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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Wednesday Hodge Podge no.2

So it's been a few weeks but I thought I'd give this another go. It's fair to say I will never have enough tie to do it every week but hopefully now and again...

Wednesday hodge podge info here

1. The first week of August is National Simplify Your Life Week... what's one thing you could do this week to qualify as a participant?

Oh man there are so many things I could drop, but thing is I don't want to! I think if I'm honest I like being busy... Perhaps not going on blogger and social media so much would help to simplify my life!

2. It's also National Peach Month...peach pie, peach cobbler, or please pour me aBellini?  What's your peach pleasure?

Just plain old simple fresh and juicy peach, all by itself...

3. Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, "Do one thing every day that scares you." Agree or disagree...explain.

Agree!! You got to challenge yourself or life is boring. For me I like to challenge myself in terms of sharing my faith. Be that sharing the Gospel, asking God for a word of knowledge for strangers, going out Treasure Hunting, it's all pretty scary but such fun and so rewarding!

4. What's your favorite household chore?  Yes-you have to name one.

I tell you my least favourite and that is ironing, or changing the beds... ugh. If I had to choose I guess I do like having a good sort out, does that count? A really ruthless sort out. I try and do this every summer, clear the decks, take stuff to charity, do a car boot sale... now that is very therapeutic...

5. Fodors recently listed (what they've dubbed) the ten most beautiful sunset spots in America. Click here to read more and see the pretty pictures, but this is their list:

Butterfly Beach in Santa Monica CA, Mount Haleakala in Maui HI, Old Fort Marcy Park in Santa Fe NM, Laguna Beach CA, Hopi Point in Grand Canyon AZ, Four Seasons in Miami FL, Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica CA, Gay Head in Martha's Vineyard MA, Ensign Peak in Salt Lake City UT, and Mallory Square in Key West Florida.

Have you seen the sun set from any of these spots?  If you could choose to watch the sun set this weekend from one spot on the Fodors List, which would you choose?  Where was the prettiest sunset you've ever seen?

Never been to the States but living near the South Downs in South East Engand my fave sunsets are usually there...

6. What's your favorite or most used app?  If you don't use apps how about your favorite or most visited website?

twitter or instagram...

7. We've recently passed the halfway mark for 2013...write a seven word sentence that sums up your year thus far. 

The most unexpected crazy changeable upsidedown time...

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Random thoughts of this week have been mostly around whether our society still needs a Mary Whitehouse character... (for non-UK nationals she was a feisty old lady who campaigned for higher standards in media such as less sex and swearing on TV). I don't think I am a prude but I really am staggered sometimes by what is allowed on our TV's and radios in the middle of the day...

Monday, 5 August 2013

The power of prayer...

'Suitcases' photo (c) 2011, Michael Coghlan - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

However we really have outgrown the little cottage and on top of that our teenage daughter has found it a bit dull so the last 3 years we've said we should do something else, and then  booked it anyway. So this year we said right, that's it, and aside from that the teenager had point blank refused to go again. So being that the last 10 years our summer holiday has cost us next to nothing, we had not a clue about how much real holidays cost and so we soon discovered our best option was to wait until July and bag a last minute bargain. As anyone who has ever tried to do this will know, you have to be flexible. We on the other hand have a family of 5, specific dates, needed a pool and a tiny budget. Flexible we were not. By last week we had tried every single last minute holiday website, resorted to finding a gite or something and similar and then tried every single cottage/gite website. We rang, we emailed, we went into the travel agents - some of whom laughed us out of the shop for being so foolish trying to find a holiday for 5, on a tiny budget with 2 weeks to go... it was not looking good...

So we prayed. and when I say we prayed, we really prayed. Every website we looked at we asked for God's guidance. We worshipped and prayed. We asked God to show us which travel agents to go to. We asked for a miracle. Nothing. Really, nothing. But weirdly we both had a sense of peace about it all and we both had total faith that God had something in store for us. So a week ago we sat down again and prayed. We just gave the whole thing over to God, we had nowhere else to look, we decided that if nothing came up we would use the budget and go on some fantastic days out in this country. So we said to God, that if he really did have something in store for us, as we believed, we needed to know by Saturday - 6 days until we would be due to travel. 

Saturday approached and nothing came up, but we still had faith. I even went out and bought a bikini in faith! Saturday morning  went out for a run and I just said right God, I believe in you, I believe you have something for us but I do not wish to spend yet another evening trawling the internet for a last minute cancellation. If you are going to give us something I want to know by 8pm tonight and if not then at least we can relax and have a nice evening and plan some fun stuff in the UK.

So we had given God this:

we need a cottage/villa or gite
with 3 bedrooms - stipulated by the teenager she had to have her own room
either within driving distance of home, (in which case we need a space on eurotunnel too)

or flyable within our budget (of which so far there was nothing even approaching...)
there had to be a pool and some other kids activities, like games room/play area etc
we had to go on specific dates
We need to know by saturday, 8pm
with a week's notice!

So as you can see we may have been a teensy bit demanding...

Saturday afternoon I sat down to the computer for one last time. It was futile but I thought, I have to play my part in this, if God is going to show us something, I have to open my eyes. So for an hour I trawled through the same websites I had looked at many times already. I found 3 properties that said they were available (although so far in our search this had meant the owner just hadn't updated their availability). First one came back booked. Second one it turns out I had already emailed but hadn't realised (there were a lot of emails...) booked also. Then the third one, was.... available!!

Not only that but it was withing driving distance, it has a pool, it has table tennis, a kids area, a bar (bonus!), and as there had been a cancellation it was reduced in price too.
Very quickly we checked Eurotunnel and yes, there was a place at exactly the right time...
so we booked it all at lightening quick speed. My husband said, oh look at that it's just £2.50 under our budget (ha!) and I looked at the clock and it was 2 minutes to 8pm...
Woohoo!! Thank You Jesus :) What an amazing answer to prayer.  So we're just wondering now if God has a specific reason for us going there. Maybe it will turn out to be a mission trip all of it's own...

And if you think it's all just coincidence I challenge you to find a holiday abroad for 5, with a week's notice for under £1000...

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Mary Whitehouse, we miss you!

So yesterday I wrote about the online threats being thrown at feminists via Twitter and I said I was going to write today about porn, because yesterdays abuse, aimed at Vicky Beeching seemed to start after she wrote in support of the Lose the Lads Mag campaign.

This is what they say about their campaign:
We’re calling on high-street shops to lose the lads’ mags – or risk possible legal action. Lads’ mags promote sexist attitudes and behaviours. They normalise the idea that it’s acceptable to treat women like sex objects. Yet despite widespread criticism over the years, high-street supermarkets and newsagents have continued to display and sell these degrading and harmful publications. But customers and shop employees don’t have to put up with it any longer.UK Feminista and Object have obtained brand new legal advice showing that displaying and selling lads’ mags and papers with Page 3-style front cover images can constitute sexual harassment or sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Employees could take legal action against shops on this basis. Where the magazine is visibly on display, customers could also have a claim. The writing’s on the wall for retailers: by selling lads mags they are open to legal action. But these companies will only act to avoid this if they think enough people know about it.

The abuse levelled at Vicky Beeching was personal, over the top, unnecessary and included plenty of foul language. I wrote yesterday about why people would tweet such abusive and offensive stuff without a second thought so I won't repeat that, but it has also made me think about porn, what it is and why we are so worried about it.

Looking at the naked human form is not a new thing. For centuries artists have depicted naked men and women in creative form. Classical Greece and Rome were slightly obsessed with it, famous artists have sought out the best models, they've had muses to encourage them in their work, but then it was mostly just art. So, what has changed?

Well you could say that then it was 'just art' and people saw it as such, but then I'm not so sure that it was. Classical Rome particularly was known for it's debauchery, with some temple Gods being worshipped by spending time with prostitutes, so perhaps their slight obsession with depicting the naked human form was born out of their sexual desires? Rather hilariously I learned when studying art history that Victorians were so offended by the numerous classical nude statues appearing in British Museums and Galleries  that penises were broken off and that the British Museum has boxes full of them. Whether this is true or an urban myth I chose to ignore! But Victorians did take a rather more prudish view of life it's true, which historians seem to think is a reaction to the previous Georgian era, yet many believe it was during the Victorian era that pornography as we now think of it was first introduced.

Manets 'Olympia'
But then you also have during that era the scandal caused by Manet's depiction of Olympia when it was shown in 1865. Largely this was not because it was of a naked woman but because she was thought to be a prostitute. If you want to know more about this scandal a good post is here. 

Thing is, for centuries the availability of such artwork, erotica and even porn was only accessible to the artists themselves, the rich and the influential. Widespread printing was the first invention that enabled this to go further. When I was at uni I did a study on the history of pornography and it was interesting to note that Victorian printed black and white line drawings, done then purely for titilation were seen by some as scandalous. Goodness knows what they would think of todays versions... and that is the difference between art and porn, that porn is purely to entice people, to turn people on, to titilate. Art usually has a purpose or a meaning in it's depiction (not that that makes it alright, it often doesn't).

So now, not only do we have widespread printing, we have the internet, accessible to all, kids too, with some of the hardest most explicit porn available to see at the click of a button. Porn is accessible to just about everyone and you don't even have to buy it. I am not going to even start on the issue of what it does to women's esteem, the sex trafficking industry, lap dancing clubs, sex shops and so on. 

Editor of lads mag, Loaded, for years, Martin Daubney, recently wrote this article for the Daily Mail, discussing some of the seedier parts of his job, including nipple counts, and readers wanting 'acres of flesh'. It's a good read especially for anyone who doubts the concerns of those fighting against such magazines. (Although I've got to admit it's pretty hypocritical of the Daily Mail who are continually printing pictures of celebs in bikins on holiday and then proceeding to knock the extra inches or the few pounds they have put on...)

What I am particulalry concerned about as a woman and as a parent is that this stuff is freely available and viewable by my kids. Any newsagent, store or supermarket stocks newspapers featuring page 3 (often with a pic on the cover) and lads mags with semi naked women on the cover, for all to see. I don't want my kids, when they are picking out their Moshi Monsters Mags, to see that. I teach them the value of women, that women have gifts men don't, that we are all different but all loved the same. It's not like there are loads of mags with half naked men lined up next to them - because largely women are not into this. Men are turned on by seeing stuff, women by touch. So to see women depicted in this way, as objects to lust over, is not a healthy image to portray to anyone, let alone kids.

Gosh sometimes I think I sound like Mary Whitehouse but really I think someone needs to take her place. Whatever happened to the watershed? It astounds me the stuff that is allowed on the radio during the day, the dancers on mainstream TV at 7pm in the evening. I took my kids to see a live show of a well known TV show, a family show, that began at 6.30pm in the evening and yet there was so much sexual innuendo going on. Not long ago I had one of my kids friends in the car who sang along, word for word to 'Sex on fire' by Kings of Leon when it came on the radio. That was a defining moment for me. An 8 year old sat in my car singing 'your sex is on fire'.... and yes I did turn the radio off! Mary W, rise from the grave and come back and take your place, we need you!

Where have our ideals gone? where have our morals gone? When did we stop fighting for what is right? Seriously do we think it is ok for our kids to see half naked women paraded across supermarket shelves? do we think it's ok that some mainstream newspapers have a daily picture of a naked woman (I'm in danger of saying 'not in my day...'). This is not just behind closed doors, anyone can see that. When did we stop teaching our sons to be gentlemen, when did we stop teaching our daughters about purity? I want my kids to grow up and find partners who will love them and respect them for who they are, to adore them wholeheartedly, to comfort them from the harsh realities of life, to fight for them in times of need, to honour them with their bodies. I do not want them to grow up believing it's ok to show everything off to the world, that they need to look completely airbrushed perfect, to struggle with their self esteem because they don't have the perfect flat stomach or abs like Peter Andre...

Oh gosh this post could go on and on.... I may have to write more but for now rant over! By the way you can sign up to campaigns to end lads mags here, to end page 3 here or follow on twitter: @nomorepage3

Friday, 2 August 2013

Twitter trolls and being the difference...

So twitter (and the wider world) has been awash this week with the abuse that feminists are getting online for standing up for women's rights. It's gone so far that people have tweeted rape and death threats as well as filthy abusive messages to the women concerned. One man was arrested for his threats and I wouldn't be surprised if there are further arrests yet to come. It's been interesting to watch it all play out (if interesting is the right word). Some take the view that Twitter should add a button to report abusive tweets, some think it's the police's responsibility to monitor it, some have retweeted abusive messages in an effort to highlight the abuse and bring those sending the messages into the public sphere.

Personally I'm not sure what the best response is. But I don't need to see retweets using the C-word or F-word on my twitter feed, I follow people because I like what they stand for, and in a way I think retweeting offensive stuff plays into the hands of the offender.  And neither do I think a report abuse button will work. If people can tweet such awfulness so readily I imagine the button itself would be used too readily, becoming overused, therefore negating the seriousness of why it is there in the first place.

I've just been sitting with my husband and discussing all this over dinner. He seems to think that this is largely about bravado, lads trying to get one up on their mates - you know, who can post the most offensive tweet, who can get the biggest reaction, a bit like the naughty kids at school seeing who can rile the teacher into shouting (or worse). And just like kids at school, it's funny and a laugh, until the outside world finds out. The child gets sent to the head and their parents told of their behaviour and suddenly punishment looms and the child becomes remorseful. Which, interestingly, is pretty much what happened to one chap this week who made the mistake of tweeting something foul to Cambridge Professor Mary Beard, and then a fellow tweeter offered to send the tweet to the offenders mother. He immediately apologised!

However I am not sure it's really as simple as that. There is, I'm sure, a certain kind of person who takes great delight in winding people up and making offensive comments to get a rise, but at what point does it go beyond that? My husband suggested that none of these people would be stupid enough to tweet a threat and then go ahead and carry it out, they'd be signing their own arrest warrant. Thing is though, I imagine that those who would carry out a rape or worse are just as capable of reading the tweets, seeing an address made public and then carrying the original threat out.

I think the easiest and least intelligent way of hurting a woman is through physical violence (sweeping generalisations will follow...). Most men are physically stronger than most women. Attacking a woman violently is a cowardly crime, it's easy. Most women, I suggest, are emotionally and mentally stronger than most men. Therefore crimes that attack a womans ability to stand strong, emotional abuse for example, attacking her walls at the strongest point, takes guile and persistence. And please hear me, I am not belittling rape or other physical crimes here, but I think that those crimes that attack a woman's ability to be strong, can have just as much affect on her life. Imagine a single woman living alone being threatened regularly with physical assault and rape, even though the crime may not actually be committed she may live in continual fear of the attack happening, even when in her own home, a place we should all be able to feel completely safe (and sadly so many don't and can't).

I do wonder how many of those making insults online recognise the affect of their behaviour. Do they just see it as playground fun and larking round with their mates or do they know how much harm they can do?

The thing about the internet, wonderful invention that it is, is that for many it seems a separate world to their own lives. What happens online stays online. Except that it isn't and it doesn't. As we saw this week, in the case of the man arrested for threatening Caroline Criado Perez, or the man who was threatened with his mother seeing the offensive tweet he sent Mary Beard. Are people really so naive as to think that these two worlds are not connected? Last year a boy was arrested after tweeting Olympian Tom Daly an offensive tweet about his Father who had died the year before. There have been cases of people arrested on suspected terrorism charges due to Facebook posts or Tweets. Either people really are stupid enough to think they can remain anonymous in a digital age, especially when their name and photo are linked to their accounts... or people don't care. Or perhaps it's a combination of both.

And I think that's what concerns me more, that people don't seem to care. I wonder if they would actually say those words to their victims face if they encountered them? Posting something online is a cowardly way of being offensive, you don't have to even leave the comfort of your bedroom, you can be a vicious thug, a bully, a potential rapist, just sitting in the pub tapping away on your mobile. Who in their right mind would say these things in public, or in front of their family or friends? Because in reality they are doing just that, but somehow it is not so bad when it's online. Except it is. Ask Caroline Criado Perez or Vicky Beeching and I'm sure they feel as bad as if someone stood right in front of them and hurled abuse at them.

As I said I'm not sure I advocate retweeting, that almost seems the same as shouting back at someone. I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that as a Christian I need to be careful as to how I react in difficult situations. Just this week someone was very rude to me, completely unreasonable and bullying, and I think most people would say I would have been more than justified in responding angrily. But I know that I am called to be different. I am called to show God's love. I am called to be the light. And just as I think people should tweet or FB just as they would in 'real life',  I need to show God's love in all situations, I need to react in a Godly way, in a way that is different to this world.

I really don't know what is the right response to online trolls. Report them? Answer back? Ignore them? Name & shame? I don't know, but as Christians let us show a different way.

I am going to post more on this tomorrow as the stuff that has happened today has really made me think about what porn is and how we react to it...

Do read this by Vicky Beeching on the trolling. And for the record I think she's a legend so go read it and you can follow her on twitter @vickybeeching  

edit 2: 5/8/13. A couple of interesting blog posts related to the subject:
Pam's Perambulations
Tanya Marlow