29 September 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.

28 September 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 Phoebe's pregnant, 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.


24 September 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.

22 September 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).

20 September 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.

17 September 2017

Yes!


The no campaign have employed skywriters over Sydney today.

I think this guy is better worth attention.

16 September 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:


14 September 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.




12 September 2017

The big lumps fuelling Liddell

I told you how the National party at their national conference on the weekend were determined that no one should think them in favour of renewable energy, with all the fear and suspicion of Lyle Shelton worrying people will think he's gay.

Not to be outdone, their Coalition government partners are working to show the universe what a great future there is in coal by trying to extend the working life of the ageing and increasingly obsolete coal fired Liddell power station in the upper Hunter Valley, long after its owner, AGL, was set to close the thing. 

Liddell has been working well below capacity for many years as it reaches the end of its working life and coal becomes an increasingly expensive and outmoded form of power generation. 

It's also permanently killed Lake Liddell, in a major blow
for local tourism. Coal, so good for humanity.

Any forward thinking government would be looking at cheaper, more efficient forms of energy generation, but the Libs are determined that AGL must be kept open if not sold as a going concern, with the head of AGL summoned to the PM's office for a dressing down. 

Like a creepy ex, they just won't let go of coal long after it's over; I half expect energy minister Josh Frydenberg to set up a piano outside Liddell, vowing to keep playing until it promises to stay open forever (preferably letting him do a tour with a photo op in a hard hat).  

Yes, Australia is running low on energy generation, with blackouts predicted this summer. But it's not because of "greenies" preventing coal fired power stations. It's because coal is dead, obsolete technology, but instead of admitting that to themselves and the nation and looking at renewable energy, the government are in massive denial, clinging to the pant leg of fossil fuels and secretly hoping deep down they get voted out of office before all this really gets to be a problem - and it will be a big problem if this goes on. 

11 September 2017

Bigger swings than anyone imagined in local government elections

Over the weekend, we had local government elections here in NSW, confusingly in some councils but not in others. I didn't get to vote - I was on the Central Coast when the City of Sydney had their poll and now I'm in Sydney, there was a Central Coast election I didn't get to have a go in (upgrade the ruddy roads up there, whoever you are that wins!). 
As expected, the Liberal party suffered big swings to Labor and to an extent, the Greens. 

As counting continued on Sunday across 46 council districts, including 22 Sydney councils, early results showed voters had punished the Liberal party across the board, but surprisingly including deep into its Sydney heartland.

 "In the councils between Newcastle and Shellharbour the average swing to Labor currently stands at about 5.5 per cent," said psephologist Ben Raue.

And speaking of Newcastle, not a single Liberal was elected to the city council (although there is quite a tradition there of Liberals pretending to be "indpendants", especially after the ICAC scandals a few years ago). Someone who was elected is Carol Duncan, who is now a Labor councillor, and whom I warmly congratulate even if I do wish she stood for the Greens instead.

But for me, the most surprising result of Saturday's election was my father admitting he had, for the first time, voted Labor himself. This John Howard-revering man says he's coming around more to the left, helped along I hope by chats with me, correcting the Daily Telegraph and 2GB. In this case there was also anger at extensions of motorway tolls and development laws, but it's a good start. I mean, this is huge. I'll keep at it - who knows how left we can go.

Devine and Bolt bravely fight The Real Fascists


Rupert Murdoch must be in one hell of a mood lately. Word has come down to News Ltd tabloid columnists that they are to unflinchingly tow the line on the marriage equality plebiscite: that the yes campaign are wrong! Evil! The real fascists! The Right have almost abandoned their love of whataboutism in their post-Charlottesville rush to declare Antifa, Socialists, and the Left generally the real fascists. Those fighting fascism, they're the real fascists! Yep, and maybe those chomping into massive steaks are the real vegetarians.

But this is ridiculous. When the far right declare anti-bigots The Real Fascists, they sound like OJ vowing to find The Real Killer.

And I would include said News Ltd columnists as the far right. Non-Australians may be astonished that opinions that would make a Brietbart editor flinch and refuse to publish, regularly making into our most consumed newspapers and radio shows.

Although News Ltd is committed to a diversity of opinion. They bring you the views of their far right columnists from Sydney, and their far right columnists from Melbourne. 


While most LGBTIQ Australians favour same-sex marriage, they are as alarmed as anyone about bullying and hidden agendas... 

It’s no surprise that they are more aligned with the silent majority than with loudmouth rainbow fascists.

Not to be outdone with the fascism metaphor, Andrew Bolt:

Labor will pay a gay gestapo to hound you once it's made gay marriage law, whatever the result of next month's plebiscite.

LABOR will spend $1.4 million to appoint a watchdog for gay and lesbian rights...

An LGBT rights body is a Gestapo now? Like the actual secret police of Nazi Germany gestapo, which had a special division dedicated to rounding up gay men and sending them to prison, if not the concentration camps?

The pro marriage equality side is now equivalent to sending gay men to their deaths at Auschwitz?

If they're so sure they're in the right, there'd be no need for all the death camp metaphor. Anyway, the right wing are the ones who are utterly devoted to their own free speech, to which I say - so you should be voting yes on marriage equality. Even if you think gay people getting married is evil, wrong and unholy. Because it could be your rights we're voting on next time.

09 September 2017

What planet do the Nationals live on? Not an inhabitable one

I should be beyond surprise by now, but apparently not. With "once in 500 years" hurricanes sprouting every few days in the Atlantic with climate change a likely factor, and Australia faces upcoming power shortages due to our failure to invest in modern power generation, at the National Party conference today, they wanted to make sure everybody knows they're all about coal.

From ABC News:

The National Party has used its federal conference in Canberra to call on the Federal Government to eliminate subsidies for renewable energy. 

 The plan involves freezing subsidies at their current levels for 12 months, then phasing them out entirely over five years. 

 Former Nationals senator Ron Boswell spoke passionately in favour of the motion before it passed. "Please don't reject this, because the message that it sends out is the National Party is pro-renewable energy, and it isn't," he told members.

Cheers of "hear, hear!" for coal itself were also given by the assembled party members.

Donald Trump steals the attention with his WTF moments, but we have plenty here don't you worry about that.