Archive for September 14th, 2010

When I was pregnant with my first child I was convinced I was having a girl. A girl like me, only a bit better. She would play sports and go to Trinity and become a world-famous surgeon. It was inconceivable to me to have a boy. What would I do with a boy?

I was the first person in the delivery room to shout, “It’s a boy!”

I was in complete shock at this turnaround and my hopes and aspirations for my little girl crumbled and disappeared immediately like a trodden wafer.

And when my baby boy was placed on my chest, calm with clean-glass window eyes and the smell of undiluted pure love, I wanted nothing for him but to live his own life, with me along for support and company.

I had no intentions for a boy, no strict ideas about what he should strive for or what he should make of himself. It was a clean slate and time to start getting to know another person.

Quite soon afterwards I had another boy.

By this time I was very happily resigned to having another boy, though I always thought it would be nice to have a girl too.

It is clear to all, and I’m sure pretty dull to most, that I love my children with every particle of my being. Having boys freed me to just simply do so in a way I fear I might not have been able to with a girl, on whom I had already placed so much personal and political expectation before she had even been born.

I expect so little of my boys, other than polite manners and general decency. I immediately morphed from blaming many exes mothers for ruining and molly-coddling them to become the future mother in law from hell.

No woman would be good enough for my boys. I was the woman I blamed.

Maybe this is what is fundamentally wrong with society and our battle for equality.

As they have started to grow and attended pre school and now school I have noticed a massive softening in my approach and understanding towards men.

I don’t think I’m an apologist for sexist men or any nonsense like that. I haven’t lost my core belief in the lack of and need to push for equality between men and women. I try to teach my boys that cleaning and cooking and tidying up and caring for others are just as much boys jobs as girls jobs. But I definitely have more sympathy for men, now. I am slower to condemn them.

I feel like I understand some of their motives better now, especially the physical ones. Before, when I saw a young boy on the street using his plastic muscle-bound army toy to bash a brick wall or wielding a stick around his head like a mini samurai I would curl my lip in disgust and think “Eugh! Boys! Destructive little gits.”

Now when, my boys and others their age behave this way I just shrug and make sure no one is loosing an eye. I set a few rules (no hitting each others heads and if the other one cries or yells Ouch! you have to stop and ask if they are ok).

Largely I let them get on with it because i have learned that it’s mostly good-natured play and they really need to do that sort of thing to let out the excess ARG they appear to almost all be born with. They also revert just as quickly to warm loving beings who leap on your back or lap and hug you for ages.

My boys are always, ALWAYS, on my side. They watch things gong on around me and spring bravely to my defense if they think anything or anyone might be about to attack me. If anyone even upsets me they quietly gather round me and offer to make the villain walk the plank. They are yet to reach the ages of 4 and 5.

There is no doubt that having boys has given me a new sympathy for and empathy with the male gender that I didn’t feel before I had them. I also want them to have the best and brightest future they can. I feel quite competitive about the fact that education is now so much a girls field of success.

Like every other parent I want them to get the best from life.

Does this make me less of a feminist? I don’t think so, when one defines feminism as aiming for equality between the sexes. Has it made me understand men better? Yes, I think I am a little less judgmental of them, a little more tolerant, even when they behave in an ignorant manner.

It’s because these little men are a part of me, really the most important part.

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The word ‘fat’ has numerous connotations – and one group that’s performing at this year’s Absolut Fringe Festival is aiming to explore all things corpulent.

FAT is a show brought to us by the members of Talking Shop Ensemble, Oonagh Murphy, Aisling Byrne and Lisa Walsh. The trio came together while studying Drama and Theatre in Trinity College, Dublin. “There were two reasons that we worked well together: the first was our preference for working in a very collaborative sense – rather than traditional structures of playwright – director – actor – and so on; the second was, I suppose what you’d call, our ideological leanings,” explains Oonagh.

The group soon realised that they were very influenced by the feminist performance art of the 70s, 80s and 90s.  “While everyone else was emulating Declan Donnellan or staging Harold Pinter or Enda Walsh, we were trying to recreate the leftist, angry, messy performances of Karen Finley, Marina Abromiv and Carolee Schneeman,” recalls Oonagh. “We loved how these females interrogated body politics in a very visceral and theatrical way. And that’s why we started to look at where that sort of performance would fit in an Irish context and, different from the gender discourse that framed their work, what are the issues that mark female identity today.”

Oonagh admits this “all sounds very intense”. “We do like our work to pack a punch and carry an intelligent message but one thing about the way we work is that the finished piece is full of humour, parody, music and dance,” she assures. “It’s spliced with pop culture references and multi-media. It’s theatre for people who are only happy when they have four tabs open at once.”
So what is FAT about? FAT, says Oonagh, “is to do with body image and visual culture”.
It was born out of a frustration with consistently having images of how we should look shoved down our throats. It was feeling despair even at the growing popularity of schmucksters like Gok Wan – who peddle out a philosophy of body confidence but still inherently buy into (make money from) a crudely homogenized image of femininity, of corporeality. It is to do with the pornographisation of popular culture and the paradox of post-feminism. And yet, it is also about a struggle to articulate on these issues – as theatre-makers, as women, as skinny women, etc.
So FAT is about a struggle and in essence it is a middle-finger to that force that makes you wonder how you look onstage wearing only a pair of control pants.
Talking Shop Ensemble will premiere FAT as part of the Absolut Fringe, from September 13th-18th, at 7 pm in the Players Theatre, Dublin 2. FAT, say the group, deals in satire and irony, dissecting such modern phenomena as celebrity culture, make-over tv shows and social networking. The show is an hour-long trip complete with music and dance.
FAT is about skinny bitches, skinny lattes and skinny jeans. FAT is about the leftover pizza you had for breakfast. FAT is learning HOW TO LOOK GOOD NAKED. FAT is video chat. Channel hopping.

wots ur name sxy?

FAT is looking at photos of strangers on Facebook, and LOL-ing. FAT is skinny, ugg-mug, butter-face and junk-in-the-trunk.

FAT is about being trapped in the television. And not sure of the way out.

Talking Shop are trying to see whether we can even make theatre about FAT.

And we want you to watch us while we try.”
This is Talking Shop Ensemble’s second production to be shown at the fringe – their debut, Ann and Barry: What Kind of Time Do You Call This? sold out two weeks prior to the Absolut Fringe Festival 2009.

For more information, log onto www.fringefest.com/event/fat. Tickets are priced from €10.

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