In the 1950s the American baking company, Betty Crocker, introduced a baking mix to make women’s lives easier. Rather than source the ingredients from scratch the company thought that a one-box solution would sell like hot cakes. It didn’t. Puzzled by the slow take-up in a consumer age where women were enthusiastic consumers of electric gadgets and whatever made life simpler the company hired a psychologist to solve the puzzle.

Ernest Dichter, a well known Viennese psychologist, discovered that guilt was the factor behind the lack of sales. Women felt that they were not doing enough for their families by making a cake that came out of a box. They preferred the unnecessary effort of throwing flour, egg together and coming up with something more laborious.

Fast forward to the 100th anniversary yesterday of women getting the vote in the UK. I watched the movie ‘Suffragette’ and was absolutely stunned to the core at how much these women endured in their quest for the right to vote. Suffragettes were tortured, had their children taken away and were ostracised by family for, as it was seen,  daring to demand something that was above their station. There were numerous events held around the country to keep their memories and efforts alive. I watched some of it on Parliament Square.

On the way home I took out my newspaper to read on the train. The Betty Crocker story, featured as part of an article on focus groups and wholly unrelated to Suffragettes, struck me as being juxtaposition personified and relevant even in this day and age. We have the right to vote. We have the power to leverage the power of the ballot box.

But, and this is a BIG ‘BUT’, as mothers we still get dragged down by the unimportant things in life like fretfully finding the time to bake a cake for the school charity sale. To make matters worse we balk at the idea of a shop bought one. It has to be home made. Who cares at the end of the day? We do but why? The Betty Crocker story was about mothers in the 1950s. It’s now the 21st century.

Perhaps the 100th anniversary is the jolt that we as mothers need to remind us that we are capable of so much more. Time spent baking a cake could be time spent writing a letter to your MP about something that concerns you such as the cuts to education or the NHS. While I am not advocating a revolution against cake baking I am suggesting that we look at the bigger picture – are we spending our time and efforts harnessing our power to make this country a better place for our children?

Photo of yummy cookies taken off the Betty Crocker website

 

Tory MP George Freeman has made a plea for leadership and vision to energise Tory activists to take on Momentum. On the 2nd of February a piece was published in the Huffington Post UK detailing George Freeman’s worry about low morale among Tory activists.

Strikingly, it is the centrality of the emphasis on Momentum which, to me, points to a level of envy over Jeremy Corbyn commanding a strong national movement behind him. George Freeman uses words like “downtrodden”, activists needing “thanks” and “support” to describe just how low Tory activists are feeling. He then, seemingly, uses Momentum as some sort of standard bearer of political party activism.

The Tory knives are out for Momentum. By the way,  I am surprised that the Tory Party has enough knives left given just how many they have been using to knife each other with in recent weeks.

Cue the Tory Party email sent out yesterday to members making a mountain out of a molehill on the back of, yes, Momentum. The email is a cynical and tawdry attempt to turn a fight at a speaking event by Tory MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, into some sort of constitutional mini-crisis involving free speech. We already have free speech. We don’t need to sign petitions.

Ah, but do we?

The email from Brandon Lewis, Tory MP, sets a limit on the grandstanding call by limiting it to Conservative speakers. In other words, members are being asked to sign a petition for something which is constitutionally available, free speech, which will be submitted to the party that they support supporting a call for more of their speakers to be heard. Desperation personified.

Makes about as much sense as their Brexit shenanigans.

 

‘One Photograph’ is a hauntingly beautiful poem which reminds us about how the Holocaust is made up of micro individual stories. In this case it is about a mother and a daughter. Grief is invoked within the reader through a sad reimagination of what happened to individuals in the extermination camps. In this way the reader is able to fully grasp the horror of it all.

‘One Photograph’ was written by Jennifer Franklin (photo below) who graduated from Brown and Columbia. Her full-length collection, Looming, was published by Elixir Press in 2015. Her poetry has appeared in Blackbird, Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, The Nation, The Paris Review, poets.org, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, Southwest Review, and Verse Daily. Franklin is co-editor of  Slapering Hol Press and she teaches poetry workshops at The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and lives in New York City.

This poem is part of my ongoing feature of feminist mothering poetry from the book ‘Borderlands and Crossroads’.

—after The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau

by Ann Weiss

They hold nothing but each other. Fixed

like this forever, mother and daughter—

their love survives: testament to life before

God’s great silence. No one alive knows

their names or will. Maybe it is wrong for me

to mourn them. But I put what remains in a small

pewter frame next to my dead grandmother

and her sister. When you rest your hands

on my shoulders, I think of them—the mother

in her housecoat, blossoming roses, the girl

in her swimsuit, tummy round and innocent.

In the cold cattle car, they had no nest but each

 

other. Human cries around them drowned out

owls in autumn, smothered everything but

stars that watched them suffer. I hope

they were together when they died—that

 

their eyes were the last of what they saw

in this fallen world. Even in the thick darkness

of my living room, I see them: embracing,

always almost kissing

On the 19th of January a group of men described as being of a certain calibre and dressed up like Penguins filed into one of the most expensive hotels in the country feeling mightily pleased with themselves. They had money and had paid a lot of money for a good night out at The Dorchester. What could go wrong doing what they had been doing for years?

They were about to disgrace themselves in a monumental way but were completely unaware because they felt cosily cocooned by their wealth and status. They all belonged to an exclusive male only club known as ‘The President’s Club’.

These men, full of their own self-importance, were devoid of any shred of decency or morality. If they had any in the first place these were discarded somewhere along their journey from workplace to The Dorchester where an annual charity fundraising event was being held.

The men knew full well what was awaiting them – a large number of women in short skirts, high heels and matching underwear who were mainly, sadly, unaware that they were the evening’s entertainment.

They gathered together as if the Dorchester ballroom was a boundaried territory for rich Alpha male cave man instincts with a huge sense of self-entitlement that made them think they were untouched by the whole #metoo movement and the global spike in awareness of sexual harassment.

These moneyed men must have felt utterly unfettered when the evening was kicked-off with a message from the compere welcoming them to the “most unPC event of the year”.

As if to further prove that anti-feminism is a thriving movement too this utterly immoral and possibly illegal event was enabled by a woman called Caroline Dandridge who owns the agency, Arista, that ran the event. She hired the hostesses based on the criteria that they had to be ‘tall, thin and pretty’. She ensured that there was an atmosphere of oppression at the dinner which forbade the girls from having their phones, making them sign non-disclosure agreements beforehand about the event and, even, advised them not to tell their boyfriends about it. The company has since taken down the ‘about’ section on Carolyn Dandridge from the website but here is a cached version.

She took advantage of young women who felt unable, for one reason or another, to fight back against the culture of misogyny that they were led into. Caroline Dandridge colluded with rich city men types to buffet them against the evolutionary process of women’s rights. Absolutely galling when you think that this all happened after the post-Weinstein horror. It’s not been ten minutes since Time magazine, a favourite with City types, voted the #metoo movement as the most notable event of 2017.

The female MPs who raised this fiasco in the House of Commons are to be applauded especially Jo Swinson.

A new generation of female MPs recognise the brutality of sexual harassment unlike those of another generation who think that they are still living in a ‘Carry On’ movie – accommodate the naughty man while putting him in his place.

The sense of entitlement felt by the men who attended the event and Caroline Dandridge is class based. Money and power allows you to buy anything regardless of what society demands. Forget equality and self-respect. The UK is still a country where loadsamoney and class rules.