IWD2014: Becoming a woman in a hut in the French forest (and other Grimm fairytales)

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Sunset at Persephone the Forked Woman: an entirely unseeable Anna and our friend Cat in Durham c. 2004

My university friend Anna was the first person I went running with. We did Race For Life in 2006, and it was exhausting. I’ll never forget the horror of schlumpfing down Barbican, only to see runners coming the other way and realising I’d only done 2k. THERE ARE MORE K?

Anna now runs a wonderful website – more of a community really – called Any Other Woman. I wrote this for her on AOW,  for International Women’s Day (which is tomorrow, but tomorrow is Saturday so they’re doing it today while people are actually looking at the internet.)

 

The moment I realised that I was a woman wasn’t when I got my period, or mastered nail polish, or achieved something otherwise monumentally female. It was in France, surrounded by male friends, all of us high as a kite on mushrooms. Continue reading

“Keep buggering on” – Women in News and life as a female journalist

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Disco panel

Some enterprising high-ups at work have launched a series of events in which high-profile women in different areas talk about their careers and interests. I am surrounded by kick-ass women doing very good jobs, but I also spend most of my day at my desk so don’t get to talk to many of them outside Twitter very often. This was an opportunity to step away from it and hear a varied panel having a chat about their careers and problems. And then have some beers and a natter, which was excellent.

  • Rachel Richardson, editor of Fabulous magazine (chair)
  • Deborah Haynes, defence editor at The Times
  • Deidre Saunders, agony aunt at The Sun (legend)
  • Victoria Newton, editor of The Sun on Sunday
  • Emma Tucker, deputy editor of The Times
  • Eleanor Mills, editorial director of The Sunday Times & chair of Women in Journalism
  • Tiffanie Darke, editor of Style magazine at The Sunday Times

Pretty bloody good panel for a first event. Continue reading

Sara’s half-marathon tips

YAY SARA!

YAY SARA!

My friend Sara, her of the sports jelly beans and witchcraft chatting-while-running, sent me the most wonderful email the week before I did Royal Parks (more on that story later). She had just done her first half marathon in Ealing, and had lots of marvellous advice which she’s said I can put up here. My favourite, obviously, was “Remember you’re allowed all the carbs now.”

Also good, because I came down with SODDING FLU five days before, so never did do my two three mile runs – “It doesn’t matter if you don’t run this week. You’ve been ready for this for the last month, a week off at the end won’t change a think. I did two very short runs but I think it’s more important to rest. Don’t do anything after Thursday!”

What was really wonderful was this picture which she posted shortly afterwards. A bunch of her friends trekked up to Ealing in the middle of the night (or, 10am on Sunday morning which is much the same thing) and surprised her as she came round the final bend with this UTTERLY amazing sign. Bravo Sara’s friends. And bravo the Sara!

Sara’s half-marathon tips:

The Ealing Half was fantastic, I loved it so much. I want to do another one now! Here’s what I learned on the day:

– Find a pacer and follow them. You won’t have to look at your watch, so you can take in the scenery and crowds. It went much quicker for me as I wasn’t checking my watch and thinking “we’ve only done FOUR miles, WTF?” It also meant I didn’t shoot off too fast.

– Chat to nervous looking people at the start, who will probably also be first timers. I ended up running the whole thing with a lovely girl called Jen as we found we were both aiming for a similar time.

– High-five any children on the route! They all had their tiny hands out in Ealing, and were counting the high fives they got.

– I found thinking of it as a ten mile run helped. I knew once I got to 10, I could definitely do another 3. 3 miles = Parkrun = fine.

– Drink at every water station, even if it’s just a tiny bit. Splash water on your face. Don’t worry about how you’ll look in the photos.

– Stretch! Like your life depends on it! I went for a short walk yesterday and did lots of stretching afterwards, and today I feel fine. I should have stretched more on Sunday instead of sweatily hugging everyone.

– Parade around all day in your medal. It’s your right. Loudly say “oh – this? Why it’s just my HALF MARATHON MEDAL” if you feel people are making insufficient fuss.

Sara, you are a total legend. Check out her equally legendary Tumblr, Life! Death! Top Tips!

We live in a digital age – that doesn’t mean we stop being human

I am a feminist. I believe in equality for women and men and think that women should be able to go about their business how they choose without being bothered or shamed, cut, hit or raped, or snidely bitched about.

I am also extremely fond of Twitter. At such times when I get caught up in a row, or sufficiently pumped up about RTs and chat, I can go on and on to the extent that my mercifully forgiving friends will quietly roll their eyes and wait for it to pass.

What I am rapidly realising is that the two don’t go together. Writing in 140 characters requires you to be pithy, but it also allows you to be brusque, rude and aggressive. I wish I could say that half the tripe I read on Twitter is pithy that hasn’t got its wings yet, but it doesn’t appear to be. I am developing a real dislike for ‘Twitter feminism’.

Whether it’s Helen Lewis taking a break because of absurd over-reaction (again) to a well-balanced blog post, or Vagenda Magazine reacting to the closure of a magazine (staffed primarily by women) in the snidest of ways, there is so much negativity and mean-spiritedness around that I am not surprised when people like Beyoncé or Katy Perry and Carla Bruni won’t label themselves as feminists.

With company like this, why would anyone?

We live in a digital age, but that doesn’t mean we should converse with each other like robots. It’s one thing to disagree with someone who has a platform – but we have blogs now, we can all have platforms to a certain extent – but it’s quite another to speak to them as though they were a cross between Pinochet and a wind-up toy from a Christmas cracker.

I have always considered myself extremely fortunate to have ‘met’ so many interesting and engaging people on Twitter, even if I never actually do so in real life. And even if I don’t see them in the flesh, that doesn’t mean they aren’t real people, with real feelings – and in the case of More! magazine, that they are real people who are probably in the pub now crying over their jobs.

Feminism is not about going “My branch of feminism is more correct than yours.” Full stop.  But perhaps where Twitter is concerned, it’s time to take a step back and embrace something a little more gentle and a little less strident. And a little kinder.

Until then, I’m becoming a featherist and looking at pictures of swans and pigeons instead.

funny-birds

Latitude, with all of your ladies you are spoiling us

A cheery email announcing Latitude Festival‘s first line-up has just come a-pinging into my inbox. Here we go! Here’s the line-up. Let’s have a look at it and have vivid flashbacks to festivals we may or may not have drowned at in the past:

Latitude festival first line-up announcements

Whoah. Something weird’s going on here. Where’s the – where are the – ladies? Women? Women of pop and comedy, hello. I’m calling to you. Latitude, I can’t find the – oh no, wait.

I’VE FOUND HER. She is one half of alt-pop duo Beach House.

Latitude festival first line-up announcements - one lady

Back in the day, the day being 2006, I ran a festival website for Emap. Latitude was launched that year, and it was a complete blast, with a fantastic varied line-up and a line in food you actually wanted to eat. What a shame. What the f, Latitude? Have you seriously only managed to pin down a single one of the world’s myriad musical and comedic ladies to flag up in your first line-up announcement, and even then as part of a duo?

Mais non. The Guardian tells us that  Yeah Yeahs Yeahs, Jessie Ware, Cat Power, Laura Mvula and a load of other women I am no longer current enough to know about are also playing.

Eurgh.

Well bugger that. I’ve had a lovely week of women, as it happens.

Business women!

Tonight I’m going to troll around the Country Living Spring Fair with my entrepreneur friend Jessica. I really don’t have more to say on that as I haven’t been yet, but I haven’t seen Jess in weeks and am very, very excited about that.

This is however a great excuse for a quick tangential reminisce over an amazing picture from my 30th – Jess is Peach, her fiancé is Luigi (wrong way round!), our friends are Daisy and Mario, I’m Yoshi, and that is my Tetris piece brother on the far right who flew in from Singapore for three days just so he could come to mine and dad’s birthdays. Dude!

nintendo birthday party

Best. Party. Ever.

Large-footed women (and business women)!

Last night, I went to the launch of the 9/10 club at Opium, for women with large feet who would actually quite like to wear nice shoes. It was run by the design-your-own-shoes site Upper Street, which in turn is ran by two amazing sisters.

Shoes at Upper Street's 9/10 club launch at Opium

Shoes!

There were loads of women in one place, all gossiping, eating, trying on shoes, swapping war stories of shitty shop assistants and the world basically hoping they’d all shut up and go away so they could carry on not catering for them.

Cocktails at Opium

Booze!

Elizabeth and I kept on freaking out slightly by the unusual sensation of lots of women sharing our eyeline rather than being several inches below it. It was great fun – especially when they started bringing out cocktails in caged coconuts which appeared to be on fire.

Writing women! (who also have impressive jobs)!

And then I went to Polpo, also with friend and Write Club buddy Elizabeth, where we drank lots of prosecco, ate various delicious things in near-darkness and slurred our way through a long list of fantastic female children’s authors and Books That Made Us Who We Are before wobbling off in the direction of the Tube. Brilliant.

Dark dinner at Polpo

Somewhere in here is truffle cream

Utterly bloody funny women!

And on Monday, shortly after leaving a tablet and a box full of cheesecake on the 63 bus (FML), I went to Birthday Girls‘ comedy night at the Wilmington Arms, run by former members of the all-female, apparently all-conquering comedy troupe Lady Garden. And bugger me if there weren’t loads of people there being funny, quite a lot of whom happened to be female.

I fell a little bit in love with Mae Martin, a Canadian ex-pat who did a fantastic stand-up set. You will love her too. She also does animation, which she didn’t show off on Monday thankfully or I might have had to invade the stage and cry on her.

There was Lou Sanders (lady) and Joe Lycett (man), who weren’t my cup of tea but got plenty of laughs from the audience, and two not-women, Max and Ivan, who I absolutely adored. And then Birthday Girls of course, who were great hosts and had some lovely new sketches.

I haven’t seen any musical women this week which rather prevents this blog from ending on a powerful note of strong meaning

This is because I missed my choir rehearsal to go to the 9/10 launch and see Elizabeth. But there is a clip of another lovely Elizabeth singing solo in our new version of Heartbeats by The Knife, which is brilliant – and I’m trilling the high bits at the end, so let’s pretend that neatly wraps up my annoyance at Latitude not giving the ladies in its bill more due prominence.

The rise of the girl gamer

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In 2010 I wrote a feature for GamesMaster about the then-future new Tomb Raider reboot which has just come out – I was genuinely blown away. Partly because the new Lara Croft looked like a person, rather than a hastily assembled bundle of boy-pleasing pixels.

The piece I’ve published below was written by me in June last year for a women’s glossy. This was the piece I ALWAYS wanted to write: that would bring female gamers mainstream, about women who play video games – women in their millions, not just as a rarity.

Sadly it got killed off after the Anita Sarkeesian blow-up, and the news that the new Tomb Raider game would feature an attempted sexual assault on Lara Croft. FYI – a month or so later, I saw that sequence and happily, it’s not what is seemed in print at the time.

I am still really proud of this piece, so here it is. Female gamers (and other ‘geeky’ hobbies), for all my ladies who play games – on their phones, on their 3DS and Vitas, and on their hardcore consoles. Games are amazing – and here’s why.

Kat x Continue reading

“You download this stuff for free, but you actually eat the culture that your children want to take part in”

Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran, columnist, writer and wielder of extraordinary hair, has a new book out. Last night, she did an interview at the Bloomsbury Theatre last night to launch it, and as Friday tends to be my day of tedious filling things in and building things admin, I’ve been listening to the video recording.

Among the many funny and endearing bits about work, virginity and Chris Brown (not endearing), there was a particularly passionate, eloquent reasoning as to why Moran does not work for the guardian, and instead, has been at The Times for 20 years. More importantly, it is also a reasoning as to why the arts and journalism need to safeguard its future, and that of those people ahead.

As a long-standing Times reader and someone who works there, this sums up my feelings pretty well too. I’ve typed it out in case you don’t have a handy video player.

(Starts at 00:56:30) Continue reading