Rape culture is a thing.

11th-Principle-image-1024x906rape-culture-andmedia1-6-728When I was 14, it was summer time and I had a growth spurt. It was 1997 and frayed denim shorts were all the rage. I had all of a sudden grown tall and a bit leggy. The only reason why I was remotely aware of it was because my shorts were just a tad shorter than last year, but I never thought much of it. I went down the road to meet a friend and half way there, a man next to me brushed my thigh with his hand and said ‘hmmmm….’ and walked away. I was a little spooked and I told my friend about it. And she told me:

‘Well, those shorts are a little too small for you now. You should have thought before putting them on.’

And all of a sudden, it was my fault that a grown man did not know better than to touch a fourteen year-old child.

And this is what rape culture is all about. We are taught from a very young age not to provoke men, rather than men being taught from a young age not to touch women. It is why women stand in front of the mirror and ask themselves ‘is this too much cleavage?’ ‘Is this skirt too short?’ ‘Am I asking for it?’

Now I am not saying that some items of clothing are not in poor taste…but taste is subjective. And having poor taste in clothes is not consent.

I had a seriously long debate with a guy friend of mine about an article he posted. The article was written by a man who was pissed off at a woman who put her bag on the seat next to her on a train that was getting full. He insinuated that she was being selfish and simply wanted two seats to herself. I thought this was particularly short sighted. I am 99.9% certain that woman put her bag on her seat to prevent some man from sitting next to her. Are there good men out there? Of course there are. Are there bad men out there? Yes there are too. We have been taught from birth not to risk the bad ones, by being told not to wear short dresses or low-cut tops. So putting a bag on your adjacent, empty seat is prevention too. But of course, that’s selfish. However, insinuating that a woman’s shorts are consent is not selfish at all. Nope.

Do all men grope? No, of course not. But not all people steal either, but everyone puts a lock on their door. And nobody takes issue with that. And that’s because stealing is considered a much bigger offence than my breast being grabbed against my will. The thing is, you can replace stuff or move home if you feel your space has been violated. But I get one body. And dignity cannot be replaced.

Rape culture is a thing. It is unfortunate that it is a thing.

Reasons why rape culture is a thing:

  1. People believe that wearing short skirts/shorts/crop tops get you‘what you deserve’. That does not hold water because all sorts of women get raped, even nuns in a veil and women in a burqa. Also, wearing a crop top is not a crime, but raping someone is. And we all have control over our bodies, which is what differentiates us from animals.
  2. People brush off groping and harassment as nothing or a joke. It is not a joke. I have never laughed at someone who said to me ‘ah, that bum, can you sit on my face?’ What I feel is uncomfortable and a bit afraid.
  3. At school, girls are constantly taught not to provoke men. Boys are not constantly taught to respect women. At school, we were taught that we need to learn how to tell boys ‘stop’. Were the boys taught to listen to the ‘stop’? Or not to start in the first place unless explicitly invited?

 

And it is especially bad when women enable rape culture. When women say ‘oh, she was drunk and asking for it’ or ‘well, she dresses like a slut’. No. No, no, no, no, no! Women need to think that everyone is allowed to be who they want to be without danger! And they must be outraged when this doesn’t happen!

And I feel sad that I need to write this article. Sad and angry and that so many people do not get it. That so many people think it’s their ‘opinion’ that if a girl shows some skin, she’s asking to be groped/cat-called/raped. This is not about opinions. This is about feeling equally safe as other members of society.

 

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I Kangoo, can you?

In my never-ending quest for physical fitness and my fear of boredom, I decided to give Kangoo fitness a try.

Oh. My. God.

Yes. This workout has reduced me to utter an ‘OMG’ so teenage that my acne is getting acne. It was incredibly taxing and so strenuous that at a point I honestly felt a bit physically ill.

So, what is a Kangoo workout?

No, you do not wear a pouch and act like an Australian pest.

No, you do not pour canned goo on the floor and slide about in it.

What you do is put on boots that weigh two kilograms a piece with concave springs at the bottom and do a complicated aerobics routine for an hour.

Sounds cool and fun, right?

It is sort of cool and innovative, but fun it is not.

Because the moment you are stationary on these boots, you will feel like you may topple over if you are not a seasoned Kangoo-er. You probably will not, but the sensation is there and it’s very frightening. Channel Mr.Wobbly Man from Noddy. My extra girth does not help.

I am happy to report however that in the class there weren’t only size 6 supermodels. And everyone was super nice and accepting and helpful.

The first task was actually getting the boots on. They are cumbersome and you need to be sitting down. Getting them on is a workout within itself. And once you have one boot on, it is almost impossible to get the second one on by yourself because the springy part is in an oval shape with quite a large diameter. So all of a sudden, your booted foot makes one leg much longer than the other. The boots are like strait-jackets for your feet, with a number of buckles and pulley mechanisms to strap everything into place. Another member of class strapped me in.

Then there was getting up off the chair. I was so determined to get this right that I kept refusing help and I actually managed to get up without breaking my teeth. I soon realised that it was like I had tiny rocking chairs on my feet, only instead of a squat and stable chair on top of the rockers, there was my large, perpendicular and unstable body up there. And due to the proportions and architecture of my body on a set of rockers, I soon found out that if I do not move continuously I would probably lose my balance. So I had to springingly pace about for ten minutes until class was ready to begin. Another member of class asked me why don’t I sit down until class starts, and as tempting as that was, I knew that if I sat down, getting up again would be such a gargantuan task that it was simply not worth the trouble.

We had to walk across the busy gym to get to the studio wearing these massive boots. It was alright for the others, they looked just fine, but there I was, wobbling about in the middle of a room full of uber fit men. I was actually walking with my hands outstretched to keep balance and one guy had to put down his weights to have a good old fashioned giggle. Good times, fun stuff.

And then the actual exercise began. To be honest, I was already exhausted from trying to wear the damn boots and the slight humiliation. The music started pumping and we began.

Oh Jesus. Did we begin. The BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE of the springs against the parquet was deafening. It almost put me in a hypnotic trance. A lot of it is done on one leg at a time, like: left leg forward BOUNCE BOUNCE, right leg forward BOUNCE BOUNCE, left leg backward BOUNCE BOUNCE, right leg backward BOUNCE BOUNCE. This was impossible for me. Every time I tried to BOUNCE BOUNCE on one leg, I lost my footing and almost BOUNCE BOUNCED on my cranium. I could do the jumping jacks and twisty movements just fine. Other than that, I mostly jogged.

With all the bouncy movements, suddenly I began to feel nauseous. My stomach felt like it was in my throat and I wanted to retch. I had eaten a cereal bar more than an hour and a half before, so it was not that. Then the woman in front of me farted. It was all that jumping wrecking havoc on her bowels. It was smelly and deep. The whiff of drainage, rotten eggs and Doritos soared up my nostrils and triggered the wish to vomit so badly that I had to pause and move away. At the back of the class there are some metal bars to be able to lean against if you begin to feel like you might need CPR. Or fumigation.

Finally the end of the hour approached and we were able to take off our boots and do some stretching. By then I was so spent, that I did not even have the energy to lift my arms. Also, my legs were so sweaty that when I knelt down on the mat, I slipped and did a weird kneeling split and was so exhausted that I couldn’t be arsed to try and correct the obscene stance I had accidentally found myself in and kept doing the upper body stretching, a bit like an exhibitionist air-traffic controller.

The instructor was a real sweetheart. Really lovely. After class she told me to hang around so she could see how I did.

Instructor: so how was it?

TERRIBLE. AWFUL.

Me: Oh, great!

Instructor: would you like to come again?

HELLLL NO.

Me: ummm…maybe…

Instructor: was it tough?

DOES A BEAR SHIT IN THE WOODS?

Me: well, yeah but it is a great workout.

And that was that. I am not sure if I will ever do this one again, it’s a bit too tough even though I am convinced that it is very effective.

I think I’ll leave all things ‘kanga’-related to the marsupials.

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I don’t dance. I Zumba.

I cannot dance. I absolutely cannot dance. As some of you may know, I am a performer, mostly stand-up comedy now but whenever I would be in a play I would always have the fear of God in me if they wanted to end with a dance number. I would tell the director to put me in the back behind the tallest cast-member and pray that nobody would notice that my brain and my feet move at two totally different wavelengths.
So I really do not know what possessed me to try Zumba. I think it is precisely because I cannot dance and this kind of provides an unintimidating way to at least learn some choreography and shed a few kilos while I was at it.
So I walk into Zumba class and for once I am not the largest woman in the room. I see ladies of all shapes and sizes and all ages. I immediately feel encouraged. I begin to think ‘Ok, if Betty White over there can do this, so can I!’
 So the music starts and we begin to warm up. 

The instructor moves to the left.

I immediately go to the right and bump into the classmate next to me. 
The instructor moves her right hand and does this elegant wave thing.
I lift my left foot and kick an invisible football. And the poor classmate next to me.
The instructor does this light, skippity-skip to the side.
I see the poor classmate next to me visibly make a conscience effort to get out of my way.
Instructor wriggles sexily.
Class wriggles sexily.
I wriggle like an overweight caterpillar in a cocoon that’s woven too tightly. And I begin to feel a bit of a pillock. 

The instructor is super encouraging and has so much energy. She shouts out ‘whoop! Whoop!’ in time to the beat and to get the class to let go of the worries of the day. And they all respond with a resounding, joyous ‘WHOOP WHOOP!’
And while the class are clapping and doing a clockwise turn and of course I’m going in the opposite direction, all of a sudden it all falls into place:
Nobody cares. Nobody cares that I am very bad at Zumba. Nobody is observing me. Nobody is out to taunt me or make me feel like shit. Because really and truly, we are all bad at Zumba albeit the very few.

But you know what? It honestly doesn’t matter. We are all there for one common goal: to try and keep fit without killing ourselves. And that’s what I truly love about Zumba: it’s a good workout without crippling you from exhaustion and muscle pain. It is very, very doable because you can calibrate the difficulty level. And there is something very positive about it: a kind of community atmosphere, where we are all crap, we know it and we are celebrating it.

So a big, big yes to Zumba because it’s challenging but entertaining and a really decent workout. 
And I’m so busy concentrating on not maiming anybody that it really is a stress reliever because my mind isn’t giving me an opportunity to think about anything else. And I’ve been stepping on people a whole lot less lately.

    
 

Death by trampoline.

In my constant battle of the bulge, I must not allow things to get boring. Boredom is the enemy of a consistent workout routine. Boredom and packets of fruitella. And wispa bars. 

So when I saw a trampoline workout, I was really rather intrigued. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was always freakily good at the sack race at school, which basically involved jumping for dear life in a confined space, so I thought ‘hey, this should be right up my alley!’ On the Facebook page it was insinuated that it’s a cool and fun way to work out, so why not?

So as soon as I arrive, a seasoned trampoliner greeted me with ‘oh, are you new? This is great, you will have a lot of fun!’ Then the beautiful blonde instructor shook my hand and said that I just need to bend my knees, small jumps and to relax and also: have fun.

Hmmmm. The ‘f’ word again. Do you remember when you were a child and about to embark on something unpleasant like extra maths lessons or the influenza vaccine, all the adults around you would go on and on about how good it was for you and how great for your spirit doing said unpleasant thing would be? Yeah. 

So as the other members of the class trickled in and got up on their individual trampolines, I got a good look around the room, which was not difficult because we were surrounded by these awful full-length mirrors. And I realised quickly that I was the fattest lady in the room. All the others were size 6 whippets. I noticed their cute little movements as they bounced lightly to warm up. They reminded me of when one sieves powdered sugar to lightly dust mince pies. I, on the other hand, look like a large and ill-constructed dumpling  thrown into a bowl of tepid broth.

Then the music started and the workout began. It’s as strenuous and awful as aerobics but made more awful because you are also constantly jumping on a trampoline. And in my case, trying not to fall off. The burning sensation in my ankles and calves was immediate. Everything was bouncing. Every appendage was bouncing. If I had large breasts I would have ended up with a black eye. Also perhaps not the best exercise routine to perform on one’s period since a buoyant, shedding endometrial lining is not the most comfortable sensation while being on a trampoline. I think my tampon shed a few calories in that hour too.

And of course, those mirrors. In spite of the horror that is this exercise routine, I could not help giggling when catching a glimpse of my puce, moist self bouncing disgracefully next to my most beautiful grasshopper counterparts and feel my dignity descending into hell and having tea and scones with lucifer, discussing how indeed did he conjure up the idea of a trampoline workout. 

This workout is as fun as being poked in the eye with a hedgehog.

But, that being said, it is a great workout. And strangely, I am not sore this morning because the instructor is more than competent and even though I may resemble a steamed oriental snack, I am actually quite physically fit.

So yes, I will go back. I bet it’s one of those things that get easier the more you do it. And maybe the fun factor develops in time. I’m optimistic.

    
 
 

I tried gentle Pilates 

I was never considered one of the athletic girls at school. I was thin, athletic-looking, very strong and very eager, but not quite enough. Not by comparison anyway. I remember this set of identical twin girls who were incredibly sportive, took every game very seriously and were the queens of track and field. They would win multiple gold medals on sports day and were well admired.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t. Even though I do believe that I had serious potential in that avenue, it was never particularly explored. We only had physical education twice a week. For 35 minutes because we needed 5 minutes before and after to change back from our tracksuit to our uniforms. If one wanted more, you would have to do so on your own, privately after school or in the summer holidays. 

In my summer holidays I went to the school of art to perfect my drawing and painting skills. Which was wonderful. It was what I wanted and loved. That being said, it never occurred to me or my parents for that matter to enroll me in a sport. It probably would have done me a world of good and would have exposed me to another world besides the arts.

And there really was potential. Every year for sports day I would take part in what they called a ‘fun race’. I would dawn a potato sack and jump for 60m in it to the finish-line. And I always won. I always got the gold medal for that one. And even though it wasn’t considered a serious race, you need an immense amount of strength to hop your way through 60m and win.

And now to the present. I am 33 years old and I really understand the importance of being active. It is seriously what prevents you from growing old. I go running quite regularly and I have a cross-trainer at home.

But what I really love doing is taking classes. There are so many wonderful and weird fitness classes out there: Zumba, pilloxing, trampoline fitness, pole fitness, Bollywood fitness…you name it and it exists. There is even a class where you are suspended in mid-air from a harness.

So today I tried gentle Pilates. You follow an instructor do an array of stretches and push-ups and weights while keeping your tummy muscles taut with the aid of a massive inflatable ball. You climb over it, balance on it and try not to let it roll away.

Basically, you gracefully dry-hump a rather large beach ball for an hour.

And it is a proper workout. I was sweating and everything. I am sore all over. I know I am going to pay for this tomorrow. Don’t be fooled by the new-agey connotations that come with Pilates…do not think that you are simply going to relax and breathe and inhale a wheatgrass smoothie while gently stretching a tricep here and there. You are going to perspire and have sweat-pools under your breasts and around your crotch. You are going to look stupid with a huge, orange spherical object between your legs which you are desperately trying to balance on and not allow to roll away in equal measures. You are going to sprawl on it too, on your tummy with your butt in the air while you try not to roll forward and break your face on the parquet.

If that was gentle Pilates, I wonder what rough Pilates is like…maybe they line the balls with metal spikes.

And as I type this post in bed, soon about to retire for the evening, I wonder what aching fresh hell awaits me on waking.

  
    
 

Please, do everything you can.

It is often the case that ninety-five year-old, absolutely decrepit and demented elderly people come through accident and emergency and end up in some ward or another.

Generally, this person will absolutely not be in a position to take any comprehensible decisions so the medical staff turns to the relatives, usually in a large group, huddled around said elderly person. And they nod and say benignly ‘Do everything that can be done, poor thing, and then if she/he has to go, at least we know we have tried everything.’

I hear this so often that I cannot help but question ‘tried everything’ for who exactly? Is this to put the relatives’ minds at rest that they did not commit some kind of back-door euthanasia or do they honestly think they are acting in the best interests of the elderly person?

Because I most definitely do not think so. Nowadays we keep elderly people alive who most often would much rather be dead because modern medicine and power of attorney gives us the power to do so.

If you only knew how many times I have seen relatives allow their elderly to be pumped with intravenous antibiotics, fed through naso-gastric tubes and when they do eventually stop breathing, make the nurses perform CPR, compressing this poor person’s chest, only to perhaps find an erratic heartbeat and prolong the suffering by admitting the patient to ITU. All on the insistence of the relatives.

Now I am not some mercy-killing, angel-of-death kind of nurse. But when someone’s time is up, I am most certainly ok with letting go. If you are 98, in a care facility, dependent on someone else for all activities of daily living, often claim how you wish to die and basically have a pretty crap quality of life, it is time to say goodbye. Allow that person to go in peace. I think anything else is just selfish: keeping your loved one alive and suffering just so you can visit them once a week and feel like a good Samaritan, is abhorrent.

I’m not saying that this should happen to everyone of a certain age. But those who are honestly in a bad state with no hope of ever getting at least the basics back, I think we should just let them be. I am not saying actively terminating their lives. But not aggressively saving them either.

I speak like this because I have a trained eye. I can tell when a patient’s life is being prolonged unnaturally with no hope of change. And I am sure that some people are reading this and thinking about how cruel and unfeeling I am. And it is precisely because I am not cruel and unfeeling that I do speak this way.

Each situation is unique and it is never clear cut. But there is a time to say good-bye and I do believe that relatives know it. But due to fear, and perhaps family pressure, they do not dare speak up.

I have yet never been in a situation where such decisions needed to be taken for loved ones, but when it does happen, I hope I make the right decision.

Whatever that may be.

 

Eugh. Supermarkets.

I abhor the supermarket. I hate it with a passion. I am not sure if it brings out the worst in me or if it brings out the worst in other people. The amount of stupidity and selfishness I see displayed in large supermarkets is unlike I have ever experienced anywhere.

What I can’t understand is why. Why is it that in supermarkets it is a like a behavioural free for all where people are permitted to act like animals? Is it the bright lights? The smell of meat from the butcher stall? The unlimited choice of food products? The privilege of being able to push around a supermarket trolley?

I know people who honestly get excited about supermarkets. They examine every shelf and every product. They weigh up the pros and cons of each brand and compare prices.

I am not one of these people. I am a ‘find-what-I-want-and-dash’ kind of person. This is very far from a leisure trip for me. This is not the highlight of my day at all.

Reasons why I hate the supermarket:

  1. People: they stand completely in the way, trollies jutting out, not allowing anyone to go up the aisle. Or they see someone they know and chat, this time two trollies barricading the aisle. The definitely see me trying to make my way through but STILL DON’T MOVE. It makes me want to scream. Or they pretend not to hear me say ‘excuse me’ at the top of my lungs. They just stand there, like cows ruminating. Obstacles in my path of life.
  2. Harassment: I was reaching into a chest freezer to grab some items. I was wearing Bermudas, but I was bent over and searching, bottom in the air. All of a sudden, two stock boys behind me shouted ‘Danger! Danger zone!’ and smirked. How I wish I could fart at will. Then another time, I decided to buy an extra-value pack of toilet paper. It was a rather large 24 roll thing which did not fit in a carrier bag. The packet had a very handy plastic strap on it, so no problem. As I was walking to my car someone shouted ‘Hey lady!! You sure shit a lot!’ to which I shouted ‘At least I don’t do it from my mouth!’
  3. Sexism: I was observing what was on offer at the meat counter when the butcher says that they have fresh rabbit. I love rabbit, but I am not so experienced with cooking it so I politely declined. Then the butcher said ‘So you won’t make rabbit and chips for your husband?? Poor guy, no rabbit for him. These modern girls, they do not cook rabbit for their husbands!’ I guess when I got married they left out that part- in sickness and in health, til rabbit do us part…my poor husband indeed.
  4. Disorientation: I never seem to know where anything is, even if I have been to a particular supermarket a dozen times. Things just seem to move. Or I do not see them because people are standing in front of the shelves ruminating. It’s maddening. It’s like I am running some bizarre relay race where the baton is a loaf of bread or a frozen pizza.
  5. Payment: When I see people in the 15 items or less aisle, I feel like I am at the airport, behind passengers who have over-weight baggage; they scramble to reassemble their belongings in order to follow regulations. It is not rocket science people, its fifteen items or less and no, your 12 yoghurts of the same brand do not count as one item, there are 12 of them with 12 individual barcodes. That’s like having two separate offspring but saying you have only one because they both came from your uterus.
  6. Children: I love children, but not in supermarkets when they are screaming. Although I empathise completely. With the kid that is, not with the parent. I understand. I would love to scream too. I can’t because I’m an adult. So I am jealous. I do not want to be there either, so I write passive aggressive blog posts, but a child gets to scream and make a nuisance of himself so perhaps he will never have to go to a supermarket ever again. I want to scream and make a nuisance of myself so maybe I never have to go to a supermarket ever again. But I can’t. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

The only thing worse than a supermarket on a Saturday morning is a supermarket on Christmas eve. But it is August, so I do not have to worry about that for a while.Eugh. Supermarkets, youths and hipsters. Just go away. Seriously.