Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Woody's Witches

So this is what a witch looks like one is to presume, as she - film director and former actor Sarah Polley - is one of the women now speaking out about Weinstein and other Hollywood men in power who abused her and other women and got away with it for decades. Indeed she describes Weinstein as merely "one festering pustule in a diseased industry."

To use Woody Allen's phrase, women like Polly who speak out about these abuses threaten us with "a witch hunt atmosphere" that is "not right either". Indeed to quote Woody in full:

“You also don’t want it to lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That’s not right either.”

Why is that not right, Woody? My PhD supervisor used to wink at me whenever he felt like it and I did not like it one bit, it felt like and was a demeaning abuse of his power. He was Head of Department at the time.

It should not be up to men - as it always has been - to decide what is and what is "not right" in terms of their actions towards us, not least men in powerful positions, such as Woody and Weinstein and Trump - and my former supervisor. The list is long. Women need to have our say, to speak to power, and so we are, and let's hope that the men who try to silence us this time by calling us witches do not, for once, prevail.

So bring on the witches, stand aside Woody, Weinstein and all the other winking wankers.

Disclaimer: I do respect the more creative endeavours of these men, but resent the fact that they get to create and make crazy sums of money all too often at the expense of women.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Battle of the Sexes


Writing my thesis on women who kill their abusers, I was all too aware of the tendency of those who are quick to condemn these women, along with the refuge workers who try to help them avert this outcome - as well as the much more common outcome of the murder of the abused woman - as 'man-hating feminazis', I challenged the notion that these women and the feminists like me who support them in trying to prevent and fairly punish the perpetrators of domestic violence are engaged in a 'battle of the sexes' with all men.

This concept 'battle of the sexes' I - and various other feminists before me - argued was unhelpful, as it only fed into men's characterisation and condemnation of feminist efforts to make the world a fairer place for women as a battle waged against anyone, which it is not. It is a battle for justice against injustice, which is not a person or a gender but a complex system of discrimination and dehumanisation that treats male humans, even before they are born - even before they are conceived - as superior to and more important than female humans (a fundamental, all-encompassing injustice) and in doing so directly and indirectly causes the violent abuse of girls and women that reduces the human experience for everyone.

Men wage war and fight us-versus-them battles between different groups of people, including men and women. Women - at least feminists - fight for justice, a many-sided never-ending battle without winners - yet. We are all losers in that battle right now and we will all be winners if it is ever won, a possibility that is a million miles - but hopefully not quite as many years - away, but a possibility nonetheless. 

For this reason I am not a fan of the name given to the film about Billie Jean King's life and the tennis match she played against Bobby Riggs, but I do like and highly recommend the film even so. It's a moving and telling real-life story about a great tennis champion and feminist who fought against gender discrimination in sport that should have been told in film a long time ago. That it is being finally told in 2017, forty-four years after the event, is no doubt testimony to the significant strides feminists have made in the film industry and beyond in the last few years, if not this year in particular, thanks, in large part, to Hillary Clinton.

If you have to lose the battle to win the war, as she did, then so be it, but it is nice to win some of those battles too. Thanks, Billie Jean King; you are a feminist hero indeed.





 



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Guns r US


Guns don't kill people, people do.

Never a bigger lie was told to make a dirty dollar than this one.

People (men) with guns kill and maim people by the tens of thousands every year in the divided states of America. The statistics on mass shootings alone as published here in the Guardian (1,516 mass shootings in 1735 days) are so unfuckingbelievable it is surely beyond the comprehension of any sane person with a human head and heart to grasp.

And yet we the sane and sincere of heart have to live - and many of us die - with the reality that this is our fucked up, shot up world, especially if we happen to live in the US, but we all kind of live a little in the US these days. What happens there shapes everyone's values, fates and fears to some extent.

I was in Boston (with husband and daughter) about to train through Connecticut the day of the horrifying (can't find an adequate adjective, this will have to do) school shooting there of 26 six-year-olds and their teachers ten days before Christmas 2012 by a 20-year-old with a semi-automatic weapon (he also shot his mother) and will NEVER FORGET the images and stories of unimaginable grief from the parents followed by the despicably callous and totally fucked up response from the NRA and gun lobby suggesting the answer is to get primary-school teachers to wear and be ready to use guns at all times.

Of course arming primary-school teachers is not going to stop a Las Vegas-type massacre. To stop that cowardly machine-gunning down of hundreds of people from the safety and comfort of a hotel room without restricting the sale of fast-fire guns to civilians - something Democrats have been trying and failing to do for decades - you'd have to frisk everyone who walks through the doors of a hotel in Las Vegas and everywhere else in America (and scan their luggage), every time they walk through the door not just on check-in, for guns. Because the latest mass-shooting cowardly fucktard had a dozen assault weapons in his hotel room, long guns he obviously couriered up to his room unseen. Or perhaps he carried them out in the open dressed as Rocky and no one batted an eye, because it's all so lovely and legal. So even if this level of frenzied frisking were possible, you would still need a law banning the transportation of assault weapons into a hotel, which seems inconceivable.

No, that will never happen, not in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

These reactions to the Vegas shooting from Ellen and Jimmy Kimmel should be seen by all.








Monday, September 25, 2017

Menism


So New Zealand, the country that first granted women the vote, has just shown in its re-election of a right-wing party that is essentially of and for men, that it, like the US, continues to stand at the altar of menism, the first (and last) cult indeed.

In its desperate bid to curb the rise of women - justice, equality and truth - the corrupt cult of Menism worldwide is reviving and regrouping against these ideals that women have consistently fought and voted for. Indeed they are the ideals and values of feminism alone, not socialism, not liberalism, not environmentalism.

It is a sad day for New Zealand, and for the world, that with such a clear alternative in favour of equality, justice and truth presented to us we have voted for this corrupt cult yet again, if not all of us (46%) and there remains a slight possibility of a centre-left coalition government forming yet, but only with the help of a paid up member of the cult gone rogue, a man now being called, and treated as, 'King-maker' indeed, which says it all.  

And so just like America, so like America, though we pretend otherwise of course -- English (so aptly named) has better hair and is less orange but no less hairy and white -- we baulked at the gates of freedom and showed we could not handle the truth and did not care about justice. An opportunity missed; hopefully the last.



   





Saturday, September 23, 2017

VOTE


As they say, stand up (hand up) and be counted or sit down and shut up. Your choice.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The people's politician


In the first country in the world to grant women the vote, on this 124th anniversary of Suffrage Day indeed, if ever there was a clear choice to take a country forward into a future that has any hope of bringing about improvements in the quality of life and prospects for the majority of its people and doing the opposite of that by continuing to increase the obscene income and asset inequality between the richest 1-5% of people living in that country and everyone else by cutting public education, community sector and health care funding that removes vital support life-lines to all sorts of people struggling with life, increases the debt a whole generation of young people head into their futures with while extending the length of time people wait with life-threatening illnesses for treatment in the public health system, for the sake of cutting taxes to the rich and opening up borders and loopholes to allow overseas property speculation and ownership to price the younger generation out of any prospect of home ownership in the country's cities where the job opportunities are, along with those who have underpaid public service jobs in the education and health care sectors who are unable to afford the cost of living to remain in the cities, bringing about chronic shortages of teachers and nurses in those cities that are ultimately handed over to the rich and greedy here and overseas to outbid mid-level investors and buy up large with no intention of living on the land they buy for the profits they squirrel away into trust funds that escape taxes on and or send offshore to build the economies of countries elsewhere, it is the choice between LABOUR and its new no-bullshit, let's-do-this-good-and-right-thing young leader Jacinda Ardern and the other party with its been-around-in-wrong-wing-politics-forever-and-never-done-a-thing-to-improve-the-well-being-of-his-country's-people leader in the upcoming New Zealand general election this Saturday! (Apologies for the long sentence but those buggers have been in power a long time, so it's fitting).

Lead the way for New Zealand and this worried world, New Zealand, show us, and everyone beyond our shores who has a functioning bull-shit detector, that we know what we are doing and will help you to know and do the right thing too! Let's do this!

 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cal and Clementine

So my youngest, Cal (not short for anything) turns 19 today, which makes me feel, shall we say, less than young, but also grateful that he has reached such a significant age, relatively unscathed and happy.

He is an interesting, somewhat unusual study of a boy-man and his father and I look forward to his future, fairly confident that he will do well in the world, just quite unsure how.  But that uncertainty makes it more exciting, in many ways. At least it did...

Last night, Cal's father and I went to listen to a talk by Australian feminist online activist and author of Fight Like a Girl, Clementine Ford (who has a baby son of her own) and the issues she highlighted about the obscenely misogynistic abuse she gets on a daily, hourly basis online - examples of which she displayed screen shots of - from teenage boys and adult men made me more nervous than I had been about the future for both of my sons and, indeed, for my daughter (who is a feminist).

I have been a feminist a long time, as you know, and have faced considerable backlash from anti-feminists within my wider family and friend circle, as well as from the public at large, researching and writing as I did for many years on domestic violence and homicide, a subject that made me angry and outspoken at a time when the F-word and anger about sexism was rarely spoken of in the media without derision.

But the 'hate male', as Clementine cleverly and unflinchingly calls the online onslaught of abuse she receives from men, young and old, some of them pictured with their children, is so relentlessly misogynist and demeaning to women, wishing her raped and dead in so many vile ways, telling her how ugly and fat she is, and using their real names more often than not, suggesting they feel quite safe and sure in their community and families to be openly threatening and misogynist, that my anxiety about the future of all our sons and our daughters was taken to another level.

I was also, however, reassured that women like Clementine are out there increasingly, fighting the good fight for justice for girls and boys, fighting like a girl indeed. Because girls will stick up for boys in a way that boys will not and have not stuck up for girls, and the same goes for women and men. So few persons of the male gender have actively fought for women and gender justice throughout history and this continues to be true. Many have actively fought against it, of course, about a third of men in the western world are actively abusive towards women, while the bulk of men have remained 'neutral', which amounts to a passively sexist denial of the abuse and injustice suffered by women at the hands of men. They don't want to think about it. They get the luxury of not having to, or they have done. This must change and is beginning to.

There was Q & A after Clementine's talk but I left others to ask the questions, which I kind of regret now. But what I wanted to ask, about how to be a good feminist mother to teenage boys, I felt was too hard and too close to the bone. And I have struggled with this task, to be honest. I also felt that I should have something clearer than I did have to say on the subject, rather than to expect Clementine, at 36, with only a baby son at this stage, to speak to such a difficult and pressing issue. Because the raising of boys to not be sexist and abusive to girls and women is hard enough in an openly misogynistic world, but the harder struggle, arguably, the one I continue to fight, is to raise them not to be passive and 'neutral' or in denial about sexism and misogyny and their complicity in it if they do and say nothing against it.

And so it is to that ultimate gender-justice struggle that I now turn my pen to at length. In fact I had already embarked on such a project, but Clementine and my boys (young men) growing up so fast and practically living online where so much of the hate happens, have given the project the extra push it needed.

So thank you courageous Clementine, and a happy and healthy birthday to you, curious Cal. Together, you have inspired me and together, I hope, we can do this difficult but totally worthwhile and wonderful thing.    

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Second Kating


I came of feminist age in an era when the radical feminism of the "second wave" that was launched by Kate Millett's book Sexual Politics (1970) had been rejected by most women as patronising in portraying women as helpless victims who needed our consciousness raised to realise just how oppressed and deluded about our freedoms and choices we were, so as not to collude in our own oppression.

Many young women in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s rejected 'radical' feminism and feminists as old-fashioned, aggressive, anti-men and altogether unsexy, claiming they had power in their sexuality and the freedom to do whatever they wanted and they only had to assert that 'girl power'. The system was not the problem, men were not the problem, women whinging about it was. Indeed the battle of the sexes was pretty much won and feminism was a politics we no longer needed or wanted. Women's Studies courses shut up shop and 'gender mainstreaming' became the new, 'post-feminist' ideal. In 2010 Taylor Swift, one of the most influential role-models for young women, declared she was not a feminist. The "F-word" was officially dead.

Kate Millett meanwhile was quietly going broke, having found herself for many years unemployable, and struggling to make her women's artist collective work (by growing and selling Christmas trees).  

It is bittersweet that she died just as the feminism she politicised that argued that the personal is political, that almost everything we do, as women (and as men), reinforces the system of patriarchal oppression unless we speak out against it and resist the structures that uphold that system, from sexist cultural narratives in media and art to ongoing inequities in the number of women in positions of power and influence, is undergoing a revival. Taylor Swift now identifies as a feminist, indeed.

If Kate had to live to see Trump elected to lead her country, rather than the election of the first female president, and after he actually campaigned on threats to remove women's reproductive rights and send women who have abortions to prison, rights she had fought to set in place, she also got to see the new and similarly radical feminist wave of resistance and 'consciousness raising' that his election unleashed. The feminist sisterhood is back with renewed purpose and force.  

While I personally never gave up on the radical feminist message of a politicised sisterhood bringing about a cultural revolution, despite coming of age between the waves and being raised by an anti-feminist mother who came of age between the first and second waves, if Millett's life and work tells us anything lasting it is that the battle for the equality of the sexes and against entrenched ideas and systems of male domination in culture, law and politics, must not lose faith and force again. A wave every thirty to fifty years hardly a sea of change makes.

So I can hardly say rest in peace, Kate Millett, while there is so much yet to be done in her name. But at least I might wish that she rest in the knowledge that she was right and that her efforts were not in vain. The personal is political indeed, but with radical feminist change it doesn't have to be. Viva la permanent wave!  
 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Stood up

So last night I stood up at the Classic comedy club in Auckland and did my funny-feministish thang and got a fair few laughs from a mostly young, many-gendered crowd. Hurrah and ha ha for me!

This here is not me, however, though I do have green eyes, if mine are more green with envy than genetics when it comes to this green-eyed genius stand-up Maria Bamford who is, like, my comedy idol, although younger than me and standing up long before I could even do the comedy crawl, much less stand up.

But to be any good as a stand-up -- she is about to say from her wealth of one-year's experience -- you have to do your own thing (or thang), so envy is not really relevant, much less helpful; in fact it is certain death to a comedian. Admiration but not enviation, that is the key.

So stand up against enviation I will continue to endeavour to do to find my own green-eyed funny, though I do like (envy) Maria's hair, jacket and nail-polish, earrings, eyebrows and expression and might consider adopting all or some of those for my act. Imitation is the sincerest form of admiration, after all. Has she had a face-lift? Hmm...  

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Dombey and Daughter

Florence Dombey in ‘Captain Cuttle’s Parlour’ by William Maw Egley, 1888 
Better late than never, I have just finished reading for the first time one of Dickens' lesser known classics, Dombey and Son, and am very pleased and a little bit surprised to report that it is a feminist novel -- possibly even the first, overtly feminist novel -- that takes the '& Son' of timeless patriarchal family tradition to task head on.

This is a later painted portrait of the much neglected daughter in the story, Florence Dombey, who Dickens writes as the heroine of his first proper novel, who endures her father's near hatred and resentment of her, if he acknowledges her existence at all, as he has eyes and heart only for his son and heir and then, when that son dies, along with his mother, he lives in the hope of producing another son with the woman he next marries chiefly for that purpose, without any love or even affection for her.

But then his second wife, who knows she has been effectively bought by the rich Dombey for this purpose and considers herself no better than a commodity or slave (a challenging notion for the times with possible echoes of John Stuart Mill's Subjection that came out earlier in the same decade), refuses to submit to his will -- in bed or out of it. She is a proud, highly intelligent woman who has no time for Dombey's arrogant self-importance and assumed authority, nor his immense wealth; she married him largely to satisfy her mother and put to an end her relentless quest to marry her off.

The two-year marriage produces a final confrontation between husband and wife where she stands up to Dombey and tells him how much she loathes him, how appalling he is in his treatment of his daughter (who loves him despite his woeful neglect) and that she would rather die than remain his wife.

It is a very satisfying and dramatic scene, but one that must have been quite challenging for Dickens fans in the 1840s. As a Dickens fan myself, my appreciation of his work is in some degree despite his lack of feminist themes or even sympathies, though his range of secondary female characters has always impressed me as extraordinary and includes a number of daughters misused and taken-for-granted by their fathers.

But I didn't expect overt feminism from Dickens -- certainly Dickens is not reviewed or advertised in these terms. Indeed I hardly expect it (and almost never find it) from modern male writers. And considering Darwin wrote his deeply sexist Descent of Man detailing his theory about how men have evolved to a higher level of intelligence and ability than women more than thirty years after Dombey and Son was published, it would seem that Dickens was a man well ahead of his time and a much braver (smarter and more honest) man than his famous countryman and fellow writer whose name also happens to start with the letter D.

And if Dombey and Son had been promoted and embraced as a feminist text at the time it was published in 1848, perhaps it might have had more cultural influence and curbed Darwin's readiness to put his sweepingly stupid and culturally ignorant sexist claims in print, claims that have provided the basis for countless sexist theories committed to print ever since.

But it remains reassuring to know that Dickens knew the dangers of male arrogance and sense of entitled superiority over women, their wives as well as daughters, even when hardly anyone else did -- or at least hardly anyone else braved the topic in print.

So I strongly recommend everyone read it and for those that can, especially the men, write a modern day Dombey. Heaven knows there are enough real-life examples around still to inspire one.

Just btw, it's my father's birthday today. He would have been 96; almost as old as Dickens, and almost as cool. Happy birthday, Dad; we came right in the end, just like Dombey and daughter.





     

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pig politics

So the day after Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern delivered a flawless speech on the party's policies and values for the official launch of their campaign to be the next government after three terms of a right-wing government, the leader of some trumped up, self-styled party promising classic attention-grabbing but woefully unrealistic small-party policies, such as a universal basic income, calls her - in a tweet of course, where all the serious politics happens - 'lipstick on a pig.'  

At the time Jacinda had only been in the leadership job three weeks and had already been made to deflect an interrogation by the male media on her baby plans. Then this rich businessman of 63 who has only just now decided he might like to give politics a go (sound familiar?) thinks he can tell this woman who has been politically active since she could vote and a member of parliament for almost a decade, though she is only 37, that she needs to prove she is more than lipstick on a pig. 

Well I say he needs to prove he is more than a dipstick and a prig who has trouble seeing beyond the lipstick to the P.I.G. -- Professional. Intelligent. Game-changer.  


Jacinda having the last laugh

Oink oink.   

Monday, August 21, 2017

Let's do this, indeed!


On Sunday we did this, attended the official launch of the NZ Labour Party's election campaign at the Auckland Town Hall, with comedian Michele A'Court MCing, former LP leader and record three-term New Zealand PM and nominee for UN Director General Helen Clark in the audience, as well as the leader of the Scottish Labour party, Kezia Dugdale, and last but very much not least, Labour's newest and youngest-ever leader, Jacinda Ardern, the keynote speaker who together drew a crowd that packed out the Town Hall and two neighbouring halls and theatres. It was fantastic! They, and we on the left-wing of politics, in Aotearoa, are doing this indeed. Change is a-coming and about fabulous fucking time.

After Ardern's moving, savvy and entertaining speech, delivered without notes, I watched from my vantage point on the mezzanine floor, as Helen Clark in the front row stood with the rest of us ordinary mortals and her fellow politicians to applaud this wonder woman who came from small-town New Zealand and the classic 'simple' beginnings to deliver hope and inspiration and forward-thinking leadership, at the age of 37, to this small, but politically-world-leading (in the past) nation. It was a rousing experience indeed.

There were extended greetings by all speakers in Maori, as well as an official Maori welcome waiata to bless the proceedings, and briefer greetings in many other languages besides that spoke volumes about the left's core commitment to going forward into a multi-cultural future with all its challenges and rewards, without which there will be no future, and to acknowledging the mistakes of colonial arrogance and ignorance in the past.

Economic success is to be measured not in numbers, says Ardern, but in lives lifted out of poverty and in the closing of the ever-widening chasm between the rich and poor in this country, as in all other western nations, that once talked tough and true about egalitarianism but have increasingly fallen for the convenient illusion that if you leave it to the market, in other words if you do nothing to help people to help themselves, equality will magically prevail. The opposite is true, as they know as well as anyone, so to this corrupt hypocrisy the left must, and is, saying no more!

Climate change and mental health and education and jobs too must be taken on as core challenges rather than dismissed as secondary to the economy, measured in GDP numbers alone.

So we have HOPE and HEART in this new and vibrant political leader and message, with polling suggesting that she and Labour could well win the election next month and put New Zealand back on the map as a forward and fair-leaning nation.

Let's do this!      

 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Winter Down Under


This was the cover shot published in the Sydney Morning Herald during our recent trip to Australia in the depths of winter. The following week it was even warmer and the wet-suits were off.

Not to make light of global warming or to diminish the charms of a proper winter -- for starters it kills off the bugs and without that we're up the creek without a paddle, to use a popular Aussieism -- but this looks kind of fun (for those who like a bit of wet, salty terror), even if one of the two women partaking appears to have lost her footing.

Aussie in any season indeed is not for the faint of heart of foot, which is kind of what I like about it, if it is also why I moved to New Zealand; a little bit of Aussie heat goes a long way.  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Labour gains

So, I think I should leave the country more often...

While flying back yesterday from my dance-reunion trip across the ditch on a plane piloted by a woman (my first - and a bloody smooth flight it was too), reading Inferior, a book about how science has got women so woefully wrong (review to come), I learnt that the political party I have long supported and almost stood for at one point in time has appointed a new leader - a woman - to fight the upcoming general election in seven weeks. All this is very good news indeed.

I have met Labour's new leader Jacinda Ardern and, along with my daughter, have done some campaigning with her, and I reckon that if anyone can turn this country to the left, where it needs to go, it is she. She represents the possibility of real change towards a country that cares and creates, rather than a country that struts and cuts, a change the party, the country - and global politics - sorely needs.

Jacinda is the fourth leader the Labour Party has appointed since Helen Clark, the country's first elected woman PM, left NZ politics for the United Nations when Labour was ousted in 2008. But she is the first woman leader since Clark, after two disastrous Davids and one ordinary Andrew were appointed to the job. And even though she only has seven weeks before the election to turn Labour's poor poll results around, I think she can't help but improve the party's and the country's outlook whatever the election result, and if not this time, then next she will be New Zealand's prime minister.

Good luck Jacinda; Labour gains indeed.

     

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Beyond the Bone

As a ballet dancer in my youth I was naturally obsessed with my weight and did some pretty extreme things to keep the weight off, including eating nothing beyond breakfast for six days of the week and binge-eating on the seventh, as well as using laxatives when I broke this strict diet even with just a spoonful of food beyond breakfast. And I exercised more or less all day. I weighed 37 kilos from when I was 15 to 17. I loved my hip bones and my thigh gap, though I wanted more of a gap, as well as bonier shoulders and arms.

To the Bone
This extreme dieting kind of worked for me at the time, as it does for many ballet dancers - and models and actresses - which is a problem for these art forms and one that is reflected, with slightly less intensity, in the wider experience of growing up female in a culture that values the aesthetic of female thinness and bones.

If I'm honest I still value this aesthetic to a degree, though I have not dieted - nor been thin - for many decades now, and I think my values have changed somewhat since I was a skinny teen. I can see that Keira Knightley is too thin here. Much too thin.

The Netflix movie To the Bone tackles this issue head on, with a story featuring a girl struggling with anorexia who is played by an actress who is clearly too thin (she lost 20 pounds for the role), and who has suffered from eating disorders in her past, as have the women who wrote and directed the film.

It's a pretty common female story to be sure, and for this reason it should be told in film. But the fact that the actress had to dice with this disease by losing so much weight when she was thin to begin with and had experienced eating issues in her real life, is rather problematic, as it kind of suggests that the disease is not as serious as it is, if you can just come in and out of it like that, an assumption all too easily made when the cure seems to be to just eat.

But the disease kills a high number of sufferers and the cure is far from simple. Indeed the only real cure is prevention, which is the opposite of easy as it means undoing all those messages that tell us in Western culture that thin girls are prettier than not-thin girls.

The film's inclusion of a not-thin girl as one of the patients in the clinic for treating eating disorders was a progressive - if slightly awkward - move in that it helps us to see that thin and fat are really the flip sides of the same disordered, food-preoccupied mind that is the reality for so many western girls and women, a perspective that shows, indeed, that eating in itself is no cure.

I don't think I have been a particularly good mother to my daughter in her struggles up and down with weight, no doubt partly because of my own weight issues and preoccupation with bones as a young dancer, but I think I am getting better at seeing it is preferable for women to be overweight than underweight, or at least realising that this mental adjustment is the first step towards developing a healthier perspective on women and weight.

To the Bone is, on balance, a story worth telling on film, largely because it shows the unattractiveness of being a thin and bony woman, in contrast to its usual glamorisation, without simplifying the cure or blaming the thin woman - or deflecting blame, either. There is no finger-pointing; 'blame' is diffuse and shared, a novel concept in itself.

I hope this cutting-edge, female-centred film helps anorexic girls and women - indeed all girls and women - to move beyond anorexia and other eating disorders, including bulimia and obesity. It has helped me already.  





  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Make me

So I was in our local department store (Farmers) recently trying on a black woollen skivvy because my existing one has lost its elbows and at my age you need elbows, and the lights in the changing room were so harsh white they were practically racist.

Indeed these lights judged my skin as cruelly as white-pink skin ever was judged, which might be fair enough, if it wasn't for the fact that it was clearly aimed at women of a certain age, and our skin has had more than its fair share of harsh judgement.

You can't enter these giant glaring glamour stores, most of the stock of which is aimed at 'older' women, without passing through a gauntlet of white-lit makeup stalls staffed by an army of heavily made-up and uniformed women who glare at you as a drill sergeant might glare at his (her) soldiers to see if their kit is up to muster.

Only soldiers sign up for that level of scrutiny, we don't, and it is our skin wrinkles, the work of mother nature, being judged wanting, not our clothes wrinkles, the work of sloppy laundry. There is only so much we can do to improve the situation, and whatever we do is only a stop-gap measure, and a bloody expensive one at that. So we have much more to lose than to gain by going down that made up road.

And the only reason I can think for why they continue the glaring lighting beyond this vast cosmetics gauntlet into the changing rooms where it simply cannot improve your response to the clothing tried on there, is that the money to be made in convincing middle-aged women they need a full facial cosmetic upgrade is so much more than they can make in selling clothing that they are actually willing to sacrifice their clothing sales to sell cosmetics, by reducing your self-esteem far enough in the changing rooms that on your way out, back through the gauntlet, you succumb to the pressure and stop to ask one of those heavily made-up manikins to make you up a face. Then, once you see your made-up self in the mirror, there's no going back to the old, low-resolution, blurry, blotchy you.

And after flinging my skivvy in disgust at the assistant on my way out and telling her: 'Those lights in there aren't helping!' refusing to buy the thing on principle even though it fit, I passed through that glaring cosmetics gauntlet and despite myself found my feet hesitating: perhaps just an eyebrow pencil? But no; it's a slippery eyebrow slope.

So its no eyebrows or elbows for me for now. However I do fear that as I am trying to return to the stage at a rather advanced age, it is only a matter of time before I do go down that slippery eyebrow slope. But not yet.

   


Monday, July 3, 2017

Animal sex?

Not as animal as all that
When I read recently about the female star (Emily Watson) of the latest BBC drama series Apple Tree Yard having ‘hot, animal sex’ on screen with a stranger at the age of 50, my first thought was: what do they mean by ‘animal’? 

Unfortunately I was unable to find out because this so-called 'animal' sex occurred in the first episode that we missed on account of attending the comedy performance Feminists are Funny. Clashes do happen, sometimes they are a little ironic. 

The performance was great; feminists are funny indeed, but even so I was disappointed to have missed episode one of the series that I had planned to watch and have since watched subsequent episodes of (no animal sex in those, at least as far as I could tell).  

It's not that I wanted to watch 'animal' sex especially, only that I am curious about the term, because, as it happens, during the course of my advanced political research, I have had occasion to watch sex between creatures we more routinely describe as animals, if not as the king and queen of the animals, namely lions, and the sex they had was not what I would call 'hot' or 'animal', indeed. Very little heat seemed to be involved, it was all but perfunctory and over in less than ten seconds, though often repeated in the course of five minutes, and each time it was the female who initiated it - by squatting down on her front - and ended it by roaring over her shoulder to get her chap to look lively and hop off (he would otherwise have stayed there all day and fallen asleep; that bit seemed quite animal, actually) so she could stretch her legs, circulate his semen, and begin the whole sequence over again.

My second thought was: 'Is she really younger than me?' Emily Watson, that is, not the lioness in the video. She was definitely younger, having animal sex five times in five minutes. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

On being both - and much more

It was Virginia Woolf who 100 years ago wrote that it was not enough to be man or woman, that we have to be both, but it is Ali Smith, no doubt with the added vision of someone who lives a non-heterosexual life, unlike Woolf, who has given that idea contemporary teeth in her extraordinary body of work, not least her 2014 Women's Prize for Fiction winner - How to be both - that tackles the issue directly,  if very creatively, and which I've just finished reading having only recently discovered Ali Smith - better late than never.

For Smith it is not just about being male and female at once but also the idea that those who die live on in us, as does their art and many of their traditions, while we all play many roles in our lifetimes, indeed more and more, and that that is how it should be and we need to embrace that idea of 'being both' much more than we do.

I won't say I understand all that Ali writes on this challenging idea, but I think I understand enough to say that she gets at the crux of what it takes to have effective experiences living in, behind and beneath all the moments of our lives, and especially in living in relationships that are not based on preconceived polarities but allow us to experiment more with open feelings and deeper connections with each other, between the generations and across cultures, as well as the sexes, which is surely the challenge of the modern age, if not of all ages.

I am heterosexual, as far as I know, but in my marriage I believe I am in a way both woman and man, as is my husband in return, and then we are neither too, or in being both we are neither as far as any kind of preconceived notions of what it is to be a man and a woman go. I mean not entirely, but in essence we are kind of both. He is a university librarian and blues guitarist (to name but two of his roles), I am a political theorist and dancer, to name but two of mine.

By contrast, reading recently about the Uber CEO and general company practice of being aggressively greedy and bullying and sexist, in other words classic macho male behaviour, it seems to me that the problem with that situation could be described as men being too male - a problem not unique to this 'man's world', indeed that which defines its essence and essential problem.

Equally, but with a little more complexity because in a man's world women's choices and options for getting ahead are generally more constrained than men's are, Kim Kardashian could be said to be too female in that she has built an industry around her appearance and the hyper-sexualised display of her womanly assets and nothing else, as if to be woman is just to be, and always to be, on show.

Thus I think the Uber men and the Kardashian women alike could learn a thing or three from Ali Smith's idea of being both, and also neither, in moving beyond the heterosexual gender extremes of learned behaviour that accentuate the innate tendencies and weaknesses of both sexes. Instead we should try to develop different tendencies to overcome those weaknesses and in doing so, it's possible that homosexual and transsexual insights can provide clues as to how we might better do this.

To being both and much more than the sum of those polarised parts.

  

 


Monday, June 19, 2017

24 years ago today


Face to face for the first time.
Photo taken by the midwife.
It was twenty-four years ago today
Following thirty-five hours of pain
That the doctors said at least you tried
But baby's had enough, baby's tired

And giving me a form to sign
To waive responsibility if I died
A needle took the pain away
As the midwife took out the razor blade

Which was guaranteed to raise a smile
When she shaved off a mole and cried:
'You didn't tell me you had a mole, child!'
And I said: 'I forgot, I've got a lot on my mind'

But what's a bit of blood between wives
In the best cause of furthering lives
And the mole was forgotten in a flash
When to the surgery we did together dash


For the show to end all shows to begin
Applying the weapons of mass reproduction
Under bright lights with a tug and a cry
He did emerge finally, he did arrive

And they said I'd like to introduce to you
Your firstborn babe, he's bloody but brand new
And it certainly was a big thrill
Though I was shivering all over with a sudden chill

Then a week later, it didn't take too long
They said: you can take him home, go on, go on
And so we did twenty-four years ago
And today he still lives at home

Which is fine
We're all good with that
When we go away he looks after the cat


Happy birthday, Conor James, there's no pleasure without labour pains.









  




Friday, June 16, 2017

Handmaid hope

So I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I didn't make it through Margaret Atwood's book The Handmaid's Tale, though I had enjoyed several of her other books before that, not least the brilliantly named - and written - The Edible Woman.

But Handmaid's I found not only unnecessarily bleak but too heavy-handed in its depiction of the dominating female characters who perpetrate most of the day-to-day suffering inflicted upon the handmaids, at least in the first third of the book that I read. Even the institutionalised rape of the handmaids seemed to be blamed more on the wives who watch than on the their husbands who perform their role in a perfunctory, almost reluctant way.

So I was a little reluctant to invest time in the TV series based on the book and again nearly gave it up after the first couple of episodes that did nothing to relieve my original misgivings. But I persisted, and I'm more or less glad I did, for the story ends on a note of some hope, with the women collectively refusing to stone their fellow handmaid to death - 'They should never have given us uniforms if they didn't want us to be an army' and the wife, an almost entirely unsympathetic character to that point, standing up to her husband when he tells her 'You answer to me; now go to your room!' by raging at him that he is weak and because of his weakness - the usual infidelities with his handmaids, plus scrabble - God has made him infertile, the ultimate insult and impotency in Atwood's dystopian world (if not the ultimate real-world fantasy).

And although it doesn't really give us anything to hope for in terms of resolving the real-world gender oppression and conflict that undermines the pursuit of those values of love, equality and freedom on which the happiness and health of all depends, the message of female collective action is empowering and the creative exposition of the gender corruption and crap that lies at the heart of all patriarchal religions is effectively done if, at times, all too real: there but for the grace and graft of those who resist fundamentalist religions go each and every one of us.

But I am recommending the series and thinking about re-reading and finishing the book; I just might have to wait till Trump is impeached first; it's a little too close to the bone right now. Hopefully Melania watches it and realises she is little more than a handmaid herself then files for her freedom and the public humiliation is enough to bring on the ultimate Trump tantrum that finally reveals to the world what a sorry excuse for a man he is. Now that would make for a good fantasy novel.




Thursday, June 8, 2017

Standing up for Her (Bridget Christie)

The world has done something right at last!

In fact the world of women has been doing a lot right lately, even more so than usual, and better still, they've been doing it MUCH more publicly than ever before, giving sisterly support to women of all stripes and strides across the globe, so that we might all stand up for Her in numbers never seen before to improve the world for women and with women that means children, and oh look; some of those children will grow up to be men, so that means men too.

Hurrah! The world's problems fixed by handing women the mics! (pronounced mix). Indeed the answers aren't blowing in the wind anymore, they're blowing in the women... Okay, that joke still needs some work. I'm not quite ready for my own Netflix special.

But BRIDGET CHRISTIE most definitely is, and last night she proved this to me, my husband (who is a man) and many thousands, perhaps millions of other women and men around the world in her new Netflix special Stand Up For Her the first global-release Netflix stand-up special by a British woman and possibly the first ever global-release Netflix special by a mother of any nationality, for she is a mother, unlike the majority of female stand-ups, though of course fathers abound. But times are a changing.

I had not heard of Bridget before, I confess, slightly to my shame, but living 10,000 miles away I hope I might be forgiven, this being her first internationally-released show. But it most definitely won't be her last, as it is one of the best stand-up specials I have ever seen -- and I've seen a fair few now -- and pretty much the only one that tackles sexism head on, a major challenge for a comedian.

But it's a mark of Bridget's talent, as well as our times, that feminism can be brought to the international stand-up stage and be wildly relevant and funny. For example she takes on Stirling Moss, the racing car driver, who said publicly he thought women had the physical capacity to be racing car drivers but not the mental acumen, even though his own sister is a world champion racing car driver and he once stepped into an empty lift shaft, fell three flights and broke both his ankles, something Bridget suggests, to brilliant comic effect, shows a slight lack of mental acumen on his part.

We are all special, of course, but some of us are more special than others, and Bridget Christie's Netflix special is as special as they come. I look forward to her world tour; suggested title: Mothers On the Move.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wonder women


If I'm honest this image gives me mixed feelings as a feminist, as I continue to worry that the hijab that encumbers women and symbolises female deference to a patriarchal god and men as his earthly representatives, perpetuates the very value, upheld by all religions in some degree, that underpins so much of the brutal violence and humiliations that are inflicted upon women the world over.

But, on the other hand, I have to admire these women, especially those wearing this most recognised and decried symbol of the Muslim faith, for standing together in public, with women of other faiths, to show, not their female deference to men, but women's united opposition to the latest brutal and public example of the violent male approach to solving disputes, just as we stood together to oppose the election in the US of a man who openly shames and degrades women and is busy as we speak (if not playing golf) 'working' to remove our hard-won rights and freedoms upon which a kinder, safer and less unequal world absolutely and ultimately depends.

I have not yet seen the female written, directed and starring film Wonder Woman, but I have read many interesting reviews of it and will see it soon. This review by the NZ comedian couple, Michele A'Court and Jeremy Elwood, I like in large part because of its insight into what a gender-evolved partnership looks like, with Jeremy writing that he finds the male opposition to women-only screenings of the film an 'embarrassment' to men, and an irony when it comes from the very men who 'invented exclusion', which is really all men, or men of all cultures, though rich white men have certainly contributed more than their unfair share.

To all those who stand up against male arrogance everywhere, women and men alike, I thank and commend you. The future of humanity is in your/our hands.


 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Funny mummy

I'm not sure this is the best picture of me performing my hilarious Hawaiian hand dance at the Revel Cafe on K-Road in Auckland on Wednesday night, but it is definitely the blurriest (my husband took it).

Also, there seems to be suspicious stains all over my trousers that I can't explain, and I'd only had one vodka, most of which, I'm pretty sure, went into my mouth.

One of my hands, meanwhile, seems to have been swallowed by a painting, and the other lost its fingers. Miraculously, the missing appendages turned up later, so that was alright.

Still, I do look happy and, as we all know, that's the main thing, especially in these challenging times, even if it could be argued I look a little too happy.

It was a comedy gig organised by one of this year's Raw Quest finalists, with a line-up of ten other Raw comedians, most of whom were more successful than I was in this and last year's quests - they could hardly have been less successful - as well as being half my age or less.

Still, my main man, manager and photographer in chief said I was the funniest on the night and as I am largely doing this crazy thing that my friends, if I had any, would call 'brave at my age', for him, that goes a long way to making it worthwhile, with bonus benefits in the bedroom to follow -- even if I was asleep on tranquillisers for those.

I was also the only mother in the place, something I know because part of my set was on the joys of motherhood and at one point I asked 'are there any other mothers in the house?' The silence that ensued was followed by a hearty laugh, which was something at least, even though it stuffed up the joke I was planning to make when the other mothers called out yea! (I'll save that for later).

But as most comedians, young and old, are guys who either ignore or have something slightly condescending if not critical to say about their mothers, I feel that the comedy industry could do with more mothers in its midst, perhaps particularly mothers of boys. Certainly I know that my boys are ecstatic about the prospect of their mother being a stand-up comedian.

And so I will press on with my Hawaiian hands and joys of motherhood jokes in the hope that some day, fairly soon, my skills will be recognised and the national, if not global comedy industry will get the most valuable of all gifts that can be given: perspective. That and life, of course; but I've been there, done that and got the scars to prove it, too.  




  


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Go Google!


Google's celebration today of Zaha Hadid the Iraqi-British woman who was the first of her gender to win the top architectural prize (in 2004) and pretty much all other architectural design prizes that are awarded around the world, a woman who substantially reshaped modern architecture  indeedhits just the right note in response to the latest round of terror inflicted upon the world and the world's females especially.

Like I said in my previous post, and as Time magazine reiterates in its latest edition, this latest terror attack should be in large part understood as an attack on women's efforts to move beyond traditional gender roles and divisions and to challenge the principle of male superiority that upholds them in all countries around the world, if perhaps most violently by those who use suicide bombs to express their profound resentment and rejection of female emancipation.

Go Google I say for offering an alternative response to terror other than the increased presence of armed officers on the streets, as if guns can fix this. This sophisticated, creative and peaceful response to terror reminds us that beauty beats bombs and equality beats evil which doesn't bring the murdered back but it does suggest a better way forward and perhaps, at best, provides the faint hope that those who were killed didn't die in vain.

And thank you Zaha for your inspiring example and buildings; a woman for our times indeed.

 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pink balloons


I'm struggling with the 'essentially playful' part of my blog ethos today, my heart going out to the families of those killed and injured, many of them young girls as they clutched pink balloons and dreams, in the latest deranged attack on female freedom by another boy-man brainwashed into thinking pink balloons are what's most wrong with the world. At least that's how I see the Manchester suicide bombing of the Ariana Grande 'Dangerous woman' concert yesterday. 

Others will focus on the immigrant status of the bomber's parents and make it about letting people into our countries who don't share 'western values'. But male resentment of female freedom is universal and many of the school shootings in the west by non-immigrant men have been motivated, in some part if not entirely, by this same resentment. And the aggression and pervasiveness of online misogyny speaks to the same depressingly timeless and borderless resentment. 

Of course in many ways it's easier, if that's the word, to make it about immigration and a clash of cultures than it is to face the harder-to-change reality that boys of all cultures continue to find common cause in the idea that they are more entitled to self-expression and realisation than girls are, and to resent any and all challenges to this idea.

I don't have the answers but I do think that framing the problem as it is must be part of our response. 
  

Balloons over bombs. 






Friday, May 19, 2017

Reasons why not

Suicide is a tricky subject and only the bravest attempt to comment on it - and commit it, perhaps - though it might also be characterised as a cowardly act, indeed perhaps the most cowardly. It's complicated.

Mahatma Gandhi is quoted to have said on the subject: 'If I had no sense of humour, I would long ago have committed suicide', which, as with most of what he said, seems to cut to the heart of things.

When, during my darkest days of researching and writing on violence against women, a period when my mother told me I had lost my sense of humour, I was asked by a counsellor if I had suicidal thoughts. I hesitated for quite a while before replying, through torrential tears, in the negative.

I did want to run away though, which I confessed to the counsellor at the time, even though I had a young family I loved and was loved by (most of the time). I'm glad I stayed -- not sure about them.




That was in my thirties. My teenage tears over frustrated dancing dreams seemed even worse -- as they will. Because at that age you are so new to adult feelings and pressures that you are almost living in a state of perpetual shock at the unexpected bigness of life and your own frustrating powerlessness to make things go the way you want them to and to figure out where you fit in.

Writing about those tears and years as I am now in the second volume of my memoir I am almost amazed and even proud of the funny letters I wrote home from London (which Mum kept) that belie the deep despair and confusion I was feeling at the time, letters that seem to speak to Ghandi's idea that our sense of humour saves us, if anything can, from being fatally cowed by the big bad world and its attempts to destroy and diminish us, real or perceived.

So, it is in this light that we move to consider the big bad present day and its show of the moment Netflix's 13 Reasons Why that tackles teen suicide head on and in much greater detail and depth than has ever been done before on screen.

We (Moose and I) hesitated before spending thirteen hours watching this YA show, but I'm glad we, the parents of three teens at one time and one teen now, finally did. That said, it was too drawn out and not quite believable that a girl like Hannah: smart, an only child from a more or less happy family, and not exactly unpopular, would kill herself at 17 and leave her parents, whom she loved, to find her bloodless body.

Then again, emerging adults are so much in their own traumatic world and with the volume turned up so high that it does seem to shut out all else, so it might be believable from this perspective that is so hard to fathom once you've moved, as I have, so far beyond that world.

But beyond suicide the gender battles are particularly well portrayed, with the rape scene, or scenes, done simply and realistically, rather than sensationally, to make it all too believable that the perpetrator, a classic privileged male narcissist, could do what he did and get away with it - but for the tapes Hannah left, which is the crux of the matter. She gets to explain what happened to her and why she did what she did, with the rape as the culminating cause but not the only reason for her to end her life. For this aspect alone I'd recommend the show, if these scenes do make for rather unsettling viewing.

And I hope the show can be educational and reformative for the young people watching it, as well as for those people -- all of us, really -- responsible for helping our young people begin to find their own way in the world without hurting themselves and or others. Humour would have helped these teens do this better and viewers to watch it as well, but then the outcome would have had to be entirely different.

So in its way, this serious and unflinching portrayal of troubled teen life ending (and starting) in suicide, confirms Gandhi's view on the vital, life-saving importance of humour. And on that note, I will sign off and get back to rewriting my very own teen comic tragedy under the working title: 'A woman of strange substance'.  



     


















Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Leaves walk (poetry warning)

Leaves walk
Run and tumble
Across the wet
Sticky grass

New autumn leaves are lost
Liquid Amber boss

Leaves walk 
Right up to the front door step
Knock! Knock!

But they don't want to come in
They are just friendly
Plant smiles


Leaves walk
Leaves talk
Shshshshsh...


Autumn parade
Cat walk
Tip-toe charade


Shshshshsh...


I need glasses to see them

But they're there just the same

With or without me and my glasses

Leaves walk
No they don't

Yes they do                                                     
On tip-toe
Thrusting their shoulders
Rolling their hips

Shshshshsh... don't slip


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Block blues and other hues


This spectacular flower (?) was snapped outside one of the houses renovated in the Block NZ TV series a few years back. I think I blogged on it here at OWW. 

They are strange looking flowers and from a distance as you drive past they look top-heavy and gangling. But close up they look like this! Like a plant version of an ice-cream sundae, perhaps. 

I picked the day, or the day picked me. Though our firebrand flower seems to be shielding herself from the glare of the sun. Yet how well the blushing blue sets off her colours. She appears to know this too. 

It was taken in summer, late summer last. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sweet subtlety


I have just posted this chocolate photo on my Facebook header. It is a good fit and replaces the man being tripped up who had run (or tripped) its course.

It's a box of chocolates opened out onto a white plate from last year's Mother's Day chocolates. But I can't find the source photo and Facebook won't let me copy it from there (now I have found it).


The one pictured below is an actual raspberry inside a white-chocolate shell. My sister sent a box made up in Christchurch for Christmas 2011, but they could work equally well for Mother's Day.

One comment and 'like' in one hour on Facebook. It's from VC, who writes: 'I've seen some heavy hints in my time...'. Indeed.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Adams' Arrival
















The title of Amy Adams' latest film Arrival seemed a bit lame to me until I realised it was intended as a subtle - too subtle, in my opinion - tribute to one of the greatest records of all time: ABBA Arrival. This realisation has made all the difference to my appreciation of the film and explains why an actor with the initials AA was cast to play the lead. I do prefer it when things make sense.

It would have been helpful if they had incorporated something of the ABBA Arrival soundtrack in the film to give us more of a clue as to this tribute. For example, when this alien (heptapod) 'hand' slaps the glass partition between it and Adams, 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' might have worked well. Instead they went with eerie instrumental stuff that only added to the general confusion.

But seriously; ABBA aside, Adams brings real-world (and real-woman) cred to this alien-invasion film based on a short story 'Story of Your Life' by American-Chinese author Ted Chiang about the fluffy physics of wondering what we would do if we knew the future. She is great, even though she can't sing or dance.

But though the story and the reviews of the film have not emphasised this, one of the main strengths of the film for me is the progressive gender commentary and critique it offers, with the contrasting roles played by Adams and her male support, Jeremy Renner, representing the female emphasis on language, patient understanding and lateral problem-solving as a more subtle and ultimately superior response to our failures of communication than the male emphasis on logic, abstract physics, and, if that doesn't work, concrete weaponry that has prevailed throughout history

I think this is the direction our sci-fi imaginings of the near and distant future need to be heading in, rather than continuing to assume weaponry and wizardry (math) will help us fix the present and find the future.

And really what the film is saying is that the future of humanity lies in both types of reasoning (female and male) coming together to work out how better to support each other to save the future from the past by moving beyond the profoundly destructive conflict that has existed between men and women throughout much of history the world over.

When men and women work together, as they are meant to, as they do in this film, and as they did in ABBA, more or less, there is no limit to what we can achieve. Indeed we may even be able to see the future.

Knowing me, knowing you is what it's all about, indeed, and I really think that should have been the Arrival theme song.