The final battle in the Wars of Best Parenting:

Slides.

Genuinely.

Slides.

Like this one:

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http://kinchinplaysystems.weebly.com/slides.html

I know this sounds utterly ridiculous. They are slides for children, but somehow they make the list of ‘The Great Parenting Battles’ (breastfeeding vs bottle feeding, working, disposable vs reusable nappies, Tom Hardy vs Chris Evans on CBeebies Bedtime Story*) on Mumsnet. There is the side who think any child who dares to try to climb up a slide is on a short road to juvenile delinquency, an ASBO, and a lifetime of petty crime. And, those who think that slides are meant for imaginative play. Not queuing in a line.

I genuinely had no idea that climbing slides was ‘bad’ behaviour in the UK until I joined Mumsnet. There are always threads by mothers complaining about other people’s children using slides in ways which are deemed ‘rude’. Obviously, there are differences between preschoolers on a slide and school age children. I’m just not convinced that 7 year olds need to queue to climb steps to use a slide. Or, that 10 year olds are incapable of being aware of their surroundings and sharing.

 

Helter 6I spent a good chunk of my childhood climbing up slides. There was a helter-skelter slide like this in my elementary school playground. There were also multiple areas with play park equipment that had slides (also, 2 basketball courts, a football field, a rocky hill for climbing in summer and sliding in winter, a nice chunk of rocky Canadian shield for fort building – there are benefits to primaries with 800 plus students and not living in a medieval city). We all climbed the helter-skelter and the slides on the larger play equipment.

UnknownWe made them into pirate ships and raided one another for treasure. They became Star Destroyers and secret rebel bases. We even played tag on them.

Neither of my girls were lucky enough to go to schools that had proper park equipment – and never will since Edinburgh council sold off all the old playing fields to housing developers. Our local parks aren’t fit for purpose – and they certainly don’t have equipment for school age children. I just find it mind boggling that a 7 year old wouldn’t be allowed to climb a slide or that multiple children can’t be expected to share a slide with some using the steps and some climbing up the slide.

Climbing slides isn’t dangerous (or anymore dangerous than climbing regular playground equipment) if children learn to share and are aware of those around them. Yes, a 3 year old might kick off about not being able to climb a slide but that doesn’t mean other children shouldn’t be allowed to climb. In my experience, most school aged children would notice and assist the 3 year old going up the stairs and wait until they slid down. If they don’t, a quick word from a parent nearby pointing out the small child would change things.

And, yes, there are some (but a small minority) of children who have 0 boundaries and no understanding of sharing due to poor parenting. In those cases, other children are usually quite capable of telling them where to go. If they aren’t, then a parent steps in. Kids are also perfectly capable of understanding that different parents have different rules and neither is ‘righter’ than the other; just different (see: mobile phones for 10 year olds). And, that different venues have different rules: you can climb a slide in a play park but not at a soft play.

Climbing slides doesn’t make a child an out of control brat. And, its unlikely to end in an episode of Casualty. Kids should be allowed to play imaginatively, pushing boundaries and learning new skills.

Slides aren’t churches. They don’t genuflecting and hard hats to use.

And, there is nothing greater than re-enacting the Battle of Hoth on play equipment in the middle of winter.

 

*Not currently a battle but a prophecy for May 10.

Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 09.16.07Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is part of Vintage Hogarth Shakespeare 400th anniversary series, which sees modern writers reinterpreting Shakespeare. Generally, I’m not a fan of Shakespeare finding the desperation to name him the greatest writer ever deeply tedious with an unpleasant under current of nationalism, racism, misogyny and classism. I only came across the series when I read Jeannette Winterson’s retelling of a Winter’s Tale (Gap of Time), which is excellent. I had never read Tyler, but had high hopes based on this description: 

Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.

Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.

When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?”

It was a complete let-down.

Vinegar Girl a competent book and rather funny in places, but it suffers from the boring sexism that even Shakespeare questioned occasionally. Having Kate pushed into a green card marriage so her father (an academic with tenure) can keep his foreign exchange student in the US is clever. Keeping the ending in line with the original is less so, particularly when we’re meant to feel that Kate’s father truly loves his girls – despite working 7 days a week in his lab and leaving Kate responsible for everything from making dinner, caring for her younger sister and doing his tax returns. He has no idea about the lives of his daughters but somehow Kate’s meant to give up even more of her life to placate her father’s desires and questionable research. He even has a sulky tantrum when his eldest daughter moves out to make her green card marriage more realistic for Immigration services. As fathers go, Kate’s is useless and selfish.

Pyort seems a decent guy, but marrying the only man she actually knows is dull. Growing up isolated with a mentally ill mother and father more concerned with his mice than his daughters (and who was utterly uninterested in their mother’s illness) isn’t healthy. But we’re meant to believe the marriage is a love match in the end because they have a child and Kate becomes a botanist. 🙄This is without the ending which is all about how bad men’s lives are – that speech wouldn’t go amiss at an MRA rally.

Frankly, 10 Things I hate about you was a far more successful adaptation – at least the daughters were more realistic and their father genuinely cared for them (despite being a tool).

I’ve never read Anne Tyler before and this book isn’t making me want to rush out to read more.

Reading through depression and anxiety

I have been very ill with depression and anxiety for the past 17 months. And on the bandwagon which is changing medication, unbearable side effects (gaining 2 stone when I have fibromyalgia which causes severe pain in my ankles and knees was quite unhelpful), and the limit of 6 group classes of CBT (with men), not to mention two incidents of triggered PTSD, has made me somewhat on the wrong side of struggling to work. In November, I decided to change tactics and stopped starring at my computer with fear (and writer’s block). Instead, I went for reading pretty much everything I possibly could whilst not worrying about work (getting PIP was a huge help here). I’m much better and on medication with less horrendous side effects (except dry mouth – my current resemblance to a cactus is also not the most helpful thing).

I’m not very good at the whole asking for help or for even mentioning how I am – my acting skills are far more in the area of pretending to be a manic pixy dream girl (or at least they are in my head) than being honest about my mental health. This article that I came across on FB is what I would say if I could.

So rather than break with tradition of hiding, I’ve made a list of the books that I’ve loved over the past 4 months (the rest are listed here):

 

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#womenwrites – on misogyny, racism, disablism and male violence

Theo and the distinctly sexual flavour of French racism by @KGuilaine  via @WritersofColour

This is not the way Milo Yiannopoulos should have gone down by Natasha Chart

The parallels between Scottish nationalism and racism are clear | Claire Heuchan

Pride, prejudice and pedantry by @wordspinster

Eurostar Tried To Charge This Woman An Extra ‘Luggage’ Fee For Her Wheelchair  via @Fi_Rutherford

‘It wasn’t a home, it was a prison’: Former residents from Tuam mother and baby home react (via @thejournal_ie)

Male Violence Is The Worst Problem In The World  by @caitlin_roper

How should we teach children about contested histories? by @farahelahi via @WritersofColour

How the political correctness debate is being manufactured  via @Slutocrat

‘Gestators,’ ‘hosts,’ and ‘pregnant people’: The bipartisan pact to erase women by RAQUEL ROSARIO SANCHEZ  via @FeministCurrent

On individualist lifestylism and woman-blaming: musings on recent attacks at Liberation is Life

 

Dr. Strange – a review

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Anyone who follows my twitter knows how much my kid loves comics and superhero films. We have watched them all (and she’s read many of them). We skipped this one at theatre due to the whole whitewashing of history and the comics in order to flog the film to a Chinese audience. This week we watched a version that will result in no financial compensation for anyone involved in the production of the film. Below is my thoughtful and considered review.

There is only one scene in the film worth watching, And, it is in the credits. About a completely different film.

Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and the labelling of sexualised violence as “erotic” (spoilers)

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 11.17.18Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest The Clothing of Books is both an essay on the art of book jackets and  love story of books from the perspective of a reader and a writer. It is beautiful and thought-provoking essay examining the way in which book jackets impact on how a book is understood and marketed. It is a short read at 70ish pages, but also one of my favourite books this year.

I read The Clothing of Books the same day I started Han King’s The Vegetarian, which won the Man Booker International Prize (2016). King’s book is also beautifully written. It also exemplifies Lahiri’s thesis on the complex relationship between writers and their books once the publishing company takes control. And, not in a positive way.

The front cover of my copy of Kang’s book includes both the emblem of the Man Booker Prize and a not quite inappropriate quote from Ian McEwan who calls it a “a novel of sexuality and madness”. Unfortunately, I suspect McEwan believes that the two apply to the same character. They don’t.

The blurb on the back is the following:

A darkly beautiful modern classic about rebellion, eroticism, and the female body. One of the most extraordinary books you will ever read.
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The Vegetarian is an extraordinary book, but it’s not “erotic” unless you view multiple accounts of rape as erotic. The book’s central character is Yeong-hye who, following a dream, becomes a vegan. Her husband, described as a “normal man” is abusive before Yeong-hye’s conversion. His abuse increases when Yeong-hye refuses to capitulate to his demands that she eat meat. He ignores her quite clear mental illness and anorexia and punishes Yeong-hye’s “defiance” by raping her on multiple occasions. Yeong-hye’s father also physically assaults her at a family meal for “shaming” her family. Yeong-hye’s husband abandons her after she is incarcerated in a mental institution; as do her parents. Later we learn that the father has a long history of emotional, physical and psychological abuse of Yeong-hye when she was a child.

The Vegetarian is an incredible, beautifully written book but it is not “erotic” since that which is being deemed “erotic” is rape. Yeong-hye, despite being schizophrenic and having anorexia, is read, by those who wrote the various blurbs on the book, as consenting to “allowing” her brother-in-law to paint flowers on her naked body and then “have sex” with her. The brother-in-law, who is already a lazy and incompetent husband and father, uses his position as a ‘trusted’ family member to target Yeong-hye. It is his sexuality and desire that is responsible for the destruction of his own family. His desire is not “taboo” as another comment on the books suggests. It is criminal. He chooses to sexually assault and rape Yeong-hye because he likes the idea of a birthmark on her bum.

In the end, the only person who stays with Yeong-hye is her sister, yet none of the comments on the book jacket mention sisterhood as a theme within. In-hye does everything that is demanded of a women: she is financially successful, the mother of a son, does all the caring and lifework so that her husband, “the artist”, has no responsibilities. She is the quintessential “good girl”. And, is punished, repeatedly, for being so.

In The Clothing of Books, Lahiri ponders if those designing her book jackets or writing the blurbs actually bother to read her books. Reading The Vegetarian, I too wondered whether or not those writing the blurbs had read the book. Or, if they simply failed to recognise the patterns of male violence and its impact on women. As with Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, which is described as “deeply romantic” on the book jacket, The Vegetarian,  demonstrates the unwillingness of readers and reviewers to define male violence as violence.

I gave The Vegetarian two stars on Good Reads. As I write this, I wonder if the number of stars is a reflection of the book itself or a visceral reaction to the book jacket’s definition of the book. There is certainly a huge disconnect between my reading of the text and the blurbs on the book jacket.

#womenwrites – on feminism, male violence, the Women’s March and abortion rights

How Michelle Obama expanded the definition of a first lady by Margo Jefferson

Hollywood must realise that Passengers flopped because of its creepy male protagonist BY Amy Jones

New Year’s femicide in Brazil reminds us what feminism is fighting for by Raquel Rosario Sanchez

Star Wars: Rogue One places Asian heroes at the core of its revolution  by @KellyKanayama

A man who didn’t talk to his wife would not be funny. He would be an abuser | Lola Okolosie

The Black Woman’s “Women’s March” Problem: It Ain’t Just White Folks by Ree Walker

Our cynicism will not build a movement. Collaboration will. by Alicia Garza

I’m so glad to spoil this film for you | Victoria Coren Mitchell

The unbearable whiteness of history by @JENDELLA  via @WritersofColour

You Not ‘Bout No Life: The Logical Fallacy of the Anti-Abortion Conservative & The Reason Trump and His Cronies Can Go Choke on a Communion Wafer  via @writermrsmith

#womenwrites

UK judges change court rules on child contact for violent fathers by Sandra Saville

Why do we still make girls wear skirts and dresses as school uniform? by Amanda Merger

Babette Cole, anarchic creator of Princess Smartypants, dies at 66 by Danuta Kean

First Class Racism by Jamelia

Lesbian Anxieties, Queer Erasures: The Problem with Terms Like ‘Subversive Femme’  via @LucyAllenFWR

Generation treat yo’ self: the problem with ‘self-care’ by Arwa Mahdawi

Response to ‘Transgender Kids:Who Knows Best‘  via @fairplaywomen

TRIGGER WARNING by @extreme_crochet http://buff.ly/2jFtCBH

The Importance of Recognizing the Murder of Women as a Hate Crime  by Zoe Holman via @broadly

Me and my accent(s) by Sara Salem

Liberal feminists ushered Ivanka Trump into the White House by by RAQUEL ROSARIO SANCHEZ  via @FeministCurrent

Favourite Books of 2016

unknownJeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time

Zen Cho’s The Terracotta Bride

Zadie Smith’s NW

Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being

 

 

Kamila Shamsie’s Salt and Saffronunknown-1

Julia Alvarez’ In the Time of the Butterflies 

Janet Fitch’s White Oleander

Kamila Shamsie’s  Burnt Shadow

Celeste Ng’s Everything I never told you

 

Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune

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Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music

Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words  

Elaine Brown’s A Taste of Power: A Black Women’s Story

Audre Lorde’s Zami: A new spelling of my name.

Lindsey Hilsum’s Sandstorm

Gloria Wekker’s White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race

Warsan Shire’s teaching my mother how to give birth

 

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I read both of these at the start of the year. And, again at the end. I have all Fisher’s books ( and Pez dispenser but not a copy of Abnormal Psychology).

Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Thinking 

Carrie Fisher’s Shockaholic

 

 

 

 

 

#womenwrites: on gender, identity politics and VAWG

All politics is “identity politics” by @MayaGoodfellow
via @WritersofColour

Charlotte Bronte did NOT repair her mourning shoes with her dead sister’s hair! by @KatharineEdgar

‘Impunity has consequences’: the women lost to Mexico’s drug war by Nina Lakhani in Jalapa

Princesses Are Terrifying. So Is Ivanka Trump via @ElleMagazine

Maybe We Do Need White History Month or Millennials Don’t Know Shit About Slavery or Picking Appropriate Essay Topics or Being a Black English Adjunct Sucks Sometimes– via @writermrsmith

I’m Tired by @RowenaMonde  via @RoomOfOurOwn

A brief history of ‘gender’  via @wordspinster

On Optimism and Despair by Zadie Smith

National Geographic’s ‘gender revolution’ cover fails women via @FeministCurrent