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.

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’m Learning About ‘Privilege’

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Perhaps because he’s male.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Feminism, Body Image And The Curse Of A Big Gob

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Of course, he blames me.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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.

 

The Biggest #QuestionForMen This Week Is What Century Are We In?

The debate over equality has been heating up nicely in the media over the past few weeks and I will always take whatever opportunity comes my way to get back on the feminism soapbox.   (Sorry, Dad!)

English: Chris Hemsworth at 2010 Comic-Con Int...
English: Chris Hemsworth at 2010 Comic-Con International (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With awards season upon us when we witness the bevy of beautiful and successful actors and actresses flaunt their talents and physical assets on numerous red carpets, attention has focused on the different approach towards the genders by the media.   The wonderful Kate Blanchett was one of the first to publicly shame a reporter who dared ask her ‘who are you wearing?’, prior to any questions relating to the professional work for which she was being awarded.   I will be the first to put my hand up and admit that I am shallow enough to enjoy ‘red carpets’ for the fashion, but Kate has a point – I wouldn’t be averse to watching Chris Hemsworth or Bradley Cooper forced to twirl and preen for the camera prior to describing at length their outfits, fitness regime and matching accessories.   Why are women treated as cattle and men treated as talent?   We know that the movie industry remains a man’s world wherein the movie moguls are still predominantly male, most lead roles are written for men and the pay is unequal, yet do we have to insist on dumbing down women when they have earned equal status within the industry?   With the increased impact of social media, I believe that female celebrities do have a duty to mention the name of their designers on air; but so should men. What neither gender should have to accept is to be treated as vacuous, pretty pieces of fluff, there to sex up a movie or compliment their more successful counterparts.   Buzzfeed tried to turn the tables when they interviewed Kevin Spacey at a recent awards show and dared to ask him about his beauty preparations for the event.   http://youtu.be/xlW-aHC8KdI   A mani-pedi? Agreed, Kevin, it is fucked up!   His look of confusion once the penny dropped, said it all.   The continued inequality in the workplace was further highlighted this week on Twitter by Clementine Ford, one of our most forthright writers on the topic of inequality, who created the thought-provoking hashtag on Twitter- #Questions for Men. These were not questions of the ‘men are from Mars’ ilk, of how the fuck can two genders from the same species think and behave so differently; the question was aimed at the prevailing disparity between the sexes in the workplace.   Questions such as ‘have you ever been judged by the length of your pants’; ‘When you die, do you expect your obituary to start with references to your attractiveness or lack thereof?’ – a reference to an obituary recently posted about the writer, Colleen McCullough; and ‘In a job interview have you ever been asked how you will juggle work and home?’   There was the expected acerbic backlash in response from the cavemen and predictable accusations about whining lesbians who no doubt should be pleased with what we already have.   As someone asked this week when the world witnessed the terrible fate of the Jordanian pilot in a medieval-style public burning – sometimes we have to question “what century are we in?”

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.

 

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/176640394

 

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.

I’m Confused By That Photo Of Kim Kardashian’s Arse


Embed from Getty Images

It’s lucky for you that I’m such an emotionally volatile person, (because Kurt has such a talent for keeping me in a semi-turbulent state that veers between anger and despair most of the day), otherwise, how else would you gain such inspiring insights into the often-crass world we live in?

This week I’m confused by that photo of Kim Kardashian‘s arse.

Kim Kardashian at the Seventh Annual Hollywood...
Kim Kardashian at the Seventh Annual Hollywood Life Magazine Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I’m also torn about writing this post because I hate slamming women on the Internet, when there’s more than enough unnecessary vitriol floating around cyberspace without my penny’s worth.

Nevertheless, I’m still confused by the photo of Kim Kardashian’s arse.

And I’m equally confused by the photo of Keira Knightly’s breasts. You see, I’ve never understood why successful women feel the need to flaunt/sell their naked bodies to the world.

Kim Kardashian found fame via a sex tape and a reality tv show, so with a wealth of beauty and fashion contracts to promote, that image of her naked butt obviously did what it was intended to do – kept the public (those that aren’t already sick of seeing her on the cover of every magazine) aware of her VERY important presence in the universe and made her even more money. Obviously the Wests have fallen on hard times recently.

Those matching outfits for North can be super-expensive!

My question is, why these women need to do this? They don’t need the money and they can certainly gain attention in other ways. ‘New marriages’ have worked well for Kim in the past.

NC disagrees with me and says that women should be able to do what they want without being judged, because feminism is about being able to make choices.

Agreed…but….

Keira attends the premiere of Atonement
Keira attends the premiere of Atonement (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They’ve justified the shots, of course. ‘Money’ is never mentioned, but ‘awareness’ issues are used and abused. Truth be told, I wasn’t fully AWARE of just how HUGE Kim’s arse was before that photo.

Apparently Keira was protesting against previous airbrushed shots of her boobs and wanted to demonstrate to her public what real breasts look like – those unaided by cosmetic sculpturing, Photoshop or any other sort of ‘lift lie’. She was trying to disprove society’s paradigm that women’s breasts need to be at least a C cup to be perfect. The problem is, Keira is a young, beautiful and successful woman, who has basically released just another topless photo to the Internet – to titillate and be salivated over.

I’m not so sure that the type of person who clicks on the ‘Keira’s sexy photo’ headline as it flashes onto their screen appreciates her stance on Photoshop. Furthermore, she has added fuel to the fire of women being represented in the media as nothing more than bodies. Her standpoint seems sadly lost on most of the lightweight online magazines I’ve seen.

The naked female body is beautiful, (and I don’t believe I’m a prude), but have Keira and Kim thought about what message their photos are sending out to young girls who are struggling through puberty; girls who worry about their bodies and are trying to fit into a world dictated by the seedy rules of social media – where sending a sexy snapchat or photo has become the new way to communicate with each other?

You can argue that it’s their choice. And I agree – if women choose to sell their bodies or photos for money, that’s their right. But Keira and Kim have a responsibility, too – as public role models. Neither of them needed to make that choice for financial reasons.

I AM AWARE that real breasts don’t sit naturally at right angles to the female body – as are most adult women and mature men. So how does a black and white, ‘contrived to look arty’, photo of Keira’s breasts help prevent the process of airbrushing exactly? Wouldn’t an intelligent article about ‘body issues’ and the ‘misrepresentation of women by the media’ have made more of an impact?

(Perhaps Keira could take a leaf out of Emma Watson’s book when it comes to addressing women’s issues).

But unfortunately an article like that wouldn’t receive the same level of interest or ‘views’ – the Internet is where people seek immediate gratification, and mere ‘suggestion’ is not enough.

They want boobs and butts.

That huge, oily arse, flashes up on my screen every time I click on a social media site at the moment, and it makes me very uncomfortable. I’m confused by the message Kim’s arse is trying to send me.