I want to be in the Friendzone

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af735c6d2cebd996b55284c6b70f7f2f--friendzone-quotes-friendzone-funny.jpgIt’s hard to be a denizen of the internet without being familiar with the idea of the “friendzone” and its most frequent application which seems, in my experience, to be by angry twitter men who believe that women are cruelly manipulating them into unwanted friendships when they want to foist unwanted sex to which they feel entitled on said women, as long as they’re, say, at least a 7.

I’ve talked about the Friendzone before, though of course then I was talking about this idea, which I hate, and I’m not going to spend any more time on anymore.

So why do I want to be in the Friendzone if I hate the term so much?

Because the English language is a beautiful thing full of nuance etc. and always open to change and innovation, I have noticed a new way that young women are using the term friendzone, and that friendzone is something I well and truly want to be in.

I’ve heard other women my age (OK, so only relatively young women) use it when they are talking about getting to know women they admire. Example, a friend of mine was telling me about when she had met up with someone who had been a mentor at university, she said:

She came to see me in the play, and then afterwards we went out for coffee and talked about not-work stuff. At the end, she went for a hug and I knew that we had entered the friendzone

And since this first revelation, I have heard other women use it that way. “I was so happy Step-Brothers-Did-we-just-become-best-friends.gifwhen we entered the friendzone.” You see, there ought not to be anything about the words ‘friend’ and ‘zone’ in a jolly portmanteau together that ought to strike fear or disparagement into anyone’s heart. We like friends! Zones are fine, too, I guess!

Now I’m aware that this  “fetch” has only happened among my own demographic and, in fact, perhaps a small group of friends, but I want to make this positive friendzone happen. Did you have a really great chat with your boss at work? In the friendzone! Did you approach and bond with a senior academic at a conference? In the friendzone! Did you slide into the dms of a twitter friend and discuss your love of the same books or your admiration of their work? In the friendzone! YESS!

Here’s to the new friendzone. I wanna be in it.

News and Thoughts June 18th

It seems frivolous and inappropriate, in the wake of the awful fire at Grenfell tower, to be penning and sharing posts about romance, books, book sales, the small-world observations I like to make here, or even the politically charged commentary.

There’s not much to say, not much that can be said, apart from that this is a heartbreaking tragedy that should never have happened in the twenty-first century in one of the most developed countries in the world. The senseless loss of life highlights the vulnerability of rental tenants, and the dangers of an only very loosely regulated rental market. It seems that the poorest and most vulnerable have suffered. It is a shame and a disgrace for our nation that this has happened.

What has been heartening is to see the local response – the gifts and support of local people. That has, of course, come up to meet needs that were not being met by the local council – the council of one of the richest areas in London.

Time will tell what really happened, and we can only hope that justice will come, but two things are evident to me: the victims of that fire were, and continued to be, failed by those who were supposed to protect them, and the compassion and love of the people of London in this awful, awful time is a comfort that we should remember. People care. We hurt together. There is a community there fighting to take care of one another even as those in power who promised to care for them have let them down.

 

PSA from Lavinia

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So, I’m back again after a little break. Those who follow me on facebook, and those who know me personally, will know I’ve had a difficult loss. The blog where I talk about politics and complain about sexism isn’t the place for me to discuss this, except to say that this was someone who was so important to my writing, and I am grateful to have known them and benefitted from their kindness.

But given this, and given the horrors that have faced the word at large in the past few weeks, it’s harder for me to approach Thursday’s impending election with the kind of wry detachment I try to cultivate on this blog (and perhaps sometimes manage?)

wheat.jpgThis matters. It matters in every way. Those of us whose day-jobs are in Higher Education may feel, as I do, that five more years of the Tories will make academic jobs even harder to come by, will increase exploitation of young academics, and will make the financial burden facing low-income students even harder to bear. The financial pressure on schools is worse.

I have not been blessed with a strong and hearty body, nor with the grace needed to avoid injuring myself every six months or so so badly that I end up in A&E. The NHS is one of the few crowning glories of British civilization, and we need to protect it with all of our voting power.

We need healthcare, education, infrastructure and protection. Why have a government if we don’t get that in return? Socialism is unfashionable (or, perhaps, it is only fashionable among internet yoofs who like to share Corbyn memes), but powerful.

gondor.jpgThere’s not much else to say apart from that. Opinions differ on the economic intricacies of how to improve our GDP, or make things run more smoothly, but at the moment we need change. Girls are missing school because they’ve got their periods, people subsist on food banks, the police are under-funded and under-staffed and teachers are being laid off even as class sizes reach breaking point. There is not enough money in our NHS, but billionaires get tax breaks.

I doubt I’ll change anyone’s mind with one post on my blog, but I’m putting this out there: I think Labour is our only hope. Of course, I don’t have much hope, but hope is something in itself. If you want real change, and if you want a government who works hard for you, please  – vote Labour.

Book of the Month: HiJack

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Click on the image to buy! 

So obviously book of the month is a massive misnomer at this point, but this is a book, and this is a month so here we go.

Once again, the book of the month is one that is close to my heart and written by my friend Karen Gordon. She was very kind enough to give me a review copy. Some of you may remember my review of Fearless Flying, well let me tell you HiJack is even better – Vivienne’s character really takes off (ha ha I did that on purpose). She’s a lot more scheming, independent and in-control, but that doesn’t mean she’s lost any hint of vulnerability.

Vivienne is a great heroine for the modern woman. I don’t want to spoil it, but the book avoids all of the frustrating man-at-the-centre cliches that have come to dog fiction written from a female perspective. For me, one of the nicest and more honest parts of this story was the way Vivienne’s relationship with her best friend, Dom, played out. I found some of that very familiar and moving, as it worked through the difficulty of having a very close friend and negotiating growing and changing.

I am a little biased, of course, since Karen very kindly mentions me in her acknowledgements, which is such an honour, but I would recommend this book to anyone. It’s pacy and driven by a female character with her own mind, sexuality and drive. Get empowered! Get this book. 

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Everything You Need to Know

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king-arthurThis film was not quite what I expected. Instead of being a story about King Arthur growing up and coming into his birthright it was the charming tale of Vortigern (who has a cool name and is a tiny bit-part in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain but is inexplicably Uther’s ambitious brother here) making a deal with Ursula the Sea-Witch but instead of wanting legs so he can be a real boy he wants magic powers so he can destroy the world muhahahaha to no obvious benefit to himself.

I’m going to start off with everything I liked about this film:

  • ursula.jpgIt featured Ursula the Sea-Witch and a sexy version of Flotsam and Jetsam, updated for the modern viewer
  • Eric Bana reprises the exact same role he played in Troy but has now gloriously graduated from “dutiful hunk who fights on to protect his people despite knowing he is doomed” to “dutiful silver fox who fights on to protect his people despite knowing he is doomed”
  •  It was a world in which becoming the most magical magician that ever did magic was a simple matter of building the tallest house – a true meritocratic society which young Arthur rudely disrupts by insisting on his inborn nobility
  • Vortigern uses this magic to become a sort of Sauron-styled Nazi and has – it seems – the power to convince Guy Ritchie that making 100,000 CGI extras do a Nazi salute was a good way of “subtly” showing he was evil
  • Excalibur was a sort of giant sonic screwdriver, complete with glowing blue light and the ability to pretty much do anything the plot required
  • The final fight scene was exactly the same sequence as the ‘Vah Rudania’ boss I just defeated on Legend of Zelda, complete with melting into black mist at the end (that’s not a spoiler because I didn’t tell you who was fighting who, ha ha)

But I come not to praise this film, but to bury it, and – boys and girls – the library is well and truly open in the Collins household.

I approached this film with much excitement and some dread. I’m not a big Ritchie fan, but like all living breathing humans I adored the Sherlock Holmes reboot. I was concerned by the trailer, and I’m afraid it cashed those cheques it wrote about the film being a massive sausage-fest in which the women were pretty, quiet and died whenever the plot demanded with minimum mess, bar one mysterious “mage” that does not get a name. Igraine, who in Malory is a wise counsellor and complex figure even in the first book in which she appears, says the word ‘peace’ and then dies (watch this space for a more interesting, empowering and f-ing up to date Igraine).

That’s the thing – this wasn’t the King Arthur movie that 2017 needed. It’s even less woke than the medieval versions. Malory’s no Simone de Beauvoir, but we still see complex women with things to do and say, influence – and sometimes even power – to wield. I expect GR clapped himself on the back when he wrote that ‘arthur-king-of-the-britons-i-am-arthur-king-of-the-britonsMaggie’ character but she does so little it’s laughable and despite an altercation with Vortigern in a barge, she simply melts back into the background to look obligingly up at men whenever they speak at her.

Likewise, despite claiming a medieval legacy and making some nods towards it, it was so far off the mark it was laughable. It’s like the creators had a drunken meeting where they were like “what’s medieval? Mercia? Vikings? Drinking? Sure, that’ll do”. Thing is, Viking’s weren’t raiding Britain until centuries after King Arthur, let alone coming and making deals with kings. Those could just as easily have been Saxons, who would have fulfilled the same plot role and been right, only Ritchie cornered himself by perplexingly have Arthur and everyone else refer over and over again to England. Eng-land. Angle-land. Land of the Anglo-saxons. I mean, come on. “I am Arthur, King of the Britons.” Then again, Terry Jones knows what he’s talking about. But come on, mate. It would only have taken a cursory google. BTW, Mercia – an Anglo-Saxon kingdom. No Mercia back in dem days. Don’t get me started on the names. William. Lucy. Mike. Those, I could have forgiven, it’s England that really gets me, like the script was written by an EDL member with no access to google.

So there it is. The Legend of the Sword. A man’s man film for a man’s man lads on tour world that, despite the expensive CGI, somehow feels horribly dated.

You Should Be Watching ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

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dims.jpegI first read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale when I was studying for my A-levels. It wasn’t actually my A-level book (though that’s how many of us first read it), but my A-level set text was a novel about incest in the Fens and I had serious book envy from the groups studying what I had heard was a (gasp) feminist science-fiction novel.

When I read The Handmaid’s Tale first it seemed like an imaginative, outlandish nightmare of a future in which the means of (baby) production had been very much seized from women. It seemed like a fever-dream of all the worst things that could possibly have happened to or for women. For me, it was a kind of apocalypse novel, a worst-case scenario, post-nuclear-winter, end-of-the-world.

Now, it feels like a prophesy.

51VHe12RxJL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgIt’s rare that science fiction novels feel more relevant as time goes on. Perhaps it’s me, and the things that have changed in my life since then. Certainly, at first reading, to my mind I existed in that blissful just-post-90s haze when it felt like all the big battles had been won and everything else would fall into place for women. Feminism was a dubious term, and one that I would not admit to in public – not because I thought it was bad, but it just felt too political.

Now, either the world has changed or (more likely) I have, and The Handmaid’s Tale feels like it could be five years away from now. Hulu’s (excellent – oh my god watch it right now) adaptation moves everything seamlessly to a very immediate context. Like The Heart Goes Last , this is a book written before President Trump that seems somehow nonetheless to anticipate a worst-case yet nonetheless believable scenario.

But more than that, it feels so important in the current political climate. A climate in which the stars and producers of the new Hulu series are hesitant to call it a feminist piece. To “admit” to feminism. Oddly enough, what the show does so well is to represent a climate of terrified complicity. The women all lose their jobs. The men commiserate quietly but do nothing. A woman is blamed for her own rape, and the other women point and chant “your fault”.

alexis-bledel-joins-hulu-the-handmaids-tale-trailer.pngIf you haven’t watched it, watch now. If you’ve read the book, read it again. I’m not saying we’re going to wake up to something like this tomorrow, but things slide out of control when inertia sets in. The Handmaid’s Tale warned of this in 1985, and yet somehow its lessons seem more relevant and prescient thirty years later. Surely, that can’t be good.

Are You a “Lady Boss” (and what does it mean to be one)?

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Everyone knows the rules in the workplace are different for men and for women. I mean, some people deny it, obviously, not everyone agrees, but some people deny the holocaust happened so there you are. Most people agree that the rules in the workplace are subtly different (and sometimes not so subtly) for men and women.

What good old RB highlights in her music video is this idea that women should be “nice”. We reward and promote women being “nice” socially, but actually professionally there isn’t much of a reward for being “nice”, and this is something that I’ve been struggling with lately.

Both in and out of my writing life – in all aspects of my professional life – I come across situations where someone else (sometimes a man, sometimes a woman) asks me to do something I don’t want to do. Whether that’s to take less money than I usually do for the same work as a favour to them – and we’re talking strangers here, not “mates rates” – or working days I don’t usually work, like weekends. This is a potential hazard, of course, of a self-employed lifestyle, but every time I have to say, no, actually I’m not going to disadvantage myself simply because you, a professional acquaintance, have asked me to, because it would benefit you, I feel like I’m somehow being awful.

Now I’m not here to say that men never feel this way, or that only women feel socially awkward about saying no, but I am here to say that I believe we do view women who do that in a different way from how we view men. As difficult and ‘mean’ rather that strong. Rather than assertive and sure of themselves. And maybe people don’t view me that way – after all, how would I know how people viewed me, I’m not a mind-reader – but the point is, I feel that way. I second-guess myself because of the prevailing narrative. Women should be accommodating and put the needs of others first.

I’d love to hear the stories from others who’ve experienced this. From other self-employed or writing women who have (or haven’t) asserted themselves in professional situations. People who think this is true, people who don’t. Comment away! I’d love to talk more about this.

 

Lavinia’s Book of the Month: March 2017

Here at last! My latest book of the month. An absolutely magical read that I’d recommend to all!

Chapter and Verse Reviews

A Brief Word

First, an admission and an apology. I had originally earmarked this for Chapter and Verse’s February pick, but through indolence and negligence it got pushed back; I doubt anyone even remembers February by now, so I’m calling it Book of the Month for March.

This is not Lavinia’s fault, but mine. A thousand apologies.

Nick

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

I was given this book several years ago (three; so sorry) by a friend who I trust in all things. But because beneath this veneer of being a responsible citizen I am a deeply awful person I only just got around to reading it. A couple of things put me off.

Firstly, the last piece of “art” I interacted with about the circus was the film Water for Elephants, which was super dull, and I guess I thought this book would be full of people feeding elephants…

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Happy International Women’s Day!

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Happy International Women’s Day!

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(To pre-empt any of those kinds of comments, FYI International Men’s Day is November 19th)

Today, perhaps unsurprisingly, I want to talk about “internet feminism”.

Women of the internet know well how easy it is to make a particular group of online men angry. I’ve written a couple of post that have made that particular community (*cough* red pill thread *cough*) rather angry.

First, I was one of the many online voices criticising Scott Aaronson for saying that life was better when women were simply handed to men when they came of age. I actually had a rather productive discussion with him, after he commented on the post. Though we didn’t come to see eye-to-eye, I gained something from it. This didn’t stop his posse of followers (which, to his credit, he disavowed on twitter) from bombarding my comments with everything from poorly punctuated claims that I was an idiot to actual threats. C’est la vie pour la femme en-ligne, as the French would (probably) say.

Then, I was upset when Tim Hunt said women were too emotional for science. This was a relatively low-key event only, very excitingly, Louise Mensch tried to troll me on twitter. Disappointingly for both of us, I think, when I ignored her she lost interest. No fifteen minutes of Louise Menschy fame for me!

But the piece de resistance came in January last year when venerable medievalist Allen Frantzen’s adorably 80s blog became a matter of public awareness. It became a matter of public awareness because it was a misogynistic, hate-filled diatribe against women. I spoke out. My response got posted in some other media outlets. Then I ended up on some Reddit hit-list. Granted, I was only about public enemy number 7, but I was still bombarded with the kind of comments and emails you think are a parody of what red pill dudebros write. My favourite one told me I would be sorry when the men left “the village” to live in the wild. I may well be! Is Jon Hamm one of these men? Don’t go, Jon. I didn’t mean it. Women are silly and like handbags. Please come back to my village.

Anyway, it’s been an educational time being a woman with opinions and a blog. What I find interesting about the whole “internet feminist” bag is how offended many of these particular individuals are about my expressing my opinion on my blog and my twitter. I don’t much care for their opinions, but I don’t go to their blogs and tell them that I’m going to leave the village (?? because why, actually, would I do that?) and I certainly don’t bombard them with threats. I don’t know why women speaking about this online on their own blogs and twitter feeds is seen as so antagonistic and threatening. I don’t agree with what Breitbart of Return of Kings (oh god don’t google it, they’re awful) say, but I don’t feel the need to shout them down.

So here I am not being shouted down. Here’s to many more days of making those who don’t like women talking (on their own damn blogs!) angry. And to every brave, writing woman on the internet. So many of you are so much braver than me.

 

Lavinia xxx

Facebook Fast

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facebook-banned-300x300This year, I’ve given up Facebook for Lent. I’m not much of a pious person, and I’m certainly not very “into” denying myself things (cake, Netflix binges, acquiring more cats etc. etc.) but I thought Lent offered an opportunity to gain something by giving something up, and what I hoped to gain by giving up Facebook was time.

So far, I’ve subscribed to several online magazines and spent more time than I would like googling “which breeds of dog get on well with cats” as a sort of procrastination methodone to tide me over while I’m trying to go cold-turkey from my facebook addiction. I had dreams of spare five minutes being filled with writing, blogging, tweeting, editing, but it turns out that the problem isn’t Facebook, the problem is me.

I’m sure many writers know that feeling, tell themselves that story, if only x were the case, I would get so much more writing done. The thing is, when I’ve got the idea – when I’m in the writing mood – I make time to write. I write all the time. Even times I shouldn’t. Type type typing away at something for myself when I’m supposed to be doing other work, scribbling on bits of paper, zoning out of conversations in my own little world. It’s not necessarily time that’s the problem. It’s energy and motivation.

facebook-dislike-1And this is the thing – I sometimes feel like the busier I am, the more I procrastinate. The more frazzled and multi-task-mad, the more I have that urge to spend five minutes scrolling through facebook, seeing everything and reading nothing. Not working, but not really relaxing either.

So I’ve amended my Lenten intention accordingly: not off facebook to work better, but off facebook to relax better. To spend some time recovering properly from all the things I have to do. And hopefully, hopefully, giving my brain a bit of a rest will create some space to let the writing back in…