Monday, 25 August 2014

79. Turner Syndrome, 'Brain Sex' and Autism- It's personal!

I believe nothing in this life is coincidental. When I first met Lucy in mid-1997 and started getting involved with Turner Syndrome, possibly the biggest ever news story on Turner Syndrome broke. To say it causes something of a stir in the Turner Syndrome is an understatement!

David Skuse published research in ‘Nature’ Magazine in Mid 1997 claiming he had found the reason why women have better social skills than men based on research on girls with Turner Syndrome. He claimed that girls with TS who had got their one X chromosome from their father had better social skills than girls who had received their one X Chromosome from their mother. He claimed that girls who had received their X chromosome from their mother had brains that were more similar to boys, and that they behaved more anti-socially because of this. This was supposedly because there is a particular gene on the father’s X chromosome that confers socially acceptable behaviour. All women who have normal XX karotypes would have this X whereas only some women with TS would have this gene. All men get their single X chromosome from their mothers, therefore would never have this ‘magic gene’ that was supposed to be on the father’s X chromosome. Notice the sexist assumptions that underpin this. Somehow the father’s genetic material is better than the mothers. Note that women are expected to be well behaved, put the needs and thoughts of others (i.e. Men!) before themselves and be socially docile. They are expected to be ‘no trouble’. Women with Turner Syndrome offend against male notions of ‘femaleness’ in the first instance by being infertile. We also offend by being short and often having ‘physical defects’ such as webbed necks and moles, therefore fail to be conventionally attractive. We are an easy class of women to stigmatize. What is even worse is that this research said that certain women with Turners were better than others.

This research was reported in Time and the national press in the UK. I can only find one online press report of the time. We live in a misogynistic patriarchal society which seeks to establish scientific reasons for the treatment of the two sexes. In particular there is a quest for ‘brain sex’ which apparently roots the different treatments and experiences of men in women in purported neurological differences rather than looking at issues of sexism. Cordelia Fine has written extensively about this, especially in her book ‘Delusions of gender’. I have to say this but Skuse was claiming that his research went towards explaining the differences in female and male behaviour

Imagine how women with Turner Syndrome felt about press coverage like this. As if it was not difficult enough before this to be open about Turner Syndrome. I have heard from friends with Turner Syndrome that some people claim to know all about women with Turner Syndrome and that they are ‘socially inept’ from reports of this research. This research also plays into the idea that somehow women with Turner Syndrome are not fully women or are ‘damaged’ women. As it happened there was an international Turner Syndrome conference scheduled in Coventry that summer. Lucy and myself had booked to attend. David Skuse was scheduled to talk. Guess what, we made sure we attended his talk. We challenged him about his findings and his methodology. We also passed notes between each other making less than respectful com-ments on Skuse! (see, we women with TS are so badly behaved!). The woman who runs the Turner Syndrome Support Society in the UK was and remains very supportive of David Skuse’s research. She did not understand how it creates problems for women with TS and what is worse she affirms his negative portrayal of us. This is one of the reasons I am not involved with the national TS group.

Skuse’s theories have been used in TV documentaries (why men don’t iron on Channel 4 and at least another where a young woman with TS had to say she had awful social skills simply for saying they did not like someone’s haircut- I kid you not). Now I have to ‘fess up. I took part in the next stage of David Skuse’s research in 2001-3. This involved having several brain scans and having a meeting with David Skuse himself. He really enjoyed talking to me as I seemed to explain some of the cognitive/social issues women with Turner Syndrome have. I do not regret doing this. I do not believe David Skuse is a bad person and that if his research had been used differently it could have been potentially helpful. I also feel that I have no right to criticize Skuse if I am not at the same time willing to assist him and work with him.

An unpleasant side effect of this research I inadvertently learned which parent I got my one X chromosome from. This is information that needs to be imparted gently. Yet it was there on a piece of paper in front of me at a hospital check up. David Skuse continues to claim in his research claims that women with Turner Syndrome have autism/Asperger’s Syndrome type behavioural/social issues. He still speaks at TS conferences (apparently Lucy and my Liverpool TS friends had a few things to say to him at a re-cent conference!)

This continues to lead to Turner Syndrome being reported like this

I have actually had to deal with the consequences of David Skuse’s research. When I was referred to an occupational therapist by my work, he basically used David Skuse’s research to say I had Asperger’s type behavioural issues. I got in contact with David Skuse to ask for guidance as to whether I should get assessed for Asperger’s. It took a considerable time for him to meet me. After our initial meeting, he did not bother to contact me for several months. I eventually got him to arrange a meeting with one of his researchers who turned out to be an undergraduate. I feel that what was offered was completely inadequate.

One of the main reason I am concerned about David Skuse’s pronouncements is that he does not appear to understand the effects of his pronouncements on the lives of women with Turner Syndrome. I had helped David Skuse with his research but when I needed some guidance it was not given. I do feel his research allows for the scapegoating of women with Turner Syndrome. There have been no positive or constructive suggestions to help women with TS leading out of this research.

But my concern here is not just for women with Turner Syndrome. Women are expected to be socially compliant and to be accommodating. Women who fail to do so are seen as transgressive and abnormal. Brain Sex’ does not excuse or explain thousands of years of the effects of women living under patriarchal systems

Sunday, 27 July 2014

78. Going Back

I recently saw a musician in concert who I last saw live in 1998. This brought up some interesting reflections. Back then, I was going a masters in Librarianship at UCL. I was attempting to find my way in the world after University (I have written about this in a previous post). At the time I felt like I was not making a good job of this at all. I really cannot say that enjoyed these years much. But seeing this musician again has allowed me to make a sort of peace with this period of my life. There were a lot of happy times and positive experiences as well as bad times. I am glad for the role this musician has played in helping to form the person I am today. I am proud to be a fan (time to fess up- this musician is Richard Davies)
But there is another aspect to this nostalgia
When I saw Richard Davies in 1998, I was just beginning to connect with other women with Turner Syndrome. I connect particular albums by Richard Davies, (especially Telegraph) with the first three years of being part of the Turner Syndrome community. It helps me to recall get-togethers at friend’s houses and day trips we took. It is to say the least ironic that I finally get to see Richard Davies in concert again when I asking some pretty deep questions about what role I wish to play within the larger community of women with Turner Syndrome and what role other women with Turner Syndrome play in my life.
I have to say as an aside that from 1996 to around 2005 I was deeply into ‘Indie’ music and discovered acts such as Super Furry Animals, the Flaming Lips, several of the ‘Elephant 6’ acts and Pernice Brothers. But it is probably only Richard Davies’ music that I really continue to listen to regularly (Great Lakes is another exception)- this was even before I knew about this summer’s concerts.
I have to say that rediscovering George Harrison’s music in the last three years has allowed me to make peace with my teenage years, and the effect of dealing with Turners Syndrome in these years. George and his music came at the right time and helped me to see that I was capable of determining what was important to me and that I had opinions that were worthwhile. His music made me feel good about myself when few other things did. My school mates found this a cause of considerable amusement (even my best friend from this period). I was made to feel a little bit of a freak, just as I was a bit of a ‘Freak’ for having Turner Syndrome. Well- I am only in contact with one friend from school and she gets that I am a George Harrison fan mainly because she is a Beatles/John Lennon fan herself. It has been a delight to connect with other George Harrison fans and find out what his music means to them. It has also been beyond a delight to discover what a great human being George was. It is also wonderful to discover other George fans who are such thoughtful, kind and intelligent people. Well, if I was right to be a George Harrison fan, perhaps I am not a complete fool.
George also played a role in helping find my way into the Turner Syndrome Community. Back in 1997, shortly after we met, Lucy and I discovered a mutual love of the Beatles and we attended the annual Beatles convention in Liverpool together. Some of the best memories I have of my friendship with Lucy are from the trip. The fact she loves the Beatles is one reason I am so fond of Lucy. I have a very dear group of friends with Turner Syndrome in Liverpool who I try and see a couple of times a year. They are proud of their native sons and glad I am a fan of George.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

77. I am not a 'TS Butterfly'

I recently spent a couple of months as a member of a Turner Syndrome discussion group on facebook. I decided to leave yesterday after a couple of weeks heart searching. I know one of the women who moderate the group and several of my friends are members.

There were some good points. I was delighted to see a post by a lesbian couple, both of whom had Turner Syndrome. I was glad that women with Turner Syndrome were generally being supportive of each other. It also gives us a space to exchange experiences and advice. I also very much approve of the fact that it is run by women with TS and provides a safe space for women with TS. I want to support these kind of initiative. If the board had just comprised of women with TS I would have stuck with it. However the board also includes mothers, of girls with TS. I began to have issues with some of their posts.

On this board women and girls with TS are often referred to as ‘ TS butterflies’. You cannot imagine how problematic I find this. I fully acknowledge that some women with TS are comfortable with this term. But I also know others who also find it problematic. If it was just a term used between women with TS, I would still have an issue with it but not to the same extent. It is supposed to imply the beauty of girls and women with TS and that ‘caterpillar’ girls will be transformed into ‘Butterfly’ women. I personally see this as highly patronizing to us. I also find it quite dangerous as there in an implication that girls with Turner Syndrome need the process of hormone treatment during adolescence to fully realize their femaleness. I also get nervous about using the name of something non-human to describe any group of girls and women (i.e. Birds, chicks, etc.) Feminists have shown how such language de-humanizes women.

However I find it very problematic when parents use ‘TS Butterfly’. It is telling however it is mothers who describe their daughters as ‘butterflies in the same way others describe their daughters as ‘princesses’. It also strikes me as similar to some of the patronizing/pejorative terms that people with disabilities have to deal with such as being ‘Special/differently abled. These terms do not actually challenge social attitudes or treatment of individuals. In some ways they re-enforce them. It also has similarities to the Victorian era convention of ‘Invaliding’ women in order to control them. I am sure that these mothers mean well and do not realize what they are doing. They possibly think calling their daughters ‘Butterflies’ is cute or affirming, without thinking through the implications of such language. It is telling mothers use this term far more regularly that women with TS on this board.

I have written in previous posts about the fact that there are tensions between the needs of women and girls with Turner Syndrome and their parents. Parents can be highly protective of their daughters and tell to see the medical issues of Turner Syndrome, where women and girls with Turner Syndrome feel that the social and psychological issues also need to be addressed. Sometimes there can be actual conflict. I have seen it when some women with TS try to discuss issues around over –protection with parents. I may come back to the issue of the complex issue of the relationships between women and girls with TS and their mothers.

And just as an aside. Not one woman on this board called herself intersex or gender fluid.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

76. For Linda

As I said in my last post I wanted to consider the life and treatment in the media of Linda Eastman McCartney. Specifically I want to look both at the misogyny she had to deal with in life and her ‘canonisation’ since her tragically early death.

Linda Eastman was born the daughter of Lee Eastman (a highly successful lawyer) and Linda Sarah Eastman in September 1941. Her father had show business connections even then and got Jack Lawrence to write a song ‘Linda’ in her honour when she was one (this song was first recorded by Buddy Clark in 1947 but would later be recorded by Jan and Dean.

Johnathan Gould in his book ‘Can’t buy me love: the Beatles, Britain and America’ write about the many similarities in the early life stories of Linda Eastman and Yoko Ono. Both came from wealthy backgrounds. Both apparently had emotionally distant fathers and glamorous mothers who would die early in their daughter’s lives. Linda Sarah Eastman would die in a plane crash in March 1962. The effect on her daughter can be show that in June 1962 20 year old Linda would marry Joseph Melville See Jr. and give birth to their daughter Heather in December 1962. As would be expected, a marriage formed under such circumstances was not destined for success and the couple divorced in 1965.

Linda managed to develop her gift for photography and was eventually asked to be the house photographer at the Fillmore East. She combined this with freelance work such as talking the group portrait of the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Alice statute in Central Park which was supposed to be the cover of the‘Electric Ladyland’ album (Jimi Hendrix was apparently appalled by the cover photo full of naked women that was eventually used).This was just one of many commissions she received. As I said in the previous post she was the first female photographer to have a photo featured on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’. It is important to realize that this was a period where rock photography was in its infancy and Linda was one of its pioneers. It is also important to recall she was doing this while raising her young daughter Heather as a single mother.

Linda’s wikipedia page refers to the fact she ‘supposedly became a popular groupie’ during this period of her life. I am not going to speculate but the double standard that applies to men and women in sexual morality seems to be coming into play here. Even if Linda did have an active sex life during this period, this does not mean she was a ‘groupie’ looking to service famous men.Why should it not be she was as in control and enjoying her sexuality in and of itself like her male colleagues?

I related in the last post how Linda and Paul met in May 1967. They would eventually become an established item in September 1968. Of course this was in large part that up to fact that up to July 1968 Paul was in a relationship with Jane Asher (that’s for another post!). Linda, like Yoko Ono, received hostility from Beatle fans initially.A brash Yank had taken the place of an English rose.It is interesting to read in Hunter Davies afterword to the most recent edition of his official biography. This reveals Davies’ initial reactions to meeting Linda . He received a phone call in late 1968 from Paul McCartney asking if he could visit Davies and his family in Portugal. Davies had not been in contact with the Beatles for some months after finishing his official biography. He was not aware that Paul and Jane Asher had split up but not surprised when Paul turned up with Linda and young Heather. He did not know how serious the relationship between Paul and Linda was as he had seen Paul have casual relationships with other women in spite of his relationship with Jane Asher.Davies apologies in the afterword for not realizing how serious were between Paul and Linda. He would not have been the only person though.

It is interesting that in ‘Let it be’, Linda’s visiting the studio with young Heather is not a cause of friction for the other Beatles (As I wrote in my other post, they were happy to have Linda take photos during the recording of ‘Abbey Road’). ‘The long and winding road’ was one very early song inspired by Paul and Linda’s relationship. It was inspired by the long drives they would take together.

Paul made a very revealing comment that he married Linda because where all the other women he had dated had been ‘girls’, Linda was a ‘woman’. (I really do have to feel sorry for Jane Asher).Obviously the fact she had dealt with losing her mother at a young age, as Paul had done, and had raised a small daughter while holding down a career was a large part of this.

It is as well to note that in early 1969 Paul decided that he wanted his business affairs handled by his father in Law Lee. This compounded tensions within the Beatles as John , George and Ringo decided they wanted their business affairs handled by Allen Klein. Paul acknowledges that the other three Beatles may have been right to take that fact that Lee Eastman as his father in law  may not have been entirely unbiased in how he may have treated the individual Beatles. However he did handle Paul's business affairs far better that Allen Klein handled John, George and Ringos!

It is often overlooked that Linda more or less put her own successful career as a photographer aside when she married Paul. The fact that this is seen as unremarkable is a sign of what we expect of women. She concentrated on raising Heather (who Paul would adopt) and her and Paul’s three children Mary, Stella, and James. Mary has become a respected photographer like Linda. I also feel that Linda must have been such a massive influence on Stella and helped give her the grounding that has helped her to achieve the extraordinary career she has had. It also needs to be pointed out that both Mary and Stella are mothers of four children each. No doubt Linda’s example of being a working mother would have been a great example to them.

Now-I want to put on record my perceptions of the way Linda was treated by the media during her lifetime.

I am putting a link to the below article because it is sadly a good example of the misogynistic way some continue to portray Linda even after her death. This article also sadly serves as a good example of a misogynistic portrayal of Linda as being a ‘gold-digger (Why I am not surprised it appeared in the Daily Mail/fail?

Linda was pilloried initially for creating a line of vegetarian food. One example I recall Jonathan Meades sneering reaction to eating one of her lines of Veggie sausages on a programme he made attacking vegetarianism. The media took some glee in discovering meat protein had accidentally found its way in to a product shortly after Linda launched the line. I also recall a snide comment at the end of a 1995 article about Olivia that her work in Romania in 1995 as being better contribution to humanity that a veggie burger. These are just some examples I can think of. No doubt part of this hostility is due to hostility towards vegetarianism. However Linda made a major success of her food line, and Paul and Mary McCartney continue her work promoting vegetarianism.

But the main crime Linda ‘committed’ was her involvement with Paul’s music. I hold, like other, that both Linda and Yoko’s main crime was not replacing Jane and Cynthia as Paul and John’s partners but for replacing John and Paul in the studio/stage.

In all of this there is an underlying assumption that as a woman, Linda should have known her place and kept quiet.There is a line in Jimmy Guterman and Owen O’Dowell’s critique of Paul McCartney where as a postscript they ask the reader to note they have not criticized Linda or her musical skills (while directly doing so!) Even shortly after her death she was pilloried as Victor Lewis Smith used what was allegedly a recording of her singing on stage on his ‘TV offal’ programme. I will not repeat the deeply misogynistic joke about Linda which still gets told.

In spite of all this Paul made it clear that he and Linda were a team. He always involved her in his projects. I have massive respect for him for this. In the end people had to take Paul’s partnership with Linda seriously as it lasted so long.

In 1992, Linda decided to put out a book of her photographs from her period as a rock photographer called ‘Linda McCartney’s Sixties’. It was delightful to see Linda remind the world he had a successful career before she married Paul. There was a good BBC documentary about Linda that was broadcast at the time of the books release which focused on this period of her career. The McCartney family continue to make sure that Linda’s photographic career gets the attention it deserves.
Linda would take the official photographs of ‘The Threetles’ (Paul, George and Ringo) for the Anthology project.

Sadly, Linda was diagnosed with Breast cancer in 1995. The press was supportive of Linda but could not resist headlines speculating about her condition.It was not lost on the press that Paul had lost his mother to Breast Cancer. She died in April 1998 at the age of only 56. By all accounts, especially Linda and Paul’s son James, Paul was completely inconsolable after Linda’s death and it took at least two years before he felt ready to face the public again.  Paul would speak about going to counselling to deal with his grief. Paul, Ringo and George would sing together at Linda’s memorial service – a sign of how deeply both Ringo and George respected and cared about her.

As with many people who should have received the respect during their life time only receiving it when it is too late, Linda has been canonized.A dead woman poses less threat to the established order than a live one. Linda became the ‘good girl’ in opposition to Heather Mills’ ‘Bad girl’. More disturbingly she became the ‘good dead wife’ in opposition to Heather’s ‘bad living wife'. This has somewhat changed since Paul's marriage to Nancy Sherwell.

Interesting some people (I can think of Deborah Orr) criticized Paul for marrying only a few years after Linda’s death.Paul’s woes due to his divorce from Heather Mills may have some part in ‘redeeming’ him

Paul makes it clear that Linda was a major part of his life and composed the oratario 'Ecce Cor Meum' in her memory. It is clear that Linda was such a positive and loving influence in Paul's life and in the lives of her four children.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

75: Linda Eastman McCartney, Beatles, Babies and visions of masculinity- or why is this image (in my opinion!) is so revolutionary

I plan to write a proper blog post with my thoughts about the way Linda Eastman McCartney has been treated by the media and public opinion.

However I wanted to discuss one of her most famous photographs as I think it is such an important and indeed unique photo. This is the photo of Paul cradling their daughter Mary that appeared on the back of his first solo album ‘McCartney’. This was the photo of Paul McCartney used on the back of his first solo album ‘McCartney’ which was issued in April 1970. It was in the press release for this album (which took the form of Paul interviewing himself) that Paul announced to the world The Beatles were no more.

Please note this is not my image- it is from the teenage headbag blog - felt however it was important to include a copy of this image in this blog post!

This photo functions on two levels (at least!) On one level it is a respected rock photographer’s photo of one of the most famous musician of all time at a critical point of his career when he was launching his solo career after being in the most famous band of all time. On another level it is an intimate family snap by a woman of her husband and their baby. This double meaning is absolutely meant. It is important to remember the context in which this album was issued (mentioned above). The cover art was an overturned bowl of cherries (a comment on the end of the Beatles).

Paul McCartney is very media savy and aware of what image he wants to project. He was used to being portrayed with the other Beatles. In establishing his identity as a solo artist he wanted to make it clear that there was a new group that he owed his allegiance to- his wife and children. Even though Linda is not visually present in the photo, her presence is vital to understanding it. It is towards her that Paul is looking with such tenderness. The viewer would have been very aware of this. Paul knew that there was resentment towards Linda for a variety of reasons. His response was to make it very clear that he and Linda were a team , and that she was here to stay.

I have previously written about the misogyny that the Beatles partners have had to put up with. In particular both Linda Eastman and Yoko Ono both have had to put up with consid-erable attacks for their purported roles in undermining Paul and John’s relationship and sup-posedly contributing to the break-up of the Beatles. Both Paul and John responded by making it clear that Linda and Yoko were their partners, not just in life but in their art.

Linda Eastman was a pioneering rock photographer who was the first woman to have taken photograph used on the front of Rolling Stone in May 1968 (ironically enough this was of Eric Clapton). What is remarkable about this is she managed to establish this career as well as raising her young daughter Heather (from her first, brief marriage) as a single mother. It was in her role as a photographer that she first met Paul in May 1967. She would take photographs of the Beatles at the launch party for ‘Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely hearts club band’ (although they had met a few days before). After she married Paul in March 1969 she would go on to take some wonderful photographs of The Beatles in the studio recording ‘Abbey Road’. These are some of the best photographs of the Beatles in the studio because the band are all comfortable and relaxed with Linda’s presence, something that was not always the case with photogra-phers who came to visited them in the studio. Some of these photos are held at the National Portrait Gallery in London, showing their quality. Linda would also take the official photo-graphs of ‘The Threetles’ (Paul, George and Ringo) for the Anthology project in 1995. She would also take other photographs of Paul which were used for artwork on his records throughout their marriage.
Linda Eastman McCartney is not the only Beatle partner to issue photographs of their husbands, or indeed to take historically important photos. I have not got space here to consider Yoko Ono’s photos or artworks involving John Lennon. Pattie Boyd now exhibits as a photographer and has professionally reproduced some of the photographs she took of George during their marriage and after. Indeed it is Pattie who took the last known film footage of the Beatles in August 1969 which is used at the very end of the Anthology series. She also took the last known photograph of ‘The Threetles’ (Paul, Ringo and George) at Ringo’s 60th birthday party in July 2000 which appeared in her autobiography ‘Wonderful today’. Olivia Arias Harrison had several of her photographs of George reproduced in the ‘Living in the material world’ book. She also took the last publically available photograph of George which ap-peared in the sleeve-notes of Jules Holland’s album ‘Small world, big band’. However neither Pattie or Olivia are professional photographers (although Pattie now makes a healthy living from her photography) and their photos were not originally intended for public distribution. But as with Linda’s photo of Paul and Mary, these photos now are a tool by which both Pattie and Olivia place their relationship with George on the public record.
I also feel this is a very interesting image of fatherhood. Paul is shown being a ‘hands on’ father who is not afraid to be affectionate or behave in a manner which is perceived as maternal (i.e. cradling baby Mary close to his chest). He is clearly comfortable to be portrayed in such a manner. In an age where hyper masculinity was becoming almost mandatory for rock musicians (i.e. Led Zepplin, Rolling Stones), this image presents an image of a man as nurturing and caring towards both his wife and baby daughter. This image was the beginning of Paul’s reinvention of himself as a family man, putting his days in the ultimate ‘boy gang’ The Beatles’ behind him.
This photo and its message did not go unnoticed or uncommented on by the other ex-Beatles. Check out George’s parody…. (It is worth pointing out George and Pattie Boyd’s marriage was childless to both their dismay and so the issue of fatherhood may have been a bit of a sore point for George)

(thank you Andrea so much for pointing this out !)

To show how startling this image is it is worth comparing this photo to the other photos issued by the other Beatles when their children were born. Please note that I am only using official/semi-official photos that were issued for specific purposes here- as birth announc-ments/photo shoots/portraits. I do not count informal family photos or paparazzi photos as these are not used by the Beatles or their families for official purposes. Therefore while there are many photos of John and Julian and Sean as small children, these were not initially in-tended for public consumption.

Here are links to three photos issued by Ringo and his then wife Maureen on the birth of their three children- Zak born in 1965, Jason in 1967, and Lee in 1970. These are sweet but are fair-ly conventional, with traditional roles in place. Anyone who has read Hunter Davies offical biography knows that Ringo had the strongest attachment to traditional gender roles in family life. This was probably this was due to him wishing to be a better father figure for his children that his father had been to him (His father left Ringo and his mother Elsie when Ringo was three)

Julian Lennon’s birth along with John’s marriage to Cynthia was of course initially concealed from the Beatles fans. However by 1965, when they were known to the public, there was at least one photoshoot with Robert Whitaker, who regularly photographed the Beatles during this period. Note that Cynthia holds a mop and is seated holding Julian and John plays the patriarch, standing over them both holding a hoe, either playing along with or gently satirizing (while not challenging) standard gender roles in the family.
I have found this portrait of the Ono-Lennons by Bob Gruen shortly after Seans’s birth, which presents John in a very different manner. He is not the patriarch of Robert Whitaker’s photo but is happy to be a relaxed nurturing parent– almost maternal.

It is also quite interesting to compare the portrait of Paul and baby Mary with the photo George and Olivia Harrison issued after Dhani Harrison’s birth. Notice that they are given equal importance- they will both be responsible for nurturing this child. Their matching perms act as a form of ‘mirroring’. In a reversal of standard gender roles, it is George who takes the usually female role of cradling the baby while Olivia takes the usually male role of supporting George. Unlike with the other photos I am discussing, George does not give us a conventional look of paternal pride but rather something tremulous and tender with the awareness that he wants to be a good parent with Olivia reassuring him that things will be fine.
However I feel this is not just a photo announcing Dhani’s birth. George and Olivia married shortly after Dhani’s birth (they had intended to marry sooner but George’s father Harold died shortly before the date they had originally intended). George and Olivia never issued a photo of their wedding, which they kept a private affair. In effect I feel this photo is George presenting both his wife and child to the world. However, the photo of George and baby Dhani at the control panel of the studio at Friar Park and the portrait from 1988 of George and Dhani by Terry O’Neill (third image down) which are what I would term classic ‘Lion and cub’ pose- George presents Dhani as his son and heir who will continue his work. Sadly, this proved prophetic as Dhani would have to complete George’s final album ‘Brainwashed’ and along with his mother Olivia administers George’s estate.

To be fair to George, there are several photographs taken by him by Airport paparazzi where is he taking care of young Dhani. He was not ashamed to be seen ‘holding the baby!’

It is heartening to know that Mary McCartney, the baby in the photo, is now a successful photographer in her own right. She also keeps up her mother’s legacy in publicizing vegetarianism.

There is something of a sting in the tale of this photograph. For while Paul McCartney suc-cessfully continued and continues to balance his career with his role as a husband and father (and no grandfather), there was no such easy resolution for Linda Eastman McCartney. While this photograph marks a new beginning for Paul, it also marks a new beginning for Linda as the wife of a world famous man and the mother of his children, with the responsibilities and expectations this would bring from the public. This would not always be easy for Linda, and I hope to examine the ways she has been treated by public opinion in another blog post.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

74. Why I am celibate

As I indicated in my post about Gabriel, I celibate. This is something I have chosen. It can be quite hard for some people to comprehend. But this is a way of life that has brought me much peace and happiness. When I discuss celibacy in this post, I do not just mean I do not just mean I chose not to have sex, but that I do not seek a romantic relationship or a ‘life partner’.
I have written in one of my early posts about the effects of the way the consultant who treated me as a teenager had on me (basically he would look at my breasts and genitals at every hospital appointment, usually in front of a group of medical students and say something along the lines of ‘coming along nicely!). It made me very protective of my breasts and genitals. I was not prepared to have anyone judge these parts of my body or to be judged as ‘less female’.  I was not willing to expose these intimate parts of myself to scrutiny in the way I had to as a teenager. I could name what I went through as a form of abuse.  I could say my celibacy is a direct reaction of this. It may be a strong one but there you go.
I felt broken as a sexual being. Celibacy helped me put myself back together again. I am also a product of a Roman Catholic education. As a teenager, I found the idea of being a nun very attractive. I wanted to get away from the pressures of the world and live a simple, celibate, life amongst women. I am also afraid that the negative attitude towards sex outside of a heterosexual marriage also affected me. Sorry to have to admit this but it is the truth!
When I was at sixth-form college in my late teens, I did have a crush on a young man in my year. I do not know why I did not ask him out.  I did not have the confidence to do so. I have had a few regrets about this but nothing serious. There was another young man who wanted to be in a relationship with me, but I declined. I hope I was gently with him but I was not attracted to him.
When I was at university over 20 years ago, I read Sally Cline’s ‘Women, passion and celibacy’ and it made sense to me. I felt that women were under too much pressure to be sexual, particularly sexually available to men. It reaffirmed my decision to be celibate.
It is true to say I never met a man that I was attracted enough to even be friends with, let alone have a romantic and especially sexual relationship with. I greatly valued the friendship of my female friends and enjoyed spending time with them. However there was never any romantic attraction. This was a period of considerable confusion and celibacy helped me get through it. I feel I was at this time not mature enough to handle a relationship.
Between the ages of 25-35 I had a couple of crushes on very inaccessible men. I did not see this coming but perhaps I had to affirm some kind of heterosexual identity, even if I did not act on it. I believe that I developed crushes on men that there was never any hope of having a relationship with as a way of not having to deal with an actual relationship a man. I felt even less attractive and worthy of male attention. This was at a time when I was trying to find my way in the world.
Therefore it was a big surprise that when I was 34, Gabriel happened, (or rather did not happen)…. . I was settled in a job I enjoyed and happily living by myself.  As I wrote in my post about him I feel very let down that I told him about my Turner Syndrome. I also felt I made far more of an effort to fit into his life than he ever did to mine. I did not give up on the idea of being in a relationship as I went on a couple of dates, possibly to try and get over Gabriel. Again I declined to get into a relationship with one person I went on one date with. I was not over Gabriel. A few months after this I lost interest in dating after a second unsuccessful date. It just affirmed that I was better off out of the dating game.
About three years after my relationship with Gabriel, I began getting interested in radical feminism. I found the theory of ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ highly useful. It certainly accorded with a lot of my outlook on the world and my experiences. It helped to be around other women who did not see being in a heterosexual relationship as almost mandatory.
I have to say that what I see of relationships today is not encouraging. People reject each other easily and seem to view dating as a game. It is not a game I want to play.
Up to the age of 30, I lived with my parents (apart from the three years at University. I often had people around, and while this could be positive, I often found I did not have enough space mentally. When I moved out I lived with two different flat-mates, both women. I found the experience challenging. In the second case it was not because of the other woman but because of changes I was going through as a person.
About ten years ago, I moved into a flat by myself. I moved into my current flat, which I purchased, about seven years ago. I have never looked back. I am also financially independent (more or less!) To be honest, I am aware of the person I am. I know I can be insecure and clingy. I also seek approval too often. I also know that I enjoy having the freedom to pursue my own interests and my own beliefs. It has taken me several years to feel as comfortable and accepting of who I am. I do not need a partner for validation.  For me celibacy is a positive decision. It is no a decision to close a door in life, but to open many.

73. African American Women in The Beatles Story

The Beatles story has been explored from many angles but one that has barely been explored is that The Beatles worked with several African American women, both as a group and in George’s case as a solo artist. I hope in this post to show that African American women were part of several important moments in The Beatles careers. Not only that, but music made by African American women influenced The Beatles.
Before I discuss the artists with whom The Beatles worked it is also important to note that The Beatles covered several tracks in their early recording career that were originally performed by African American Women artists.
These include – on the ‘Please, Please Me’ album
'Chains' – originally performed by The Cookies (of course this was co-authored by Carole King!)

Boys-originally performed by The Shirelles

Baby, it’s you – originally performed by The Shirelles

On ‘With the Beatles’

'Devil in his/her heart'- originally performed by The Donays with lead vocal by Yvonne Vernee

'Please Mr. Postman'- originally performed by the Marvelettes

Of course many other Male UK acts (Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, The Hollies, Moody Blues- I could go on, and on!) would cover and have bigger hits with tracks originally recorded and in some cases written by African American women. However, I feel The Beatles were a lot more respectful in that they always spoke warmly about the acts that influenced them. They also never issued the above tracks as singles, thus competing (at least more directly) with the originals for sales.

The Ronettes were Ronnie Bennett, later Spector, her sister Estelle Bennett, and their cousin Nedra Talley. According to Ronnie Bennett the two bands got to know each other over a night of dancing when The Ronettes toured the UK in early 1964 George is said to have dated Estelle Bennett in early 1964 before he met Pattie Boyd. Without speculating, the well-known photo of George, the Ronettes and Phil Spector would indicate this.
Here is the photo from a rather good George Blog…

The two groups would remain on friendly terms with The Ronettes touring with The Beatles on their final tour of the USA in August 1966, and I have come across at least one photo of the groups socializing. The Ronettes would play at the Beatles final official concert at Candlestick Park on August 29 1966. However, Phil Spector refused to allow Ronnie Bennett, to whom he was now married, to go on this tour and her place was taken by another cousin Elaine. Sadly Estelle Bennett died of cancer in 2009 after by all accounts a very hard life.
However the relationship between Ronnie and The Beatles was not over yet…

Mary Wells
Mary Wells has been called ‘The first superstar of Motown’. She scored several important early hits for the label from 1962 onwards, most notably ‘My Guy’ in 1964. She is noted for recording several Smokey Robinson compositions (‘Two lovers’, ‘You beat me to the punch’, ‘When I’m gone’), which often portray male/female relationships in a highly ambiguous if not dark manner. I don’t know if I am alone in this but the songs I mention seem at some level to describe women dealing with domestic violence. When researching this post, I found several webpages saying that The Beatles said that Mary Wells was their favourite singer in 1964 and they even sent songs to her to record. I cannot verify these stories (would love it to be true!) but Mary did record an album of Lennon/McCartney songs called ‘Love songs to the Beatles What is known is that Mary did tour the USA with The Beatles in October 1964, being one of three women who opened their concerts (I will return to one of the others!) There are photos of Mary and the Beatles together and it clear they had enormous respect for her. Her biographer Peter Benjaminson wrote in his biography of Mary that the Beatles would make respectful visits to Mary’s dressing room before each concert to socialize with her. (As a George fan I adore the fact he apparently just sat there worshiping Mary silently!)

Here is a photo of Mary and ‘The Boys’
Sadly soon after the tour with The Beatles Mary and Motown parted company and Mary’s career never recovered in spite of some fine post Motown track. She died of cancer in 1992.

Brenda Holloway
As promised… the other Lady of Motown who also opened for The Beatles was my joint favourite Motown singer (along with Tammi Terrell) the wonderful Brenda Holloway. She actually opened the legendary Shea Stadium concert on 15 August 1965. Sadly, Brenda’s career was never pushed by Motown as it should have been, and like many of its’ female artists, she suffered from being in the path of the all-conquering Supremes (or rather Diana Ross) juggernaut. While she may never have got the sales or fame she deserved, Brenda is much loved in soul circles, especially in the UK, and happily she is still active and still performing.
Perhaps ironically, Brenda is most famous for being the co-author along with her sister Patrice (who also recorded for Motown), Frank Wilson and Berry Gordy of ‘You made me so very happy’. This was a big hit for Blood, Sweat and Tears in 1969. But Brenda’s original version knocks the socks of it…
Brenda Holloway – You made me so very Happy- uploaded by Adi Manifold

Doris Troy
Doris Troy had a long and distinguished career both as an artist in her own right and as a session/backing singer. Doris co-wrote and recorded the original version of ‘Just one look’ which was later covered by The Hollies. Soul fans in the UK always appreciated her recordings such as ‘Whatcha gonna do about’, ‘I’ll do anything’ and my favourite ‘Face up to the truth’. She sang background vocals on tracks such as Dusty Springfield’s ‘Little by little’ (that is her doing the ‘Little by little by little). In 1969 she moved to the UK, partly due to her popularity as a session singer and partly to her popularity on the UK soul scene. At a party she met George Harrison, who was a massive fan. According to Doris, George pick up a guitar and started playing her songs such as ‘Just one look’ to her. As a result of this meeting, George got Doris signed to Apple and actually produced her eponymous album in 1970.
These two posts give a better overview of Doris’ time at Apple and her experiences of working with George for whom she had nothing but praise and positive stings to say (thanks to Andrea at thateventuality for these!)

Doris and George co-wrote this number which was the single from the album
Doris Troy - Ain’t that cute- uploaded by CompleatBeatles

Doris’ album, while artistically and critically successful, did not sell well. However Doris, like many African American female musicians (and African American musicians in general) had her fair share of stories of exploitation and neglect at the hands of the music industry. The fact she was always so positive about her time at Apple says much. Doris Troy died in February 2004 at the age of 67. She is still much missed by Soul fans, especially in the UK where she performed regularly.

Ronnie Bennett/Spector
It is well known that George Harrison worked with Phil Spector. What is not so well known is that George wrote and co-produced several tracks for Ronnie Bennett in 1971 as a result of this association. Ronnie was signed to Apple and it would appear that the original was to issue an album of material. The songs George wrote included ‘You’ and ‘When every song is sung’. George briefly discussed that these songs were written for Ronnie and that he attempted to record versions of these with her.
Ronnie discussed recording with George in this 2009 interview. Again she is positive about the experience- “Working with George in the studio was a lot of fun. He was an old friend. We were thrilled to see each other again. Then when John came in for "Tandoori Chicken," he sort of took over the session and made it into a big party. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to finish what we had started”
This quote taken from
Both George and Ronnie do not discuss why Ronnie’s proposes album was never completed. But anyone familiar with Ronnie Bennett’s story and the abuse she suffered at the hands of Phil Spector may well guess. You may have noticed that I refer to Ronnie as Ronnie Bennett. I do this out of respect to Ronnie and to acknowledge both the abuse she suffered at Phil Spector’s hand (and his attempts to control/destroy her career- something he also apparently did with Darlene Love) and the fact she has not been married to Phil since 1973.
However Ronnie did get to issue on single on Apple ‘Try some, buy some’ (written by George) in 1971. The b-side ‘Tandoori Chicken’ is enormous fun, and apparently co-produced by John Lennon. Two years later, George would issue his own version of this song using the backing track for Ronnie’s single on his ‘Living in the material world’ album
But here is Ronnie Bennett’s original version
Ronnie Spector- Try some, buy some – uploaded by BaronVonPenguin

George would also issue a version of ‘You’ as a single in 1975. This used material from the sessions for Ronnie Bennett. It is so frustrating to think what a completed album by Ronnie which George produced would have been like. Thankfully Ronnie is still recording and performing and able to discuss her experiences in the music industry.

While watching the Oscar winning documentary ’20 feet from stardom’ which tells the story of the mainly African American women who performed backing vocals for famous acts, it was delightful that Claudia Lennear said that performing backing vocals at the Concert for Bangladesh was one of the highlights of her career.

I hope that all this helps to show that The Beatles had enormous respect for the African American female musicians they performed with and that is a story that deserves to be examined more.