For You and Because of You

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Woman in veil. Pixabay. CC0

 

On 23 September 2018 Jean-Michel Jarre is playing a concert in Riyadh. It’s his first time in Saudi Arabia, and some fans aren’t happy.

Why?

Because no single women are being allowed into the concert. They must be accompanied by at least one male. If such rules had been in place when I’d first started going to concerts I’d have missed most of the best nights of my life. And all except one of the four Jean-Michel Jarre concerts I’ve attended.

My initial reaction was ‘why is JM even playing this concert? He’s well known as an activist, why has he not taken a stand?’

 

Money and politics vs women’s rights

My husband suggested it’s because he’s bein paid well for less than 2 hours of his time on stage. True, he’s not taking his regular band with him, as at least one of the musicians has refused to attend. He dislikes the ticketing policy and is supporting the Canadian politicians who currently have issues with Saudi Arabia.

mytubemichi on Instagram asks pointedly WHAT ABOUT WOMEN’S RIGHTS??? and suggests a separate area for women who wish to attend on their own. I recall that the last time Jarre was signed to Sony, he released all kinds of stuff to get out of his contract with them. I also recall sniping comments about his appearance at Coachella last year, where it was pointed out that the festival’s promoters have a bar on any artists except their own playing within a radius of the concert within a certain timescale, and that recently their own artists have been headlining more often than others. Michi also points out that there has been next to nothing advertised on social media about this concert, so it’s very much under the radar.

 

Influential women

To me, it is surprising that Jean-Michel has agreed willingly to this concert, as the women in his life have been so influential. His mother, France Pejot, raised him, along with her parents. His second wife, Charlotte Rampling, is namechecked on his latest release. His third wife, Anne Parillaud, features in the DVD for Aero; he recorded her reaction as he played her the music for the first time. He took an intimate photograph of Isabelle Adjani, his girlfriend of the time, for the cover of Geometry of Love. He mentions various other important women in his life in the dedications on Planet Jarre, the 50 year career retrospective which he is currently promoting.

So to have women barred from attending this concert, except as part of family groups, goes directly against his own beliefs and feelings. I’m guessing Jarre’s appearance must be contract-related rather than personally motivated as many of his previous tours and concerts have been. I also suspect he is trying to break a new market, much as he did with China in the 1980s. Plus, this being Saudi Arabia, even for a Western musician, standard cultural behavior applies.

 

A known activist

Jean-Michel Jarre has something of a track record as an activist, however, so to keep silence on this matter would be unusual. He often has an informed view on controversial topics, from environmental issues to copyright, privacy of data and inheritance. Nor is he scared of going to the very top to make himself heard. I would not be surprised to hear him speak out at some point about the issue of women’s rights in Arab countries, even though some of the emirates are taking small steps to open opportunities for women. Many of my colleagues are of Arabic descent, and as medical staff of all types, they prove that the female of the species can and should hold a full place in society.

But this has piqued my interest. Why are women kept so closeted in some countries? It can’t always be for reasons of safety, as some of them end up in violent and abusive marriages, mutilated or killed for the ‘family honor’. What sort of a life is that, my liberated sensibilities are asking?

 

Research leads to a more informed standpoint

So, being me, I decided to start reading. Seemingly, what started as a way of dressing to protect themselves from the sun has now turned into a way for men to protect their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers from unwanted male attention when out in public. In Saudi Arabia, women’s rights are seriously curtailed by Western standards. They have only recently been able to vote (2015), were only officially allowed to drive this year (2018) and should be accompanied everywhere outside the house by a male relative as a guardian (hence the rule on no unaccompanied females at the concert). They must be veiled even then, either a niqab with an abaya or a full burqa. In the UK, seeing a woman in a full burqa is still a rarity, but headscarves, niqabs and modest dress of all types are relatively common. Indeed, headscarf-wearing women in some areas outnumber bare-headed women.

 

Misogyny or empowerment?

Of course this form of dress inevitably leads to accusations of misogyny, even if many women appear quite happy to embrace a hijab and make it into a fashion accessory in other, more liberal areas of the world. They do not see it as a way to put them down, but rather a way to empower them, as it stops men from seeing them as sexual objects. No wolf whistles or heckling? No fat shaming? No pressure to be The Thinnest Woman Alive? That has to be a good thing. Naturally, there are those who seek to punish those women who do not behave appropriately, leading to acid attacks and honor killings, among other issues.

However, in rural Bangladesh, it is reported that women in burqas are much more social than might be expected, leading to higher status.

From the point of view of skin safety in a hot climate, head to toe covering is rather practical. I haven’t seen any figures but I would imagine that the incidence of female skin cancer is lower among cultures whose women wear the veil and modest clothing than other females of a similar age.

 

Other rules and regulations

It’s not all happiness though – marital rape is not recognized and few rapists are ever charged. Victims, however, can be charged with adultery even if the union was unwillingly with someone who is not their husband. They also need permission to travel, marry or undergo some medical procedures. Some women see this as a chance to travel widely with their guardian or husband, others like moral support when they attend the doctors. And as for asking permission to marry – in many other places too, the husband-to-be talks with his future father-in-law to gain permission to marry. Even if it is not required by law, it’s the polite thing to do.

Spousal abuse crosses all cultural boundaries, but has been receiving more attention in Saudi Arabia in recent years. Physical, psychological and sexual abuse is now classed as a criminal offense, but only since 2013. There is a network of women’s shelters across the major cities to help those women who need to flee abusive relationships.

Sex segregation is common – families never eat in the same areas as single men, for instance. This is also related to the necessity to remove the veil when eating. To do so within view of an unrelated male is to break a strict taboo and risk infringing the honor of the guardian and the woman’s whole family. Within the women’s area of a home, totally different rules apply and they can be as free as they like.

 

Honorable behavior

The view taken by many Saudi women is that their restriction is not as onerous as Westerners tend to think. Some of them, at least, rather like the idea of having a male guardian at all times, and they certainly feel that some of the depravity which goes on in more liberal societies is anathema to them. I get the feeling this should be a two-way street – if their leaders agree to loosening the regulations around women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, more liberal women should rediscover how to dress and behave more modestly too. Remember all those lurid reality TV shows which depicted horribly drunken holidaymakers running around in next to no clothes? No one really needs to see that, much less behave like it.

 

Women’s sport

Of particular interest to me was the fact that until recently, women were unable to enter sports stadiums. The ban on them attending such public events is also similar to what is happening with Jean-Michel Jarre’s concert, except they’re not even being allowed into the family section unless with their families.

Women’s participation in sports has likewise been curtailed, and even now is limited to private schools and mainly foreign-born Saudis.

 

The opening of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

The opening of the first mixed campus in the country was always bound to cause controversy. Staff were recruited worldwide, and a much more relaxed code of conduct was put in place on campus as a result. There is, in fact, no mention of a requirement for gender segregation in any of the books or teachings. There were limitations on women’s access to education until relatively recently, and the job gender bias still persists. Only female teachers can teach in girls’ schools and only male teachers in boys’ schools. There is still male domination of the jobs market, with many wealthy male Saudis being employed in the sprawling network of government departments.

But overall, many Saudi women seem happy enough with their lives. They enjoy the security of knowing they have a male with them at all times, and find that others tend to respect them more than they might otherwise. The men, in turn, say they are happy to keep their female relations safe, and do so for them, and because of them.

 

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The Creator

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Image by stokpic at Pixabay. CC0.

 

Married and divorced three times, never short of female companionship, he’d been seen with the biggest names on three continents in his time.

 

Three things drove him. His desire to keep creating. The beauty of the natural world. The female form. He was well aware how to feed all three of those needs. By indulging his love of the latter two, he was able to continue the first.

 

He’d always had a reputation as a ladies’ man, even when he was still married, but the marriages grew shorter as he grew older. Eventually he just gave up on the idea. His two children and his twin careers as a creator and an environmental activist became more important.

 

Much of his creative output featured the female body in one way or another. A curve here, reminiscent of a hip or a breast, a shape there, mimicking an eye. A musical expression designed to evoke pleasure. A carefully shot video, all intimate haziness and flesh tones. He was widely read, and well versed in the art of flattery. He’d learned all the tricks of the trade and knew exactly how to make his girlfriends feel good, physically, emotionally and mentally. A word, a touch, a glance, a breath. He was a very physical man and he made sure they knew it. Looking twenty years younger than his actual age didn’t harm his chances either. He was in shape for his age, too, thanks to a restless soul that kept him active and refused to let him slow down. The older he became, the greater the volume of work he created, his new pieces coming far more regularly than when he was younger and married. Others might have decided to rest on their laurels and enjoy a well-earned retirement, but he just kept working, travelling, networking and raising awareness. He might have been divorced from several wives but he was wedded to work instead.

 

Given his fertile imagination, he didn’t mind how he created, the important thing was that he was actively producing something. He was restless when he wasn’t working. Paintings, writing, music, graphic arts and videos flowed from him in a never ending stream. There was always something new to celebrate, some new work to sell. One day it would be a video, uploaded to his channel on the web. The next he’d be announcing a tour or exhibition, sure to include new and old musical works, stunning graphics and activist statements all mixed in together. He was an accomplished public speaker, fluent in several languages, suave and confident among the great and the good. He counted politicians, statesmen and celebrities among his friends and allies, his skill with words taking him to some of the biggest political stages in the world.

 

He was generally an emotional giver, repaying the inspiration that the environment and his lovers gave him with care and attention, putting them centre stage, lobbying for their fair treatment and requesting that others show the same concern. He used his status to good effect, always active on social media, never losing the chance for a photo opportunity, a rousing speech or a touching gesture.

 

Yet those who knew him best wondered whether there was something missing. Whether behind those dark eyes, often masked by sunglasses, there was a large and unfillable hole. They pointed to his multiple marriages, his infidelities, his constant creation of new work. He was, they surmised, needing approval and validation. He craved praise and sought happiness. Outwardly, he was a successful, confident, sexy man. Inside, he was a lost and lonely little boy, trying to be brave and strong and make his own way in the world. He had to be his own support network, and the day he stopped creating would be his last day alive. The act of creation was his reason for existence. Bringing the happiness to others that he couldn’t bring to himself. Trying to fill that immense void by giving of himself to others. Inspiring emotion. Giving love. Giving peace. Giving hope. Giving joy.

 

The Creator. He creates. Without creation, he cannot exist.

Optional maternity leave

https://pixabay.com/en/baby-tears-small-child-sad-cry-443393/
Crying Baby, TaniaVdB at Pixabay. CC0.

A young colleague has had a really torrid time with her first pregnancy. She has existing health issues dating back a couple of years, but decided the time was right to start a family with her partner.

So she was off sick for most of the first three months. That first trimester is tricky, no matter whether you’re a top level super-fit athlete or Ms Normal. She dropped her hours to four days a week when she returned to work, but still seemed to be off sick for at least one day more per week.

Then she was assessed as high-risk because of her pre-existing issues and had to attend minimum monthly scans and tests. She was told she would not carry her baby to term, but would be induced when it was deemed necessary for her own safety and that of her baby. Eventually, around 6 months in, her doctor more or less ordered her on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. She had been finding it more and more difficult to function at work, especially given that she doesn’t particularly enjoy her job.

She has been admitted to hospital again this week, and we’re not sure whether she will actually be in for her last day before her official mat leave tomorrow.

In light of the seven months of stuff that she’s gone through, I came up with the following idea. Not sure how it would be financed, mind, but what about optional maternity leave for those women who are assessed as high risk by their gynae (ob-gyn) doctors? I’m aware that in the US this may not work the same, as maternity leave rules are different there, but in the UK, the standard seems to be that a mother-to-be can stop work for up to a year around the birth of her child (a month or so before and the rest of it afterwards). There are also rules concerning paternity leave for couples where the father wishes to play an active role in their child’s first few months. If there was optional maternity leave for those women who had risky pregnancies, surely this would help the large number of women who are having children later in life too. Generally, the older the mother, the more risky the pregnancy in any case.

The option of maternity leave during pregnancy would allow the mother-to-be to opt out of work at a far earlier stage than they are currently permitted to. I wonder whether something nominal such as a similar rate to Statutory Sick Pay/SSP could be paid, or whether a special class of benefits administered by the Job Centres could be created just for high-risk mothers. After all, they have every right to get to the end of their pregnancy as safely as the cast-iron innards types who are still running around madly almost until their waters break. But the companies which employ them would have to find replacement staff for a much longer time than if their employee was in work for their contracted hours, so it’s not all that simple.

As an experienced, child-free, older woman, I have been interviewed for many maternity cover posts in my time, and I know several women in the same age bracket as me who have chosen to make a specialism out of the nine-months-to-a-year fixed-term maternity cover posts. In some roles I have found myself being required to provide cover for the younger staff when they swanned off on maternity leave (often never to return – baby brain does strange things to a woman, apparently!) which was irritating but seemingly fell under the ‘any other duties as may reasonably be expected of you’ part of my job description. Truly organised companies started to recruit for maternity cover as soon as their staff member announced officially that they were pregnant, others left it several months later and there was often little or no handover period offered.

For those staff with troublesome pregnancies, like my colleague, knowing that someone else was there doing the job, when they were laid up sick at home whether or not they wanted to be, would likely ease the worry and stress that having a difficult pregnancy can often bring on. After all, the Duchess of Cambridge was not required to continue with her public engagements when she was unwell during her pregnancies. Why should any woman in a similar situation be required to adhere to a presenteeism ideal when they are clearly not fit enough to be up to much?

Jean-Michel Jarre set “The best Friday Coachella performance… no one saw”

After an exhausting week at work, I was up and doing to watch this. Too bad people need hits and youth to discover an artist these days. TBH, if I had the choice, JMJ would win over everyone and anyone including many of my other favorites. The CD Oxygene 3 is my Desert Island disc, my farewell to this earth and my final funeral service playlist.

Jean Michel Jarre fan page

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Jarre, 69, is giving his first U.S. tour and Coachella founder Paul Tollett had a special stage built for his show, including three large screens. Tollett said he had to get the word out that this was going to be a great performance. But a 69-year-old Frenchman without hits just doesn’t have the SEO needed to build an audience in this digital age. Read more.

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Idolator: Coachella 2018: Jean-Michel Jarre On Electronica & New Projects

Confirmation that the scuttlebutt on two releases is true. Neat!

Jean Michel Jarre fan page

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Jean-Michel Jarre: I actually have two different projects coming to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my career. So, we are doing something quite special. It’s a kind of “best of” with a lot of exciting things. I wanted to do it by myself. And then I’m going to put out a new album by the end of the year. The theme is artificial intelligence. I’m quite convinced that in the next two decades, you’ll have machines that are able to create movies, book, novels, or music in an original way, not only copying. So, it’s going to change entirely a perspective in how we position ourselves as artists regarding creativity and creations. So, I’m very interested in all this.

Source.

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Required logins – why?!

Why by GDJ on Pixabay. CC0
Why by GDJ on Pixabay. CC0.

It really annoys me when websites require you to create an account to do anything at all. Pinterest is by far the worst offender, as you can’t do more than twitch before the request comes to create an account.

At least you can use an existing Google account or even the ubiquitous Facebook login. But you certainly can’t just browse the site without logging in, oh no. It’s not even a site with a pay wall either. I understand when pay wall sites offer limited functionality to non-subscribers, or even that a paid app gives more options than a free one.

But a normal ordinary website? No, I don’t get it. Instagram allows non-members to see the photos uploaded by members, many news sites have public forums, Facebook offers limited functionality to people who aren’t logged in, and it is possible to embed a tweet in  a totally unrelated piece of text which is then visible without being logged in.

So why is Pinterest different? Is it just a desire to stop interested observers from trolling the site or is there something else behind it? What do you think?

National Treasures

https://pixabay.com/en/heart-red-emotional-cartoon-29328/
Heart, by Clker-Free-Vector-Images on pixabay. CC0, image in the public domain.

Other countries may have favorite celebrities, comedians, chat show hosts. In the UK, we have our ‘National Treasures’.

These are basically well-known people who are so beloved of the populace that they can do no wrong. They are usually 60+ years old and have been honored with titles – the celebrity version of long service awards – for their contributions to society over the decades. They are often actors, television presenters, comedians, radio broadcasters or musicians. People’s definition of who is, or is not, a National Treasure vary but there is a central list of those who are likely to be referred to thus.

The Queen is always somewhere on the list for royalists. Others who seem to feature regularly are:

Television

  • Sir David Attenborough – documentary maker and naturalist
  • Jeremy Paxman – quizmaster of University Challenge and feared interviewer
  • Sir Trevor McDonald – news presenter
  • Sir Bruce Forsyth – entertainer

Stage and Film

  • Stephen Fry – actor, author, quizmaster of QI
  • Dame Judi Dench
  • Dame Helen Mirren
  • Dame Maggie Smith
  • Victoria Wood – comedian who died last year

Music

  • Sir Elton John
  • Sir Paul McCartney
  • Freddie Mercury – late lead singer of rock band Queen
  • Dr Brian May – Queen’s guitarist and also an astrophysicist of some note

Science

  • Professor Stephen Hawking

More divisive figures such as Lady Thatcher, the former Prime Minister, were also called National Treasures in their time. Businessman Sir Richard Branson is often included in the list because his business empire touches many people.

Personally, I would also add the Monty Python team, especially Michael Palin, because he seems like a genuinely ‘nice guy’ as well as being a versatile broadcaster and writer, plus broadcaster Clare Balding because she has gone against all the previous standards of female presenters and made a success of being just who she is.

It doesn’t seem to matter much what these National Treasures say, they will always find someone to defend their status. It is, of course, entirely possible to LOSE the title of National Treasure, especially if found to have been involved in financial or sexual misdeeds. Former members of the National Treasures list are either thoroughly disgraced if still alive, or thoroughly vilified if dead.

That’s the last thing a National Treasure would wish to happen to them, and after a recent run of lurid headlines featuring more than one former National Treasure, it seems like the rest of the group are lying low and trying not to attract attention to themselves for now. That’s probably the best policy when they have so much status to lose. The adoration of a nation is not to be trifled with.

Go bother someone else!

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Stress, by typographyimages on Pixabay. CC0, image in the public domain.

My friend’s boss is a total toerag. A complete misogynist, a bully, distrustful, racist. The full Monty of all the really desirable traits in a movie baddie.

She has worked at the same organisation for almost 20 years and seen out two bosses. One left on health grounds some years ago, the other was moved when his attitude became intolerable. The organisation has a reputation for having become a sexist and racist place to be, with accusations thrown from all levels towards the rot that seemingly starts at the top and trickles slowly downwards.

You’d think after all this time that she’d be left to get on with her job, with her boss confident that she knows what she’s doing. Apparently not. She seemingly requires micromanagement, according to him. And snide comments about her weight. And criticism of her attitude (which doesn’t get any better when he treats her like that).

Now my office is hardly perfect, as we have one colleague who really ought to retire as she’s not much use at anything in a modern office plus another who is constantly off sick, despite being very quick at her job when she’s in. But that pales into insignificance when my friend’s boss is the one creating the waves and making it unpleasant for her to be there. Of course, the organisation can’t sack her, because she’s done nothing wrong. But the organisation’s representatives can make it as unpleasant as possible for her to be there, in an effort to make her jump.

However, my friend is a tough cookie. She has spoken to a lawyer and is considering taking a tribunal against her employer for the disgraceful behaviour shown by the senior staff. She was already considering moving on anyway, but has redoubled her efforts to leave given the turn of events. She is studying to improve her qualifications and hoping to gain an extra leg up the career ladder as a result. She is paying for this out of her own pocket and studying in her own time, so that when she passes the final exams she can tell her boss where to go without owing the organisation money or time. She’s not badly paid in her present position, but given her length of service she does seem to be expected to undertake a lot of menial tasks.

I just wish this situation would leave her alone and go bother someone who deserves it. Like a politician or the head of an organisation who is paid more in a year than my friend and I will earn combined in our lifetimes. They hardly need to worry about where the next paycheck is coming from, do they? Politicians become speakers, life coaches, consultants, even editors, as soon as they drop from the public gaze. The rest of us are rarely lucky enough to have a new job lined up when the old one turns round and bites us.

The upshot of all this is that I haven’t seen my friend for months, as all she does is work, sleep and study (and hopefully occasionally eat!). She communicates through her partner, who is good friends with Mr C. I miss her company and I’d really love to write a full and frank letter to her disgusting boss telling him exactly what I think of his objectionable behaviour. In many organisations, he would have been taken down a long time ago for an attitude like his, but in this organisation, the rot is likely only to be addressed by a wholesale removal of the entire executive Board and all the cronies who behave in the same way.

How can this even be allowed in modern life? We are supposed to be a civilised race. This doesn’t look like very civilised behaviour to me.