Nana, who also used to live in a house in Oberon Street and, had she been called on by these two intruders, I’m pretty sure would have whacked just as hard as Maisie.

3. The young people I train as mentors.

I’ve met so many over the past three years that I’ve spent training peer mentors in schools all over Northern Ireland and it makes me smile to know that they are all out there, putting into practice their passion to reach out to people who need a little extra care and support. This week I interviewed a young woman of 17 for a magazine and asked her to discuss her experience as a mentor, why she chose to do it and what she has gained and achieved. She talked so openly about her own experience of pain and feeling out of control, the influence of a mentor in her life who gave her all the time she needed and helped her make choices, and of her natural assumption that she should do the  same for others in her position. I was saying ‘thanks, this is great, sounds like you’ve done really well’. In reality, I didn’t have words for how proud she made me feel.


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