Organising & Thinking

Thursday, 17 January 2013


My mum borrowed the book, 75 Parisiennes from her friend, Ali. She showed me the above photo from the book, telling me: “That’s exactly how you decorate”. If by that she means: books and magazines on the floor, books piled awkwardly on shelves, random stuff and mismatched paintings on the wall, and a big looming print of Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott above my bed, then yes, that’s exactly how I decorate. I found this funny, because my mum has a way of relating trendy things away from ‘coolness’ to practical observations. I love that she does that, and I love that she has a healthy scepticism to an adoration of ‘cool’ and trends. She’s always pretty much done her own thing in her art, and followed her instincts. I’m trying to be more like her in that regard.

To be honest, I think the blog-world is suffering from an overdose of all things Paris and all things interiors. I’ve seen this book on so many blogs, and while I appreciate its cleverness and the skill in the photography involved here, I have been biased against it because I’m kind of over this whole interiors/Paris fixation. I admit though, I’ve been sucked into it too in the past. It is a clever book though, whatever my personal biases may be at the moment.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I guess I’m drawing all sorts of random thoughts together for my own benefit. I’ve also been organising various articles and links I’ve saved over the past few weeks, and then decided that some of them are not just useful to me, but useful for others. So here they are, arranged through my own current lines of thought.

An example of why my friends are awesome

Cornwall 648

Smack My Kitsch Up: “All the horrific stories of violence against women recently - and the accompanying calls for ladies to watch themselves, be careful, don’t go places alone, don’t do risky things, etc. - have made me think about the Parminters again.

They were privileged, they were gentlewomen and had money to travel, but I’m sure they would have been warned many times about the dangers of adventuring. I myself lost count of the people who tutted anxiously when they discovered I was traveling alone. Stuff might happen. Terrible stuff. Not a good idea. Bring a man next time.

I find it sad how mobile women are framed as victims-in-waiting, rather than explorers. You can just as easily (and, statistically speaking, are much more likely to) be harmed in your own house than out roaming in the world.

We need more female daredevils, not less.

Who else is going to ship a crapton of shells across the globe and spend years gluing them to their wickity wack house?”

My ‘real-life’ friend, Gwyneth, wrote this fantastic post. I adore it in every way. I also adore the fact that she managed to turn our rambling discussion about women and ‘risk’ into such an interesting post. We obviously need to have more coffee and expensive smoothies together, Gwyneth.

Words, and books, and words

The Story of English: I received this book from my professors when I finished my PhD, and only recently read it properly. Part short history of the English language, part detailed explanations of the origins of specific words, it is worth a read. And I can now direct anyone who tells me that there’s no such word as ‘blogosphere’ to this book, as there is a lengthy description of how that word came to be. Just awesome.

“To Lord Byron, from the author.” Nerd butterflies in my stomach (thanks Jane).

“She has impeccable taste in books and greets each customer with an alternation of genuine warmth and blatant disdain.” A Catalog of Bookstore Cats. These bookshop owners are basically living my dream. Ideally, I’d like my days to comprise primarily of books and cats.

Please, make it stop


Another week, another high-profile feminist writes something that makes me react in Prince-like WTF? facial expressions. I’m not going to blog about Julie Burchill’s ‘article’ (which has since been removed), because it was hate speech. But if you don’t know what I’m talking about, here are a few handy articles:

* “Nasty Idiotic Tripe”: Stand Against Julie Burchill’s Years of Transphobia
* The Observer publishes transphobic hate speech by Julie Burchill
* Transphobia is a Goddamn Embarrassment to Us All

I think this sums it up: “Claiming to be the most working class, or the most feminist, or the most working class feminist does not turn cruelty into kindness, nor stupidity into insight. Abuse of people simply for what they are rather than what they do has no place on any side I’ll ever be on.” I agree, this is not my feminism.

And before I hear the classic lines, ‘stop this in-fighting’ and ‘don’t pick on the good guys who are on our side’, let me remind you that we should hold high-profile feminists to higher standards. Yes, if you claim to be fighting for equality and basic human rights on respected news sites, I expect you to do your homework, act like a decent human being, admit when you’ve done wrong, and not use your position to abuse other people in the name of your cause.

Oh, but please, continue

I have no idea what this is, but I approve of it.

I find this whole discussion completely fascinating, not just in an American context, but also in an Australian one. ‘Food hero’ is the new favourite term on Australian television, with a growing number of artsy food shows and cooking contests. Some of these shows are really great. There’s a side of me that loves watching people indulge in food as a pleasure. There’s also another side however that wonders about this whole ‘elevating’ of cuisines that we are all too happy to consider ‘cheap’ food elsewhere. These are things to consider in a multicultural Australia.

That is all, for now.


Gwyneth said...

Aw thanks Hila. Our conversation definitely got me thinking. More catch-ups soon!

Also, that Prince gif makes me laugh like a hyena every dang time.

G x

Camille said...

"We need more female daredevils, not less. [...] wickity wack house?”
That's just brilliant!

The discussion about the food/restaurant industry is indeed fascinating. I've been working on its sidelines (in a few institutions, and lately, in a 'fine' grocery store that does catering as well), and I think it's very right to be critical of the way food is commercialised, as well as to what goes on behind the scenes. Also, as an aside, Montreal-style bagel is indeed quite excellent. But I might be biased.

I agree with you when it comes to the overdose of all things Paris. I remember that when I started reading blogs, I was really surprised and somewhat put off by how trendy (not that I like that word) Paris, 'French style,' and the notion of the French woman were, especially coming from a French-speaking background myself. For most French-speaking Quebec residents, visiting France is very common and almost a pilgrimage-like cultural necessity, especially because of our history and ancestry.

Also, I hope it's not too late for me to wish you a happy new year--I have more time on my hands now, and can take part of the discussion rather than reading silently like I have been for the past few months.

Nit said...

I very much like your posts on feminism... I had an interesting reading with those links you posted, which, well, you make me think!

I am an "alone traveler" and I'm a woman, my family, mom, step-dad, brothers and most of my friends don't actually overthink too much about it, they are always, "cool... where are you going again?"... but when I get tutted about traveling on my own is mostly by women, my grandma almost had a fit (but she was the one that dispaired about my inability to cook in regards of what would that suppose for my future husband...) when I went to Australia (which, yeah, that one I did on my own), a few girls commented how brave I was (what?), others were sympathetic about how pathetic I was not finding company for my trip (ha!), others were a bit terrified on my behalf, they simply wouldn't think of going on their own... which I don't get, how is that some of the harshest mysoginic attitudes come usually from other women?

Layla Guest said...

Hila, I love this post. It's really delightful to see your work in this light-hearted way, still approaching highly charged subject matter. Thanks for a giggle and some great additional reading material!

Rambling Tart said...

"mobile women are framed as victims-in-waiting, rather than explorers" - with that one sentence my attitude today was transformed into one of bravery and courage. I have stopped thinking of myself as a victim - thank goodness!! - but didn't know what to replace it with. Now I do. :-) From henceforth I will be an explorer!! I LOVE that. :-) Thank you. xo

rooth said...

Hila, the food article is quite interesting. I'm of the camp that refuses to spend money on Western restaurants too. Guess that labels me as a food snob.

PS - I totally agree with the comment that the food world is the only place where Asians get respect as celebrities

Hila said...

Gwyneth: Yes, more catch-ups - if only to do conclusive research on the theory that Perth is the most expensive smoothie and coffee capital of Australia. Important work. xx

Camille: It's never too late to wish me happy new year! I'm a little bit freaked out that it's nearly the end of January, however. When I started reading blogs, I was completely into the Paris fixation. But it's getting silly now. I understand the attraction and romance of the city as an idea, but as a reality, it's more complex and interesting than that. I also find the discussion about the food industry really fascinating.

Nit: It is strange, but I think when you've been told all your life that there's only one way to be a woman, and to be constantly 'careful', it makes sense that women have internalised sexist views. I got told to be careful and that I was 'brave' too when I travelled alone. It struck me as weird too - I mean, I'm an adult, I know how to be careful. This is not dependent on my gender. And there's nothing brave about going to England or Paris by yourself!

Layla: Oh honestly, Julie Burchill made me so mad, that I felt the only way I could respond to her insanity was through humour :)

Krista: I would love to be considered an 'explorer' too!

Rooth: That's true, and I've noticed that in Australia too. On the one hand, there is a racist attitude towards Asian food and culture in Australia as cheap and below the standards of Western food/culture. But on the other hand, we are willing to 'love' Asian food and culture when it comes packaged in some attractive guise of celebrity personalities and 'masterchef' shows. I think it's a bit hypocritical.