Thursday, November 16, 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The right to kill

So ONE of the too many to count reasons why I did what I could last year (and really for many a year prior to that) to fight to stop the election of this lunatic to lead the most powerful country in the world, was because of his shrill rantings on the campaign trail about how 'they' would take away people's guns and he, if elected, would make sure they didn't.

Unfortunately I was up against some slightly more powerful people, not least those that make money from selling guns in the US. The US gun lobby (the NRA) that boasts 5 million (mostly male) members, including this lunatic leader who it describes as a 'true friend and champion', spent over $30 million last year on getting him elected, more than they spent on any previous candidate.

One of the first things the NRA's political puppet did once in office was to undo the regulation introduced under the Obama Administration to make it harder for mentally ill people to buy guns.

One of the first sentences out of the mouth of the lunatic leader after the latest mass shooting in a Baptist church in Texas that killed 26, mostly women and children, was 'we're dealing with a mental health situation here.'

Then he went on to say that if it wasn't for the man who shot the killer while he was leaving the church after having killed or wounded everyone in it, that one man with a rifle - against the guy with the machine gun - 'we would not only (my emphasis) be looking at 26 dead we'd be looking at hundreds.'

What a load of man shit.

There's a connection here that shouldn’t be ignored: The most common thread between America’s mass shootings is a history of domestic violence. (Rolling Stone Magazine, Nov 7)

The main reason this idiot was elected to lead the most violent nation on earth, rather than the anti-violence, pro-gun-control female candidate he was up against, is also the main reason why so many mass shootings occur in the US every year, other than the increasing availability of high-powered guns to anyone no matter their mental health or history of violence against anyone, least of all women, and that is men's hatred and resentment of women, the principal cause of domestic violence, the most common form of violence in the world.

I, who have studied the causes and consequences of domestic violence, have long known this, as have other feminists, it is something new and reassuring that a popular magazine like Rolling Stone with a significant male readership, which probably won't be accused of 'man-hating' and thereby dismissed, is acknowledging it and making it public.

Hopefully the deaths of the only 26 and the only 58 in Vegas just a few weeks earlier, both by men with a history of violence against women, and both whose victims were predominantly female, will not be totally in vain, unlike the deaths and injuries of their millions of sisters worldwide who are the victims of violent attacks by the men they know every year, whether by guns or fists or acid or anything any man with a 'mental health' problem can get his hateful hands on. 

Thanks too to Chelsea Handler for listing at the end of her most recent Netflix show all the Republican members of congress and senate who have accepted donations from the NRA.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Jazz chickens?

Eddie (front) and older brother Mark in the late 60s
I've just finished comedian Eddie Izzard's book Believe Me: A memoir of love, death and jazz chickens and can recommend it, though you won't find too many jazz chickens in it, unless Eddie's the jazz chicken, which seems entirely possible; as he is indeed both funky and tasty (apologies to the vegetarians).

Moose and I have been big fans of this jazzy trans chicken with the big goofy grin and surreal comic talent for many a year, finally getting to see him perform live here in 2015 to a massive crowd and many a time before that on screen in various incarnations, both as a comedian and actor.

Acting was always his dream and, as he tells us in his memoir with great delight, he is now getting decent acting roles, including playing Judi Dench's son in a film to be released next year. But for my money he's a natural born comedian with a character that is too large and multi-faceted to fit other people's lives, though I still enjoy his acting performances, as I did Billy Connolly's, who is a similar, if less jazzy, chicken.

His memoir is no great writing feat and is rather short on intimate moments as well as punchlines, but you definitely get to know this funky jazz chicken better than you could through his stage performances and that is a very good thing. He is a sincere chap who has wrestled with some identity demons as well as the tragic loss of his mother when he was only six, to come out the other end with a clear vision of who s/he is and a mission to make the world a better place in his own unique, unpretentious, way.

We believe you, Eddie, and wish you all the best of luck. Jazz, as you prove, is underrated.     

Friday, November 3, 2017

Miss Protest

I learnt something surprising about my father-in-law yesterday: he thought beauty pageants treated women like 'cattle' and would not have them in the house, as it were, back in the 70s and 80s when these glitzy sexist fests were all the rage the world over and only extremist feminazi man-hating lesbos protested them publicly.

He is no longer with us and when he was alive he hid his feminism fairly well (as did almost everyone, until very recently), but I am glad to know, better late than never, that he was a closet feminist of sorts, because if he was then other straight white privileged men might be too, with just a little more prodding.

When discussing with my daughter the recent protests by Miss Peru contestants who recited on stage their country's gender violence statistics instead of their bust, waist and hip measurements (cattle indeed!) her response was 'just don't do the fucking contest in the first place!' which is fair enough, I think. She is the age of these contestants who sign up to parade around in matching gold bikinis and tight dresses to be ranked like cattle - by men like Trumptard -  according to their measurements, high-heeled strut and insipid sugar and spice smiles, and she would never degrade herself (and womankind) in this way. And that is a very good thing.

However she could also see, as all thinking women (and some men) can, that this battle for women to not be treated like cattle - and much worse than cattle - must be fought on all fronts and is far from a simple matter of avoiding watching or partaking in beauty pageants.

And so she and I, and her father, if not quite her brothers - who remain in the feminist closet and declined to comment (though taking an interest in learning something rather surprising about their grandfather) - could agree that the protest was a positive and gutsy step in the right direction, not least in the direction of women standing up for women instead of competing with each other, in the shallowest of ways, for the amusement of men.

The juxtaposition of bikinis and brutality I think strikes a particularly powerful chord of protest that resonates well in the present climate of women speaking out, and together, against powerful sexist and abusive men the world over.

To fighting on all fronts and in all fashions, from bikinis to burkas.   


Monday, October 30, 2017

Zookeeping: women and war

The true story of WWII resistance, courage and compassion as first documented in the unpublished diaries of Antonina Zabinski, the wife of the Warsaw zookeeper during that brutalising war, then much later retold in the 2007 book The Zookeeper's Wife by poet Diane Ackerman, and finally brought to a wider audience this year in the film of that title by New Zealand director Niki Caro is a new kind of war story, one told from a female perspective.

It is a beautiful story focused on life, instead of death, and without Antonina, then Diane, then Niki, the wider world would not know of it, not know of the courage and compassion of this Polish woman and her husband who risked their lives to save as many as 300 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto amidst the most brutalising, terrifying and compassionless horror imaginable.

As most stories of women's compassion and courage and cleverness have been all but lost to history, with men's stories predominating in what is told and retold, especially of war, this change of perspective that uncovers and tells of this long obscured history is vital. That women are coming together to tell our stories, old and new, more than ever before, is one of the most progressive aspects of modern life, and one that I believe is, or could be if we don't resist it, as some are, a game-changer that moves us towards a world without the brutality of war.

Never mind lest we forget. This is a case of lest we fail to realise that women risk their lives, women resist and women care, often in ways and at times where and when men fail to. The will to war and brutality is not an essential part of the human condition and women's voice shows us this in a way that we have not been shown before.

Lest we fail - to see and to hear from women.

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Justice is the juice that makes the sometimes bitter fruit of life sweet, but it doesn't grow on trees...

I have just caught up with the 2015 movie Freeheld, and want to recommend it with all my heart to anyone interested in seeing how true justice (equality and freedom) works. Justice is a fight,
a never-ending war, against the prejudice and privilege that is built into our laws and practices, our values, beliefs and social norms that were set up to protect and defend those in power against those without it. It is rarely the mere working of those laws and it is rarely ever realised in full.

The movie Freeheld produced by and starring Ellen Page and based on the award-winning documentary of the gay women who fought for equality and justice and ended up setting in motion the wheels that would legalise same-sex marriage across the US is an excellent dramatisation of one of these rare moments where justice is realised in full.

It is a real life Philadelphia adapted by the writer of that powerful and pioneering gay-rights film, though not receiving anything like the same accolades, I hope not because it's about gay women not men. I thought it was just as powerful and being based in a real-life life-changing story for me makes it even more moving, if it does lack the show-business shine of a Hollywood drama.

I read yesterday that Ellen DeGeneres is heading down under to Australia with her wife Paige to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary and support the passing of same-sex marriage legislation in that country, my country of birth, that has resisted this progression. As Ellen's so public coming out helped (and helps) so many other gay people, including Ellen Page, to come out - and then to produce and star in this important film, among other things - her courage in the fight for justice must also be acknowledged and commended. I hope she succeeds in helping to sway public opinion in Australia towards justice, because justice breeds justice and helps the fight against prejudice and privilege for everyone everywhere.

So thank you to the Ellens and to all the other women and men whose fight for justice for gay people - and for all people - help to make the world a freer and fairer place for all of us. We are all equal indeed. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Queen making

So for a country of less than 5 million people New Zealand doesn't punch above its weight, as the macho boxing metaphor goes, it pioneers above its weight (never mind sport). And the recent election of the world's youngest female political leader (Jacinda Ardern), as mentioned as the first news item on Wiki's front page yesterday, attests to this fact.
What's more, as it is the country that was first to give women the vote, and first to award a university degree to a woman, and first to accept a woman in the role of a church leader (Anglican), and first to elect and twice re-elect a left-wing woman prime minister (Helen Clark), I am of the view that though we have a shamefully high rate of domestic violence and a significant gender pay gap and have just come out of three looooooong terms of a right-wing, male-heavy government with a leader who was one of the first to congratulate Trump, a lot of what we get right is down to this pioneering history of women being in leadership roles in government and society. We also have a number of world-leading women film directors and writers.

That said, it's still a bloody battle. The majority of New Zealanders did not vote for Ardern's Labour Party, but for a fourth term of the male-dominated and led right-wing party that had cut taxes for the rich and done everything to make worse and nothing to improve the quality of life for the majority of New Zealanders or to tackle the serious environmental issues facing the country -- and the world.

But still the majority (45%) voted for them, partly because they had SO much more money to market themselves as the good guys who will make everyone rich and suddenly turn-tack and end poverty and any other bullshit that money could buy. And Ardern and the party with a long history of caring about social justice -- fighting sexism and racism -- and countering the corrupt inequalities of modern capitalism, who had much less money and much more integrity so could not shovel the shit as their shameless opponents did, got just 38% of the vote and had to rely on the Greens and then the centrist party NZ First, which is led by a former right-wing male politician, Winston Peters, to put them into a position to form a centre-left coalition government.

Because Greens would never go right-wing, it was down to Peters to become 'king maker', as he was called by the media, and for 25 days the country was kept in suspense about which way he would go, which was too much power for one man and a party that only got 7% of the vote, even though it was kind of cool that he is an indigenous man, even if he has not necessarily been a friend to his people in the past.

Fortunately he did the right thing and became queen maker instead, but it should not have to be such a bloody battle, for women and for justice. My nails and nerves are not up to it, nor should they have to be. Hopefully Jacinda and her centre-left government will turn the tide for good.