Long Distance Clara: My Feminist Inspiration

It’s my birthday today… I am now 35 years of age.  That’s right…  This redheaded blogger was born in the 1970s.  However, it was the 80s when I finally crept (with some caution) outside the insular yet imaginative little world I inhabited with Duncan (my pretend friend).  By this point the decade in question was in full swing.  I had my first crush (Jacko from Brush Strokes).  Pass the Dutchie and Total Eclipse of the Heart LPs were played on loop.  I barely survived the emotional trauma that was the death and resurrection of E.T. while my family basked in the technological advancement of Spectrum Computers and Yamaha Synthesizers…

For fucks sake… Don’t we just love the cultural references to childhood???  Possibly because it makes us feel cool again as we secretly freak out about our increasing age.  Hey… I’m so cool… I remember My Little Pony’s (the FIRST generation).  Vintage!  pigeonHey… I’m so cool… I had a full size Care Bear (Type?  Friendship – Of course).  VINTAGE!  BUT… It’s the reminiscence of TV that really helps us 80s kids bond… Mr Benn, Button Moon, Dungeons and Dragons, Dogtanian, Willy Fogg, Bananaman.  You get the idea…  Beer.  Brainstorm.  Bond.  But I have a problem.  You see, my favourite 80s kids TV programme is a little more obscure so tentatively, risking the blank faces of companions, I declare: “My favourite was (and of course still is) Pigeon Street!”

This programme was colourful.  The stories were fun.  It was liberal, forward thinking.  It had pigeons!  What’s not to love?  IT HAD PIGEONS!!  BUT even more inspiring (dare I say ‘influential’) was the character Clara, the Long Distance Lorry Driver… my first feminist role model.

Long Distance Clara stole my heart.  She enthused my mind.  Her big blonde curls, her curvy, womanly figure, her brightly painted lips – she was a hottie – AND she drove a Juggernaut.  A Juggernaut!  Yes… it had red, heart-patterned curtains but it was undoubtedly a Juggernaut.  She’d control, Long-Distance-Clarasteer, dominate this, the hugest of vehicles to the Docks before returning to Hugo, her chef husband who had lovingly prepared her an American-sized portion of Sausage and Mash.  She was an inspiration.  However, it’s only as a grown woman that I can look back and admire her true power.

Imagine… you’re a five year old girl, sat cross-legged on the reading carpet in your school’s reception classroom.  The teacher asks “What would you like to be when you’re older?”  Nurse?  Hairdresser?  Lawyer?  Artist?  NO.  “I want to drive a Juggernaut”.  Imagine the sniggers from classmates.  Imagine the patronising responses from the adults in your life – a soft giggle, a gentle tap (of sympathy) on your head, smug whispers to their friends “Bless her… she wants to drive a Juggernaut”.  Imagine having the balls to look them straight in the face, smile and quietly think “Fuck you.  I’m going to do it.”

Imagine… You’re in your early twenties.  You finally have the job of your dreams – your first real job.  You drive a Juggernaut and this Jugernaut-driving-world is a world dominated (and I mean DOM-IN-ATED) by men.  Imagine… as a young woman you have to navigate your way around (not just the UK motorway system but also) the politics of this working world: the stares from colleagues, the derogatory comments, the sports conversations, the suspicion that you may not be up to scratch.  Imagine having to prove your ability over and above your male colleagues in order to snatch their acceptance only to be reminded of your difference with the arrival of each innuendo or inappropriate remark.  Because remember, in this world you ARE ‘the other’.  You have a vagina for God’s sake – you will ALWAYS be different.

Imagine… You get up each morning, shower, blow-dry beautiful curls into your blonde hair, apply make-up liberally.  You are movie-star beautiful.  Imagine following this morning routine knowing that it will only serve to further separate you from your colleagues.  You are no short-haired, plain-faced, zero-breasted, androgyne.  Imagine spending your day in the cabin of your Juggernaut with only a rear-view mirror to truly appreciate your effort.  Imagine being feminine for your own enjoyment.

Imagine… returning from a tiring day at work to your loving husband.  After hours of packaged sandwiches and Yorkie bars, imagine tucking into a carefully prepared meal, savoring each nurturing mouthful.  While numerous women around the UK clear away dishes of the meals they themselves cooked, imagine snuggling with your man in front of the latest episode of  Knight Rider.

It was this Clara that was an inspiration to me.  My first feminist inspiration.  Clara, my dear… you taught me so much.  You showed that I could be both different yet equal to men.  You taught me that I could be nurtured within relationships yet still consider myself strong.  I can play ‘dress up’ for my own feel good factor without believing that men around the world had somehow created my image to objectify women.  You taught me to eat and enjoy.

So… It’s my birthday… I have been cared for and nurtured throughout the day, I have just managed to rise from the hottest bath in history to put on a slutty dress and full make up.  I’m off to eat garlic bread topped with mountains of cheese.  I will possibly drink copious amounts of wine.  Or enjoy a few pints of beer.  I may have a debate with my husband.  If he’s lucky, I may give him a kiss.  All these options.  All these contradictions… AND I’m still a feminist.  Thank you Clara.  I’m a feminist.

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Rambling Red wants to hear about your inspirations!!!  Please comment below…

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