Monday, March 29, 2004

Notes to self

Replenish supplies of work snacks. Situation is now critical. Have resorted to scrounging puffed rice bars off wheat-intolerant colleague.

Try not to kill author who has disregarded all my pleas to mark up a manuscript using red or blue ink, and instead used black. The exact same colour the copy-editor uses, so that now I have no way of knowing whose marks are whose.

Sew nice clothing. Kara is always sewing amazing things that look like they cost $100 from Built By Wendy, and I want to sew too. Sew there (ahahaha).

Again I am having a week where I just can’t write. Am trying to do lots of semi-work-related stuff, and helping my sister write a book proposal, and sending begging letters to presses I really want to work for.

There’s a thin line between Maggie Gyllenhaal and Mrs Thatcher

While looking like the minxy Ms Maggie is desirable, resembling the Iron Lady is not. So it is with great trepidation that I don the pussy-bow blouse (they’re back! With puffed, bell sleeves) and the A-line skirt. I am walking a very fine line, my friends, very fine. As I type this, I am wearing: grey, high-waist A-line skirt, black chiffony blouse with puffed sleeves and sparkly black buttons, black 80s boots. The blouse and the boots are my mums, and the boots are the only high heeled footwear I can walk in. The blouse is a little on the sheer side for the office, so I have a pink wool tank top (jerkin?) over it.

I know I haven’t written in weeks. If you missed me I am sorry, and please do not give up on me. But I have the next two days off (for shopping) so will not be writing again until at LEAST Thursday.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

I went to see Mona Lisa Smile last night, and it was an exasperating experience at best. I’d sum it up as a film about feminism for anti-feminists. It could have been a great film, but I can see Hollywood studio execs (never the most progressive of men) being downright scared about making an honest film about the white, middle/upper-class female experience in a 1950s all-girls college. The entire film stopped short of making any real statements. The scene where a frustrated Katherine Watson (Roberts) shows her art class slides of 50s adverts teaching them to be good little housewives and nothing else, she gets furious and shouts “What are these telling us? WHAT?!” [Pause] “I don’t know.” [Walks out]. Well, it’d really have helped if she had known. And that sums the film up, really: every time it comes close to saying something real, it backs down. Julia Stiles’ character, Joan, is a brilliant, rich, beautiful young woman. She applies to Yale Law School, and is accepted. But her boyfriend (who is kind of a dick) is offered a place at Penn State, so obviously Joan can’t go to Yale. She is nonplussed. Shortly after, they elope one weekend and marry. Katherine is (not surprisingly) shocked and a little disappointed. So Stiles’ character launches into a defence of the married woman which manages to make Katherine look like the narrow-minded snob who thinks that being a housewife is unfulfilling and boring (um, it is if your other options included Yale Law, darlin’). I find it bizarre that a film about, let’s face it, feminism, does not once mention the f-word, or the word “oppression” or the word “patriarchy”. Feminism was a word first used at the turn of the century, so it’s not like no one would have heard of it. There were only two moments in this film that seemed real and not sanitised: the first, where Betty (Kirsten Dunst) is screaming at Giselle (Maggie Gyllenhaal) for sleeping around, and Giselle comes towards Betty. You think she’s going to punch her (cat fights are good for ratings!) but instead she envelopes her in a hug (Betty’s husband is a slag and she is projecting her anger/hurt onto Giselle). The second is when Katherine and the teacher she’s seeing are at Betty’s wedding and notice other teachers discussing them. Katherine’s boyf whispers “Are your ears burning?” and Roberts wryly replies “When you’re on a stake the flames start at your feet” (or something), a reference to which-burning. And that, folks, is as subversive as it gets.

Basically the message of the film can be summed up as: In the 1950s it was widely assumed that women went to college to meet a husband. How awful! But some of them did and they were happy and so let’s not be mean to them.

Nice dresses and make-up, tho.

PS Ginnifer Goodwin is hottt. And she’s supposed to be the ugly one!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

On Tuesday I spent four (utterly fruitless) hours at the British Library Newspaper Archive, a huge Deco block opposite Colindale station. I was looking at bestseller lists from the 1970s, and as these are not online or on CD-ROM, this entailed scanning through reels of film on a microfiche reader and getting nauseous. Seeing as I was supposed to check five years’ worth of lists, and each reel of film held two months of papers (the Sunday Times was huge even back then), this would mean reading 30 reels of film. And as you are only allowed to borrow four reels at a time, and have to wait ½ an hour for them to be delivered to your little microfiche booth, and it takes an hour to scroll very fast through four reels, it would take me approximately, what, 10? 11? hours to do this. Pointless thought this exercise was, I did get to read very old newspapers, which is always fun. Did you know that in 1977 you could buy a three-bedroomed apartment in Knightsbridge for £50,000? Oh yes. And the Times boasted that on Thursday top jobs, paying only over £4,000 PA, were advertised. Har! I looked at the job ads, and while I’m not sure exactly when it became illegal to specify gender, quite a few of the ones from 1977 said things like ‘Sales manager required. He will be responsible for . . .’. Reading the 1977 Times really made me see that even though things aren’t perfect now, they were pretty awful back then. The Review section was written almost entirely by men (even when slamming – sorry, reviewing – books about women or feminism), and one article about David Irving’s controversial claims that Hitler was misunderstood and didn’t actually kill anyone begins with the words: ‘Like him or not, Hitler . . .’ Like him or not?! Was there really a time after the Second World War when people argued about whether Hitler was nice or not nice? My flabber was truly ghasted.

I had some time to kill (and money for work ‘expenses’) before I met Kara to discuss our Sewing Bee, so decided to get food at Tokyo Diner. I ordered what I thought was a modest meal: a side salad, small portion of sushi (three pieces) and miso soup. But it seems I accidentally ordered a giant trough of food (oh well, what can you do?). All eyes were on me as the third dish was brought to my table, and I dug in. Anyway, the Sewing Bee is going to be held every three weeks, on a Monday or Tuesday (Wednesday is good telly night); let me know if you want to join.

For the love of Kirstie

I think if I met Kirstie Allsopp we would be friends. She is a bit odd for a telly presenter: have you heard her answers to those Channel 4 ads? She lost her virginity when she was 21 and would like to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She seems quite giggly and girlie but also very smart. Relocation Relocation is compulsory viewing, if only to check whether Kirstie is looking all 50s and cute, or wearing her atrocious pearls-and-padded-Alice-band combo and coming across like your Sloaney aunt.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Joey, we hardly knew you

Shock, horror! Joey Ramone has come out as a supporter of Bush. Joey has apparently repented for his life of rock & roll excess, and is now anti-abortion, anti-welfare, anti-choice.

‘These aren’t issues, they’re life’ – Nandita Das, Capitalwoman 2004

Saturday saw the fourth annual Capitalwoman conference in London. The first event attracted some 400 women: 4000 registered this year. I was surprised and pleased to see a huge variety of women: a lot of over 50s, many black and Asian women, but few young women (hey, if we’re going to argue that feminism isn’t dead and that the third wave is alive in England, we need to show our faces). The atmosphere was upbeat, electric, one of excitement and anticipation. In the morning we were addressed by a variety of speakers including journalist Polly Toynbee, Diane Abbott MP, Solicitor General Harriet Harman, Deputy Mayor Jenny Jones, Nandita Das and Red Ken himself. They spoke on topics ranging from the pay gap (yep, it’s still there, and it’s not going away by itself), to Britain’s appalling childcare policy, domestic violence and safety on the streets and in the parks. I was moved by Diane Abbott’s statement that ‘this country was built on the labour of economic migrants’, as this is something close to my heart. My parents came to Britain for freedom and a better life: how could I begrudge anyone else that right?

After lunch there were a variety of seminars. I attended the one on domestic violence. It was packed out, women crowding the aisles, sitting or standing wherever there was space. I got there early and took a seat near the back; a few minutes later a man sat down next to me. He was scruffy and smelled, and he took out a notebook. Ok, I thought, probably a journalist (can’t have all those women in one place for a whole day without a man monitoring it, now can we? Heaven knows what they’d get up to!). As the speakers introduced themselves and began to outline the work they were doing, Mr Smelly began to twitch. He was rolling his eyes, muttering, snorting and tutting. I gave him what I hoped was a fierce ‘shut the fuck up’ stare, and he was quiet for a little while. As one of the speakers addressed domestic violence in relation to disabled women, she stated that in 1994 she was commissioned to write a booklet on this subject. To her knowledge, none had been written before, or since. ‘What about disabled men?’ yelled Mr Smelly. Ok, what about them? This is a conference on women. If he is an advocate of disabled men’s rights, great. What is he doing about their experience of domestic violence? (This moment brought to mind an excellent article on the f-word website. If you read one thing on the web this week, please read this.) He was ignored. The talk continued. I very rarely feel physically sick in a non-drunk situation, but at this seminar I did. I realised I was in the presence of a noxious misogynist, someone whose only reason for attending a positive, proactive conference was to disrupt it. It’s not like the talk was titled ‘Bulldozing the Patriarchy: Men Out Now!!!’ (that was at 3.30. Kidding!). It was about stopping women being beaten and killed by their partners. How can you possibly take exception to that? During the Q&A session I thought Mr Smelly was going to combust: his hand was in the air, he had a question to ask. So did twenty other people, and only about five of them got to speak. But he was clearly being discriminated against. ‘What about a question from a man – but I guess you wouldn’t understand that!’ he yelled. Huh? Seeing as the panellists were highly educated, articulate women, I think they could grasp the concept of both ‘man’ and ‘question from’ pretty well, and put them together to form a thought. He got a few funny looks, but was, again, ignored. After the seminar was over, I went home. I felt confused and angry. If there are men out there who object to measures to stop domestic violence, what hope in hell do women have of being given anything easily? If there are men out there who still feel that a man has a right to hit his wife (after all, she must have provoked him), what hope do we have of equal rights in the workplace and abortion on demand?

On Friday an alarming statistic came to light. 1 in 4 women will be victims of domestic violence during their lifetime. Also, two women a week are murdered by their partners. You’d think this would be front-page news, right? I mean, this is news, isn’t it? Wrong. It was tucked away on page 25 of the Evening Standard, presumably so as not to upset people. I am baffled by this. If new research had shown that 1 in 4 schoolchildren experienced violence at school, or 1 in 4 pets was beaten, there would be a national outcry. So why isn’t there? Part of me believes that people just find the whole subject of domestic violence uncomfortable, and would prefer to ignore it: if it’s not happening to me, or if I’m not battering my partner, then there’s nothing more I can do. Domestic violence is still seen as ‘one of those things’, a ‘fact of life’.

Amnesty International has launched a new campaign to stop domestic violence. One of the spokespeople is Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart, whose father beat his mother. He said ‘I saw the self-loathing of my father, due to his inability to control his violent outbursts. I saw society, police, doctors and neighbours conspire to hide the abuse with comments like “She must have provoked him” and “It takes two to make an argument”. Violence must be controlled. If you fail to raise your hand in protest, you are part of the problem.’

Today is international Women’s Day.

Thursday, March 04, 2004


For a long time I wanted to read Das Boot cos I really thought it was about footwear. When I discovered it was some rotten old wartime drama I crossed it off my list, quicksmart.

I reserved a book at my local library and went to pick it up last night. I think if the librarian had owned a pair of giant tweezers, she’d have used them to pass me the copy of Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women. She eyed me sniffily, obviously having pegged me as a man-hater and probable lesbian. I just smiled sweetly.

Went to the London Transport museum at lunch, to look at postcards. Got some lovely 1930s ones (have you seen the new ads on London buses? They are all Deco and angular and have taglines like ‘Faster Through the Mighty Metropolis’ and ‘Safe Beneath the Watchful Eyes’), and will put them by my desk to cheer me every time I see them.

Stopped in at H&M on the way to the LT museum. Was not planning to, but the fake vintage dresses in the window lured me in… God, but I could have spent £200 in there. And that would have bought me a new wardrobe. But as I was being good I strolled around pretending to be unimpressed, telling myself ‘Oh, I can live without that’ while my subconscious screamed ‘No you can’t! If you owned that canary yellow short jacket with the round collar and ruched pockets, your life would be complete, you fool! Buy it! And the black woven cloche hat for £5!’ Well thank Christ my subconscious doesn’t control the purse strings. I escaped, poorer in style but richer in money. Yeah, great. As Steve is quick to remind me, ‘You can’t eat a pair of shoes.’ True, but you can’t wear a ham sandwich.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Am itching to sew. Want to make bags, cute trapeze-line summer tops, cushion covers, laptop bags, lampshades. Is there a crafty circle in London? If not, can we start one? We could meet every two weeks and plan things, exchange patterns, share tips over tea and cakes. If you are already part of a London crafty circle, can I join? Please please please! Email me at ijasiewicz at Hotmail. I’m cunningly not writing the address out, so that my email doesn’t end up receiving every piece of spam in cyberspace. If you’re thinking of sending me special offers for penis enlargements and missives detailing HOW TO LOSE DEBT NOW!!!!!!! don’t bother, cos all that jizz goes in my junk mail and I never ever even click on it.

My perfect weekday

I would get up at 9am (don’t want to sleep the day away!), have eggs for breakfast, or go to the Buddhist centre on my road for breakfast. Walk to Walworth Road and visit the many charity shops on in search of 60s fabric and vintage scarves. This part of town is, let’s face it, depressing as hell, so after an hour or so I’d hop on a number 12 bus and head to where the grass is green and the houses are white stucco: west London. I’d get off at the park (oh, what’s it called?! The one opposite Lancaster Gate tube.) I’d read my book on a bench and maybe get a snack. (Digression: I once took Steve to this park for a special surprise treat. We got hot dogs at the little wooden stand in the park, but they weren’t called ‘hot dogs’ they were called ‘physical energy’. I swear this was not a trippy dream: we had to order two physical energy (energies?).) Then I would walk around. And if this is a perfect day maybe I can have a special power, like the power of invisibility. I would use this power to go in to Urban Outfitters and help myself to all the cute clothing and housewares I like but £50 for a fucking vest top?! Do I look like a mug?. Then I would take buses (Routemasters only, mind) all the way home. Steve would come over; we’d go for a nice cheap dinner and walk by the river. And, for the second time in my life, I’d play the lottery, only this time I’d win the jackpot.

Real weekday

Oversleep. Shower. Coffee. Bus. Work. Lunch. Work. Email. Work. Work. Work. Leave. Smile. Steve. Drink. Eat. TV. Bed.