Out on a dike

Out on a dike phr. [mid 19-C] (US) going out in one's best clothes. [DIKED DOWN] I'm out as a dyke, occasionally out with a dyke. What I do when I'm out on a dike can become your business once I write about it here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Night of Lesbian Entertainment

What might that look like? I can think of a few things. But if I have to start somewhere, then An L of a Night at Nottingham Playhouse paints a satisying image. That's where I spent an enjoyable evening last night, along with my partner and 708 other lesbians! Can you imagine that many lesbians in one room?

Quite what we were all doing there is worth analysis. As host of the evening, Belinda O'Hooley, quipped: "Why would any lesbian want to go out now that The L Word is available on DVD?"

Oh, but it seems that if we are offered our own particular brand of L-entertainment then we will turn out in our hundreds! The event was sold out weeks in advance. L-entertainment. Lentertainment. I like that. I'm sure others have used that word before, but I'll pretend it's a new L Word made up by me just now. I'm not religious, so the peculiarities of Lent tend to go over my head, but I'm pretty sure none of us would choose to give up our lesbians. Not me.

Greymatter opened the evening. They really are very special as a live act, and I enjoy The Indigo Girls influences. Plenty of other influences, too. Em and George as lead vocalists know how to connect with an audience. They have an easy charisma, and it's clear there's a great rapport between them. I'm hoping Greymatter will take up an invitation to be interviewed on Woman-Stirred Radio. Greymatter also played their pre-show publicity well, encouraging their fans to wear the newly-available Greymatter t-shirts. Here's a band that's going places.

Next up was Clare Summerskill with her original songs and comedy dissecting the quirkiness and tribulations of lesbian relationships in a way this audience could definitely relate to. Get us together in a large enough group and we're good at laughing at ourselves. I enjoyed the jokes about wondering what to wear and Clare's comment about it being so much easier if only there was a lesbian clothes shop on every high street. The punchline: "Oh, there is one! We've got Millets."

The interval came, and it's not easy being among that many women when you need to join the toilet queue. Actually, it was entirely civilised and fairly fast-moving - does the average dyke spend less time in a toilet cubicle than other women? It depends what we're doing in there, I suppose. But you do have to wonder if someone can't invent a new system for toileting that takes us more quickly through the relevant stages while still allowing for the highest standards of hygiene and privacy.

Back on stage with Al Start, whom I have to admit I hadn't heard sing before and had mostly overlooked when she was featured in Diva Magazine. She has an engaging image and laid-back stage presence, and my partner Andrea commented to me that she has a look of Matthew Perry from his early Friends days. She does as well. I'd call this cute. Al Start writes tender, rocky songs about her 1970s childhood and personal experiences, and she calls her guitar Mabel. I'm a sucker for women who develop friendships with instruments and objects.

Sue Perkins had top billing. I bet she had her suit, including waistcoat, tailored especially for her. I'm busy looking for a new waistcoat at the moment. Sue Perkins was presented with a comedy gift in the person of Mary, the British Sign Language signer. Sue was never in any danger of being upstaged - she's a consummate professional and performer, making best use of the moment, including audience participation (and lack of it) - but Mary was a total star. Signing some very choice language created hilarious moments, including "verruca" (an audience contribution), "bollocks", "ladynuts" and "special needs mule", which caused confusion when Mary heard this as "special needs meal"! Sue Perkins in live stand-up must be seen.

It was a real shame when one audience member almost spoilt the tone of the whole night, right at the end of Sue's slot, by questioning how often comedians update their material and why it would be worth paying to see a comedian in stand-up regularly. Trust an audience of lesbians to make it a controversial night. As Sue had commented earlier after a joke about the Pope (she's allowed to, she was brought up Catholic), the only murmurs of protest she's ever received doing this routine were from this lesbian audience. Can you believe it? Unfortunately, I can. But you can also rely on an auditorium of lesbians to back up a star performer against a voice of dissent when they believe that voice is wrong. Sue Perkins showed her balls alright, and she got a standing ovation. I hope she doesn't go away cursing the Nottingham audience.

Go and see Sue Perkins in stand-up. There was some wonderful material on Ruth Kelly. Listen to her radio shows. Belinda O'Hooley, very funnily, couldn't remember what those shows are when doing her introduction, but you can see them at Sue's wikipedia entry.

A Night of Lesbian Entertainment should involve supporting our out lesbian performers, if and when we can afford to. I know ticket prices for live performance will always be an issue that excludes some women. We need music, humour, voices and affirmation to enrich our lives. We deserve that.

Why is it we have so few recognised names to invite onto the bill for future L of a Night events? Today, I found this reference to the fact that Sue Perkins' "earnings plummeted 65 per cent in the year after she came out as a lesbian". Makes you think, doesn't it?

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Thank you to everyone who visited my blog for possibly the first time today, or yesterday, following the link from the BBC News website. Shaved heads are big news still - when it's a woman's head. Britney Spears shaving her head appears to be even bigger news. So it's important somebody puts all of this into context, and I appreciate the way the BBC contacted me and invited me to talk about my experience.

Read the BBC News article Mark of a woman. The comments added by readers are very interesting. There are those who object to women shaving their heads. There are others who wonder what all the fuss is about and think we should be talking about something more significant.

Yes indeed, what is all the fuss? I welcome the day there is no fuss. But in the meantime we need to understand that debates focusing on gender and sexual identities underpin the way society is constructed and also govern the way we are expected to lead our lives (informally, and more formally, even into legislative structures). I don't mean to suggest there are any laws (at least none I know of in the UK) about how one may or may not wear one's hair. But fascination, horror and any kind of judgement inbetween indicates just how far we have to go in claiming equal rights - and it's why I'm proud to be a feminist.

Oh right, I hear you say. So she shaves her head because she's a feminist. Typical lesbian-feminist stereotype!

No, actually, or I might have got fed up with the look a long time ago. Remember, I've been shaving my head for nearly 20 years. What being a feminist does is help me to believe in myself and to carry on respecting myself regardless of the people who want to dictate how a woman should be, how she should behave, and how she should look.

On the BBC website, there are also a sizeable number of comments emphasising the liberating and strengthening effects of head shaving, supporting my comment that Britney may be taking control and giving herself a fresh start, on her terms.

I feel empowered by having been invited into the debate outside of this blog. Do I give myself a fresh start, then, every two weeks when I shave my head? I don't always need a fresh start. But I have this amazing opportunity to recognise myself fully, every two weeks - and the best thing is, I still like what I see.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Shaved: when the media has it in for you

The stereotypes about women with shaved heads are alive and well, then.

I don't know if Britney Spears is experiencing a breakdown. Perhaps she is. It's none of my business, and not for me to judge. But why should the media assume that choosing to shave her head is the ultimate sign that she's close to the edge and no longer in control of her own actions? Why can't this be an act of self-care? It could be a sign of emotional turmoil, a cry for help, or it could be a sign of someone who has decided to begin a therapeutic relationship with herself. She could very well be signalling the need for change in her life. She could, however, be beginning to take that control for herself.

Admittedly, Britney Spears didn't shave her head in the privacy of her own apartment; she chose to go to a LA hair salon, attended by ravenous paparazzi and fans, a following which is never likely to help a situation appear cool, calm and collected. But this is a woman who has lived most of her life amidst a media circus. It doesn't necessarily mean this was a rash, frenzied or freakish decision.

She had gone from gorgeous pop idol to grim GI Jane.

This is one of the most depressing things I've read today on the subject of Britney's shaved head, and do you know where that's from? Not your average tabloid, but from an article in The Observer. This reaction is not about one female pop idol. This goes to the heart of society's views on female beauty and what is considered acceptable behaviour for women. Shouldn't our Pop Princesses be able to change?

I know all about the exposing effects of shaving your head when you're a woman. I know about the positive effects. I love myself shaved. Shaving my head is an act of self-love. I feel alive, honest, centred, attractive. Isn't this how most women feel when they decide to pamper themselves? Not all of us pamper in the same way. I often feel I think more clearly when freshly-shaved. I feel confident, more totally me. Definitely gorgeous; not at all grim.

I hope the media take their attention elsewhere, allowing Britney Spears to do whatever she needs to do next, whether this is relaunching her career or entering rehab. Did you know the hair salon is now selling Britney's hair on eBay? Lay off the shaved head, you vultures.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Brain dump

I've just done another gender-based quiz (thanks for telling me about it, Eloise), and it seems I pretty much have an average female brain. These were my results:

My brain has male and female traits when it comes to spatial ability.

I definitely have a female-type brain when it comes to spot the difference, which makes me good at recalling landmarks to get from one place to another. Could come in handy for some of those women's or Sunday Celebs magazine competitions, too, if I could be bothered (yawn!)

My left thumb is always on top when I clasp my fingers together, which suggests the right half of my brain is dominant. This means I may excel in visual, spatial and intuitive processes. I'm a right-hander but I do a lot with my left hand, and I think my left hand wants me to do more with it so that's why it's dominant ;-)
Apparently, right-brained people may be better fighters and artists.

I'm a slightly better empathiser (11) than systemiser (9) which suggests a female brain. It means I'll always say sorry when I drop the flat pack furniture on your toe ;-)

I'm sensitive to other people's emotions when it comes to looking at people's eyes. Women generally fall into this category.

The length of my fingers, when comparing the ring to index fingers has a ratio closer to that of men than women. So maybe I was exposed to all that testosterone in my mother's womb! You know, I'm rather glad I have a masculine finger ratio.

I prefer more masculine faces. This is no surprise. It's important to know that I was shown women's faces to choose masculine traits in. I guess I do prefer a long, broad and lower jaw and more pronounced cheekbones. Do masculine faces have more pronounced cheekbones? The BBC seem to think they do.

I thought I was good at rotating images. I was good at this in 3rd-year Woodwork. Maybe I'm out of practice. They let me do Woodwork as a girl, but not Technical Drawing (that was out of bounds), so it's the schooling at fault. If I had have done Technical Drawing, I'd be ace at this! Those with a female brain or an arts background fall in the range I did. Oh well - I've got one of those arts backgrounds! That's schooling for you, too.

I definitely outscored anyone - male or female - on the words test. A total of 26 words compared with 11.4 average for men and 12.4 average for women. I associated 18 words with grey and named 8 other words that mean happy. Maybe I've simply got verbal diarrhoea.

If I was doing the test with someone and asked to split the money - well - it stands to reason I'd split the money with them. Which means "split", down the middle. Come on, guys! That's the meaning of split. So I went fifty-fifty. And that is supposed to make my testosterone levels measly! Well, I know better. It's all in the fingers - ha ha!!


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Productively me

You know, I'm enjoying a really positive weekend. This is how weekends should be. Engaging and productive. I'm reminded how powerful I can be. Other people help that along. I mean, where's the point in being powerful all on my own? It only develops significance when it leads to stronger connections and communications.

I won't go into all the details. But there are a number of personal revelations that have come to the fore this week, and I'm determined to do my best with them. That's number one. On top of that, the holiday plans to meet up with my Woman-Stirred friends are moving along very nicely. This is really going to happen! America, here I come!! And today I was contacted by Mel over at everette_1's journal, who told me she found meaning and motivation in my website words. How about that?

Thanks for getting in touch, Mel. And for inspiring me to do this quiz.

You Are 60% Boyish and 40% Girlish

You are pretty evenly split down the middle - a total eunuch.
Okay, kidding about the eunuch part. But you do get along with both sexes.
You reject traditional gender roles. However, you don't actively fight them.
You're just you. You don't try to be what people expect you to be.

That's not too much of a surprise, is it? It's interesting, though, that I take great pride in coming out slightly more boyish than girlish. I really don't want to do girls down. I love girls. I guess it's just that I love boyish girls and those girls who reject traditional gender roles most of all. Haven't I always known that! Stereotypes, away with you!!

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