Being a “Woman Who Blogs”-“I’m just a person trapped in a woman’s body”.

This is my favourite post, so now it lives here.

I have a vagina.

Yes, I was shocked too. But until reading Company magazine’s, “Bloggers issue“, it had never occurred to me that my vagina and my blogging had anything to do with each other. My vulva’s typing speed is only 60wpm, whereas my dainty woman’s fingers can type at 90wpm.  Fingers win.

I’ve never identified as, “a female blogger”.  I’m a blogger. My gender doesn’t come into it.  This surprises me, as I tend to consider gender in everything.  Having read too much of Sociological Images, everything I see- from the caloric content of McDonalds packaging having a woman’s outline next to it (aaah but usually males are the default image, aaaaaah is this trying to redress a balance or do they think women are more interested in calories AAAAAAH) to expensive advertising- I tend to analyse.

I’m both consumer and critic of the folly of mainstream media and its representations of women. First of all, I have almost nothing but disgust for women’s magazines in their back-breaking hypocrisy, but they do occasionally run a decent article, so, I, consumer.  It’s also well known to my friends that I am irretrievably obsessed with women’s weeklies. Thursdays are my holy day, my day of worshipping at the church of tragedy. I buy this stuff.  And while Robert was smearing lipstick on his face for one of the below photos, I grabbed his hand and screeched, “THAT’S CHANEL!” and snatched it away from him.  Okay, it’s Chanel lipstick I found in a dark corner of a club, but still.  What I’m saying is that I am a consumer.  I’m no different and I don’t profess to be.  I’m not some genderless warrior out on the sidelines.  I’m a feminist, I am a woman, and I am a consumer.

As for critic: here is the accompanying photograph to an article about being groped and assaulted in clubs at the weekend, written by a blogger I respect, from the F Word:

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That, to me, looks like a advertisement.  Compare it to this:

Passive expression, wanton pose.

Dead-a-like selling perfume.

Advertising constantly glamourises and sexualises violence against women and portrays them as passive, and yet! A magazine that espouses it doesn’t see the irony in such a photo illustrating an article about violence towards women, putting the blame squarely at the feet of men.  It is their fault, too, but whose aiding them in shaping their images of women? Ho hum, eh?

I digress.

This magazine also recently featured interviews with politicians in which they asked questions like, “Who won the X-Factor”?  Do you care?  Do you care if Gordon Brown cares?  I like a sneak at celebrity gossip as much as the next person but why do these magazines think we care that our leaders give a shit about who Katie Price is shagging at the moment?

The issue was all about these strong, “sassy” (almost totally conventionally attractive) women bloggers, writing about “women’s things”, like fashion, baking and so on.  They featured a few pieces from bloggers who wrote about other subjects, but it mostly concentrated on things they think their young women audience would be interested in.  It did have some good points, in that it repeated that being a woman is not a barrier to success (despite? because?), and you can be successful from blogging (and hey, you can also get a boyfriend from blogging, right?)  But it’s window-dressing. Tokenistic.

My ire is not towards other bloggers.  Blogging is an important and revolutionary medium for spreading ideas.  I read a lot of blogs, and I’m faintly obsessed with sociological and feminism blogs. And self-identification is one thing. My issue is how female bloggers are categorised and identified within the media.  At the oft-repeated notion in the media that we are separate, that we write about “women’s things” and thus should stay there, waving our little flags, “representing” womanhood itself. That whatever we write, we must keep it relevant to women. To me, it’s as divisive and counterproductive as the awful, “chick-lit”.

Maybe when I write about my next appointment, I should write this:

“It was 2pm, and I was still dizzy from my dose of antipsychotics the night before.  I slicked on my Chanel lipstick, and huddled my face deep into the silky folds of my Hell Bunny coat.  Pulling on my Mary Janes, I stepped outside into the blinding afternoon haze.  A man- thirties, well-dressed- passed me, interest briefly flickering as his cobalt eyes skimmed my face…”

A blogger called Nee Naw used a male pseudonym throughout the entirety of her blogging career.  Now she’s got a book published, and when she came out as a woman called Suzi, people were shocked.  They’d (and I, until I discovered we had mutual friends) totally believed that she was a man, and that’s because she didn’t make her gender an issue when she wrote.  Mark Myers was just a name.  It wasn’t a person.  And I think that she did “manly” things; she was heroic in some ways, she was calm under pressure, she was wry and funny- how would she have been perceived if she had been explicit about being a woman from the beginning?

This is not the fault of women, but of the way the media (and not just print media, but everything) represents women.  It is important because it’s the largest and most efficient way to communicate with people. It frustrates me constantly that I never see anything within it that remotely represents my own experiences.  There is a strange cognitive dissonance in that they try to portray women as smart, autonomous and capable (as women, men, all people can be) whilst at the same time reducing them to component parts that are apparently the essence of womanhood; that is, clothes, children, fashion, men and chocolate.  There’s always a “softening” of any strong woman they seek to portray.   It cannot escape the attention of them that a sports star, like Venus Williams for example, who could kick your ass and mine up and down the M25, is “beautiful”.  A female writer with brains to burn, she looks so ethereal in the sunlight.  And, on the off-chance that the woman in question is fat (ha, who ever heard of a women’s magazine interviewing someone who is fat?), they must reference her gym routine and all that healthy food she eats.  She’s a good fattie.  If you’re a bad fattie, turn to page 36 to lose 14lbs in a month!

It is true that bloggers are exclusively male and that any sort of media attention that refers to women who blog as a movement, which is necessary but irritating; I wish everything we did didn’t have to be activism. It may encourage other women to blog.   And I won’t bite the hand that feeds me.  I love blogging and it has changed my life in a lot of ways.  There’s a fecking Radio 4 play about my blog.  That is extremely surreal.

But why should your gender ALWAYS be relevant in your blogging?  Why should a woman automatically have to write for an audience of other women?  Fashion blogs will obviously be squarely aimed at women unless you’re a man who likes wearing a dress (Step up, Robert Vaughan). Likewise, feminism blogs, fat acceptance blogs and so on are largely read by women, because these are issues that directly affect them.  (If you’re scratching your head at fat acceptance being an issue that predominantly affects women, please do not kid yourself that fat women are in any way treated in the same way as fat men.  Try to imagine a fat women being the CEO of a company, as opposed to a fat man).

However. When it comes to other topics, is gender relevant?  It’s true that being a female blogger is different than being a male one.  There are expectations you’d never have imagined you’d have to entertain for a second.  Nay, it’s almost an novelty to some people that a little woman had her head out of her Sex and the City boxset long enough to write something intelligent.  (I’d just like to state for the record right now that I own a Sex and the City box set.  And if we’re going to focus on other things that the media uses to communicate with women in the belief that we’re all the same and we all like the same things, I also love chocolate, kittens, coats and make-up).  And god forbid you’re not conventionally attractive.  You may achieve the respect from men, but that’s about it.

I almost never consider my gender in terms of this blog.  Obviously being a woman does have some impact upon my illness, and vice versa, and therefore, I write about that.  But it’s incidental.  The only time it occurs to me that I may be perceived as a “woman who blogs” and not just a person who blogs is when I get the comments and emails that attack me for my appearance.  They’re usually from men, but occasionally they’re from women.  The parade of insults are the usual: you’re fat, you’re ugly, it’s no wonder you’re depressed, look at you and etc etc etc.  I very much doubt I’d have received the same comments if I were a man, because with a woman, you hit her where it hurts, and where it’s perceived to hurt is her beauty.  That’s her currency.  Not her mind, nor her wisdom, but her breasts, her adipose tissue, the whiteness of her teeth.  I have body dysmorphic disorder so water off a duck’s back because their distant spite-typing is dwarfed by my present skull-rattling, but it’s very telling.  People try to engage me on the basest level.

I do wonder if I’d have been as popular as a blogger if I were a man.  Okay, I’m not that popular. I don’t get that many hits (despite what you may think- I average out at about 1000 unique hits a day, which, in terms of the “big blogs”, is not a lot).  But in the clamouring corner of the madosphere (which, on reflection, is dominated by women, though that never crossed my mind until I started to think about it.  Eating disorder blogs are almost exclusively written by women), I am well known, most probably because I am one of the longest-standing bloggers there. Yeah, three years later and I’m still subjecting you to my rubbish.  Bake a cake.

As much as I’d like to believe that people are interested in my blog because I write well or because I make them laugh, I’m also aware that part of the reason people read this blog is because I’ve danced upon the extreme end of the bipolar spectrum which is all the more shocking or interesting because I’m a young, 4ft 11″ woman with a silly Irish voice. That I am surprising because I can string a word together without any education past GCSEs.  A robust man throwing himself at people in the street, jumping off a multistory carpark or getting into fights in manic rages would be less shocking to someone that tiny I doing all those things.  Indeed, it’s probably a comic image when it comes to some of my excesses.  People would probably perceive him differently for the depressions and darknesses he endured, because he is a man; he can endure them.  As a woman?  The endurances are all the more painful because she is not supposed to endure them; not a young woman like me.

Because I am a woman, my problems take on a different light; can I be a mother, is it even wise for me to be a mother? and so on.  And mental illness; particularly psychotic ones like severe bipolarity or schizophrenia; are the remit of the man.  If you think of someone with schizophrenia, I’d say that most people would conjure up the image of a man in their heads.  I’m also aware that on the bipolar spectrum, my first impulse when I think of mania is to imagine a man, with depression, a woman.  The dynamic creativity that I think is wrongly attributed to bipolarity is often articulated by men in the media; the depression, by the women.  Active/passive.

If I’m sounding egotistical, I’ll touch upon another slightly controversial point in terms of my own gender and this blog.  Some of my readers have expressed protectiveness towards me. In fact, people in general are protective of me.  Whereas this is appreciated and lovely, I don’t think I’d inspire the same feeling if I were a man.  Would I even have written this blog if I were a man?  I don’t know.  I’m glad I do write this blog, and I hope that my experience of being a young woman living with mental illness helps and enlightens others, but at the same time, I’m genuinely afraid that if my book gets published, that it will have a fucking handbag on the cover with a bottle of pills and a box of Tampax falling out of it.

So, if you’re a woman blogger: HERE ARE THE RULES.

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Cliché number 1: OMG I LOVE SHOES! ALL WOMEN LOVE SHOES, right? And when you make a book out of it, make sure you put an illustration of fucking shoes on the cover.

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Cliché number 2: If she's not a lesbian, he's "DH" or "OH", then he is superfluous, a generalisation or a mechanism. To be dissected, reviled, admired, laughed at, but never loved. Make sure you reference men constantly. They are both the saviours and the antagonist.

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Or they're cunts.

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Cliché number 3: We blog about things that were formally seen as shackling us, such as housework and cooking, and cannot be pictured without a kooky whisk or cupcakes. We have reclaimed these things. We retain our femininity and our autonomy, however, we're still mad as hell. (PS: That's Robert's whisk!)

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Cliché number 4: Be beautiful in all that you do, because beauty is empowering. You are invisible if you are not beautiful, even online. It is your responsibility to be both beautiful and intelligent.

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Cliché number 5: If we blog about politics, we have to make it relative to our gender. We somehow have to include a "girly" gimmick to make it palatable to our tiny women's minds. We are selfish and narrow and care about womens' rights, not human rights. (See Stilettos and Socialism, and June Sarpong's now defunct fucking Politics and the City)

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Women are not a genre. Not in music, literature or art. We're just women. We don't need to cater to our audience of women because they're not that different than our audience of men. Separating us and assigning us to our own little corners is actively divisive and counterproductive. We are capable of representing ourselves. Although it wouldn't make me less intelligent or relevant if I blogged about fashion or cookery, it doesn't mean that I have to in order to fit in. So fuck off.

Obey, ladies, or else no-one will care for what you have to say.

37 Responses

  1. This is a great post. I hadn’t seen that issue of Company until I saw you mention it on FB and I had similar thoughts. That said, I appreciate that blogging is getting more recognition as a worthwhile activity, because I do find a lot of people seem pretty sceptical of the whole thing.

    p.s. you look lovely in these pics.

  2. Brilliant post, as usual! I feel like I am letting women everywhere down by not actually being that fussed about shoes though…. All women love shows right? So do I still count as a woman if I don’t love shoes? I should point out that I do appreciate the look of pretty shoes, but there is no bloody way they are going near my feet because they will a) fall off due to my awkward feet, b) be completely impractical, and c) be cripplingly uncomfortable because pretty shoes are. And they are my reasons for not owning lots of pretty shoes, and for hating shoe shopping. Am I still a woman?

  3. Alright, you got me. I am a man. I have failed to blog sufficiently about shoes/bakery/bikini waxes. I must be Male Blogger. Bollocks. Another Identity issue to overcome.

    Lola x

  4. What colour Chanel lipstick?

  5. Cool pics. I’m going to be really shallow here and say – I’ve got the same whisk as you and almost the same hair-colour!
    K.x

  6. Great post. I always feel like a failure as a woman because I can’t wear high heels, can’t put make up on properly and can’t be arsed to bleach/wax every bit of hair that’s not on my head. So while my blog makes an occasional nod to the idea of ‘femininity’ (usually regarding chocolate) I don’t think it particularly shouts ‘I’m a girl!’. I think I’m probably too nice about Mr Door as well… damn, total failure as a female blogger…how will I ever continue…

  7. Great post. I am seeming to have a sociological evening at this rate…
    Love the photos, too!

  8. I am a male,i started blogging because of you and i do finf that 90% of writers who talk about depression are female

  9. This is one of your best pieces of writing for a long time – brilliant!

  10. I agree with nicola above, an eloquent piece of writing.. This post would get a first at degree level (obviously womens studies lol).

    As a complete aside and no I am not convinced or obsessed that everyone has Ehlers Danlos/hypermobility but your fingers definately do look back bending double jointed. I just wondered if you get joint pain/arthraligia at all. I can’t help it you posted the photo’s.

    • I am hypermobile. Only 7 out of 9 though – my little fingers don’t go back quite far enough to make it 9 out of 9. But my knees and thumbs in particular are very hyperextended. Luckily I haven’t experienced much in the way of problems as a result of it – I am a dancer and hypermobility is generally viewed as a positive thing in dance, and indeed is often actually looked for. I am weaker in some joints because of it, but that is about it. I don’t really know much about it apart from in dance terms though. Out of interest do you happen to know if there is a link between hypermobility and very highly arched/bendy feet? I have extremely bendy feet, which may be coincidental, but the other people I know who also have very highly arched feet also have hyperextended joints. And I agree that Seaneen’s fingers look hypermobile in that last picture. Sorry for hijacking!

  11. Your talk of fat acceptance blogs made me think of my mentalist boy. He is a 19 stone trans man. When he ‘looked female’ (whatever that is) he got constant abuse on the street both physical and verbal…now he appears ‘male’ he hasn’t had a single comment, infact he gets lots more positive attention.

  12. This being my first time on your blog I was completely delighted with this post. I am a bipolar mother of a bipolar teenage girl and I’m alos a sociology major with a minor in Women’s Studies and am always looking for articles dealing with the sociological perspectives of women. I haven’t read the article you mentioned, but I will be heading there shortly. Very insightful post.

  13. An awesome piece. Too much there for me to do justice to with my limited powers of self-expression. I just couldn’t let this pass without commenting.

    Very funny, tongue-in-cheek, poignant, thought provoking, enraging, heart-warming and consciousness-raising.

    Thanks for writing. x

  14. I love this blog!
    Now excuse me while I find something manly to do, such reach the top shelf or suppress an emotion.
    (grunt)

  15. I know your meds make you sleepy, but it seems to me that your eyes are always wide open. Beautiful and thoughtful writing. You are a rare talent.

  16. post made of total win.🙂

  17. I don’t disagree with your overall point that there should be no gender bias in blogging, or in classifying bloggers.

    I have always had doubts, however, when fashion and fashion images are criticized as exploitive (implying, I think, that men are doing the exploiting). There may be men involved in creating the images and the fashions, but they seem to me to be catering to women, not manipulating them. My impression is that women dress for other women and themselves, not for men. In my experience, it is the women who notice clothing, lipstick color, hair styling, certainly not me or my male friends.

    She: “did you see that woman with the tourquise blouse and silver applique buttons with matching earrings, pearl necklace, black pumps and tacky hair extensions?”
    He: “Huh?”

    If you look at what I’ll politely call “cheesecake” photos you’ll see that what men like are rounded forms and real(er) women, not the anorexic corpse-pale models you see in fashion pix like the ones above. I mean, that is NOT a passive expression or wanton pose – that’s a I-SO-love-my-coat expression and pose.

  18. […] rather interesting observations from Seaneen about Being a “Woman who blogs”, I think I’m probably unintentionally “guilty” of following a few of the […]

  19. I seriously feel this is one of your finest pieces of writing ever. Great pics too. Get angry more often.

  20. I love the photos of you in your latest blog entry: totally defiant, completely I`m-me-and-not-taking-any-shit style.

    Don`t change, be yourself and keep blogging. (Also, glad to hear Belfast went well, sometimes a change really helps to blast the cobwebs out!)

    Take Care🙂
    David (soon-to-be Farid)

  21. Fabulous post! xxx

  22. A great read.

    I have tried to be androgynous my entire life but failed miserably. I have tested the waters of all male and all female environments as a young person – an all girl’s college and then the Navy after that. Quite a turn around.

    I slogged my way thru college by working in the last gasps of the American steel industry where I encountered some seriously malignant misogynists.

    I too have never encountered a full mirror of “my experience”
    in the media. The closest I have come is in a few books.

    I have never been able to hold the hand of female expectations – not even to meet them half way. I hate fashion and my sartorial expression remains at best one broken zipper away from full blown Homeless Couture.

    I love hats and have no desire to wear things that cling to me like latex. When shoulder pads were all the rage I felt like I was carrying a perpetual set of mini bread loaves on my shoulders.

    Fat women are ironically the most invisible of all. And rarely are any of their experiences taken seriously or documented for mass consumption – most tragically their medical symptoms are frequently shoved behind a wall with disastrous outcomes.

    I could go on and on with these examples – but I think there are many of you who can identify with this “unrecognized experience” of living as a woman in this era. We are only given the picture of life as the media deems “sell-able” whether it is representative or not.

    A sidenote to offer – My name is such that if I chop of the last 2 letters I am instantly male.
    Which I have done on a few occasions including a brash attempt to enroll in a Roman Catholic seminary at age 15. I had a wonderfully supportive aunt at the time who cheered me on but my mother intercepted said correspondence.

    Soldier on and keep blogging – you make a difference with every word you write.

  23. I guess my nomination is in the post🙂. Never read Company. Give me Marie Claire any day.

  24. Join the club – I am a pretty girl trapped in the body of an abomination.

  25. […] post: Being a “Woman Who Blogs” “I’m just a person trapped in a woman’s […]

  26. I started reading your blog when I started nights 4 weeks ago.. It’s now my last night shift.. let’s see if I can find time in day time hours to keep up to date with it.

    I wish there was a “like” option on here.. as this post was pretty tip top!🙂

  27. Great post. Can relate. Virtually everyone in my family too. You are great (will send to kids in the family your age to encourage them)

    I would have agreed with almost all of it except that when I had my 3 kiddies (w great trepidation because of all the illness in the family), I began paying more attention to the male-female differences. Breastfeeding 24/7 until kids are 2 rather brings home certain of them…I was also surprised by how peaceful and content I was then despite the media exploitation of post partum, which never hit me (I joked about breastfeeding hormones being happy cow ones, better than any antidepressant or anti anxiety agent). Of course, back when I was your age, if one was “merely” depressed one got endless lectures to buck up by the family doctor and there were no meds to complicate pregnancy and breast feeding decisions.

    Because I am still looking after my kids (21-17 with their own demons) and an unemployed spouse, now minus the happy cow stuff, I tend to bitch and moan and play for sympathy in my blog….er…write more as a “female”‘ now. Also second shift issues. I think your generation is luckier in that your guys are more apt to view housework and cooking and wiping the wee bairns’ bottoms to be their job too. Also, your generation is a great improvement on mine! You go girl!

    God bless you, will link to you, and hope the new meds tweaking works. Increasingly I just think the meds are something the wizards toss hopefully at us and if they throw a net and prevent us turning into a dragon or from falling into the Pit of Despair they pretend that the accident of timing or random interaction with something was All Their Wise Magic.

  28. Good read thanks. Can you check out my blog?

  29. great great great great post!

  30. women need to speak up and stop being subjects into the “usual” female activities.shoes, make up,and club crap that doesnt matter.shit is getting fucked up and were all being distracted with crap.feminism was created to destroy our unity.we need to join forces.

    stop watching tv. i did

    ps you are beautiful and fuck mainstream media.

  31. I really enjoy your writing! Very witty and SPOT ON!!!!

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