What Exactly Are We Teaching Our Daughters? On Being Lectured About Feminism And Called A Thick Bitch Ditzy Girlie Stupid Twat Simultaneously

If I have girls, and I hope that I do, I’m going to try really hard not to give them a list of things they shouldn’t do because, genuinely, life is better without constraints, a lot of the time. But I’ll need them to know what feminism is, because no-one does now, or knowledge is selective and thin, and celebrities think it’s best to denounce the word like it shouldn’t exist and FB friends, mutual and actual ones, are always ready to educate. Be wary of that, though not wary in general. Sometimes, you have to trust your heart to the person holding it. Remember, even certificates can’t guarantee quality. And a profile picture doesn’t identify trolls, easily. So watch who you take lessons from, who’s giving them.

Firstly, importantly, I’ll tell these girls, my girls, not to call people thick bitches on Twitter, or online anywhere, because that shit spreads. And what does it say about you, that you have to resort to verbal slurs, instantaneously, extremely publicly, when rapport heads south? Secondly, to these insults, don’t label other women in attempts to degrade them, especially if you don’t know them, personally. This is important, because often women are undercut, passive aggressively, like it’s normality, so don’t remind them of the way they’re made to feel anyway by the media and members of the public. Using words like ditzy and girly and twat is just unnecessary, if you’re really trying to establish an academic point about femininity, feminism, the vote or women’s rights. Directing an insult in lieu of a conversation, unless it’s a joke one, destroys the scaffolds we’re building for our daughters so they won’t be oppressed by the moulds this world sets for them: of being ditzy, girly, stupid, twats. Labels are about as useful as Rotten Tomatoes percentage ratings: it’s a small slew of opinions.

Lastly, learn sarcasm. All too often, feminism’s so unpalatably serious, when it shouldn’t be. Sometimes a joke is the only way to make sense of something. Tread lightly online, I’ll tell my children, because you can’t completely tell tone on FB, and you might accidentally patronise somebody’s friend, assume you know most and, even if you do, say you’re the expert on what a feminist is, it’s impolite, surely, to laud this on somebody’s status, in a group conversation, and in no way upholds the feminism tenets of equality and solidarity. Don’t knock a person down if you can avoid it. Have a sense of humour about everything, even the most deplorable of things, because life will fuck you either way. And to laugh isn’t to make light, at all. Actually, it’s the only way, often, to give voice to the unpopular issues. To the subjects famous people offload like sandbags, because it’s bad business to say you care what a feminist is.

But daughters, above all, how many of you there are, be gracious. Learn what grace is. And don’t take shit. Know that there are smarter words than bitch.

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I Just Like When You’re My Facebook Friend

When you piss me off, I’ll draw your attention, because this is a thing that you said.

It’s not the only or worst or last or best or, even, stupidest, but you said it. Do you remember saying it?

You’re so intent on saving something, I don’t have an adequate analogy for it. I guess it’s a bit like when our friend Sammy got born again and this meant that heaven beckoned but, also, the hell weight of all his friends going there, was a breeze block in a hot tub, and he couldn’t not try to convert. What else would a person do?

So claw. Imagine there’s this solid thing you can save. That we’re not an altogether hypothetical un-green-lit disaster waiting to happen. Why do we even like the idea of that? What the fuck is wrong with us?

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Brinkmanship

You tell me it matters. I try to deflect any borderline-complimentary thing you might say, but last night on the phone you were firm, like a lesson outcome actualising itself before an observer, grading on a scale of 1 to 4. 4 is fail, you know?

You say that it matters, that it really, and hurts, and you hide stuff from others if it means I’ll stay but we both know I’m not the staying kind any more than you are and, if anything, that’s what will work, the unstickyness of us as a couple: I won’t live with you and you won’t want me to, when you really think about it.

Because online is best. Phone is better, but in talk time lieu, we communicate the worst way humanly (and, like, humanely) possible: Facebook. Tone’s not even the problem. Repetition is. And being that girl, scrap catcher, embroiled in a billion pointless interactions at the sake of you. Or for you. Except it’s for me. I’m the disaster.

You text ❤ like it’s a thing people do and I save up Catfish quotes for, eventually, we’ll end this. Won’t we? Maybe. We watch TV on a phone line and you say, “Someday we’ll be in the same room, together,” which is nice like the thought of grabbing a drink with Tom Cruise and finding what life is to him, you know?

This and the list of things you say which I wish I’d remember better, is what whirls when a movie’s on. And that fucking kiss.

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If I Have Been Unkind

When you went missing, I didn’t wait the prescribed hours the police station asks you wait before you report it. I couldn’t when I knew, the way my feet sense snow, or you second guess endings half way through films. I felt it like a yogic moment, when the cool down sends you to sleep, and the sound that wakes you back up defines the dream you were having, and I dreamt the door locks undid themselves and I couldn’t find the faces of anyone entering, but the murmurs were the voices of reporters playing in the background of other TV shows, signal interrupted, overlapping like crudely stuck collages, photo albums.

When you went missing I imagined the scenarios I’d seen in films: planes crashing, kidnappings, other families with your name over them, tied to me like the branches of ancestors we never logged, didn’t type up on our internet trees or add on Facebook. I pictured you falling in shops in ice cream aisles or fridged food sections, clutching arms and outsides of hearts or appendixes. I tried your phone three times each minute, redialing before I could leave messages, my mind empty like our vows which didn’t need saying and the thought of forcing them was the remaking of a hit TV show in another language, not entirely true.

When you went missing I criticised your upbringing and mine and the links we had in the years leading to it felt less solid like chocolate full of air holes, worth half the money. I sent out prayers even though they’re easy to ignore like email, and I wished on cookies, upholstery, park benches. I pinched salt like seasoning might save you. Eventually, the candle vigils I labeled hopeful were a peace offering to gods or spirits I’d seen through and angered for it. And the two sounds that could make a day matter: keys dropping on kitchen tables, the ringtone for your number.

When Love is Actually Harassment

Sometimes, you don’t know, but what you’ve done is actually akin to a crime, and it’s not your fault really because the internet blurred boundaries first when, as a teenager, you could have cybersex with a stranger in any number of chat rooms, and it was never just you but you and Heather or Becky and Kim, and that pre-cursored LOL and was even before grooming came to light with any sort of consequence, before our parents got to grips with the true potential of the net and the inevitable danger of it, and after this there were hours spent on MySpace profiles trying to map people’s bodies based on sets of pictures they’d selected for upload that didn’t altogether create a true picture, but generally a quite attractive one, and you’d swap details, emails, end up on Messenger until two in the morning making innuendos about working out together with no real intention of meeting, and Facebook’s just as fake, in that every post’s a choice on behalf of its owner, so now you’re adding mutual friends and ones you’ve never met, because you’re sure that in the sets of friends of your 300, the 351 on your profile, your person must be out there, that the internet’s increased your chances of meeting that person, and it’s also filled you with all sorts of paranoia, and you’re less sure what etiquette is than you were in those first encounters in Tara’s bedroom, and then in Tim’s, and every gesture, message, poke, post, ill-advised add, is a step in the wrong direction, unless you always intended to border on stalker-like, over familiar, a step away from a police call, one warning towards the official meaning of the word harassment because all it takes is three.

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Might As Well Die

Once Jack’s seen it too he says, “I guess that’s pretty subtle. And small towns are hard to go back to. And Patrick Wilson’s tough to resist, clothed or not wearing anything. And I’ve felt that way too, about a tonne of people, so to insinuate someone’s crazy for stalking an old flame, well, that’s kind of offensive.”

Jack and I met at school, messaged online in the nineties, reconnected later on Facebook. And if it hadn’t been him, it might have been somebody, because I’ve got lists akin to black books of the people I’ve seen, of the sins I’ve committed.

“Charlize Theron looked hot in that top,” Jack says.

“Charlize Theron would look hot in anything,” I tell him. And we’re far from home. And we don’t know what home is, because our parents moved so home’s a floating concept, one we make up, that changes, and the people we pick to go in it, be a part of it, the equivalent to the friends in sitcoms who sit around daily discussing, cancel, aren’t replying when they’re supposed to, and you’d think it’s easier now than ever, but the more texts you get, the emails, the calls and the updates makes you wonder what people did before TV when all you had to look at were books and walls.