Archive for category Soho Speaks Out

Your voice

Often times, attracting men starts with one of your most basic assets: your voice. We could speculate that men like smooth voices, velvety voices, sultry voices, but the truth is, we don’t have a lot of control over how we sound. We can try not to squeak and up-speak (asking questions at the end of all sentences) or stammering and being sheepish…

Oh who am I kidding? Did you think for one minute this post was going to be about your pipes? Of course I care more about what you say then how you sound saying it. Especially to men.

Voice came into sharp focus these past two weeks, with revelations about Jimmy Savile’s sexual harassment — and the various parties that helped facilitate his actions or to cover them up. Where were the voices, we ask? The halls of the BBC, the Stoke Mandeville hospital — they should have sounded like Greek Choruses. But they didn’t. People were mute. Women were mute. Victims? Many mute, or worse, unheard. Why?

The Savile debate has been heated and layered. We’ve heard people point out that, dead, he cannot defend himself. That stripping his knighthood now is largely perfunctory. Other voices counter by asking who defended his victims, and express a desire to ensure his ‘legacy’ is honest. Perhaps the most troubling topic is how people measure the severity of his abuse. Some qualify his actions as perverse and puerile, but ultimately, not as severe as the full-on abuse that others insist occurred. And that’s what got me thinking.

Women, for a long time, have been made to believe that our anatomy is fragile and something to be ashamed of. People have talked about the internal nature of our sex, the fact that we can be ‘penetrated’. There’s a new celebration of vaginas (more on this to come), so perhaps we’re making progress, but I can’t help to think that if we demystified our sex, toughened it up, so to speak, just regarded it simply as a part of our anatomy, then shame and disgust would not force us into silence. Society wouldn’t be so tempted into a metaphorical cover up.

Now, to be clear, it’s not just any piece of anatomy. I can do without my little toe. I cannot live without a system that gives life and pleasure and love. But bear with me — if Jimmy Savile approached you in his spangley sex pest trackie bottoms and whacked you in the arm, you’d say — loudly — ‘WTF?’ You’d probably ask other people if they saw. You might even instinctually whack him back in the same place. Harder.

But you wouldn’t hold onto that experience and let it shape you.

Too many of us have that lascivious relative who asks us when we’re small to sit on his stiffening lap. Too many of us have been groped in public. Too many of us have just swallowed it, felt like our insides are on display and let it ruin our day — if not a week, month, year or lifelong psychology.

Do not mistake me. Being pulled into a closet, tricked into a flat, being molested, entered and/or raped is a trespass beyond imagination. Sexual predators play psychological games that shame us into submission. So does a misogynistic system. I am not blaming any victims.

What I am saying is that regardless of scale, like being whacked in the arm, we know abuse when we feel it. Let’s hear that ‘WTF?’ And if some ignorant, saggy-bosomed nurse sits at your bedside and tells you to keep schtum when Uncle Jimmy comes to visit, rap her right in those institutional tits and tell her to do one.

Find your voice. There is nothing too fragile about us to fight back.

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Sensitive types

The Union Chapel is a gorgeous venue for music. As its name implies, it’s a dimly lit converted chapel, making it the perfect trap for acoustics… and singer/songwriters.

The other week, I was privileged to watch one such singer/songwriter at work. He was sensitive; his lyrics were brilliant. This is a man who has felt love. And pain. And love again.

Listening to him for a moment I thought: I hope a man has felt this way about me. And then I wised up. It’s men like this, I thought, ‘the sensitive ones’, that are doing the most damage to us, individually and to us as a group.

Why?

  1. They make women sound really, REALLY difficult. Heartbreakers. Cheats. Just. Plain. Hard. Work. We’re not, usually. If you’re straightforward, most of us — the best of us — respond in kind.
  2. These sensitive types play a sneaky game. They act like they desire a true equal, nay – a superior. They put us on a pedestal while other men snigger, ‘under the thumb.’ ‘Pussy whipped.’ ‘Henpecked.’ But don’t kid yourself. Men are men, and men want respect. Should the glow fade and the bloom fall off the rose, they will hold you accountable for their subjugation — even if was they who put the pattern in place.
  3. And when that happens, they will eviscerate you lyrically and publicly.

Okay — so not everyone has a stage and an audience. And I cannot deny that there is a world of female warblers out there playing the same (ahem) tune. You heard me, Taylor Swift.

Am I saying that men are incapable of feeling deeply or falling hard? Nope. Generally, I think men are more complex then we give them credit for. But we women fall victim to a number of fantasies and fictions. We know where to file a simpy romantic comedy, but the poetry and the intricacy of lyrics can suck us in differently. We tag these songs as our anthems; we devote them to past loves, and when we hear them, they often keep us down versus lifting us up. We wallow. We pine. We get stuck.

It’s time to get unstuck. When it comes to men — when it comes to anything for that matter — let’s seek to be elevated rather than sunk.

Longing, wanting, fighting: it’s that tension that makes it all seem worthwhile. But it’s deceptive, too, isn’t it? If the best music collections comprise quality and cheese, don’t the best matches of people also balance passion, levity… and release?

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Ann Romney

I never intended for this blog to be overtly political, but I do need to declare some affiliations in the spirit of disclosure. As an expat, I vote in America — and when I do, I vote Democrat. But this post, like all my posts, are about women’s issues. And what woman’s issues have been in the spotlight this week? Ann Romney’s.

Lest you think I am going to break down the content of her speech, I’m not. Other writers and bloggers have done a much better job of that. I am going to talk about reactions to Mrs. Romney on my Facebook feed — mostly from my other Democratic friends. You may speculate that she was being attacked. In fact, she only received compliments.

If you have eyes, you probably agree. Ann Romney is pretty. She looks good for her age. She is composed.

Good for her.

Every girl wants to grow up to be pretty. Much as it pains me to admit, I would be a much smarter person if I devoted the time and energy that I spend depilating, deep conditioning, body scrubbing, eating right, working out and reading women’s magazines to higher intellectual pursuits. And let’s not even get started on the inflated percentage of my hard-earned wages that goes toward clothing, high heels and lingerie instead of shrewd financial investments. I know this is flawed, but I no longer rail against the Beauty Myth, seeing it instead as a feminine perk. The manipulation of our appearance allows us to express facets of ourselves that men simply cannot. So I embrace it. Obviously. This blog would not exist if I did not.

Here’s what I will rail against. The sentiment that Mitt Romney’s pretty wife somehow raises his street cred. Also, if I’m honest, I don’t love the fact that she, or any political wife, gets that much time on a national stage to endorse her husband in the first place.

I mean, I think we all know who she is going to vote for, don’t we?

But I’ll tell you what really pisses me off: the fact that most of this noise was coming from Democrats. If I said this blog isn’t political, then what am I on about?

Democrats are supposed to be a party for women. Then there’s that stat about ‘blue states’ having the best universities and higher IQs on average. Okay, people. Remember some remedial lessons. Beauty is only skin deep. And it’s HER skin we’re talking about. Not his. Did we lose sight of something here?

I get especially ranty when I realise that most Republicans would rather throw up in their mouths than concede that Michelle Obama has incredible shoulders, that Teresa Heinz Kerry was sexy and worldly, or that Hillary Clinton, when not ragged from being a supremely effective and hard-working Secretary of State, is rather attractive in real life (the camera does her few favours).

In addition, as we look at HIS marionette-like visage, we remember that the Romneys are rich. We also know that other than the saddest cases (The Spellings), money can buy good looks. And to quote one of my most intelligent Facebook friends, it’s perfectly plausible to presume that there’s a Dorian Gray-like painting hanging behind locked doors back at Mitt’s mansion.

Yes, Ann Romney is pretty. But let’s not dumb ourselves down saying so. Ann Romney is not running for office. You may be curious to see how she looks on Inauguration Day, but you’ve got him for the following four years at least. Look below the surface at what that really means. Especially for women.

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Beach volleyball

On a website dedicated to style that attracts men, I know that beach volleyball belongs under the sartorial category of So Right, but on the social side, I can’t help but to think So Wrong.

Am I a buzz kill? Probably. But first let me say this: I love a bikini; at last count I had 12. I also love athletic bodies and powerful woman. Put the two together and you’d think I’d be in Heaven.

But the feminist in me can’t help but to get irked by the production, the photography and the pervy focus on secret hand signals that cause commentators eyes to linger on women’s asses. Or the water cooler chat about it all.

These Olympic games gave us some of the most inspiring women in recent times, especially in Britain. We had the unfathomable graciousness, talent and six-pack of Jessica Ennis, the history making punch of Nicola Adams, the endurance of Judo player Gemma Gibbons who fought back the pain of a broken thumb to take Silver. Then there’s the combination of speed, power and extreme modesty present in multiple cyclists at the Velodrome and multiple rowers at Eton Dorney. We even saw Sarah Attar, the first female from Saudi Arabia to compete in Olympic athletics, complete her race even though she was 43 seconds behind the competition. She hoped it would ‘spark something amazing.’ That is what the Olympics should be about.

Yet, for the first few days, men were entranced about the camera angles and interactive features of beach volleyball. And women played right into it, cooing about what we’d do to have a body like that (here’s a tip: start with the gym). We didn’t flag that in the realm of all Olympic events, beach volleyball is definitely on the more leisurely end of the spectrum. And those outfits? To pretend for one minute they have anything to do with performance — IN A LANDLOCKED LONDON, MOSTLY AT NIGHT — is laughable. People wear bikinis to play beach volleyball because we are at the beach. You soak up some sun, you go for a swim, you eat a sandwich, you work it off in a playful set. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I know I’m risking losing some subscribers, but I can’t help to call sexism on this one. (By the way, please don’t leave me, instead just leave mean comments. I love a debate!)

These Olympics have been amazing and I don’t want them to end. London has been a phenomenal host. These athletes have impressed me like none before. I don’t mean to take anything away from the beach volleyball players who have worked so hard to get here, but I do want people to take into account some of the less noble traits that colour society, even within the greater vision of the games.

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Catwomen

If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises yet, I strongly recommend it. I’m no film critic, but what I can tell you is that Christopher Nolan is a god, the special effects are jaw-dropping (and yet not overdone), the story is intricate and reflects a lot of issues germane to our times, the female characters are immensely powerful, and that other than one fleeting moment of bogus acting, which would be a spoiler if I revealed it, I can’t fault a performance.

A stand-out? Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, who is not overtly referred to but obviously known as the Catwoman.

I cannot imagine that men don’t love her, possibly because my vision is clouded by my own adoration. Other than a sketchy past that she’s trying to escape (who amongst us?), she’s everything you want to be: clever, wry, mechanical, supremely sexy, spandexed, shapely and super-fit. Plus, she has a great collection of little black dresses which are ladylike and vampy at once. And, she can work a string of pearls better than Jackie O on a good day.

But here’s what I love most about the superwoman that is Catwoman. She is literally a super woman. She is resolutely and unapologetically female. She purrs, she works her feminine wiles, she uses her typically female powers of nuanced and critical thinking and in the end, she still opens herself up to love… ultimately coming back to her man (again, I ask: who amongst us?).

And that’s my take on feminism — and the very point of this blog. We win when we do what we do best — and that is precisely what we were genetically programmed to do: Be. Women.

I am a proud feminist and because of that, I embrace what is feminine. What scares me is the notion that we must be bashful about our womanly ways in order to be taken seriously. So what do we get? ‘Professional’ women dressed in genderless suits, acting like poor imitations of their male counterparts and beating themselves up over the notion of having it all (a paradigm that has never, nor will ever, exist for men).

There are some damn good mimics out there, but an imitation is never as good as the real thing. Instead of trying to be something that we’re not — or worse, a new, androgynous category that never existed — why don’t we make the most of what we are? Proudly, strongly feminine.

Ladies, please… don’t neuter your Catwoman.

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On not being a tramp

My last post about tramps caused some controversy, but unfortunately, most of it was delivered verbally or via direct message and is not captured on this blog. But if 8 out of 10 cats are thinking something, then you probably are, too.

Maybe you agree that a tramp attracts attention, but you are asking how she keeps it.

Hell if I know. My Eurovision costume did not conjure instaboyfriend … but it did increase my odds. The relationship game is one of numbers, but it’s narrowing those numbers that’s the harder part. At the very least, you need a good rapport, shared values and physical chemistry — and even when those align, it’s still a bit of a crap shoot.

Please hold that thought, because I’m coming back to it after I answer question number 2. The big one.

If you look like a tramp, how do you convince men you’re not one?

And I’ll answer first with … an anecdote!

When I was an adolescent, I developed quickly and amply. This triggered a reaction: boys stared and girls whispered, both speculating about my own budding (cough) sexuality. With no originality whatsoever, they cried ‘Tramp!’

And for a year, before the girls caught up and everyone shut up, it hurt.

So I sought advice. From the school counsellor, of all people. (Why I did this, I still don’t know. I thought school counsellors only existed to pass on pre-made leaflets about marijuana use). But this one surprised me.

‘How can I not be branded a slut?’ I asked him.

Don’t be one,’ he said.

And that’s your answer.

Regardless of what I’m wearing or what look I am owning, no one who has spent any significant amount of time in my company has mistaken me for someone who plays fast and loose with her sexuality. Like modern women and feminists, I may have a ‘liberated’ view – but that does not mean my powers of selection have been liberated as well.

I was irked by the questions related to my post — not because they were asked of me — and certainly not by those who did the asking, but because of the bigger issue reflected in them. It’s the in-built societal assumption that it’s the man who gets to do the choosing.

In fact, I think the idea of a tramp and her easy availability attracts men for precisely that reason. If they think they are calling the shots, they’ll go for easy wins.

Let’s surprise them.

Regardless of how many heads we turn, and long may we turn them, we make choices about who we reject and who we let in, and under what circumstance and criteria. And if those decisions feel right, no one can call you anything but true to yourself.

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Streaking

One trend remains true in my life. Around May, I will inevitably end up at Twickenham, whether for the Sevens or Army vs. Navy. I never plan it, but I always manage to get there.  These occasions bring out good friends, fancy dress and streakers — in fact, this year, I saw a record four in just one half, leading me to wonder if there’s any point to coming home late and watching Sexcetera when I know where I can get a live show.

We’ll get back to those streakers, who before they disrobed, were dressed as bumblebees, Tinkerbell and ballerinas.  They actually have a point in this post.

But before that, I want to talk about what happens after rugby.  At last year’s Sevens, the sun was shining, I was in the throes of a new relationship, loved up and beaming. This year, I was decidedly more single, in the rain, but in a festive ‘where else but England?’ mood. The streakers helped.

Call it the Laws of Attraction, but after last year’s Sevens, I ended up with a surprise trip to the BAFTAs (note to reader, your pre-formalwear menu should not include stadium hotdogs, but we live and learn); this year after Army/Navy, I ended up with an invitation to a Wetherspoons (oh, how the mighty have fallen). It was trumped by an offer of a surprise set-up in a West London piano bar.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have gone. I’d had several pints at Twickenham and like Monica on ‘Friends’, my hair grows with the amount of moisture in the air. I was also trying a new trend that I don’t know how I feel about — bright skinny jeans (see Hosiery for similar effect), and they may have been a bit baggier than normal as I’m currently a bit skinnier than normal. The worst part? I was in flats.

So when I arrived at the bar, I had already decided that the night might not be a success. (Note that pre BAFTAs, I was imagining a mystery brunette making the best dressed list. See the difference?) Did my date actually throw up in his mouth when he saw me? I doubt it, but it doesn’t matter. When he didn’t laugh at my first joke (streakers are comic gold), it confirmed what I suspected: there was no there there.

I will actually never know what went down. Fact is, the guy was a gentleman. We had a lot to say to each other, he plied me with wine and stuck by my side. That said, it did feel like work and when a tall blonde in a cocktail dress approached, he looked more interested in her than his afro growing, smurf-legged friend. In flats.

So I dug deep. I stood as tall as possible. I flirted with the guy next to me to save some face in front blondie. But after a while, it was going nowhere, so I headed home. And it’s because life is a confidence game that I did.

Ironically, most people who meet me describe me first as confident. I wouldn’t. I think I simply don’t care about a lot of stuff, and that reads as confident. But confidence, in terms of true self belief, that’s harder to come by. Life knocks you back enough, so when you have a stupid night in Kensington and you’re without your confidence building go-tos — whether high heels or controlled hair — you can’t afford to squander what stores you’ve built. I figured it was better to cut and run. If the blind date did like me after all, I have to be confident he’ll find me. Whether it was my fault that it went South, or the blonde interloper, or just a genuine lack in connection, I can’t say. I wish I could turn this post into a thought piece on preserving confidence. I wish I could give you tips. But truth is, I’m not sure I have any. The only one I do have is that when it comes frivolous situations that make you doubt yourself, it’s just not worth it to dwell.

Instead, I’m going to take my cue from those streakers, as I promised I would. While you won’t see me naked on a goal line anytime soon, I do have to say that people, fueled by good friends, a good crowd and some liquid courage, can overcome whatever suspicions they have about what other people think. So make your choices wisely and stick with the people who build you up, buttercup. The kind of people who go with you to Twickenham.

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