Great Leaders

This discussion was held in one of those bizarre ‘team building’ style training sessions that everybody has to go through these days. It related to the concept of leadership: examples of ‘great leaders’, characteristics that those leaders shared, and, from that, the traits necessary for a person to lead effectively.
So, with seven of us – three white men, two black men and two women of indeterminate origin (myself and one other) – pooling ideas, the following names came up.

Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, Martin Luther King, John Maxwell (one of the men’s personal idol, or so it seemed), Malcolm X, George Bush, Mahatma Ghandi and Hitler.

Only one woman came up before I demanded the inclusion of at least one more token female name, and that woman….

…was not Margaret Thatcher
…was not Indira Ghandi
…was not Mother Theresa

It was, in fact, Princess Diana.

And it got worse. Because on the list of traits that we felt great leaders shared were the usual things – honour, integrity, strong personal beliefs, inspiring trust, good communicators etc – but for her, the one woman in the entire list?


Oh, for fucks’ sake.
Really? Does it have to be this way? Me cutting you into very small slices and telling the Prince that you walked over a very sharp cattle grid in a very heavy hat?
(to misuse and probably misquote Blackadder)

I have some fairly major problems with this.

For one thing, she wasn’t a leader. Yes, she seemed to be a good, charitable person. The two are not related. And as far as I am aware, compassion has never been an essential trait of a leader. It would be nice if it were, but it would also be nice if we lived in Happyland where nobody was ever mean to each other. I don’t think it’ll happen, somehow.
And for another, I, as a young, well read, opinionated feminist, couldn’t think of more than two or three examples of great female leaders.

What is wrong with the world? I can’t seriously believe that there are no more than a handful of great female leaders. And if I accept that as fact, then I have to wonder why I don’t know of them.

So I come to the conclusion that I was never taught. And I never thought to ask, because through school, I came to accept that history was and is predominantly about the doings of men; that the role of women through the ages has been unseen, undocumented, unrewarded.

I would like to research this. It may have already been done, but fuck it, I’ll reinvent the wheel if I have to.
I’m going to be gallivanting around blogland asking for people’s opinions. And I’m advertising it here, of course.

Please, if anybody can think of any great female leaders – and I know I shouldn’t have to say this, but I mean real leaders, not just women who smile and wave – let me know. If I can, I’ll post up a big list.

I really, really want it to be a big list.

On a Different Note….

… I’ve been thinking about cheating.

Not the kind of cheating you’d describe as the result of being the (rather unscrupulous) Banker in a family game of Monopoly, with the chance to con your sister.

The kind of cheating you you’d describe as infidelity.

Anecdotal evidence has shown that, at least amongst my peer group, the women are much less likely to forgive than the men. In fact, we have already found three couples in which the guys have said that, in theory, they would take their girlfriends back, while said girlfriends have reacted with shock and horror, and also said that, were positions reversed, they would never take their boyfriends back.

I don’t know what this means. It’s just there.

Frankly, I find the guys’ stance on cheating strange, to say the least.

I’ve always thought that love, and relationships, are based on trust, especially in those relationships we have most choice over: our friends and partners. And perhaps I have a very blinkered view on what constitutes love.

I wouldn’t trust my grandmother further than the TV she sees men behind. I have some affection for her, as she is, after all, an elderly woman and my father’s mother, but I don’t think that I have any real love for her.
On the other hand, I have a deep love for both of my mother’s parents, which I feel stems from long, trusting and mutually respectful relationships.

I have moved away from many people, both friends and boyfriends, when I felt that I could no longer trust them. In some cases I could be civil, and in others I could not bear to be in their company, but in all of those failed relationships was the gut feeling that any further relationship with those people would be worthless and meaningless in the absence of the trust I once had.

And so, when people say that they would forgive their partners cheating on them, I am incredulous. Some things are unforgiveable, and many, many more are unforgettable.

I’ve heard the argument used that infidelity indicates a fundamental flaw in the relationship, and might be the saving of it, as it forces the couple to talk about what went wrong.

For me, that seems foolish. Because what kind of relationship is worth having, when you can’t talk about those kinds of flaws to begin with?

I am a talkative person, but to be honest, if somebody did that to me, I don’t know if I’d even have anything left to say to them, as I walked away and got them the hell out of my life.

Race and Gender in Music

In the Guardian today is a short interview of a woman called Remi Nicole, a new ‘singer-songwriter’. I’m sad to say I know nothing about her music, but damn, do I love her attitude! A couple of choice quotes….

– on her new single, Rock’n’roll: “it was written out of frustration at people… saying that because I’m black I’ve got to listen to black music. What they don’t realise is that everything stems from rock’n’roll.”

– on race: “I’d like to see a mixed race crowd at my gigs, but I don’t care who listens to my music. I’m not making music for races, I’m making music for myself and for anyone who can and wants to relate to it.”

– on gender: “There are 100,000 boy bands out there and no one has a problem with it but you get pure grief if you’re a girl.”

And, my personal favourite…..

– on being compared to Lily Allen: “The only similarity is that we both have ovaries and breasts.”

I loved that quote, which made me laugh out loud on a crowded train and, not surprisingly, earned me some baffled looks from fellow commuters.
But any woman who is confident, and sarcastic, and funny enough to say something like that to a national newspaper (especially when that woman comes from a “minority” ethnic group, often underrepresented or misrepresented in the media) gets my respect.

As I understand it, she is part of the Indie music scene – which, while not quite to my taste (dedicated Metal girl that I am!), I can tolerate better than most other genres – and for that reason she is something of an anomaly in the celebrity world.

The photograph says it all. She’s perched on a pavement, looking straight at the camera, not smiling, just being – and she’s fully clothed. She’s wearing the skinny jeans that mark her out as Indie, rather than the lack of clothes that every other genre seems to aspire to, she’s not wearing that come-fuck-me smile that would mark her as ‘just another sexy woman in the media’.

After so many women like Beyonce, blithely singing songs about “independent women” whilst strutting about in their underwear, or tiny frilly skirts, Remi Nicole sounds like a welcome change.

Now, let’s see what her music’s like…….!

An open question…

To the person from Melissa, Texas, who found my blog – and actually followed the link – after googling “banging women till it hurts”…….

What the fuck?!

Also, what were you doing on page 83 of that search? Surely you could have found more, er, relevant sites on, say, page one?

I’d actually really like an answer to this…..

A Conversation With My Brother

The other day, I was sitting with my brother (who is 6), helping him with a jigsaw puzzle.

It was a cartoon scene of about five little boys in various positions of playing football, all copied and pasted so that there must have been a good forty children in the picture altogether.

He was grumbling because the fact that there were only five different faces meant that the puzzle was a lot harder. So, not really thinking about it, just making conversation, I asked him what he’d change, to make them different.

“Well…. I could make some of their tops different colours….”
“Or their shoes….”
“Anything else?”
“I’d put some black boys in,” he said earnestly. “And some brown boys. And some tanned ones.”

I sat and stared. I had honestly not expected him to say that – he could have changed their socks, or their shorts, or their hair, or…. well, anyway, he still had some clothes to go, is my point.

Yeah…” I said, thoughtfully, “because your school’s not like this picture, is it?”
“No,” he replied casually, “there are girls as well.”

Hello, Creepy Guy!

Yep, the cold weather approaches, and evidently Creepy Guy and his Creepy associates are in need of a little warmth in their beds….

I am walking down the station platform at just after ten on a Saturday night. There is a man who, for some reason, makes me feel uncomfortable. It could be the way he has looked at me – as though, in this most urban of places, where nobody looks at anybody else, he has noticed me. So I carry on past him, towards the front of the platform. I stand closer to a couple who take no notice of me whatsoever, because they are probably safer.

And so the train pulls in. I look up from my book, board the train. Funnily enough (as though I hadn’t been predicting it), Creepy Guy takes it upon himself to get on behind me.
I have many bags, and these I spread out all over the seat next to me, as if to say, attempt to sit here and you die.

He sits opposite me. *sigh*.

Now, I have a book. The Queen’s Fool, actually, by Phillipa Gregory – it is rather good, and I would quite like to sit quietly and read. Just as I picked it up, however, Creepy Guy took it upon himself to strike up a conversation. To which my responses were:

“It’s late. This is not the time to be talking to strange women on the train.”
“This is not appropriate. Stop it.”
“I couldn’t care less what you think of my body.” (This last one was immensely satisfying to say, by the way; I hope to use it more often!)

So he stopped, and I continued to read, thinking that perhaps he had got it into his thick skull that his advances were not welcome. But, no – it got worse.

“But I am Bulgarian….”
“I don’t care. It is inappropriate for you to be talking to me. I am going to move. Do not follow me.”

And so I did. I gathered up all my bags, and books, and strode off down the carriage. As I did so, a young man who’d been blatantly eavesdropping, stood halfway up out of his seat, to ask me, very kindly, “is that guy bothering you?”
“Not anymore,” I said, “but thank you.”
And the young man, who was a nice, reasonable human being, said only “ok, if you’re sure” and sat back down, pausing only to glare at Creepy Guy.

I conclude three things from this.

  1. If somebody makes me feel uncomfortable, they are likely to turn out to be creepy
  2. Glaring and telling them off makes me feel a hell of a lot better than just sitting there meekly, hoping they will understand through telekenisis that I want them to fuck off
  3. Contrary to popular belief, there are also nice people left in the world, ready to give a helping hand (or glare) if you ask them.

In New Job Land

I’m currently administrating in the kitchens for a big office block in central London.

I wouldn’t mention this, were it not for the hysterical conversation I had today with some of the chefs….

Female Chef: Did you see that programme last night, the relationship help one, where this couple rated each other for sex? The woman gave her husband “2/10″….
[chuckles all round the table]
Female Chef: But at the end they asked them again and they both said “8”
Male Chef 1: Awww, man! Could she not have said “10”? Just for the ego boost, know what I’m sayin’?
[general agreement from other Male Chefs]
Male Chef 1: [earnestly] But you can’t put a Mercedes engine in a Ford, know what I mean?
Male Chef 2: If you’re crap, you’re crap. I last 20 seconds, know what I’m saying?
Male Chef 3: Well, you could keep going…. 20 seconds… and another 20 seconds…
Male Chef 1: Yeah, man, my girlfriend told me I was like superman, I was that quick….
Me: Given the underwear superman wears, I’m not sure that was a compliment
Male Chef 1: Yeah, well, it wasn’t till afterwards I realised what she meant by it.

Male Chef 2: … And this couple’s been together since they were like thirteen, fourteen…
Male Chef 1: Damn, I’d get bored, man!
Male Chef 2: Yeah… I mean variety is the spice of life, know what I’m saying? Banging the same pussy all the time, what’s the variety in that?
Me: [thoughtfully] You’ve got to pity the girl, too, if he’s got a really tiny cock….

[female chef almost chokes whilst laughing. Male chefs look slightly disturbed. My work here is done….!]

Business As Usual

Because I found that somebody had come to my blog by asking,

“What makes women grumpy before their periods?”

In the words of politicians everywhere, I’m glad you asked me that!

So we should all know by now (I’ve said it enough, anyway!) that when women bleed, it’s because they’re shedding the excess lining of their womb, that would have become home to a fertilised egg and eventually turned into the placenta, assuming that there was a fertilised egg to begin with, which there presumably wasn’t.

Anyway. One of the reasons women get grumpy before their period is because, to shed this lining (and some blood), their wombs have mini (or not so mini, depending) contractions. You know, like the ones that make women scream when they’re busy giving birth. Those ones.
Although I am assured on all sides that period pains are nowhere near as bad as trying to force a child’s head through a gap that may not normally accept more than, say, three fingers, they are still bad.
They hurt. Quite a lot. The nearest I could imagine describing it for somebody who doesn’t get periods is really, really bad wind. When you feel tight, and bloated, and your insides feel like they’re twisting round and squeezing each other for no good reason.
And pain makes you grumpy. Shocking, really, isn’t it?
I mean, I know women are meant to have higher pain thresholds than men, due to the fact they’re “meant” to have sproglets (which means that the phrase “take it like a man” is a bit foolish, really, but I’ll pass that by) but seriously, that doesn’t mean we don’t feel anything.

Other reasons women get grumpy before their periods:

  1. They know that their period is due, and are just a bit fucked off that once again they’ll have to deal with all the lugging around of “sanitary” stuff that feels like you’re wearing a nappy, or means that you’re forced into poking fingers (and other things) into yourself in public toilets – nice!
  2. The hormones that usually swirl around their bodies are doing so in different amounts, which is a little confusing for us, and can make us homicidal.
  3. They know that their period may mean curtailing their sex lives, or additional washing (potential staining) of sheets, which is irritating.
  4. It makes them so hungry that nothing they eat, no matter how much they eat, will stop that feeling. And being hungry for a minimum of five days straight, knowing that I can’t do anything about it, really, really pisses me off.
  5. Their cycle is a bit screwed up, and now they’ve got their period, again. And they weren’t meant to.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hey, I’m sure people will add to it if they really feel the need!

Volunteering Information

I don’t normally do personal things here. Not really. It doesn’t feel appropriate. But this is different.

You see, I never set out to post about race. In this, as in other issues, like the LGBTQ scene, I often don’t feel “other” enough. I am occaisionally attracted to girls, but not enough to feel that I could identify as anything other than straight. Certainly not enough to post with any confidence about LGBTQ issues, other than where I feel that what I think might be of interest to people who identify as being part of that community.

Because I am so often mistaken for a white English girl, it seems reasonable to assume that at those times I have the white privelege that comes with it. So, often, it feels hypocritical to be mentioning race at the same time as taking that privelege. But I am not white. And that privelege comes and goes.

So this is to remind myself – and others – that while I may sometimes look like a white English girl, that’s not who I am. This is who I am, and it is likely to be the nearest anybody online will ever get to knowing what I look like. The man is my grandfather, and I love him dearly. He is the reason I feel so strongly that I am not English – because I do love him dearly, and it would feel disrespectful to ignore his part of my heritage.

(This is, of course, a fairly old photo.)

The Tudors (Or, Look – Breasts!)

A strange subject for a post, you might think. It gets stranger. Enjoy!

The Tudors is the name of a new UK TV series, all about, well, the Tudors. Or, at least, Henry VIII, he of the 6 wives. Now, I happen to love that period of history, partly because it’s reasonably well documented, partly because I studied it in some depth, and partly because it’s full of sex and death.
This is something that (I hope) made Philippa Gregory lots of money; she found the great scandals and controversies of the time, and made them into novel form, choosing the explanation that involved the most sex and death. And so, for instance, the premise of The Virgin’s Lover is that Elizabeth I, our famous virgin queen, married to England (and not to be confused with Elizabeth II, the elderly woman who is at present our reigning monarch and is clearly not a virgin), was in fact having a rather heated affair with her advisor, Robert Dudley. It’s an entertaining thought.

Anyway, the BBC evidently latched on to this idea even more enthusiastically than I did, because what I saw of the first episode was, quite simply, sex and death.
There was no real form of introduction, no easing in of characters, but in the half an hour I watched, there was a sudden, violent and bloody death and two gratuitous sex scenes, each involving a large amount of breast.
Needless to say, they somehow managed penatrative sex whilst simultaneously retaining their underwear. Funnily enough I find this a lot stranger now than I used to as a child.

It was a strange position to be in – I was deeply irritated by the pointlessness of that much sex being aired, but at the same time, I was well aware that had I been even two years younger, I would have been watching avidly, trying to work out how the hell it worked, and where their legs were going.
Which is almost as bad as guys using porn “to see how it’s done”, because the whole thing was ridiculously unrealistic. Apart from the breasts, which were almost certainly real!

I was disappointed, to be honest. I felt that it could have been a lot better, and it annoyed me that it wasn’t.
Especially since that was my first attempt at watching TV on my own for years.
I mean that, actually. I can’t remember the last time I sat down to watch a program purely for myself.

So I think I’m going to conclude, once again, that all in all, I’d rather read a good book.
And Philippa Gregory is high on my list of authors.
(A surprise contender for the top list is Stef Penney, who wrote The Tenderness of Wolves. It seemed to be a “book group” book and I was all set to ignore it, but Mum had a copy, I got bored, and actually, it’s a really good read.)

And I’m also going to conclude that even when TV sounds like it might be half-decent, it’s probably shite.