Matt Marshall

3 Posts with Tag privilege (All tags)

28 Dec 2016, 08:41

Week in Review - 20 Dec 16

I'm going to start doing little weekly posts for personal reflection. Here's the highlights from week beginning 20th December

  • Flew to Madrid and met with V
  • Trained with one of the two Madrid city Quidditch Teams
  • Had some male privilege checked
  • Ate some Romanian holiday food
  • Removed Google Play Music from my phone
  • Decided to begin intermittent fasting again, following some research
  • Read through some backlogs of books on my Kindle

books madrid weekinreview privilege

25 Apr 2017, 09:10

Journalling 014 -- Nostalgia

Content alert. This started as a rant, and not a particularly thought out one. I think there's a perceivable shift in tone when I realise that my frustration may be rooted (at least partially) in privilege. I hope it's ok, now. It needs work.

I'm seriously sick of nostalgia. Yeah, I get it, nostalgia is cute and warm and it reminds you of when you were a child. It's kinda about that that I want to rant about. Nostalgia is why reboots and sequels to 80s and 90s franchises make bajillion moneys at the box office, and as a result of this Hollywood producers see them as safe bets and, after a few more years of this; we'll have an entire generation of producers who've never seen an original idea. Yes there are exceptions, but the trend is there.

Nostalgia is the basis for the entire fucking raison d'être of the Conservative movement. Look at this shit:

Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes retaining traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. By some definitions, Conservatives have variously sought to preserve institutions including religion, monarchy, parliamentary government, property rights and the social hierarchy, emphasizing stability and continuity, while the more extreme elements called reactionaries oppose Modernism and seek a return to "the way things were".[1][2]

Look at that crockpot of bodily humour. Traditional social conditions. Fucking nostalgia. Right there, fucking everything up. EU Referendum? Nostalgia for the 'good old days' of the British Empire, imperial measurements, and polio. Fuck it.

On an individual level, my generation has coined the term adulting to define their surprise at being able to function at a basic level in society. Yes, I get it; society sucks atm. Really, and I feel genuinely bad for people who feel uncomfortable in their adulthood, who've been failed by the systems in place that should provide them with that security as a member of society. My partner is obsessed with growing older, and how it's terrible. Part of that is the Capitalist-Patriarchy telling (and selling) her that she as a woman has an expiration date on her value. Part of it is a nostalgia for being a 12 year old cuddled up with cartoons (I know because I've asked why she's always hating being an adult). I honestly don't get it. When I inquired further, both her and her sister said that they hate the stress of being an adult and fending for themselves. The diehard socialist in me agrees that yes; you shouldn't have to worry about that, as we should all be chipping in to institutions that worry for us. I get it.

I'm quite privileged. I don't have to worry about a large number of social conditions faced by various intersections of the population. I try my best to be an ally in training, but I stumble at times. What I'm trying to say is that growing up, and out of childhood is not a bad thing. And I'm sorry for anyone who's had their adulthood suck for various reasons.

I was going to write this next paragraph as a "you". Then I realised I have absolutely no right to dictate the experiences of others. For me, this is my answer to those who ask why I'm rarely nostalgic for the past; why I'm never trying to recapture my childhood.

I've never been so stressed, but I've never had so many important things to keep me occupied. I've never been so worried about money, but I've never had money of my own to do things with. I've never been so concerned about eating right and exercising, but I've never before taken pride in the body that I inhabit and been so aware of the effects of what I do with it. I've never stressed out about living with a mucky flatmate, but until then I'd never operated entirely by myself. I've never worried about what I'm going to do after my PhD, but I've never before had qualifications to my name that can let me make choices. I've never before worried about finding time for my hobbies, but I've never had so many interesting things that I want to do! I've never had my heart broken before, but I'd never loved another human being so deeply before. I've never had to explicitly make time to catch up with friends, but I never had such a diverse cast of friends all around the world before.

I've never been so exhausted all the time, but I've never been so driven. That's why I'm not nostalgic for the past.

nostalgia rant reflection growth privilege journalling adulthood

04 May 2017, 09:15

The Simple Peace of Mending Socks

This piece was originally going to be about bone carving and my love/hate relationship with the material. When I wrote it out, it seemed forced. I waxed poetical about the porous nature of bone allowing it to keep a smooth finish and be perfect for needles, etc whilst absorbing oils from skin and getting a natural patina over time. I whined about how it's an awkward sod since it can be quite hard (hard in material terms), and how my lack of experience and proper tools (mainly experience) is resulting in difficulty forming even basic shapes for stuff like naalbinding needles.

It seemed forced, and I think it was just on my mind at the time due to frustrations. What I really want to do with this piece, is write about socks. Specifically, socks with holes in them. Throughout my upbringing, I absorbed through cultural osmosis the trope that 'men' often wore socks with holes in them, and that their partners (in my preteen head this was usually equated to ciswomen) often berated them for it. I never really thought about it. When I moved out of home to go to Uni, I had acquired an abundance of socks and I threw many away for being threadbare or basically tubes. Many remained, or were replaced over the next few years. Often, they would develop holes.

It wasn't until a serious relationship in 2013 that this came up as an issue. My partner at the time (let's call her V) found it absolutely deplorable that I had holes in my socks, and I remember walking into the bedroom one day to find her sorting through my socks and discarding the ones that she found particularly offensive. I seem to remember being shocked, but fairly amused and I trivialised the matter; laughing it off, letting her get on, and moving on.

Skip forward a few years, and I'm in another serious relationship where my current partner (B) has taken issue with socks that have developed holes. I've laughed it off and wiggled toes at her. And generally after a stare or glare we move onto finishing getting dressed and getting on with our day. This Christmas, I was sitting in a café in Madrid with V and the issue of the socks came up. This time, she framed it as an issue of male privilege. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't quite get it at first. I quickly and recursively ran through my head why I didn't feel the need to dispose of the socks, and justified it to myself that I hated waste, and that purchasing new socks when some only had small holes in them was wasteful and offensive to the labourers who made them as well as environmental concerns for the planet and the water involved in producing cotton socks.

All of this, on the surface, is true. I do hate waste, and I would find it grating in my red-blooded veins if I saw people trivialising sweatshop labour by essentially viewing clothing as disposable. However, that wasn't my way of thinking at the time. In fact I simply hadn't thought at all about the socks. When I realised that the privilege alarm bells started ringing. In my current framework, not having to worry about something is tantamount to privilege. After that, all it took was a quick two or three minute explanation by V to see the "socks with holes" trope as a product of patriarchy. Women, in general, are held to a ridiculous standard of personal hygiene and appearance under patriarchy; and in addition to this they're expected to worry about not only their own appearance, but that of others as well. I think we can all agree on that. I'd never before realised that this extended to socks, but it totally makes sense. In a perfect world, all people across the world could enjoy their holey socks. In this world, I'd have to up my game to be subject to the same pressures as my women comrades and try to lessen the places where they may feel stress due to my actions or inactions regarding these issues.

Next problem. If I hate waste, and can't have holes in my socks, what the hell do I do? Obvious answer: fix my gorram socks.

I'm lucky in that my parents were each brought up in proper working class families during the 60s and 70s. Whilst they climbed a rung on the class ladder and afforded me some economic privilege growing up that they'd not enjoyed; our money situation was such that they didn't just replace things willy nilly when it could be fixed. To that end, I have strong memories of my mother busting out the sewing kit once or twice a year for my school trousers when they'd get holes in the crotch. And every few weeks for loose shirt buttons etc. My point is, I'm lucky to have parents who managed to impart to me that attitude of "If it is broke, try to fix it first" when it came to bits and pieces. Eventually, around the age of 14, I managed to pick up some rudimentary sewing skills from my mother and the bits of the Web. Enough to sew my own gorram trouser crotch closed! This is a practice I've kept up to this day. Whenever my work trousers get a hole, I sew it shut. My skills are not perfect, but it beats dropping £20 on new trousers when 98% of the fabric on a current pair is intact.

Why I've never thought about fixing socks before now, I'll never know. Anyway, starting after my return from Madrid I began to sew the holes in my socks shut whenever I saw them. I did throw out a whole bunch of socks that were beyond saving. What has this got to do with an inner peace, albeit a simple one? I could wax poetical again about carrying on a tradition in my family of fixing stuff rather than buying new ones. I could probably talk about the rhythmic motion of sewing thread, and how I can sit outside and listen to the sounds of the suburbs as I fix my socks. All of this is true. What I think about when I'm fixing my socks, however, is trying to do my small bit to lessen waste, and fight against my own privilege. I feel that every stitch is a small step towards an apology to those whose socks I've never given a second thought to even though they're under pressure to be perfect, and who've wrongly felt responsible for the holes in my own socks.

Mostly, I like mending things. I like mending things about the same as I like trying to create new things. When I'm carving, I look at everyone else's projects and compare my efforts to theirs (I don't come out looking too good). When I'm mending socks, there's no real pressure to make it look a particular way. I'm pretty much just restoring its function. I can happily work with my hands, and make a hole disappear, and it's not designed to be a beautiful piece of work. The pressure is off, even though others will be able to fix socks faster/better than I can; they're not going to have access to my socks. I invert the sock, I sew the hole, I invert it again, and find a slight scar from where the material is bound but that's it.

I like that a lot.

capitalism feminism privilege diy socks mending