Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Posts tagged ‘writing’

What’s the point?

I’m sorry I haven’t posted a proper article for a little while, but I’ve been busy revising for my exams (all done now!) and, honestly, I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut. Since my exams finished, I’ve posted quite a lot on my other blog which is about the paranormal and things like that. I find that quite easy to write about because it’s generally lighthearted and it’s more reflective of my “sillier” side. Personally, it’s not a silly subject for me, but I’m aware that other people do think it’s a little bit weird and we can have a laugh about it. At the end of the day, my writing about ghosts has no impact on anyone else.

But this blog does have an impact. It deals with a lot of serious subject matter – women’s rights issues are no joke – and I have to be careful about the topics I choose to discuss and the manner in which I discuss them. Loyal readers might remember that, when I first started this blog aeons ago in 2015, I published articles frequently. It was pretty distinctly quantity over quality, and there are lots of posts from the early stages of this blog that I’m not overly fond of. I’m leaving them up for now though – I think you have a right to know what my journey within feminism has been like. I’ve chosen to make that journey public; I have to accept that two years of reading and writing about feminism has changed my perspective on lots of issues.

It has made me wonder if there’s any point to continuing this blog. I’m at a point where my ideas about feminism go a lot deeper than writing an article about my Top 5 Female Artists. Of course posts like that are important and I’m glad I showcased as many interesting women from the world of art, from history and from popular culture as I could, but I’m now dealing with feminism’s place in culture (and in my life) in a way which is much more complex. It’s not really the stuff of a cute rainbow blog with witty GIFs and my special brand of humour. It’s the stuff of proper feminist activists, proper feminist academics and proper feminist authors. And I am none of those things. It’s difficult not to feel a bit inadequate and insignificant.

But whenever I think about giving up this blog for good – never writing a post again, never updating the FAQ again, never adding to the feminist playlist again – something in me pitches a fit. How dare you just give up, it says. You can never carry on with anything, you always give up on your ideas after five minutes! And that’s true: I’m a terminal quitter. (Side note: I used to do creative writing, I had ambitions of being an author. Have I ever finished a novel? No. There’s at least half a dozen separate stories rotting on one of my old USB sticks.)

This blog is perhaps the longest running personal hobby I’ve ever had. Two years isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, but it’s around 11% of my lifetime so far (11.111111…% to be exact). And despite most of the people in my life telling me it’s pointless and treating it like it’s a stupid quirky thing I do rather than a really important part of my identity, I’ve managed to keep a sense of purpose. Even if that purpose does insist on drifting away from me at present.

I’ll let you in on a secret – I didn’t know how this post would end when I started it. All of what you just read was a blow-by-blow stream of consciousness. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. Maybe I’ll write up a few “Top 5”-style articles – which do make me happy – and post those as often as I can. Maybe I’ll keep this blog as a more cheerful arena for that kind of thing, for the celebratory girl power posts, and save the more serious stuff for when I go to university (the one I’m hoping to go to has a respected feminist society that’s been running for a while). Maybe I’ll start writing an extended essay about feminism after all – a piece of writing that I actually finish this time.

Either way, this blog isn’t dead. It matters a lot to me, which is why I’m now so picky about what gets published here. It was different when it was being run by a 16-year-old girl who had never picked up a book on gender theory. Now it’s being run by an adult with 100 followers and 10,000 blog views who has led a feminist society and developed strong opinions on the great social issues of our time – opinions that go beyond “Maybe we should be kinder to each other”, although that is still a mantra I hold close to my heart.

To answer the question I posited in the title of this post: the point is that this blog is significant to me. It matters. Of course there’s a point. I should never allow there to be a time in my life where I am not filled to the bursting with purpose.

Dolly Dastardly x

(What the hell, have another gif)

katya-snap-fingers

 

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“My body is not my own” – a poem

This is a translation of a poem I originally wrote in Spanish (which you can find here). If the phrasing here seems a little bit clumsy, it’s because Spanish sentence structure is different. For example, “it isn’t important to me” becomes “no me importa” (= it doesn’t to me have any importance) – tricky!


My body is not my own.

I am not the owner of my own house,

Nor of the kitchen of my stomach

Nor of the bedroom of my heart

Nor of the rafters of my bones.

My body is not my own.

The visitors say that I should shave.

And why?

Why don’t I have the right to grow

flowers in my own garden?

Roses grow down my legs,

Violets across my stomach

And there is secret ivy inbetween.

Years ago I decided that I would not be bothered by

The comments of the guests,

Nor those of passers-by,

Nor those of the estate agents

That want to improve me and sell me.

My abode is beautiful just as it is.

My body will always be mine

And I am my own home.

Dolly Dastardly (c) 2017

“Mi cuerpo no es mío” – un poema

Traducción inglesa aquí

Mi cuerpo no es mío.

No soy dueña de mi propia casa,

Ni de la cocina de mi estómago

Ni del dormitorio de mi corazón

Ni de las vigas de mis oseos.

Mi cuerpo no es mío.

Los visitantes dicen que debe rasurar.

¿Y por qué?

¿Por qué no tengo la derecha cultivar

Los flores en mi propio jardín?

Las rosas crecen por mis piernas,

Las violetas a través de mi panza

Y hay hiedra secreta entremedio.

Hace años decidí que no me importarían

Los comentarios de los invitados

Ni de los transeúntes

Ni de los agentes inmobiliarios

Que quieren mejorarme y venderme.

Mi morada es hermosa como así es.

Mi cuerpo siempre será mío

Y soy mi propio hogar.

Dolly Dastardly (c) 2017

Dear Creep, A Year On

Dear Creep,

I never asked for an apology. After a year of silence, of growth, I would have been content to never, ever hear from you again. But you rolled in, like boys do, with an assumption and a guilt-trip.

I’m sorry. I miss you. We used to be so close.

We were not close; I was simply a self-shaped magnet. I was sixteen, I had never had a boyfriend and my self-esteem was 20,000 leagues under the sea. I was fragile. I just wanted someone to notice me.

In the space of that year, I learned to notice myself. Oh, I am glad to see her at last with my own two eyes. She is beautiful and worthy and self-sufficient and daring and spiritual and funny – all the things you wanted to give me because you did not think I had them within myself all along.

There were never any other girls, what are you talking about???

They were not other girls; they were my friends, my sisters, my comrades-in-arms. I let you pursue and intimidate them, because I would have had to let you go to push you away.

I am not angry because I am a woman scorned, for I was never your girl in the first place. I am angry because I let your toxic waste into the lakes of Artemis, where girls are my retinue and not my firing squad.

I tell you all this, in blue and white oblongs on a four-inch screen.

I was being nice, try it some time.

Why is it always a battle of the sexes with you?

An attitude like this is why guys don’t want to talk to you.

Grow up, yeah? People might take you seriously then.

I grew up. I am not a frightened girl anymore. There is no insecurity in my heart for your sake and the battle is the one you brought to my doorstep yourself. You forget that women are warriors and witches and wanderers, and I am all of these three and more besides.

Hate me from afar. But know this: no hatred is a match for the love I have for my own body and soul and identity, and for the bodies, souls and identities of the women I am proud to call my sisters.

Expect no apology for that.


Dolly

“To be bitter is to attribute intent and personality to the formless, infinite, unchanging and unchangeable void. We drift on a chartless, resistless sea. Let us sing when we can, and forget the rest…” – H.P. Lovecraft

Writing – Artemisia

The third (very belated) part of my historical women series. You can read Cleopatra and Olympias first, if you like, but they’re not interconnected. This is not 100% historically accurate, but I wasn’t really aiming for that. Artemisia’s life has become part of mine, and I simply enjoyed taking the time to explore how I feel about her work. Trigger warning for non-explicit references to rape and sexual assault, as well as some moderate violence.

For Artemisia, and for the sister she never had.

Rome, 1612

Artemisia approaches the canvas. She hesitates briefly, as though asking permission from a lover, before placing a hand upon its textured surface. She touches every bump, every ridge, every pore, until she knows each one intimately. She feels a strange sort of camaraderie with it, like an old friend.

Her wounded hands are glaringly obvious against the white and her thumbs throb with remembered pain, caught in a tightening vice that has not touched her flesh for months. She remembers how she shrieked until her throat was dry and burning and she could shout no longer – even now, she swallows slowly, at a thankful, reverent pace – and she remembers the metal inside her. How cold, how clinical. They never drew blood, not there, but still she felt dissected, split asunder. For months, she could not quite believe that anything below her waist belonged to her. It had become public property. It had become evidence.

She had become evidence. She had been victim, witness, judge and jury.

Her body may have healed from that indignity, but her soul had not.

 

She wants her next work to be powerful. She wants to give her weeping heart manifest form. Looking up at the canvas, she knows the space would allow for it. Empty as it is, it already physically dominates, but she wants it to be emotionally overwhelming too.

She wants something epic, something towering and forceful.

“Something of Biblical proportions,” her father had said when she told him; she had agreed.

She wants rage and she wants revenge and she wants blood, yet she craves companionship and sisterhood and triumph.

Judith, she thinks, it can only be Judith. I must paint Judith, here and now, for when she slays her Holofernes, I will have slain mine too.

She gathers her materials. Slowly but firmly, she starts to sketch. For now, it is bare bones. One day, it will have a heartbeat of its very own.

 

Over the months following the trial, she gets to know Judith very well. She could have told the tale with ease prior to this, but she could not have attested to the slick darkness of Judith’s hair, like the Tiber on a stormy day. She could not have described the flex of the tendons in Judith’s forearm, nor the grip of her fist in Holofernes’ hair, nor the thrust and the drive of the blade in her hand. Judith is fluidity and Judith is motion, so Artemisia lets herself be taken with the ebb and flow of her tide.

She even acquaints herself with Holofernes. She had no desire to know him before she began. It was Judith who mattered most, and that remains gospel in her heart. That doesn’t stop her from feeling a surge of ragehatepity at the sight of his frightened eyes, his grasping hands, his gaping mouth. Perhaps this is because she is familiar with this expression. It is the same look she has seen in the eyes of dying fish, asphyxiating in fishermen’s nets, and it is the same look she saw on the face of Agostino Tassi that day in court.

She paints Holofernes differently, violently. Judith is born of tender recognition, but Holofernes is born of painful otherness. Holofernes is dissonance, he is an untuned string in the symphony of Artemisia’s… Judith’s life. Sometimes, she has to stop herself for fear that she will stab him, right through the heart and right through the canvas. She has to pause occasionally, for she is breathless, she is spent. She leaves a trail of blood in her wake. It spatters, adorning his throat and chest, a garland of roses, a chain of rubies. She is caught in their crossfire as Judith plunges downwards with her dagger and Holofernes fights upwards and, often, she wonders: when did she stop being an onlooker and become a participant? When did she join the brawl?

Artemisia is not the only one dragged in from the sidelines. Behind them both is Judith’s maidservant, pinning the general down while Judith beheads him. Despite Holofernes’ punishing grasp on the front of her gown, the maid stands firm, determined. She is more a sister than a servant. Artemisia wishes desperately that she had a sister, so she is gentle, coaxing the maid out from the shadows as she paints. Perhaps there is a secret part of her that is jealous, that craves what Judith has.

She remembers how she had screamed for Tuzia all those months ago. It was hard with his hand over her mouth, dragging stale stinging air into her lungs as she inhaled, but still she had screamed and screamed. She had begged. Tuzia never came.

In court, Tuzia had denied all knowledge. I heard nothing, she said, I saw nothing.  I’ve never followed Artemisia into her workshop. I heard nothing.

She kept saying it, over and over, I heard nothing. Artemisia is sure she burst into tears at one point and had to be consoled, for she would have made herself ill with the sobbing. You heard everything, she had wanted to bellow, I yelled and I begged and you heard but you never came, you traitor. But she hadn’t screamed. She only had to look Tuzia in the eye for a second and the woman knew it all. Remember me, she demanded with those precious moments of eye-contact, Don’t you ever forget me, don’t you dare.

Artemisia used to hope – and she hated herself for hoping – that whenever Tuzia broke bread, she’d think of her former friend’s broken body and whenever she sipped wine, she’d think of the dried blood on the bedsheets. She doesn’t wish for that now. She might not have forgiven Tuzia, but she wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. It is not in her nature.

 

Rome, 1613

When she steps away from the canvas, for what she knows is the very last time, Artemisia is not shocked by what she sees.

Not Judith, Holofernes and the maid.

Rather, Artemisia, Agostino, and Tuzia.

Her instinct is to rush to change it, to scrub away its significance. With a darker shadow here, a more pronounced cheekbone there, there would be no sign, no suspicion, that the three of them ever shared a canvas.

But she can’t do it. She won’t do it.

 

For weeks, people come to see the painting.  News travels fast on the streets of Rome, and they soon flock to her father’s exhibitions to see the works of both father and daughter. Some of them marvel. Some of them are aghast. One lady faints at the thought that a woman could paint such a thing as this. How improper to depict a Biblical widow engaging in wilful decapitation.

This is her testament. This is her monument.

It makes her laugh to think that – on a wall, rather than the gallows – Agostino Tassi will hang.

 

Florence, 1614

When Cosimo de Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, asks her to recreate the work, she paints with such vigour that it scares her. It takes her six years to complete. The finished work, far more refined and yet far more animal than the original, certainly scares the Dowager Grand Duchess Cristina, but, unsurprisingly, Cosimo loves it. So she paints another, and another, and another.

The scandal dies down, the gossip withers, but she is still an oddity in the Florentine court. An artist’s daughter from Rome, a victim of rape, a sociological phenomenon.

This is fine by her. She is content to be an oddity, on her own terms.

Everything is on her own terms now.

Dear Body

Dear Body,

I want to tell you, once and for all, how much I love you and how sorry I am for the times when I didn’t love you.

Body, I’m sorry for sighing at you when dresses didn’t look how I wanted them to. They didn’t hang right, they didn’t fit right; my tummy was too big and my chest wasn’t big enough. I’ve learned to like that you are soft. I’ve learned to stop pinching my belly and to start gently squishing it so it makes a funny little face. Belly faces are the best. It is a simple, childish pleasure and I thank you for that.

Body, I’m sorry for refusing to let you wear comfy leggings and cute shorts and pretty skirts. I didn’t like my legs, you see. My thighs were too big and wobbly and hairy. It was easier, less embarrassing, to just hide you away in three-quarter-length tracksuit bottoms. I’ve learned to like my legs too. They can dance (what they lack in skill, they make up for in enthusiasm) and chase dogs and run for buses (if adequately persuaded).

Body, I’m sorry for all the times I have held my mouth open and wept angry tears at my teeth. We made them like that; we made our rabbit front teeth and our wonky jaw and our overbite. But that’s okay – nobody cares and nobody notices. You still articulate my arguments, vocalise in three languages and pronounce my passion for everything. We might not have the best face, the prettiest face, the face that will launch a thousand ships, but it’s a good face all the same. It is a happy face. It is a face that people can approach when they are sad and scared and insecure. That’s what matters.

Body, I will try to remember all the wonderful things you have done and will do.

I will remember your feet – feet that have stood on the ancient cobbles of Rome and the tors of Devon and the beaches of Murcia, feet that stood firm and did not flee when I talked of feminism in front of my whole school. They might tremble and shuffle and dawdle. They might trip me up foolishly, but they are feet with dignity and integrity.

I will remember your hands – hands that have cradled three brothers, hands that have comforted and consoled, hands that can write and draw and create. They might be clumsy hands that smash and knock and unbalance. They are chaotic, but they can bring their own chaos into order; they don’t need anyone to do it for them. I am as Nims called his love: “A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only with words and people and love, you move at ease.”

I will remember your words, Body. I will remember how you tell people they are beautiful and they should love themselves as they are. You should save that advice for yourself too.

Body, I love you. It has taken me a long time to love you, to find things to like about you. There will be days when I still do not love you like I should, but, even on those days, remind me.

Love,

Dolly x

Writing – Olympias

Here it is – the second of my two pieces concerning historical women. I learned about Olympias during my Ancient History GCSE; she was a fascinating woman who had a lot of influence over the way in which Alexander perceived himself and others. She was part of the Cult of Dionysus and associated herself strongly with magic and religion.

Olympias

Olympias sits alone tonight, with only the tame serpents entwined around her calves for company. The chariot of Apollo races beyond the horizon until she is bathed in the fading twilight. Torches flicker below, flaming brightly as Philip weds Cleopatra Eurydice.

She has not shared a bed with the king for weeks. It gives her a rebellious thrill to discover that she no longer wants to. Philip can rot in the Underworld, she thinks with vehemence, along with his new bride. Let them kiss and caress and copulate there. They do not matter, have never truly mattered. It is only Alexander who matters, the child conceived of a thunderbolt, born in the name of Zeus.

Oh, how she adores him! He is a beautiful boy – a man now, truly. Although he shares his father’s strong build and sandy hair, she sees enough of herself in his melting gaze and soft features that this is counterbalanced. He has the heart of a lion and the keen eyes of a hawk, but his temper is that of a man. He is like the oceans of Poseidon, deceptively calm on the surface, yet a violent churning vortex lies beneath. Perhaps this is how he draws so many men to him, soldiers and poets alike. He is magnetic, charismatic, and he makes her so proud. He is destined for greatness; barely a day goes by that she does not tell him so.

She remembers the expression on his face as it was after Chaeronea, the defeat of Thebes and Athens. She could see his triumph in his eyes and in the determined smile on his lips. His cocky confidence was marred only by a twinge of relief. His reputation had been validated. He was extraordinary.

Of course Philip ruined it, in his own special manner. She could have slayed him where he stood for belittling her precious, precious son. How dare he resent Alexander, how dare he presume himself to be her son’s equal. Philip loved glory in all its forms; Alexander earned only the highest, purest victories. Philip refused to accept that Alexander was learning, that he was adapting Philip’s strategies and tactics. He refused to accept it because he was afraid.

Nothing gives her more pleasure than making Philip frightened and uneasy. She surrounds herself with magic and partakes in the most powerful rites. He cannot touch her. At her command, serpents attack, women dominate beyond their status and, soon, a prince will become a king.

She settles back in her chair, eyes closed, finally at ease and deep in thought. She hears the echo of footsteps along the passage outside her room, like the rhythmic beat of war drums. If it is one of the drunken revellers from the wedding, she will set her snakes upon him. Disgruntled, she opens her eyes.

Alexander stands in the doorway. There is none of his usual bright demeanour. His fists are clenched, his jaw is set and a vein is throbbing at his temple.

“Alexander?”

“Your Majesty,” he says, head bowed and voice surprisingly even. She sits up straighter and offers her outstretched arms, and her son flees to her. Disregarding the serpents, he rests his head against her leg with a sigh of: “Mother.” She places her hand upon his head soothingly.

“What is it that troubles you?”

“He has… he has betrayed me, Mother.” She does not have to ask. She knows precisely who he means.

“He has betrayed us both, my child.”

“Attalus asked the gods that Philip and Cleopatra might bear a son to inherit the throne,” Alexander tells her bitterly, “He thinks me a b*****d and I accused him as such, and-”

“And?” To her chagrin, Alexander blushes.

“I threw a cup at him and called him a villain.”

“What did Philip say?”

“He took Attalus’ side over mine. The way he looked at me… Mother, he would have run me through.” Her hand, smoothing his ruffled locks, pauses. Her long, slender fingers curl, scratching over his scalp. Alexander continues with his tale, “He made to lunge for me, but he fell. I said it was a shame that the man who makes preparations to pass out of Europe into Asia is overturned in passing from one seat to another.” Her grip on his hair tightens with every word.

“Mother, you are hurting me,” he mutters reproachfully. She releases him sharply, his head rocking forwards with the force of the action.

“We cannot stay here,” she murmurs, as though in a trance.

“What do you mean? Where would we go?”

“Alexander, it matters not. I long to see you become king. I long to see you rule over a mighty empire. None of this will happen if Cleopatra bears a son.” She sees how his eyes smoulder with ambition and desire. Her son has always preferred the conquering of lands over that of maidens.

“Mother-”

“Hush, my child. I will see to it. Do not concern yourself. Now return to the festivities. Are your companions there?”

“Yes.”

“Then behave as you naturally would. Drink with your future generals.” He smiles. He has the most prepossessing smile, she marvels. No wonder he is accompanied by so many of these companions.

“Thank you, Mother.” He gets to his feet, adjusting his robes, as immaculate as ever. Then he bends down to kiss her cheek.

“I love you, my child.”