It’s Obvious To Me Why So Many Women Feel Tired

Anna Spargo-Ryan spelt it out clearly in her article for The Guardian last week.

Women are tired.

And while there’s nothing particularly unusual about feeling tired in middle age, I sense there’s more to my dwindling energy levels than the depletion of oestrogen in my body.

The emotional exhaustion caused by COVID and the back and forth swing between daring to believe that our lives will return to some kind of (new) normal, to having our hopes dashed again, has been superseded recently by the continued ignorance of men in regard to consent and sexual abuse.

When a new cluster of COVID appeared in Melbourne a few weeks back – bringing with it the inevitable disruption of border shutdowns, flight cancellations, and wedding postponements – we stopped breathing again.

And while I, for one, have nothing but praise for our nation’s response to the virus – because I still believe that health should be our priority – this stop/start way of living is taking its toll. Every time, we have to put our lives and businesses on hold, with little to no warning, our confidence and mental health are knocked.

Woman lying on bed with her hands over her face.

According to Tara Healle, who wrote this post on Medium about why so many of us feel so bloody tired at the moment, we are suffering from a lack of the benefits provided by the initial shock of the pandemic.

She says that ‘In those early months, I, along with most of the rest of the country, was using “surge capacity” to operate, as Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, calls it. Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But, natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.’

Which is the stage we find ourselves in right now – a stage of permanent flux.

And that flux feels particularly relevant to our government’s lethargic reaction to the latest accusations of rape and sexual harassment levelled at two of its ministers. Their attempts to downplay the trauma of the two women involved feels like a kick in the teeth to women, particularly to survivors. For, it seems that in spite of the education that came from the #metoo movement, little has been learned, women’s voices are still being muted, and our right for equality is still moving too slowly.

I am surprised by my fatigue. Prior to COVID, I used to think I cope well in a crisis. Not when blood is involved, admittedly – as proven by my embarrassing reaction to a fall my husband had a few years ago, when the sight of abrasions to his face had me running to the bathroom. But in grave situations, (that don’t involve bloody, broken body parts), I perform at my best. I am more logical in a crisis than in normal times, and I am not afraid to make a call under stress.

Hence, I felt relatively calm when the virus first hit our shores. I don’t doubt that my reaction had something to do with my anxiety – which meant I was more prepared for it than most – but I found there was something almost reassuring about its sudden appearance.

It provided a kind of validation for all the years I’ve wasted stressing about potential catastrophes.

And so, I didn’t rush to the supermarket to panic-buy – although, the same can’t be said for the bottle shop. And when our son returned to the family home to live with us, and the nature of my job changed, and then I had to cancel Christmas – I accepted our new normal with stoicism.

I know that Australia has been fortunate. We haven’t experienced the impact of the virus in the same way as some other countries, hence I haven’t had to homeschool children or try to maintain some level of professionalism as I work from home. But no one has truly escaped the wide reach of the virus.

I wasn’t surprised by my lack of focus in January – because everyone struggles to focus in January – or when February disappeared in a blink of an eye, and now we’re in March in the midst of the next crisis to hit women.

Because trust me when I say, that although the virus killed more men, it hit women harder.

And as I struggle to find my direction, all I can assume is that the shock or surge capacity that helped me cope with the outbreak of the virus has disappeared and I am transitioning into the next stage of what I can only describe as a type of grief. Grief for normality, and grief for the millions of women who have been abused by men for so long – whose sharing of their terrible personal stories appears to have been for nothing.

I feel like I am climbing up a steep hill towards some kind of acceptance of 2021, that I’m not fully committed to.

I’m still trying to accept the reality that I don’t know when I’ll see my UK family again. It’s unlikely to happen, but there is a chance my my father will die before I get back there, that my nieces and nephews won’t recognise me, and my old friends will forgot me.

I’m scared that my kids may move to another state in Australia and get stuck there in the event of another outbreak.

I’m terrified that my daughter is growing up in era when women’s rights are moving backwards. At twenty-six, she is already tired of defending her rights and demanding her voice, and that’s not right.

I know we’re not living through a world war, and that not seeing my children for a few months at a time is a first-world problem (when the children of others are actually vulnerable to this virus), but the uncertainty caused by this pandemic and the ongoing discrimination towards women is exhausting.

Anyone else feel tired like me?

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Middle Age: Time To Stop Worrying About Our Bodies And Start Focusing On Our Brains

I’ve had a mixed reaction in my circle about my decision to shed a few kilos. There are those friends who have been supportive – in that they understand the need to manage my weight gain through menopause, if possible. Then there is the other “life’s too short to be miserable” camp, who don’t believe I should worry about a few extra rolls at this stage of my life.

Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash

Truth be told, I’m not so vain that a few extra kilos worry me, but I am conscious that carrying extra weight at my age is no good thing. I had also reached that point where I was climbing the dress size mountain a little faster than I wanted and was starting to feel the effects – physically and psychologically. There were several nights over Christmas when I had a ‘nothing to wear’ crisis, because nothing fitted.

Middle-age is hard enough when it comes to style, but it’s that much harder when you are heavier than you want to be.

However, I do believe that it’s important to put your health goals into perspective. It comes down to that balance thing that’s so hard to get right in life, which is why it saddens me so much when my girlfriends admit that they hate parts of their bodies. Because while none of us are immune to the ridiculous pressures of perfectionism created by women’s magazines and reality tv shows, I do feel that at some point we have a right (and it is healthier) to age and accept our age, along with the inevitable leaks and creaks that go with that.

I’ve mentioned before the glorious sense of liberation I have taken from the invisibility that has come with middle-age. I feel much freer when I go out without makeup, when I’m not wearing a bra, or can happily swan around the house in my pjs – and I’m loving the fact that I can get on public transport late at night without having to worry about being harassed.

In general, I feel much more confident in who I am.

However, there is no denying that we are the product of the expectations placed on our gender by the media. And many women have been victims of men who take their best years, use them as a vessel for their children, and then discard them during their mid-life crises for a younger model, thereby diminishing their confidence.

My body is a physical map of my life, that bears the scars of childbirth amongst other experiences. I am not ashamed of the physical evidence of that miracle of life or the way the intensity of my love has cracked the skin on my face. But I would point out that when it comes to ageing, there is no gender divide, and the old man’s body bears the same ravages of time as mine.

But imagine if women left men when they started to lose their hair?

I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like to fit back into a size 10 and have the choice of high street fashion, or that I wouldn’t like my teeth to be whiter or my jowls to be less like my dog’s – BUT WHY? I’m fifty-four, not twenty-three.

And for the record, I wouldn’t want to be twenty-three again.

So does it really matter if the skin under our arms swings with the wind or if our faces looked like crumpled paper? I’m satisfied that I made the most of the beauty of my youth, and I wouldn’t choose to turn back time. But now is the time for my brain to shine.

WTF is wrong with some men? And why are we letting them get away with it?

I’ve reached a point where I hardly dare open the news apps on my phone each morning. Not because it is necessarily bad, but because of the increasing number of stories about men murdering, belittling and shaming women (or others that oppose their views).

Found on Pinterest from movemequotes.com

I dread to think how this news is impacting our kids. Cross that: I know exactly how it is affecting our kids.

I believe wholeheartedly in freedom of speech – obviously – but like so many of life’s more obscure areas, I also believe that its parameters can’t be set in stone – particularly when it comes to a democracy in which each of us (supposedly) has a voice.

For example, there is a level and a tone of speech that is acceptable to me when it comes to the personal opinions of others. Let’s call it a tolerance level – where Israel Folau and white supremacists don’t register, and Alan Jones is maybe a 1 – purely so we can analyse and ridicule his verbal twattery.

I write a lot of op-eds, so it would be wrong for me to judge people for having and voicing their opinions, but even I draw a line in the sand when it comes to my moral code when writing. I would like to believe that others will show a similar respect. I’ll give you an analogy: In the same way that no one is forcing devout Christians and Catholics to have abortions once the law in NSW is updated, I do not condemn them for their outdated opinions.

Sadly, that gene or part of the brain is missing in many men in the public eye, who like the sound of their own voices and appear to have forgotten the weight of responsibility they carry. Even worse is the number of media channels that condone their vile hate speech by using the freedom of speech argument – when we all know that what it is really about is clickbait and money.

Like children who misbehave for attention, the vitriolic words of these men who get off on bulling a sixteen-year-old for her views on climate change, who insinuate that a sex worker is somehow deserving of her murder, or who suggest putting a towel down the throat of a woman to shut her up – and a respected, female world leader at that – are not ones that we should be endorsing in these progressive times, in much the same way that we don’t sensationalise the murderers of women by disclosing their names.

I am watching the SBS series, “The Hunting” at the moment – a chilling awakening about the power of social media in the wrong hands, particularly in relation to the shaming of women. Frankly, the ramifications of such abuse are quite terrifying and this series highlights again the need for this growing sense of entitlement among SOME of our young men to be addressed, or the number of murders of women, such as Michaela Dunn’s, will continue to increase.

As the mother of young adults, I know a thing or two about the shaming and hounding of girls in school and afterwards, and at the root of the problem is often privilege – and primarily, the privilege of being a man, (and more often than not) being white and middle-class.

As this series points out, it is not the girls that we should be teaching how to behave, it is the boys and their mentors who need to be taught how to respect them. By endorsing men like Alan Jones, there is very little chance of that ever happening.

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.

You Don’t Have To Fit Into Society’s One-Size-Fits-All Box

As, once again, we compile the memories of twenty-five years together into boxes ahead of our next move, it seems appropriate to have a discussion about them.

Dog climbing out of a packing box.

Boxes.

Because I’ve noticed how good society is at putting people into them, as NC reminded me the other day when we were discussing the assumptions people make about her personal choice to become a vegetarian.

Whenever you choose to veer off the straight and narrow or do something different, it seems to encourage the more cynical to shout louder from their soapbox. To use the example of NC, she is often criticised for those rare occasions she indulges in fish, even though her vegetarianism is nothing to do with animal cruelty. Sometimes her body craves fish, and she can’t resist tuna and salmon Sashimi and my smoked salmon and cream canapes at Christmas. As she is a vegetarian for sustainability reasons, she doesn’t see a problem with this. Her detractors, however, suggest that she isn’t a “proper” vegetarian.

Haters gonna hate.

It’s the same with feminism. The uneducated like to put feminists in the box for people that stand against inequality between the sexes, grow out their body hair, and hate men. I wax… and I don’t hate men because of their gender.

In the same way that not all Muslims are radical terrorists, not all feminists hate men.

Making assumptions and boxing people into a group is a lazy path to take. It is also naive and potentially dangerous. For those who don’t bother to look more carefully at a person’s reasons for their beliefs and behaviour, their premature judgment can have have life-long repercussions.

Society – and the old man and I must take some responsibility as well – has tried to fit Kurt into a box for most of his life – an expectation that has made him miserable. The sad truth is that society only provides one box for everyone to fit into and so those that can’t fit comfortably in it risk being ostracised and isolation. The laws of society have limited tolerance for “difference”, which means that there is not enough “give” in the box for the neuro-diverse, the traumatised, or the outward thinkers.

Anyone who has made a profession out of moving house and packing – like the old man and myself – will know that some things don’t fit in standard-sized boxes.

Women, in particular, have always struggled to fit comfortably in the box, because it was designed for men. Meghan Markle is experiencing the claustrophobia of that situation right now. A bi-racial, divorced woman, she is attempting to fit into a box of privilege that has little desire to move with the times. Hers was never going to to be a smooth transition – a plight that Nikki Gemmell summed up in her brilliant piece, “The Audacity of Meghan Markle”, in The Australian last week.

Personally, I hope that Meghan doesn’t make a smooth transition. I hope that she lifts the lid off that bloody box and sets it alight with her critics inside.

We need more Meghans. We need more Kurts and NCs and people prepared to stand up for their beliefs, for those that don’t fit squarely into boxes – whom in many cases, are demonised by society. We should be encouraging society to think outside of the box, not closing the lid on it.

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

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arty-Fartiness And A Celebration Of The Naked Female Form

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image3

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

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?

 

Rape Is About More Than Sex

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

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

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

I breathed again.

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

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

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

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

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

If only.

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

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

 

Abortion Has Never Been Something Women Take Lightly

I do not begrudge the third of Ireland’s voters who wanted to keep the existing abortion laws in the recent referendum, to protect the rights of the fetus; we are each entitled to an opinion in a democracy. Which is why I get to share mine so freely on this blog, and why you are welcome to chip in and disagree at any time.

That’s not to say that I will always agree with your views – but unless you become threatening to me or my handful of readers, or you discriminate against the fundamental human rights of others, I will respect them.

Obviously, though, that third of voters were completely wrong in their misguided attempt to continue to negate a woman’s choices about her own body.

Through history, many people have sacrificed their lives for the sake of our democracy; for the right to basic human rights such as these. Which is why I find it so appalling, (even after the event), that these hordes of women were forced to stream back to Ireland in their thousands to take back control of their OWN bodies. In 2018. (Although, please note that Northern Ireland will continue its own fight).

Because, while I haven’t stepped inside a church since I was a child, I do not oppose Catholicism. In my opinion, religion serves a purpose in our community for certain people. I can understand its appeal – the lure of its support and guidance and the promise of that all-inclusive holiday of heaven at the end in exchange for your last few coppers in the plate on a Sunday. And as long as it evolves with the times, and doesn’t impose its more archaic restraints upon its believers, or abuse its power, (as it has done in this debate), I have no problem with it.

But…

There were many aspects to consider in this debate, and in my opinion, the most disgusting was the implication that women would abuse abortion if it was legalized. Because, as author Matt Haig commented on Twitter, (fundamentally) ‘no one likes abortion,’ (although I should add that his comment was quickly shot down by a young Catholic woman who argued that she does like it, because it gives her power over her body), and to my knowledge, most women/couples will do everything in their power to avoid putting themselves in such a situation.

Yet, as any glass-half-full person like myself will tell you, life doesn’t always go to plan. Women are raped, men remove condoms, the menstrual cycle is neither regular nor failsafe, many young couples are simply not in the financial position to raise a child or look after a disabled child, and mature women can mistakenly interpret a missed period as a sign of menopause.

And what many of those who had the audacity to stand against this medical intervention underestimate, is the impact that both pregnancy and abortion have on the physical and mental health of women. Think of those young women in the fifties and sixties forced to carry their babies to full-term, only for them to be ripped away at birth and put up for adoption. Think of the girls whose lives have been compromised radically by having to raise a child alone, spurned by partners and family. Think of the adopted children out there that have been scarred emotionally by a sense of rejection at the start of their lives. And think too of the shame women have been made to feel for that ownership of their body.

The right to an abortion is not something that women take lightly, yet it remains fervently a woman’s right.

Feature photo: Chris Boese on Unsplash.com

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.

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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?