Jacinda Ardern: No One Doubts That You Can Have It All

Jacinda Ardern is the sort of woman for whom I could sacrifice my love of putting the toilet seat down and changing the loo roll on its holder. 

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Although I’ve recently come to the decision that the expression ‘having it all,’ (generally associated with women), puts too much pressure on our gender and inadvertently encourages men to reduce their contributions to domesticity and family life, it is lovely to be proved wrong, and to witness a shining example of a woman who has proved that, perhaps, we can. I should add that I also believe that if ‘having it all’ is being able to have a professional career and a family,  many women do ‘have it all,’ out of their need to survive rather than through choice. However, if ‘having it all’ is also about achieving equanimity in all areas of our life, to include lifestyle and happiness, that is a much harder goal to attain as a woman, without support.

 

I admit that I felt a bit like skipping awkwardly through the mountains like Julie Andrews when I first heard the news of Jacinda Ardern’s pregnancy and then witnessed how she presented it to her public and the press, as in, a celebration rather than the apology some might have been expecting.

 

Unfortunately, however, with our closest mountains situated three hours away, I had to make do with the frozen food aisle in Aldi.

 

What I will admit, though, is how nervous that headline made me feel at the same time. Because, in spite of our reputation, we raving feminists can be sensitive as well, and at a time when male feathers have been severely ruffled in matters of equality – leaving many men feeling lost, abandoned, in denial, victimized and confused by what the hell these loose women are accusing them of – I didn’t want the fallout to encourage an attack on Jacinda, who, (the implication at the time), might have actually known she was in the family way at the time of her election.

 

*Makes the sign of the cross.*

 

And as many men are aware, it is a well-known fact that pregnancy is a debilitating sickness that can leave its victims with vegetable brains, and therefore useless to society; that is if we conveniently ignore the fact that of the approximately sixty percent of women that work and get pregnant, will most likely work close to their due date.

 

Those that continue to fight for equality in the workplace have always stipulated that, with the right support network in place, there is no biological reason why women cannot do the same job as men, even when a woman becomes a mother – mainly, because she is one half of a couple and the child has two parents. Therefore, (in an ideal world with no privilege, pay gap, the full payment of child support and more affordable childcare), there should be a choice within most partnerships as to who will become the primary carer to the children.

 

I like to believe that Jacinda may even pick up new skills during those early weeks of motherhood, that could prove useful in her role as PM. She’ll learn how to wake at the sound of a pin dropping and she’ll fall back to sleep with a drop of a hat. In fact, she’ll learn to sleep just about anywhere – and she might have to watch out for that during those arduous parliamentary discussions.

 

Granted, the prime minister of New Zealand is in a more fortunate position than many women. She has a husband happy to take on the role of childcare, along with, (I imagine), a salary not only commensurate with her performance but one that will contribute nicely towards a cleaner, should Clark feel a bit icky at the sight of a dirty toilet.

 

But what I truly love about the way this woman works is her commitment, because even after the dust settled on the public announcement of her pregnancy and her skeptics had ruminated and untwisted their knickers – because there will be  doubters that spout bile about how irresponsible her decision was to have a baby at this point in her career – she hasn’t disappeared into the shadows, shied away from celebrating one of life’s greatest achievements or using her new position as a pregnant PM to leverage her views on sexism in the workplace.

 

Jacinda has proven that we can have it all if we want it. It won’t be easy. But if having a baby is one of the hardest things one can do, I reckon that being prime minister comes pretty close.

 

 

How Do We Educate Our Kids About Sexual Harassment?

I posted this meme on my Facebook page a couple of days ago, and the response to it gave me a thought-provoking insight into the problem of how we educate our kids about sexual harassment and inequality.

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As a feminist, a woman that wants equality across the board, (and not a bra-burning man-hater, of which I am often accused), I want my daughter to feel safe in the world and my son to be respectful of women, and not seen as a women-hating predator.

 

Since the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace finally reached global awareness via the recent outing of many renowned predators in the workplace, backed up by the almost unanimous stand of women at the Golden Globes the other night, (the less said about that the better), it has been interesting to hear the opposing views between those who consider there to be a genuine problem, and those that deny a problem exists at all.

 

Frankly, I want to barf each time I hear someone say, ‘But that was how men behaved back then. They didn’t know any better. They didn’t know that it was inappropriate.’ REALLY? Can we find a similar excuse, I wonder, for celebrities and Catholic priests who have abused children? So men in the past didn’t sense that it was wrong to abuse their physical and professional power to belittle, sexually harass or sexually abuse women for their own gain?

 

Or the other argument, ‘you can’t deny that the casting couch has worked for women as well?’

 

Urghhhhhh!

 

Do these people, that condone this attitude, have any comprehension of the limitations imposed by inequality and male privilege historically? Women have always had to give more to get close to equalling their male counterparts.

 

Surely, a more constructive response would be to point out that not all men are bad apples, and while we pull out the rotten ones, it is important not to tarnish all men with the same brush.

 

However…

 

Gentlemen, please be aware that although you might not see yourselves as a sexual predator, that doesn’t mean you’re not guilty. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that many of you don’t seem to view the less blatant acts of harassment for what they are. For example:

 

It’s not okay to pat or pinch a woman’s arse

It’s not okay to demean her verbally in any environment, but particularly in a professional environment, with condescending words such as ‘sweetheart’ or ‘love’

It’s not okay to yell out at her in the street with lewd comments

It’s not okay to interpret skimpy female clothing as an invite

It’s not okay to recount sexist jokes at a dinner party, in much the same way that you wouldn’t joke about disabled people, people of other races or sexual orientation.

 

And finally, ‘the world’s gone mad,’ has to be my favorite comment, usually followed by, ‘you can’t do anything anymore.’ No, you can’t abuse women… mainly, because it’s fucking wrong.  Without meaning to sound Oprah-esque, this is a wonderful time in our history – we are making progress and imposing necessary boundaries – and I’m sorry if this emergence from the wrongs of the past, when slavery, racism, and women unable to vote were all acceptable regimes – cramps your style, but there it is.

 

I have also been told over the past few months – by both men and women – that the cases highlighted in the media are in the minority and that many women who have come forward with their stories of sexual harassment are lying for financial gain. They go on to quote the couple of cases, (ignoring the thousands that have been proven to be true), where there has not been enough evidence to ensure a guilty verdict.

 

How the fuck does anyone know what really happens in any situation between two people behind closed doors, when women are afraid to speak out due to the stigma attached to sexual allegations? And many a rape victim will vouch for that. Think about how Amber Heard was treated in the press. I have done my own research, and even within my small peer group of privileged middle-aged women, eighty percent of us are the victims of sexual harassment or worse; in fifty percent of examples, we are talking about more than lewd, threatening comments or an innocent smack on the bum.

 

And finally, to that other wonderful argument – from women this time: ‘I quite like the attention. I don’t mind a compliment from a man. What’s wrong with it?’ What’s wrong with it is that you are educating men to believe that all women want to be treated in that way, and my belief is – feminist or not – most don’t. What’s wrong with it is that you are educating your children that is okay to be disrespectful to women, to treat them as second-class citizens – a permission that might start with a wolf whistle before it escalates to rape or murder. Rape and domestic violence statistics are increasing – and many cases are still not reported – so if you are into sado-masochism or like the idea of your in control, that’s fine, but as my son would say, ‘get a room.’

 

So where do we go from here? What we don’t do is advise our girls that all men are sexual predators, not to drink and not to wear provocative clothing when they are out; in the same way, that we don’t generalize and label all men and boys as sexual deviants. What we do tell our boys, is to treat women in the same manner that they would like to be treated.

 

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.’ 

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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 Hope I Go Doing Something I Love

beach-1838501_1920Laeticia Brouwer, a seventeen-year-old surfer lost her life to a shark yesterday, and shortly afterwards her devastated parents were forced to give the press their thoughts about her life – presumably, so they’d leave them alone to begin the grieving process.

‘She died doing what she loved,’ is a comment we hear often after these sorts of uncontrollable, unthinkable events; when death is caused by the hand of nature. In fact, what Laeticia was doing, was living. Just like when people get caught up in floods, tsunamis or earthquakes, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unlucky. That shark had no idea that it had latched onto a human and not some salty old man version who had surfed his whole life and probably would have welcomed a death doing what he loved. No, she was a young girl with her whole life ahead of her.

 

What we need to remember is that as a surfer, she would have had an ingrained respect for the ocean. She would have known that she was a guest in the territory of others, even though I struggle with that mindset and have often questioned if it’s some surfer psychobabble they tell themselves to get back in the water after a scare. Since I’ve lived here, however, I honestly believe now that it is actually an unwritten agreement they make with nature for that first-hand privilege of being at one with it.

 

Anyway, what do I know? I struggle to put my toe in the water a millimeter beyond the lifeguards’ flags and according to scientists, I take greater risks with the amount of alcohol I drink every day.

 

Anti-shark protesters are inevitably baying for a cull because we don’t want the rest of the world to know that there are sharks in our oceans, and after two similar deaths in Western Australia last year, those sharks are getting a bit big for their boots. Let’s put to one side the recent increase in the death tolls from ocean rips and road accidents or the increase in youth suicide and domestic violence (leading to death) while we consider those statistics. Let’s forget that there are actually more attacks in the US, (and I’m not alluding to the results of Trump’s shaking finger on the button). Let’s overlook how sharks actually boost our tourism, and how virtually every Australian souvenir is plastered with the smiling, perfect dentistry of the Great White or how our zoos put on shows using their deadliest creatures as the star attraction, to fuel the perverse interest in how we Australians actually manage to leave our homes at all.

 

Part of the reason this story has stuck in the headlines, I believe, is because the victim was a young girl. Since Jaws, death by shark attack is everyone’s worst nightmare and somehow (unreasonably) it feels worse that a girl should have to go through such an ordeal. Such brutality should be reserved for tough young men, not girls, shouldn’t it?

 

Wrong. It made me proud to think that this girl was out there doing what she loved, in spite of the risks. Because she could, and because she chose to. Anyone who has seen the wonderful series, Puberty Blues, based on Kathy Lette’s books, will know that as late as the seventies, it was frowned upon for women to surf in certain cultures. It was seen as a man’s sport and women had to fight their way into the ocean.

 

I hope I go doing something I love, like Laeticia. I hope I go doing something that shows I was embracing my life to the full, and that I wasn’t afraid.

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.

 

 

Why Women Are Owed Celebrity Dick Pics

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It’s a penis, FFS!

In case you haven’t heard, the actor Orlando Bloom – the very same hunk of gorgeousness who sparred and smouldered his way through LOTR as Legolas, went on to marry Miranda Kerr, and is now dating Katy Perry – got papped with his kit off last week. 

 

As in FULL FRONTAL. PENIS.

 

You might also be aware that it’s huge news when a celebrity gets caught in the buff, but even more so when it’s a male celebrity, because there aren’t equal nudity clauses in movie contracts when it comes to men and women, so the penis has become somewhat hallowed in its appearance.

 

Whereas we’ve been exposed to the complete smorgasbord of tits and fannies through our lives – I used to have to look at them on page 3 of The Sun every morning at breakfast – which makes it a rare, and frankly fine day, when you get a cop of a non-sexual dick pic.

 

Somehow we ended up playing an improvised game of Charades at the dinner party we attended on Saturday night and I chose ‘Orlando Bloom’ for my opposing team to guess, (kinder, I believed, than someone else’s suggestion of ‘lasagne’), and was somewhat surprised to see that none of our middle-aged friends had heard about Orlando’s ‘paddle’ photos which had trended on Twitter and broken all records on social media.

 

Which is probably because my friends are not as a) desperate b) sad or c) bored enough to get titillated by penis photos of a celebrity – and TBH, even I’m not sure how I justify my frantic search for the uncensored photos, so I acknowledge that some might see it as rather louche for a fifty-year old mother to seek out unsolicited pictures of a young man’s dick. And definitely a case of double standards.

 

But my interest wasn’t about his dick exactly…because like the majority of women, I am appalled and affronted by the invasion of privacy when phones and computers are hacked and nude photos of female celebrities are leaked.

 

Although… in Orlando’s case, his public unveiling did take place on a beach, in broad daylight, with the blessing of Katy, in front of other bathers…and it was quite a beautiful sight.

 

And how many of us would do that if we really cared about the fall out?

 

Personally, I think that the phenomenal interest in these photos is about more than titillation. It’s because we’ve been starved of penis in the media as well as a statement of women’s desire for some catch up –  as in ‘tit for knob’ (as opposed to tit for tat). Sure, we know that it’s an invasion of privacy when we feast our eyes salaciously on Bloom and Bieber’s bits, but we also feel entitled to a bit of equality here. We’d like men to understand for once what the full glare of sexual exploitation means, and if Orlando, (like a handful of other actors who have whipped it out for their craft, apart from you, George) is prepared to play ball, I have all the more respect for him.

 

It’s a penis, FFS!, and in case you’re itching with curiosity, a nice one at that.

The Male Short Term Memory Issue: A Valid Reason To Nag

You’ll be aware by now that I’m a fervent believer in gender equality and the old man and I have heated discussions on the subject most weeks over a bottle or three of wine. And the one area in our discussions where he really gets to me is when he argues that because women don’t have the same physical strength as men, there are some jobs that women simply can’t do. cleaning-268134_1280

 

So I admit, women probably can’t pull trucks with their bare hands for stupid tv programs such as The World’s Strongest Man. (Remember that?)

 

However, they can fight in wars, build houses and cut down trees and I believe that in all other areas of work, (given the same opportunities), they are equal. Apart from one – because in my experience men have an unfortunate handicap when pitched against women, that of a severely underdeveloped limbic system, the area of the brain responsible for memory.

 

First of all, let me say that this is not a general attack on men (or the old man), more a statement about the ‘nagging’ label that some men assign to women with such onerous ease each time they are asked to do anything something in the house;  and more so because in this age of equality, the old man does his fair share of nagging in our house.

 

However, and it saddens me to admit this, as much as I find the verb offensively belittling and sexist, sometimes the act of nagging is a necessary evil, due to aforementioned genetic mutation that some men are born with when it comes to remembering shit; one which seems to become most noticeably apparent on the domestic front.

 

It should be noted that some scientists believe that selective memory is also a co-morbidity of this serious condition.

 

I’ll give you an example. I have asked the old man, kindly and without raising my voice, for about five years now, not to pour crap down the sink onto the cleaning sponges, as well as explaining to him patiently the reasoning behind my request – in that we use them in the hygienic capacity of keeping the kitchen devoid of bacteria, germs and creepy-crawlies.

 

Yet every day I go to use the dish cloth or sponge, it is soaking in a puddle of unidentifiable ‘kitchen grossness’ that not only turns my stomach, but has the capacity to turn all our stomachs into a bad case of gastro.

 

So, between clenched teeth, I remind him again about the fucking irritation sad disappointment his lack of care causes me, and I will be told to stop nagging – about the same time that a force as powerfully threatening as a platoon of White Walkers climbing over the wall takes over me.

 

Men will always deny they’ve ever been told or shown how to do something foreign to their intuition, of course, or they’ll say it’s not important enough to worry about, or come back at you with helpful suggestions like maybe you should take ownership of the chore, ‘because you’re so much better at it’ than they are. But it’s a ploy, people, a sad little ploy not only to get them out of helping you, but to pass off their share of the chores back onto you.

 

The statistics speak for themselves, when 79% of working mums admit that they do the bulk of the housework.

 

Worse still, we women have been brainwashed to believe that it’s not worth asking, or wrong of us to suggest they help out for fear of that most heinous of accusations, being a nag.

 

Interestingly,  men appear to have a perfectly developed short term memory when it comes to how much money you spent on clothes shopping in any given month.

Man-Bashing Won’t Fight Our Cause

Since I’ve engaged myself more proactively in feminism, my involvement has opened my eyes not only to where women sit in society today, but also where men fit in.

 


Embed from Getty Images

 

As Max Olesker wrote in his article in the Guardian on Sunday – How To Be A Man In 2015 – the world that men now inhabit has seen some radical changes for them, too.

 

I am a relatively new feminist. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in equality before, but like a lot of young women, for a long time I made the assumption that someone else would fight for it for me. I was what you would call a ‘silent’ feminist.

 

My voice is a little louder these days.

 

But I wouldn’t call myself an extreme or staunch feminist. I like men and I am not anti what they represent – in fact I like the differences between the sexes. Just as you can’t brandish all sharks as man eaters, I believe that you can’t label all men as sexists or sexually exploitative.

 

My husband is a belated feminist. Fortunately, as a result of his work with women, he has achieved an understanding of and an appreciation for them through experience. He has also been berated for any questionable judgment calls about women on the home front when either myself or my twenty-something daughter catch him.

 

Our seventeen-year old son is a work in progress.

 

Feminism is a complex subject area and one that provokes a lot of passion. And although I do not defend man’s tortoise-speed progress to come to the table of equality, I am aware that education and change don’t happen overnight. Ill-formed ideologies about women, that have been entrenched in men since time immemorial, alas, cannot be shaken off as quickly as we women would like.

 

And men are entitled to a period of adjustment, except in the case of violence towards women. But man-bashing won’t fight our cause.

 

We are seeking mutual respect; therefore women need to demonstrate that respect, too.

English: "Mind the Gap" goes feminist.
English: “Mind the Gap” goes feminist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

We need to educate, not war.

 

Understandably, some men, who already consider themselves feminists are confused by the animosity of certain groups of women towards them – it’s not that they’re confused about equality, but by the accusatory attitude that all men are made of the same stuff. What is equally confusing is that not all women share the same ideals of how equality should look.

 

Because women are all different; just as men are.

 

Men don’t have to grow long beards, sport man buns and eat kale to be acknowledged as modern feminists, but many men are now afraid to commit any man-focused crime.

 

What goes on in their heads and hearts is what women really care about.

 

I think a lot of modern, educated men are feeling victimized, downtrodden and threatened by this new wave of feminism and there could be a backlash if women keep pounding at them. Many feel that women expect them to shed their masculinity completely.

 

Which is not what we expect at all.

 

Men and women can be different without having to be at war. Read ‘Men Are From Mars…’ or watch the polar-opposite antics of the two genders in I’m A Celebrity… – and celebrate those differences. They’re not ALL bad…(frustrating sometimes)…but not all bad.

 

Imagine if men and women were paid equal wages and shown equal respect from society, then both sexes would have an equal choice in how to live their lives. The woman who decides to pursue her career after giving birth would be able to: the man who wants to become a nail artist could do so, too. Couples would be able to make decisions about their careers and childcare based on their skills, passions and ambition; rather than salary.

 

Not all men exploit or abuse women. Not every man whistles or shouts obscenities at women in the street. The majority of men don’t beat up their wives, use their physical superiority to intimidate them or innately feel that women should feel grateful for what society has given them.

 

Sure, harmful and archaically sexist attitudes do still exist but they will die out as each new generation is born and educated and society progresses with equal opportunities. More and more women are working and there is the potential for even more in the workplace if governments would address the cost of childcare and workplace inequalities.

 

Which is progress. So perhaps we should refrain from griping and taking a pop at ALL men about gender traits or ‘mantisocial’ behavior, which don’t truly affect our goals and ultimately are just ‘different’ to ours. We want men on side, working WITH us, so we can unite our energies towards the issues about equality that will really make a difference to women – NOW.

 

Bullying tactics never worked. Let’s leave name-calling in the playground.

 

Most educated men are with us. They already see the benefits of having women in the workplace and not living in a man’s world, but if they feel threatened by a woman’s world, they could run straight back to the cave.

 

And Do YOU Have A Life, Like Your Husband?

Controversial, I know, but would there have been as much media interest if Phillip Hughes had been a woman, my daughter asked me in the car this morning?

 

‘Harsh’, I responded, secretly proud of her inner feminist sensitivities.

 

 

Being the complete cricket ignoramus that I am, I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never heard of Phillip Hughes before last week’s incredibly sad turn of events. But everyone in the world knows who he was now.

 

And who could fail to be sucked in by those big, brown puppy-dog eyes and the huge, cheeky grin of the sportsman, who not only won the hearts of his fellow team mates but also those of a nation? Apparently he was an awesome cricketer too.

 

And it’s only right that his death should be ruminated over and that he should be eulogised.

 

But NC had a point.

 

How many times in my life have I attended a party or dinner on the arm of my husband and never been asked what I do? 

And Do YOU Have A Life, Like Your Husband?
Amara – Dinner Party 1954 – Found on Flickr.com

 

No-one is interested in what I do, but they are always eager to ask the old man about his day job and successes. Is that a gender thing – in that men talk about work and sport and women apparently talk about housework and children (?) – or is there the underlying assumption that because he’s a man, he must be successful/do something interesting?

 

He’s an accountant.

 

Whereas, in my case there seems to be the assumption that what I do is either a) too dull to warrant discussion b) nothing c) JUST raising kids d) too awkward to ask.

 

Which riles me because what I do is SUPER interesting, ACTUALLY, if any of those insular, uninteresting losers actually had the ounce of personality, creativity or manners required to ask me about it.

 

I could bore them for hours with my tales about houses.

 

Because I do have a life outside my husband and my children and some fairly outrageous opinions, and what galls me the most is that in many respects it’s been a harder journey for me to achieve my successes than him.

 

I’ve had to cope with vaginal stitches in the photocopying room, leaking breasts and I’ve had to give presentations on no sleep, yet it has still been expected of me to perform at the same level as him.

 

Which is why it is so frustrating to be overlooked and patronised.

 

Whatever men do, seems to be newsworthy, yet the only time women overshadow men in the media is when they take their clothes off or when they are painted as the freaky female success story of the corporate world.

 

I might not sit in a boardroom for work but I am still a person, with a career and a life, and to be honest, I’m far more interesting than my husband.

 

Ask me about it, sometime.

There’s Equality and Then There’s Doing Stuff Together…

What I really want to do is shout from the rooftops with Sound of Music, Julie Andrews, completely over-the-top enthusiasm about Emma Watson’s recent speech for the UN, on inequality. 

There's Equality And Then There's Having To Do Stuff Together

 

Did you know that there are women out there declaring that they aren’t feminists because we already have equality?

 

HELLO?????

 

Now I know I shouldn’t use this forum to impose my personal views about equality on you. But then again, we shouldn’t really need ‘views’ about equality, should we? It should just be there, a given, taken for granted. But that’s a whole other post.

 

So I’ll stop there, and instead I’ll tell you a funny little ditty about what a bloody awful parent I am (again) and how Kurt got stuck in a girls changing room this week.

 

With our holiday looming (two days and already drinking!), I had to get Kurt to the shops. Kurt dislikes clothes shopping intensely, like a lot of males. Added to the fear of bumping into his peers in the outside world, WITH HIS MUM, (because none of them have mums, evidently), is the awkwardness of trying things on and not looking cool in public. Then there’s the ADHD factor – all that noise, lighting and people in the mall easily overwhelm him and he also doesn’t do ‘choice’ well.

 

There's Equality And Then There's Having To Do Stuff Together
Michael Cera’s Awkward Teenage Years, Part 47: A Review of Youth in Revolt

All that pressure turns him into a complete ratbag on shopping trips, which is a real shame, because I loving nothing more than playing personal stylist with my boys.

 

Anyway, a few days ago I finally managed to blackmail him into going by reminding him that if he didn’t come, he would be forced to wear last year’s VERY uncool, boardies and I might have also mentioned something about new Nike shoes.

 

He did his usual thing of dropping me like I’m a hot potato as soon as we left the block and I had to walk the usual ten metres or so behind him, like fucking serf, but eventually we met up again in the youth section of Myer. I love that floor of Myer because it’s full of the most wonderfully camp male retail assistants who don’t care that I’m middle-aged and invisible and actually talk to me like I’m a valued customer. Kurt immediately retreated into the nearest corner of the floor, of course, with the biggest teenage gob on, while I chatted to the guys and grabbed at clothes that I thought might suit him.

 

It’s not that I’m insensitive to his teenage need to appear cool and I am also aware that it can be a bit awkward when your mum asks you to try things on in the aisles, holds up clothes against you or insists on calling you ‘darling’ very loudly, but I was trying.

 

Eventually, armed with a bundle of boy clothes, we headed to the fitting room and Kurt got underway with the apparently torturous task of trying stuff on. When suddenly we heard voices, VERY close by. Girl voices. And it was obvious from the high-pitched squeals that a gaggle of female pubescents had accidentally come into the male changing rooms next to us.

 

OR…..

 

All we could hear were shrieks of:

 

‘Boys love it when you get your tits out like that.’

 

‘You’ll never get a boyfriend if you don’t wear shorter dresses.’

 

‘What do my boobs look like in this dress?’

 

I felt the heat come off Kurt’s face before I saw what I can only describe as a beautiful shade of fuchsia, as he looked at me accusingly. Had I mistakenly taken him into the women’s changing room? It wasn’t beyond me. Even I felt mortified as I watched my son’s face collapse with embarrassment and thought about what my punishment would be for orchestrating this, the most awkward teenage faux-pas. I tried to laugh it off, nervously, (as you do as a parent when you know you’re in trouble; but if you know anything about teenagers, you’ll also know that they have NO sense of humor when it comes to awkward situations), but Kurt slapped his hand around my mouth quickly and it was obvious we were going to play dead. The girls, meanwhile, carried on discussing every intimate detail of their bodies, boys and then sex, while I watched my boy physically shrink in stature, as he stood there, vulnerably, in his undies.

 

After the longest five minutes of our lives, not including my recent session in the sauna or my first kiss with the mouth-muncher, the girls began to leave and Kurt regained his ability to breathe again. We grabbed his things and made a run for the exit, noting on our way out that it was indeed a unisex changing room.

 

I’m with Emma and for equality, just not quite sure if the whole unisex thing, where men and women actually do things together, is ever going to work.

 

 

KPIs For Father’s Day

Father’s Day is only days away and this year the kids have decided to do something a little different. The old man has everything he needs and so this year they have come up with the novel idea that his special day is focused on self-improvement. They have identified several ways in which they believe he could improve his relationship and parenting skills with me them.

Fathers Day KPIs
What I See… by Normand Desjardins at http://www.flickr.com

Don’t get me wrong, the old man is the best father in the world when it comes to getting them out of financial holes, rough and tumble, communicating and behaving with them at their age level, but there are certain key areas they believe, there is room for improvement.

So here are the KPIs the kids have come up with for him to work on over the next year:

  1. They have requested that he NOT put on his invisibility cloak the minute they walk in the door, when their friends come around or when the doorbell rings.
  2. They have stated categorically that they don’t mind if he plays ‘bad cop’ once in a while, (instead of Mr Whiter Than White), when parenting shit needs to go down.
  3. They have suggested that he could be a better role model in certain areas. That they wouldn’t mind if he backed me up occasionally in what he sees as my petty desire to eat like the Walton family at the dinner table, instead of making a childish beeline for the sofa the minute my back is turned; that he could turn the television off at a decent time on school nights and it wouldn’t kill him to eat all his vegetables rather than making that puking noise whenever I put anything green on his plate.
  4. That he might even consider the consequences of wrinkling his nose at my cooking and the effect that immature behaviour has had on the attitude of our kids to my food.
  5. He might consider using different demonstrative adjectives and verbs other than the F word in front of them.
  6. That his habit of buying them off with presents and handouts on the rare occasions he is in charge could be seen as emotional blackmail by some…
  7. And that McDonalds is not a suitable meal substitute for them when I am not there to cook.
  8. That homework still needs to be completed even when I am not available…
  9. And that, AS A PARENT, he might consider picking up the phone when Kurt’s school calls.
  10. Finally, they have decided that after thirty years even he should know by now that the best way to get around me is with wine and chocolate and that as we are both parents, it might be fairer if he shares the role equally.

Equality For Women’s Toilets

A toilet being used by a woman in California. ...
A toilet being used by a woman in California. This photo was taken on August 31, 2008 in Charleston Terrace, Palo Alto, CA, US, using a Nikon Coolpix S51. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Any other women out there feel as f*cking irritated about the inequality in public toilets as I do?

 

I thought you might.

 

I think it’s actually time for us to fight for the right to equality in public conveniences. We need to protest for what should rightfully be ours.

 

Below are just some of the daily peeing issues women have to cope with if they need to ‘go’ away from home:

 

  1. There are not enough public toilets available for women.
  2. The lack thereof creates a time constraint issue on what is already a problem of supply not meeting demand. (And we all know what happens when we are put under pressure to wee.) Women are biologically different to men and can’t physically share one long piss-pot publicly. Women have to undress from the waist down, which adds a major time penalty to the weeing function.
  3. Certain women spend longer than necessary in the available toilets.

Allow me to elaborate:

 

1. Why It Is Frustrating Not Having Enough Toilets – There can’t be a woman on this planet who hasn’t been affected by the shortage of women’s public toilet facilities sometime…. this week.

 

This problem is becoming a serious Health and Safety issue.

 

Here’s why. These are just a few examples of the long-term emotional and physical scarring that this shortage causes for women:

 

  • Enforced ‘drying out’ from alcohol at special events, because we invariably have to miss valuable pre-drinking time in the bar in order to queue for the toilets.
  • Emotional distress caused by missing the climax of aforementioned events in order to leg it to the bathroom before the rest of the masses (and the queues forming) in preparation for the long journey home.
  • Physical bladder pain associated with having to condition it to go when it can rather than when it needs to. Ie coordinating Mother Nature with the availability of facilities.
  • Urinary tract damage as a result of intense crossing of legs for long periods, firm tensing of buttocks (when forced to ‘hold on’), and squeezing of pelvic floor, (if locatable), to maximum effect – to prevent premature leakage.
  • Anxiety due to fear of pissing publicly on the floor.

Toileting’ is just so much easier for men.

 

We’d all love to be able to just flop it out, take a leak and give it a shake? Women, however, have a much more sophisticated and delicate physiology than men and being able to just ‘go anywhere’, (unless there’s a tree or bush handy), is much more problematic.

 

2. Why Women Need More Toilets Than Men. The toileting experience for women encompasses so much more. Women do not simply empty their bowels in the bathroom. They need to wipe, generously; they have to deal with menstruation, small children and skinny jeans (as well as other poorly designed pieces of wardrobe that always seem to malfunction in a tight cubicle); they need to preen and groom.

 

Once out of the cubicle, they might have to wash children’s hands, apply lippy and scrunch/dry hair under the hand dryer. These responsibilities take time and can create a jam, thwarting progress down the queue, causing what is commonly referred to as a ‘loo-jam’.

 

3. Why Some Women Are The Culprits – There are, unfortunately, some women who even abuse an obviously struggling system.

 

You know who you are.

 

A thirty-second limit for a tinkle and up to a couple of minutes for anything bigger is adequate.

 

So WTF! are those women doing who spend hours in the cubicle? There’s no entertainment, no distractions and no mirror – so what can possibly take so long?

 

(Unless they’re texting……..(growls)

 

The solution is simple: put automatic doors on the cubicles, with timers.

 

And while I’m on my soapbox:

 

Look, I understand that some women need to layer the seat with toilet paper for hygiene/religious reasons, but please CLEAR IT UP afterwards.

 

FLUSH THE F*CKING CHAIN!

 

DON’T WEE ON THE FLOOR! – once in situe, we women have a much better in-built aiming system than men, so please use it.

 

(Disclaimer: No bladders were hurt in the writing of this piece).

Any name suggestions for our campaign?

 

Embracing the F Word in Middle Age

Forgive me, readers, for I am about to commit a cardinal blogging sin with a ‘rant’ post.

I don’t do these often because I know you read my blog for some non-cerebral, light relief, but I am fed up of being verbally constipated on this particular subject, out of fear of alienation.

I need to get this mother*cker out.

You see, this week, at the age of forty-seven, I finally realized that I am a feminist. I have finally embraced the F word in middle age.

Was that ‘About f*cking time’ I heard you say?

Embracing the F Word In Middle AgeWhat can I say? I’m a late-developer. The great thing about life though, is it’s never too late to embrace new ideas, is it?

Of course Feminism is not exactly a new idea – I just never truly understood the underpinning implications of it before – for which I must humbly apologize and grovel to  Suffragettes and Bra-burners alike.

I have obviously always been a feminist, I just didn’t know it until now.

Unfortunately, I am not a literary wordsmith on the topic like Helen Razer or Anne Summers, but I do have opinions that matter, and I can and do identify with their beliefs. So indulge me, dear readers, and allow me to vent (in my own simplistic way) on my opinion of feminism in Australia today.

Firstly, how do I know that I’ve always been a feminist?

Simple. Because I’ve always believed in women having the same rights as men. In fact, the reason it took me so bloody long to realize that I was a closet Feminist, is because I naively assumed that women already had equal rights to men.

Derrrr!

The truth of it is, I may have actually been a teensy bit afraid of swearing my allegiance to feminists before, because I had this crazily warped stereotype in my head of what a feminist was – my most dangerous assumption being that they hated men. And I rather like men.

There are, in fact, many male feminists and many feminists that like men.

‘Feminism is not anti men. It’s anti-arseholes, misogynists, pricks, creeps, thugs and bigots.’ Catherine Deveny

But in any important movement, extremism can be a problem. There will always be radical, impassioned members at its core – we witnessed extreme Islam in Woolwich only last week. Often, the most militant members of a group are the ones that actually get anything done, and so unless they resort to violence to get their point across, I embrace and admire their fervency. However, occasionally that passion can become warped and turn to fanaticism, which comes at a price. Not only cost to life, but it can deter other, less confrontational followers from campaigning and supporting the group on its behalf. To remain powerful, a group needs members.

There have certainly been many times in my life where I have been a victim of sexism, have heard demeaning references to women, have witnessed the objectification of women in the media and seen their exploitation in pornography. Who can be unaware  of the levels of violence against women that still happen in Australia?

Six factors finally changed my perspective on feminism:

  • Julia Guillard’s ‘misogyny speech’ and witnessing the way in which she has been treated since taking on the role as the first female prime-minister
  • The increasing misrepresentation and objectification of women in the media
  • The effect that objectifying women has on the developing minds and attitudes on boys towards women
  • My increasing involvement in writing for women
  • Getting older and wiser and intolerant to bigotry and finding my ‘voice’
  • My daughter; who I am proud to say, is a staunch feminist at the age of eighteen

Last week I attended the ‘Women and Power’ debate at the Sydney Writers Festival, via the Griffith Review, and headed up by Anne Summers, Mary Delahunty, Chris Wallace, Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Julianne Schulz.

I don’t know what I was expecting from the debate, but I came away resolved in my  militancy. The impassioned debate ended in a call to arms for women to be more proactive in their challenge against inequality, because although there have been obvious successes in the battle for equal rights, there is still a lot of work to be done.

A lot of young women believe that equality in Australia is ‘done and dusted.’

Successes have obviously been celebrated in the previous waves of feminism in Australia, thanks to women such as Germaine Greer and Anne Summers, but these experts believe that a new wave of male supremacy is forming, due in part to the influence of the media (and particularly social media) and the continued lack of equality in the workplace.

Raising a teenage daughter, I have believed for a while now, that there is a distinct regression in the attitudes of some younger men towards women, and that misogynistic behavior is following suit. (Is Social Media Killing Teenage Relationships?)

We need to educate our sons to be respectful of women.

The apathy towards feminism by our younger generations of women (although it has recently regained some traction with the ‘Destroying The Joint’ debate led by Jane Caro) may be because they believe that they already have equal rights. Or maybe it is simply too hard? And of course the infrastructure to support women in the work place is still negligible.

So what can women do?

Women need to resume the fight and keep pushing back. They need to fight for quotas in the workplace to override the continuing sexism and hold of the old boy networks. There are still very few women in the top corporate tiers, and more and more women are choosing to opt out of corporate life altogether (due to the difficulty of climbing the corporate ladder) to take other options. Where will our voice be then?

Don’t be afraid to use the F word like I was.

Rally for Women’s health- National Mall by Amber Wilkie at http://www.flickr.com

Is The Media Killing Teenage Relationships?

Teenagers of various backgrounds in Oslo, Norw...
Teenagers of various backgrounds in Oslo, Norway. The growing diversity of northern Europe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been trying to get a handle on the machinations of teenage relationships for a while now.

Normally I embrace ‘change’ and progress,  but the more I understand of the modern day ‘boy meets girl’ scenario, the more I worry for our kids.

Without wanting to sound generically middle-aged, it wasn’t like that in our day.

Who remembers their ‘first love?’ I’m reminded about mine on a daily basis as I ended up marrying him. For the lucky ones among us, that first experience of romantic love was a wondrous experience, our first emotional dip of the toe into the complicated ocean of adult relationships.

Teenage relationships have always been complex things.

In the old days, the teenage dating process was a much more compartmentalised process. Boy asked out girl, (or girl orchestrated for boy to ask her out, if boy proved a bit reticent), to be followed by a first date of sorts, which, (all being well) culminated in a coupling; leading to the prized ‘going out’ status (the same status change in a relationship, these days, is achieved by changing your Facebook status). That hatching of a new relationship was a fairly straightforward process in the old days.

They were precious, those first months, filled with wonder, physical yearning and exploration. We knew about and explored the American system of ‘bases’, the accepted physical step-by-step process of moving from a platonic to a sexual relationship, but this was tempered by an ingrained set of values towards the opposite sex, and our own self-respect.

Of course, the path to true love never runs completely smoothly but for teenagers today, it is even more hazardous.

For the dating parameters for teenagers today are very different. Although some changes can be explained through evolution and are more difficult to control, others, I believe, are symptomatic of media influence. But some of those changes, in the way that teenagers approach and manage their relationships today, have also served to highlight a serious, underlying concern, in the re-emergence of gender inequality.

Today’s teenagers rarely feel the need to commit fully to monogamous relationships; they don’t ‘go out’ together, like we did. They ‘hook up’.

‘Hooking up’ can be defined as anything from pashing to going ‘all the way’. It’s a kind of ‘friends with benefits’, ‘no strings attached’ arrangement, played out by kids whose emotional areas of the brain are far from fully matured.

‘The hook up culture casts men in the role of sexual beast and women as victims’ and a lot of young girls are voicing concern about a new regressive attitude lurking in the minds of teenage boys; while boys question how they can respect young girls who promote semi-pornographic ‘selfies’ of themselves as sex objects on Facebook.

I wonder if this gender devaluation is in part due to the fact that many teenagers now develop their life opinions based on what they witness on the tv or via social networking. Reality television being an obvious culprit.

Open relationships, partner swapping and adherence to the friendship group over the individual is nothing new. Think of the power of ‘Friends’ in the nineties and the sexual confidence that emanated from those characters, behaviours further cultivated by the personalities in modern series such as ‘Gossip Girl’, ‘The Kardashians and Big Brother, for example.

What worries me more is that our sons and daughters are given dumbed-down, over-emotional celebrities as their female role models.  The ridiculous antics of the beauties in Beauty and the Geek, the girls of the Playboy Mansion or Brynne Edelston, albeit entertaining as comedic value, are to be laughed at, not with. Whether the immature brain of a seventeen year old can decipher the difference between what is real and what is manufactured, is another question.

And what about the relationship model itself and how it is translated to teenagers. Think of the celebrity divorces that they have been exposed to, this year alone. The increase in the divorce rate, both domestically and in Hollywood, has to affect our teenagers’ attitudes towards long-term relationships. Is their approach to the sanctity of marriage  as committed now, with what appears to be a greater focus on the event than the depth of responsibility that goes with the commitment ?

And then there is the heightened exposure that our kids have towards sex and the way that they now communicate their sexual emotions. Does a greater exposure to sex increase the interest level and hence lower the age at which they start to indulge in sexual relationships? There’s no doubt that parents had more control over what their teenagers were exposed to in the past; less mothers worked and teenagers had less freedom. These days, many kids are learning the facts of life through on-line porn, Facebook and juvenile experimentation, and are actively participating in ‘sexting’ as a form of foreplay.

If the media does insist on stereotyping gender roles, if we don’t instil in our children an understanding of equality, there is a very real danger that we are going to step back into a ’50s type era, as feared by Elaine Goldsmith in her article about Governor Romney, Is The Clock Turning Back For Women’s Rights, where men regain power and repeal women’s choices?

There was uproar recently with Julia Gillard’s branding of Tony Abbott as a misogynist, (a harsh label maybe), but maybe a revision of the meaning of ‘misogyny’ is appropriate after all, because ‘an entrenched prejudice against women’ does appear to be simmering beneath the surface in terms of teenage relationships, endangering the fragile foundations of equality that women before us fought so hard to achieve. Maybe it’s time to look at the fundamental moral codes of our youth and the influence of the media in their decisions.