Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Inexplicable

I meant to end the year on a funny note. I mean, funny as in humorous, not funny peculiar or funny as in the kid in the choir finds his voice suddenly breaking, something a childhood spent watching The Brady Bunch led me to believe happened a lot more in real life than it actually does.

But last night I found out someone died, and it occurred to me that I've gotten used to the weird feeling when someone dies. It's definitely the worst thing that's happened for me this year.

Death has been kind of drifting around in the past year and a bit. My confirmation sponsor, a long time friend of the family, died of a sudden heart attack on holiday in New Zealand. That was horrible and sad, and I realise now that 59 is really fucking young to die, but it's...somehow you can place it in the course of life events. It's dreadful, but believable.

The others...I can't even begin to understand.

There was Cindy, who was in my year at school when I transferred to the local high school. It was a big year group - 250 students at the beginning of Year 9 - and we didn't mix in the same groups, although she was in my drama class and performed in the class play I cowrote, so I knew her slightly, not well, and she left school at the end of Year 10 (by the HSC I think we'd dwindled to a class of about 80).

Maybe five years after high school, I ran into her in a pub in Newcastle and she told me "Wow, you got beautiful". We had a brief but friendly, alcohol blurred chat, then I never saw her again.

When a class mate of posted on Facebook that someone had died, and upon asking who, he told me it was Cindy, I was very sad but can't say I was gasping in shock. I don't know what happened. Does it matter?

That classmate was Shayne. Shayne I knew a bit better; he stayed at school til the end of the HSC and we went to some of the same parties. He was genuinely friendly, and was the first person to ever notice my severe depression: "you just look so sad all the time". 

But it was the Nineties. There was no Headspace or Beyond Blue, no helplines or forums. We got on with things. That was not a good thing. It is better now, that there is awareness and help.

He came out a bit later in life, and there was a boyfriend, and then there wasn't, and Shayne took his own life earlier this year. 

Shayne had known Cindy, been pretty good friends with her I think. Did it touch something off? Were the seeds of a contagion in the air? I don't know. Maybe it had something to do with it, maybe not.

But that one, yes, was a fucking heartbreaking shock.

Then Brendon. We worked at the same office for a few years, a pretty small team. We didn't have much in common, and if this was a romcom we'd have fallen in hilarious, opposites-attract love, but as it is we just got on okay as workmates and that was it, then I left and lost touch.

But still, he was only my age I think, and died in an accident a few days ago, and that is just too young to die.

From years of reading the Newcastle Herald Memoriam and Celebration notices, I've long noticed that more people in Newcastle seem to die young, at least compared to the Sydney Morning Herald. And there's been people I've known before.

But these three deaths, of three people born in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and who should then have lived until the 2050s, at least...I can't wrap my head around it. The universe has been off  kilter for a while now, I think everyone gets that feeling. And this, for sure, is three kinds of wrong. 

And soon it will be a new year, a year that leaves these people behind, as time goes on without them. The world is poorer for those we lose. In 2018 I'll try harder to hold on to the ones who are still here.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Spoiling non fiction for everyone

Sad to see the last episode of the First Tuesday Bookclub on the ABC but I've now got years worth of books I've seen on the show, thought "Mmm, I'll have to check that out" then never actually done so to get through, so that's nice*. I've long given up even trying to be current, but Jennifer Byrne assured me that I'm ahead of the curve in one regard: it is the year of non-fiction, judging that two of the best sellers in 2017 were The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck and The Barefoot Investor.

I admit it is a little dispiriting that those best sellers are a leftover from Oprah's Living Your Best Life Self Help series repackaged with a hot orange cover and "edgy" title, or investment advice from a guy who predicted in 2011 that the house prices were going to start falling. There is however a tonne of fascinating and readable non-fiction out there - if us lovers of fact weren't constantly reminded that someone else had read it first. It's a maddening thing. 

Why do people always spoil non fiction? On the internet where popular culture can fly around the planet in seconds (unless you're on the NBN), a culture of not spoiling plot twists for others who haven't been able to read or watch yet has sprung up, and it's really rather lovely, especially if you're an Australian as old as I am and can remember how episodes of popular TV shows took months to reach us but the spoilers didn't; we never got to figure out who shot Mr Burns, because we found out long weeks before we saw it. 

There was even the Keep The Secret hashtag, encouraging people who'd seen Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to keep quiet about major plot points for the benefit of those who hadn't seen the play yet (sparing them the disappointment, apparently).

But when a major work of non fiction is released, it's somehow considered okay - nay even mandatory! - for any discussion of the work to include every damn point in the text. One may argue that in the case of non fiction, these are things that already happened, but all of us have to find out about things the first time once. Anyway, when a non fiction book reveals something really juicy - for example, in Niki Savva's The Road To Ruin - instead of leaving it to readers to discover for themselves, every review and media discussion of the book seems compelled to mention the titillating notion of an affair between deposed PM Tony Abbott and his chief of staff Peta Credlin in the first breathless moments. It's really annoying. Us non fiction readers do it because we like to learn, but we also enjoy ;pacing, character development, the twist in the tale.

But we should be able to encounter these at are own pace, not be left grimly going over plot points already chattered to death by the commentariat like picking over the carcass of the Christmas Turkey on 27th December hoping to find enough meat to make a sandwich. 

Whether on your nationally broadcast radio show or just talking with a friend, if you're discussing non fiction - let us know what the book is about, sure. But don't give away spoilers. You're just as big a dick for doing that with non fiction as any work of fantasy.

* I actually bought Infinite Jest, it's sitting on the shelf with the two bookmarks and notepad I was advised to keep handy during the process and I will read it one day.  

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A safe bet the IPA are dangerous idiots

An astonishing 76% of non-casino poker machines in the world are in Australia, a it was revealed this week. What was even more astonishing was the reaction of the IPA to calls for a ban. It's not so surprising that the far right/libertarian IPA are against a ban, but what was weird and creepy here was the logic of IPA policy director and former Young Liberals president Simon Breheny:

“Yes, it might mean it solves the pokie problem, but it doesn’t give them the tools they need to solve the issues that might come up in their life down the track,” he said. “You’ve got to give people the mental tools to manage those risks themselves.”

Apparently the billions of dollars poured into poker machines each year is a valuable learning experience and if we take them away people will never learn to sort their own problems out.

Of course problem gambling using poker machines disproportionately affects older people and those from socio-economically disadvantaged groups. Maybe what they need is more poker machines to teach them how to manage their disadvantaged lives and achieve their goals.

Heck if poker machines are such a great tool for teaching life's lessons maybe we could send people conscripted to work for the dole to play the pokies. Why not get pokies into schools! That ought to teach kids how to take responsibility for their lives!

Really though. The IPA are a pack of moron flavoured biscuits and their risk management BS is to the psychology of addiction what Pete Evans is to health and nutrition. It's not enough to just ignore them. This dangerous rubbish needs to be called out.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Toxic masculinity makes me want to stay fat



It's been so long since I started this blog, back then Mark Latham seemed like a hopeful choice for Australia's future, if you wanted a new ringtone you'd SMS Jamster Mobile for $4.95, Kim Kardashian was only on her first marriage and besides you'd never even heard of her, and I was thin. Really, really thin. It couldn't last though.

As an author, Nick Hornby is brilliant at bringing the stagnant corners of the human psyche to a humorous light, but he gets it way wrong in classic angst tale High Fidelity when he says ageing from 25 to 35 is not life's most fattening journey. I'm sorry if you've not fully crossed that threshold of life yet, but yes it is. Youthful metabolisms slump to a crawl, social (or regular) smoking habits are abandoned, exercise routines (and sex lives) get pushed aside in the service of mortgages and small children, and the next thing you know, you wake up one morning and you're a fat bastard. A 35 year old fat bastard.

Add in plantar fascitis, medication, comfort eating and a recurrence of some old pregnancy issues making it excruciatingly painful to stand and walk sometimes, and here I am. Really, really fat.

And I don't want to be any more. I want to be able to shop retail again without paying $45 for a t shirt that looks like an angry child's finger painting blown up to cover a jazz festival when it rains. I don't want to be G's fat Mum. I don't want to sweat walking to the fridge. I don't want a double chin or the other seven. I don't want to die of a heart attack and have my relatives have to choose between a double wide burial or donating my corpse to KFC.

And whilst body positivity is great thing in principle, I have worries about the Healthy At Every Size movement and fat acceptance in general. Medical research still tells us that obesity is really unhealthy, that being "fat but fit" still results in negative health outcomes, and there are very few medical reasons for being obese beyond eating too many calories and a sedentary lifestyle. There's a lot of noise around this, but as far as I can tell, the best idea is to eat a varied diet with fresh fruit and vegetables and lean protein, get a bit of exercise, and discuss any concerns with your doctor. I don't think any young person in the normal BMI range is going to gorge themselves to obesity in seeking to emulate the social media stars of the fat acceptance movement, but it still creeps me out a little in promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.

So yeah, I want to lose a good bit of weight and get more active, and fit into my non-muumuu wardrobe again.

But there's a little part of me saying "I don't wanna". And it's not even the part that revels in the fact that ice cream is so, so much better than it was when I was a kid. (Why did the manufacturers of those giant 4L 1980s tubs of tasteless ice milk bother with the other two "flavours"? Neapolitan? We just wanted the chocolate).

It's that for the past few years, my fat has been a safety blanket for me, protecting me from the male gaze. It's been glorious. The past half decade or so has been blissfully free from street harassment, from chatting up, from chatting in general, even from men who would ask me what I am reading. Men look at me, their minds instantly register "ugh, fat", and move on. Just when we started to talk about the street harassment, the groping and propositioning and sexual insults, that women face their whole lives for daring to work or study or use public transport or exist in public space, for me it stopped.

Maybe it would have stopped anyway on account of getting old, but by being fat, I have been able to go about my business without anyone staring at my arse or trying to remove my ear buds or sitting pressed up next to me on the bus despite that there's heaps of free seats. I don't think I've even been told I'd look prettier if I smiled.

Maybe not all men who did that intended me harm, but I feared they all did, and from experience.

And I feel almost guilty that I avoided my share of the burden for a bit. I wish I could wipe away all the generations of habitus and years of conditioning that has ended up here, with women finding simply going about their daily business frightening and exhausting, a certain percentage of men making women's  lives scary and tiring, and the rest of them in blissful ignorance. I cannot make that change, not all at once, not enough to make it count on my own. So I feel guilty, in my way, that I avoided the harassment that was then piled on to other women - guilt being another feeling we're familiar with.

We can make it stop, I'm sure, by speaking up. But you know what, instead of women having to do all the work for once, let men take some of the burden in ending street harassment. Guys, if you see a mate doing it, stop him. Heck if you see a stranger doing it, stop him. (And stop him, the man. Don't swoop in as a white knight trying to be the one to get the date. That's just adding to the problem).

And I will lose the weight. I'll just miss my fatty security blanket. Being fat might be unhealthy, but it's also making a statement that my body is mine. It's not for men. No woman's body should be viewed that way. But they are, and that's the problem we have here. It's a helluva choice to be making, but I have to shed my armour and go back into the scary world unprotected. But if I did choose to stay fat, it would hardly be the last time toxic masculinity lead to harming a woman's body.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The art of forgetting Iraq

Something to look forward to in the New Year of 2018 is the fifteenth anniversary of the "Coalition of the Willing: invasion of Iraq. If you're thinking "fifteen years? Gosh. The Iraq war seems like...quite some time ago", that's okay. No one else thinks about it much either.

It's scary the extent to which people have forgotten about, don't speak of or think about Iraq. It was such an appalling crime and now look George W Bush paints cute dogs and is BFFs with Michelle Obama and isn't it all fucking wonderful and why aren't you in jail.

Yeah, you. Not just you obviously, but it's a good start.

I was angry and scared and helpless feeling then. And exhausted and scared in a whole different way now.

Incidentally, when Bush made his "Saddam Hussein and his sons have 48 hours to leave Iraq" speech we were watching on TV in the conference room at work. Everyone turned to me, the 23 year old office foreign affairs expert, for analysis. Will they leave do you think? I said no, we're going to invade.

(I wasn't much of an expert of course; I recognise now, as I couldn't then, that the "deal" was a furphy)

Bush has moved on from painting pets, though. He's has released “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors", a book of portraits he has painted of wounded veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. That takes some hubris.

There's wars we've forgotten, and wars going on right now we're not paying attention to (when was the last time you heard anything about Yemen?).

Also forgotten, overlooked even at the time, was why we really invaded Iraq. From Vox:

The US primarily invaded Iraq not because of lies or because of bad intelligence, though both featured. In fact, it invaded because of an ideology.

A movement of high-minded ideologues had, throughout the 1990s, become obsessed with deposing Saddam Hussein. When they assumed positions of power under Bush in 2001, they did not seek to trick America into that war, but rather tricked themselves. In 9/11, and in fragments of intelligence that more objective minds would have rejected, they could see only validation for their abstract and untested theories about the world — theories whose inevitable and obvious conclusion was an American invasion of Iraq.

An ideology. Thousands of Coalition troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died so George W Bush could avenge his father's humiliation; so America could regain the Winning Feeling it lost in 1991. And whether the chaos the invasion caused in Iraq from 2003 created the conditions that led to ISIL...well.

No one will ever be called to account for Iraq or how we got there. Neither Bush, Blair, Howard or anyone else will ever face war crimes charges in the Hague. We've forgotten all about that now.

Lies could happen again. God knows faulty ideology could happen again. And the forgetting happens, so much. We've forgotten Iraq. The largest mass shooting in modern American history happened in Las Vegas and everyone forgot about it in two weeks.

As I write this, yesterday North Korea tested a nuclear warhead capable of potentially reaching the U.S. East Coast, and today in his TV show the President's biggest booster, Sean Hannity, was all about sexual harassment - which is of course incredibly important, but Hannity's only cynically using the subject to smear liberals. What should or shouldn't happen in North Korea, not spoken of so much.

The Iraq war ended officially in 2011. U.S. troops were withdrawn not so much in victory, more as a sort of giving up. Likewise I don't have any snappy thoughts to leave you with, but just a sad and tired giving up. At least there won't be chaos and ruin left behind, in this case.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Why I never became a social media star

Hey guys! I've been offline for so long. It was intended to be just an internet free (or internet less) time while I was doing my exams, but then I started having a series of painful issues with my internet provider. I won't bore you with the details but I was offline for three weeks. Don't worry though I have heaps of amazing posts I'm so excited to be able to share with you do social media personalities know how fake and ridiculous that sounds when they say it. 

Who speaks like this? No one talking to people they actually care about, that's for sure. I don't walk in to visit my nieces saying "hi girls, I have some free time I can't wait to share with you!". But social media stars are always just so thrilled to finally be able to share the next big reveal with us - and it's always some resoundingly pastel piece of news, like their new spring range of planner printables or smoothie recipe collection. I guess that's why I'm not a social media star, I'd never be able to muster the requisite amount of enthusiasm for making my living flogging tat. 

Social networks are becoming the new Home Shopping Channel. Affiliate links are everywhere. Every lifestyle blogger has her own range of yoga pants, or stickers, or six week organise your life course. No longer do you have to merely sit at home envying these impossibly fit and organised lifestyles - you can buy a tiny slice of them, so you can feel envious and guilty about wasting money. (Considering where so much social media browsing gets done, and where our guts so often churn with envy and anger, there must be a market out there for the social media personality who sells their own range of toilet paper. I mean, apart from Gwyneth Paltrow*).

I have retooled my blog though, after people let me know the old template wasn't rendering properly. And I did miss out on posting about the biggest event of the year - that the incredibly expensive, non binding postal survey on same sex marriage showed pretty much the same result as all the other polls and surveys on same sex marriage in recent years.

Seriously though, I remember complaining way back when I started this blog that same sex marriage seemed like a no brainer. That was 2004 though, and same sex marriage was seen as a fringe issue, where it was seen at all; legal only in the Netherlands (of course), Belgium and a few Canadian provinces. 2004 was the year of the Marriage Amendment Bill, which acted to formally ban same sex marriage and mandated that there be a little reminder in the service of every civil wedding that marriage is only for the straights. It was also the year of the first of 22 failed same sex marriage bills into the Australian parliament, introduced by Michael Organ of the Greens back when the Greens - who voted yes on same sex marriage every time - had only 1 Lower House MP and 2 Senators. There was no groundswell of community support, no demand; for most people, as a political issue, same sex marriage was about as important to them as subsidies for electric cars. No one's marching in the streets about it, or even thinking about it much. But if they did, most people thought, no. 

So yeah while the vote isn't binding (and of course, same sex marriage isn't legal yet) it means a huge deal that it is now officially recognised by government that this is the will of the people. And we're promised it will be a legal reality by Christmas, although maybe not considering parliament has bunked off down the beach while the surf is good.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Hanson fails School of Hard Knocks over citizenship rules

We all know that right wingers aren't much for tertiary education. They learn all they need to know at the School of Hard Knocks, which teaches such useful skills as dismissing peer reviewed research as left wing mumbo jumbo, reckoning global warming is a hoax cause it was far hotter when they were young, and declaring young people these days are just lazy cause they have eight separate mates who all run their own businesses and can't get any apprentices to show up to work.

There's also honours in how every illegal asylum seeker gets given a house and pension by the government and that Halal food increases Al Qaeda's morale. Unfortunately, the course in learning where apostrophes go and the difference between to, too and two had was cancelled when they had to fire the guy hired to teach it after finding out he was a moderate cultural Muslim.

But with their veneration of life's experiences over book learning, you'd think Pauline Hanson would have been a suppository of wisdom in the current maelstrom of politician after politician being disqualified from the parliament after being revealed as dual citizens, in violation of Section 44 of the constitution.

Hanson lost her fellow One Nation senator, the man she described as her "backbone", Malcolm Roberts. Roberts, despite his declarations that "I can feel it in me waters" that he was solely Australian, turned out to be a dual UK citizen and thus ineligible to sit in parliament, a devastating blow to the 77 people who voted for him.

But the thing is, Pauline Hanson and One Nation had been here before. In 1998, the election of Heather Hill as a One Nation candidate for Queensland to the Senate was challenged on the grounds that Hill was a citizen of a a foreign power - the UK. Despite Hill's creative defence that the United Kingdom is not a foreign power to Australia:

On 23 June 1999 the High Court of Australia, sitting in its capacity as the Court of Disputed Returns, decided in Sue v Hill, that Hill's election was invalid because, at the time of her election, she was still a citizen of the United Kingdom. The case clarified for the first time that the United Kingdom had become a power foreign to Australia.

So Hanson had been through all this before. And, strongly in support of the constitutional law, she reckoned Senator Roberts was dinky di:

"I am strongly of the belief that everyone in this chamber should be an Australian citizen, should not have allegiance to another country and I truly do believe that of Senator Roberts," she said.

But it was complicated:

"It is a very complex case with regards to Senator Roberts. You don't understand the full situation, so therefore I'm not going to go into this. It will be decided by the High Court".

Hanson wasn't the only one of the opinion that the nuances of Senator Roberts's citizenship status were beyond the grasp of us mere mortals. He went on Sky News to chat to Paul Murray, the face of the hip young right, and Murray assured his audience that he had seen the million percent proof Roberts wasn't a British citizen, although neither of the people watching at home were allowed to have a peek.

It turns out that the complications here were that Roberts truly, cross his heart hope to die stick a needle in his eye believed that he was solely an Australian citizen, and he'd sent an email to a domain ending in uk.sydney just to absolutely super dooper double check.

Anyway, Roberts is out of the Senate to go spread his brand of merriment in Queensland state politics, but Pauline Hanson powers on. The point of all this is, she should have known better. Her First Class Honours from the School of Hard Knocks should have blessed her with the ability to recognise a pattern here and make sure her Senate candidates were actually solely Australian citizens not just pretendy ones. And maybe before she demonises the unemployed she could be a little more cautious about wasting millions of dollars obfuscating and breaking the law.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Inarguable proof Republicans are more corrupt than Democrats

(This was posted on Reddit. It's not my work; it says "feel free to copy and paste", so I did for those who aren't on Reddit and/or might find this interesting. Enjoy, if enjoy is the right word.)

“I made a comment recently where I claimed that Republican administrations had been much more criminally corrupt over the last 50 plus years than the Democrats. I was challenged (dared actually) to prove it. So I did a bit of research and when I say a bit I mean it didn’t take long and there is no comparison.

When comparing criminal indictments of those serving in the executive branch of presidential administrations, it’s so lopsided as to be ridiculous. Yet all I ever hear about is how supposedly “corrupt” the Democrats are. So why don’t we break it down by president and the numbers?

Obama (D) – 8 yrs in office. Zero criminal indictments, zero convictions and zero prison sentences. So the next time somebody describes the Obama administration as “scandal free” they aren’t speaking wishfully, they’re simply telling the truth.

Bush, George W. (R) – 8 yrs in office. 16 criminal indictments. 16 convictions. 9 prison sentences.

Clinton (D) – 8 yrs in office. 2 criminal indictments. One conviction. One prison sentence. That’s right nearly 8 yrs of investigations. Tens of millions spent and 30 yrs of claiming them the most corrupt ever and there was exactly one person convicted of a crime.

Bush, George H. W. (R) – 4 yrs in office. One indictment. One conviction. One prison sentence.

Reagan (R) – 8 yrs in office. 26 criminal indictments. 16 convictions. 8 prison sentences.

Carter (D) – 4 yrs in office. One indictment. Zero convictions and zero prison sentences.

Ford (R) – 4 yrs in office. One indictment and one conviction. One prison sentence.

Nixon (R) – 6 yrs in office. 76 criminal indictments. 55 convictions. 15 prison sentences.

Johnson (D) – 5 yrs in office. Zero indictments. Zero convictions. Zero prison sentences.

So, let’s see where that leaves us. In the last 53 years, Democrats have been in the Oval Office for 25 of those years, while Republicans held it for 28. In their 25 yrs in office Democrats had a total of three executive branch officials indicted with one conviction and one prison sentence. That’s one whole executive branch official convicted of a crime in two and a half decades of Democrat leadership.

In the 28 yrs that Republicans have held office over the last 53 yrs they have had a total of (a drum roll would be more than appropriate), 120 criminal indictments of executive branch officials. 89 criminal convictions and 34 prison sentences handed down. That’s more prison sentences than years in office since 1968 for Republicans. If you want to count articles of impeachment as indictments (they aren’t really but we can count them as an action), both sides get one more. However, Clinton wasn’t found guilty while Nixon resigned and was pardoned by Ford (and a pardon carries with it a legal admission of guilt on the part of the pardoned). So those only serve to make Republicans look even worse.

With everything going on with Trump and his people right now, it’s a safe bet Republicans are gonna be padding their numbers a bit real soon. So let’s just go over the numbers one more time, shall we? 120 indictments for Republicans. 89 convictions, and 34 prison sentences. Those aren’t “feelings” or “alternate facts.” Those are simply the stats by the numbers. Republicans are, and have been for my entire lifetime, the most criminally corrupt party to hold the office of the presidency. So those are the actual numbers.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Straight Pride in Whining

Sydney City Lord Mayor Clover Moore has announced that, if the marriage plebiscite is passed and same sex marriage is legalised, then to celebrate same sex couples wishing to marry in City of Sydney venues, such as parks, could do so free of charge, or at least without paying the usual venue hire. For the first 100 days.

You wouldn't think anyone outside of the usual shower of homophobes could be against that, would you? A small gesture towards making up for centuries of abuse towards LGBTQ people? Oh, but they are.

 Rather than bothering with screenshots, I'll let you read the howls of unfairness in their own words, almost all of them, I would wager, from people who don't live in the City of Sydney, aren't planning to get married soon, or both:
 

And in case you missed my reply. If straight couples want to get married they could do so right now anywhere they please without worrying if they'll even have the chance because right now 15 million people they don't know are voting on whether they'll even be able to get married or not. And no one is calling their marriage evil, a sin, tearing apart the basis of society. And given all that, I would hope those straight couples wouldn't begrudge celebrating the legalisation of gay marriage with celebratory weddings to go a tiny way towards all the disadvantages gay couples have faced. Nor would anyone else begrudge it. It doesn't affect them in any way.

~~~~~

I'll probably be a bit quiet for the next few weeks as we hit the pointy end of - I cannot believe it - my last semester of university. It felt like this thing would never finish; now finally, it might. So I am very, very busy. I'd better make a study timetable.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Tatiana Gutsu and victim blaming Soviet style

In the wake of revelations that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein sexually abused and assaulted women for decades, women around the world have been bravely revealing their stories as part of the #MeToo campaign. Perhaps especially brave is 1992 Olympic champion gymnast, Tatiana Gutsu, who revealed that fellow Barcelona Olympic champion Vitaly Scherbo raped her 1991, when they were in Germany to compete. She was fifteen years old at the time.


"This is me being brave". Tears for all she has been through.

There has been support for Ms Gutsu in the international gymnastics community. American Olympian Aly Raisman tweeted:


But if you think victim blaming in Western culture is bad - and it is - the attitude towards rape in nations of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) is shocking. The accusations levelled at Ms Gutsu in the FSU media are appalling, unfair and wrong.

Lydia Ivanova, one of the coaches of the Unified Team, of which Gutsu and Scherbo were both members, at the 1992 Olympics, stated:

“I do not want to talk in details about this and I think that this unseemly. Either she wants to earn money on this or get media attention, nothing more than that. It was unpleasant to suddenly hear about it. I’ve never seen any immodesty from this girl before. She was a good gymnast, at the high level. If there is a good, strong training session, what kind of sexual urges can there be?"

(Emphasis, mine). Immodesty from her? Excuse me?! This is not about anything Ms Gutsu did, or didn't do wrong. This is about an adult man - 19 at the time - raping a child.

Viktor Doylidov, a Belorussian coach who also worked with the national team, claimed Scherbo wouldn't have raped Gutsu because she was not pretty enough:

"I do not believe in it at all. And then, what does it mean to rape a girl ?! This means that it needs to be beaten or that someone keeps it.

Vitaly never did this, he always had a lot of fans who, frankly speaking, could rape him. He was a cute guy, looked chic, had a name. In 1992, 6 gold Olympic medals, and so far he was in the national team in the first roles. He did not suffer from the fact that he did not have attention from the female.

 As far as I remember Gutsu, she is not so beautiful that he would die on her. I did not hear at all that they had any relationship. I know Vitaly well, I do not think he could cross this line. Therefore, what Gutsu writes is just rubbish. And why did she suddenly mention this now? So, it is profitable for her."

And Antonian Koshel, current director of the Belorussian gymnastics federation, also wanted to know why Gutsu stayed silent so long:

“I don’t believe that this could have happened, that Vitaly is capable of such a thing. He’s the kind of a guy who couldn’t have offended someone like that. I don’t believe that she could be silent for 27 years and didn’t share it with anyone. Especially since she was a 15-year-old girl – that she didn’t share it, didn’t cry on anyone’s shoulder. I don’t know why would she say it. I guess, because of something else, so that people would think bad things about Vitaly… I can’t believe this and I wish other people wouldn’t think such bad things about him.”

Sheer, classic victim blaming. Why did she keep quiet? Why would he have raped her? He's a nice guy. He's a good looking guy, too good looking for her. Rape is all about sex, he could get sex so why would he rape her? She's after his money. She just wants to ruin him. This is all most unseemly and she shouldn't have mentioned it at all. On and on and on.

The things that trolls pump out on social media are considered mainstream fodder in the FSU. This excellent article looks at rape culture in Russia; the victim blaming, the denials, the shocking statistics: in 2015, only 3,900 sexual assault cases were opened by police, resulting in 2,700 convictions. That's for 144.3 million people.

Compare to Australia. We have our own problems, with victim blaming and a blokey culture. God knows and I do too. But for 24 million people, in 2016 police recorded 23,052 cases of sexual assault.

Meanwhile, in a 2010 interview, Vitaly Scherbo claimed he is used to getting what he wants from women:

I won’t be modest, I’ve seen plenty of women in my life. Playboy, in general. And I’m used to getting what I want from women. And you understand what I wanted.

Aly Raisman is right - Vitaly, you are disgusting.

And if Tatiana Gutsu, or any other woman who has survived sexual assault, happens to read this: I believe you, and I'm sorry, and I'm inspired by your bravery. I hope you can find some healing and peace in all this.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Australia Post: slower than snail's pace

Congratulations must go to Australia Post, for managing to get a small parcel from Sydney International Airport to my house 7km away in eight days. What was it doing all that time - admiring the city sights? Goggling at house prices? I can walk faster than that. In fact I thought a snail can probably cover the distance faster than that. So I had a look, and yep: the pace of a garden snail is 0.013 metres a second, which equates to 0.0468 km/hr. Over 8 days, that equates to 7.824km.

The snail would even have 800 metres spare to grab a tumeric latte.

So if I took a snail to the airport and set it loose...it would probably get lost or squashed, if I didn't get bored and wander off first. But if that snail stayed the course, it would make it from the airport to my house faster than Australia Post seems able to manage. Australia Post literally delivers mail slower than a snail's pace. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Triggered

"Triggered" used to be a useful word.

It was never a good word. Nothing that painful can be good. But it was useful. It was a useful word to describe exposure to stimulus or reminders so painful that, for survivors of trauma and abuse, it can take them right back to the traumatic incident, back to the feelings of horror, terror, shock and grief they experienced - or suppressed - at the time. We needed that word.

When I was first a member then an online counsellor at a forum for survivors of abuse, we used trigger warnings to warn other members that we were about to discuss painful and difficult things that may cause grief, guilt and flashbacks. Letting them know what was up ahead so they could avoid it if they needed to. 

And we've had trigger warnings in the media for a long time. Television news bulletins warn viewers that stories up ahead contain disturbing images, content that may upset some viewers, so they can avoid injuries, child abuse, animal abuse.

But now, being "triggered" has become a joke in the hands of the likes of this guy:



Being triggered does not mean what they think it means. It does not mean being offended, being exposed to ideas you don't agree with, or having your feelings hurt in the normal course of things.


A trigger is something that, well, triggers the memory of experiencing trauma. It can be something seemingly minor; a smell, a few bars of a song, certain word combinations. Something that was never meant to offend, certainly something that was never meant to be edgy. But what's often triggering are direct reminders of the trauma you went through yourself. Like when that sort of trauma comes up online or in the media.

What does being triggered feel like? It's different for everyone. It might be feelings of helplessness, anger, intense sorrow.

It's falling to the floor, hitting your fists or head against a wall, sobs that start so deep inside they seem to come from somewhere beyond your body and can't get out fast enough. It's fear and shame and grief and guilt and anger and rage and disgust.

It's not something which can be caused or explained by a Facebook comment saying "LOL! Triggered!"

~~~~~

I know there are a lot of people who have been triggered by the discussion of the sexually predatory behaviour of Harvey Weinstein. It is necessary and important that these matters are discussed. But for people being triggered by their own abuse, this is a really hard time.

Triggered is the best word we have to describe what's happening. It's not a joke.

To all the people feeling shaken up, upset, and triggered by what's going on right now. You're not alone.



Thursday, October 12, 2017

The "War on Religion" is Over (the Good Guys Lost)

The "No" campaign in the same sex marriage plebiscite, knowing they've lost hearts and minds on the issue of marriage equality itself, are claiming that what's really at stake here are freedom of speech and religion.

Their arguments regarding freedom of speech are spurious, as I discussed here; but they make a rather more important point about freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is a losing battle in Australia. Except it's not them that's losing, it's the rest of us. Even as Australia belatedly catches up to the rest of the world on matters like same sex marriage, the influence of organised religion continues to grow and control every aspect of our lives.

The poor old sausages at the Coalition for Marriage worry that if marriage equality becomes law, churches will lose their right to refuse to marry same sex couples. Which is hard to fathom, given that right now churches can refuse to marry anyone they want, for any reason at all. If you're not baptised in the faith, not living in the parish, not a regular attendee at services, divorced or doubting, the church can send you on your way. Given that 70% of couples in Australia now choose to be married by civil celebrants, that's not such a tedious imposition.  People are able to go elsewhere, and do so. (You'd think the churches would be glad of whatever custom they can get). 

In case you missed it, governments across Australia have, in recent years, merrily engaged in the business of privatising every damn thing they can lay their hands on. And when it comes to social services - healthcare, refuges, aged care, welfare, support - churches have fallen over themselves rushing to fill the gap. You might think this is good; that churches can do the work of ministering to the sick, poor and needy better than the government. But the thing is, government departments are bound to serve, and employ, without prejudice. Charities are not. 

For aged care workers, youth and community workers, and healthcare staff, this often means having to attest - even prove - that they share the beliefs and values of the hiring organisation before taking a new job. This might mean anything from having to affirm that the earth was created in 7 days, that men and women have separate roles defined by God, or having to attend regular prayer sessions with co-workers. And it's hard to just look for a job somewhere else when community service industries, hit with the above mentioned neoliberal privatisation, are already suffering from casualisation and uncertain employment and are just run by other churches with their almost unlimited freedom of religion.

(It's a similar situation for teachers working in non-government schools; yet another reason why we must not allow the public school system to be any further eroded).

If it's that bad for staff, the situation for service users - "clients", in the modern economic rationalist speak - is even worse. The scenarios are many and horrifying; women unable to access abortion in church-run hospitals; same sex, even straight unmarried, couples unable to access aged care; people in need denied access to social services, turned away from food banks and shelters.

These are some of the most vulnerable people in society, and they usually don't have a choice to go somewhere else.

Many church run organisations have non-discriminatory policies, but that's up to them; they are free to choose to provide services, or not, as they see fit. There's no anti-discrimination law that comes into play. This is their absolute freedom of religion and the of us can go jump.

And it won't be impinged in any way by the outcome of the same sex marriage plebiscite. Can you imagine the dictate that would come down to Christian churches if legalising gay marriage did hurt their freedom of religion?

"Okay. You're still free to hold your current belief that God created the Earth in 7 days and put dinosaur bones in the ground to test our faith. That God created man to lead and woman to be his helpmeet. That the word of the Bible in infallible, even the bits about babies coming out of their mothers bowels and the fact that the divine word of God doesn't even get close to an accurate calculation for pi. You can keep all this, but the part about gay people being sinful, that has to go. In fact, you have to let gay couples get married now. Yes, to each other"

Yeah, nah.

It's important to point out here, of course, that there are religious and charitable organisations doing incredible, hard, thankless work out in the community; I've received some help myself in these last few tumultuous years. But the work they do isn't under threat, worship isn't under threat, there is no threat to freedom of religion from marriage equality.

What there is right now, however, is a lack of freedom. There's no freedom from religion in Australia. Even as social and legislative progress is made in areas like euthanasia, abortion and marriage equality, the role of the church in service provision in Australia grows ever larger. The workers may be dedicated and hard working, but the all powerful organisations behind them set the agenda. There's no war on religion in Australia. It's over. Big Christian won. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Kate Winslet Condemns Hollywood Sex Abuse... Sometimes

By Tony Shek, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

With the revelations that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein carried on like a gross misogynist pig for decades, actors and others are lining up to condemn him. Some of them are even sincere. Here's Kate Winslet's statement to Variety on the issue:

“The fact that these women are starting to speak out about the gross misconduct of one of our most important and well regarded film producers, is incredibly brave and has been deeply shocking to hear. The way Harvey Weinstein has treated these vulnerable, talented young women is NOT the way women should ever EVER deem to be acceptable or commonplace in ANY workplace.
“I have no doubt that for these women this time has been, and continues to be extremely traumatic. I fully embrace and salute their profound courage, and I unequivocally support this level of very necessary exposure of someone who has behaved in reprehensible and disgusting ways. His behaviour is without question disgraceful and appalling and very, very wrong. I had hoped that these kind of stories were just made up rumours, maybe we have all been na├»ve. And it makes me so angry. There must be ‘no tolerance’ of this degrading, vile treatment of women in ANY workplace anywhere in the world.”

As perhaps the most revered actress of our times, Winslet carries considerable star power and her views are important, so kudos for speaking up.

It's just that she took a very different tone discussing sexual abuse allegations a few months ago when asked how she felt about working with Woody Allen, in light of Dylan Farrow's revelations that he molested her as a child. Back then Winslet was falling over herself to hedge her bets and sweep it under the carpet - with Woody Allen and Roman Polanski too:

Of course one thinks about it. But at the same time, I didn’t know Woody and I don’t know anything about that family. As the actor in the film, you just have to step away and say, I don’t know anything, really, and whether any of it is true or false. Having thought it all through, you put it to one side and just work with the person. Woody Allen is an incredible director. So is Roman Polanski. I had an extraordinary working experience with both of those men, and that’s the truth.

Winslet's career is already well established of course; she can pretty much have her pick of whatever roles she wants, so it's not fear that would keep her from speaking out - on anyone (and I don't know whether "I need to protect my career" makes it okay, anyway). So is it that she knows something about Weinstein, has possibly been a victim of his harassment herself? Is she still hoping to work with Allen or Polanski in future? Is she just jumping on the get-Weinstein bandwagon now that he is officially Out Of Favour? Is Kate Winslet just a massive hypocrite? I don't know; but anyway, gross.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Kardashians to Blame for Mass Shootings (we can Blame Serial Killers on the Osmonds)

Following the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, and the fact that mass shootings are getting more frequent and deadlier, Planet America went to an expert for answers: Professor Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama. Professor Lankford made the fascinating correlation between mass shootings and modern celebrity culture: in an age of instant celebrity and being famous for being famous, carrying out a gun massacre is a way to instant renown. Everybody will be talking about you; the saturation press coverage will assure you, in death, the attention you may have desperately craved in life. You can watch the full interview here:



And whilst the Las Vegas killer, at 64 years old, may seem unlikely to be swept up by culture of instant (and unaccomplished) celebrity, of thinking if the Kardashians can be so famous why can't you, no one is immune from feelings of isolation - or entitlement.

We know little of his motives at the moment, but the increase in the frequency and fatalities of this age of mass shootings points to a need in the shooters for renown, for notoriety, to outdo the firepower and rage of the last loser to mow down innocent people in a public place.

 But does an increase in mass shootings point to an increase in psychopathy? Does the grim frequency of gun massacres show an increase in fury along with a desire to be known?

Not necessarily. There's long been murderous sadists; they've just switched tactics. Forty years ago, your lone male filled with anger strangled co-eds one by one instead of mowing them down in a massacre. They became a serial killer instead of a mass shooter.

The 1970s were known for Quaaludes, disco and oil crises; punk, the Dismissal and Watergate. The first family of fame was the Osmonds, not the Kardashians. And the 1970s were the golden age of the serial killer. Although the number of killings kept rising into the 1980s, the Seventies  were the time of the killers most non-aficionados have an inkling of: John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Son of Sam, Dahmer. There are still serial killers of course - and there may be killers operating now who haven't been detected yet - but the phenomenon of the serial killer to captivate public attention is one that has passed. 

The serial killer operates in a different way to the spree shooter, and gets a very different version of the sick gratification they seek. By operating in secret, committing murders one at a time, the serial killer may derive a sick thrill from the killing, but gets none of the instant gratification of the mass shooter. No one knows what they have done, not straight away. They have to wait, wait until the bodies are found, the pattern of the killings is discovered. They may eventually get substantial media coverage, maybe a nickname; they may get a thrill from the mystery, from the power of terrorising the area they operate in.

Or they may not. The bodies might not be found. The police might not link the killings. The pattern might not be discerned. The serial killer has control only over the murder itself. Once the deed is done, it's out in the world, and they have to wait for a public reaction that may never come.

It's like the difference between posting on Instagram, and releasing an album. The mass shooter commits the deed and reaction is instant; the comments flood in. The serial killer does their thing, puts it out in the world and then it's up to a mercurial public to discover what they've done and, in the 1970s, a delay for the public reaction, for media attention, a wait for newspapers to be printed, for someone to finally notice them.

Maybe the decline in serial killers and rise of mass shooters points to a change in our culture. Of instant gratification and instant celebrity. Of wanting attention now.

I can't say if the psychology of serial killers and spree shooters is similar enough to support the theory that the type of people who carried out the former in the 1970s are the same type that go for the latter now, that the methodology has changed whilst the psychology hasn't. But it's something interesting to ponder.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Is there anything the Coalition for Marriage aren't wrong about?

You could almost feel sorry for the Coalition for Marriage, the self described "movement to defend traditional marriage" in the ongoing (and going and going) debate over the same sex marriage plebiscite. They are so persistently, helplessly wrong that one could describe them as hapless, if they weren't, you know, evil. First, they proclaim they are the silent majority, when they are neither silent nor the majority. Then there's their logo, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the logo for bisexual pride:

 
Whoops.


And in the face of overwhelming opposition to their cause, they're more than a tad muddle headed in their approach as well.

Knowing that arguments that marriage is between a man and a woman aren't cutting it, they're focusing their efforts on two main areas: the Safe Schools program, and Freedom of Speech (and to a lesser extent religion, which they know Australians don't much care about).

But your Free Speech is under attack, they warn. Why, if you oppose marriage equality, you risk your losing your job, as foretold in these dire examples:

In workplaces across Australia, employees are coming under increasing pressure to comply with increasingly restrictive policies around “politically correct” speech, and are being compelled to participate in LGBTI pride events at work. 

 A Telstra employee had this to say: “Even though I declined to attend the “Wear It Purple” Day meeting, I have since been re-sent the meeting invite by an Executive Director 6 times. The meeting invite says staff are “required” (not “optional”) attendees.”

You had to go to a meeting? Heavens to Murgatroid. Have none of these people ever had a job before? All you had to do was attend a Wear It Purple Day meeting, and you're carrying on like you were required to lip sync "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" at the office Christmas party wearing a feather boa, hot pants and cha cha heels (which no one wants to see the creepy middle aged guy from accounts receivable do).

That's what you do when you have a job. I've had to attend meetings for campaigns I wasn't involved in, decorate my desk to celebrate sporting events I didn't care two tiny mouse droppings about, watch the Melbourne Cup when I found doing so upsetting and annoying.

It's a meeting. You show up, sit in the corner, wait for the biscuits to make their way around the room to you, bitch to yourself that there's only Milk Arrowroots left (I saw you take three Monte Carlos, Karl), nod in agreement with the boss, then head back to your desk, an hour behind on your work. Yeah, you could complain about what a waste of time it all is, but you'll be out of a job, or at least called in for another meeting on your attitude.

You don't have freedom of speech here to be taken away. Nor should you. Don't be ridiculous. There's a weird little subset of the right lately - Mark Latham is their spiritual leader - with a bizarre fetish for (their own) free speech. They're nuts about it. The threat to their free speech and liberties, they believe, is the greatest threat facing Australia. Everything would get back on track for the nation, if only they could crack racist jokes in the work lunch room (or on TV) again.

The Coalition for Marriage has no reports of employees being asked to do anything that's out of the ordinary for supporting the organisation and doing your job, and no indication of how marriage equality would affect that anyway. If your religious beliefs are so intense that you cannot bear to have the matter of marriage equality even discussed in the same room as you - that's your problem, really. Not something the law should protect. (And if your religious beliefs are so strong, surely they will protect you from the evils of hearing about gay marriage?).

It's a load of hysterical rubbish is what it is. They know they're clutching at straws here. I was going to include freedom of religion in this post, but that's a much bigger problem - for the rest of us, right now, controlling our lives and careers. So I'll get to that quite shortly.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Hefner was a Sexist Pig, but Women Wouldn't Understand

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wants us to know that Hugh Hefner, who died last week, was a pretty seedy creature, a "lecherous, low-brow Peter Pan":

[A] pornographer and chauvinist who got rich on masturbation, consumerism and the exploitation of women, aged into a leering grotesque in a captain's hat, and died a pack rat in a decaying manse where porn blared during his pathetic orgies.

But the real problem with Hefner is with the society that took on the values Hefner espoused allowed him to become a cultural icon. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves:

Now that death has taken him, we should examine our own sins. Liberals should ask why their crusade for freedom and equality found itself with such a captain, and what his legacy says about their cause. Conservatives should ask how their crusade for faith and family and community ended up so Hefnerian itself - with a conservative news network that seems to have been run on Playboy Mansion principles and a conservative party that just elected a playboy as our president.

But I've read a heap of insightful writing on Hefner, Playboy and the effects it's all had on our society. What about Julie Bindel's piece in the Independent or Robin Abearian on how Playboy's dreams were for men only? Suzanne Moore's account of her dealings with Hefner and his legal threats?

Nope:

You can find these questions being asked, but they are counterpoints and minor themes. That this should be the case, that only prudish Christians and spoilsport feminists are willing to say that the man was obviously wicked and destructive.

(Emphasis mine).

Ross Douthat is here to tell us what's going on here. Bindel, Abearian, Moore and the others aren't real writers. They're women, you see. They don't have a place in mainstream commentary. They're spoilsport feminists. Their views and opinions are "minor themes". Douthat will bring the debate into the mainstream as only a man can. We need a man to explain what a lecherous clot Hefner was. Women write women's writing about women's issues, and when they complain about anything, they're spoilsport feminists. Men are the default, we need men to do the real writing, and thank goodness a man has come along to tell us how sexist Hefner was. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Love your sublimation: Hugh Hefner and Playboy Empowerment

As made headlines around the world, Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy, died this week at the age of 91. Remembered for his publishing empire, some are also remembering the dude for empowering women and being a feminist - even one of the first feminists, a pioneer of the women's movement.



Gag me.

Hefner was a pioneer, all right. He pioneered Playboy Empowerment, supposedly the concept that a woman could do whatever she wants - which funnily enough, involved convincing her that what she wanted to do was exactly what men wanted her to do. From Feminist Current:

He was a crusader. A rebel. Just a humble man who wanted to fight the good fight against sexual repression, and liberate the American population from moral crusaders who said sex was a bad thing. Hefner insisted over and over that his goal, with Playboy magazine, was to convince America that sex was “normal” and to “bring sex to the mainstream.” But not only did he fail to do that, he never even tried.

 Watching American Playboy, listening to Hef’s stories about himself, I realized that Hefner was in large part responsible for the lie that sexual objectification equals sex. He had no interest in normalizing actual sexuality, but wanted, rather, to normalize the male gaze and men’s perception of women as pretty things to be looked at. Playboy was never about “sex,” it was about male fantasies.

How convenient that what was now empowering for women was prancing around in a bustier with a cotton "tail" on your arse. Perhaps this was meant to advance the cause of feminism generally, in the rising tide lifts all boats way of thinking. Maybe little girls would watch the Victoria's Secret parade and know they could live out their own dreams of being an engineer or social worker. G strings first, then equal pay would naturally follow.

Brainwashing women to embrace their destiny as sex objects isn't empowerment, it's sublimation.

With my taste for terrible TV, years ago I watched some Girls Next Door. It sure looked like fun. It would come out much later how horrible life was for women living in the Playboy mansion. That's not sexy; it's not even sleazy. It's just plain grotty; even a form of imprisonment. (Don't get me started on those who try to justify R. Kelly).

None of it is empowering. And Hefner was no feminist. As Julie Bindel points out, Hefner in fact hated women:

He caused immeasurable damage by turning porn – and therefore the buying and selling of women’s bodies – into a legitimate business. Hefner hated women and referred to them as “dogs”. [...]

I would imagine that silk pyjama manufacturers are mourning Hefner, but no feminist anywhere will shed a tear at his death. And the liberal leftists that wax lyrical about how Hefner was a supporter of anti-racist struggles should perhaps ask themselves how such a civil rights champion squared this with the millions he made from selling the most vile racism in much of his pornography.

Hefner was aware of how he was viewed in sections of the media and carefully crafted his image. He'd talk up the freedom he provided for women, and their accomplishments. But it was freedom only to sexually please him. The women in the Playboy mansion may have been worldly, educated, smart, but that's not why he wanted them. It certainly wouldn't get them in the magazine.

Playboy and its ilk only "empower" women to accept their natural role as sex objects. And that's worse than the puritanism Hefner claimed to be crusading against. Take your bunny ears and shove them. Sexualising women is not empowerment.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ross Geller: Nice Guy

I've seen each episode of Friends a minimum of 53 times. But it's been ruined for me. Someone posted on Twitter that Ross, Ross Geller, is the worst person in the world. Ever since, whenever I watch Friends, I notice that Ross is the worst person in the world.



He is though. Yeah, the sexual politics of Friends are, inevitably, dated, but Ross is a turd in any era. He's a terrible, terrible boyfriend. He's jealous, possessive, entitled, thinks he has a right to Rachel*, whilst also being stalky and awful to every other woman he dates (and what he did to Emily was unforgivable). He's a marginally involved father barely bothered about his kids. And yet he's portrayed as a hopeless, daffy romantic.

He is every guy on the internet who thinks he's a Nice Guy.

Let's compare Ross with Joey. Joey seems like a dick at first glance, and is by no means perfect. but he's willing, over and over, to sacrifice his own happiness for others. When committed vegetarian Phoebe is pregnant and craving meat, he gives up meat so she can indulge her craving guilt free. But more to the point, when Rachel is pregnant, with another man's child, he's willing to turn his life upside down for her comfort and happiness - by giving her and her child a place to live, not by showing up at her office to sabotage her job cause he feels neglected.

And through all this, Joey was willing to step aside for Ross at any moment.

But instead, Friends ended with Ross ruining Rachel's opportunity of a lifetime by dragging her off the plane when she'd been on her way to work as a fashion executive in Paris, having worked her way from being a waitress to the career of her dreams as a fashion executive. But oh no, Ross fucking comes first doesn't he. Rachel was stuck back in a job she was done with. But this was the big romantic ending.

What would would actually happen, is that Ross would scare women away. She'd get fed up when he showed up at the office complaining he was neglected when she was working late. Or take out a restraining order after he followed them to Florida when she went on vacation with her friends.

So in real life. Rachel finds love with Joey, or Amelie the adorable book store assistant she meets in Paris, or decides she's just happy on her own.

Ross, meanwhile, is furious he, the nice guy, lost "his" woman, especially to a Chad like Joey.

Anyway he joins a men's rights group, decides he deserves custody of Emma even though he doesn't know her eye colour, favourite foods or middle name (shit Joey does know from being involved with her the whole life), launches a custody case, loses, and writes angry blog posts about the cancer that is feminism.

He harasses 22 year olds on Tinder, has AVOs taken out against him, Ben by now getting his own career and life going says he's ashamed of his father, loses his hair, attacks Monica and Chandler's college age kids for being liberal snowflakes who can't think for themselves and is told he's never welcome in that house again, spends tens of thousands of dollars on sex workers, loses his job and finally winds up another tragic statistic of the opioid epidemic.

Emma and Ben attends his funeral even though Ben vows never to be like that loser and Emma, deeply confused and suffering an eating disorder, hasn't seen him in twelve years. She suspects she might be trans.

But to the end, Ross would be convinced it was all unfair. He deserved a good life and a good woman because he was a nice guy. It works for the nice guys on TV.

* They were, however, on a break. That incident is kind of beside the point here to be honest.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

How Dare the Marriage equality Campaign Intrude on People's Lives

The campaign for marriage equality took things up a notch by sending hundreds of thousands of text messages encouraging people to vote Yes:


It was a moment's irritation and possibly not the best use of resources, but not really more of a big deal than that.

At least it shouldn't have been a bigger deal. A bunch of people were outraged over the supposed breach of privacy:

[N]ot everyone – regardless of their view on same-sex marriage – was happy to receive an SMS, with some expressing concern about how their phone numbers were obtained.

I have never contacted, donated or been involved with either side of this campaign," Michael, who asked that his surname not be used, told Fairfax Media on Saturday.

 "How did they get my unlisted mobile number? Why is my privacy being breached in the hope that I'll respond to a survey in a particular way ... What's the point of lobbying for extending some rights by ignoring others that are already legislated?" 

The Yes campaign claimed the numbers were randomly generated, but even if they did purchase access to phone numbers, consider this. Your phone number isn't legally yours. It's legally belongs to the phone company, and they can do with it as they wish (this was a surprise to me after carting my number around for over a decade to every telco in Australia, but it is in fact true). And who ends up with your "unlisted" number, anyway? Unless you've never, ever, joined a loyalty program, had a credit card, entered a competition, put your business card in the draw to win a free lunch at the end of the month, joined a website that uses phone numbers for verification, ordered food online,  joined a gym...unless you've never, ever done any of these things...or if you have, you've carefully checked all the terms and conditions to make sure your info won't be sold or forwarded to marketing companies (have you? I haven't)...then someone has got your phone number for marketing and research.

But some people were even angrier than all that. Some were driven to fury and death threats - you can find them at the usual Facebook groups I won't link to. But other people - a few - claimed they had been going to vote yes, but the ten seconds of irritation at the invasion of privacy moved them to decide to vote no.

So. People were angry the randomly generated string of binaries they think of as their phone number was used to send a text message of moments' duration. So angry, that they decided to join one of the millions of people who want to affect the entire lives of other people, people they have never met, by deciding they cannot get legally married in Australia. All because of a survey no one asked for or wanted, requesting that Australian voters intrude on the privacy of every same sex attracted person by deciding if they have equal rights to every one else.

All because of a text message, huh. You must be furious, to think its worth intruding on so many other people's lives.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Australia's stupid, pointless salute to traditional marriage

John Howard ruined my wedding.

Well, no, he didn't actually ruin it. But the former Prime Minister of Australia, three years after he was ousted from office, made a spiteful little interjection at my wedding, and the weddings of hundreds of thousands of other couples, just to rub it in that he's really, really into the traditional marriage of a man and a woman. 

Allow me to explain. In 2004, when the first governments around the world were beginning to allow for same sex couples to marry, John Howard, then Prime Minister of Australia and the moral custodian of all that's conservative and true, wanted to make damn sure that couldn't happen here. So he changed our marriage laws, which had previously relied on the English common law definition of marriage, and expressly spelled it out: marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Same sex marriages performed overseas were meanwhile expressly forbidden from being recognised as legal marriages in Australia.


But the fun wasn't done there! The change to the law meant that from 2004 onwards, at every civil wedding in Australia, the celebrant is legally required to say the words: Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

If those words are not said during the ceremony, the marriage is not valid. It's like a little up yours from John Howard at every non-religious wedding in Australia. For if the marriage is performed by a minister of religion, they are not required to say the man and woman bit. Religious people can be trusted to understand how important marriage is to John Howard, apparently, whilst the rest of us heathens cannot.

And I was forced to stand squirming and embarrassed as those words were read out at my wedding, as the law required. I mean honestly, I don't mind people having a traditional view of marriage, but do they have to rub our noses in it?

When Australia legalises marriage equality, and we will, one of the minor benefits will be to remove this pointless little intrusion from a political era we all need to put behind us.

And my marriage wasn't for life anyway; we separated after five years, so my family's pain goes to show just how stupid and pointless the whole thing is. (Howard's law or marriage itself? That's for another day).

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Attack of the 50ft clones: Tony Abbott in Newtown

Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister, noted conservative thinker, and scion of the Northern Beaches ventured into Newtown last night:
I mean sure, Newtown is the kind of place where a middle aged man with spiked yellow hair, wearing a three piece pink tartan suit and knee high buckled boots can ride down the street on a scooter pulled by his terrier at 11am and not raise any eyebrows, but the place is becoming rapidly gentrified. There must be some conservatives there, and they band together. That's fine. It's a diverse world.

Wait a minute. Let's take a look at that gathering again:


That's not a political party, that's a cult up to stage four of the indoctrination process (I bet the guy who dared take off his jacket was taken outside and beaten later on). Nowhere else in Australia looks like that anymore. Where did they all come form, these identical, clean cut, straight white guys (who are such believers in equality no one gave the woman in attendance a seat)?

Maybe this is rebellion against their lefty inner west families and friends, and they've decided if you're going to go conservative, you may as well go the full con. Or maybe there really are all these establishment types in Newtown, and they're just taking ideological sustenance here before they go off to run the country.

Except even Australia's big corporations are more on board with equality now - the only place you see Abbott's sorts of views dictated as all that is pure and true and good is in the pages of the Murdoch owned papers. The latter of course would claim the former only trump their support for marriage equality because of gay lobby groups, who are so all-powerful they control giant corporations whilst being simultaneously unable to change Australia's marriage laws until, maybe, now.

Tony Abbott is an embarrassing distraction, an old dog that keeps breaking wind at the national dinner party but whom Malcolm Turnbull lacks the mercy to have put down*. But these young Liberal types need watching.

* By which I mean Abbott should be told to leave politics. I am not advocating death for Mr Abbott or anyone else.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Yes!


The no campaign have employed skywriters over Sydney today.

I think this guy is better worth attention.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Facebook is not the Real World (there's Rainbows out there)

Gah, the SSM plebiscite - or more specifically the debate over the plebiscite - is depressing and exhausting. It can be hard, when you look at the relentless string of comments on an article on say a major media outlet's Facebook page, saying that the whole Yes campaign on same sex marriage is a Marxist plot to brainwash children; that children brought up by same sex parents grow up depressed, obese and plagued by intractable ring around the collar; free speech is at risk; and, before the moderators can step in, if they do, vile slurs about same sex attracted people themselves.

And it can be tempting to see this as how people are thinking; to wander through the shops or catch a bus and wonder if your fellow citizens are harbouring such thoughts.

But they don't. Comments on Facebook do not represent the real world. In fact, the represent the loudest, angriest sliver of the people disconnected from the real world. In my totally unscientific research on this, there were local government elections here in NSW a couple of weeks ago. And in the City of Newcastle, the Liberal party were all but wiped out; Labor romped in, increasing their share of the vote, with the Greens putting in a decent performance as well. Most Novocastrians calmly elected their new, centre-left council and went on with their day.

But to look at the Facebook pages of two of the largest media organisations in Newcastle, you wouldn't know it. The comments on ABC Newcastle and The Newcastle Herald were furious. Almost every comment lamented the result as just awful, a coup, their fellow citizens must be idiots, the turnout must have been low, this can't be right...an overwhelming response then, from people commenting on Facebook, completely at odds with the reality.

And it's the same (I believe and hope) with marriage equality.

The people posting homophobic garbage on Facebook are a noisy, scared and horrid minority. They can be ignored. They should be ignored. I'm not saying their lies should be let stand; I like many people post rebuttals, the truth, when I see the worst "vote no" nonsense (including links to peer reviewed literature, or as one particularly egregious bigot referred to it, "leftist mumbo jumbo").

But we won't win them over. What we need to do is talk to the good and decent people around us, and above all - make sure people post their surveys. Get them in the mail. If they don't return them the day they fill them in, chances are they won't return them at all. Life takes over and things get lost. Get your paper back in the post box!

And if you are struggling, that's okay. This is a really shitty time in so many ways. Here are links to some support services

And now this:


Thursday, September 14, 2017

5 Childrens' Issues That Need Strong Voices - and that Aren't Voting No

So the expensive, unnecessary, non binding national plebiscite on marriage equality is underway. Other nations just legalise marriage equality, but not us; we have to have a national postal vote, with the accompanying noisy and worrying campaign, and for what? Politicians are still going to have a vote on it in Parliament once the ballots are in - the same vote they could be having right now.

Instead, the nation "get to have their say", except after a bitter and hurtful campaign the votes will just get put in a drawer or something, and politicians can still ignore the will of their electorate and vote however they like.

Talk to opponents of marriage equality though, and want you to know they're in no way bigoted or homophobic. They like gay people! They're just really worried about the kids. (Apart from that being able to marry won't affect the ability of gay couples to have children, and they're not depriving children of a mum and dad, unless they go around stealing babies from straight couples.)

But since these sorts are so worried about the well being of children, here are five children's issues that could really use some of the time, money and loud voices being put into the "no" campaign:


1. Education funding

Apart from parental care, there's nothing more important for a child's start in life than the quality of the education they receive. And when parents are unable, for whatever reason, to provide the resources a kid needs - quality education becomes even more critical for those kids.

That's why it is so vital that public schools - especially those in lower socio-economic areas - are provided with quality resources and staffed with devoted, talented teachers who are supported to maintain morale and commitment.

And why we need to take a long hard look at funding elite private schools so they can build orchestra pits whilst kids in public schools swelter in demountable classrooms for years on end with outdated books and technology.

Gonski 2.0 legislation passed earlier this year, and it's a good start, but more needs to be done; more voices need to speak up for public school students.


2. Child protection services

For a society that claims that children's welfare is the main concern, that the gross underfunding and overwork of child protection agencies is almost never spoken of, never an election issue, makes liars of us all. I'm not condemning the SSM "no" campaigners here, we're all a little damned. If I sound judgemental here, so be it. Child abuse is a sad and ugly reality in our society, which is why I didn't lead off with this at number one, so as not to have people clicking out of here to get to The Onion.

But we need more. More funding, more staff, more people making noise over this, holding governments and agencies to account. NSW Minister for Community Services Pru Goward has said it is only in a perfect world where we could investigate every report of child abuse; but in this world, where reports of serious abuse cannot be investigated due to lack of resources whilst sworn police officers ride on the transport network to catch fare evaders, we could do a lot better.


3. Minister for Children

We don't have one. We should. Victoria has a Minister for Families and Children, but apart from that not only do we not have a federal minister for children, I couldn't even see if there is a federal minister with responsibility for children and their welfare (and considering we have an assisting minister for the centenary of ANZAC and another assisting minister for Digital Transformation, I'm sure they could squeeze a children's portfolio in there somewhere). If we're going to be advocating for children's welfare, we really need to put someone in charge of it.

4. Conviction & Sentencing for Child Abusers

Any judge will tell you the public don't really understand the factors that go into sentencing, and that sentencing in the court of public opinion is wildly misguided.

But without digging up a litany of depressing examples, I can't be the only uninformed pleb who is dismayed and angry that convictions for assault - especially non sexual assault - of children are exceedingly rare and sentences for people who actually kill children woefully disproportionate to the crime.

5. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Australia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child - CRC - in 1990, recognising the human rights of children, especially in light of their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation.

But we're failing to protect the rights of all children - particularly Aboriginal children, children with disabilities and children in immigration detention.

How badly are we failing? Well, in 2012, the UN issued a list of concerns where Australia isn't living up to its commitment to protect its children. And it got almost no attention.

I've only been able to skim the surface of these very complex issues. I don't have answers. But if people are talking about voting no because of some perceived risk to children, maybe we should be talking about this stuff as well.

But if any or all of this is too hard, you're too busy - I understand, and I thank you for reading this far. May I just respectfully ask you to protect the rights of children in same sex families, and the children afraid of being attacked for their sexuality, and vote yes.