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.

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?

 

In The End, We’re All Just Human Beans

BFG1

I had my second day-surgery last week; a procedure called an Endometrial Ablation, and the medical profession’s latest attempt to stop my uterus from going all Tarantino on me each month.  For any of you middle-aged women out there still suffering a Red Wedding-style of monthly – I’ll let you know if it works.

 

In the meantime, I thought I’d tell you about what I gained from the experience of being stuck in a hospital bed, on a mixed ward and opposite an Olympic farter, for a day. Because I’ve decided, (post-surgery), that being in a hospital has to be the best leveler, or the best reminder, as Roald Dahl would say, that we’re all just human beans.

 

Moreover, I do believe that these sorts of experiences, (once in a while), are vital for ramming home just how completely fucking privileged we are with the access we have to a medical care system that takes my uterus tantrums seriously – although trust me when I say, it never gets any easier to open your legs to strangers.

 

However, I couldn’t fault the care. In fact, if I had to rate the service with some Airbnb-style feedback, I would go as far as saying that the level of attention from my hot, thirty-something anesthetist was the stuff of dreams – although I’m certain he sees sad, middle-aged women with degrees in talking gibberish and the misguided belief that they can flirt in a barely-there hospital gown, most days.

 

Indeed, considering I was merely a number in a very busy hospital system, everyone endeavored to make me as comfortable as possible. And while I’m not naive enough to assume that my top-notch care was only about making my uterus like me a little more – I am aware that litigation is a threatening dark cloud that puts a huge amount of extra pressure and undue stress on our doctors – the name, temperature and blood pressure checks were reassuring for someone who had already made preparations for her imminent death.

 

Coincidentally – and this is possibly the best example of a segue you’ll see this week – just prior to the time that I was tidying up my lady garden in preparation for Dr. Hot’s close examination, I also signed up for a local community drive to assist in the assembly of a thousand birthing kits for women in Africa.

29468785_10156192410316788_3552530723703357440_nThis, you may be appalled to know, is the level of care those lucky women receive when they GIVE BIRTH. And while I’m not showing you this to highlight my pathetically privileged contribution to people less fortunate than myself – and I am also aware that in the grand scheme of things, my assembly of a few hundred kits (over some very pleasant chit-chat about the health benefits of Kombucha and keeping chickens with new friends) is unlikely to change the world – if my meagre contribution does improve the sanitation, experience, and outcome for a few women, it has got to be worth three hours of my time that I would normally waste on the beach or at the mall. Because, I don’t know about you, but the more I read about discrimination towards immigrants and those in poverty, the more shame I feel. And no, Dad, not just because I’ve turned into a raging feminist leftie, in spite of how you raised me. I mean, how come I get a shiny, clean white robe for a minor procedure and on the other side of the world women are still giving birth in fields?

 

Which meant that as I sat there in my unflattering white robe and socks in my hospital bed, feeling vulnerable and scared as shit, I realized that albeit just another number on the hospital minor procedures list that day, I was a number that counted. And surely everyone deserves that level of security? Seriously, all I had to worry about as I shuffled my bum nervously across to the operating table, was sucking in my muffin top and not flashing my wibbly bits to Dr. Hot. I didn’t have to consider infection, loss of power, OR BLEEDING OUT. I took my safety on that table for granted, when sadly, millions of other human beans don’t have that privilege.

What Does International Women’s Day Mean To You?

Firstly, in preparation for that highly original question that is lobbed at me every year around this time – ‘when is International Men’s Day?’ – allow me to remind you fuckers, that it’s every day.

womens-march-2001567_1920

But it is indeed International Women’s Day today, a day to celebrate women’s achievements and because, understandably, many of you may be starting to think that pretty much every day is women’s day on this blog – and what’s wrong with that? – I apologize in advance – kind of. But if for no other reason than you agree that we’re fucking owed today, I hope you read on.

 

Today also happens to come hot on the heels of my further radicalization at the All About Women conference last Sunday, another reason I couldn’t possibly ignore it, not even for the few whose boxers get in a twist each time I mention the F-word. So, sorry (not sorry) – next week I promise to return to dissing my husband, comparing laundry powders and an exciting, in-depth discussion about how quickly Kylie K has lost her baby weight.

 

And talking about exciting, in today’s post I’ve mixed it up by employing NC to provide some input. Well, I say employed, but what with this little blog being on the tight budget of nada, and the implications of the pay gap, she is happy to be remunerated in wine. So, in celebration of recent toddler steps to improve women’s rights, we’ve decided to compare our own perspectives of how we feel as women, in 2018; as a fifty-something recent convert to feminism and the hairy, bra-burning, twenty-something Millennial version.

ME

I have always been a Feminist, I just didn’t know it. I only formally aligned myself with the movement – and I will call it a ‘movement because that’s what it has to be to effect change – when I started writing seriously five years ago. I’ve always been a bit salty (note: a new Millennial word that means prickly) when it comes to inequality, whether it relates to racism and immigration, sexual orientation or equal rights for the disabled – the reason I cite for the loss of many potential new friends at dinner parties. Back in the conservative hubs in which we dwelled in the UK, I was often ridiculed for my feeble defense of basic human rights, yet with the wisdom of age (and because I have both a son and daughter, (therefore an equal concern for the future of both genders), and because I am a victim of sexual abuse myself, I have developed a passion for change in society’s treatment of women.

 

I am proud to use my voice at this later stage of my life, even at the expense of certain Facebook friends. I want the world to value what women do, both professionally and on the home front. I want the sexist jokes and the slights about our contribution to stop. I want to change the patriarchal view of women as second-class citizens. I want us to have the same opportunities as men and not be saddled with the guilt, limitations and sole responsibility because we are the baby-oven. I want women from all cultures across the globe to enjoy the rights I have as a white, western woman with privilege. I want to regain the equal pay and sexual discrimination rights in the workplace that were taken from us, and never have to worry about them being removed again because men hold the power. I want my daughter to have the right over her own body. I want my son to respect women. I want men to accept that they have had privilege, and not bully women when we stand up to them.

 

I am also aware that men are victims of a society that (professionally speaking) puts pressure on them, but for the main part, I want them to understand and acknowledge how the system works in their favor. I also know that many men call themselves feminists, and I expect more than a name badge. I expect them to voice that loyalty and turn up. I see the dangers of toxic masculinity and the need for change in how we educate our boys and I expect men to listen and think before they call me a liar or a man-hater. I want all women and all men to identify as feminists with the mutual understanding that doesn’t mean they hate men – it means they believe in equal rights.

 

Finally, when I say that I don’t hate men, I expect to be believed.

 

My daughter, on the other hand…

 

I’m not sure if I hate men.

I hate misogyny and sexism, which are primarily perpetrated by men.

I hate that most men I meet are at best apathetic towards feminism. They’ll readily deny being sexist, and then thoughtlessly defend the patriarchal constructs that oppress women.

I hate that traditionally feminine pursuits are considered mindless and vapid. And when women don’t like these hobbies, men applaud us. As if we should be proud to be less female.

I hate that rape and domestic violence are seen as women’s issues. In Australia, one woman a week is killed by their partner, and yet women’s refugees are being defunded. I have a one in six chance of being raped at some point in my life – it will probably be by someone I know and they probably won’t be charged.

Most of all, I hate that on International Women’s Day we are still talking about goddamn men.

As a climate scientist, I’ve been taught that to make people change you have to show them positivity. It’s easy to ignore warnings like “if we don’t divest from fossil fuels, millions of people will die.” Rather, we are taught to paint a picture of a hopeful future, a utopia of cleaner air, renewable energy, and human ingenuity. So let’s not talk about the failings of men, but rather the strength of women.

I love that during the first wave of feminism, women fought not only for their own rights but also for the abolishment of child labor.

I love that women, despite being excluded from universities until around 1920, have been on the thresholds of scientific innovation and discovery for decades. By 1920, Marie Curie had two Nobel prizes.

I love that Jacinda Ardern is pregnant during her first term as the New Zealand PM, and that Serena Williams won the Australian Open while pregnant. There is no reason for success and motherhood to be mutually exclusive.

I love and I know the innate power of all women. We don’t need to make women any stronger, we just need to learn how to recognize that strength.

On the subject of incredible women, I recently finished a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft, a famous early feminist writer, and her daughter Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Wollstonecraft famously said, “I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.” So I do not hate men. However, I am rather uninterested in those that do not care about the oppression of women, and I will oppose those that cause it.

I suppose Shelley said it best. “Beware: for I am fearless and therefore, powerful.”

The future is female. Time’s up.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

 

Housework: Does Your Husband Do His Share?

c99081b24e5bf008504141cbb8a33dfc

At a party a few weeks ago, I witnessed a blood-boiling example of inequality. Through the entire three courses of dinner – for which the women had put together salads and baked desserts, organized decorations and gifts for the birthday boy – the majority of the men remained glued to their seats as the women milled amongst them, collecting plates, serving food and effectively waited on them, hand and foot.

 

According to Oliver Burkeman’s article in The Guardian, Dirty Secret: Why is there still a housework gender gap? I am fortunate to be in a minority of women who has a husband more anal than I am about germs. Not that either of us cares that much, but we all know that there’s a fine line between pretending not to care and hoarding empty “Pods” bags under the bed.

 

According to recent statistics in the UK, Burkeman says, ‘the “housework gap” largely stopped narrowing in the 1980s. Men, it seems, conceded that they should be doing more than before – but then, having half-heartedly vacuumed the living room and passed a dampened cloth over the dining table, concluded that it was time for a nice sit-down.’

 

I can believe it.

 

For it appears that some men, (and middle-aged men seem to be among the biggest culprits), believe that they are the character of Don Draper in Mad Men, still living in the fifties, at a time when housework was the responsibility of their wives because they didn’t work in a professional capacity – even though, (seventy years on), women now work full-time, as well as doing sixty percent more housework than they do. Yes, I did say sixty percent. And that gender imbalance is behind Tanya Plibersek’s commitment to a new survey into the value of unpaid and domestic work, to gauge the true value of gender inequity in this sensitive area.

 

As Tanya has stated, ‘Women, for the most part, do not begrudge unpaid work because of the “joy in caring for those you love” but it leads to lower pay at work, more time off and a tendency to work part-time, all of which add to the gender pay gap.’

 

Please understand that I employ the verb ‘waiting’ with tongue firmly in cheek because what in fact my band of friends and I were really doing was coming to the aid of a sister – even if that’s how it felt. While most men managed to prise their privileged asses off their chairs to refill their glasses and collect their food, and one, (upon receiving the look from his wife), scuttled to the kitchen to carve the meat, (hunted and gathered by my friend from the butcher that afternoon), the male contribution overall was disconcertingly negligible.

 

Why?

 

Well… my husband’s argument is that it takes time for a culture to change – although he has been known to employ that excuse a little too often for my liking. I noticed his look of discomfort when I ribbed the group of men (stuck to their chairs around the table) about the blatant lack of equality as I piled their plates together, noisily, in the face of such blatant injustice. ‘You just sit there,’ I said sarcastically. A couple of them had the sense to look away, while the rest happily passed me their plates.

 

This is not unusual, nor as Burkeman points out, is it entirely the fault of the men. While many men are happy to get into the kitchen to cook, the concept of clearing up afterwards needs some further education. His suggestion, that perhaps we women need to step back, (even if men make a pig’s ear out of a simple task), makes sense.  If we don’t, we are guilty of empowering their housework privilege; enabling their ineffectiveness to do simple domestic chores.

 

When I rewash those Bolognese-encrusted fry pans, am I feeding my husband’s genuine belief (I fear) that if he does a job badly enough, he won’t be asked to do it again? Surely, in a modern society where the majority of women work outside of the home as well, these chores should be divided?

 

‘But you do it so much better than me,’ he argues if I ask him to do something out of his comfort zone, such as clean the bathroom. And we all know how much easier it is to cave in when three sets of eye rolls are lobbed in your direction at the suggestion of help to clear the dinner table.

 

I’m fortunate, I suppose, that my husband does such a better job than me at putting the bins out on the street of a Tuesday night.

 

But what are men role-modeling to our sons with their half-assed approach to housework? In a modern world, and one in which we continue to fight for equality, what does it say to our boys when their fathers don’t clear the plates or load the dishwasher? What is the message from mothers to daughters when they assume control in the kitchen?

 

It’s time for a change. No-one’s arguing that it isn’t easier for us to do these chores ourselves. Have you ever watched a man put on a doona cover? Managing household chores avoids arguments, shoddy workmanship and the likelihood of a deadly bacteria cultivating on our bench tops, and yet, that’s not the point. It’s simply not the right thing to do.

 

 

The Proudest Achievement Of The Modern World Should Be How We Break Down The Walls Of Inequality

doors-1767562_1920

If ever there was a period of time where it’s possible to believe that genuinely bad people do exist, it is probably right now. With daily mass shootings in the US, terrorist bombings all over the world, the ongoing abuse of women and the surge of a far-right movement – it is hard not to believe that nature is as guilty as nurture in the production of the “bad seed”.

I’ve always sided more with the nurture side of the nature-nurture argument. I’ve always wanted to believe that there is fundamentally good in everyone and that even the pedophile is a victim – most likely abused as a child. I will never approve of capital punishment and I adhere to the belief that most bad behavior is learned behavior or emanates from the needs of those with no other choice for survival.

I watched a talk by Randy Pausch yesterday, a professor with terminal pancreatic cancer who gave his opinion before he died on how to Live The Right Way  .One of the points he made in his video was that ‘no one is pure evil – if you wait long enough they will show you their good side.’ That resonated with me.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the reason it takes some people longer to navigate society’s “system”, is that it is designed for the majority. Improved support networks and education have increased our level of compassion and the aid we can give to those less fortunate, the minority, however, there is a long way to go before we erase inequality and embrace difference wholeheartedly.

We are better informed now as to why some people do better than others – we know now that it has less to do with IQ than opportunity. In recent years we have come to understand the social impact of “privilege” and we have a greater comprehension of mental illness –  two of the factors to influence inequality in the past.

Sometimes, during really bad days with our son, I used to wonder why I ever chose to become a parent, and there were times when I saw his “difference” as a threat or some sort of test of motherhood. I admit, I questioned if he was a bad apple and if it wasn’t for that nagging belief or some sort of intuition that kept telling me that I was wrong, I might have given up. I spent so many nights questioning why this child that I had made, who shared the same gene pool as his sister, had received the same opportunities, hated us so much and chose to remain so defiantly different to the rest of us, so opposed to our expectations in every aspect of his outlook.

Once, when I was looking for sympathy for my situation from a family member, he described my son as a “bad seed” – an accusation that made me so mad it felt like my organs had withered and died inside, such was the pain and shame. I knew he was wrong and in a way, those words steeled me to prove him wrong – I just needed to work on how to draw out the goodness in my son.  

If you don’t slide easily into a system created for the majority, you are judged, and that judgment creates fear. For the record, I can call my son a “bad seed” in those moments of anger when he burns the second hole in my new sofa or we get another middle of the night call from the police, but no-one else has that right unless he hurts them directly. Which he never has done.

I would describe his journey to adulthood as at the extreme end of teenage rebellion and perhaps if he’d had more liberal, less anxious parents who had embraced his spirit, things might have been different. I would handle things differently if I had the time again – in the same way that Randy Pausch handled his last months. I know now how much naïve and flippant judgments and criticism encourage isolation until the small problems snowball to bigger problems which then trigger poor self-esteem and anxiety, which in turn transmutes to anger.

Our tunnel vision for conformity is damaging; the effect on our gay population – who continue to be victims of harassment and abuse in spite of the West’s progress in terms of embracing difference – an obvious example. Let’s hope that yesterday’s vote changes the journey for all of the LGBTQI community in Australia, not just the majority. Many of their young community has lost or taken their lives due to their inability to tick the right boxes – boxes that were created centuries ago when it was still okay to have slaves and women couldn’t vote. Until this bill is passed, their children and partners do not have the same rights as those in heterosexual relationships, and if the outcome had been different yesterday, there is no doubt in my mind that there would have been a regression, that the seed of condemnation would have been re-sown and fertilized by the far-right and ignoramus’ that spearhead religion in our country. – even though we live in a society that prides itself on fairness.

The freedom that living in the western world affords us is that we have choices – the choice who to love, what to eat, whose altar to pray at – the choice how to live our lives, for most people. We were given that choice yesterday – a fair choice where everyone’s views were respected and taken into account, as they should be in a democracy, and on this occasion, good beat evil.

Is It Middle-Aged Women That Are Invisible, Or Just Women In General?

There have been a couple of incidences lately that have got my tits in a twist about how invisible women become after the age of fifty – unless we go around waving a banner that says ‘Look at me, I’m here.’ 

hiding-1379426_1920
Is It Middle-Aged Women That Are Invisible, Or Just Women In General?

Sadly, it is becoming commonly accepted that as women age and become less physically attractive (by society’s standards) and recognizable for their function as reproductive vessels for the population, they become invisible in a society where beauty is rated higher than intelligence for them. And while the optimist in me would like to believe that with progress and education, society cannot surely continue to judge half of its population on their physical merits alone – I’m not so sure, anymore.

 

I’m also certain that the majority of us middle-aged women don’t miss the wolf whistles from tradies and the comments to ‘smile, love’ that thankfully disappear around the time we became less ‘fuckable’ by society’s standards and more comfortable within ourselves. But ‘invisibility’ is not only an attack on our physical prowess, it is also a scathing judgment about our worth and contribution.  

 

At a talk about feminism on Saturday,  Tracey Spicer discussed her treatment as a female journalist and news anchor before the age of forty – when she was told countless times to ‘stick her tits out’ or the equivalent and reminded frequently that she wasn’t paid to think; when she had a baby, she lost her job. So obviously, there is still some way to go.

 

It appears that society expects women to work to retirement, to equal men in their contribution, as long as it is on its terms ie. in the jobs that suit its narrow-minded gauge of what women can do. And for older women, that gets trickier for roles in the media, the arts, or indeed any job where they are in the public eye. Even those mature women who survive the harrowed journey to success that culminates in high-powered positions in politics or the corporate world, continue to be judged on their shoe style, their parenting choices, and their work/life balance, rather than their input to the role.  And interestingly, this at a time when governments are doing their best to encourage mature women back into the workforce.

 

My personal beef about not being recognized as an equal member of society (because I no longer fulfill the ‘fuckable’ brief), has nothing to do with how people interpret my sexual availability, it has more to do with the acknowledgement that although I might not have the brains, beauty and youth of someone like Miranda Kerr, I still contribute to society and to the joint finances of my household, and that should mean I have a right to be treated in the same way as my husband.

 

A week or so ago the old man and I went to our local bank. Throughout the fifteen-minute process required to set up our two new accounts, I was completely ignored by the teller, (a woman, I should add), except for when asked for my ID to confirm my secondary citizenship and saggy tit status. I did check that I hadn’t left on my invisibility cloak – which I have been known to don when the bins need to be put out or the dog pukes on the carpet – but no, I had left it at home – so I can only assume that I was being judged for my gender. Now I know that banks can be a bit old-fashioned, but is that really an excuse? I can give countless examples of similar treatment in restaurants when the bill has automatically been passed to the old man, even after I have ordered our meals.

 

Perhaps I’m being over-sensitive, but when is this disparity in the way women and men are treated going to change? If I was the sole breadwinner of our family, I would be mightily pissed about it. I understand that it can be tricky in hospitality to know who is taking responsibility for the bill, but is it really that hard to ask ‘Who’s paying the bill?’, in which case I will quickly point to my husband. The assumption that the old man is paying is highly belittling to my contribution. I have always worked hard – apart from two short periods where my vagina was knitting itself back together after our two additions to the population – I have paid my taxes and I have striven to give back where I can to a society that no matter what I do, treats me as substandard.

 

We need to educate people, ladies. In the same way that we need to call out sexist comments when we hear them, next time you feel overlooked or made to feel invisible because of your gender, say something. Let them know that you have a voice, in spite of the lines on your face and high-pitched voice that perhaps like mine goes awkwardly a few decibels higher in the face of confrontation. Remind them that we contribute as much to society as men do, if not more when you take into account the taxes on sanitary wear, wine and chocolate.

 

Do you ever feel invisible? Is it an age or gender issue?

I’m Sorry, Employers, But Resumes Don’t Tell The Whole Story

I’ve slipped off the wagon over the past few weeks and put my helicopter costume back on to help Kurt search for work, because unless the old man and I can both agree that we don’t need cereal in our life, ever again, we need to get the boy out of the house and into the workforce more permanently. alcohol-1683517_1920.jpg

Scaffolding him through the process has elicited hideous memories of my own job search when I left university, when only the nepotism of my father with the offer of a job in “The Firm” was to save me from breakdown.

 

I’ve watched as my son’s initial enthusiasm (to get us off his back), dwindle in the face of little or no response to the numerous applications he has sent out. Remember that Catch 22 of “needing experience” when you are looking for that prized first job and have fuck all? And how you had to make up stuff, even though every moral fibre in your body knew it was wrong? Not even NC’s brilliant resume, that has basically transformed Kurt into the next Mark Zuckerberg, has tickled the fancy of employers offering the most banal jobs.

 

As we left our local Centrelink the other day – not for him to sign on, I hasten to add – even I was starting to believe that a dirty sleeping bag, a feral dog, and a begging bowl might hold more appeal.

 

It hurts that young kids like him can’t get a break, and the more I investigate the limited support, the more I can see why there is a school to prison pipeline for our disaffected youth. I’m torn between watching my son wither in the face of heavy competition, lack of opportunity and the extra support that he needs, in comparison to the pride I feel at the success of my daughter, who is slowly and methodically conquering the world by working the system. I should also point out that she has worked bloody hard, or she might not share her expensive shampoo with me over the next month.

 

There is a healthy balance of discussion (I’m lying) in our house about how society needs to be more inclusive, to provide for all our kids, and where I see myself as an advocate for support for the disadvantaged, there is no doubt in my mind that the old man spearheads the “man the fuck up” school of thinking. Not that he denies or belittles the problems and ramifications of mental illness – even he wouldn’t want to regress to an era where the fucked up people are locked away in institutions to cost the taxpayer even more money. However, after a term in the corporate world – where innocent conversations at the coffee machine can be used against you later – he is now a fervent advocate of the Darwinian theory of ‘survival of the fittest’. A belief that must be problematic when half of your household are crazies, who would never be anywhere near that coffee machine in the first place – because they’d be outside having a fag – the weak and the arty-farties, who wear their emotions like ill-fitting clothes and have degrees in drama queen-ism.

 

TBH, I wouldn’t blame really him for the moments of regret that he must have about his decision to work from home, and it wouldn’t surprise me if on occasion he finds himself harping back to that inane small talk at the coffee machine with fondness – even if it involved talking to women. And as much as I would prefer to sever my left leg with no anesthetic than agree with him on just about anything, he has had more experience of the competition in the corporate world. Therefore, I can appreciate his argument that the vulnerable need to be able to cope with the evil in the world, his reason for believing that selection makes sense, even if it does make the hairs on my body stand on end with indignation.

 

The sad fact is, there are no progress prizes on the outside, particularly now, when the current job market our Millennials are dipping their entitled little toes into is so much more competitive – according to them. Sadly, we appear to have come full circle from the idea that work experience and gung-ho enthusiasm for philanthropic projects such as the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme are more valuable than a top-class degree with honors in philosophy. And with impending government changes to student borrowing, the dirty finger of exclusivity is penetrating the open wound even more deeply.

 

In Australia, we have a learning institution called TAFE for those who seek a more vocational career; one which also steers those late developers and the kids that don’t navigate school by the book, in the right direction. Unfortunately, there is a stigma associated with TAFE, (because it is much easier to keep on kicking someone when they are already on the ground), and many employers see TAFE as a cop out – a shame for those who have struggled to attain the same goals as their peers in the face of adversity. And even though those kids (and adults) will have had experiences that have shaped them, matured them and given them a toolkit that albeit might look different to Lottie’s, (who drove a 4WD BMW to school each day and never had time for a job because of rowing practice and trips to the snow), many of them have as much to offer.

 

Each candidate has the ability to offer employers particular skills, but their other qualities may not be apparent on a piece of paper – for example, the ‘hunger’ caused by poorer socio-economic circumstances or illness can make you more resilient in the long term and give you a sharper edge, whereas ‘privilege’ provides connections and an arrogance that compounds confidence.

 

Apparently, the latest must-have on your resume is to be able to demonstrate “direction”, which begs the question if that means the fastest direction to Centrelink?

 

When Equality Leads To Divorce

I know I’m a feminist, nevertheless I’ve decided to impeach my house husband for misconduct in the area of the family food shop. He’s simply not up to the job. supermarket-949912_1280

 

Albeit he has done some fine work in terms of a reduction in cost to our weekly food bill, happiness isn’t just about money and in a unilateral decision driven by our stomachs, the kids and I are forcing him to step down as the ‘hunter gatherer’ until I get bored of it for the short term.

 

There are only so many times you can look at an empty fridge after the weekly food shop and feel crushed.

 

My husband has brought the same minimalism, (which borders on OCD), to the fridge as he used to bring to his desk when he worked. His desk was always uninviting, devoid of any sign of life, whereas mine has always looked like two cats have fought on it. I like a similar type of eclecticism inside my fridge.

 

I will be careful how I put this, but some men don’t have the inherent intuition necessary for a successful food shop. They see in black and white, go into the supermarket on a mission to buy what’s on the list and ONLY what’s on the list. They don’t understand that the ‘grey’ is where those unknown delights such as new products or chocolate hot cross buns infused with Baileys may tempt you from the shelves, so blinded are they by that singular male focus which allows no deviation from the fucking list.

 

I like to have a CHOICE of cheeses and a SELECTION of fruit to suit my moods, not just what is “on special”. I don’t want to have to set my alarm to get to the last banana because the old man calculated that if we consume on average two bananas a day, eight will cover us for four days. Where is the creativity in that? What if I have a Jamie Oliver moment and decide to make banana bread?

 

Occasionally, I might want more than one bag of chips…

 

As my propensity for alcohol consumption diminishes on a daily basis, thanks to Menopause, food is one of the few comforts I have left and the old man’s personal vendetta to make my life as miserable as possible reduce the food bill is impacting upon my happiness.

 

In a move similar to those who are anti-Trump, I am prepared to act upon my convictions; “march” if I have to. Today I will be marching to the supermarket. Alone. And although some might see my act ‘disempowerment’ as a breach of the old man’s equal rights, I like to think of it as saving my marriage.

 

Even NC has sworn allegiance, although historically a Daddy’s Girl, she has been known to sit on the fence when the shit hits the fan. Kurt has already marked ‘food shop day’ in his otherwise empty calendar and added Coco Pops to the shopping list in bold capitals several times…

 

Someone else added Chocolate waffles, Pop tarts and chocolate spread.

 

 

‘Power To The People’

Wisely, I try to leave politics to people who actually know what they’re talking about – mainly because I wither like a flower in sunlight in confrontation – but as my blog is a personal blog and I hold the power, I can’t NOT comment on what is happening in the world right now; I can’t ignore the persecution of race and minority groups in a westernised country on our doorstep right now. human-rights-1898841_1280

 

When I work with my clients, I ask them to prioritise what they want in their new home. We all prioritise in our lives in our search for happiness, and so when Trump won the US election, although I am a staunch feminist, I understood that many women voted for him because they too had to rank the changes they needed, and employment and being able to put food on the family table took precedence. I also understand that the US has a massive illegal immigration problem, support of which has a huge impact on the average American’s livelihood.

 

However, I’m equally certain that many of those Trump voters, when they look at the action the man has taken in his first few weeks against Muslims and Mexicans (and basically anyone who does not fit into what is increasingly looking like supremacist idealism), must be appalled.

 

I was naïve enough to think that like our own lacklustre Prime Minister, (for whom I voted), Trump wouldn’t have the power to put whatever crazy piece of ridiculousness that popped into his head in his golden tower into action by himself. (Because the man IS crazy). Yet, within a few short weeks, he has antagonised leaders of countries with whom we have fought long and hard to reach agreements to protect human life and basic human rights, and what before was a whiff of the mass persecution of thirties and forties Europe that led to a genocide we swore would never happen again, is turning into a very bad smell.

 

We were making progress towards greater humanitarianism, fairness and the development of a global conscience around inequality. Those sat in our Ivory Towers felt less arrogance about our success and birthright and more empathetic towards those that don’t have them. We were horrified by the Holocaust and Bosnia and Rwanda and learned from them.

 

Or did we?

 

Because what is occurring in the US, (and don’t think that the contamination won’t reach our own shores), is that shocking that even Kim Kardashian, (my icon as you know), got off her treadmill, put down her green salad and tweeted this:

kardtwit

That’s right: toddlers kill more people than terrorists.

 

Fundamentally, what it boils down to is that the President of the US gets to bandy about like some fictional hero in an action movie, destroying the lives of many of his citizens – those same citizens who worked and fought to make his country the frightening superpower that it is now – spreading lies and indoctrinating our impressionable young with an idealism that goes against the grain of all the moral principles that we have tried to instil in our own children, and we have to accept that.

 

I don’t think so.

 

Because you’re not too old to make a statement and political astuteness is not required; all you need is a conscience, a sense of what is right and wrong and a generous dose of empathy for those less fortunate.

 

If the mayors of New York City and Chicago, celebrities and prominent writers such as Elizabeth Gilbert can stand up to this power-hungry, arrogant slime ball, so can we. No matter how small a cog you think you are, or how meaningless your small act of solidarity feels, you are fortunate to live in a democracy with freedom of speech. At the moment.

 

So, in the words of the great “Wolfie” Smith from Citizen Smith,‘Power to the people!’

I’m Learning About ‘Privilege’

‘Privilege’ is a word that crops up increasingly in conversation at the moment – as it should – to make every one of us question our attitudes towards different races and genders. woman-1302674_1280

 

As a middle-aged woman with some free time now that the kids are older, I have noticed a reignited hunger and enthusiasm for learning to understand what the world holds for my young adults entering into it and the generations of our family in the future. I’m becoming more aware about the different kinds of ‘privilege’, in particular those that have been staring us in the face for centuries – that of ‘white privilege’ and ‘male privilege’.

 

I learned more about these when I went to the launch of Clementine Ford’s book ‘Fight Like A Girl’ in Sydney last week.

 

Sometimes when I try to convey my personal feelings about inequality, whether it’s with friends or here in this blog, internally that little voice in my head tells me that I don’t really have the right or enough knowledge to speak about this important topic that divides nations. I was never an activist for feminism in my youth and when I read articles by leading feminists that are so much more intelligently written and researched than the meagre offerings I put out, I feel like a novice. Yet everyone has their right to their own opinion, everyone has a voice, and we should use it in whatever forum we have if we are to progress and make any change in our society.

 

I suspect that if I mentioned the term ‘male privilege’ in one of the heated discussions about feminism that I have monthly with my dad on Skype, he’d laugh in my face, in the same way that he does when I talk about the pay gap and climate change. I’m not making excuses for him, but there is a distinct generational gap of understanding when it comes to equality, I believe, and interestingly his opinions don’t necessarily anger me – he’s entitled to them – it’s the fact that he won’t listen to my perspective that irks me.

 

Perhaps because he’s male.

 

I’m sure that Clementine would disagree, but I can’t draw up a huge list of times where I’ve been the victim of male privilege, either on a personal level or in the work place. I’ve been fortunate to have been given the same education opportunities and I don’t believe that I have ever lost a role due to my gender or colour, so I am undoubtedly the perfect example of ‘white privilege’.

 

Perhaps my bolshy nature has helped because I’m no pushover and I’ve always voiced my opinions loudly, so although I can admit to being witness to sexist and racist remarks that I since regret not jumping on immediately, and I’ve equally suffered at the hands of the occasional, ageing male predator, I’ve made sure that my circle of friends and my partners have inherently feminist ideals, even if they choose to be more ‘silent’ than I’d like.

 

Certain among them have required some extra coaching – not mentioning any names.

 

There was one situation in my late teens when I was hitchhiking through France and the initial delight that a Mercedes had stopped to pick me up quickly turned to fear when the driver’s hand found my knee and I was forced to bolt at the next petrol station.

 

Inevitably, more and more stories about male dominance are currently bombarding the media due to the catalyst of Trump’s march, nay limp, towards the Whitehouse – thwarted recently (*praying*) by the exposure of the level of his abuse of women, (and it seems to me), general misogyny.

 

How any nation could consider putting such a man in power when girls and women around the globe continue to be kidnapped, raped, tortured, married off and made pregnant when still children – often for political gain – or silenced and abused in the workplace, I have no idea.

 

Yet in spite of these daily events and stories of male dominance, (that even the most ardent anti-feminist can surely not remain immune to), astoundingly there remains an underbelly of male supremacy that continues to try to curb whatever progress women at the coalface of the feminist movement, such as our own Clementine Ford and Germaine Greer, or politicians such as Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton try to make. And they employ brazenly vitriolic bullying tactics and threats.

 

The state of Victoria is about to introduce a new program to public schools to educate children about ‘male privilege’, not to ‘man-bash’, but in an attempt to get to the root of where this concept of male dominance comes from and to reduce the number of female deaths at the hands of domestic violence, before this privilege spreads like a cancer into the developing brain cells of the next generation of young men.

 

Of course the program already has its skeptics, who have accused its creators of brainwashing our children into a campaign of ‘man-hating’ – yawn – the atypical reaction to feminism in spite of statistics that prove that many of us man-haters continue to put up with them, and some of us even like and marry the fuckers.

Feminism, Body Image And The Curse Of A Big Gob

And in other news to (WHAT THE FUCK?) Brexit…I’ve noticed this week and am very proud to announce that (in spite of our dysfunctionality), we’ve managed to nurture this raving feminist for a daughter, someone very close to Germaine Greer on the radicalism scale. barbie-458618_1280

 

You see, unlike her vanilla mother when it comes to fighting for the people, NC has made it quite clear to us recently that she refuses to simply settle for equal rights, she wants to quash every aspect of blatant male privilege imposed on women.

 

As she explained to me last night, ‘you can’t effect change within the current constructs of society, Mum, society needs to change.’

 

So every day some new book on feminism lands on our doorstep from Amazon, so much so that the postman now leaves them in front of the gate, and the old man is getting a major complex from the amount of shade she throws at him, even when he’s not (knowingly) being a sexist twat.

 

Of course, he blames me.

 

Frankly, I’m surprised that the Astronaut has survived this long, although she does keep him safely at arms length on some secret government mission in Canberra.

 

She’s been growing out her armpit hair for some time, (although that might be due to winter), but this week she informed me that she’s decided not to wear makeup any longer – ‘because if men aren’t expected to, then neither should she’, and when I looked at her drained face, the black rings and lank hair (because she’s been working long hours recently) and asked her if she was sure … she stomped out of my room, came back and lobbed a copy of The Beauty Myth at my head.

 

I suppose I must be more influenced by body image perfectionism than I thought. I wouldn’t describe myself as shallow, always believed that what’s on the inside is more important … but then I do love clothes and lipstick and shoes and I do try my best to stay slim, within the unfair boundaries set by my hormones.

 

Admittedly, one of the most liberating parts of middle age is to go out in public without makeup, freak out the local kids and seriously not give a fuck. Nevertheless, sometimes I still like to put my face on. Not because I feel more confident, or for the old man’s benefit (who frankly wouldn’t notice if I had a face transplant), because I honestly feel more empowered when I don’t have a mask on, it’s just that occasionally I like to feel feminine and pretty, which I do when I conceal the rings, the veins and the Rosacea and pluck the stray foliage from my eyebrows.

 

And there’s nothing wrong with that, according to my daughter, because feminism is about having choices. Just as it’s okay to opt for plastic surgery, even though personally I’m like WHY?

 

Cynics will accuse me of being indoctrinated, of course, and they have a point. I’m the biggest sucker for women’s magazines, love those shots of celebrities when they get papped without their face on, but for me it’s not about cow-towing to the demands of society or men, it’s like the secret thrill you get when you wear new lingerie. No-one’s going to see it an no-one but you knows it’s there, but it still makes you feel good about yourself. And men are not immune to using props to improve confidence and appeal.

 

Understandably though, with the evolution of social media and the popularity of the selfie, there are concerns about where this obsession with body image will eventuate. Body Dysmorphia, conditions like Anorexia and women’s growing obsession with surgery are not trends that should be ignored.

 

Mentioning our kids’ weight these days – in particular the F word – is almost as reprehensible as feeding them processed meat or pretending that ‘I feel sad’ is a normal emotion that doesn’t require an intervention from social services.

 

I remember when NC went through the podge period that a lot of pubescent girls go through between the growth spurt and metamorphosis into swan – usually when they give up serious sport and console themselves by eating all the pies when boys refuse to notice them – and I suggested over tea one evening that she might want to eat more healthily, proud of myself for being so uncharacteristically sensitive.

 

She remembers it differently, of course. She says that I told her she was fat.

 

Which I’ve never believed until I heard myself tell Kurt this morning that if he carried on eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner, he’ll never get Justin Bieber’s clear complexion.

 

I’m sorry, but if your child is obese (and doesn’t suffer from medical issues that cause weight gain) and their health is at risk, you don’t keep harping on about how beautiful they are, or how much you love them just the way they are; and neither do you continue to feed them on McDonalds for afternoon tea or stick your head in the sand – you get them some help.

 

Very soon I will have to affix a very large strip of Gaffer tape over my mouth to prevent me from traumatising my children any further, even though, I assure you, that I have always had their best interests at heart and just suffer from a very bad case of Big Gobbitis.