Tongue in Chic
[At the moment I'm love love loving]:
1. Not Working by Lisa Owens
Lisa Owens' debut novel made me cry. It was moving and I wish I had written it myself. I won't spoil it (unless you want a little teeny weeny spoiler) but a lot of people will recognise glimpses of themselves in the story and it's a lesson that when you feel work is the main problem...it probably isn't.
Worth a read. I bought a paper copy (an actual book!) instead of Kindle-ing it so drop me a note and I'll give you my copy (which I'm sure the author loves to see...).
2. The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
Keeping to a literary theme this week, as soon as I finished Not Working, I launched into the newest Bill Bryson. I started reading Bryson when I was 12 in my aunt's house while the grown-ups talked (drank wine). I've read them all countless times I get so excited when he publishes something new, especially his 'travel' books. If you've read them of course, you'll know they're not best categorised as travel books at all. The Road to Little Dribbling is sequel of sorts to Notes from a Small Island, which was a record of his travels around England years ago. This time around, Bill is a little older (and a little crankier) but equally as hilarious in his observations. I'm that odd person giggling on the bus in the morning ostensibly reading a travel book!
*Sigh* I love love love London all of the time. I love it so much that on my last training trip for work (banking lawyer stuff #dayjob) people thought I was taking interviews in my spare time. I wasn't.
But I was tempted! Drinks on rooftop bars, dinner in Sushi Samba at the top of Heron Tower and cocktails in the evening in various champagne bars. Who wouldn't love it? The tube is amazingly efficient and we stayed in the Andaz on Liverpool Street for the first part of the week so we could get around really easily. They give free wines and canapés to guests every evening! I'm easily pleased.
One of the people I work for with so convinced I was interviewing there that he repeatedly reminded me that it's a great city to visit but working there is a different story. I'm sure he's right.
I know the hours for lawyers can be crazy. Much crazier than Dublin in any case. It was fabulous though. The latter part of the week, we stayed in the Royal Thames Yacht Club in Knightsbridge because it's a reciprocal club to our sailing club in Dun Laoghaire. It meant we could stay in central Knightsbridge next door to the Mandarin Oriental and overlooking Hyde Park for super reasonable rates. The Queen's horsey-corps (that may not be their official name) woke us every night at about 3 am for the changing of the guard and various patrols but it's a small price to pay!
It's my mission to pop over a lot more often than I currently do so I'm starting to plan a girls' weekend there. Hit me up with any must sees, must eats, must drinks etc.!
5. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
I last read Kate Atkinson when I was about 15 and babysitting a neighbour's children. They had 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum' in the sitting room and I would speed read chapters of it each week. 'Life after Life' is even better. I won't tell you the premise because it would ruin the book for you but please read it on your holidays this year. Trust me. It's excellent and beautifully written.
I'm just getting started on 'A God in Ruins', which builds on the themes in 'Life after Life 'so I'll let you know how that goes.
I can just see this in my bathroom! So Hollywood!
Gemma Chan in Humans on Channel 4
She is perhaps the most facially symmetrical women in the world. Too pretty to have been a lawyer!
If you take one book on holiday...
Actually, do take another because this one is short and unputdownable so you'll have it read in no time.
Not Working (Lisa Owens)
I really wish I had written this. It was one of those "she stole my book" moments but then I realised that if I could have written this, I probably would have by now. And the author was born the same year me. #saltinthewound
The Road to Little Dribbling
Fifty Shades of Gra...ham Dwyer
While from prison, he collects female pen pals with no self-esteem, Graham Dwyer has lodged his intention to appeal. And why not? He has nothing to lose. Even the State pathologist, Dr Marie Cassidy, has announced that she believed the case against him would fail for lack of pathology evidence.
Interestingly, his appeal will probably focus on the manner in which the so-called ‘Master’ and ‘Slave’ phone records were collated. These text messages framed the coverage of the trial as the sordid reality of his affair with Elaine O’Hara became office gossip fodder all over the country.
The Irish legislation which permitted mobile phone providers to keep text messages and phone locations (identified by the pinging of mobile phone masts which was discussed at length during the trial) was based on an EU directive from 2006 known as the Data Retention Directive. It’s no longer in force because the Court of Justice of the EU declared it illegal following a challenge by the Irish organisation Digital Rights Ireland, claiming it violated the EU’s charter of fundamental rights. During the Dwyer trial, Mr. Justice Hunt decided that the Irish legislation was not affected by the invalidity of the directive because the charter is only applicable to the implementation of EU law and in his view, the Irish legislation stood on its own and was not simply a vehicle to implement the now invalidated directive. I’m a lawyer (a finance lawyer, admittedly) and I’ll be interested to see this one thrashed out at the appeal.
Setting aside the legals, everyone knows the story at this stage, but by way of reminder for anyone who needs it, Graham Dwyer is the man who murdered Elaine O’Hara in August 2012 following a prolonged sexual affair of the bondage, domination, sadism and masochism variety. Invariably, the news reports have referred to him as ‘Graham Dwyer (42) an architect from Foxrock’ as if those details make a difference when we are discussing a case where, following Dwyer’s conviction, the judge declared that “a dangerous man is out of the way”.
In what has been described as a bizarre coincidence, the film adaptation of the first instalment of EL James’ pornographic trilogy ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ had just hit Irish cinema screens in the same week that the Dwyer trial started.
I’ll admit that I love a good conspiracy theory. It is odd, in my opinion, that while film distribution companies will delay releasing movies for any manner of reasons (such as a strong competing new release or political reasons like when the release of Michael Collins was pushed back by six months because of the breakdown in an IRA ceasefire) ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was released that particular week, when many Irish people were being introduced to the BDSM lifestyle for the first time via the court reporting. Without question, that well planned timing generated the type of publicity that money can’t buy.
In fact, women watching the proceedings were heard asking each other if they had seen the film yet and one response heard outside the court and reported at the time was “yeah, but it wasn’t a patch on this”.
It’s a throwaway remark, an interesting tit-bit from the trial that enthralled the nation. But it demonstrates a cultural shift. Violence against women, whether sexual or otherwise, is increasingly mainstream and almost acceptable. Beyonce used domestic violence imagery in her track ‘Drunk in Love’ when she and husband Jay Z referred to Jay Z as Ike Turner and then referenced an uncomfortable scene from the 1993 Tina Turner biopic ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’.
The normalisation of such violence is highlighted when reading the coverage of the Dwyer trial, it can be difficult to tell apart some of the disturbing text messages drip-fed and lapped up from courtroom 13 at the Central Criminal Court, from the supposedly sexy demands of Christian Grey.
“You will do what you are fucking told, I want outdoor play” and “did you like being chained up? Did you like the noose?” are both messages that Dwyer sent to his victim some time before he killed her in the woods. He also told her “you did great. I really enjoyed hanging you”.
“I will punish you when you require it, and it will be painful” and “as soon as you cross the threshold of submissive, I will do what I like to you” were both said by fictional Christian Grey while romancing Anastasia Steele.
Fundamentally, the Fifty Shades trilogy is a story about a man so wealthy that he has a private jet, a butler and a fleet of luxury cars. But having it all isn’t enough and this man decides that he wants to keep a woman whom he can control and in his own words: “fuck…any time, any way I want-anywhere I want”.
The trade off is that Anastasia gets a supercar, clothes, jewels and a publishing house so she can pretend to have a job other than servicing Christian Grey at his command. Dwyer could not offer such rewards. A short man with a Napoleon complex, a partner in a firm of architects whose salary had taken a drastic hit, a man who flew model airplanes in contrast to Grey’s private jet or his glider. Was part of the public revulsion at the details of his relationship with his victim that she was not compensated? It’s distasteful to type but I feel that it was. I read the Fifty Shades trilogy. Like many other women, I glossed over the poorly written and graphic sex scenes but I lusted over Anastasia’s Audi R8 and the other payments she received as the submissive to Christian Grey’s dominant.
There is nothing to suggest that Dwyer’s victim Elaine O’Hara was paid as part of their peculiar arrangement. I am not suggesting that she was. However, sexual violence between adults is certainly more palatable when we feel that the person being exploited receives something in return.
I appreciate that the Fifty Shades trilogy is fiction and that millions of women have found it entertaining. But glamorised exploitation and manipulation of a young girl and plain old sexual violence are just two sides of the same coin. The Dwyer trial hammered home to me that there is a sizeable portion of Irish society who do not see women as equals but as disposable playthings.
Women’s Aid report that one in fifteen Irish men admit to buying sex, although the true number is likely to be higher. Of the men surveyed, a quarter recognized that they had met women who were being forced into prostitution unwillingly. In any given year, well over a hundred women are trafficked into the country, unknowingly to act as sex workers. Some of these women have to deal with the fantasies of men who, for a variety of reasons, do not subject their partners to their violent sexual practices.
These worrying attitudes spill into other parts of society. We are seeing the effects of a generation of young men and women who may have had their first sexual experiences tainted by the pervasiveness of sexual violence against women, particularly the increase in freely available hardcore violent pornography.
So, while I see the entertainment value in parts of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ or the many knock-off novels, which also feature a damaged billionaire playboy with a violent fetish, I will not pay to see the films. Roisin Ingle in one of her Irish Times columns recently compiled a list of her fifty reasons for not watching Fifty Shades of Grey. Reason number 50: “Those court reports”.
Equally, although I read (and laughed out loud at) the first three Fifty Shades stories, I’m drawing a line at ‘Grey’, the new narrative from Christian Grey himself. Setting aside how poorly written it appears to be, from the snippets I’ve come across online, it casts light on the character’s fundamental desire to hurt women and make them cry. That’s not acceptable. It’s also a strange approach when you’re marketing these books to women. I feel ‘Grey’ has actually damaged the Fifty Shades brand. At least in the first three books, which were told from Anastasia’s perspective, Christian Grey seemed to have redemptive qualities behind the stalking and possessiveness. ‘Grey’ shows us that the character in fact has none and is a psychopath.
It might make me sound childish but I hate reading sad stories about upsetting things, when so much of the news around us is already upsetting enough. When it comes to books like ‘Grey’ and women sending their dirty knickers into Graham Dwyer in prison, I just don’t get the appeal. Hopefully Graham Dwyer won’t get his.
Described as "haute fourrure" Fendi's anticipated fur couture show on Wednesday 8 July already has everyone talking. It's quite a turnaround for creative director Karl Lagerfeld, who said in 2008 that fake fur had changed so much that you could hardly see the difference. His opinion was that "you cannot fake chic but you can be chic in fake fur."
Frankly, I disagree. I'd rather wear no fur than wear faux fur. It's a personal choice like vegetarianism or choosing to wear plastic shoes.
It appears Karl has changed his mind and Wednesday's show (part of Paris Couture Week) will feature only fur. AA Gill discussed the faux debate in the Sunday Times Style magazine on 5 July and was unashamedly pro-fur. He mentioned the new ecologically friendly methods of mink farming championed in Denmark. The Danish Agriculture and Food Council notes on its website that every year 2,000 Danish fur farmers produce approximately 14 million mink skins and a small number of fox, chinchilla and rabbit skins. They have an online pamphlet on animal welfare in relation to the mink skins which can be found here (in English).
Fur is a divisive issue in fashion. The New York Times reported that few designers, editors or bloggers would even discuss the Fendi show or the question of fur - see the article on the Fendi show by Alex Williams .
But as in any industry, consumer demand cannot be ignored. Even staunchly anti-fur Stella McCartney in her March showing for Autumn/Winter sent faux fur down the runway. Yes it's faux but it's an unusual move from a house that eschews even leather, especially when so many anti-fur protesters argue that wearing fur should not be glamorised in any form, and that faux fur does just that by inspiring people to wear the real thing.
It may not be a popular view but I love fur. To date I have only bought (or received as gifts) vintage furs including a cream mink coat, a white fox stole, miscellaneous hats and a family heirloom ocelot opera jacket, with the exception of a black fox fur hat which was bought new on a whim in New York on an alarmingly cold day there.
Does buying vintage fur absolve fur lovers like me? I used to think so.
However I question the farming ethics and production methods which may have been used at the time, versus the newer more ethical farming these days.
It's certainly up for debate.
In any case, I will be watching to see the reaction on Wednesday. Will there be protests? Or will fashion's big names support the show by attending and reporting on it? What do you think?
A Fendi fur coat.
A Stella McCartney faux fur stole on her website for USD $2,770.
I can't help but think that almost three thousand dollars for faux fur is robbery.
Feminism and abortion
I’m a feminist. I cringe when actresses have to fake an orgasm in the shower to sell shampoo. I speak up at meetings and actively limit how many times a day I start a sentence with the word sorry (still too many but I’m getting there). I pull people up on sexist comments and behaviour and I’ve managed to make my husband start to notice and think about how women are routinely relegated in the workplace in Ireland and elsewhere. I tick all the boxes, I’m definitely a feminist.
And yet, I didn’t go on the recent march for abortion legalisation in Dublin. In fact, I’ve never been an activist for better access to abortion in Ireland, recent tragic events notwithstanding. That shocks some people. Mind you, I’ve never marched against abortion either, or distributed provocative fliers covered in pictures of embryos or tried in any other manner to shame anyone who has chosen (or suffered) an abortion. I’ve kept quiet because my view is unpopular. My body = my choice doesn’t sit well with me because by definition there is another body involved, and it can’t advocate for itself. It has no choice. I can’t understand the logic that says that I am equal to everyone else but an unborn child is not.
Lately I have been really struggling to reconcile my belief that every child deserves to be born with my feminist leanings. I rethink my beliefs every time I hear a compelling and cogent argument, made by impressive women I admire, for legalising abortion beyond the current limited parameters (which are by no means perfect and would benefit from clarification and some extension).
Let’s be clear. It has nothing to do with religion. I have no interest in shaming women as a whole or individuals for their personal decisions, which in many cases were made in difficult or untenable situations, where the unexpected arrival of a baby was not going to improve anything in the short term. There are brave women in print media, online and on radio admitting that they too made this difficult choice and they are standing behind their deeply private decision, putting their name to their abortion and to the abortion debate in this country.
For me, the trouble is the idea that anyone ‘chooses’ abortion. I believe that society has failed a woman (and her unborn child) when abortion seems like the only or the best outcome. To paraphrase from Rachael Moran in ‘Paid For’, her autobiographical account of prostitution in Dublin, and referring to abortion instead of sex work, I believe that when a woman chooses an abortion it is a response to circumstances beyond her control and as a result, that decision is made in an environment which precludes the possibility of real choice at all.
Of course, nothing is black and white and the grey area is vast when discussing abortion. For example, it is cruel to ask a woman to carry to term and give birth to a baby which she and her doctors know is incompatible with life and will live for only minutes. A brain dead pregnant woman should not be kept artificially alive, against the wishes of her family, to give birth to a baby because the clinicians treating her are unsure about the constitutional status of her unborn baby and the legal ramifications of letting her die with dignity.
Anyone who claims not to ‘believe in’ abortion is blind to the thousands of women who travel to Britain or the Netherlands to end their pregnancy. While I know that I would not make the same choice in the same circumstances, I also know that Irish women are having abortions every day but that the procedure is conveniently executed in neighbouring jurisdictions, shielding us from having to think about them and absolving us from the responsibility of having to deal with the issue at all.
We need legislation. It’s not good enough that we wait for our judicial system to make decisions of life and death in the landmark cases we all read about. But that legislation must be nuanced and not simply a reaction to the current emotive debate.
To be able to even consider supporting women with an unplanned pregnancy and offering viable alternatives to termination of a life, we need to first consider supporting these women and their children and that starts with improving the treatment of women with children in the workplace for example by considering affordable childcare options. It means ending the homelessness faced by families all over the country because of the unavailability of social housing or affordable rental accommodation, which in many cases, affects single mothers with young children to support.
I don’t have all of the answers. I flounder when challenged with questions about when life begins and whether the morning after pill is an abortifacient. My views on abortion and its role in Ireland are a work in progress. Maybe the right response is simply to accept that abortion would never be an option that I would consider but that my beliefs shouldn’t mean that other women have the option removed from them. Like I said, a work in progress.
To be continued.
Cartoon by Tom Halliday for the Irish Independent and one which neatly describes the hypocrisy around abortion in Ireland.