How You Can Help Bridge The Gap Between Rich and Poor This Valentines Day

I hate to name-drop, but I found myself in the same breathing space as two former prime ministers a couple of days ago. The first was Malcolm Turnbull, one of the many speakers at the Side By Side conference run by the Wayside Chapel, who had been invited to discuss the crucial role of students in political conversation. And the second was an icon of mine, Julia Gillard, whose “misogyny” speech was voted the most unforgettable moment on Australian TV this week, and who was the special guest on The Guilty Feminist, a stage show of the popular podcast that was on at the Enmore Theatre.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Two Australian politicians from two different political parties, who share a similar vision when it comes to how to measure success and how to improve the way we care for the marginalised people in our community.

You may know that during his time as prime minister, Malcolm was criticised for his privilege – for being a wealthy, self-made man – and for not being a natural communicator when it came to the people. And in spite of his valiant attempts to prioritise climate policy in his party – a view that ultimately led to his downfall – he remained a somewhat elusive personality who the voters were frustrated to never really get to know.

From the other side of the tracks was Julia, our first female prime minister, who became a target of the predominantly middle-aged, white men in her party and the opposition party as a result of her gender. Throughout her stint as prime minister, she was forced to fight the sort of infantile sexism and snobbery you expect to find in an all-boys private school. Nevertheless, she stood her ground against it – hence, that speech – and if the level of applause at her arrival on Friday night was anything to go by, her reputation among Australian feminists is legendary.

How wonderful to see, in this terrifyingly narcissistic period of political history, two such prominent figures (who in spite of both being retired from politics), came together to help the marginalised community in our society.

Malcolm was appearing at the Side By Side conference run by The Wayside Chapel, to which I was invited (I assume) because of my paltry donation of a Christmas lunch to ease my guilt for one of their residents last year. The organisation, which is based in Kings Cross in Sydney, works predominantly with and for the homeless – for those who have hit rock bottom due to physical illness, job loss, mental illness, addiction, domestic violence, sexual abuse and trauma. They are citizens and victims who could be any one of us, who have fallen on bad times – typically through no fault of their own – who are being ignored by society.

The Side By Side conference was about reducing the stigma about poverty and exchanging ideas about how we can narrow the gap between us and them.

But change takes time. As Julia Gillard reminded us during her chat on The Guilty Feminist, it will probably take another century before we see any real equality in terms of female leadership in Australia – whether that’s in the workplace or in politics – and without women in those positions, we remain under-represented. The same is true for the poor. Unless society shows more compassion and changes its priorities, the gap will continue to widen.

What is certain is that to effect the necessary changes we need leaders who have vision and who are prepared to listen to our young people and our experts in the field.

It is not only middle-aged lefties like me who are disillusioned with the direction the western world is heading. When a government prioritises a Religious Freedom Bill over crucial preparations for the annual bushfire season, we have to ask why. And our kids are asking those questions too – which is perhaps one of the reasons so many are struggling with their mental health.

The Wayside Chapel’s conference was a call to action. Progressive, well-known CEOs spoke about how businesses can help donate part of their profits to help bridge the gap between rich and poor and to help protect the environment, and the message that stood out was that if we all become a little less focused on success and more on caring, there is a chance that we can do exactly that.

“Together we can make no ‘us and them,” was the clear message of the event. And they’re right. Imagine how frigging awesome it would be if everyone of us did something tiny that could make a real difference to the confidence of one person on the poverty line. Because, trust me, their situation could happen to any of us, and an increasing percentage of the current number of the homeless population are middle-aged women.

I’m aware that “activism” is harder than just sitting at home on the sofa, watching those heart-wrenching stories play out on the The Project. It requires a concerted “movement of feet.” And even though we’ve had to put our hands a little deeper into our pockets of late, I am certain that there is something that most of us can do. For example, this Valentines Day, instead of buying your partner a tacky card and a sad bunch of dead petrol station flowers, you could donate $20 to waysidechapel.org.au/valentines, or any organisation that helps people in need. That small donation will give someone a shower, a new pair of undies and socks and some toiletries. It’s a much more sustainable way to show someone you love them and it will make all the difference to someone who isn’t feeling the love right now.

The Poor Representation For Women In Politics: Never Has Gilead Felt So Close To Home

Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

Trigger warning: The following post may be a trigger to those meatheads who don’t believe in equality.

I know, I know… I should shy away from politics on this blog, but I can’t help myself. What can I say? I’ve got a big mouth and a soft heart.

However, before I take my latest leap onto the feminist soapbox, I would like you to know that I have heeded my own advice and taken some time for reflection before pushing the publish button on this rant.

And I’m glad I did, because that postponement has allowed me more time to become better informed about the real cost for women after the latest Federal election in Australia and the ongoing issues faced by women when they lack sufficient representation in politics. Suffice it to say, that uncharacteristic measure of self-control has done little to reduce my searing anger about what has been a disastrous week for the fairer sex – and in particular for those women in Alabama.

The results of the election last weekend added a liberal sprinkling of salt to the open wound created by Alabama. And although I won’t compare my tanty about the Liberal party’s re-election to the outright misogyny of certain states in the US, I would like someone to tell me what we can expect in terms of representation from a party that has so far governed with a cabinet (on average) of less than a quarter women?

And before you remind me – my legions of adoring male fans – I am fully aware that women make up only half of the population and that we live in a democracy. Nevertheless, silly old me truly believed when I placed my vote on Saturday that we were in the process of developing and changing as a nation.

I believed that as a nation we had recognised a need for growth – and not only in terms of the economy. I swear I saw the signs of compassion outrunning  greed in our future. I thought that this election would signal a transition from the narrow-minded views of a bunch of privileged, middle-aged tosspots and give another leadership the opportunity to narrow the distance between rich and poor, to tackle climate change more effectively, and to improve conditions for the sick and refugees.

So what happened? Why did Australia succumb to the resurgence in right-wing popularity that is gaining traction around around the world?

Because never has the fictional state of Gilead felt so close to home.

I can only assume that the Liberal party’s re-election is linked to fear of change or loss of control – Yawn! Which saddens me, when change stimulates growth and a stagnating government that refuses to listen either to its people or scientific evidence is as damaging and guilty as groups such as the anti-vaxxers.

What I will say – having reflected over several bottles of Chardonnay and several articles by women who voted for the Liberals last weekend – is that I do understand the need to put family above benevolence when it comes to putting food on the table, particularly when women are already penalised so heavily for having children. 

However, that’s as far as my empathy extends. I feel nothing but vitriol for the men who voted for the latest anti-abortion bill in the US.

These men are obviously confused about why women need control of their bodies. So why don’t they listen to them, rather than base their misguided opinions on the fictional (some believe) idealism found in antiquated books?

There was also a time when we thought that the earth was flat, guys!

How can they possibly understand what women have to consider in the event of an unplanned pregnancy? How can they slut-shame and brandish those women as self-centred child-killers when abortion is never an easy choice and usually connected to failure of contraception, threatening relationships, rape, and financial insecurity? Don’t they know that by refusing access to the procedure, many women will die because of what boils down to the religious aims of a radical bunch of nutters?

I have a better solution for avoiding unwanted pregnancies. Why don’t we force all men to have reversible vasectomies or make it a criminal offense for them not to wear condoms? Then they can see what it’s like to have someone take control of their bodies.

The election last weekend was an eye-opener. In a period of history when we have so much information about the dangers of narcissism and discrimination, a supposedly forward-thinking, evolving western country re-elects a party that refuses to move forward with the pace of the rest of the western world; a party whose priorities look more and more like self-service than public service.

I hear that Morrison will be offering two-for-one deals to Gilead very soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Are Women Really Asking For Too Much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we really asking for too much?

 

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.

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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?

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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.

 

 

Every Woman Has Had A Harvey Weinstein Experience

I had to take the old man’s car to the garage the other day to get a quote for some hailstorm damage. When we first moved to Australia and our friends warned us about hailstones as big as golf balls and that the priority in terms of buying a house was to have either a garage or a carport, we laughed, just like we did when they told us about spiders the size of dinner plates. Nevertheless, we followed their advice until last year and made sure that each of our first twenty-five houses had some form of off-street protection. 

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Inevitably, when the hailstorm from hell finally came, we only had off-street parking.

 

And it turns out that the size of Australian hailstones can be closer to the circumference of a tennis ball than a golf ball, as we found out a few months ago: penance, according to NC, for laughing in the face of the predictions of impending doom from our in-house climate scientist.

 

The long and short of it is, hail damage has re-sculpted the old man’s car, and the new, beautifully, un-tessellated design on its bonnet may affect its worth even more than Kurt’s attempts at re-sculpturing it, should we ever need to sell it.

 

As the old man had already left the house a few times this month, it was my turn to face the general public to organise the quote for repair, and inevitably, the only place that does this very special type of repair work was one of those seedy, dimly-lit garages down a dodgy side street with enough testosterone in the air to grow back the hairs on my legs after my recent Spring shave.

 

Without stereotyping, there was one tattooed, grimy gorilla under a bonnet and another under a chassis when I walked into the establishment and it is fair to say that in my younger days, I would have been quite terrified to approach them. Some men don’t seem to understand that lecherous looks and comments such as ‘smile, love’ are hardly conducive to the creation of a new business relationship. But as it was, that day my entrance barely caused them to pause, which I like to think was because they were modern, intelligent men of a feminist persuasion who have come to realize that the historically sexist and crass behavior of their mechanic forefathers – those who thought it acceptable to ogle at posters of naked women in the workplace – is inappropriate and downright threatening behaviour.

 

Or maybe it’s because young men have an innate fear of cantankerous women over the age of forty-five – most likely because we remind them of their mothers.

 

Anyway, the boys gave me a predictably unintelligible response to my query, but for the first time I was not made to feel afraid and I left the garage with a skip in my step. What the experience did do was compound my disgust for those women who see feminism only as a battle about equal pay or educational and professional opportunities, and who refute the claims of women who have been (and still are) threatened, compromised and sexually objectified by men in positions of power.

 

Every woman has had a Harvey Weinstein experience, but we have been so brainwashed by male privilege that many are unable to see it.