While Priti Patel was ‘holidaying’ in Israel in August, I was on holiday in Benidorm. While Priti Patel, the former International Development Secretary, was unwittingly orchestrating her own downfall by furtively meeting Israeli ministers and the Prime Minister, I was persuading my teenage daughter every morning to get up early enough to have the buffet breakfast that I had paid for.

While, I imagine, Priti was feted in Israel because she was offering ‘cash cow’ type promises in the guise of foreign aid, I was being watched suspiciously for the first half of my holiday by White people not used to seeing an ethnic minority in Benidorm. I could only offer a smile and small talk to bridge the gap. I didn’t have the financial means to offer them hospitals or anything else that they wanted.

The comparison between how Priti spent her August and what I did is so stark and wide as to not even cast a shadow of an overlap. The only similarity between us is that we both have Brown skin. That is the only thing she and I share (colour of skin and not the skin itself, of course).

You may be wondering what the point of all of this is. Listen up. It’s because I am fed up of people assuming that “I must be so pleased” because of the appointment of an Asian person to the Cabinet. A Right Wing disciple of the freemarket is no more representative of me than, say, a Siberian who thinks eating curry is the high point of embracing another culture.

So next time my answer will be ‘Benidorm’ as a metaphor for irrelevance.

 

To The Mother of a Dead Marine

by

Marilyn L. Taylor

 

 

Your boy once touched me, yes. I knew you knew

when your wet, reddened gaze drilled into me,

groped through my clothes for signs, some residue

of him – some lusciousness of mine that he

had craved, that might have driven his desire

for things perilous, poisonous, out-of-bounds.

Could I have been the beast he rode to war?

The battle mounted in his sleep, the rounds

of ammunition draped like unblown blossoms

round his neck? Could I have somehow flung

myself against the wall of his obsessions,

leaving spells and curses on his tongue?

Your fingers tighten, ready to engage

the delicate hair-trigger of your rage.

________________________________________________________________________________

Marilyn L. Taylor attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she earned a BS in mass communications, and the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where she earned an MA in linguistics and a PhD in creative writing. She has published eight collections of poetry, most recently Step on a Crack (2016) and Going Wrong (2009). The Wisconsin poet laureate from 2009 to 2010, Taylor also served as the poet laureate of Milwaukee from 2004 to 2005.

After a long career teaching English for the Honors College at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Taylor retired to teach several poetry workshops under the auspices of Lawrence University, Western Colorado University, Poetry-by-the-Sea in Madison, Connecticut, West Chester Unviersity, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is also a contributing editor for Verse-Virtual and Third Wednesday poetry journals.

I have published this poem as part of my series of poetry by feminist mothers as featured in the book

Borderlands and Crossroads’.   It is a singularly beautiful book for the range of issues covered in both poetry and prose form that affect mothers.

How many lightbulbs does it take…? How many more and more serious gaffes does Boris Johnson have to make before he is asked to resign as Foreign Secretary? His latest error is a serious one of judgement. In one fell totally incompetent swoop Boris has put the future of the wrongly jailed British mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, at risk of being kept in jail for a longer period.

The list of Boris gaffes is long and consists of blockhead comments. There was the Mandalay comment. Then there was the ‘Libya could be Dubai’ comment if only ‘dead bodies were moved out of the way’. Now, Boris has committed what is possibly his worst moronic mistake when, at a committee hearing, he wrongly stated that Nazanin had been in Iran doing something that she had not been doing.

According to Boris, she had been teaching journalists in Iran. As a foreign minister Boris ought to have known that that would seriously jeopardise Nazanin’s future because her defence is that she had been visiting her family in Iran and had not been there for work related activities. Journalism is viewed as a subversive activity in many middle Eastern countries because it is seen as meddling with state controlled affairs.

Is it possible for a Foreign Secretary not to know this?

How many more gaffes? How long is a piece of string? How long before the Prime Minister decides enough is enough and what would it take? I am reminded of the last scene in the movie Airplane which has got to be one of the funniest scenes in the history of comedy movies.

A passenger hails a taxi at the airport at the start of the movie. The driver leaves the cab running telling the passenger that he will back soon. The driver then runs off into the airport, boards a plane and ends up saving lives by landing the plane safely when all the crew fall ill. At the end of the movie, just after the credits finish rolling, we are shown the passenger who is still sitting in the taxi. The meter has clocked up a $11,300 fare. The passenger looks at his watch and declares that he will wait another twenty minutes!

Watch the video and draw the comparison of the point that I am trying to make:

Edwina Currie is far from being a good egg when it comes to understanding sexual harassment

There is a certain type of woman popping up on the media all gung ho style and jolly hockey stick japes to tout a version of female machismo which, apparently, all women ought to have adopted or should adopt to fend off male harassment. The flick of the female hand followed by a witty put-down in a voice that is serious enough to convey her rebuttal would have been sufficient, supposedly, to stop the tidal wave of allegations being made by women around the world of sexual harassment.

It started a few weeks ago with Elizabeth Hurley being interviewed on Sky News about how Harvey Weinstein had never made any advances towards her. The reason for this, according to Hurley, was because Weinstein knew that she would have thwacked him.

It is an extremely puerile and self-obsessed view which considers oneself as being above the ugliness of harassment based on one’s belief in one’s own supposed strength of character.

Did it occur to Elizabeth Hurley that the women who fell victim to Weinstein’s predatory nature were the brave and strong ones who used their voices to speak up rather than peddle forth some nonsense about how treating men as if they were children would immediately rid them of their predatory nature? Probably not.

That was the first hint of the daft dumbed down thinking espoused by self proclaimed ‘strong women’ that was to be inflicted on us.

Since then, we have had Julia Hartley-Brewer give us her opinion on the gradations of sexual harassment with a hand on the knee hardly registering on the scale. This, ironically, is the woman who informed the public about the time Michael Fallon put his hand on her knee. She has downplayed the incident even though she brought it up herself. In all this muddly mix one struggles to find a nugget of wisdom on how to deal with sexual harassment.

Edwina Currie who appeared on the ‘BBC This Week’ programme came across as someone who is extremely out of touch with the modern female world of work and play when she defended to the death, as I saw it, a man’s right to be a man. Edwina Currie is the archetypal older woman who went through the political system some decades ago and thinks that the world has not and, more to the point, should not change to alter the yesteryear when it pandered to men’s whims.

Adopting a macho attitude to male perpetrated sexual harassment is akin to being an apologist for it. These type of women will bend over backwards to accommodate men because it makes them feel equal to the so-called ‘superior sex’. They are desperate to show that they have made it in a man’s world by playing by the rules set by men. It makes these women feel macho and macho is good. Margaret Thatcher was the high priestess of this school of thought.  

I still remember the day 18 years ago when I brought my newly born daughter back home from the hospital. She was lying in her wicker basket placed on the floor beside my bed. It was a Friday. I would have been coming home from work and planning an exciting weekend. The sense of loss and fear over a life that was gone and the prospect of a future caring for this defenceless tiny human was overwhelming.

It seemed like a pivotal moment in my mother landscape, a break between my past as a non-mother and my future as a mother. But over the years I have come to the realization that that moment may have represented a severing of ties to me but, in reality, it was one that went into the pool of experience that I drew from in my mothering.

Mothering maybe a learnt experience but as mothers we do not reinvent the wheel. We draw upon our own vast memories and bring these to bear when  mothering our children. There is no ‘first mother moment’. Becoming a mother is the physical act of giving birth (including having a Caesarean birth like I did) plus it entails a cultural and personal identity. Mothering is a discursive formation played out through memories, experiences, passion and self-identification.

‘Borderlands and Crossroads’ is a highly evocative compilation of prose and poetry by over 30 feminists on how mothers’ (fathers are featured too) navigate mothering.

The book is edited by Jane Satterfield and Laurie Kruk who are renowned prize winning world class feminist poets and academics. In the introduction to the book Jane Satterfield uses metaphors associated with cartography and travel to describe the works featured…“reverse course, re-route, ditch old maps and chart new ones as they travel through maternal landscapes past and present, recovering lost connections and forging new ones.”

The stories will make you laugh, cry, ponder and find lots in common with. ‘Borderlands and Crossroads’ will appeal to all mothers which is why I am launching a season of the featured poetry and prose starting today and lasting over the coming Winter months. Kick back and enjoy. I will publish new readings on Thursdays and Mondays.