Saturday, 12 July 2014

Mum's war

Motherhood does funny things to you. Last night more bombs were dropped on Gaza. Before I had a child, I would listen to reports of the world’s daily horrors with a vague sadness, suitably horrified, and always glad that my loved ones and I lived in the comparably safe UK.

By Ajai Shukla, uploaded by User:Sniperz11,
via Wikimedia Commons
Now every atrocity gives me a physical jolt. It's a kick in the stomach, as I look at my beautiful, well-fed and safe baby, and imagine being a mother who can’t keep her children fed and safe. It’s a feeling of panic, deferred.

Being a mother in Gaza, Syria, Sudan, and all the others doesn't bear thinking about.

Men at war

Wars, particularly territorial squabbles, are something men do. They often do it in the name of their women and children, but it is primarily about them. 

Meanwhile, women pick up the pieces: struggle to feed and care for their children, protect them from whatever form of violence threatens, and provide for their families while men are away fighting or getting killed in the wars they never wanted them to fight in the first place.

Women at war

That’s not to say women never initiate or take leading roles in wars – Margaret Thatcher took the UK into the Falkands, and I’m sure there are other examples. But she was a woman operating in a men’s world and, as such, she acted as a man would in her situation.

What would the world look like if it were run by women? Probably just a different kind of awful. Maybe we’d have invented the stiletto heel but not the wheel.

I don’t really want a world run exclusively by women. But I reckon if we had a world that was truly run jointly by men and women - real equality, in other words - then we really would have fewer wars, which would mean fewer babies and children suffering and dying from living in areas of conflict. And fewer mothers who have to stand by and watch that happen. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Shattered childhood TV dreams

So Rolf Harris went to prison, and another little bit of my childhood just died. It followed the demise of the other bit that wrote to Jim'll Fix It.

And I doubt I'm the only one who is waiting to hear which other TV presenters from my formative years were abusing the children who looked up to them.

It makes you wonder about all of the other people who appeared regularly on children's TV in the 1980s. And that's awful because most of them were probably very nice people, who just enjoyed the job of entertaining children.

Rolf Harris was a genius who would show you as he brought cartoon characters to life from a single line on a page. Savile was a philanthropist who could make your dreams real.

These two men devastated the lives of the girls and women they abused. For the rest of us, they just shattered our childhood dreams. It's nowhere near as bad, just a little bit sad.

The good news

As with Max Clifford, it's good news for feminism that Rolf Harris is going to prison. It sends a clear message that it doesn't matter how famous and important you are, you can't treat women and girls in this way and get away with it.

Unless you're Jimmy Savile, who did just that. And probably loads of others too.

Well, OK then. It sends the message that it doesn't matter how famous and important you are, you probably shouldn't treat women and girls in this way, because you might not get away with it. You might think you got away with it, but then you get put in prison when you're, like, 80-something.

There's a good chance you won't get away with it. It's a definite possibility. Don't do it.

Women in high places

What's come out of the aftermath of the Rolf Harris trial is that girls and women don't stop being vulnerable to sexual assaults.

He has gone to prison for assaults on girls aged seven to 19. But the TV and radio presenter Vanessa Feltz has made allegations that Harris assaulted her, when she was working on The Big Breakfast.

Feltz wasn't a young girl, she was an important and capable woman in a high profile job. She was at the top of her game, and yet he still managed to take advantage of her.

It suggests that women and girls at all levels of society can be vulnerable to abuse. Being a successful and capable grown-up won't necessarily protect you.

Anyway, I'm off to try to rebuild my shattered dreams.