Friday, 30 July 2010

Does wearing make up make you any less of a feminist?

I've just read this post by comedian and writer Mark Watson, whose thoughts on women wearing make up got me thinking. My relationship with my appearance has been an ongoing conversation over the last 15 years. In that time I've had 47 different hair colours and styles (just approximately), been at least 5 different dress sizes and have gone for periods of time where I wear make up every day and other times where I don't wear any for months.

I have an ex-boyfriend who argues that all make up is deception and you can't trust a woman who wears it because you're essentially being presented with a lie. We disagreed on this. Massively. At the moment I'm pretty happy with my appearance, not massive amounts of make up but it's there just the same. Am I giving people a false impression of who I am as a person, a professional, a friend or a girlfriend, because I'm wearing eyeliner and mascara?

When I was at school, we had very strict rules about the make up that could be worn (ie none) and the girls who did plaster it on were referred to as 'cake girls', because it looked like they'd caked it on with a shovel. I judged them for it then, much in the same way that I still today am exasperated by the women who plaster it on. It upsets me the amount of time and money women spend on their appearance. The one line I particularly liked from Mark Watson's piece was this: If all the women who spend half an hour "making up" every morning did something else with that half-hour, the results would be startling. In a society where 24 hours is not enough to fit everything in, does this time spent on our appearances have greater knock-on effects? If women spent half an hour reading the papers everyday, or a book, or talking with their families, or whatever, would we be closer to equality?

I have younger twin cousins, one of whom was suspended from school for wearing too much make up on a regular basis. I spoke to her then about how beautiful she is, and how she doesn't need to wear it every day. During these discussions she asked me how I could be a feminist and wear make up? She was under the impression that this would leave me in massive conflict, which leads me to today's topic of discussion: does wearing make up make you any less of a feminist?

At the moment, I choose to wear make up on a regular basis. It makes me feel more confident (I hate the word empower, but I suppose that is what it does), and means that my appearance is something I don't have to worry about. Maybe because I don't wear a lot of it, I don't obsess over it, but I do question why I feel the need to wear it, or why it makes me more confident. Does it change my views on fighting for equality? Not in the slightest.

A spoon full of THC helps the medicine go down...

I've been promising blogs on various topics for a while, so over the course of the next few days I'm going to try and get them all committed to paper/screen.

The first is about the trip I took to visit the Harbourside Health Centre; a medical cannabis dispensary in Oakland CA. Also known as the most amount of weed I've ever seen in one place at one time.

Through my contacts at the UK arm of Students For a Sensible Drug Policy, I was lucky enough to have a tour arranged for me of one of the country's 'model' pot clubs. And to be honest it blew my mind.

Once you get over the security on the door and at the gate, and the fact that on the site at any one time, the club holds over 150 lb of graded, sorted and tested cannabis, you can start to appreciate what the club is doing for its members.

"Harborside Health Center is dedicated to healing the pain that stems from these destructive attitudes and feelings by providing a sensible alternative to the hysteria surrounding cannabis and by honoring you as a progressive and courageous force of change." Their website makes a clear case for the medical use of cannabis, and the need for members of the club to act as ambassadors for the cause. In fact, if any of the club members volunteer at the centre; writing letters, researching new developments across the world etc., they are rewarded for their activism with 1g of 'medicine'. Drugs in exchange for activism; maybe not a model that we could replicate in the UK!
My tourguide was excellent and outlined all of the different free services that the club offered to its members; hypnotherapy, chiropractic services, naturopathy, yoga, reiki along with Grow Classes to teach you how to grow the best, purest and cleanest medicine and finally Substance Use & Misuse Clinical Services - for patients who feel they have a substance misuse or dependence issue and who want to expand their knowledge and skills to help reduce harm from behaviors.
The one thing that struck me the most was that whilst the medicinal benefits of cannabis are documented, tested and still under debate, there are still a massive number of people who smoke cannabis recreationally. The club is very careful to always refer to the cannabis as 'medicine' and its members as 'patients', but there is no recognition of the number of people who ride the system in order to receive legal treatment. Despite me not having my documentation from a doctor (which you need to join the club), not being a Californian resident, and not being in the city for very long, my tourguide still asked me if I wanted to join the club! A massive contradiction in approaches some might say.
The need for cannabis to be legalised for medicinal use is something I have believed needs to be seriously explored for a long time, however, whilst we continue to bury our heads in the sand about the recreational side of things, I fear we undermine the medicinal argument.

Friday, 2 July 2010

You know you've seen a Californian ska band when...

This is an opportunity to give you a taste of not just the London punk scene, but the others I encounter on my copious travels around the world. You may or may not have noticed that I am currently in San Francisco, on what has proved to be the holiday of a lifetime.

When I get home I'll have the opportunity to reflect on the trip properly and really give you my impressions of the city, but for the meantime, let me tell you about a night which started with the immortal words, 'not going to have a big one tonight'. Needless to say it ended with a lift home and lots of giggling.

At the Pirates Press birthday party in November, the warm up show was at a club called Thee Parkside (nope not a typo), which I thought was amazing. A dirty little bar, with an outside courtyard and slices of orange in their Blue Moon beer, served in plastics. I sort of expected Bottom of the Hill to be similar, but after a short space of time was massively enamoured with the venue, (and this is before I even start talking about the music and the bare jokes of an evening that ensued).

The failures most venues have either revolve around their smoking facilities, their lack of opportunity to sit and have a chat, or the fact that you feel removed from the action. This place covered all of those and did it in style. Plus there's a window at the back of the stage so when you're outside smoking you can see the drummer. Like I said; enamoured.

We were there to see a band called The Re-volts, who are on Pirates Press Records. If you like your punk music melodic, passionate, really well played and intelligent, not just in the lyrics, but also in the music, I recommend you check them out. Plus they have the added advantage of being possibly the best looking band I've ever seen in person. I kid you not.

Gigs are always prime locations for some epic conversations, and this one was no exception. From great tales of punk days gone by in San Francisco, to hilarious anecdotes containing not just our friends, but also our acquaintences, it was definitely a night of good banter. There were drunk guys passed out in their seats, and me climbing a metal staircase to put a Skunx Tattoo sticker on it after Jack Daniels number 5.

And to conclude, you know you've seen a Californian ska band when the entire set, aside from the cover of The Clash's Revolution Rock as an encore, was in Spanish. And the crowd knew every word.