I had two encounters with Max Clifford, the PR supremo who died today from a heart attack. The first recollection involves a baby, a dummy, WH Smith and Waterloo Station. It happened in 1999. The second chance meeting took place when my daughter was 12 years old in 2011.

Way back when my daughter was about four months old I had taken her to WH Smith in Waterloo Station. She was never separated from her dummy apart from when she would think it was funny to throw it on the floor. Of course, being a baby, like others who pick the most inconvenient of moments to be difficult, she threw her dummy on the floor of the store. It was rush hour. I was sure someone would step on the dummy and squash it. With no spare dummy in the nappy bag I was dreading the consequences. A man blocked the way and picked it up. He gave it to me and I was stunned upon recognising him. Max Clifford was constantly in the news then for breaking stories that were salacious and earned his clients lots of money. I thanked him and he gave my baby a big smile. I literally dined out on that encounter for a long time.

Almost 12 years later we were passing through Waterloo Station again. Max Clifford was waiting for his train. I seized the moment to tell him about the dummy story. He was tickled pink. We had a chuckle and he very nicely offered his help if we ever needed it. There was never a cause to call upon him for.

Soon after the scandal broke about his crimes and he was jailed. I never would have guessed.

There is comedy and then there is something trying very hard to be comedy. So-called comedy sketches about ‘What women want?’ falls into the latter category.  These aren’t funny and are downright boring and insulting to women.

As entertainment value, ‘What do women want?’ is a joke that is as old as the hills. Tired repeated formulas lack entertainment value after sometime. When lost for comedy content the ‘cherchez la femme’ ploy is the low-hanging fruit. It is as lazy as it is misogynistic.

Making women the butt of comedy as a gender based joke is disrespectful too if it is executed via the use of socially constructed essentialisms. The jokes are built on a premise that women are difficult, mysterious and devious one half of the population who are out to trip the other half up.

The inbuilt exasperation in these ‘jokes’ is meant to elicit empathy from men who are assumed to be suffering from the same affliction as the comedian in trying to understand what it is that women want. These ‘jokes’ are conveyed as being half-truths.

The narrative plays into the patriarchal construct of women being mysterious creatures to be wary of because they possess powers to confuse and confound you. These ‘jokes’ are repeated with an intensity as if a stream of them will eventually result in a key being unearthed that will help men unlock all this mystery.

Over time these ‘jokes’ become layered on top of each other to become so commonplace that any feminist who doesn’t laugh at them is accused of not having a sense of humour. Again, the women bears the fault. First we are so complex that jokes have to be invented to help men cope with us. The least we can do is laugh goes the reasoning. When we don’t laugh we are accused of not having a sense of humour.

The fact that the jokes are unfunny is neither here nor there to the accusers.

Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #498

 

A mother has called for the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale to be banned from schools for fear that a kissing scene featured could encourage ‘inappropriate behaviour’.  Sarah Hall from Newcastle is concerned about the message the scene is sending to her 6-year old son on consensual relations.  A Prince kissing a sleeping woman who, obviously, has not consented is anathema in the context of the new enlightenment on sexual harassment against women.

The aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein allegations has, predictably, resulted in a binary system of ‘for’ or ‘against’. There are those who applaud the women who have come forward and who are seeking to rewrite society’s rules on how men treat women. The other half are the ‘against-ers’ who are still making excuses for men and blaming women for what happened to them. Sarah Hall has captured the pulse of those in the ‘for’ camp. She is shining the spotlight on a story that has been regurgitated countless times globally to young children.

I wholeheartedly support her campaign for the simple reason that society is a evolving entity. Our thoughts, analyses and opinions are shaped by our experiences and new unfolding circumstances. We would be mugs as mothers for not absorbing and questioning what challenges the status quo. We have a huge responsibility to educate our children and this extends to questioning accepted wisdom and absorbing it into contemporary truths.

Reading fairy tales to our children plays a huge part of our mothering especially when you consider that this is an activity that is done both during the day and at bedtime. When my daughter was under 5 I would read to her mid-morning and in the evening before bath time as a ritual to get her ready for bed. Her father would then read to her after tucking her into bed. Aggregate these hours and you will get a sense of how much children are exposed to fairy-tales. Children are internally absorbing these messages without challenges. We accepted these stories as being cast in stone when we ourselves were children. The act of parental storytelling is also one of passing these stories down unchallenged. Sarah Hall is turning this supposed inevitability around.

I do wonder how much support her campaign will receive from schools though. For every parent who supports her there will be many others who will dispute it and see the taking away of fairy tale telling as somehow diminishing the experience of childhood.

However, she has opened up a discourse that is worth taking forward but one, in my opinion, which ought to recognise the role of mothers as story tellers. My Asian cultural experiences help me add another dimension to this experience. I used to make up stories for my daughter which involved tales of courage and overcoming adversity. Reading from a book isn’t the only way Asian mothers tell stories. I made up stories involving little Asian children who rode elephants, had mothers who were poverty stricken, sick children who needed doctors and little girls who grew up to become independent women. Mother story telling provides large opportunities for reimagining society and being fodders for inspiration.

While some of my stories did reflect the stereo type Asian mother who prioritises educational success there were also nuances on bravery and the importance of values.

If your child is hearing fairy tales that don’t align with your values don’t despair. You, as a mother, are the premier story teller. Yours could incorporate your values and belief system.Our search for rethinking and revaluating the status quo powerfully begins with us. By imparting this wisdom to your children your story telling takes on a persona that contradicts the simple regurgitation of ‘happily ever stories’.

This blog post was ranked 8th in the weekly Golden Dozen published on 26 November 2017

 

This poem expresses the timeless and never-ending worries that mothers have over  their children’s wellbeing. This poem pivots around a graduation ceremony. It shows that milestone events and birthdays may come and go which signify a child getting that bit older or coming of age but a mother’s work is never done.

It is written by Marilyn L Taylor whom I have previously featured

I’d like to tell him something he should know

on this momentous day—his graduation.

I don’t think he’s going to like it, though.

He’ll claim he heard that sermon long ago,

why can’t I rid myself of my fixation,

quit mouthing things I think he ought to know?

He’s certain that I’ll tell him Take it slow.

Do all your messing up in moderation.

He’s right. And he won’t like it much. Although

he’ll like it better than the way I’ll go

mano a mano, some smooth variation

on all the things he doesn’t know I know—like where he hides his stash from Mexico

and other shortcuts to intoxication

beneath the basement stairs. He’ll deny it, though.

Still, I’ll avoid that burning down below,

exclude all references to fornication,

even small precautions. (Like he doesn’t know?)

And that’s my make-believe scenario,

my grand conclusion to his education:

I’ll tell him everything he needs to know.

He’ll barely listen. That won’t stop me, though.