Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Belated Christmas Message

Christmas with my mother’s family has a certain rhythm: the BBQ the night before, getting up at oh-Gods’-AM to open ‘Santa’ presents, the big present opening at 11, with Eldest Aunt MCing, and everyone else bitching from the sidelines, lunch at 2:30, which is always a 25 odd people feeding frenzy with way too much food, the pudding contest my grandfather always wins because no one has the heart to tell him that Dad’s pudding tastes better…

And, of course, 8:30 AM mass.

I was raised Catholic. OK, that’s not strictly accurate. My parents were raised Catholic, though Mum’s family win the ‘most religious’ prize by a country mile, and I was baptised Catholic. My younger brother went through the whole kit and caboodle, but I never did. I don’t know when, exactly, I lost my faith – or even if I had faith to lose. I never minded going to Mass as a child, because the music was nice, and the Virgin Mary was pretty, in a serene sad kind of way, but by the time I was eleven, I was pretty sure it was a crock. How could God be all forgiving, yet vengeful? It didn’t make sense. I made a conscious decision to give up on the church thing a couple of years later, after reading that women were supposed to “come to God in fear” and after my religion teacher told our class that sexual desire in women was always evil.

I made my peace with leaving religion a while ago. If I have to articulate it, I would say that I believed in a divine something, but that I had no faith in organised religion, often the domain of Old White Men, and which seemed to cause more problems than it solved. And yet, every year I went to church with my family. Why? Because if I hadn’t, it would have hurt my grandfather beyond words.

Which brings me to the 25th of December 2008. Going to bed the night before I had heard that the Pope’s Christmas message equated homosexuality with global warming. I was furious. This wasn’t what I thought God was supposed to be. It wasn’t what I thought spirituality was supposed to be. It was petty, arrogant bigotry. It made me ashamed to be even peripherally associated with the Catholic Church. For the first time in my life, I decided to try and get out of Church. But at 8:30 the next morning, my nicely clad butt was on a pew.

Why? Even though I was furious, even though I felt hypocritical and yes, dirty, I couldn’t hurt my grandfather, particularly since he’d pulled me aside that morning, and told me that I would be taking the Eucharist, even though I’d never had my first Holy Communion. It meant too much to him.

I sat in Church on Christmas morning feeling like a liar and a hypocrite. I had to grit my teeth in an effort not to snort when the Father thanked God for “returning Bethlehem to its proper owners”. When I stood up to accept the Body of Christ – participating in a ritual I had no right to, I felt ashamed. I nearly choked on it. I felt like I was condoning the Pope’s homophobia, or in some way agreeing with it.

Maybe I should have taken a stand, stood up for my beliefs. I confessed my doubts to Second Eldest Aunt, and Youngest Aunt. For what it was worth, they absolved me of guilt. After all, I’d only gone because I loved my grandfather. It didn’t make everything right, but it was something, I suppose.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's about time

This absolutely blows my mind. I mean FINALLY we are starting move past the outdated view that woman are to blame if a couple can't conceive.

Maybe this means people will start listening.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

SMH: Fail

You know, the Sydney Morning Herald seems to alternate between being pretty good, and failing. Epically. Today was a day of epic fail. Why? This article by Georgia Waters:

Couple's pact to impregnate daughter

Getting the heebie-jeebies already?

I did. So I read the article. It is about, as the headline states, a couple deciding to impregnate their daughter. What the headline doesn't state is that the girl is 15. Now, on the off chance my understanding was wrong, I looked at consent laws for Queensland. Just as I suspected, the age of consent in Queensland is 16.

This means that attempting to impregnate a 15 year old is rape. Let's see if the article calls it rape.

The girl's 39-year-old mother and 35-year-old stepfather, who cannot be identified under Queensland law, penned a handwritten "contract" with the girl, before the man began having daily sex with her over two-and-a-half months in late 2006.
Hmm, no not there. what about...

They [...] tried for several weeks to impregnate the girl using the
man's sperm, which he had masturbated into a syringe.
When the method failed, however, prosecutors said the man began having sexual intercourse with his stepdaughter up to three times a day.
Woops, did it again! Guess SMH doesn't know that sexual intercourse without consent is rape, and that a fifteen year old cannot, under QLD law, give consent. But it's actually worse than the two sections I've quoted here because:

...the man had begun sexually abusing the girl from the age of 12.
When her mother learned of the abuse three years later, prosecutors said the couple struck a deal with the then-15-year-old that she would bear them a child because their two other biological children had been born with genetic defects.
So, a man rapes his stepdaughter for three years, starting when she's twelve. Her mother finds out, and, instead of reporting her rapist husband to the police decides to use the girl as an incubator. His own defence barrister calls him "disgusting" and "despicable".

Why can't the SMH get it right and call it rape?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My brain

Your Brain's Pattern

You have a dreamy mind, full of fancy and fantasy.

You have the ability to stay forever entertained with your thoughts.

People may say you're hard to read, but that's because you're so internally focused.

But when you do share what you're thinking, people are impressed with your imagination.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Of course, it's the mother's fault.

The Australian media has been following a story about 18 month old twins who starved in their suburban Brisbane home. It is, undoubtedly, a terrible thing - the kids, a boy and a girl, died of malnutrition and were left dead in their cot for a week. No one outside the house new they existed, their mother says "I don't think I fed them enough" and the father claims he hadn't
seen them since Christmas.

Obviously, something went terribly, terribly wrong.

This article, in the Brisbane Times highlights some of what is continuing to go wrong. The father's lawyers are claiming:

prosecutors would have trouble making a possible murder charge stick, arguing his partner had sole responsibility for the care of the twins.
The court heard that despite living in the same house with the toddlers, the woman and their four other children, he had not seen the dead youngsters since Christmas.
-Kellett, Christine "Parent may face murder charges" June 18 2008

This is problematic for a number of reasons. Why can a man who lived in the same house as a woman and their six children, presumably aiding in care for the eldest four be completely free of responsibility for the youngest two? Furthermore, he says he hadn't seen the twins since Christmas, and uses this to back up the claims that he was not responsible for the kids. Personally, (and I'm not a lawyer, or even a law student) I think that the fact he hadn't seen his kids for six months in spite of living in the same house as them is negligent in and of itself. And yet, this is being presented as a defence.

How? It feeds in to one of the sadder and more dangerous myths that our society loves. Woman with children - mothers, mums, mummies - are magically and instinctively better able to care for them and happily and naturally bear the burden of responsibility for raising them. This is so much bullshit. A pair of breasts does give you magical nurturing powers. I only know the details that the newspapers have reported, and from I can see, this woman, caring for six kids, all under 12, with (presumably) little support from the father (and allegedly, no support at all in the case of the youngest two), with 'relationship difficulties' existing between her and her partner who nevertheless still lived in the same house - this woman finally broke down. Two children died. Why didn't she feel she could ask for help? What happened in that family?

And yet, if it isn't just media tomfoolery, the father thinks that arguing that his partner was the sole caregiver gets him off the hook. It's the mother's fault, of course.

Almost as disturbing is the way the Sydney Morning Herald has been reporting the case. Consider the following:

The mother, who appeared overweight and wearing a brown prison tracksuit with her hair tied back, kept her eyes downcast throughout the briefing.
The toddlers' father, 28, also appeared in court wearing handcuffs.

- Kellett, Christine, "Twins 'dead a week'" June 17 2008

The mother appeared in the dock first, barefoot and wearing a brown prison tracksuit.

- Kellett, Christine and Dick, Tim, "How could toddlers starve to death in suburbia?" June 18 2008

What's disturbing about these articles is that the journalist(s) felt the need to describe the mother's appearance - but not the father's. Why? Is it because the most important thing about a woman is her appearance? Why was this necessary? Why is it relevant. Quite frankly I find it bizarre - or lazy filler.

Except. Look at that the first excerpt again "the mother, who appeared overweight" and consider the social implications of going barefoot to court. It isn't a desperate woman with potential mental health issues being blamed here. It's a barefoot fatty. A slovenly, stupid, uncultured fat hick. No wonder they were sleeping in different rooms. You can't expect a man to sleep with a fat chick!

Two children dead, and the resulting media storm revealing disturbing and hidden facets of our own society, victimising women, victimising one woman who didn't (couldn't?) follow society's dictates.

Of course it's the mother's fault. She's fat.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Someone at Channel 9 is a geek. The opening music for tonight's State of Origin was Doctor Who theme music. Specifically, "This is Gallifrey, Our Childhood, Our Home".

I laughed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

For shame.

So, the inaugural post for my swanky new blog. Why am I blogging? Because I think words have the power to change things. Because as a writer I think writing about it (whatever 'it' is) is acting. Because I think words have power, and are too often devalued, or used carelessly.

Thing is, I'm a Feminist. And I get kind of sick of people telling me that's stupid. I get sick of people saying that feminism is dead, that it is unnecessary, and can we please get off our soapboxes and go home? But feminism isn't dead, it's not finished and we haven't won. There is still a tendency in the today's media to frame conversation about women in overwhelmingly misogynistic terms. And if we complain, we are called 'hysterical' (itself a rather sexist term) or 'humourless'.

Case in point: Yesterday, June 9th 2008, The Sydney Morning Herald published this article by Paul Sheehan. Sheehan is commenting on the American Presidential Primary Campaigns - specifically, the end of Clinton's campaign, and declaration of Obama as Democratic candidate. Interesting enough subject matter, even for someone who hasn't been following American Politics with particular attention. I have, however, been following Shakesville's Hillary Sexism Watch which made me... really angry, actually. But not too angry, because I immediately assumed, smugly and incorrectly, that it was a purely American problem.

Thankyou Paul Sheehan, for making me open my eyes.

There are many articles, in many different blogs, about how sexist attacks aimed against one woman hurt all women. That isn't what I meant when I called the Hillary Sexism Watch a purely American problem. Surely, thought I, no Australian commentator is going to level sexist slurs against an American politician. Surely, thought I, we aren't that low.

Thankyou, Paul Sheehan, for proving me wrong.

I shouldn't have to explain why that article is so offensive. In a perfect world, the offensiveness of the article would see it languishing on the editing room floor. Of course, the world is far from perfect, and it turns out that Australian journos can be just as misogynistic about American politicians as American journos. Nothing to be proud off.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of my peers would see nothing wrong with the article. The (deeply disgusting) cartoon will get a brief snigger, and the misogynistic language will slip under the radar. This is a problem. In order to change sexist behaviours we need to recognise. It is not OK for any journalist of any nation to describe any politician as "the pit-bull who was loath to let go". What really gets me, though, is that the traits that Sheehan criticises in Clinton (tenacity, determination, willingness to slog it out) would be praised in any other (male) politician.

What's worse is that Sheehan seems to know he is being a sexist prick, but he tries to shrug it off as just another delusion of those damn feminists ("can we please dispense with the hoary nonsense that Hillary Clinton lost because she was a woman?") Ironically enough, I agree: Clinton didn't lose because she was a woman. If I understand American politics at all, she lost because she didn't get enough votes. I'd say, though, that the misogynistic attacks levelled at her by all sides didn't help. And these attacks would not have been levelled at her if she wasn't a woman.

After this attack though, Sheehan gets confused. He starts talking about Bill Clinton, and about how his infidelities damaged her campaign. He claims that an article on Bill Clinton "inflicted collateral damage to the political standing of Hillary thanks to all the women who have been named as having had affairs with her husband". I fail to see the link between Bill Clinton's affairs, and Hillary Clinton's campaign. Unless, of course, you're talking about the spurious link drawn by right wing pundits relying on cliched and hateful attacks in order to put the uppity woman in her place. Why talk about Hillary when you can talk about Bill? We all know that a woman is merely a reflection of her husband. He also accuses Clinton, "the feminist flagbearer" of rationalising away these allegations. Which... what exactly is his point?

Apparently that Clinton wanted power. Whilst this progression of ideas may seem clear to Sheehan they are less so to me. From this point on, Sheehan's article dissolves into a mass of muddy logic. In fact the whole thing is a mass of week supposition, stitched together with sexist cliches (and that's not even touching on his slurs against Obama). Instead of talking about actual, you know, issues, the first part of the article is a poorly stated, poorly thought out attack on a political candidate who dared to be a woman and dared to have an unfaithful husband (and the idea that was even remotely because of her is another sexist assumption I'll leave for another time.)

It's not just sexist, it's sloppy writing. For shame, Sheehan, for shame.