Posts Tagged 'sterotypes'

A Woman’s Work

As women we feel obligated to achieve the 1950s stereotype of perfect womanhood; immaculate dress, neat hair; cooking, cleaning, doing absolutely everything, and with a smile.  Women in the past had to be a monolith of effortless domestic strength and aptitude, but modern women shouldn’t feel inadequate by comparison, and should remember that most of those 1950s women didn’t have outside jobs. Their sole employment was to run their home and family, meaning that they had the time and energy to do it well.   

I am constantly amazed by the amount of vigour my 76 year-old grandmother still finds to spend every day ironing socks, and tea towels, and underpants, when I don’t even iron proper clothes.  As modern women, we have full-time jobs with very long hours, and the exhaustion of commuting, and far greater responsibilities and demands on our emotional and physical resources than in the past.  It should be considered an achievement if we have the energy to come home from work and cook something that isn’t a ready-meal, let alone do it in heels. 

My view of the domestic stereotype recently changed, and I realised that perhaps the past wasn’t as imbalanced as we think.  My Grandmother was telling me that my Grandad would never be expected to cook a meal, or pick up a hoover, or change a nappy, because those were women’s jobs.  However, as a woman, she would never be expected to take the bins out, or mow the lawn, or clean the gutters, or kill a spider.  Men’s jobs. The partnership was more equal than we think, it was just that men and women had more clearly defined roles, with each doing what was expected of them, and keeping up their end of the partnership bargain to take care of the other, both part of the household clockwork.

Whilst there were indeed immense pressures placed on women to create a picture-perfect, and spotlessly clean home, and perfectly turned-out family, there were also equally great pressures on men when it came to meeting masculine roles and expectations, and being the sole provider for the family.  This meant that women of the past weren’t challenged by many of the burdens that modern women face.  The man earned the money, and paid the bills, and mowed the lawn, and looked after the car, and the woman looked after the home and family.

Modern women, now that we stay single/unmarried for longer, and tend to live by ourselves for longer, are burdened with both feminine and masculine responsibilities, and we have to do it all by ourselves.  Even when we are in a partnership, the divide of responsibilities is more equally shared, and modern women are expected to change the tyres, and earn the money, as well as have a perfectly cooked meal on the table, and bath the children, and wear the heels and lipstick that make us attractive.  We have to kill the spiders.

Is it any wonder that in 2019 women come home from work, and collapse on the sofa; wearing pyjamas, and eating pizza, rather than cooking a casserole in 5 inch heels, and taffeta?  There just isn’t enough energy in one body to be both man and woman, and do everything all the time.  As modern human beings, we’re just trying to get through the day.  If we don’t get assaulted on the train home, that’s a victory, forget Victoria Sponge and Mac Ruby Woo on a Wednesday night.  We’re doing our best.  This goes for men, as well.  Men are coming home from a long day’s work and dealing with bathtime, and bedtime stories, and sharing the cooking, instead of reading the newspaper in an armchair by the fire until dinner is on the table.  The 21st Century has been hard on both sexes, and demanded more of all of us.  Women know where the stopcock is, and men know who Mary Berry is.

The double-edged sword of equality, and feminism is that we have greater respect, higher wages, more freedom, more understanding, and a platform to speak that we didn’t have before, but we also have more responsibilities.  We have to open our own doors.  Fighting to be equal doesn’t just mean that your boss can’t call you sweetheart, it means that you unclog the drains instead of waiting for your husband.  Perhaps we didn’t think this through?

As much as I am grateful for being an enlightened, modern woman; single, and earning my own money, not answerable to anybody, able to make my own decisions, I do sometimes wonder whether they had the right idea back then.  Perhaps it would be quite nice to stay at home all day, putting lipstick on, and stirring a casserole, and then telling my husband when he comes home from work that the bins need seeing to, and the car needs filling up with petrol.  Oh, and there’s a wasp’s nest in the garage with your name on it, I’m off to read Harry Potter to the children.

Of-course, equality is a wonderful, and very hard-won thing.  You only have to look at countries who haven’t quite achieved it yet to appreciate how fortunate we are to be ‘woke’ in the UK.  Women are completely free to be badasses in the home, and in the workplace.  We can be boss, and mum, and still make a trifle with one hand, while paying the electricity bill online, and breastfeeding a child.  Women have infinite resources, and therefore infinite value.  It is simplistic to think that those women of years gone by were wasted, and unchallenged.  Running a home, and looking after a family so totally, and devotedly, takes enormous energy, strength, and mental acuity.  The housekeeping standards that were held are something we can only aspire to, and learn from.  I wish I had the time and energy to iron my socks, and hoover right into the corners, but I just don’t… but those women did. 

However, we must think of all the women over the years who would have been lawyers, and doctors, and engineers, and pilots, and members of parliament.  Many women missed their chance to change the world because they were only allowed to give birth, and change nappies, and make drinks for their husband’s colleagues.  All that wasted talent, and potential.  That is the true importance of equality; what could have been, and what might be.      

We would be living in a very different world if those women had been given the chance to do something else, something more.  Laws would be different, economies would be different.  I often think that our history as mankind until very recently has been governed by men, and those men made decisions in a very different way to women, based on violence.  History was decided with wars, and bombs, and guns, and tanks, and murder, and fighting, and terror, and executions.  Violence and death have dominated our progress as human beings.  Women would have done things very differently.  Women would not commit mass genocide.  Women would not invent mustard gas for the trenches.  Women would not build Auschwitz.  Women would not make men fight lions in arenas for entertainment.  Women would not nail Jesus to a cross, and watch him bleed.  I believe this is because women create life, and feel it growing inside them.  They feed life at their breast.  They also know how precarious and vulnerable life is.  They feel it disappear.  They see it slip away, carried from their sight in a dirty bundle.  Women know the true value of life, and so would not be so careless with it.  When you have waited for life every month, and every month felt the crushing blow of its absence with the stark reminder of blood, you would not invent the Kalashnikov/AK-47.  When you have loved a tiny life for nine months, and felt its every movement deep within your body, and planned every moment of its future, and then watched it being pulled away from you; cold and lifeless, you would not invent the electric chair to punish murderers.  You would not walk into a music arena in Manchester and explode nails at children dancing to their favourite song.  The world would be very different if it were governed by the people who understand how incredibly valuable a life is. 

How different the world would be if every nation were governed, and protected by a mother, who would nurture every life at her breast, and feel every loss as her own.

This Woman’s Work, Kate Bush.

Pray God you can cope
I stand outside this woman’s work
This woman’s world
Ooh, it’s hard on the man
Now his part is over
Now starts the craft of the father

I know you’ve got a little life in you yet
I know you’ve got a lot of strength left
I know you’ve got a little life in you yet
I know you’ve got a lot of strength left

I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking

Of all the things I should’ve said
That I never said
All the things we should’ve done
Though we never did
All the things I should’ve given
But I didn’t
Oh, darling, make it go
Make it go away

Give me these moments back
Give them back to me
Give me that little kiss
Give me your hand

I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking

Of all the things we should’ve said
That we never said
All the things we should’ve done
Though we never did
All the things that you needed from me
All the things that you wanted for me
All the things that I should’ve given
But I didn’t
Oh, darling, make it go away
Just make it go away now

The Anachronistic-Office-Drone

It’s not often that I feel out-of-place in life, but I did tonight. My Friday Night commute was disrupted when my usual train was cancelled (“Shortage of Train Crew”), and I had to get the posh London-Virgin Train home from Liverpool to Runcorn. This is a 10 minute journey (and train) that has been part of my life for Saturday shopping trips, and evenings at the Theatre since I was 11, and is now my journey to work every morning, and home every evening. Tonight, with the combination of it being Friday Night, and the previous train being cancelled, the train was absolutely packed full, but I did get a seat. It was mainly full of trendy hipsters travelling back to London; with their cutting-edge clothes, and bottles of water, working at laptops, and talking on the phone with their alien southern accents. To be frank, they were cool, and they wore patterned trousers. I suddenly became very aware of myself, and my Office-Drone Uniform.

I’ve been an Office Drone since I was 17 years-old, and for all of those 16 years I’ve been a firm subscriber to the Office Drone Uniform. Interchangeable for men and women, the Uniform consists strictly of: mac / tench coat, pencil dress / skirt and blouse / suit, and a very particular type of sensible handbag. Either heels, or ballet flats / loafers, depending on (a) how far you have to walk, and (b) how strong your insteps are. The Office Drone can also be identified by their extremely well-developed calf muscles. I am comfortable with being part of this breed.

Over years of working in Manchester, Chester, and Liverpool, I have grown to love the daily routine of bumping shoulders with the same people every morning, and every evening, although never acknowledging them, and then walking as part of a mass through the City Centre in the morning. The early morning in the City belongs to the Suits, before the normal people are awake, and take over the City with their shopping, and everyday lives, the Suits walk through the quiet, clean streets, when everywhere smells of coffee, and fresh bread, and bacon, and newspaper. They stop at Starbucks, or wherever they get their morning coffee, and croissant. They carry umbrellas, and newspapers, and blue paper bags from Cafe Nero. They walk the same route, same streets, same corners, same shortcuts every morning, and they arrive at the same Office to start their day. They repeat the routine at lunchtime, and in the evening. I am very happy being one of these people, and part of the morning drudge, carrying my coffee, stepping over the same puddles. I love that we are all dressed the same, and can identify each other. It has always made me feel like a character from a John le Carre Novel. I feel like George Smiley every morning, and I love it.

Roald Dahl wrote a number of short stories about commuters, and how we stand in the same spot on the platform every day, and get into the same carriage, and sit usually around the same few seats. He wrote about how we never speak to each other, but notice instantly if somebody is missing one morning. He understood everything I love about commuting, and what makes our working lives and daily drudgery a little more meaningful.

But, on the train tonight, the other thing that I felt was provincial. I became acutely aware of something that has always been at the back of mind; that London is another Country, separate to the rest of us. These hipsters with their patterned trousers were totally different from the hipsters in Manchester. It’s hard to define, but it’s something about the way they speak, and the way their hair falls; they’re sharper, harder, more aware of the world, but a different world. It reminded me how narrow, and un-urban my life is, and how anybody who lives outside London is comparably an uncultured hillbilly. We’re basically the Waltons.

All of this lead me to think that perhaps this breed is being left behind by the modern world. As the new generation takes over, with their beards, and grime, and social media, all of the old stereotypes of old-school English castes are being fazed out, and slowly disappearing with the last generation, which makes me very sad. Two generations ago, there were very distinct social pidgeon-holes, and people fitted very neatly into one of a few moulds, but they are being overtaken by new and trendy social identities. It makes me very happy that I am a living part of one of the last castes to die out, and I hope we can keep our Le Carre trench coats, and umbrellas firmly in place, and let our meek flags fly. See you at Starbucks in the morning, I’ll be the one behind The Times.

The Wrong Blonde Joke

The Wrong Blonde Joke

Vikki Littlemore

 

‘A blonde cop stops a blonde motorist and asks for her driving license.  The Motorist scuffles around in her purse and can’t find it. She says to the cop, “I must have left it at home officer.”  The cop says, “Well, do you have any kind of identification?” The motorist scuffles around in her purse again, and finds a pocket mirror.  She looks at it and says to the cop, “All I have is this picture of myself.” The cop says, “Let me see it, then.” So the blonde motorist gives the mirror to the blonde cop, who looks at it, and replies, “Well, if I had known you were a police officer, I wouldn’t have even pulled you over. You can go now.”’.

For every joke that exists about an Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman; there is one about a blonde woman.  A simple internet search reveals a wealth of material aimed at blondes and one website advertises itself as; ‘One of the largest collections of dumb blonde jokes on the internet! The Queen Mother of all blonde jokes sites’.  The image of the ‘dumb blonde’ is as familiar as the dim-witted paddy but does however transcend the boundaries of humour and harmless one-liners when it becomes a vitriolic prejudice in everyday life. 

I encountered my first taste of this preconceived axiom when I was fifteen.  The class was debating media and marketing in relation to blondes and brunettes and one particular girl; the self-righteous, self-regarding mouth of the class, stood up and declared very clearly that blonde women can be identified by the fact that they ‘put make-up on with a trowel’.  I wish now, all these years later, that I had stood up to illustrate that I (being blonde) was wearing not a stitch of make-up and she (brunette) was wearing considerably more.  Sadly I didn’t but it has grieved me ever since.  I find it incredible that this unembarrassed ignorance and chauvinism towards blonde women is completely acceptable and familiar when every other form of bigotry (such as homophobia, racism and sexism) is now firmly unacceptable.  Why are women with blonde hair expected to accept vehement abuse and ridicule when people of varying ethnicities and sexualities no longer have to?  There are laws and regulations in force in the work place to prevent against almost every form of prejudice and discrimination and yet having blonde hair still apparently makes a woman fair game.

I was astounded while watching a recent episode of Come Dine with Me when the narrator; commenting on a female contestant who was behaving in a slightly giddy and ditsy way, jibed; ‘Are you sure you’re not blonde?’.  I was dumfounded.  If the contestant had been behaving differently, would the narrator have been allowed to ask; ‘Are you sure you’re not black?’ or ‘Are you sure you’re not disabled?’.  Those forms of racism and bigotry are completely unacceptable and contemptible and would be met with shock and outrage, so why is the question; ‘Are you sure you’re not blonde’ met with chuckles and light-hearted joviality?  The programme, aired on Chanel 4 on weekday afternoons, is sadly only a representation of a common and expected attitude the world over.   

On the social networking site Facebook, members can participate in quizzes with names like ‘Are You Blonde?’ and the nauseating and repulsive taglines; ‘See how stupid you are’ and ‘Find out if your blonde or normal’.  As I try to comprehend how a distinction between ‘blonde’ and ‘normal’ can be made and the fact that they are even offered as two opposites, I’m sickened by the acerbic and malicious odium behind apparently flippant and innocuous sentiments.  The caustic negativity towards blonde women is masked by humor and playful banter but statements like the above examples contain rancorous and barbed derision and seem to passive-aggressively attack the subject rather than mock.      

As a naturally blonde woman I find that I’m defending myself on a daily basis, having to assure people that I’m not an idiot and remonstrate my own common sense against their assumptions of my stupidity.  People either assume that anyone with blonde hair must unquestionably be a ‘bimbo’ or if not, feel that they have the right to make jokes to the same effect at your expense.  I agree completely that the many young, attractive women who dye their hair blonde and morph into tanned, plastically enhanced Barbie dolls to compensate for their lack of intellectualism, while not making them any less deserving of defence, does give women who just happen to be born with blonde hair a bad press.  I agree that there are many women who would fall completely within the bounds of the ‘bimbo’ stereotype, which is unfair but true.  There are many unintelligent blonde women, just as there are many unintelligent brunette women.  It doesn’t make them bad people, they just mould themselves into a particular typeset.  Unfortunately for the rest of us, all blonde women become tarred with the same brush, as it were.

The fact that I was born with blonde hair, a result of having two blonde parents, does not automatically make me a ‘bimbo by default, in the same way that an Asian man would defend his right not be assumed to be a terrorist, or a German defend their right not to be categorized as a Nazi.  Stereotypes exist but are not without exceptions.

The film Legally Blonde and its subsequent sequel are based entirely on the premise that it is incredible and remarkable that a blonde woman could successfully be accepted to study law at university and, shock of almighty shocks, graduate!  An entire film based on the belief that a blonde woman couldn’t possibly study law, how preposterous! I’d love to make a list of all the blonde female lawyers and partners in law firms I’ve worked for and send it to the people who made those films, but then they wouldn’t believe me, I’m blonde, and the film does after all have a very nice ending where the blonde girl lives happily ever after in spite of her blonde hair.

Caustic prejudice and ignorant mockery of any person based on a physical quality they have no control over should be as unacceptable and deplorable as derision based on skin colour, gender or anything else.  The vitriol between the lines of blonde jokes and the aggressive, bigoted attitude towards blonde women is abhorrent, offensive and hurtful and blonde women should be given the same protection and understanding as any other group subject to prejudice.  Blonde should be a status deserving of respect, just as any race or sexuality is.  No two blonde women are the same, just as no two homosexual people are, or any two black people.  Why do we allow other groups understanding but still condone and accept outrageous and unabashed degradation of blonde women? 

A quick internet search reveals the second entry to be a Wikipedia page with the title ‘Dumb Blonde’.  It is the initial reflex reaction; the caveat to the image of blonde hair.  I find it difficult to comprehend why this prejudice is still allowed to flourish and feel exhausted on behalf of every intelligent woman in the world who spends her entire life proving and insisting that she is ‘not a bimbo’.  Perhaps one day someone will see past the blonde hair and actually listen to what we’re saying.


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Sylvia Plath said; "Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences". My aim in life is to find things and people to love, so that I can write about them. Putting words together is the only thing I can see myself doing. This blog is an outlet, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Please feel free to comment on posts, or contact me by the special e-mail I've set up (vikki.littlemore@live.co.uk) with your thoughts.


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The New Remorse, Oscar Wilde.

The sin was mine; I did not understand.
So now is music prisoned in her cave,
Save where some ebbing desultory wave
Frets with its restless whirls this meagre strand.
And in the withered hollow of this land
Hath Summer dug herself so deep a grave,
That hardly can the leaden willow crave
One silver blossom from keen Winter's hand.

But who is this who cometh by the shore?
(Nay, love, look up and wonder!) Who is this
Who cometh in dyed garments from the South?
It is thy new-found Lord, and he shall kiss
The yet unravished roses of thy mouth,
And I shall weep and worship, as before.

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Music I Love (In no particular order, except that The Smiths are first)

The Smiths,
The Libertines,
The Courteeners,
Nina Simone,
Oasis,
Pete Doherty,
Gossip,
The Kills,
Amy Winehouse,
Arctic Monkeys,
Rod Stewart,
The Doors,
The Rolling Stones,
Etta James,
Babyshambles,
T. Rex,
The Jam,
Morrissey,
Guillemots,
The Kinks,
Jack White,
The Deadweather,
David Bowie,
The Winchesters,
The Cure,
Kaiser Chiefs,
The Kooks,
The Twang,
Kings Of Leon,
Pulp,
Blur,
The Housemartins,
The Ramones,
James,
Robots in Disguise,
The Klaxons,
Kate Nash,
The Raconteurs,
Regina Spektor,
Aretha Franklin,
Stereophonics,
The Contours,
Dirty Pretty Things,
The White Stripes,
New York Dolls,
Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
The Clash,
Style Council,
Velvet Underground,
The Horrors,
The Cribs,
Reverend and The Makers,
The Subways,
The Wombats,
Foals,
Elle S'appelle,
The Troggs,
The Beatles,
Echo and the Bunnymen,
Florence and the Machine.

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

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Will it ever be alright for Blighty to have a Queen Camilla?

One less tree from our window each day


Vikki's bookshelf: read

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
1984
Twilight
Of Mice and Men
Pride and Prejudice
The Hobbit
The Da Vinci Code
Lolita
Tipping the Velvet
Wuthering Heights
The Picture of Dorian Grey and Other Works by Oscar Wilde
Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde
The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman
Moab Is My Washpot
The Bell Jar
The Other Boleyn Girl
On the Road
Brideshead Revisited
Revolutionary Road



Vikki Littlemore's favorite books »

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