10 Things Australia Should Be Proud Of…

Image of Bronte rock pool.
Image from Unsplash

Australia has been through the wringer lately. If we are to believe the daily news, we’ve not had a lot to be proud of lately. The incarceration of Rolf Harris has been followed up with an embarrassing succession of prime ministers – most of whom have yet to prove that they are any wiser than their predecessors – we’ve had some fairly average sports performances (and questionable sportsmanship from a country in which sport anchors the culture), as well as some fairly damning criticism of our treatment of refugees and women.

To add salt to the wound, this week The Guardian chronicled a scathing report of our historical, systematic abuse of Aboriginals. And that’s without even mentioning George Pell – a blight on Catholicism who refuses to be put away quietly, in spite of his CONVICTION for sexually abusing minors.

From the perspective of a migrant, I can confirm that the rest of the world used to see Australia as a land of opportunity, with an enviable work/life balance and the kind of chilled temperament that comes from a close-to-perfect climate. So, what’s gone wrong?

In our defence, the proverbial shit hasn’t only targeted our fan of late. Frankly, the international stage is in a mess when it comes to political players, environmental responsibility and our uneasy confrontation of the truths about sexual abuse.

But while the naysayers and harbingers of doom in the Twitter-sphere suggest that we are close to Armageddon, I’m here to reassure you that we’re not even close. Not if the tears shed during the first few chords of “We Are Australian” are anything to go by.

Which is why, sometimes, it’s important to step back and look at where we’ve come from vis a vis where we are now. Because we are moving forwards, not backwards – albeit at a slower pace than many of us would like. And in a climate such as the current one, it can be easy to forget about the good stuff, even when all evidence suggests that our values are changing for the better.

Deservedly, there is deep pride of this country, that is sometimes misinterpreted as nationalism, but which (I’m certain for the average Aussie) is far more representative of gratitude. We know how lucky we are. It’s just that like many countries, we recognise that we are in what will be documented as a period of self-correction, recalibration and change, as a result of recent progressive leaps in the identification and awareness of inequalities.

No one is perfect, but like a puzzle, it is the assembly of the many small pieces that creates the bigger picture. And most of our small pieces are good. So, let’s hold our heads high and be proud of who we are as we strive towards self-improvement. Self-reflection and evaluation are critical areas of personal development in any job – and they are just as necessary for countries to evolve as optimism and self-congratulation are when they are deserved.

But if like me, you feel a bit meh each morning when you open the news page on your computer to the latest shock headline about what Australia is doing wrong, or where we’re behind the rest of the world, here’s a reminder of ten things we can still be proud of:

  1. Giving everyone “a fair go”– One of the beliefs in Australia is that everyone should be given a fair go. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But for Australians, is is a value they try to uphold.
  2. We thank our bus drivers for doing their job – Getting on and off the public buses, Australians make a point of thanking the driver for their service. It is an example of a small token of gratitude that demonstrates the respect they hold for each other.
  3. We provide food at lunch and dinner invitations to take the pressure off the host. We’ve also borrowed the US tradition of preparing a roster of home-cooked meals to people that are sick.
  4. Our customer service has to be one of the best in the world. When we first visited, the optimism and smiles of retail and hospitality staff were one of the things that convinced us that Australia was the right place for us.
  5. Our dedication to family and its values. Australians dedicate their weekends to family fun, sports and the beach.
  6. Our ability to always look on the bright side of life. Australians don’t moan. In the same way that we’re weirdly proud of having the ten deadliest creatures in the world, we’re also happy when it rains, because we know how good it is for the grass.
  7. Having no class structure. Sure, there are pockets of inherited money here like there are in most countries, but on the whole, there is no social ranking linked to where you came from. That means there is less snobbery, pretentiousness and judgment in terms of materialism. Australia is a meritocracy, in which the majority of us judge and are judged by the kind of people we are rather than the size of our house or make of car.
  8. The success of our multicultural society – The steps the nation is taking to put right the wrongs of the past and to prevent further discrimination may be baby steps in some areas, but the voice of the people is getting louder. Such variety of culture ensure an evolving smorgasbord of learning, from cuisine to spiritualism, as does our proximity to Asia.
  9. Our love and appreciation for the natural earth and its beautyahem, ignoring the current government’s stance on climate change. Many people are surprised when they find out that many Australian kids don’t leave the country until their infamous gap year – when they descend on London. But aside from the obvious reason – that we live f.cking miles from anywhere – why would they? In terms of climate and landscape, we are lucky to have the diversity of landscapes on our doorstep as Europe and the US – beaches and reef, mountains, deserts and rainforests. Furthermore, there is a national pride and love for the land.
  10. Our Coffee. No competition.

Next Year, I Will Choose Another Date To Celebrate Australia Day

Something didn’t feel quite right when I woke up on the morning of “Australia Day” this year. You know me, any excuse for a piss-up and I’m there with bells on, but this year felt different. Sure, we had only organized a small gathering of friends at a local pub, followed by a nice lunch – our way of celebrating our appreciation for a country that we migrated to thirteen years ago and have made our home – but the problem was, my social conscience wouldn’t shut up.

For those who don’t know what “Australia Day” represents, according to the Australia Day Council website, it is “about acknowledging and celebrating the contribution that every Australian makes to our contemporary and dynamic nation. From our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people  – who have been here for more than 65,000 years – to those who have lived here for generations, to those who have come from all corners of the globe to call our country home.” 

Unfortunately, what the day represents for our Indigenous population, (and an increasing percentage of the rest of the population), is the day in January, in 1788, that the British invaded our country and went on to murder, rape, and throw them off their land. It is why they call it their “stolen” land.

“Australia Day” is an event that causes immeasurable grief for some people, and courts controversy for many others. It is a day that divides our diverse nation – in particular, for those who believe that the celebrations deny the real and terrible truth when Australia was colonized.

A change of date was proposed recently – of which I am whole-heartedly in favor – although, not so much for the radical accusations made by some that the majority of Australians remain indifferent to the treachery caused to the forefathers of our land. In spite of the obvious bias in the documentation of that period of history – which was taught until recently in our schools (I am told) – every Australian I have met has been sensitive to the truth and does not want any part in its distortion.

For many, the “Invasion,” is not what Australia Day represents.

We are a multi-cultural nation. “Nearly half (49%) of all Australians were either born overseas (first generation) or have at least one parent born overseas (second generation)” – The Guardian – many of whom are immensely grateful for the opportunity to live here. For some, their immigration has been a life-saving event, but what they can’t do is turn back time and change history, in much the same way that the Germans can never fully atone for what took place in their concentrations camps during the second world war.

What we CAN do is move forward and put right the inequalities that continue today: we can narrow the gap in standard of living between our indigenous people and the rest of the population, and reduce (hopefully) the number of aboriginals that take their own lives each year, or serve prison sentences for minor crimes.

We can keep the pressure on our government to listen to the voice of its people (and voters), in the way we did for marriage equality.

Progress has been made. There is an evident desire to embrace the country’s indigenous history and culture. “An ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ is an opportunity to acknowledge, and pay respect, to the Traditional Owners and ongoing custodians of the land – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” (Commonground) is made at most events and council functions; there was a national “Apology To The Stolen Nations in 2008” and morning ceremonies on Australia Day are being led by our Indigenous people; likewise, Naidoc week “celebrates the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

The arts, in particular, strive to support Indigenous theatre, media, and writing. There is also targeted recruitment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates, as well as positive moves to promote more Indigenous people into politics and leading roles in the community.

But the crawl towards progress is frustratingly slow; as it is for inequality between the genders.

There is no doubt that Australia’s reputation on the world stage in terms of discrimination is tarnished. Our history of ribald sexism, racism, and ongoing discrimination of the LGBTQIA community, (this week called out by Anna Wintour), has been well-documented. And while I would like to deny the existence of such ongoing behavior from my cosy position of white privilege, I can’t. As an active member of the Twitter community, I witness to it every day.

But in defense of my adopted country, such discrimination is not the cancer of Australia alone. I truly believe that our irreverence to “difference” is changing, and that, at heart, we are a good country – albeit a young country, that has historically lagged behind other western countries when it comes to education and social conscience. Our geographical location – which promotes insularity; the climate – which makes us like the Spaniards ie. a bit too relaxed for our own good; and our national pride, is perhaps why we have come to the party later than other, more progressively-thinking western countries. But we know that we are late developers, and there is an eagerness to do better.

Our harsh migration policy is the most obvious contributor to our reputation as a racist country, even though, (in my experience), few educated people condone detention centers such as Nauru – and hopefully, the next federal election will prove that, even if a solution to the problem is far from clear-cut. But our awareness of discrimination, the true story of Australia’s colonization and our responsibility to our Indigenous people is improving.

During our lunch, in a discussion about something else, a friend pointed out the importance of not staying neutral. Change, she argued, can only be affected by loud voices and activism – something I strive to do in other areas of my beliefs! And writing this post has clarified what Australia Day means to me. Celebrating it is my way of demonstrating my gratitude for this beautiful land we live on, and that’s why, next year, I will choose an another day to celebrate it.

What Advice Would You Give Your Daughter As She Transitions Into Womanhood?

Women supporting women.

When I was growing up, I wish someone had told me to bury the past, to keep my eyes focused firmly on the road ahead, and to embrace the company of women.

An out-of-the-blue email from an old girlfriend prompted me to write this post. The first true girlfriend of my adulthood – ie. after kids – we were the only two mums in our parenting class with babies that refused to commit to the stepping stones of perfection outlined in the parenting manuals. Shamed by a smarmy group of other first-time mums whose kids were nailing them, we got through the shit show on wine, whinging and WTFs.

It took me a long time to connect with women. Raised through my teens by a single and unconventional father, it wasn’t until my late twenties and the births of my own children, that I was thrust among the fairer sex. Before that, the majority of my friends had been men. Sharing their black and white space, that felt devoid of emotional complications – other than those unfortunate misunderstandings about the status of our relationship – I felt calmer.

Since then, of course, I’ve come to terms with the bollocks to be found in the majority of self-help books about the search for happiness and personal fulfillment. Experience has shown me that the streets aren’t paved with gold, that life can be grossly unfair, and that the only way to make any sense of life is to make the best of what you have. And this newfound wisdom has helped me understand more about the differences between men and women, and the reason why friendships with men used to appear more attractive/straightforward. It’s because they have fewer layers.

Sounds derogatory, I know. Although, not as insulting as the word “depth,” which is the one I really wanted to use. But hear me out, because my employment of the word is not meant to be a judgment about men’s personality flaws or their shoddy housework skills (this time), I use it to champion women and the female experience of life.

I believe, that because the role of women requires so much more emotional labor and intelligence than theirs, (which I spoke about here), and we experience greater physical and emotional trauma – eg. during menstruation, childbirth, and menopause – we experience a more visceral understanding of ourselves as humans and our place in this world. You only have to look at the women who have experienced near-death experiences in childbirth, or from rape, or those whose husbands left them on the poverty line, with nothing but the kids, for examples.

Whereas, men – and I’m generalizing here because this is not a discussion about the mental health of men or the stress some experience as sole earners of their family etc – seem more transparent, more easy-going, (dare I say) less judgemental than women. (Obviously, what I’d really like to say is “simple” – in the nicest possible way.) And while there are no doubt evolutionary and physiological explanations to why one gender carries the burden of more emotional baggage than the other, it is nevertheless impossible to ignore the societal influence of male privilege. Perhaps, that’s why, (on a social level), men seem less confrontational than women – who are judged throughout their lives, making them complicated creatures.

While I’ll admit that many of my closest female friends have always secretly terrified me, fortunately for women, kids are a glue that draws us together. The uncanny ability of our offspring to extract emotion from the most determinedly cold hearts, to frazzle nerves, to provoke self-doubt and tears, and to force us to question just about everything as they chip away relentlessly at our resilience and turn our brains to pulp, are the main reason the coffee morning was invented.

In spite of the suspicions of certain men, the purpose of the coffee morning is (generally) not to discuss the latest fashions, the most energy-efficient washing machine, or the last time we had an orgasm. Coffee mornings are about support, about building resilience and sharing experiences. Men should try it, sometime.

Women are there for women on those days the dam bursts. When all those tantrums in the supermarket have finally worn you down; when the barrage of abuse at dinner time (each time you force their kids to eat peas) becomes too much; when you lose your job; or when you burst into tears in the vegetable section of Coles because someone took the last ripe avocado.

Who better to rely upon in those situations than someone who has got the tee-shirt, on those days you’re sobbing into your phone, wine in one hand, and the scalp of your third child in the other? The truth is, your girlfriends are the only ones who can help you make sense of the new, terrifying vulnerability that comes from having your emotions and hormones put through a spiralizer.

Because THEY’VE BEEN THERE.

Personally, I’m a pretty rubbish girlfriend. Over the years, my attempts to feign the habits of a worthy friend have improved, but alas, for the main part they remain superficial. I try to be better than the sub-standard set of female instincts that nature provided me with – to remember birthdays, special events, cards etc – however, an unhealthy obsession to overthink, a possible case of early onset dementia, and a natural scattiness have determined that I will never be that thoughtful, perfect friend that some of us are lucky to have in our lives. I can only hope that those friends who always make the first call or send the first text understand that my silence is unrelated to their worth.

Sadly – and yes, here comes the excuse – some people travel through life with the baggage of their past stuck as firmly to their shoulders as a backpack. And it has been easy to blame my detachment issues on any number of things – and I do. I am what they call an Olympian “victim”. The divorce of my parents, the loss of my mother (and some things that even I’m not ready to share) have been assimilated (rather than dealt with), to protect myself – a self-defensive mechanism that has had some unfair repercussions for our kids, in particular, our daughter.

NC has recently entered a phase of self-reflection. Like her mother, she has struggled to open the box fully on her emotions, but as she matures she is becoming more aware of the dangers of that choice. A bystander to the emotional carnage caused by the death of my mother, and our struggles with Kurt, she has inherited my need for control when it comes to her emotions. The concept of a free fall terrifies her, but she can’t ignore the logic of her scientist’s brain: that putting up barriers will prevent her development and thwart any positive relationships in her life – what she needs to reach her full potential.

Hence, there are two pieces of advice I wish to share with my daughter: the first is to surround herself and nurture relationships with a group of strong, intelligent, and diverse women who will challenge her and blow the wind in her sails when she needs it. The second is to put her heart on the line and to dare to love and trust.

What would be yours?

Are Women Just As Guilty Of Disempowering Men As They Are Of Avoiding The “Emotional Labor” Of Christmas?

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

‘But you enjoy it,’ the old man retorts defensively when I moan about him not chipping in with the organization of social events, the ongoing responsibilities of our adult children, and – dare I mention it – Christmas.

You might have read in the news this week about the disparity between the practical and “emotional labor” experienced by women versus men at Christmas – as in, (for the most part, it seems), men do fuck all. Even Caitlin Moran had a moan in The Times about being the only member of her family to turn on the table lamps in her house – a gripe I can sympathize with as the only member of ours who gives a fuck about creating a relaxing ambiance.

And yet, I have a confession to make. I am one of those women who is guilty of enabling that disparity. I take ownership of pretty much every Christmas chore, from present-shopping and wrapping to the organization of the food, (most of which, admittedly, we probably don’t need Turkish Delight, anyone?), and dressing the tree.

Similarly, Laura Bates highlighted the “third shift” of responsibility that women take on in her article in The Guardian last weekend:

“There is a third shift, which is less often acknowledged. This is the mental load of planning social engagements, remembering thank-you notes and praising kind teachers, keeping track of nativity plays and Christmas pantomimes and organising the logistics of travel and sleeping arrangements.”

And before any of you men turn on me with some petty argument that women do these things because they don’t work or are working part-time – I say, BULLSHIT! – I know plenty of women that organize Christmas, do the bulk of raising the kids, and work full-time.

However, in our case, the disparity between myself and the old man has arisen as a result of our disproportionate levels of interest when it comes to the season. I love Christmas and I have certain unhealthy expectations about how we celebrate it. I would go so far as to admit that I have an inexplicable need to celebrate the tradition in a crass ‘go big or go home kind of way’ that I hold my mother responsible for – in spite of my lack of faith.

But the old man hates it. To describe him as a “humbug” or Grinch would be doing a disservice to both, but having been raised by a mother who abhorred the celebration for personal reasons, and with an inherent dislike of spending money “unnecessarily,” Christmas is an annual decadence he could easily live without.

So, while it’s all well and good during the build-up of my December rage to feel like he’s taking me for granted, I am aware that my real reason for disempowering him has more to do with my fear that Christmas lunch will turn out to be nothing more special than our normal Sunday roast.

And I won’t do that to myself the kids.

I suppose he has a point when he ridicules my insistence that we continue to buy pressies for relatives we hardly ever see and nephews and nieces who earn more than us – but in my defense, the dog loves her Christmas stocking! 

It’s not like I truly believe that we have to buy our kids’ love (much). And yet, Christmas is one of the few occasions during the year that pulls us together as a family – particularly now that the kids have left home – and if I did pull the plug on our KMart Christmas, I’m not certain we would ever see them again!

The occasion is also an excuse to reconnect with extended family since we moved to Australia, especially now that the years seem to be slipping by so quickly.

But far be it for me to belittle the emotional labor involved and the pressure such holidays cause in the (often) vain attempt to cater to different personalities, food tolerances, and diaries. And although we have yet to reach the stage where our children are forced to choose between which family to spend the day with, when that day comes, I know that I will be devastated.

As it is, this year Kurt is working on Christmas Day, and it has taken every ounce of my willpower not to march up to his boss and tell him how personally responsible he is for wrecking our family Christmas – even though the shift is an invaluable step in Kurt’s journey to independence and I couldn’t be prouder of him for doing it.

So, as I open my pressie from the old man this year –  and disguise my bitterness that it was (no doubt) me who chose it and wrapped it in the dregs of the Christmas paper – I know that I will only have myself to blame. The truth is that the old man would share the load if I asked him. Begrudgingly, perhaps, and with the kind of unforgivable rookie mistakes that it would take the remainder of our marriage for me to forgive him for the request of a detailed manual and specification of exactly what to do and where to go.

But the simple fact of the matter is, that Christmas just wouldn’t be the same.

It’s OK To Be White AND A Man, Just Don’t Abuse The Privilege

 

nick-fewings-532590-unsplash (1)Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Evidently, certain people have a chip on their shoulder about the terrible onus of having white skin.

I agree that it is terrible to be discriminated and victimized for your race and gender, and Pauline Hanson’s motion in the Senate last week reminded me of the backlash that has risen amongst certain male ranks since the #metoo campaign gained traction. And let me be clear, I do not include men that have been abused in that statement.

And yet, what these whinging, self-indulgent groups don’t seem to understand is that while it is okay to be white – and it’s even okay to be a man, I suppose – right now, these fights are not about them. These fights are against white people and men that abuse via the privilege of their skin color and gender.

When feminists point the finger at the harm men do and talk about toxic masculinity, the accusation is not directed at EVERY man.

Let me say that again: When feminists point the finger at the harm men do and talk about toxic masculinity, the accusation is not directed at EVERY man.

It is directed at the men that abuse; the men that refuse to listen to victims, ridicule them or call them liars; and the men that don’t denounce abusers or stand up publicly for equality.

Isn’t it funny how the same people that use #notallmen or “it’s okay to be white” in their defense, are typically the ones that refuse to listen to the opinions of others or support a group that is working to create a mutually beneficial society between the sexes?

I suppose it is inevitable that when a race and gender have held power for a long time that feathers will be ruffled. I get that. I don’t like it when I am ridiculed for being a white feminist, but while I do not feel I need to apologize for my whiteness, neither will I endorse the behavior of certain breeds that are running scared of losing their privilege. 

I am not ashamed to be white. I have never knowingly abused my privilege and I am not a racist. And yet, I have benefited from a system that has always worked in my favor. Maturity has made me more conscious of that. And for the record, I do know that most of the men in my circle believe in equality, and would never harm a woman, but I also know that many of them are scared of change, and that fear breeds anger.

I have never been overlooked or stereotyped as a result of the color of my skin, hence I have never suffered from the social and financial ramifications that go hand in hand with such discrimination. However, I have been felt compromised by my gender.

And yet, I don’t believe that I have the right to moan about my woes in the context of the current climate. Not when refugees are still being caged like animals; not when women are still being killed in their own homes; not when people are still being judged for their choice of faith, and we watch them in shame, powerless in the face of governments that refuse to listen to us, the people that voted for them.

I will excuse Pauline Hanson’s latest shocking attempt to instill fear because she is a mockery to humanity, whiteness, women, and politics. But I cannot excuse the selfishness and arrogance of those who persist in putting their own agenda ahead of minorities at this turning point in history.

And this IS a turning point in history. We are marching for equality; we are marching for our rights and we are marching for what is right. There is no doubt in my mind that change will take time, and there will be many times when it won’t sit comfortably with everyone, but the tide is already turning.

The Secret To Growth Is Curiosity

tachina-lee-42980-unsplash

I heard the word “curiosity” mentioned in two different contexts last week. The first time was at Clementine Ford’s book launch in Sydney, for her new book “Boys Will Be Boys;” and the second was in an article in The Guardian by Celia Dodd here, about retirement.

Inevitably, “retirement” is somewhat of a buzzword in my community at the moment, and I know that I must be secretly starting to get anxious about it from the way I furtively check out the fitness of old people on the bus.

Most of our friends are on the cusp of the transition, and they share similar concerns to us – which are mainly finance-related. Will we have enough money, or will we need to downsize to escape the rising cost of living in Sydney, seems to be the biggest question on most people’s lips. And then there’s that other fear – shared by some of the men – about how they will survive this next stage of change, with no fixed routine.

Research has shown us that there is a genuine danger that some men will sink into depression in retirement unless they find new purpose in their lives. It was something I worried about the old man when he began his semi-retirement, (as I mentioned in this post), until I realized that hitting a ball each day and the daily update of his guide to how to stack the dishwasher, would keep him busy.

In Celia’s article, she argues that to thrive in retirement, we don’t need to be a lawn bowls champion, but we do need the curiosity to try new activities or listen to new ideas – rather than “filling time on life’s scrap heap until you die.” We need to keep on growing as people. Interestingly, however, she does refute “the assumption that you have to be constantly busy to achieve anything.”

I, too, see a direct correlation between curiosity, growth and the continued enjoyment of a fulfilling life, no matter what our age.

Clementine’s use of the word “curiosity” was in relation to Trump’s blinkered vision when it comes to abused women, and the appalling lack of empathy, compassion, and (above all) curiosity, he showed last week for a man in his position of power. Several times, the US president has shown a disinterest in listening to public opinion or in the evolution of new ideas or change – in much the same way, (Celia says), that we latch so easily onto one of the biggest myths about retirement – which is that it is “a static phase during which nothing much changes.” 

Not true. The curiosity that has come with aging has made me the woman I am today: a woman that strives to hear the voices of others in order to educate and improve myself; a woman who is aware of the gaps in her knowledge and experience, but keeps going, in the hope that someday she can use it to improve the lives of others with less privilege – whether that’s through writing or in the donation of her time.

Which is not to say that I always get it right. We are not a perfect race, and never will be – and we are certainly nothing like the narrow-minded white vision of fascism – thank God!  And yet, I hope that I listen, absorb and am respectful of the opinions of others. I continue to be curious about this crazy world and its colorful range of inhabitants, and I am more aware now than ever about my responsibility as a small cog in the very large wheel of society.

Curiosity is the key to positive change, understanding others and finding purpose at every stage of our lives. Those that choose to switch it off, remain stagnant, as the world rotates around them, and we have seen over the past week how very dangerous that can be.

I’m More Concerned About Trump’s Policies Than The Size Of His Dick

charles-deluvio-695754-unsplash (1)

There’s been a lot of talk about fruit and veg in the press this week. First, about the loonies here in Australia that think it’s funny to put needles in strawberries, and then there’s Trump’s mushroom-shaped penis, the image in my head of which, I can’t unsee.

It’s not that I actively sought out the flagrant details of the US president’s knob, but they are hard to avoid on Twitter.

Albeit a feminist, I’m not a fan of the “kiss and tell” or tit for tat memoir, and I’ll admit to something close to the stirrings of a loose bowel movement when snippets of Stormy’s passionate (?) affair with the President first came to light. Personally, I believe that if you are going to “tell,” a “less is more” approach can be far more salacious. And frankly, the detail of Trump’s tiny manhood – while deservedly humiliating for him – doesn’t alter my opinion of him. I’m more interested in the man’s policies than the size of his dick – although, it’s true that it would be hard for my opinion to sink much lower.

In a very sad way, perhaps the size of his todger is a tiny excuse for his behavior – “small man complex,” and all that.

But you have to admire Stormy, who must surely be cognisant of the avalanche that she has triggered in the media, and which is certain to descend upon her once they get over the titillation of her lover’s small cock. Give her a few days grace before they cut her back down to size and force her to pick up the mantle of the fallen woman again, in spite of Trump’s infidelity and his proclamations about the virtues of family life.

Monica Lewinsky has never walked away from the smear campaign against her, while Bill continues to be canonized for his roving eye. So I hope that Stormy is as strong as her name suggests, or that the revenue from her book is worth the wrath that she has ignited in the White House – particularly if Trump gets re-elected.

Telling the truth at the expense of a man’s reputation is a risky business for women, and stronger women than Stormy have sunk under the weight of their aggression in a duel. The #notallmen retaliation suggests that men are fighting back against what they believe are unfair accusations by women – even though it is only abusers that are being accused, so I’m not sure what the majority of them have to worry about.

In a world in which leadership positions are dominated by men, (and for the main part, by white men), women do not fare well when they stand up for their rights; particularly against powerful men, as proven by those female Liberal MPs brave enough to speak out after the government spill and the cartoon of Serena Williams in the Australian press.

Trump is not known for his forgiveness. He is now known for his mushroom-shaped dick, which, however vulgar that might sound, is still (sadly) unlikely to contribute to the worst parts of his legacy.

 

What Are We Teaching Our Children?

himanshu-singh-gurjar-106819-unsplashChange scares people, and none more so than older people. I can personally vouch for the fact that many of us seek comfort in our dotage. Comfortable sofas, with just the right amount of back support; comfort food; comfortable clothing, and comfortable, flat shoes. We like what we know and we know what we like and what scares us most is the threat of something rocking our foundations or the idea of losing control, and change can do that.

Progress is another thing that can be contentious and scary for some, and I’m the worst offender when it comes to elements of progress such as technology. Albeit that it has improved my life immeasurably, on days when updates fail or my computer crashes for no reason, I begrudge it because I don’t fully understand it. My paternal grandmother was the same. She never got over the arrival of the first wave of West Indian immigrants to the UK in the fifties, and I remember how my toes used to curl at the launch of one of her racist tirades. But I forgave my grandmother’s discrimination because everyone had to adapt to the changes, and I was aware that at the heart of her bigotry was her age and a genuine fear of the unknown.  She never saw the changes that immigration would bring in terms of progress and growth. She would never read black literature, listen to hip-hop or go to the Notting Hill Carnival. She never saw a western, black president.

We, on the other hand, have no excuse for our bigotry, and that is why I feel nothing but shame for the right-wing propaganda that currently plagues our news feeds. Accusations of racism in Australia are rife at the moment, and the same poison that seeps into our culture is seeping through politics around the world – this, in spite of what history has taught us and the promises our grandparents made.

But what I find hardest to understand is how people – and particularly educated people – can ignore the very essence of human life. The first things we teach our children are to love, share and give freely. We teach them kindness from a young age. Kindness is ultimately what keeps everyone alive in a world in which equality is imbalanced and the gap between rich and poor is constantly widening.

And that’s what why this moment in history is so baffling and scarily defining. We are witnessing the very real possibility that the evil that permeates certain circles of the political forum may catch fire and engulf the good like a bush fire, in the way it did at the beginning of the twentieth century.

And what is more amazing is that most primitive animals – those that have far less intelligence than us – protect and demonstrate kindness to their own. Who saw the Orca that carried her dead calf around with her for a week in grief, or any of the hundreds of videos of dogs saving other dogs or humans? And yet us humans, seemingly at the top of the pack, can turn on one another, so viciously – and I’m not talking here about the small percentage of radical nutters.

I blame our sense of entitlement, which has turned some of us into greedy, self-serving xenophobes rather than loyal members of a world community, blinding us to the needs of others. Somehow, irrational fear has justified the removal of lifelines to the needy in the same way that German villagers justified the camps next to them. It is a flock mentality that needs to be curbed.

It was reported in The Guardian on Sunday that 2% of our population is Muslim, and yet we continue to treat these people as a threat and a scourge of the nation for their religion. We talk about them as though they are second-class citizens. We persecute them. We create a sense of fear around them which ostracizes and makes them targets of bigots, and it takes the son of a man killed by a Muslim radical to denounce our country’s racism.

How do we justify such accusations when the statistics don’t add up?

Kon Karapanagiotidis posted this on Twitter at the weekend:

Number of people killed by terrorism in Australia by people from backgrounds in last 100 years: 6

Women killed by male violence since July 2nd 2018: 10

Guess which one we are told is a threat to our way of life & values according to , and co?

LOOK AT THOSE STATISTICS! Think about how much we have to gain from other cultures, rather than what we might lose. Think about what we can take from these other cultures and implement to improve our own – a sense of community is just one.

CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE.

Is change so wrong? Was it wrong to give women the vote or to give equal rights to black people?

We took in immigrants to increase our population and grow our economy when we needed them. We took these land from our indigenous people when we decided we needed it. So how dare we accuse immigrants of diluting our culture.

‘The 2016 Census shows that two thirds (67 percent) of the Australian population were born in Australia. Nearly half (49 percent) of Australians had either been born overseas (first generation Australian) or one or both parents had been born overseas (second generation Australian).’

 

What are we teaching the children of immigrants about love and kindness? What are we teaching our own children about the essence of human life?

 

Arty-Fartiness And A Celebration Of The Naked Female Form

image4One of the best parts about this stage of life is having the time, finally, to concentrate on what we love doing; the ability to explore new avenues and discover new passions. And if you’re not one of ‘those that can’, it’s just as pleasurable to appreciate the passionate endeavors of others, stand in their shade, and lap up their success.

I was invited to view an art exhibition the other night. Three female artists (Jane Park, Laurie McKern, and Petra Pinn), and one male artist, Evert Ploeg (whose work is represented at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra), get together weekly, on Monday Nights, (hence the name of the exhibition), to paint the naked female form. The exhibition included framed pieces, canvases as well as sketches of their experimentation and exploration of the process.

Those of us that can’t draw or paint stood back and secretly wept with envy at the talent on display by the four artists, who had not only depicted the female form in all its glory and strength but had also created an intimate backdrop for the event, with a distinctly South Amercian flavor. As Jose strummed Spanish music on his guitar in the background and a gorgeous life model lit up a makeshift stage – in top hat and garters, and very little else – it was difficult not to imagine yourself in nineteenth-century Valencia.

Sadly, my purse doesn’t stretch to the price tag of real art (that’s the problem with being married to a tightarse/heathen), yet something else stopped me from my typical impulse buy compulsions, and it bothered me. image2

I identified it as I ummed and ahhed over whether it was appropriate for me to approach the young model to ask for her photo. Stupidly, I worried that she might think I was some seedy older woman about to exploit her, in much the same way how I sensed the old man might feel if any one of the images of strong, semi-naked females appeared on a wall at home.

Like many men, he’s not as comfortable with the naked female form, or indeed femininity, as perhaps he should be for a man of his age.

Many men associate imagery of naked women with sex, porn and desire and some struggle not to objectify it. It is an attitude that we need to change if we are to alter the culture of the abuse of women and domestic violence, and perhaps by making art such as this more accessible, we can change that attitude. Another way – of which I am a staunch supporter – is by getting more penises on the screen and in the media, and ahem, fewer under boardroom tables.

image1As a side note, my friend and I were reassured to spot the preponderance of lush female bush in the depictions of the younger models – a sign (we hope) that this ridiculous concept of shaving everything off down below is finally demode.

‘Perhaps that’s because the models are South American?’ she queried.

‘But isn’t that where the Brazilian originated,’ I asked her, confused.

Of course, shaving off your bush is every woman’s choice and thereby wholeheartedly approved of by feminists such as myself; the only caveat being that women are doing for their own reasons rather than for men who struggle with the distinction between real life and porn.

image3

This piece, by Jane Park (Instagram page is at Janeparkart.com), was my favorite of the evening – possibly because it reminded me of how I look in the morning – and I seriously contemplated buying it to hang over our bed to terrify the old man. Had I been brave enough, I am certain that it would have forced him into the spare room, once and for all.

Why Are Men So Obsessed With Sport?

morgan-david-de-lossy-575823-unsplash
Photo by Morgan David de Lossy on Unsplash

The old man is that breed of men that needs to hit a ball at least once a day. He delights in telling anyone who can listen to him (without falling asleep) about his childhood spent in the family garage, throwing ball after ball against its back wall. And while the sporting promise of his youth didn’t translate into a career, that need of a fix – to either hit, kick or knock a ball of any shape – hasn’t dwindled with age.

Since he began to work from home and has more flexibility with his time, his obsession has returned; which puts a lot of pressure on his most obvious opponents. Admittedly, The Princess takes some of the pressure off me by collecting and returning the hundreds of air golf balls he whacks into the back hedge of the garden, and he has made a couple of friends that play tennis with him or accompany him on silent missions around the golf course. However, I’m the unlucky sod that picks up most of the slack.

For our recent anniversary celebration in Bowral, I picked a quaint hotel with a nine-hole golf course, because, a feminist, I wanted to demonstrate that the romantic weekend was about both of us before we trawled around the main focus of the two days to the town’s mecca of interior design shops. img_8680

With a forced smile on my face, I followed him around what was a beautiful, scenic, (and thankfully) short golf course on our first day. In arctic temperatures, I searched for balls, complimented good shots, sympathized with bad, whilst maintaining a smile on my face at all times, my eye firmly on the prize of the hotel bar at the end of our two hours of hell.

The following morning, he was awake three hours before me, and when I opened my eyes to a bouncing puppy on the end of our bed, eyes pleading to let him play golf again and forgo his much-anticipated first-day cushion-shopping, I gave in.

We met up again later that morning, to play tennis – a warm-up for a grueling afternoon tour of the local wineries – and a sport that I have come to enjoy since I’ve learned to ignore his scathing comments and tantrums from the other side of the net. Nevertheless, it took some control not to laugh in his face when he suggested a game of pool that night.

Is your partner obsessed with sport?

Rule No. 1 Of Feminism: Never Bleat About How Hard It Is To Have It All, When Fighting To Have It All

Maternity-Work-SuitsIt appears to be the fate of women in search of equality that we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. And that’s why I loved Serena William’s honest proclamation in her speech after losing the Wimbledon final.

“To all the mums out there, I was playing for you today,” she said.

The comment was not an excuse for her performance, rather a galling admission that I suspect many sportswomen and professional women at the top of their game will identify with. Because to be at the top of your game is a choice for many women.

Anyone that has ever watched the iron-will of the formidable tennis player will know how much Serena must have hated to lose that match. But to me, what she said was what most of us know to be true in the fight for equality – and it’s something that I have been reminded of many times by men – that we can’t have our cake and eat it.

We can’t bleat about how hard it is to have it all when fighting to have it all.

I know how hard it is to hold down a job as a mum with no extended family support; and particularly as the mum of a kid with additional needs. Only the other morning, after a terrible night with the boy, the old man said to me, “Imagine if we had to hold down proper jobs?” as we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes. Our son is twenty-one.

Fortunately, both of us work from home, where a sneaky catch-up nap after lunch is an option. But for most working women, a sneaky nap isn’t an option. Sleep or no sleep, many are expected to get up during the night, care for sick children, prepare packed lunches and clean uniform, sign off school notes, monitor homework and do drop-offs, and then put in a full day’s work as a convincing professional.

And it’s hard. And don’t misunderstand me, I’m not negating the hard work that men put in to provide for their families and the support that many men demonstrate towards their partner’s return to work, yet I suspect that many are unaware of the way women’s achievements are held up for review and scrutinized in comparison to theirs, once they become mothers.

I wonder how many men have been on the receiving end of the tut of impatience from an unempathetic boss when they’ve had to leave early to collect a sick child from school? Those same people that were incubated and nurtured by women, many of whom have endured huge physiological changes from childbirth, the debilitating toll (in many cases) of a decade’s lack of sleep, and who sometimes faced genuine financial fears when they found themselves on their own, having sacrificed their earnings to be the primary carer – for them.

The type of sacrifice that some days may indeed affect the game of those women.

 

Are Women Really Asking For Too Much?

0f9a970385cdceba0454874aec9f4b91According to the middle-aged male grapevine at lunch over the weekend, men are sick of opening news websites with headlines that they interpret as a personal attack since the start of the #metoo campaign. Because as they mansplained reminded me, again and again, faces red and voices raised, it’s #notallmen that abuse, rape, disfigure and murder women.

Want to know what I’m sick and tired of? Being terrified to walk home alone at night; crass comments by the likes of Barry Hall that remind me why I’m terrified to walk home alone at night, and having to constantly justify my accusations to men about the behavior of other men.

In the words of Kerri Sackville, may I request that you Please Don’t Make This About You.

Or, SUCK IT UP! big boy, because I will not pander to your inflated male pride and the privilege that you believe should automatically remove you from suspicion. And when you shout back at me with your ridiculous counter-arguments about the number of women that kill men or their own children, or your whinges about how many poor men have been witch-hunted and victimized, I want to laugh.

How many poor women have been murdered because of their sex? How many women have been accused of “asking for it” in their own rape trials?

No, I will not refrain from calling myself a feminist, as you so often advise me to do so that you feel less threatened. I want you to understand how frightening it is to be preyed upon by the opposite sex. I want you to be fully aware that this is our time. We are brave, we are strong, and we have waited a long time for this forum. We deserve it, and we’re not going to let you take it away from us in the way you take away the rights to our bodies.

It has taken a long time for us to put our personal fears of retribution to one side, but now we are a united voice that needs you to listen and believe us, understand and empathize with us, rather than standing in judgment.

And so, we will embrace and use this platform until, perhaps, you do choke on your cornflakes each morning as another #metoo headline smacks you between the eyes. We will soldier on determinedly until every man and every boy understands every nuance of sexism and consent. We will continue the fight begun by those women before us who risked their lives for the vote, for the legalization of abortion and for equality in the workplace. We will even fight to be allowed into your swanky golf clubs or to commentate on the football, without criticism. We will carry on for the sake of women all over the world that continue to be murdered, tortured, and physically scarred because they are female.

Wanna know why? Because we’re tired of your shit. And wanna know something else, some of us women are quite a perceptive bunch really who do know that most of you treat women fairly. But “thou doth protest a little too much,” if I may say so. If you are as personally affronted and horrified by the accusations that led to #metoo (as you appear to be), stand up, join us, fight with us – not against us.

When did this fight become a “women versus men” fight? This war is a fight against the men that believe it is their right to abuse the women and the girls in your lives – your wives, your daughters, possibly even your grand-daughters. Surely, they deserve to feel as safe as you do when you walk alone down the street at night, mix with strangers or go to the pub for a drink.

Are we really asking for too much?

 

I Must Thank My Son For His Mental Illness

baby-864137_960_720

The boy turned twenty-one last week, and while part of me wants to scream and holler with excitement, pride, and relief, the other part wants to sit in a corner, rocking and licking my wounds.

Many of you will be familiar with our journey with Kurt, our son. It was one of the reasons I began to write this blog, and I suspect that some of you follow it because you too have kids with mental health problems. You’ll also know that life with them is not what you signed up for, not by any parenting manual standard.

Some people say that parenting brings out the best in you and there have been times, particularly over the past six years, when I’ve wanted to rip that statement apart, over-analyze it with a few bottles of wine and then say “Fuck You!” because parenting is hard, and because there have been so many times when I have hated the person it has turned me into.

Before I had kids, I believed that being a parent was something I was born to do, and I made the assumption that I would be good at it. That naivety and arrogance have made the past twenty-one years feel like a very long and hard road at times, with its highs and lows, the steps forward and backward, the silent condemnation, and then more steps backward.

I’m not seeking pity or consolation. This is my honest acceptance of some responsibility for our journey, because perhaps if we’d done certain things differently, the outcomes might have changed. But we were amateurs at this parenting lark, carrying baggage from the past and the false expectations of others. And we’ve made it. We’re not out of the woods, but we can see the lights of the pub at the end of the road as we approach the start of the next phase of his life and the signs are that phase horribilis is drawing to a close.

My son is officially an adult, and as I draw the curtains on the past few years, I owe it to him to thank him.

I must thank him for shredding my heart strings and teaching me how vulnerable all of us can be – for which there’s nothing to be ashamed of – and for showing me how strong we can be when needed. This experience has opened my eyes. I have learned and grown from it more than from any other experience in my life and it has inspired me to write, develop compassion, get to know people before I judge them, and to form a concrete understanding of difference, unconditional love, and mental health that I will take with me into every other decision I make. 

This experience has shined a glaring light on what I see now was confusion in my younger years about what really matters.

Some God said that we are only given the stuff we can handle, and there have been times over the past decade when I was certain that I couldn’t handle being my son’s parent – or even why I should. You can lose sight of who you are when you have kids, and when you become the parent of a kid with special needs or a maverick, (or in our case ‘that kid’), there are times when you feel resentful about your needs being usurped by theirs. Instead of triumphs and awards, you get calls from school, the police, and the parents of other kids, and the pressure to keep pretending to be a professional at work (when your home life is falling apart) requires your finest thespian skills.

Not all of us are Mother Theresa types, with their long grey hair, premature lines, and a forgiveness in their heart for whatever shit life throws at them. Some of us lie in bed at night feeling broken, rallying against the unfairness of it all, thinking ‘why me?’

No one could have loved my son more than I have, and yet it’s hard not to think about how he might have fared with parents that were more liberal, or less anxious people than us; who might have come to the party with fewer middle-class expectations and ill-informed judgments. Poor kid. Although with fewer boundaries, who’s to say how he would have turned out.

As a parent, you can only follow your heart and do what you think is right.

At seven, I never thought my son would read and write; at twelve, I never thought he would have any friends; at sixteen, I thought he would kill himself; at eighteen, I thought he would end up in prison; and at twenty-one, I am still worrying – because what mother ever stops worrying about their kids?

But I am so proud of this young man. He has fought his own demons to stay here with us when others have given in, and with his fiery temper and big heart, his abounding energy and gentleness, his optimism in the face of constant rejection and his childish vulnerability, he has shaped me into who I am now – a better person.

And like every mother, I believe that he will go on to do great things – in his own time, (because Kurt has only ever done things in his own time). And I don’t mean GREAT things, necessarily,  I mean that he will do something extraordinary that is unlikely to fit squarely with society’s view of what is great; yet somehow, I have a feeling that it will be memorable.

 

Rape Is About More Than Sex

bd9b3e929d2b7e3fb6ef4f0af3bad8e5I took myself on a beautiful winter’s walk yesterday morning. Many locals think that autumn and winter are the most beautiful seasons in Sydney with their blue skies and lower temperatures, and although I hate the cold, the beauty of this time of year has grown on me – after all, keeping warm is only a matter of layering.

The dog was by my side as I pounded the cliff tops – a vain attempt to pre-work off lunch that afternoon – and exhilarated by the cool kisses of the winter breeze on my face and the sense of freedom at finding myself alone on the streets, I didn’t notice the stranger ahead of me, until he was a few metres away. A boy of about eighteen, I would guess, he was also on his own. I watched him as he mounted the hill and felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise as, subconsciously, I did what every woman does in that situation – I did a personal risk assessment.

The boy was of average height, wearing slightly too-short trousers, old-fashioned trainers, and a cap. His hair was at that in-between stage that can only be described as unkempt ie. not surfer-long, yet too long for school. Pale, underweight, and with a twisted smile on his face (that I realized later was because he was listening to music), I tightened my grip on the dog’s lead and looked around me, briefly comforted by the fact that it was daylight and that I was within shouting distance of several houses to either side of me. Reassuring myself that I was being stupid, I felt myself relax as he walked past, his eyes focused firmly on the ground.

I breathed again.

I know what you’re thinking. I stereotyped that poor kid as some mentally-ill delinquent who may have picked that moment to do something out of character or opportunistic. And the biggest irony of that judgment is that I am the mother of a kid like him, of roughly the same age, who I am certain will be stereotyped in the same way by another woman.

That’s what women have to do, to survive.

Since the murder of Eurydice Dixon, I have listened to the furor on social media from women about the need to educate men, (as opposed to curtailing the freedom of women), to stop the increasing number of murders and rapes. I have also listened to the argument of men that #NOTALLMEN rape and murder. I will ignore the argument that women need to be ‘situationally aware’ and take responsibility for their own safety (which is blatantly sexist), but I understand the frustration felt on both sides, even though I can’t help thinking that now is not an appropriate time for men to become defensive with such fresh, awful evidence staring us in the face. We have driving laws because of the few that refuse to drive safely; we need better laws for the protection of women against men that abuse.

I can’t see what’s not to understand about a sensible and long-term approach to enforce change? This issue is not about men – for once – it is about saving the lives of women.

I know that most men will not abuse women, but no man can tell a woman how she feels when she walks home alone late at night, nor can they pretend to understand the preventative (and often costly) planning measures those journeys require. On many occasions when I have voiced my own nervousness about taking public transport late at night, men have laughed off my qualms, in a way that I can only interpret as ‘who would want to rape you?’ – the inference, I can only assume, that they believe that rapists and murderers are selective, with a  preference for younger women.

If only.

That belief implies that rape and murder are pre-meditated, calculated acts, or acts of violence committed by normal people – which of course they can be. Sadly, however, it is not true that only young women are victims. Rape is rarely about sexual attraction or prowess, it is about power, control and the need to dominate – behaviors linked to entitlement in some men.

Eurydice’s memorial was vandalized last night, and the only explanation I can find for such behavior is an innate and gross disrespect for women – even the dead. Some men feel threatened by women, and there are many reasons why they rape,  many of which have nothing to do with seeing women as an object of desire – it’s just that it is easy. It is a sense of entitlement that we need to stop for the sake of our daughters and for every young woman like Eurydice Dixon, with their futures ahead of them and the world at their feet, so that they can feel safe.