The Incredible Invisible Women’s Rugby Team

Today’s post comes from Anne-Marie, with something to say about women’s rugby. 

Women have a place in sport… we’re just not quite sure where that is.

It’s International Women’s Day on Friday and it always serves as a reminder to me to assess where we are. How far have women really come in the search for true equality? How much are women recognised for the achievements they/we make? How much autonomy do we really have over our bodies? You may be wondering what relevance if any this has to sport? Well, sport forms part of all our lives whether we participate in it, watch it or support teams or family/friends in it. It also happens to be one area where women’s achievements appear to me to be emasculated by men. An area where it took Katie Taylor’s almost single-handed persistent effort and campaigning just to get Women’s boxing to FEATURE in the Olympic arena. How appropriate is it then that there happens to be an International Women’s Rugby match being played on Friday evening?

leinsterrugby.ie

There’s a women’s rugby team?

Ireland’s women take on France at Ashbourne RFC in what has been a fantastic Women’s Rugby championship so far. If they can beat France, the Women in green have the opportunity of securing the championship. They have already won the Triple Crown, HAMMERING England in the process. If they can beat France, all that will stand in their way for the Grand Slam is a final tie with Italy. So, with such momentum, potential and relative success so far why doesn’t EVERYBODY know about this?! Why aren’t they being hailed as sporting heroes across the land? Who’s ordering the open top bus so they can parade their silverware?

In contrast the Men’s team are having a dire campaign but they seem to have this air of being “the national team” and rugby fans seem compelled to support them regardless of their makeup. Our national broadcaster covers all their matches so you can’t miss them. The Brian O’Driscoll’s and Johnny Sexton’s of this world are plastered across advertising. But what about the Alison Miller’s or Lynne Cantwell’s? Why aren’t they household names? Why aren’t our daughters exposed to them as rolemodels of dedication, talent and hard work? On the other hand, the Irish Women’s Rugby team are like the Ed Sheeran’s of this world – unreliant on ‘marketing’ or hype, instead building a fanbase gig by gig. Match by match this team have gained support. They have genuine fans. They have dedicated family and friends who go to every match. But try to find any of their matches on telly and you will be sorely disappointed. Try to find interviews or news reports in mainstream media and they will take up a tiny proportion of sports coverage compared to the men. Even the dedicated rugby programme Against the Head, despite the contrasting fortunes of both International teams, will confine the Women’s coverage to less than ten minutes.

rte.ie

Can’t we find them.. anywhere?

Irish rugby TV are the only body who appear to be trying. They live stream the home matches and provide highlights of all of the Women’s championship matches. But who really wants to be glued to a laptop reliant on wifi/broadband connection speeds to see the fantastic rugby these women are capable of and have certainly shown in this championship. Where are RTE? Or TV3?

TG4 God bless ‘em are THE pioneers for women’s sport on telly – they have great coverage of women’s GAA. But nobody has picked up on our National Women’s Rugby team matches. Something has to happen to reward these women for their hard work and determination over the past decade (not just the past few months) and if winning a Triple Crown isn’t enough to get someone to pay attention then I wonder if winning a Grand Slam will. We can only wait and see.

In the meantime, proper rugby fans can take advantage of truly accessible, affordable and entertaining matches on our doorstep because you can attend the Women’s home matches for less than the price of a pint. Ashbourne RFC have created a great deal by allowing car entry for €20, regardless of the number of occupants and that includes your parking.

So, come Friday evening, I know RTE won’t have miraculously decided to change their programming and I won’t be relying on a dodgy internet connection, I intend being at Ashbourne RFC to cheer on the Women in Green. It promises to be entertaining and I know it’s better than watching the Men…

The Incredible Invisible Women’s Rugby Team
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What Poots Did Next: Homophobia and Blood

Our last (but definitely not least!) contribution for Guest Post Week comes from Helen. Helen is a recent graduate with a MA in History and Gender & Women Studies. heS currently works for a local college in Northern Ireland and blog at @TakeitotheBR and at NursingClio.org. Her academic and blogging interests include gender, human rights and conflict resolution.

What Poots did next? The latest controversy

Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots is currently a factor in a legal battle on blood donations. An unidentified man is attempting to overturn the ban on homosexual men donating blood in NI. This case is another in a long line of Poots showcasing his inability to connect with, and properly represent, many of his constituents. My distaste for Minister Poots is well documented following his appalling record on reproductive choice alongside his homophobic prejudice.

In 2011, the United Kingdom updated the Blood Donation policy to be more inclusive of homosexual men for the first time following the AIDs scare in the 1980s. Those “whose last relevant sexual contract was more than 12 months ago” are now eligible to donate blood in England, Scotland and Wales.  Poots maintains that it is too dangerous to lift the ban against homosexual men giving blood in Northern Ireland. He has also called for further exclusions – those who have had sex “with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes”.

The Government Advisory Committee report which prompted the UK to update their policy indicated that a much shorter window existed than previously thought during which viruses such as HIV could not be detected. The period in which HIV is difficult to detect is usually up to three months. Keeping this in mind a 12 month ban still seems extremely cautious of the supposed danger of a sexually active homosexual man’s blood. While an improvement on what came before, as well as on Northern Ireland’s policy, this continues to feed the stereotype of the “promiscuous gay man.” A heterosexual man does not have to quantify his sexual life can give blood freely, whereas a homosexual man in a monogamous relationship cannot; this exposes the hypocrisy and discrimination of this policy.

For Northern Ireland, not even this 12 month window exists. Any man that has had anal and/or oral sex with another man is currently banned from donating blood in Northern Ireland. The reality is that most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV. Any ban which exists on homosexual men as a whole is a policy dictated by prejudice, not by scientific fact and medical evidence.

Poots’ comments and refusal to lift the ban perpetuates a culture of homophobia and exclusion from Northern Irish society. Ironic considering the “shared society” rhetoric which politicians (including the DUP) are constantly shovelling down our throats, yet simultaneously acting to promote the very opposite of that.

The Human Rights Commission have rightly pointed out that “Northern Ireland is subject to the obligations contained within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” This includes respect for all individuals without distinction of any kind. For the medical world to put forward 12 months as an extremely cautious safe guard against the HIV virus being transmitted through blood donations, it is therefore discriminatory for the life time ban to continue in Northern Ireland.

The case continues to investigate the legality of Northern Ireland policy.

What Poots Did Next: Homophobia and Blood

Taking anti-abortion claims to their logical conclusions

Today’s guest post comes from Brian Carey.

Reductio ad wha?

Reductio ad absurdum, despite sounding more like a spell from Harry Potter, is an argumentative tactic where the point is to take a person’s view and to show that it leads to some especially unpalatable conclusion. The idea then is to say to your opponent “okay, you can believe that, but if you believe that, then you have to believe this, and isn’t this obviously wrong?” Hey presto. Reductio ad absurdum! Their argument is reduced to the absurd.

The problem with this tactic, as one philosopher once said, is that there is no conclusion so absurd that there won’t be someone who’s still willing to accept it. Reductio ad absurdum can never show that an argument is false, only that it commits us to some especially strange conclusions. But at the very least it can clarify what the real costs of holding a view actually are.

Here’s an example:

Abortion is murder?

“Abortion is murder” is not a claim made by everyone who is pro-life (so none of what follows applies to those people) but it’s fair to say that this is a common claim when it comes to arguments against abortion.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that this is true. What would follow from it? In other words, if we *really* believed that abortion is murder, what else should we believe?

First, consider the right to travel for an abortion abroad. If abortion is murder, should there be a right to travel abroad to commit murder?
Now, maybe one could object here and point out that it’s simply not practical to check whether a woman is pregnant before she leaves the jurisdiction, and one could point out that even if a woman is pregnant, goes abroad, and comes back without being pregnant, we can’t assume she had an abortion. Besides, Irish law can’t apply to what people do abroad, right?

A couple of things need to be said in response. First, while it’s true that Irish law doesn’t apply to you when you go abroad most of the time, that’s not always the case. Most countries, including Ireland, apply certain kinds of laws extraterritorially, which means you can be prosecuted here for doing something that might not be legal abroad. At the moment, this mostly applies to things like conspiracy to commit terrorism, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t necessarily be extended to cover murdering an Irish citizen abroad, even if murder is legal in that jurisdiction. (Remember, we’re assuming that abortion is murder)
Second, while it’s true that we can’t check whether every woman is pregnant, what if we had a woman who strides up to border control and proudly claimed that she’s travelling to the UK to have an abortion? There’s no practical difficulty here in working out whether she’s pregnant or intending to have an abortion – she’s just admitted it to us. Remember – if abortion is murder, we need to treat this case like we would treat a case of a mother who approaches border control with her two-week old infant and claims she’s travelling to the UK to kill it. Surely in that case we would at least want to detain the woman and subject her to a full psychiatric examination.

Finally, consider that those who object on practical grounds when explaining why women should have the right to travel rarely do so on principled grounds. This essentially admits that they would like to detain women if they could; it’s just that the logistical difficulties are too great
Consider now a woman who threatens to kill herself unless she is allowed to have an abortion. If abortion is murder, this is analogous to a woman who takes a 2-week-old child hostage and who threatens to blow herself and the child up unless we kill the child.

If the only choice in that case is between letting the woman kill them both, or saving the woman, maybe we ought to save the woman (since the child will die anyway). But if those are not our only options – if, for example, we could detain and arrest the woman without harming the child, then surely we ought to do that (in fact, if we had to kill the woman to save the child, this would also be justified).

If a woman makes a credible threat to murder me, it is right that she is detained until she is no longer a credible threat to my life. If abortion is murder, and if we apply the same principle consistently, then it follows that if we are presented with a woman who issues a credible threat (via suicide) to the life of her child, then we ought to detain her until such time as she can give birth and is no longer a threat to the child.

So, there’s the bullet that pro-life people must bite if they think abortion is murder. They must favour detaining suicidal women who demand an abortion (possibly women who have been raped) and force those women to give birth.

Unfortunately, I’ve recently pressed this argument against two pro-life people who decided that they would rather accept this conclusion than reject the premise that abortion is murder. That’s fair enough – at least they’re consistent. But at least arguments like this can make it clear exactly what is at stake if you really believe that aborting a foetus is the moral equivalent of murder.

Taking anti-abortion claims to their logical conclusions

A Religious Pro Choicer – Stephen Spillane

Guest blog by Stephen Spllane who blogs at StephenSpillane.com and SpiritualityIreland.org.

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Some people believe that it is impossible to be a practicing christian and be pro choice on the issue of abortion. But while it is true that a lot of Christians are pro-life, we all are not. Many of Ireland’s most militant pro-lifers are of course Roman Catholics, but other Christian denominations often get associated with them.

It is worth noting that in 1982 the Irish Council of Churches- the representative body for Protestant churches in Ireland- voiced concerns over the 8th Amendment. While all of them did oppose ‘abortion on demand‘, they foresaw reasons why an abortion should be an option.

This was repeated at the recent hearings in front of the Oireachtas Health Committee.

So how can you be a Christian and Pro-Choice?

Earlier this year I found this quote from Victor Griffin, the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, in 1982:

Abortion is morally wrong. However, at some time there may be rare unfortunate cases in which it is resorted to as the lesser of two evils. It is wrong to enshrine the Catholic view of this in the constitution

While for some abortion will always be morally wrong, who are we say to say it is morally right for a child to be born no matter what?

Morals to me are a personal thing. While there are very big moral positions that we all share (we should not steal, we should not kill etc), when abortion comes into the question everything goes a little grey. There is no hard and fast rule that we can apply as many on the Pro-Life side believe. We cannot impose our morals on others as we are not in their shoes. We are not in their position. If we were would we not like a choice? I know I would. Wouldn’t you?

Have we the right?

I recently came across an article on the website for the Association of Catholic Priests. The title caught my eye- “have we the right to insist no woman can ever have an abortion in Ireland?” That is the crux of the argument for me.

Why should anyone decide that a medical treatment cannot be given to you because of their religious beliefs? At the end of the day, that is why abortion is illegal in this country. It is because we decided way back in 1983 to enshrine that “Catholic view” of conception into our constitution. How is that right for those who are not Catholic? Or those who do not subscribe to all of the Church’s teachings? There’s plenty of those Catholics around!

Does it mean that if we had a Jehovah Witness majority in this country that we would have voted to ban blood transfusions? Its crazy. I have the greatest respect for Jehovah Witness’, Jews and Muslims who do not try and make those around them obey the same religious laws as them. It is time the Roman Catholic Church (and other Christian Churches) did the same.

We as Christians should be looking inwards and ensuring we live our lives right, as that is what we are asked to do during Lent. We should not be stopping women from choosing what they do with their bodies when it will have no effect on us. It is ridiculous that Churches in this country want to prevent women of other faiths and none from having an abortion.

While I envisage there will be some discussion at the Church of Ireland Synod later this year on this issue, I am not sure what way it will go going by the discussion last year on Human Sexuality, but it will be divisive. But it will most likely set the tone for the conversation in the wider society on this issue.

I look forward to the Government finally bringing in legislation on this issue, and it finally being allowed.

A Religious Pro Choicer – Stephen Spillane

Bisexuality: Thinking in Opposites

Nicola Moffat is a fourth year PhD candidate in the School of English, University College Cork. If she’s not glued to a screen, you’ll find Nicola stuck in a book or swearing over a pile of unmarked essays. Some of her favourite things are monsters; art; ranty conversations; her nasty cat, George; and going for walks with her other half and her spotty dog, Pepper. She blogs at Monsterivity

I’ve been thinking about sex this week.  A lot.  And that’s not just because it’s Valentine’s day and I’m supposed to be thinking carnally.  I’ve been thinking about the different ways we express ourselves sexually and how we impose limits on those expressions, depending on our views.  This week has also been a learning curve for me where I’ve had to face my own prejudices.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say that Bi doesn’t exist, that you have to be either hetero- or homosexual.  It’s been said, by the way, by people of varying sexualities, not just heteros.  This “either or” rhetoric smacks of something very familiar -you can either be a man or a woman, you can either work or have kids, you can be either emotional or rational . . . how many times have we found ourselves standing just here?

I think in some ways this is why I like being Bi: straddling (if you’ll excuse the pun) this perceived boundary between hetero- and homosexual means that, in some sense, bisexuals break that boundary down and expose the fiction of opposing sexualities.

The rhetoric of “either or” defines by creating oppositions and can therefore be considered a form of patriarchal discourse; in much the same way that patriarchy has defined opposites in men and women, white and black, reason and emotion (ad infinitum), the creation of a hetero/homo binary repeats this opposition, bringing with it the inequalities associated with these binaries.

Casting identities and practices into dichotomized pairs leaves no room for the fluidity of sexuality or creative identity practices, not to mention refusing the possibility of trans* identities and polyamorous relationships.

Can we give up returning to this place?  Can we move on now?

Bisexuality: Thinking in Opposites

Pro-Life Vs. Pro-Choice: Missing The Point?

Today’s guest post comes from Penny. Blogging at Penny Gets Lucky about things like feminism and sexuality, Penny’s comments have been featured here before and I was delighted that she was willing to write a post for the Tea Cosy. 

A Difficult Topic

Abortion. It’s an ugly topic. Emotionally charged, difficult to sort out, and fraught with hyperbole on either side.

So I’m not writing this to discuss my views on abortion, per se. I consider myself both pro-life and pro-choice; the two are not mutually exclusive, regardless of what the rhetoric in each camp may say. I believe that every wanted baby should be given the best possible chance to make it into this world; and I believe every woman should be allowed to make a fully-informed decision as to whether she wants children or not. No one should enforce having babies; and certainly no one should enforce not having babies.

Right now, though, I think there’s a piece of the abortion-debate puzzle that’s largely getting ignored. We’re all so worried about what happens if abortion were made legal, or what happens if abortion were abolished, we’re forgetting to ask a fundamental question… What if we simply made abortion obsolete?

Making Abortion Obsolete?

It doesn’t matter, in the end, if we fall in the rhetorically pro-life or pro-choice side of the debate – I think we can all agree that, in a perfect utopian world, abortion wouldn’t need to exist. In this magical fairyland, children would only be born to families that really, truly wanted them; becoming pregnant would always be a choice, one made with excitement and joy, and those pregnancies would never threaten the life or health of those who were pregnant.

But, of course, we don’t live in that world. So how do we approximate it? What steps can we take to make abortion as unnecessary as possible?

I think no one wants to ask that question, because the answer involves more than a few pieces of legislation and some slapdash measures. The answer to that question involves cultural change, the spreading of information, the readjusting of attitudes and beliefs. It means accepting a different way of thinking about women, sex, and reproduction, and no one’s comfortable with that. It means understanding what motivations people have for wanting or needing an abortion in the first place. I want to point out some of these motivations and outline ways we, as a society, could address these issues without infringing on the rights of pregnant people – or, in many cases, the unborn child.

Abortion as a means of birth control.

It seems like this, especially, is a favorite for the rhetorically pro-life side to point to and scream, “Murder! How can you approve of this?” It’s a facet of the debate that, from what I’ve seen, makes even rhetorically pro-choice folks a little uneasy. After all, we want to support the right of every woman to do what’s right for her, but there’s no denying that the process of abortion comes with significant physical and emotional risks. I don’t think there are many people that truly want to see a friend going in to the clinic for her tenth abortion.

So how do we avoid that? Well, first of all, there needs to be better sex education. Young people need to understand what types of sex lead to pregnancy, and how. Along with that needs to come education on how to avoid pregnancy when engaging in those activities. Teach young people other methods of being sexual that don’t result in pregnancy. Teach contraceptives. And, yes, teach abstinence.

Part of that education should be methods for talking about sex and contraceptives. We need to learn how to discuss these things with prospective partners in a way that is healthy, open, and unabashed. We need to create a culture that is comfortable talking about sex.

There also need to be reliable, accessible, stigma-free sources for contraceptives. In fact, studies have shown that access to free contraceptives significantly cuts down on the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions. People should not be ashamed to take whatever measures they need to take to avoid becoming pregnant. Every sexually active person should know how to use a condom, how to use hormonal birth control, and what their backup plan is if any of their methods fail or fall through. Every sexually active person should be able to talk with their partner about the risk of pregnancy and, ideally, come to a consensus on what the expectations are if a pregnancy does occur. By blocking access to contraceptives and education, society is in essence perpetuating the issues that lead to many abortions in the first place.

Abortion in cases of rape or incest.

I’ve seen reactions range from “Of course an exception should be made” to “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” (And, thus, abortion should be outlawed even in these cases.)

Unlike the “abortion as birth control” situation, the solution to this is not in the hands of those who might become pregnant, but rather those who might impregnate them. The only way to eliminate abortion in the case of rape and incest is, naturally, to eliminate rape and incest.

The steps we need to take to achieve that goal are numerous and far-reaching. They do, however, break down into some relatively simple key components; things like “Allowing individuals autonomy over their own bodies,” “Creating a culture of consent,” “Creating a culture of equality and egalitarianism,” and “Removing moral values from sex and sexual activity.” By systematically examining and re-evaluating the attitudes and thought processes that contribute to rape culture, it would be possible to create a society where rape was all but eliminated, and with it the incidence of rape-related pregnancy and abortions.

I could go into much more detail about eradicating rape culture, but others have covered it much more intelligently, wittily, and in greater detail than I probably can here. I will say that it starts with us; that it’s a conversation that should be happening on a global scale and that it’s one that goes hand-in-hand with the abortion debate. It starts when we make our voices heard.

Abortion to save the life of the mother.

I… actually don’t have an answer for this one. I can’t come up with a way, off the top of my head, to stop these situations from happening. More to the point, I’m not sure there is a way to stop these situations from happening. What I have noticed, though, is that all but the most rhetorically extreme pro-life camp still leave space in their ideology for people whose lives would be endangered by carrying a pregnancy to term. In fact, if one advocates the enforced death of one human is good and necessary on the off-chance that the life of a fetus might be saved by it… I find it hard to accept that one is still pro-life. It seems more like pro-fetus at that point, and that really should be a separate debate.

However: if other types of abortion were made unnecessary through better sex education, access to and destigmatization of contraceptives and family planning methods, and respect for individual autonomy… I have the feeling that perhaps medically necessary abortions wouldn’t carry the moral value they currently do. They would be considered a life-saving medical technique much like a lung transplant or open-heart surgery.

If the goal is to truly reduce or eliminate the number of pregnancies that end in abortion, there are ways to make that happen. Creating and enforcing legislature that limits people’s freedoms and takes away human rights is not the answer. This is not a problem that can – or even should – be solved with a signing of a bill and the pounding of a gavel. This is an issue that needs to be addressed through a change in cultural attitudes toward sexuality, pregnancy, contraception, and consent.

It’s time to re-frame the debate. Rather than squabbling about “Should it be legal or not?” we should be asking ourselves “How do we make it unnecessary in the first place?”

Penny Posh is the writer of Penny Gets Lucky, a blog mostly focused on feminism and social justice, with occasional poetry thrown in among dashes of this and that. She has trouble adhering to labels, and since her recent move to the Pacific Northwest has been happily and energetically engaged in the process of becoming more who she is and less who others expect her to be. It all began when she learned that “Because I want to” is a perfectly valid reason to do something.

 

Pro-Life Vs. Pro-Choice: Missing The Point?

Gushing & Giving

It’s Guest Week! While I’m off visiting the Ladyfriend, I’ve handed over the Tea Cosy to a bunch of the best guest posters a blogger could wish for. Today’s post comes courtesy of Tori from Anytime Yoga. A secondary teacher in the US, Tori enjoys many things in life: making education and critical thought fun for her students, making yoga accessible to her blog readers, and writing about sexual and reproductive health with frankness. As for other things in life — namely, running, writing catchy author bios, and remembering to do the dishes — well, those she is working on. 😉

 

Note: This post discusses menstrual bleeding and blood donation. It also contains a brief mention of miscarriage.

 

I saved three lives today. At least, that’s what the sticker from the American Red Cross blood drive tells me.

My donation experience today was surprisingly easy. I mean less in terms of wait time or needle sticks and more in terms of how my body reacts. For example, my blood pressure was normal, even as I anticipated them checking my iron. More than that, my hemoglobin was well into the healthy range — something I’ve not seen in a good long while. The donation itself — from needle in to needle out — took under five minutes. When it was over, I could promptly sit up, stand up, and walk myself over to the canteen — all without feeling flushed, lightheaded, or like I was on the verge of passing out. At the canteen, I did stay the required minimum of ten minutes, but I felt physically well enough to go long before I finished my water and Cheez Its.

All of this is a far cry from the last several times I gave blood. I used to do it in my late teens and early twenties. While my iron was technically high enough to qualify, blood donation left me feeling fatigued, dizzy, and nauseated for the next day or two. For a number of years in between then and now, I was altogether too anemic to donate, to the extent of being far more likely to need blood than to be able to safely give it.

See, among other idiosyncrasies, I have a menstrual history of chronic pain and gushing [explicit menstruation/bleeding talk at that link too]. It had always happened — and my iron had always been borderline — but after a miscarriage in my mid twenties, my hemoglobin levels plummeted and never really recovered. I mean, to the extent that being only “moderately” instead of “severely” anemic is not really recovering. Because it involved constant — not just period-long — symptoms, it was easy to feel like a lot of my physical life limits stemmed from my menstrual flooding. Limits which, now that I am healthy enough to give blood easily, are vastly reduced in scope and severity.

It’s difficult to explain why this is important to me. While giving blood is a nice and helpful thing to do for other people, it’s not like choosing to do it renders one morally or socially superior. And yet, when I couldn’t give blood**, I often felt inferior — like there was something wrong with me that made me not good enough to donate blood. Regardless of what, if anything, can be done about it, it’s uncomfortable and disheartening to repeatedly bump up against feelings of not good enough.

Ironically, the thing that made me healthy enough to donate comfortably is something others think may not be good for me in the long run. I started a new birth control pill over the summer. Though my periods have not become what I would term “light,” they have lost their, “Dear God, how is there any blood left on the inside?” feeling. With the iron rich eating habits I’ve adopted over the years (kale + me = BFF), my hemoglobin has soared to record levels. There’s still the pain issue to deal with, but not being so draggy all the time makes even that easier to manage.

Generally, I just feel better.

Until such a time that someone hears that I’m on birth control pills — let alone my particular brand of pill*** — and starts getting all concerned, as one “someone” also did today.

“The estrogen in birth control pills can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.”

“Which pill? Isn’t that the one with all the lawsuits?”

“That’s the one where one of the ingredients carries, like, double the risk of blood clots.”

“And your doctor is okay with you taking that? At your age and weight?”

You know what? All these things? Technically supported by evidence. I do not dispute that this medication increases my risk for some adverse health outcomes. That said, it improves my quality of life. And also? All these things? Asked and answered, multiple prior times in my life.

I’m never going to please every person who’d like to weigh in on my health. But I’m also getting to the point where I’m comfortable articulating the believe that I never have been under any social or moral obligation to do so (though I would suggest that social pressure is another matter entirely). As long as I’m not harming others with my decisions — and I think it would be pretty difficult to harm others with my personal health choices — then I get to prioritize my health as I see fit. I get to be the boss of my body.

I get this one shot at being alive and having a body. It’s hard enough to learn how to cope when my body doesn’t behave as I’d like it to. Other people’s hangups about my body and my health are going to have to remain just that — the concerns of other people.

________________________________________________________________________

** I’m a faculty advisor to a student organization that organizes multiple blood drives each year, so there’s ample opportunity for me to come across “Give Blood Today!” messages.

*** I participate in some online discussion spaces devoted to my same health issues, so this isn’t necessarily a matter of random folk on the street asking about what I’m doing to secure the state of my uterus.

Gushing & Giving

Fancy guest posting?

Apologies for the lack of a Proper Post today. I had been planning on writing something about the Magdelenes but, to be honest, it’s going to take a little longer before I’m able to get my thoughts on it into something coherent. Right now I’ve just got a whole lotta rage. 

However, in lieu of a real post I have something different- an invitation for you lot! Tomorrow week I’ll be off visiting the Ladyfriend for a little over a week. While I’ll definitely get a few posts up, I have some other things that’ll take priority. Like inflicting our smooshy lovey-doveyness on Glasgow and spending evenings ukeleleing* at each other. And catching up with the Ladybro, who’s also abandoned me from the wilds of Glaswegia and hasn’t had a chance to kick my ass in Street Fighter for months

Because I’ll be off with the canoodling and the getting my ass kicked in Street Fighter, I’d like to open this place up for a guest post or two over the week. I have some amazing commenters who are brimming full of opinions- I’d love to share the top half of the Tea Cosy with some of you. 

A couple of guidelines: I’m always delighted to share perspectives different to my own. However, I won’t give a platform to anything that’s directly contrary to my values. On a similar note, I’m entirely fine with colourful language, but slurs are not okay. If you’d prefer to post anonymously I’m happy to oblige, and if you want oodles of crediting that’s great too. If you’re not quite sure about what you’d like to say, then get in touch and we can have a chat.

Sound interesting? Drop me a line at considertheteacosy at gmail dot com! 

 

*not a euphemism. 

Fancy guest posting?

Artists’ Hell (plus: how to escape it & become an Art Ninja), Part 2

Having failed utterly to stay away from the blog while I’m visiting family I’m still delighted to welcome Maki Yamazaki back for Part 2 of her series on gettin’ artsy with it.

 

glare sketch banner

Welcome to part 2 of Artists’ Hell! If you haven’t read part 1, please read it first. If you have already read it and have come back for more, proceed at your own risk: more lengthy writing ahead!

Observe

When I studied art at age 13, I  could never understand why they made us draw fruit in a bowl. I had no intention of ever drawing a banana and two grapes, so why make us learn it? When I was 17, we drew nude models and it all started to make some sort of sense. Now, many years later, I realise that no matter how good your imagination is, there is no better teacher of art that the world around you!

Trying to draw from what you observe in the world around you will teach you everything you need to know, in terms of Getting It Right. From perspective to texture to lighting to sound and way beyond, if keep your senses open and really try to capture what you observe you will become a better art-ninja.

MIND THE GAP

When I find myself staring at a blank piece of paper, or start a new project on my Digital Audio Workstation, I sometimes get gripped by The Fear. And it is precisely this fear which is the enemy of the artist.

Fear is indeed the mind-killer (AKA the little death).

So how can you prevent The Fear? Remember when I mentioned earlier about trusting yourself and to be like a child? I advise you now, more than ever to put those things into play. If your enemy comes in the form of a canvas, paint on it to put yourself out of misery. I don’t care what you paint, just paint. If you’re struggling to think of what to put down, let your mind wander. Paint something you see, paint random shapes, paint your unoccupied hand(s) (should you have them). Paint anything but do not let that canvas remain unpainted for too long, or it may devour your very soul (and will discourage you from painting it). It’s a paint or be devoured kind of world-of-art out there. When you gaze upon the abyss, the abyss also gazes upon you. This is, indeed, also true of blank things, so be prepared to mercilessly destroy them with your art.

If you heed this advice the art you want to create will eventually come to you.

Do All The Things. All Of Them.

I carry a sketchpad and pencil-case with me at all possible opportunities. Bored on a train? Oh, it’s a good thing I brought this sketchpad. Watching crap on TV? Well, I’d rather be having fun becoming a better artist. Want to impress a girl/boy? Hey, I’ve got this sketchpad full of drawings, wanna see?

There are infinite uses for having some way of working on ideas when you’re out-and-about. You could be struck down with inspiration at any moment, or you may simply be exposing yourself to new things to observe. Either way, do you really have anything to lose by being prepared? Without some way of working spontaneously, you may find sudden inspiration dies quickly and is easily forgotten.

And just as importantly, don’t wait for inspiration to strike you where you stand/sit/lie. Waiting ‘for inspiration to strike’ won’t make you a better artist, only a lazier one. In a day you have plenty of opportunities to become a better artist! After all, making something, anything, is better than not making something at all. Plus, you’re much more likely to find inspiration whilst making something than when you’re messing around in the shower. Be prepared to make a lot of crap work, but remember that that is not the point. The point is to keep working until something awesome happens. And if you keep going at it, something awesome will happen.

See The Bigger Picture.

They say the the devil is in the detail and, although that’s not necessarily true, it is (often) when you first start working on a piece.

Time and time again, I see artists getting bogged down in too much detail too soon. Imagine trying to ice a cake before you’ve baked it. That’s what too much detail too soon is like. Hearing a great riff in a shit song- should’ve worked on the song before making the embellishments. That or you could be Steve Vai. Please don’t be Steve Vai.

Putting too much detail in too soon can often lead to making bad mistakes. It’s far easier to correct work when you have a rough of the whole composition that to have to go back and tweak your hard-worked, but ultimately wastefully made embellishments at a later stage because it just didn’t fit in with the rest of your piece.

I know, I know, you want the goodies now, but haste makes serious waste and majorly bogs you down in the long run. It may even put you off working.

Make Silly Mistakes Faster

Ever seen those artists who create sublime work in the blink of an eye? Want to learn a secret to unlock that superpower?

Yes. yes you do. Because being able to draw quickly means you’ll make more and better work. The skill to levelling up as an Art Ninja here is to make your mistakes and make them fast. This one kind of ties in with the last point. You need to be quick on your feet and I don’t just mean with the work that takes forever. You have to practice drawing as fast as you can. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll improve if you do practice your roughs/sketches quickly. Some of my finest techniques have been discovered whilst trying to capture exactly what’s going on in my image/music when I give myself less than a minute to draw something, or challenge myself to write a song in one hour.

Now, I can’t promise you that this work will be any good. Sometimes it will be downright abominable. What you’re striving for here in your Art Ninja training is not to create the finest piece of work, but to capture your idea/mood/observation. If it’s good enough for Monet, it is good enough for you.

Challenge Yourself

Hands, manos, mains, 手. Whatever you call them, most people find them annoying & difficult to draw, myself included. There’s always something that is difficult to (re)create with art, or that you’re plain-and-simple not very good at making. And that’s ok. Again, you have to trust that you’ll improve with practice. But that’s just it – you have to practice –  which means facing your fears and challenging yourself to do better.

Many artists I know avoid drawing hands: either by giving people blob-fists or by obscuring them behind things/inside pockets. Let’s say for arguments sake you’re one of these people. How are you going to get better if you don’t keep trying.

Copy, observe, experiment, but don’t avoid- And again, don’t be afraid to make shitty pieces for the sake of getting better. Let the challenge drive you, not repel you. Be prepared to hate what you make. But given time and good observation/practice, you will inevitably get better. Eventually, you too can be an Art Ninja!

Find The Time

We don’t always have the time to be artists 24/7. Some of us may struggle to fit doing art in amongst other commitments. You may even find it difficult to work on your art once a week.

Remind yourself of your motivations for making art and how serious you want doing it to be. Of course you need to do your shopping and feed the cat, but are there other things which you cold do to find the time instead.

It’s rarely the case that you won’t have the time to put in say, 15 minutes a day to doodle, knit, play ukulele or whatever. It’s just a case of prioritizing. Instead of watching TV, how about working for half an hour on that future best-seller novel you’ve been promising to make? Perhaps you don’t need to prepare a sunday roast twice weekly. Perhaps instead of always going to the pub with all your friends you could sit there on your own and relax whilst doing some work.

Surely there’s something small in your life worth giving up for the sake of making art?

Commitment Issues

Many artists have commitment issues. We start something that we think is exciting, get bored and want to move onto something else, something more exciting. And, often, that more exciting thing is just as boring as the thing we ditched in the first place.

I think writers tend to be the worst at this; probably because novels are really long. They’re a self-contained world of imagination, but they take a long time to complete. Going back, I want to emphasise that you should make silly mistakes faster. Editing and writing should not be happening at the same time and it’s the #1 cause of death of most novels and comics. Don’t let this happen to your work or you will end up regretting it. Just work quickly, get all the way to the end and then make it better. If you spend two weeks writing one page for a novel, it will take you more than 6 years to have a 300+ page novel. Take a leaf from NaNoWriMo’s books and your commitment issues may well disappear!

Another problem that occurs very often in not fulfilling large pieces is setting your standards far too high. Technically this is the same as trying to write and edit at the same time, but requires a slightly different approach.

Instead of saying: I’m going to write this novel about space aliens and pirates, try to break it down into smaller, more digestible chunks of work. How does the story start? Do any of the characters die? How do they die? And how will you ever get the audience to love this character before you mercilessly spear them through the heart after a perfect touchdown? Plan out how things link together and concentrate on each part. And remember: don’t go into too much detail until you’ve got some bones to hang the flesh on, or you will get bored and frustrated.

Finally take joy in smal achievements. It’s much easier to finish long pieces of work when you don’t set your standards too high.

Take a break

Finally, it’s time to take a break. If you work on your art 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, you will probably burn yourself out and you will likely hate both your art and possibly yourself for doing so.

One piece of advice that I’ve found really helpful is to stop yourself whilst you’re still having fun. Too much work and your passion will wither. Sometimes working little, but often is a really, really good idea and if you stop working with something exciting to come back to, it will ensure that you are plenty excited, refreshed and inspired by the time you come back to it.

Rome was not, apparently, built in a day.

Lastly, but not least, if you’re really having no fun doing art after all of this and you can’t seem to find the motivation to do it, then don’t. Being crap at art is not a reason to  quit. Not enjoying it possibly is.

If you find yourself losing the motivation to keep going, perhaps you need to stop, or at least cut down (you art-addict, you). Enjoying your art should be what propels you but, ultimately, being an Art Ninja means that art will not always be fun. It is a long, hard road out of Artists’ Hell and you can either take the easy road and step it down a couple of paces or you can run the gauntlet and fight your way to Ninja Heaven (alongside all the other Ninja, such as the Science Ninja, Marie Curie & Albert Einstein).

Blog-speed you, future Art-Ninja,

This is Maki Yamazaki, signing out.

Artists’ Hell (plus: how to escape it & become an Art Ninja), Part 2

Artists’ Hell (plus: how to escape it & become an Art Ninja), Part 1

I’m off visiting my family for a couple of days, so I’ve asked the lovely Maki Yamazaki (whom you may have heard of described once or twice.. or three or four times.. as the Ladyfriend) if she wouldn’t mind taking over for a day or two. Enjoy- and remember, Maki’s a guest here, so be good while I’m gone, y’hear? -Aoife

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You stare at your workspace and it’s like there’s nothing there but an empty abyss of art materials and space where your masterpiece should be. You felt good when you woke up -refreshed and ready to make something come to life – but now you’re full of doubt. Everything you make seems to come out wrong and you can’t concentrate. Your head is full of dreams and ideas but, for some reason, they wont fall out of your head without creating something resembling an aborted fetus.

You get up, make yourself a coffee/tea, check your emails and social media and, after a couple of meaningless hours the void is still there and you decide to tackle it again. Thirty minutes later you give up, with nothing to show.

Welcome to Artists’ Hell. My name is Maki Yamazaki and I’m here to help. I can show you the way out, but, I’m afraid, you’re going to have to do the hard work it takes to get out. But heed this advice and you too can escape Artists’ Hell and become an art ninja.

Finding The Motivation

Firstly, stop yourself and take a long, measured look at why you’re doing this. If you’re anything like me, you probably can’t help it. It’s like this compulsion. When I see beautiful art, all these ideas explode in my mind. When I see people sketching my fingers twitch. Sound familiar, perhaps?

I’m going to stop you again right there and ask you, in all seriousness, where you intend to take these ideas? Do you want to hold down a full-time job and do it for fun or do you want to make it into a career?

No, no, I didn’t ask you if you thought you were good enough! Forget that for a second and ask yourself where you want to take it. Next ask yourself what you’re willing to do in order to achieve that.

I’ve known many who’ve had a great time drawing, writing, painting or whatever for fun and it seems the moment they decide to take it seriously they lose the motivation and can’t seem to produce any work.

Ask yourself how much effort you’re really willing to put into your work and if it’s worth all the pain and hard effort in taking it all the way into a full-blown career. If not, stop pretending that it will happen if you go into it half-arsed. Which leads me to my next point…

Go Into It Half-Arsed

One of the biggest killers of creativity is being too serious, I shit you not.

Everyone has a shedload of bad art in them. I still have hundreds of abominations to create and I look forward to making them gleefully. That’s right, with full-blown mirthfulness.

The key thing to realise is that you willll always have bad art days. Always. If you think for a second that you’ll reach a point where you’re happy with everything you create, I’m afraid you’re sorely mistaken.

If you want to be serious about what you, then be prepared to not take it too seriously. If you make something that you wouldn’t kiss your mother with, where, I ask you, is the problem?

Truth is, you need these horrors. You need them like Data needs his humanity. Your flaws are exactly what makes your art better. So lighten up- Why so serious?

Learn To Trust Yourself

So, you’ve doomed yourself to a life of creating art because you thought you could do this, but now you feel like a failure. But you chose this path, did you not? Don’t back out now. It’s time to start reminding yourself of how you got into this mess in the first place.

In short, I advise you to quit whining and moaning. So you’ll never be as good as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Donatello or Raphael. You may never be as inventive as Picasso or as nimble as Steve Vai.

So what? Who wants to be dead anyway? This isn’t about them, it’s about you.

If you practice your art, you WILL get better, simple as. Stop telling yourself you’re crap and start making shit. You may not get to where you want to be but remember: It’s not about where you’re trying to get to, it’s how you get there.

Humans seem to have this annate ability to, as soon as they have something they want, they get bored. Once you learn to draw faces you’ll want to draw them better. When this happens, congratulations! Take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come. Don’t be so hard on yourself and remember, you’re coming into your own element. There’s no magic spell to instantly make you the queen of ink or the god of crochet. You have to do the work to get better, so don’t expect to be the big man without putting a lot of sweat and fun into it.

Become a Child.

That’s right, I said fun. Have some fun, now. It’s easy to feel like things are a chore when you have a goal you’re trying to reach. You’ll find when you open your mind a bit more, relax and get playful, you’ll realise all kinds of wonderful things are possible. Try doing things differently. Like any evil good scientist, you’ll find that if you experiment you will get results. They may not be the results you were expecting, but they’ll be results none the less!

Think outside the box and get playful. Try different materials, mix media, do it upside down, and see what happens when you toss the rulebook out the window. Don’t Paint By Numbers and don’t do it missionary-style because everyone else seems to be doing it that way.

Making art is a very intimate thing and remember- it’s all about you.

I cannot stress how important it is to stop being precious about every single thing you make and to start learning to do things wrong. Because eventually, you’ll get it right and it will be Epic.

Children are so much better at being creative because they’re not carrying the weight of the world around with them when they make stuff. So be like the child and start having fun.

I Have Scribbles, Now What?

This is where your experimentation goes on hold and the critical side of you comes out. Not forever, mind you, just long enough to appreciate the excellent mess you’ve made. This is where you sift through all the crap and find the hidden gems. Did you play a riff that was totally off the wall whilst pissing about? Perhaps you found that painting with sticks whilst suspended from the ceiling was a surprisingly good idea. Maybe when you lopped the arms off the sculpture you’ve been working on laboriously for months paid off. Whatever you did, you have to do it again.

And again.

And then again. But slightly different.

Repeat Ad. Nauseum- it will turn your copper into 24k gold.

Paint By Numbers, Then Steal

This is a wonderful technique for becoming awesome at precisely the thing you want to become good at but, sadly, it’s one of the hardest things to do! It’s easy to think that you’ve got this whole thing sussed out by working from only whats in your mind, but you still feel like you’re getting nowhere.

Learn from the best by copying their work. You’d be surprised by how much you can learn from copying the work of artists that you love! True, your copy will probably never be as good as the original, but, that’s not the point. The key is that after you’ve learned to copy the best, you can take your newfound knowledge and apply it to your own work.

It’s the not art that you want to steal but the method behind the art. Most artists call this ‘influence’, but don’t realise it. It’s a powerful tool so use it to your advantage.

Level Up By Grinding

I think we’re probably all guilty of creating something beautiful. You create something so beautiful, in fact, that it seems that everything else you create is horrendous in comparison. It’s like beating the end-of-stage boss only to find that everything creature on the next level completely kicks your ass. That’s probably because you forgot to level up. You probably also only beat that last boss within an inch of your own life. You got lucky.

This is why we sometimes have to level-grind, as gamers, and it is exactly the reason why you should level-grind as an artist.

For the non-gamer, that analogy probably went completely over your head, and I apologise. In essence, there’s no point in creating a great piece of art if you can’t replicate the results.

Yes, I know repeating the same thing over and over and over again is tedious, but you will be much better off for it, trust me. I did say there was hard work involved, correct?

When I groan at the thought of drawing the same character 20 times in a row in identical poses and the thought fills me with The Fear, I tell myself to stop being so negative. Instead, I try to view it not as a boring task, but a challenge. And even if it might be boring, I will have got much better at the end of it. Hell, that beautiful pose will forever be etched into my muscle-memory forever, only to erupt onto canvas at the slightest whim.

Simply as, when you learn to do something the way you like it, learn how to do it again and again or you’ll be cursed to forever have to live in the shadow of that image.


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Continues in Part Two 

For more from Maki, check out her musical alter-ego, lesbian vampire in space Dr CarmillaShe’s on hiatus at the mo while the new studio’s being, er, built, but you can listen to her archives here. It’s rather good, if I do say so myself. -Aoife

Artists’ Hell (plus: how to escape it & become an Art Ninja), Part 1