18/08/2011

Some day, people will say I didn't write my own books.

I've been digging into the x-chromosome side of the history of philosophy lately. As soon as my manuscript on Mary Wollstonecraft (without zombies) was off to the publishers, I started reading Christine de Pizan. Then I had a bright idea and went further back. I knew that Abelard was studied in courses on Medieval philosophy. What about Heloise, his correspondent? And then I went a bit further down.  Plato had female students - did any of them, or any other women in the ancient world, write anything philosophical?

I'd like to say I hit gold - but it would be slightly off the mark. There just aren't many writings by women philosophers before Christine de Pizan. And not many afterwards either until the seventeenth century, when every princess worth her salt started taking on Descartes, and a few English eccentrics wrote metaphysical treatises of their own. Then, gradually, there's an increase in the female branch of the family, and now we make up nearly 20% of the profession! Hurrah! In another three or four centuries, we might actually reach equal proportions. Never lose hope.

I've ranted before about why there aren't that many women philosophers, listing several reasons, none of them have to do with women not being good enough. But I think I may have come across yet another reason.

Reading up on the Abelard and Heloise literature, I found very little analysis of what Heloise had to say. Instead, authors questioned whether she'd written the letters herself. Was the whole correspondence a forgery from the author of Le Roman de la Rose? Or did Abelard himself concoct them as a publicity stunt? Some more generous commentators suggest that maybe Abelard discussed with Heloise what her fake responses might be before he wrote them. The thought that Heloise was a highly educated woman, who taught Greek, Latin and Hebrew to the nuns in the convent she ran, did not dampen the of those wanting to write her out of philosophical history.  Of course no one suggests that it's because she's a woman. No. It just so happens that the best use of some scholars' time is in coming up with arguments why Heloise couldn't have written these letters. It also turns out that these arguments don't hold much water - as a more careful scholar, John Marenbon, convincingly argues.

When I eventually located a text attributed to an Ancient Greek woman philosopher, I had the same experience. I quickly found myriads of poorly constructed arguments why she could not have written her own piece of philosophy. Granted, the writer bore the name of Plato's mum. Given there are no records of her being a philosopher, it stretches the imagination a bit far to think she was a well-known author. It doesn't stretch it as far to think she would have written a short text though, so I'm not sure it's worth getting one's knickers in a twist. But the texts themselves are discounted as forgeries by men writing some four centuries later. Again, the arguments are shoddy. And no one seems to even entertain the possibility that the forger, or pseudonymous writer, could have been a woman. I call it bad faith. I call it bad scholarship. I call it bad philosophy.

Telling 'Im indoors about all this at lunchtime, we pondered why and when this taking over of women's philosophical productions stopped. After all, he said, nobody is claiming that Wollstonecraft's or Simone de Beauvoir's books were written by men. I said that maybe that was because they were both active, public figures, who discussed their works with other writers, so that there could be no doubt about authorship. He replied that maybe these memories were still too fresh in our minds, but that a few centuries from now, people would again start questioning whether these works had not in fact been written by Godwin or Sartre.

Which brings me to the title of this post. How long till fragments of my books turn up in some archive and someone, bent on identifying obscure philosophers from the past decides that I couldn't have written them and attributes them to a male contemporary of mine? I suppose I won't be worrying about the royalties, then.

09/08/2011

A Welsh bestiary

Max is not big on animals. I often feel a twinge of envy ('Your kid's autism is better than mine'!?! - I know...) when I read about autistic kids who get help from having close relationships with dogs or horses. Max is just afraid of them. It's been a pain at times, as animals do get around. But mostly, I've felt that he missed out not only on fun with cuddly beasts, but on a whole learning experience that other children get from talking about nature.

Well, things did start to change for the better during our Welsh holiday last month. Max was on the whole calmer around animals, able to talk about them and learn from them.

He went fishing in rock pools with a little net: proudly caught a dead crab, all by himself, and marvelled at the tiny shrimp and catfish his daddy captured for him. He also enjoyed throwing them back in the sea, so we had no floaters to deal with.

During our cliff walk to Aberystwyth, we were able to talk about sheep, and how they give us wool, and cows and how they give us milk. A few days later we visited a fantasy farm and Max pulled on the udders of a plaster cow.

I took him to a small zoo where he was given a cup of raw veg and peanuts to feed the animals. He let me handle the actual feeding part of it, but was absolutely delighted to see the squirrels eat the nuts.

But his favourite creatures were definitely the gulls, despite the fact that there were so many of them, that they came very close to us, that they were loud and aggressive, he loved them. He sought them out, imitated their cry, and walked up close to them. A week before we went to Wales, he was still scared of pigeons.

Today, he told me he'd like to have a cat. 


A few bestial encounters.






Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

08/08/2011

What to do at the beach on a rainy day.


Ok, so going into the sea when it's cold and raining does get old. After the first day of our Welsh holiday, I made a social story for Max with a list of things we can do when we can't swim. I don't normally do list posts - that's Marianne's thing - and this isn't really a list, more of a heap.



We blew bubbles,  we painted stones, took a ride on a steam train, picked early blackberries, played in the playground, visited a zoo, took long walks in the country side, painted stones, learned how to do ceramics, threw a ball on the beach, built castles, went fishing in the rock pools, rode a boat on a pond, learnt how to wire up a circuit, played angry birds, and built Lego tractors.
Let's just say no-one got bored.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

07/08/2011

First - and last - date

It had been a while since I hadn't been on a proper date. First of all, I'd been married for 10 years and living with the same guy for 5 more, so that's a total of 15 years without a date. Long time, eh?

I was freaking out. The guy - let's call him Robert, asked me out as we bumped into each other in the Paris metro. We hadn't seen each other in four years, chatted for a few minutes and he asked for my number, promising to call me a few days later. Right, I thought, he'll never call. I'm 34 and yet I still cannot tell when a guy will or will not call, I think it's pretty pathetic, but anyway. He called, of course (maybe I should strongly believe I am ALWAYS wrong and know, from now on, that men will do the exact opposite I think they will do. That should work!) and asked me out. On a date. As in, a real one. Restaurant and all. He even offered to pick me up at home.

I should have known something was wrong as I received the 15th text about where and when we should meet. Seriously. Pick a time and place, ask the woman if that's OK and go with it. It was flattering and sweet at first "Where would you like to go?" "I thought of this place, what do you think?", but then it got annoying. I'm not patient. There. I grow tired of people who do not know what they want.

Of course I bought a new outfit, spent an hour applying make-up and doing my hair, changed three times and swore a million times about said make-up, clothes and me being a fat cow. I think this was, by far, the best part of the date. I had forgotten the excitement of it all.

He arrived right on time and we walked to the restaurant. While we ate I begun to wonder if I hadn't been tricked or something: all Robert talked about was his ex-wife. By the end of the meal, I felt I knew her pretty well, now. What I did know for sure is that Robert was not over her.

He walked me home, the perfect gentleman. But for God's sake, it was the most boring evening ever. I was back home at 10pm. I called my girlfriends, took a cab and went off to have some actual fun in bars and clubs.

I thought he'd never call back but of course he did. I saw him once more (well, he was good looking and nice and clever, so I had to give him another chance) and it was just as disastrous. I had to tell him he was not ready. At least he agreed with me.

Dear Robert, I hope you'll be better at dating soon. What I know now is that your next date will not be with me ;)


 Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

06/08/2011

The cliff walk


The weather is turning. There is now more blue than grey in the sky and it looks as though it might get warm later on. That said, we're still avoiding spending time by the beach – yesterday we took the cliff top walk to Aberystwyth, today we're off to visit an Cistercian Abbey: Strata Florida.

The good weather is getting to everyone. Out of the window I just glimpsed an elderly man striding the beach in front of the cottages, a smile on his face and a bottle of rose in his hand.

The walk yesterday was more difficult than we'd anticipated, not because it was long or harduous – the climb was a bit steep at times but always you could walk it, rather than scramble. We're used to scrambling when we walk in Cappadokia. In fact, we're pretty much used to scrambling to the point where we have to go back because it's impossible and we probably took a wrong turn somewhere in the valley. The good thing about cliff walks is that it's fairly obvious where you should go. On the other hand, it's also pretty clear what would happen to you if you took a wrong turn, or if the children took a wrong turn. So it was a little nerve wracking and I pretty much had to drag Max all the way to Clarach (or some such thing) where we decided would be a good place to stop and ask for a lift – a mere four miles from where we started. 




The good thing about having to stick close to Max is that we got to talk about what we saw a lot. I was able to teach him about how we get wool from sheep, and milk from cows which I think he understood. I also tried to explain that we ate the animals but couldn't think how to move his imagination from the large living thing to the plate of chili con carne. It was probably the first time he'd looked at a cow without cowering – he even baaaed at the sheep and moooed at the cows – so I didn't want to add pictures of slaughter to the mix.

We also saw a snail – not just a shell as we find in Ankara, but a living thing, out and about with its little horns poking out. And no, it wasn't the kind we eat, so I didn't bring that up. (I have a vivid memory of Marianne picking up a small yellow snail in our garden, and gobbling it up, thinking it was a sweet – she still loves snails.) We saw a moth with black, red-spotted wings. I wished I had a decent camera, then.



We stopped on a beach by a farm to eat our sandwiches. The farm was huge, resembling a small castle. White, and with a thick wall surrounding it. I thought of the farms I'd seen in Yorkshire, in particular the small pile of grey stone that had once been the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. Yorkshire was on my mind as the friend I'd called to pick us up at the next village had just moved from Leeds where we'd visited in previous years. How convenient, how thougthful of them to move right next door to a place where that is bound to become our new base in the UK. Thank you Hannah and Roger, for making our lives so easy. 


Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

05/08/2011

Frankenchicken

I've been reading a fantastic book by Rebecca Skloot called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It tells the history of the artificial growth of cancerous human cells for the purposes of research, of the dying woman the cells were harvested from, without her knowledge or consent and of her family who found out about the existence of the cells years later and never saw any of the money made from the growing business of selling HeLa cells, as they are still called. Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951, at the age of thirty-one. At that time segregation was still lawful and she ha been treated in the 'colored' section of the Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore. She came from a small tobacco growing town and had five children, the youngest  still only a baby.



04/08/2011

The sense that behind the grey, there is blue.




This is the third of a series of posts I drafted while on holidays in Wales last month. You can read the first two here and here

Running on the beach this morning I picked up a long piece of sea weed, like a big curly brown kite ribbon. I held it up in the air and it floated. I hung it up on the clothes line when I got back – thinking that given the weather so far, it would probably be the only thing up there. Yesterday and the previous day there was rain. And wind. We've not come out of our winter clothes since we arrived. And everyone assures us that this is not typical weather. I have the feeling that this is what you have to learn to say when you live somewhere on the Welsh coast, and it's best if you can believe it, even. But today, the air was slightly different. If you look at the clouds, and try to see through them, you nearly can. I don't mean you can see around them – the sky is still pretty much covered. But whereas yesterday the clouds were deep, dark, Sheffield grey, today they are a little more fluffy, a little more transparent. And behind the clouds, if you close one eye and look for long enough, there is blue. 






Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

03/08/2011

Blue Island Ceramics


On our second day, we fight back the weather by finding an indoors activity that is such that we'd rather do that than be on the beach anyway. We go and paint pots at Blue Island Ceramics. We're shown into a studio with two big tables and shelves all around, covered in white pieces of pottery. We're told to choose one each. Emma, step-sister in law, picks a milk jug and her daughter, Lottie, a box shaped like a cup cake, then Charlotte chooses a plate, Max a mug, and Bill and I decide we can do a bowl between the two of us, so we can also help (keep an eye on) Max. There was a dog outside, but Granny Gaby, step-mother-in law, mindful of Max's little quirks, has had it put inside straight away so Max is fine. No all we have to worry about is making sure Max doesn't break anything. He doesn't normally, but that's how we tend to react when he's in a new environment which is a bit close.

On the table there are numbered pots of colours. There's a tile that shows how each colour will look once it's cooked. And there's illustrations on the walls. Zana, the owner, shows us what to do. We clean our things first with a wet sponge, then we apply a first coat of paint with a brush, and a second with the sponge. We need to pick, design, get started. 


Welsh musings

I've been away for a while, leaving sunny Ankara for doing-as-best-as-it-can Wales. My internet connection was sketchy - mostly over the phone - and I was busy enjoying myself and relaxing. But writing is relaxing, so I did jot down a few things which I'll post now, over the next few days, because I'm lazy and can't be bothered to think of something else, and also, because I want to post some of my photos. 


Courtesy of my father in law and his wife, I am now sitting in the kitchen of a cottage in North Wales. Out the window is the sea. Rolling, cold, completely impenetrable by small children and their blow up boats, but the sea. And the beach, pebbles and sand, raised at the top by trucks and tractors and things who are unfortunately still here (although today, Sunday, they are home). And the rain, which flic-flocs on the windows at regular intervals. There'll be more of that during our stay, according to the people in charge. 



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