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So Saturday is supposed to be the scheduled date for the Rapture. You know. Where all the righteous get hoovered up to heaven to leave all us sinners behind.
So who’s for sorting out parliament on Sunday and rolling out a properly left wing legislative agenda? No more crapping on about the carbon tax, no more dilly dallying: gay marriage rights, equal pay, Indigenous sovereignty, accessibility, free education, all the things that always seemed to get blocked by douchebag god botherers like Abbott et al?
May 11, 2011 Part one on the new single parent education program. My experience. Or “Do you think you deserve it?”
There’s a bit of talk around about a new pilot program the Gillard government has announced. Depending on where you read it it is assistance to help educate some of society’s most vulnerable, or a tough crackdown on welfare teens whereby payments will be withheld if teen parents do not enrol their baby in childcare at the age of one in order to go back for HSC-equivalent qualifications.
I’m slightly ambivalent about this program. I need more information and I don’t have the time to find it yet. All I can do to start thinking through what I think about it is to talk about my experience and read more and write about it later when I have time to research it more. I’m in the middle of essays, about to start cramming for take-home exams, I’ve been up at four a.m more days than not in the last two weeks, I’m working four days a week, I’m studying three legal subjects this semester, I’m raising a special needs child who got himself into the ‘selective’ (gifted and talented) stream in a nearby high school, and yes. I was a teen parent, and today was the day I could tell Centrelink I have begun to earn ‘too much’ for their support. (I expected an alarm to sound and for someone to whip around to collect my ‘pension card’ but the only message was ‘Oh well. Report again next fortnight, you might get something then’. They’ve never really grasped the concept of permanent work where the pay is the same each fortnight).
I don’t need convincing that education is the ‘silver bullet’ because I have been working hard for ten years (having to take two years off in the middle when the participation rules changed to not include education anymore) to get a double degree in Arts Law so that I wasn’t consigned to a job that bored me and never paid me enough, a job with no job security, casual work in customer service where 1 in 10 customers would treat you like dirt – the only sorts of jobs I could get when I fell pregnant as a teenager, and when my child was small. I’m not running down the people who work those jobs, though I am running down the casualisation of the workforce and the cycle of poverty and entrapment those jobs can create. At 30 I had almost NO super because of those jobs. My son is (or was, he’s much better now) a chronic asthmatic who would be hospitalised with accute attacks once or twice a year. There goes the rent for the week.
I don’t need convincing that there is hopelessness and despair in our society, or that teenage pregnancy can trap people in a cycle of poverty: not enough time to study even if the self-belief is there (it wasn’t for me until a counselor insisted I wasn’t depressed I was bored and needed to be challenged), too tired from trying to pay the bills, ground down by lack of sleep and isolation and work involving standing all day and why can’t I make it work, why can I still not pay the bills, what is wrong with me?
I don’t need convincing that there are whole areas where unemployment, drinking and teen pregnancy are huge interconnected issues. I’m also not asserting that only ‘some kinds’ of kids get pregnant early. But I grew up in areas that were pretty bleak in their outlook, areas with high unemployment and suicide rates, little money and lots of aggression, places where it was hard to ‘dream big’, where it was hard to imagine any kind of successes, where the major entertainment on offer if you didn’t have a hideout group (I spent my teenaged years at a local youth group and despite being an atheist now I will forever be grateful for the excuse to get out of the ‘beach parties’ where the boys killed ducks and gang raped drunk girls, and no I am not in any way exaggerating that) was to get shitfaced drunk at the local oval leaving girls particularly extremely vulnerable. I grew up in areas where girls were just there to stand around admiring whatever idiot thing it was the boys were doing and where boys had to prove their ‘manliness’, where my friend described sex with her long term boyfriend as feeling like a ‘stick’ in there but where she felt compelled to continue with it.
I remember reading and reading and reading as a child. I read and re-read Anne of Green Gables pining for an existence of muslin and bosom-friends, and brooks and fields and cracking slates over boys heads. I knew there was more, and different, a place where I wouldn’t always be yelled at and slapped, where people didn’t argue about stupid things, where nice things actually happened and weren’t just promised if Dad won on the horses (which he never ever did) and I had an insatiable appetite for it. But somewhere along the line I got ground down. I didn’t believe in myself or my prospects, I didn’t believe in my capacities or intelligence, I didn’t see anything around me worth aiming for. I took off to uni to escape but it lasted a year, and the wheels fell off and I thought ‘Screw it, everyone else is getting drunk and having sex and not caring, why can’t I’. Again, nothing wrong with drinking and sex per se, but when you’ve got zero self esteem it’s a road to disaster, and disaster inevitably found me.
I shacked up with the first guy I had sex with. He was a bit of a turd. I don’t know why I hooked up with him except that he looked at me with desire and that made me feel like something special. If only I’d known that at 17 most heterosexual guys were looking at me with desire I might have been a little more discerning. But I felt wanted, briefly, and that was enough. That bit didn’t last long and it got violent. I took off and hid out at a ‘half-way’ house. I met another guy there. I felt sorry for him. That was all it took in those days for me to love something. I just wanted to give sympathy because I believed it would magically ‘fix’ things and I’d seen a lot of shit I couldn’t fix and I wanted to wave my magic wand and live that different life. But well that didn’t work out so well either. Bun in the oven to a guy eight years older, with a messed up past, an inability (or unwillingness) to deal with it, and by the time my baby was born and he was drinking and taking drugs in earnest, the dawning realisation that my life was not quite turning out all ‘Anne-of-Green-Gables’
One excruciating evening I saw a ‘Kylie Mole’ Christmas ‘special’ where she was talking about what she’d been up to and I wanted to die: she was describing my life. I’d dreamed of Anne of Green Gables and woken up Kylie Mole.
There were a couple of ‘moments’ for me in my ‘Isn’t it great the child has a father and his mother isn’t on welfare‘ life. The first when I came home after a day’s work (casual of course) to find miniFPs dad motherless drunk with the music at a deafening volume. When I turned it down I heard my son screaming. I knew he’d been screaming for a long time. I saw red and threw myself at his father – all six foot six of him – I wanted to kill him, or maybe I wanted him to kill me, I certainly screamed the words I knew would make him hit me “YOU ARE THE BIGGEST FUCKING LOSER I HAVE EVER MET IN MY LIFE”. Luckily when he stood up to kick me he fell backwards through the wall.
I took my child and ran to a neighbour and shouted about How DARE he?? and I NEED TO LEAVE HIM! until her oh-so-well-meaning boyfriend convinced me that he was just drunk, and didn’t know better, and go put him to bed, that’s your job in these situations, he loves you and he loves his child, and it will all be okay in the morning. That’s how fucking malleable I had let myself become: I listened and didn’t leave.
Then one day my son was crying and I was furious with him. With him. In reality I was angry because his father was an irresponsible fuckwit and because I was the one enabling it and I’d woken up in my mother’s life juggling hard just to keep things going while your dickhead alcoholic husband continues to act like a clueless irresponsible turd and bumble his way through life glorifying his teenaged years and never fucking growing up, angry because you have to be adult enough for two and it’s a desperate, desperate life situation.
Maybe a week later? I’d gone down one morning at dickface’s request to hock something to get him more cigarettes before he went to work. The hock shop didn’t open as early as I thought and I knew I’d still be home on time so I chatted with my neighbour instead of calling (did we even have a phone line?). On our walk back I told her to leave it half an hour til he’d gone to work and then come up for a cup of tea. When I got back he launched at me as I came in the door and abused the living shit out of me. I can’t remember for what. I just remember desperately trying to get control and being worried about how I would compose myself before she came up. And there it was: I was worried about how it would look to her not about how it actually was. Something cracked and clear as a bell came the thought “I wasn’t built for this”.
I packed up and moved and I took everything I needed so I didn’t ever have to come back. We had a hired tv in my name and I took it with me because I knew he’d smash it in anger.
I didn’t hear from him for a couple of days. I knew he’d gone on a bender and somehow knew that he’d slept with a prostitute. When he finally did call the first thing he said is “Why did you have to take the tv”.
Anyway…that was the beginning of the turnaround I guess: I had to go on to parenting payment, and I moved home with my parents. I got a job at K-Mart and worked casually. It was pretty comfortable, at least compared with living with an alcoholic fuckwit you had to hide the last $20 from so you could buy nappies rather than him buying pot.
After a while though I remembered the dynamic in my family that had bothered me before I moved out and I started to see a counselor. I decided to strike out on my own – first I joined a Christian group that unfortunately was a bit like a cult and they ground me down a bit and told me I could never get married (read have sex) ever again because that’s how God viewed divorce. Then they took me on a ‘missionary trip’ and I had a bit of a meltdown when they took me to Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory when the people I was with showed a staggering lack of the compassion they claimed they had dibs on.
When I got back I decided to move out and into a rental house on my own. I figured I needed a more long term plan and went to do a course on computers: typing, basic word processing, that sort of stuff. It was about then that I found that around every period I would find myself deeply ‘depressed’ staring at the wall, unable to motivate myself to do anything. One day I confessed this to the counselor who said so insistently, with so much certainty that I was compelled to really hear it ‘You are BORED, you need to be challenged, you need an outlet for your mind’. Yes, that sounded feasible – I’d once had ambitions, once dreamed of ‘doing something with my life’.
So I went to a Uni open day and had a bit of an ‘epipha-tree’ moment (or probably it was part of my self punishing ‘Choose the hardest thing you can think of, set yourself up to fail and then punish yourself’ thing that I do) and applied for, and got into (thanks to my marks in that one year of uni) a combined Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws. I chose the hardest thing on offer and ran at it head first.
And now when I look back at the beginning of being a single mother it’s like a different world. Frequently I thought I couldn’t do it. I was told I wouldn’t do it by two close (ex) friends, that no-one expected me to finish. Well fuck all the no-ones, I’ll be a lawyer soon.
I needed the support from the government to strike out alone. I love my family and some things have changed but the dynamic the way it was was not going to work. Though they loved me, and they loved my son I needed to go forward and find out for myself who I was and what I wanted.
It was long and lonely and to be quite blunt I couldn’t get a fuck in like eight years. That was pretty rough. I suppose I could have if I’d tried a bit harder, but I was a Mum and it was awkward and anyway, as tough as that was well praises to your preferred deity or snackfood because it was that I think that really let me have the space to find out who I was (I’m not saying that sex would have hurt those improvements but I do think that for me I needed a lot of time alone to work out what I thought a successful enjoyable life looked like and what I wanted).
I was lucky: I’m a white girl in a world where whiteness is an asset. I was lucky in that I don’t have any hurdles to overcome in terms of learning disorders. I was lucky in that I am able bodied (although I didn’t sleep properly for about a decade and consequently I have excruciating days-long headaches, muscle aches, leg cramps etc). I was lucky in that I met people who challenged me. I was lucky in that I inherited via MiniFPs dad’s family just a small amount enough for the first term at a school that made me want to send my son there, made me fearful of the comparison with the local school in the coastal area I was in, that let me move to Sydney to live in a sharehouse filled with the people who challenged me. I was lucky: I was always able to find some kind of work to get me through. I took a chance and then another chance would seem to open up. I was lucky in that ‘book learnin’ is something I seem cut out to do.
I was lucky in so many ways and still it was the most excruciatingly hard process. It was so lonely, so isolating, so exhausting: no matter what work/study/home balance I struck I always felt I was letting someone down, failing as a parent etc. I couldn’t sleep because the work was casual and I didn’t know if I could pay the next bill. I copped attitude from my son’s schools, I copped attitude from some parents, from some students, some members of the public, and from some teachers.
As it went on it got easier I guess: when I got a permanent job rather than casual the insomnia reduced and I could focus on other things more easily. But even then I was memorably publicly humiliated when a tutor asked for an amusing ‘red-tape’ story and I said that the new participation requirements and the way they were administered meant that every few months I needed to take a day off work to go to the Centrelink office to have an interview and sign a piece of paper to say I would do less than what I was doing (not that they wanted me to decrease just that the ‘minimum’ I had to sign up for I was exceeding about threefold) so they would pay me a stipend of by then about $60 a fortnight and he stopped and stared and said “But do you think you deserve that money?”. (No, knobhead, it wasn’t a story about ‘deserving’ to get it with no hassles, it was a story about red tape, I mean seriously. We want you to do something 15 hours a fortnight: you work (in a permanent role) 30 hours a fortnight and study about ten hours a fortnight, so do you think you could take a day off and we can explain what you already know and get you to sign a declaration that you will make sure you do what you already do?).
Anyway. The point? Education has been everything. I managed to work, and I managed thereby to decrease the amount of money Centrelink paid me but it’s been education that’s helped me grow and change and find confidence and believe I will have a career and to build my child up to believe he can do anything. I know that in sole parent families they say it’s the education levels of the mother that have the biggest influence on how a child will do at school. And that’s not an ‘Aren’t I awesome’ thing, that’s an ‘I’m so grateful’ thing.
To go back to what I was saying at the beginning…no one needs to convince me that education is key. It’s just that with all my luck, with all my ‘blessings’ and strengths, it has taken every ounce of determination I possess, and the support of counselors and friends, and it’s cost me financially, socially, and in years of lost sleep: and all the while I copped the ‘YEAH: BUT DO YOU THINK YOU DESERVE IT’. I am frightened for these girls. They are being pushed into parting company with their babies at one, to get their HSC. And the HSC is not enough: they’ll need more education. And if they DO it, if they do what is considered ‘right’ they still will cop the ‘But do you think you deserve it?’ attitude. The ‘Shouldn’t you have just dropped out, accepted your lot and worked in KMart for the rest of your life so you’re not a drain on society’ line. Never mind that my education will serve the nation, never mind that their line is the more educated I am the better off my son is, never mind that I didn’t do what they expected of me and shack up with some other guy and have more children, never mind that my son’s flourishing and I have worked almost the whole time and reduced the payments made to me, never mind any of that because as a single mother you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t and the overwhelming message, whatever the choices you make will be “Yeah…but do you think you deserve it?’
So says proud douchebag Joe Francis “Girls Gone Wild” founder.
I’ve never seen his videos. I could care less to get into a debate about the relative merits of his videos, I’m not calling him a douchebag *because* he makes them (though I’m sure an extremely strong case could be made for that argument).
I was only vaguely aware of him at all until I took a study break and read this story about how four (now) women who (then girls) appeared in his videos have lodged complaints of distress, and of ostracism, ridicule and social and educational consequences of appearing in the videos. (Sounds about right: “dudes” want chicks to act like this cos PHWOAR, then everyone will punish them cos: ‘whores’*).
So, reading I am, when I get to the bit about how he represents himself in the matter (you know, not cos he’s not rich enough to afford to *hire* a douchebag lawyer to harrass these women on the stand, but because he is like super awesomely smart and knows so much SHIT right? And…because he wants. To do it. Himself.), and how the Judge holds him in contempt because he asks one of the plaintiffs if she is a prostitute (after he had been warned to tread gently with the plaintiffs in his cross-examination of them).
So okay, he’s completely a turd, I dislike him already, unsurprising, but (silver lining?) he was held in contempt (yippee). BUT THEN…
“I’m feeling fantastic,” Francis told the Panama City News Herald.
“I’m just happy it’s over. This thing has dragged on long enough.
Sounds like he’s taking things seriously, huh?
What about his attitude to being held in contempt?
“I think the judge was wrong,” Francis said.
Oh. Well okay. I mean the Judge has the years of law school, of legal practice, and is like, not only a legal expert but a JUDGE, but you make videos with boobs in them…I guess if *you* think the Judge is wrong about what constitutes contempt of court…(did I mention two women left the stand in tears?). Why is the judge wrong?
“I shook them like a tree until all the fruit fell out, and I shook them violently.”
I’d like to kick that man’s ballsack so hard his testicles popped out his ears. And generally I’m all ‘Oh, no violence. As tempting as it is’. But…OUT THE EARS I TELL YOU! So you know, he disagrees with the claims. Hire a legal representative. Oh no, no…he’d like to do the cross-examinations himself. Because he has the salient points to make! (Like “Slut!!”). And he appears to fancy himself the legal expert: representing himself, conducting cross-examination, eschewing the judge’s definition of contempt, and bragging to us all about his cross-examination finesse. And because he wants to stand there and call them lying sluts himself. They’re saying they’re traumatised, that they’ve paid a high price for being in the videos he arranges, and he decides he personally wants to ‘shake them violently’…just for the kicks. No, he’s no misogynist!
I put it to YOU Douchebag McFuck-Knuckle that you are a complete arseface with a shitty attitude to women: you’ve made your riches off getting them to get naked and ‘nutty’ but you reserve your right to infer that they are therefore worthless, lying, opportunistic whores. I mean you WANT them to be ‘crazay sexay’ but then you want to punish them and say their words count for nothing because they’re ‘crazay sexay’. And you think you’re awesome for ‘shaking women violently’. Die in hell. With your nuts popping out your ears like grotesque parodies of easter eggs.
* I’m saying in fucked up patriarchal logic, I’m certainly not saying *I* think any such thing. Cos I don’t do that ‘good girl’/'bad girl’ crap, or at least I try to catch myself out if ever I do and give myself a good talking to about not being such a damned fool
March 15, 2011 “I’m not an arsehole, it was only 200 dead people then” or as MiniFP Quotes “No. No “however”. Just be wrong. Just stand there in your wrongness and be wrong and get used to it”
ETA: apologies for my poor maths last night! 70 years since Pearl Harbour attack, not 78
ETA: oh boy. This post is RIDDLED with mistakes. September the 10th?? Sigh. I’ll fix that. It kind of takes the fun out of being snotty and rude when you have to come back and announce your silly oversights!
A writer for The Family Guy made the following comment on Twitter about the Japanese earthquake:
“If you wanna feel better about this earthquake in Japan, google ‘Pearl Harbor death toll.”
He’s since apparently awakened to the fact that he’s a complete dirtbag and as his mea culpa tweeted:
Yes, because *yesterday* when there were ‘only’ 200 people dead (and ten thousand missing as a cursory glance at any headline would tell you) it was *okay* to imply that the Japanese somehow deserve death, fear, destruction and *punishment* because Americans died during a war. Never mind that the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ‘paid back’ those deaths over one hundred fold, that it was
78 70 years ago, nevermind the Japanese internment camps, America’s tendency to bomb the shit out of other countries, America’s use of Japanese land and military basis in its later wars or any inconvenient facts like that.
No, a natural disaster involving funny “Asian people”, it’s time for a joke, a racist joke, a joke that says ‘Well haha, they deserved it. That’s what you GET when you kill USians’. If he thinks it’s *not* that fucked up then let me ask what he’d have said if I’d said on
10 11 September 2001 ‘If you’re feeling bad for Americans today, google Klu Klux Klan’.
It wasn’t the fucking *death toll* which made your arsehole comment arseholish, it’s the fact you’re an arsehole and made an arsehole comment that makes (you and) your comment arseholish. Own it buddy it will do you good.
In a news story about an eleven year old girl gang raped by up to EIGHTEEN MEN (and presumably boys/adolescents since some were in high school) the two quotes included in the story about the effects on the community are these:
”It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a medical worker at a local hospital who says she knows several of the defendants. ”These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”
Do you think that any one of them could have thought of this before they decided to rape a child for shits and giggles and FILM IT? I don’t actually CARE at this point. I understand that if one of them ever actually develops a shred of humanity/empathy/conscience they might FEEL BAD for having raped a child, but you know what? Fucking FEEL BAD, because you raped a child. You collaborated with your mates to gang rape a child and film it. So keep on feeling bad.
Has this quote been taken out of context, or is it in any way possible that Sheila Harrison has decided to focus her angst and sympathy on the rapists in this scenario, and not, say on the eleven year old child who was just gang raped?
The second quote was from the school district’s spokeswoman with:
”It’s devastating, and it’s really tearing our community apart,” the spokeswoman said. ”I really wish that this could end in a better light.”
It can’t. It’s the gang rape of a child by up to eighteen men and teenage boys. How can it possibly end in any good light? What ‘light’ is there to change what is just a heinous heinous crime? I wish it could have NEVER BEGUN. I wish that the community had been able to I don’t know, run programs on respect for girls and women, on sexual violence, I wish a whole bunch of things, but they don’t involve wishing THIS could ‘end in a better LIGHT’ but that it had never fucking happened, that it wouldn’t happen, that we lived in a different society, that this was discussed, and aired, and challenged, and responsibility taken and boys and men challenged for every disrespectful attitude BEFORE, so that it didn’t happen. And as for those boys…well I *wish* I could beleive that any of them had enough human empathy to be ABLE to feel bad, but I don’t care about soothing that self blame. They can live with it, they can live with their choices, and frankly my sympathy goes out to the girl who has to live with *their* choices.
On the one day a year where we’re told it’s acceptable to consider women as fully human, and think about how the world is for women, SMH are running a story about workplace sexual harassment claims that they say have been sparked by Kristy Fraser-Kirk’s recent case against David Jones. Given that last week there was some fairly eloquent commentary from the current Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, that it would provoke other women to come forward with their stories instead of keeping quiet, and that this was a good thing, and that anyone considering Fraser-Kirk (or by implication other women making sexual harassment claims) as ‘gold diggers’ was continuing to perpetuate misogyny, you’d think that on this day (the 100th anniversary of this day even) SMH might show a little respect. While the article itself is not offensive, and is simply a rehashing of elements of last week’s feature on Elizabeth Broderick, the headline writers have outdone themselves.
The headline for the story? Copycats: Fraser-Kirk sparks new discrimination claims. Then when you click through “Fraser-Kirk case triggers flood of claims”. Well done Sydney Morning Herald. Copycats? Women coming forward with stories of workplace harassment are dismissed as being schoolyard ‘copycats’? Floods? No, that’s not alarmist language. If you read the article, it says there will be 100 more claims this year if the trend to report it more continues. Given the population that’s hardly a landslide, but thanks for startling people into thinking that these ‘copycats’ are going to totally collapse the system with their floods of bogus claims. Fuck you.
There was one link to anything related to International Women’s Day, being an article by Annie Lennox, but the rest of the stories featuring women were of abuses, broken celebrity engagements, a video of a model dancing, childhood pics of Kate Middleton, and an article saying Michelle Obama is ‘hot’, ie seen as warmer than her husband. In amongst articles on the price of milk, the guy who accepted free ‘sex sessions’ in order not to report breaches of building codes, a toddler mauled by a dog, a guy who is demanding to know if the judge is Jewish or a Freemason and all the usual crap. If you look hard enough you can find a tiny link to a story about the governor general talking about quotas.
Happy International Women’s Day 2011. It’s nice that after thousands of years of oppression and violence we get one fucking day in a year and the mainstream media could care less. I guess at least it wasn’t a big pink-fest.
ETA: Took a quick spin through sites to do a ‘front page’ test.
Well the ABC news website contains NO clues to the fact that it is IWD.
The Guardian is off the hook so far since it’s still Monday there and they already have a link up to this article (click through to watch the video).
The NYT has nothing, but again, it’s only Monday there.
On the ‘aternate media’ front, Larvatus Prodeo so far has nothing up, and same with Crikey. It is prior to business hours so let’s see how the day progresses shall we?
ETA (9:35 a.m) Nothing on Crikey or LP still.
ETA (10:00 am) SMH has removed the link to the Lennox article from the front page. In the ‘Life & Style’ section (what the FUCK?) there is an ‘inspiring women’ link, full of the faces of grinning white women. And directly under that ‘Women prefer funny to flawless’ with a pic of a bare male chest just so you know they’re not talking about ‘Those Lesbianists’. The section under the main banner where the Lennox article has been bumped from now has the primary spot given over to Sophie Monks fucking engagement break off. I don’t know, Monk may be LOVELY, she may be a feminist wonder, but I don’t fucking CARE about her engagement break off. It isn’t news. Whereas, hey, the ONE HUNDREDTH FUCKING ANNIVERSARY OF IWD…the one article directly addressing that? That was news but it’s now bumped). The link still works to the Lennox article, it’s just not on the front page which means no one new will find it but for links shared on Facebook etc.
Still nothing on Crikey or LP. Good work people.
ETA: 11:55 am. Still nothing at Crikey or LP. Link to the one major article on IWD still missing on SMH, gone too is the link to the article on the Governor-General and quotas. ABC news now has one small link to an article on the lack of gender-related pay equality. The article itself from a quick scan seems very good, but it’d be great to have something more prominent on the front page of the 100th anniversary of International Womens’ Day.
ETA: 7:39 am Wed 9 March Another article buried in the smaller headlines on the front page today – article is good, but headline says ‘Women dominate but men rule’.
I had a slow morning a couple of weeks ago: Mondays are my study days and this was one of the rare Mondays off before Uni starts back where I don’t have a specialist appointment or canteen duty or something to take up the whole day. I had one appointment later in the day so I decided to watch a movie while I continued covering school books.
I had a copy of The Hangover lying around. I don’t know what possessed me to watch it since I already knew what to expect. I think I probably even knew that it would (at least in part) make me feel like shit. But I watched it anyway. Cos it’s ‘just a movie’ right? I thought it might be vaguely entertaining. And it was just that. Entertaining…vaguely. It’s just that in amongst the slick production and the vague entertainment I had to deal with:
a/ the ‘cool’ friend declaring that his life was shit because he was married with a child, let’s get to Vegas/I may never come back (his wife whom it turned out he adored was of course both utterly stunning and virtually erased as a person, i.e she’s there at the end to stand and be beautiful for him to have his ‘moment of realisation’ but she doesn’t offer any opinions, or seem to display any personality, she’s just gorgeous, agreeable and wrestling his child into submission for him)
b/ the ‘nerdy friend’ being what I guess they’d call ‘pussy whipped’: his girlfriend was (of course) a nagging ‘shrew’ type, who turned away from his farewell kisses, who demanded obedience, who beat him (which is played as being humorous and only a ‘problem’ in that it showed just how ‘dickless’ he had become) and who had fucked a bartender on a cruise ship and yet was suspicious about his bucks night adventures (and only *this* type of woman would be suspicious about a dude’s god-given right to go fuck some women with his buddies right?)
c/ being given ‘rufies’ played for gags (date rape drugs, haha, how funny)
d/ the inevitable ‘OH WOW, LOOK AT HOW MUCH PUSSY WE GOT WHILE WE WERE AWAY – WE’RE *AWESOME*
You know, I fucking knew it I guess, so why did I ‘let it’ bother me?
Well for one thing I see over and over again that women are sort of expected to go along to these sorts of movies/watch these dvds with their boyfriends, cos it’s a ‘movie’. Whereas say ‘Morning Glory’/'No Strings Attached’ is a ‘chick flick’ and therefore an unfair burden to place on a man.
For another I find it frustrating that these movies have such a massive appeal. The message they send is that women suck, relationships with women suck and most of all marriage sucks. Men who are married are ‘dying a little every day’, women are in control, women are sucking their will to live, controlling them, dominating them, and keeping them from the outrageous adventures they would otherwise be having. They all ARE or GET or WOULD LIKE TO GET married (presumably to the same bland women at home who literally in these movies have almost no presence and certainly no discernible personality – except that is for the Devil-Woman-Ball-Breaking-Bitch. But you know, you score no points *not* being her, since even if you are the apparently lovely and gorgeous wife waiting at home you are derided as the ‘ball and chain’ and the thing ruining your man’s life/holding him back).
I understand why this has appeal as it’s a story men LOVE to tell over and over, to themselves and to each other and to anyone who’ll listen, or any woman caught in the crossfire (apparently invisible during Man-Bonding/Chest-Beating sessions): that BUT FOR their ugly sexless harridan bitch wives who DEMAND children who FORCE them into parenthood, their lives would be one long rock and roll party scene! They’d conquer the world but for their wives! They’d be rich and famous but for their wives! Sexy and wanted but for their wives! Powerful and in demand but for their wives! It’s all about them: they’re the ones who would be having adventures and conquests but for marriage. But if it wasn’t for them, their wives would…still be ugly sexless shrews desperate to pop out more babies and break men’s will to live. Obviously not all men tell these stories. But those that don’t…HOW often do they throw down and challenge their mates when their mates do? How often do they actually say ‘That’s both ridiculous and offensive. I don’t want to hear it’. How often? Well let me say in 35 years I have *never, ever* heard a guy actually throw down like that. Because it’s ‘just a joke’.
So you know, a MOVIE that celebrates men’s spirit and humour and oh so wacky escapades when they for once in their lives escape the clutches of their shrill nagging womenfolk? WHOOOOOOOWEEEEEEEEEE, we’ve never seen THAT before. A movie I as a woman am expected to enjoy/tolerate/find amusement in when the women in it are not people but a bunch of caricatures? Stereotypes that soothe the irritated man, that tell him it’s okay, women are WIERD, OTHER, UGLY, HARRASSSING, BALLBREAKING…or HOT AND UP FOR A ROOT…or good, sweet, kind women who tell you you ‘deserve’ that weekend of immature drunken sleeping around. (I’m just wondering how he’d have dealt with it if she’d said ‘Yes, you deserve it. As do I. I’ll be sleeping with that co-worker I’ve been lusting after, okay?’. Ohhhhhhhh no. WOMEN BELONG MAN!!)
The thing about it is that once you got PAST all of that some of it was vaguely funny – it’s basically then an adventure story. There’s a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, a missing friend, chases by criminal types, the cops get involved and there’s a time limit to ensue crazy antics galore. Except that it was ALSO homophobic. And racist. And ablist. And predictable. And tedious.
I don’t mind a bit of dull predictability and I don’t mind a ‘dick flick’ but for fuck’s sake people, do we HAVE to celebrate all the varieties of hatred that the white middle class hetero male has cooked up to make himself feel better? He’s so fucking oppressed that the only way he can ‘escape’ and cut loose is to flee to the dessert to take drugs and drink and fuck hookers and molest Asian men and steal from black men and…
I met up with a friend and we discussed watching these ‘harmless’ movies, you know? Movies portrayed as just dumb, meaningless, just a chuckle – except the revolve around the idea that women oppress men, that women are to blame for all that is wrong in their lives, and their women are the only things standing between them and sex-addicted rock stardom and general outstanding and universally acknowledged awesomeness. Except that they set men up as BEINGS, as CONQUERORS, as actual people with desires and thoughts and lives and stuff (albeit total dickwads half the time) but set women up as absent (as in the case of the ‘good woman’, she is good because she is accomodating of his shit and almost silent, she offers no opinions other than ‘Oh, you’re wonderful! Sure fuck around!’) or stereotypes (hooker with the heart of gold – though she’s afforded no real respect, he screams ‘I married a WHORE’ in horror and even though he likes her – because she’s so kind and accomodating compared to his girlfriend – he doesn’t go back to her. Because she’s a hooker. So that clearly wouldn’t be suitable! Isn’t it fun. The wives get no respect then the prostitutes get no respect…hey I see a theme here!) or of course the ball breaking bitch from hell. What male bonding cautionary tale would be complete without her? But those are our options…absent, nothing, bland, oblivious to our partner’s fucking around and totally accommodating of his every whim, or reduction to a prop, a stereotype only there so the men can bond over the hilarity (OH!!! BOOYAH: she’s not just a stripper! She’s a HOOKER!!! That’s just how *bad* she is).
As we pondered these movies my friend said that sometimes when she thought about these storylines she felt the ‘full weight of feminist despair’.
But what tipped me right over the edge into this despair was standing (on the same day) in line at Coles, feeling the full weight of feminist despair and then seeing this old guy in Coles walk straight up to these young pretty high school girls in short skirts and you know DEMAND that they stop what they’re doing/talking about/thinking about and PAY HIM SOME FUCKING ATTENTION. And listen to his diatribe on how they had to COMM-UUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-NI-CATE and EEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNN-CCCCCCCIIIIIIIIATE with ‘us oldies’. Because you know, he has a RIGHT to their time and attention and politeness don’t you know??? He’s seen two pretty girls in short skirts and he WANTS TO FEEL THEY THINK HE’S IMPORTANT and goddamn it he should be afforded some respect! And if he has to get it by force and hijack their time and make a scene and bully them into submission well by god, that’s just how it’ll go down okay?
I have to confess that in moods like that I really really struggle with being in a heterosexual relationship. It’s not *my* partner who did those things but suddenly I’m angry that he’s a part of a culture that already expects him to experience me as a ball and chain that already expects him to cast his roving eye always at younger and ‘fairer’ game, who expects he has no sex, gets no love, feels no compassion and care coming towards him. I feel angry that it happens and angry that he hasn’t stopped it somehow. I feel scared that this fury is going to seep like poison into our relationship. I go from commitment and calmness to wild panic and despair and depression. I see again this reflection that a commitment that was asked for (will you marry me) is treated as something the guy stepped in, something revolting, that the women who’ve made this commitment are treated so poorly, talked about so badly and I freak out. Sometimes I want to be married, sometimes I don’t, but we chose together a relationship of monogamy. Is that monogamy going to bite me in the arse and take me from being a real person putting all their energies into building a full life and into navigating communication, into being fair and open and listening and engaging and just reduce me to nothing? To a stereotype? To a punchline? Even if *he* doesn’t do it, his friends or acquaintances will at some point. And? And who will be there to say ‘Oh shut the fuck up, you have NO idea what you’re talking about, it’s offensive and wrong generally and you’re utterly wrong specifically. Why is something I give so much to set up as something that is worthless, less than worthless, an oppression of his potential?
Some days when it all gets to me I want to grab him and demand explanations, to ask him what he will do to make sure it stops, to ask if he really gets what I bang on about, if he takes it seriously, if he understands why it hurts so much to see the casualness with which women are run down again and again. What he’ll do before it’s too late for his daughter? What he’ll do afterwards to explain to her? What he’ll do in defence of me, in defence of other women? I want to grab every male friend by the ear and say ‘Well if you can SEE that it’s wrong, if you GET that it’s a real fucking problem then WHAT??? What *are* you doing? Apart from continuing to watch the movies?’. I want to shout that I’m sick of agreement and headpats that go nowhere, as in really: WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? If you’re not actually going to be brave enough to tell your mates to shut the fuck up when they talk this trash then don’t soothe me by saying you get it, it’s wrong, it’s bad when you know you won’t do anything. Why not say ‘Well your anger frightens me, but honestly I think that the way the world works is fine for me so I wish you’d just deal’, or ‘Well you know I *do* think it’s horrible but I won’t ever do anything outside this room to defend these views, I’ll just let you defend them’, or ‘Well sometimes I’ll do it but to be honest it depends on the context and whether I care about whether that other guy thinks I’m pussy whipped, so probably I’ll stay silent when I care about the person’s opinion’.
I don’t know what to do with this rage either. I mean I get the social pressures etc, except why is it that we’re the ones who have to say something? When the reactions to us can be so much more hostile and aggressive? I mean sure you might be called a ‘pussy’ but you can’t deal with that? I struggle to figure out how to negotiate it, I feel sad when the rage becomes anger at actual people, men I know and love. I worry that it’s not ‘fair’ to them. They’re good guys, they do say things sometimes. But all I can say is that while it might not seem ‘fair’, it’s more unfair to know it’s real, to see that it’s real, to feel lost yourself about how to deal with it, to continue to engage in those sorts of stories, to laugh along, to know it’s problematic, and to see it’s causing actual confusion and pain and expect me to stay silent about how I feel. The world IS horrible to women, the oppression of women IS real, ‘over there’ and over here. We don’t live in an equal world. And then we have to eat a shit sandwich every time a new ‘bromance’ movie comes out because we’re expected to laugh along at how we oppress by virtue of being, how we don’t really exist as people to men, how we’re typed and classified and ignored and derided, and treated like SHIT again and again. I mean really. Wow. So when the rage gets too much and I want to demand answers from specific men and they’re frightened? All I can say is I’m frightened all the time – I live in a world where my chances of getting raped are statistically the same as men’s chances of being raped in jail…I live every day with the fear that you would live with if you were put in jail tonight. It may not be fair to turn it back on you and say ‘I’m angry and what are you doing’ but it’s all I’ve got, it’s how I feel at times and to expect me not to ever talk about it seems to play back into these stupid movies ideas about women: good women shut the fuck up and make everything always completely comfortable for the men in their life.
At least if I air it I know I haven’t shut my mouth so that I get seen as the ‘unusual’ good girl, the easy woman, the ‘exception’ to the rule.
I met up with a friend tonight and we ate at Spice I Am. We had a great night of catching up and when it was time to leave I headed back to the QVB to wait for a bus home.
I became aware that there was a couple next to me and I saw him take her face in his hands and they kissed as though it was their last night on earth.
She turned abruptly and got on the bus and I chanced a look at him. He was grinning like he might explode from happiness and he didn’t care who saw it. He put his hands on his forehead and looked up at the sky and shook his head with this incredulous and joyful laugh.
I started to smile and realised he could see this but I couldn’t not grin: their joy was infectious.
He walked to the back of the bus and as there was a crowd waiting for the next bus I lost sight of them for a moment. Trying to be slightly stealthy in my mission to witness a little bit more joy I stepped sideways and fowards slightly.
They were both laughing like they might cry and there was a lot of gesturing and waving of arms and more laughter before the bus left. Again I looked at him and he was beaming, almost levitating with joy. I started to smile again – it was all just very sweet. He walked towards me to head off on his way beaming and looked right at me, saw me smiling and threw his head back and laughed.
Sometimes people don’t suck.
You know I have occassionally read something by Elizabeth Farrelly and enjoyed it. This is now a fact that makes me question my own critical thinking capabilities having read a couple of her articles on ’women’s issues’.
I’m not quite sure what the bug up Ms Farrelly’s arse is about, but it seems to have something to do with hating feminism. I’m not sure if she sincerely understands feminism to be the way she portrays it (I find that hard to believe since she appears to be an educated woman and the rampant misrepresentation going on is, well…both blatant and rampant) or if she wilfully talks a bunch of trash since it’s way more fun and emotive to set the old Straw Feminists on fire then piss on them than actually engage with real feminists and feminism.
But onto the article in question. The ‘Challenge For Feminism: To find an honourable role for men’. Thanks Liz, couldn’t have found a challenge without you and I’ll get right on that, it’s obviously top priority.
On a small note before I launch into the substance of what is MY bug up the arse re this shitpile of an article, I would like to question the entire premise. Say that men ARE lost and looking for a newly honourable role. Firstly who’s to say feminism doesn’t already try to address issues of feeling anchorless and not knowing what the ‘rules are’ anymore, but secondly and more pertinently to my mind WHY EXACTLY DO WOMEN AND FEMINISTS OWE IT TO MEN TO FIND THE ANSWER?
Has a revolution occurred that I am unaware of? Have men started uprisings in the street for gender equality and women’s rights to be paid equally, to have control over their fertility, have men taken sudden and decisive action on combatting rape and domestic violence? Have laws been passed that allow women to decide when and how they will carry a pregnancy to term? What I’m getting at here is that women have larger and more immediate fish to fry than some vague ‘Men WANT to be good but don’t know how and feel lost in the workplace and have no place because all women everywhere are SO SO efficient that it’s bad and makes men look bad’. And if we’ve not had large scale comprehensive male assistance in frying those fish exactly WHY is it our challenge to drop those collective frying pans in order to sort out some vague male ennui?
Further, since I don’t actually want to be all tit for tat, it is mostly for me about the fact that feminists (unlike Farrelly) believe that men are fully capable human beings able to examine and find resolutions for their own questions of How To Be A Good Man. Men can’t find an honourable fucking role for themselves? Who’s treating men as weak and pathetic now Farrelly?
Nevertheless, put that to one side if you will since the ACTUAL feminists I know are in fact concerned about gender roles and what they do to all of us, except that we concentrate on what they have done and continue to do – you know in real life – rather than on constructing fairytales of bullshit and deceits like Ms Farrelly’s article of today.
So onto a consideration of this steaming pile of horse dung (must we?).
Where or WHERE to start?
It is the beginning of an article. Cast your mind if you will to a fabricated scenario where Wonderful Men are simply trying to enjoy the celebration of their birth and All They Have Earned. But BitchFaced McGee wants to ruin it all with her SOUR and ugly visage, her bitterness of spirit that shows forth on her face. For yes, she (like most women – women Ms Farrelly would like to distinguish herself from) Hates Men and wishes fervently for their Utter Demise.
BitchFace McGee is clearly representative of all women (or at least all feminists – other women may have sweet kind faces that come from doing exactly what is amenable to others, particularly men, at all times). She is a card carrying member of the Monstrous Regiment (no I’m not paraphrasing, those are actually her words. Monstrous indeed, seeking things like fair pay and the right to have sex when and only when they want to and with whom they please….scary evil bastards!).
It’s about here I start to get lost. Sourface at a party says ‘It’s our turn’. Ergo men need affirmative action (but affirmative action for what? Why? What’s changed. And oddly it seems affirmative action for women or on the basis of race would be bad or silly). Because you know how it works. A woman makes a comment at a party and the world changes, bibbity bobbity boo.
So now the world is different. And it’s UNEQUAL…in womens’ favour! And clearly if that *was* the case (though we have no evidence whatsoever that it is) it would be an International Crisis. Whereas unequal in mens’ favour is the norm, is natural, is a situation we can all understand and relax under.
Okay, well we’ve all heard this old chestnut before, political correctness gone mad, equality gone too far, feminists don’t want equality they want to dominate men, blah blah fuckity blah.
This (somehow) leads to Farrelly asking what women want, then (rapid change) to the question of ‘Do feminists want to feminise men?’.
So from women are about to take over, to men need affirmative action, to ‘What do women want’ (failing to see the links), to ‘Do feminists want to feminise men?’.
Well stop just a minute: this only works if being ‘left behind’, having lesser job opportunities is something that belongs to women, is a feminising thing, is linked to femininity. The market always told me it was supply and demand, efficiency, the best person for the job. And now someone’s telling me that gender does have something to do with it!
We can’t pause here, there is too much shit to cover.
Does feminism – do we – really want to feminise men? Probably, on balance, not. Most women would say no, they’d rather have men as men. It’s just that women unleashed – as fully operating political, professional and economic (as well as personal) entities – have proved themselves so terrifyingly competent, there doesn’t seem to be much left for men to do.
Women unleashed! Terrifying competency. Stop and marvel a moment. I’m terrified by many things but competency isn’t one of them. Or unleashed women come to that. The concept of “men as men” makes me kind of concerned because I’m not sure what this Essential Manliness would play out as, but given the context of the article it sounds as though it’d be some kind of conquering barbarism tamed just sufficiently to be stuffed in a suit, given the top job and a mistress and a glass of scotch and going back to the good old Head of the Household days.
I’m not even going to touch the idiocy of the ‘smacking is similar to sadism/paedophilia’ (or sadism is anything like paedophilia) stuff.
Blah blah men do everything to impress women, blah blah til we get to: “research shows that even in divorce, even in bachelorhood, women fare better than men”.
Research? What research? Oh piffle, don’t worry about that, carry on, look ho another False Feminist for me to fell!
So I think what she’s just said is we’ve usurped the traditional role of the man as bread-winner, flower-buyer and bottom smacker (and of course are responsible for the decline of society since women are Not Smacking Enough Bottoms). Which (somehow) leads to this:
This is a turn-up. It’s as if women’s power could only grow by sucking it from men. And as if, having gained power, women cannot stop themselves, even when it’s not what they want, using it to remake men and boys in their own image.
WHAT is a turn-up? Apart from these ludicrous claims being made.
Where is the evidence of this increased power of women? What is the link between increased power in women and decreased power in men? Is there only X amount of power to be had? Why was it okay when men had more power than women but automatically bad IF we can say that it’s reversing? Where is the evidence of men languishing, crying into their beers, wistful for a child’s bum to smack, flowers wilting on the bar top with no one to give them to? Why is smackig a kid’s bum a ‘man thing’? Who hates flowers rather than saying it’s not necessary for men to buy gifts constantly? And remaking men and boys…what? Just gimme a break lady, one outrageous claim at a time!
It’s all about a totalitarian desire to force others into conformity claims Farrelly. Hmm. With what *might* do women ‘force’ anyone? What conformity? Conformity with what? Inherent Female Beliefs and Characteristics? Like what? Unemployment and a refusal to smack kids’ bums? Really that whole paragraph seemed to be about Farrelly’s desire to name drop Westboro Baptist Church and compare feminists with religious extremists and totalitarians.
And here I think we’re getting a little closer to the bug/issue:
For it’s not that women, as mothers, teachers, wives and bosses, want to switch roles with men. It’s not like we’re staging a mass walkout from our child-rearing or home-making roles. Rather, it seems we want to be men and women, both, and we want men to do this also.
If we were neglecting our children to become men, Farrelly could like respect that. But the absolute audacity of demanding to be treated as fully human, to participate in all areas of life whether traditionally ‘mens’ or ‘womens’ domains? Well it’s outrageous. And expecting to see and holding out that full humanity to men. Well, you might as well lop off his dick with a carving knife ladies because you’ll be turning that man into a pussy by expecting him to take part in child rearing and cleaning as well as paid work!
The effect – in terms of roles, but also looks, behaviours and even disease (with more women now suffering male-pattern disease, include reduced longevity) – is a gathering of both genders towards some central norm.
My brain is making a dull clunky-whirring noise as it struggles to process this. Stepping outside of rigid gender boundaries it seems will Make You Look Like A Lesbian (and herein may be the real problem for Farrelly) and make you *act* like a boorish thug (or a flower buyer) and will ultimately…send you bald! We’ll have a society of bald people! Help! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
For some reason this alleged centripetal force of feminism, pulling us all towards a core of responsibilities and rights across the board contrasts badly for Farrelly with the allegedly centrifugal force of (the allegedly long distant) patriarchy where Men were Men and Women were Nonexistent and never a problem there was.
Now (according to Farrelly) women seem happy with all this, but you know men, they’re slow. They haven’t really had a reaction yet despite the fact that The Patriarchy is ancient history. And they may not cope/may not have been coping. Women coped with the former inequality, and it wasn’t a problem that required men to do anything to solve it but you know, women ARE terrifyingly efficient and men terribly slow witted…
Then she crosses the bridge too far for me and lobs in the shock bomb of the sexual assault of Lara Logan. I’m not sure if she’s TRYING to link feminism with the blame for this (though I suspect so because it immediately follows the raising of the issue of how power is obtained and what is done with it). First she implies that feminism has pulled us far from this ‘tribal’ mentality, then she wants to pause quizically and ask ‘But hang on, isn’t this to say that men are too weak to resist rape?’
Now, please do not for a second get me wrong here, when I read that story I hated the entire universe for a full 48 hours and I’m still talking myself down – I am NOT defending it, not minimising it, not suggesting for a second it wasn’t the most horrendous story I’ve read in a long time - I’m only saying that in suggesting that ‘feminism’ has pulled us far from that is to ignore the sexual violence against women that is rampant in Western societies, and to insinuate that there is no feminism in Egypt. It’s again to credit women with the ability to shape and change the world, and responsibility when it stays the same, and to cast women as ultimately responsible for changing men, for curbing their violence, and to let men off the hook regarding stopping rape what could men possibly do? At the same time, Farrelly tries to suggest that it is *feminism* who holds forth with views of men that at heart see them as ‘too weak’ to resist rape or do anything about it when she’s just done it herself. Feminism didn’t have a thing to do with how she chose to jam these ludicrous thoughts together, and feminism doesn’t suggest for a moment that men are too weak, too simple, too bad to resist rape!
Feminism demands that men be held accountable and that men get off their arses and hold each other accountable, that men treat women as fully human, that they pull their weight, around the house and in matters of politics and law and society, that they don’t leave the ‘fixing’ of the fucked up gender shit to the women, that they see the construction of society as it is, that it favours white male able bodied priviledge, and feminism does all this precisely because it doesn’t see men (as Farrelly does) as somehow ‘less able’, ‘less competent’ or ‘less efficient’. Just frequently more comfortable with the way things are. Feminism critiques the foundations of gender structuring to critique WHY it is that masculinity is constructed as combatitive and hostile, why it is that it sees itself as threatened by otherness, of how masculinity and femininity and heteronormativity and many other concepts shape and define all of us – how we can find new ways of being when there’s no escape from what we’ve learned on a bodily level. Feminism does none of the silly bullshit it’s accused of in this article.
The rest of the article decends into a lament of the rejection of chivalry by feminists (not being versed in chivalry and history I’ll leave that for others to explain) and then some fucked up shit about horses and sexuality and women not being able to see a powerful beast without wanting becoming aroused by the idea of dominating and controlling it. Apparently feminism is again to blame for this urge, and Farrelly applauds it – to a point. So the ‘muscular control’ of men (as opposed to say expecting men to “control” themselves, and be fully responsible adults and also to actually speak out when their friends are being misogynist turds) is an aim of FARRELLY’s be clear, and not feminism, but then she fears we (women?feminists? Becuase women have an inherent desire to dominate) will turn men into asses. Okay I’m paraphrasing there. But I think the jist is we’ll ruin all that sexy man-beast POWER and turn them into something ridiculous and impotent, unable to spawn offspring (like mules) and cause the destruction of the entire human race. You know, something reasonable like that.
(I should say at the start I’m taking Didion’s conception of ‘self respect’ to mean simply allowing for your humanity/failings/contradictions – to let yourself be flawed, to work on flaws but not work over and over them berating yourself. I find ‘self respect’ a somewhat judgmental sounding phrase, and I just wanted to clear up my understanding of what she’s saying and what I’m saying when I talk about it so as not to be condoning any sort of ‘Pull yerrself up by the bootstraps and get some self respect about ya’ kind of view)
I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday that jumped out at me because of its sensible, compassionate approach to the question of motherhood. It was in response to an earlier published article that by all accounts lacked any such sensitivity or comprehension of lives and the different struggles they contain. Since I’d read a post by Mindy responding to the insensitivity of the first article, and since I was struck by the beauty of the way this new author had cut through the bullshit and really acknowledged the complexity of parenting, I posted a link to the article in the comment threat at Hoyden, to be informed by Helen from A Cast Iron Balcony that the author is a blogger from Melbourne. This didn’t surprise me as I frequently see a lot more thoughtfulness devoted to a blog post by those at Hoyden, and the bloggers I know from that forum than I ever expect from mainstream media.
After the usual morning shenanigans involved in getting a child of thirteen with Asperger Syndrome and ADHD out the door for a Monday morning (incessant chattering from him while I’m blearily reheating leftover chilli con carne and preheating his thermos, watching him drop the bowl, followed by the honey lid – face down of course, herding him through his various tasks) I sat with my morning coffee and decided to visit the blog Helen had pointed me to. I trawled through say the four most recent posts, liking the author more the more I read. I like an author that can really share – share the realities of their day to day life, share their emotions even where they’re not going to be seen as ‘sensible’, someone that can evoke exactly the scene they describe. And then I got to her (Jabberwocky’s) post on anxiety and self respect
I’ve had some wins in the work sphere, which is great. But every win seems to make me more anxious about the next task or goal, the potential for failure more loaded. Which makes it harder to concentrate on that task. Which makes it less likely I’ll complete it well. And I keep taking on too much work because I’m afraid to say no, afraid to miss out. Worse, I’ve been chasing work when I should be planning a rest, because I need to have done it. Because I need the adrenaline rush of a ‘yes’. Each commission is another cotton-bud balm on my anxiety.
And the less I sleep, the harder it is to think and work efficiently; thus the more frantically my brain whirs through its to-do list at night. Depriving me of sleep. Making me more anxious.
Yes, perversity rules.
Over-concentration on every detail is obliterating the big picture. The pinpricks of every task and every associated worry dance before my eyes and merge into a gauze of anxiety, blocking my internal access to the machinery of analysis and action. An afternoon is wasted fixating on an imagined slight. An evening passes with a tape of a recent social occasion running in the background of my brain, scanning for slip-ups. I am poised to take offence, my skin dangerously thin, nerves pulsing too close to the surface.
I need to press control-alt-delete. I need to reboot. I can’t.
Oh my LORD can I relate to that! And while I describe it in varying detail to close friends, I usually don’t fully articulate the process like that and the description triggers such a response of recognition in me that my words and ideas are tripping over each other in their rush to get onto the ‘page’: I’ve felt the exact sensation of being unable to sleep because I can’t ‘turn down the volume’ in my brain; I’ve had to trick myself into snatching sleep too: I can’t do it in bed, but if I use the air mattress in the lounge when I’ve resigned myself to a night of no sleep I can usually drop off; anxiety: every woman I know seems to have experienced some ongoing form of anxiety; counseling: I wish everyone had a good counselor; the things that have helped me; the ways I wished people talked more explicitly about anxiety, the specific symptoms they experienced etc.
Growing up in a volatile family of over reactors permeated by alcoholic men I don’t think I even understood that I was anxious, let alone self respect. I knew I deserved better than shouting and hitting, I knew it wasn’t right. I knew I was a pretty good kid, I knew I wanted something vastly different for myself. Unfortunately I didn’t quite remember that or know how to actualise any of it, or realise that my self esteem was pretty well fucked and after my brief ‘freedome’ I did wake up at 21 having been in abusive relationships, having done the stoner thing, having married and divorced a man with substance abuse (amongst other) issues, with a child, on my own, back in my family’s house going ‘What the hell? That wasn’t how it was supposed to happen’.
I did take charge of that to the best I could with the very little resources I had (and I was lucky, there are many in the same situation with less resources) – I had no degree so I set about remedying that, first a computer course at TAFE then biting the bullet to go back for a double degree in Arts and Law (middle ground and moderation have been struggles for me for as long as I can remember). I felt miserable living where we did – while it was close to family support it was also a cultural backwater (at least from my perspective) – if you didn’t have a super strong community like church (and for a while I did but eventually I walked away from it) it was scenically pretty but White Blokey Thuggish Pub Culture. The school friends I knew there (the few that hadn’t fled) were just doing the same ol’ same ol’, and I tried but I had nothing in common with them. I knew I wanted more, something different, for myself and for my son and that chystalised around enrolling him in school – I’d fought long and hard to get him to the local school I favoured only to have it dawn on me that it still wasn’t what I wanted for my bright, funny, left of centre son. I remembered those schools – the angry thuggish kids from angry thuggish homes, and I knew it would be a matter of time before my son got the shit kicked out of him and slightly longer before all that I loved about him started to deflate under the pressure of school in that area.
We moved to Sydney with all the financial risks that involved, and moving away from the support of babysitting, cooking etc that my family had provided. But it also felt like an important step towards real independance from a family I felt so tightly enmeshed in and controlled by. But you know: I was a kid with a kid, I was studying and working and raising a child and that started to wear really thin. I had constant headaches, I couldn’t sleep. I was constantly taking on more, trying to prove to myself and the world that I wasn’t their idea of a single mum, that I could do it, I could succeed, I could carve a life of dynamism and achievement. I think that my relationship with my son got more volatile around that time too: he was getting older, experiencing the intense frustrations of school for a kid with special needs, coming home exhuasted and really acting out. I had no preparation: my child went from a delight to be around to someone who completely exhausted and already exhausted me. I didn’t know how to back off from any of it either: if I stopped studying I had no career or financial future to speak of, I simply wasn’t good enough at anything else I was aware of to think I could earn a decent wage and have a satisfying life without the degrees; I couldn’t not work as I needed the money and government support was not enough; I could hardly ‘step back’ on being a mum. Life was constant juggling and reassessment, stress, strain and noise and I reacted by becoming more highly strung, self blaming and not really (or not really knowing how to or even that I should) looking after myself.
I couldn’t sleep properly and that went on for years. I was romantically and sexually lonely but I was so locked into myself that I couldn’t really put myself out there (even if I did meet someone I was interested in which was difficult being older than other students and living in an area with very few people my own age). The anxiety, the filling my time so full that I didn’t have the time, even if I’d had the inclination and facility, to look after myself, the guilt and self blame, the constant performance to the world of the person I wanted to be and be seen as was just completely exhausting. I was so at pains to show who I was by way of opinions and arguments and thoughts, but simultaneously hiding any needs, any vulnerabilities, any oddness or silliness: I continually reinvested in putting myself out there as fiercely independant, as smart and strong, as capable and funny, as someone to be respected. And so I was – those things were and are important. But independance? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes its really self defeating. And strong? Yeah I am, but how was anyone supposed to nurture me and give me what I needed if I pretended I needed nothing? An odd and silly? Well what’s the point of trying to hide all that?
Anyway I’ve really tried to work on all of that, to ask for help, to start to say no, to stop filling my time so very choc full that its not possible/highly stressful to do the things I want to do to take care of myself, to show my specific strangenesses to the world, to admit it when I’ve been a total turkey, to show my hurt or vulnerability, to start to allow others to help rather than ‘value’ an independance that was beginning to devalue me and all the work it took. And I feel better all the time – except that sometimes the more progress I make the more I get hijacked by the ‘documentary’ Joan Didion discusses (cited in Jabberwocky’s post):
To do without self-respect … is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that deals one’s failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening. There’s the glass you broke in anger, there’s the hurt on X’s face; watch now, this next scene, the night Y came back from Houston, see how you muff this one. To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, the Phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commissions and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice, or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.
I had seriously never considered it an issue of self respect before, and I can see what she’s saying here. I’d be at pains to say that I don’t think anyone should be taken to task over ‘not having sufficient self respect’ since so frequently the people with these issues are those who’ve been shown so little respect or support by the world – it ends up making individuals responsible for a knowledge they had no access to, no way of gaining – but in the end for myself as a white university educated woman with stable part time employment, this does seem to be what it comes down to: such a desperate desire to prove to the world what I can do, to demand respect for my skills, having come so very far and changed and achieved so much and yet I don’t acknowledge my skills and achievements to myself sufficiently enough that I can give myself a break, forgive myself for not being perfect. I would disagree that self respect is the only factor at play here – how for instance for all those years I was casually employed and trying to juggle everything was I supposed to be able to sleep easily – but it does seem a rather significant one, particularly with reference to the way in which I ‘don’t sleep’ – that it’s the continual replays of the ‘failures’, and it’s that I’d like to change, for myself and for my relationships with others (apart from my son, who, being so continuously close sees me from all angles, sees my wrath, my exhaustion, my fear and tiredness, my silly moments, my unpleasant moments, as well as my bravery and laughter and joy).
I liked Joan Didion’s association of this anxiety/self respect issue with what it does to your relationships with others as well as with self:
To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out – since our self-image is untenable – their false notion of us.
This is something that’s been churning over in my mind lately: that in my relationship with TBO I’ve shared so very much but frequently withheld ‘messy’ emotions in some attempt to have him see me only as strong, capable, fair, reasonable. I’ve shown him tears and I’ve shown him anger at times but to really let him see it right there when I’m hurt and feel like a mess inside instead of transforming that confusion and pain into a coherent argument at arms length, to setting out what is and isn’t okay, to words-words-words-words-don’t look at me right now-words; and that there is, in the end, a lack of honesty in not allowing him to see that. Which of course (magically it always seems to me) when discussed, when brought to light in the context of a healthy relationship ends up bringing new understandings and revelations and trust.
But also that I don’t allow others to see my vulnerabilities; that in my forceful independence I don’t allow others to help; that I’ve achieved so much but that it might be time to stop packing my days and hours so very full that I’m continually guilty about what I’m not fitting in (which was inevitable since I made sure it didn’t fit); that taking time to be able to spot responses and challenge them, taking time for exercise to release that stress, taking time on my own rather than continually offering to cook for everyone, taking time to just be quiet and see what surfaces, taking time to fit in the things I need to do but not at the speed of light, that that isn’t in fact selfish, that the best way to go might not be to know I have to and beat myself up for not, but to do it and acknowledge that it’s legitimate self care.
Anyway, thanks to Helen for pointing me the way of (the) Jabberwocky, and thanks to Jabberwocky herself, for sharing her experiences of stress and anxiety, for introducing me to Joan Didion, for words that resonate and clarify – for sharing insecurities which I always think is such a brave and generous thing to do.