Men, this desolate truth, and its massive responsibility, lays with you

Yes, I’m a feminist. But you knew that, right?

I’m proud to admit it. There’s no shame in wanting equal rights for women and men, especially when there is so much inequality, much of it insidiously slipping beneath all our radars and the vast majority of it impacting women. But you knew that too, right?

But what about when people misunderstand feminism, thinking it’s an excuse for man-hypersensitivity or even man-bashing, and it colours the way we see men, their roles and value in general?

And then this affects the very minutiae of our lives, and those for who we are responsible? Like children; impressionable and sponge-like by nature, they learn by example.

I’ll admit to recently finishing Clementine Ford’s Fight Like A Girl, which gives a fascinating insight into how sinister patriarchy is, right from pre-birth with how boys and girls are innocently expected to look, think and behave in respect to one another.

The book is profoundly awakening, and I’ve been looking at things in a new way, grasping more of the roots of why and how I see myself as the woman I do.

Which is why my views on feminism impacted my reaction to a staggeringly sad story I heard the other day – one that left me shaking my head, pondering if in fact the demonization of men could be caused by a misunderstanding of feminism.

Here is the story: A childcare centre in a once working class now gentrified, affluent but bohemian Perth western suburb was recently compelled to send letters home to all its parents explaining the benefits of employing male carers to interact with their young offspring.

Why, you ask? Because it employs two young men as qualified carers (because men make up 50% of our community and also aspire to care for and educate children in a professional capacity), but some parents had requested their child/ren not be cared for by men at the centre, while others actually withdrew their child/ren completely because they felt it inappropriate for males to be employed in the childcare field.

A pervading feeling of sickness still lingers with me after hearing such a terribly woeful indictment of our times. But even more confusing was trying to work out where we as a society could look to find the reason for this, and then hopefully, a solution.

The mother who told me this story has a small son attending the centre, and was just as stunned as I, loving that her boy had established such a great bond with these male carers; learning how to count in a foreign language, enjoying the opportunity to be expressive and playful with both male and female adult role models in an educational setting.

How must these men have felt upon hearing that parents regarded them with suspicion? Rejected, hurt, defamed? I certainly felt gutted on their behalf.

In Fight, Ford talks about the temptation for women to go overboard in sparing men’s feelings when it comes to advocating for equality, and I’m sure we can all think of many examples where women have endured unfair attitudes/treatment in the workplace based solely on their gender. Does this story fit neatly within these parameters – are these men being unfairly targeted due to their gender?

Such a hopeless yet accurate reflection of where we are currently mired in this gender equality stand-off has been the subject of much personal rumination.

Could it be the fault of feminism that men are being rejected, and children the ultimate losers, of this worrying and seemingly unfair trend?

Could it also be a result of the ongoing Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse and its damning findings, which do nothing for men’s PR, but are so vital for victims, closure and healing?

Are we in the relative calm before a perfect man-hate storm?

I relayed this story to a man and his response was forlorn, barely there, just sad. And it does leave you feeling kind of powerless.

But surely, when the well-rounded education and care of children is at risk, despite women still making up 95% of employees in the childcare sector, isn’t it time we encouraged and welcomed strong, positive male role models into the lives of more young boys and girls?

We are all in this together – in all our diverse forms.

Shouldn’t we be striving to make it normal to see men and women in non-traditional roles if they are doing a bloody awesome job?

And how did we get here, anyway?

Disturbingly, after an awful lot of thinking, I came upon the only answer there is.

Men, this desolate truth, and its massive responsibility, lays with you.

It is men who have been responsible for the extreme majority of child abuse down through the ages, a chilling reality that continues today.

To pretend otherwise, would be to give men the benefit of the doubt, a free go, letting them off, again – something Ford says we’ve all been taught to do, thanks to patriarchy.

This week at UWA, WA Chief Justice, Hon Wayne Martin QC, will host the Symposium of Child Sexual Abuse Prevention.

He is quoted on PerthNow – Justice Martin said there were “too large a number” of child sex abuse cases before the courts and it is a “significantly bigger problem than people who are not in the justice system would appreciate”.

“There is a perception out there that it’s stranger danger that is the problem, whereas in fact, most of the child sex cases we see in the courts are either familiar or institutional.”

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/wa-chief-justice-wayne-martin-says-child-molesters-need-therapy/news-story/4c878e1ed82fecadeaab034eb62e2d3c

This means children are being taken advantage of in institutions or within the circles of family and friends, where we would hope they are safe.

In the same article by Belle Taylor, clinical psychologist Christabel Chamarette says most child sex abuse happens within families but many abusers could be helped, and even stopped, with treatment.

“Paedophilia really only applies to a small percentage of men, 10 per cent at most, who offend against children who are fixated and have a preoccupation with sexual offending against children,” Ms Chamarette said.

We cannot blame mothers and parents for feeling uneasy about having their children cared for by men, as sorrowful as this is.

We can all learn from past mistakes, this is how we perfect the art of being human, but surely we can’t as a society, also think it’s ok to throw men to the scrapheap when it comes to childcare and education. And we definitely cannot allow men to continue not taking responsibility for owning up to and fixing this travesty.

Lord knows child care is bloody hard enough as it is without it being considered undervalued women’s business only. And we women have been fighting for an eon to have men be more active in the vital and rewarding role of nurturer, if not for the sake of children, for men’s own benefit – men speak of being more in touch with their own emotions as a result of more time spent caring for their babies and children.

Men, it’s time to step up. Abuse of any kind, of any gender, is unacceptable. It’s doing your gender no favours, and severely damaging the lives of mainly women and children. And that’s without mentioning the astronomic male on male physical assault rates.

Please redress this dispiriting balance, to put an end to this pain, these gender wars, so we can unite.

Before this planet implodes and returns to the space dust it once was.

Wolf whistle-ee bites the hand that feeds

HE wasn’t anything special physically, possibly even under par – but that could just have been his scruffy garage work uniform. Perhaps he scrubbed up ok in a suit at a mate’s wedding, or even after a shit, a shower and a shave, as blokes are wont to say.

But I would never make an ‘out loud’ judgement specifically directed at him to let he and everyone else within earshot know what I thought of his appearance – beau or bogan.

That would be rude, bullying, arrogant – lord knows I’ve tried to model behavioural traits that contradict these to my two daughters.

I didn’t know the first thing about his personality. He could be someone my mother would love, or a fraudster, or very sensitive about being thrust into the spotlight. So me making an ‘out loud’ physical judgement would only be telling part of his story, a story I didn’t know intimately enough to tell accurately. And it would limit him to one thing only – his appearance. And we all know that’s only skin deep and changeable, depending on the day, the mood, the circumstance, the lighting for gawd’s sake.

So why do some men (or women) find it necessary and acceptable to let a woman (or man), usually a complete stranger, know they look above par…attractive…hot…to them, personally, in a way that also sends a clear message to others with ears in the area?

And are there times, in this politically correct age, when the controversial wolf whistle is acceptable behaviour?

If I’m honest, hearing a stranger wolf whistle me when I was in my mid-teens was sort of thrilling…I may have felt differently had I seen the source of this admiration. It usually came from a passing car. Probably driven by a balding married man with middle-age spread; or a pimply late teen with P Plates on the floor beside a clinking crowd of empty stubbies. The beer bottles, not the shorts…

Somehow in my salad days, those whistles gave me an idea I looked acceptable in a public sense. That I wasn’t embarrassing myself with how I presented my very ordinary appearance. It wasn’t until years later that I realised the wolf whistle said more about the whistler than the whistle-ee. Perhaps those early ‘commenters’ had an inappropriate thing for young girls. **My skin has actually grown legs and is crawling all over itself!**

Inevitably, after a few years of sustained ‘comment’ I began to lose confidence, avoid or fear certain situations and cringe to my very core – my initial thrill had briefly turned to anger before nestling in plain old dread and humiliation.

I was 41-years-old before I stood up for myself, by standing up to my wolf whistler. My daughters were so proud!

As I arrived at my place of work, where I was a senior manager, I would park in the nominated car bay and start the 20m walk to my office’s back door. It was double the distance to the front door and in the rain, it felt triple that on those dark whistle-laden days.

As I made my way to the closest entry point of my workplace, I had to walk up to and past the open roller door of a neighbouring auto mechanic business. Men often stood in the communal access way, having smoko. I would nod and smile politely in greeting. It would be rude not to given I was walking straight past them in a relatively confined space.

This was all very normal and acceptable. Until. The wolf whistle. My eyes dropped straight to the bitumen as I walked more efficiently than ever to the door, willing it to be unlocked so I wouldn’t have to navigate my key into its sticky innards. The relief once I got inside that door was immense. It was a one-off. Incident over.

But no. It became an almost daily occurrence over about two weeks. And the whistler wasn’t shy. He would lean against the outside wall and blatantly make his comment as I came within metres of him. By this time I was worrying about it on the drive to work, I’d shared the story with a couple of close workmates, girlfriends, even my daughters. We all thought this bloke was an absolute tool.

It was making me miserable. I started to ditch the heels and wear flats, hoping to look less ‘womanly’, more homely, or at least less like the siren he thought he should activate.

One morning though, I was in a bad mood, some incident at home, and I was still stewing over it on the drive to work. The perfect storm. My dander was already up.

So I just let him have it, in my own understated, direct fashion.

As the whistle came, I surprised myself by changing direction and heading straight for him.

“Why do you do that?” I asked.

“I thought you liked it,” came his stuttering reply.

“No. I don’t like it at all. It makes me feel really embarrassed. Could you please not do it,” I stated.

“I’m really sorry. I won’t do it again. Sorry,” he blustered, visually shrinking before me.

“That’s ok,” I said, before propelling myself towards my destination and victory!

It never happened again and I’ve shared this story a few times, mainly as a way to subtly let men know women don’t appreciate being singled out with a wolf whistle and to let other women, particularly younger ones, know it’s important to step up sometimes, and say what you really think, without overreacting.

Everyone has agreed with me that this sort of wolf whistle is inappropriate. Except for one person. A former colleague, an English woman in her early 60s who said women should take it as a compliment, and that it was harmless. She said English men often did it and that they weren’t afraid to show their feelings or their appreciation of an attractive woman, unlike Australian men, who were more interested in their cars. While that sounds like a great theory, anecdotally, that is rarely how we are left feeling.

I can think of times I’ve wolf whistled my girlfriends quietly, but in a public forum, like when I’ve discovered them in the same aisle at the supermarket. And the look on their face is always one of embarrassment-slash-annoyance, until they see me. Then we smile and hug. This might be the only time it’s acceptable – among very real friends. When we know the whole story.

Giving the colour pink a bad name

I am pink with irritation.

Not all women like pink or consider themselves denoted as female by the mere use of the sickly colour.

Not all women appreciate being singled out as such, by being told they can now park more safely in their own special pink ‘female-friendly’ car bays, where the security lighting and CCTV coverage is better.

And not all people are stupid enough to have the woolly fairy floss of laziness pulled over their eyes by a council trying to get away with not spending money on decent car park security for everyone – regardless of gender, age, ability or whether or not you have children and a pram in the back of your wagon.

Here, in the marshmallow-scented capital city of the nanny state of Western Australia, the City of Perth has employed a sugar-coated marketing ploy to encourage women to park in the few car bays that do have proper night lighting and CCTV coverage.

Mary Poppins would recognise this as a cynical attempt to spend less on security, spit spot!

It is a spoonful-of-sugar attempt to provide better protection, but glaringly it’s aimed at only one section of society.

A small article in Perth’s daily newspaper today states the bays will be easily identified by pink signs, walls and poles during a three-month trial close to exits in one council car park.

But here’s the real icing on the cake. The article also states, without attribution to anyone, that the bays are “the same size as regular bays”.

If that statement isn’t a slight on women drivers, I don’t know what is – the size of the bay will not influence the behaviour of would be attackers any more than the colour pink.

So why was this information even in the article in the first place? If it is a question that has been asked by several, prompting that line of enquiry, then whoever supplied the response should be quoted, at least.

If statistics do exist somewhere showing women as the main culprits of at fault bingles, scratches and crashes in car parks, it’s probably because they are usually the ones that drop off children to school/childcare on their way to work before parking the family car, and again later as they are slowly irradiated by fluorescent lighting while foraging at the supermarket.

There are statistics that show men are just as vulnerable to attack in public places at night, with many ending up in hospital after banging their heads on kerbs and bitumen as terrible proof.

At its worst, the pink-ifying of parking bays almost accepts that there will be attacks on women in car parks because they are vulnerable targets. No – that behaviour is not acceptable in society, for any gender.

Yes, women do like it when someone is kind, or thinks of our comfort and/or safety. But so do men. So why can’t the City of Perth be nice to everyone and provide secure parking for all? Not just those born with ovaries and a stereotypical matching obsession with the colour pink, or the men who love the delicate shade and can park carefree in the knowledge that they will not be fined for doing so and will be safer for it.

Now, that would be just supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Mascara malcontent – an ancient first world problem

It’s just me, isn’t it…

I have an unhealthy dependence on mascara – extreme black, because black isn’t black enough. Noir, it’s not.

I don’t mean your mascara, the must-have mascara of the moment, or mascara per se.

I don’t horde it, sleep in it, or get sucked in by the unearthly claims some cosmetics marketers of the humble eye lash filler, tout.

No, it’s nothing like that.

My issue is this.

I can’t. Let. Go. Of. My old mascara!

Over many months (more than the three recommended by opthalmologists) I develop a trusting relationship-slash-addiction, to the way my particular brush intimately understands each of my individual lashes, and how the perfect gooeyness of the waxy pigment spreads on them so perfectly and evenly. And in a jiffy, too – I know my mascara so well that it allows me to deftly apply it in just a moment. Or two. No slaving over a steamy mirror for me.

But of course, inevitably, sadly, the tube’s contents get low, even though I have convinced myself its contents are bottomless. About a month after I have begun scraping the bottom of that skinny little barrel, I begin to admit that I’m going to need to buy – shock, horror – new mascara.

It fills me with such fear! Why? Because new mascara, as shiny and as exciting as it looks in its alluring-slash-confusing packaging, it never fails to disappoint me! Even if the claims of extra length, volume and thickness have raised my naïve hopes.

The brush is always too clean – I prefer it perfectly caked in aged pigment; the paint too thin – I prefer it perfectly caked in aged pigment. The whistle-clean brush and watery paint DOES NOT cover my eyelashes!

Like a balancing crane, I stand before the mirror cultivating a stiff neck for an inordinate amount of time so that the fine hairs growing from my eyelids are not naked in public. And it makes me late for work, socialising and life!

Why can’t new mascara be like old mascara! Revlon, Rimmel, Rubinstein – can you hear me! It needs to be viscous – I don’t have time to apply 127 coats to each lash every morning!

And so, what generally happens is, I go back to my old mascara. For another week. Or two. Why? Because I trust its performance even though I’m down to the dregs.

Then I swap brushes, mix pigments (not recommended by health professionals, at all!) and eventually – like in 5 days – the consistency and the new brush starts to become a little more malleable. It would be so much easier if the transition could be seamless, like when you run out of lip balm.

Then I wouldn’t have to store one of my favourite old mascaras in the car’s centre console, for emergencies such as these. And I wouldn’t have to feel as if my eyelashes are dressed only in their bra and knickers instead of the full outfit.

Eventually, my trust builds and again, I am in torrid love with my mascara. We go everywhere together, never disagree and rarely cause inconvenience or lash shame (yes, it’s a thing), until…

Look. I blame being a child of the 80s when it was not unusual for me to wear purple, blue and teal mascara…not at the same time.

In the 60s it was eyeliner, in the 70s blue eye shadow.

In the 90’s, actually, I’m not sure. I stuck with my trusty mascara…old habits die hard.

After all, historical records show that mascara was used as early as 4000 BC in ancient Egypt.

Even I know that mascara is just too old 😉

 

Be head strong

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I CAN be an arrogant arse at times.

I know! Some of you are saying, “Arrogant? No, you’re not!” (thanks mum, and Aunty Sue) but sadly, it’s true. And it could also be true of you – prepare to navel-gaze.

I admit this unenviable trait is not completely obvious – it’s not like I throw tanties at restaurant wait staff over below average food, or refuse to let cars merge in front of me on Kwinana Freeway. It’s something more subtle.

It’s the harbouring of ingrained attitudes that really are just plain selfish. Let me explain.

As some of you may know, I had a bicycle accident a few years back, and no, I wasn’t wearing my helmet. Apart from my bitumen-biting chin, my head remained injury free (on the outside, anyway) so I was very fortunate not to have sustained more serious damage…even when you consider my two broken arms, I got off very lightly. I thought I knew this.

Turns out I don’t . Or I didn’t. Until a couple of weeks ago.

With a long Sunday riverside bicycle ride tantalisingly ahead of me, I made the decision not to wear a helmet, and discarded it like yesterday’s news because “I’m an adult, I shouldn’t have to wear a helmet if I don’t want to. Bloody nanny state!”

Before I go on, the ride was blissfully incident-free. I rode along with an unencumbered head like some faux European, wind blowing through my loose locks, a sensory-overload smile on my face.

The riverside dual use path was a popular route and it was a bit like peak-hour traffic at times, especially with the addition of dogs, prams, toddlers, errant soccer balls and chatting or headphone-wearing pedestrians.

Slowly but surely, as I passed and was passed by my smug fellow outdoorsy types, it dawned on me that I had not seen one other cyclist not wearing a helmet on their precious head.

The realisation hit me like that bitumen did all those years ago and I immediately tried to rationalise it; the Lycra-clad racers needed helmets in case they ventured onto the road, it was part of their trendy uniform. But recreational riders, too, were wearing them. Maybe it’s because they are a bit doddery and have a higher chance of falling off. (Yes, I realise that was both arrogant and hypocritical).

The only person I did see without a helmet was a boy of about 13 and even if he is arrogant, he has youthful ignorance on his side.

Belatedly, I’ve decided I should know better and pledge not to endanger the lives of others or my own by not wearing a helmet when I ride a bike. There. Now I’ve typed it in black and white I have to honour it.

But seriously, being the only one not wearing a helmet made me realise how incredibly selfish that is. I was basically giving the finger to all other pedestrians in my vicinity, ignoring the fact that they were taking as much responsibility for their own safety as possible. Even if I caused someone to fall off their bike, their helmet would go some way towards hopefully protecting their cranium, and saving me the added trauma of feeling responsible for causing them a traumatic but preventable head injury.

Yep, sometimes I get quite cosy gazing into my own navel, despite the lack of lint furnishings.

I think it was all that fresh air in my hair as I rode along, giving root to some profound thinking processes.

Anyway, if I’m brutally honest, one of my main “concerns” about wearing a bicycle helmet is that it causes helmet-hair and makes me look even sillier (for those of you familiar with my rat’s nest, you’ll know what I mean). But, honestly the mat of hair created by the wind was no better.

Culturally, perhaps it goes back to women and girls being conditioned to think they need to look ‘pretty’ at all times. If that’s what prevents some of us from being safe, its well past time we discarded that baseless notion. As Swifty says, “shake it off”.

So, featuring far too many similarities with another community service announcement, simply put, if it’s not on, it’s not on!

 

NB – You have no idea the difficulty I faced trying to find a useable image of a woman wearing head armour! These femme fatales were either holding their helmet for show or it just didn’t feature in their warrior uniform, replaced instead by arbitrary long flowing locks. (teamed with very prominent breasts, but that’s another story)…. 

 

Howling with a heavy brogue

IF a man indulges in casual sexism in an unintelligible accent, is he really being an ignorant oaf?

Or consider this.

If a woman doesn’t realise she is the butt of a man’s casual sexism, does it mean she’s no longer a feminist?

Hard hitting questions, all.

This post is a confusing one for me to write – so I’ll just tell it as it happened, because, it was an amusing blip in my otherwise ordinary day.

It was a Monday. I’d happily survived another one and was walking post-work from the train station to where I park the car – about a five minute walk; I’ve convinced myself if I don’t have time for formal exercise on any given day, at least I walked briskly for 10 minutes. And used the stairs instead of the lift. And only had two chocolates at 3pm with a cup of tea.

Deep in aimless, western society thought…what should I make for dinner, damn I forgot to book the dogs in for a groom, again, that champagne on Saturday was really nice, what brand was it…I was pulled from my mental meanderings by a rogueish brogue.

Well. I didn’t know that’s what it was until my mind had caught up with the situation – someone was talking to me, or attempting to.

As I turned my head toward the train station access road beside me, I noted a white 4WD ute had slowed to walking pace and a male driver, dressed in hi-viz, was talking out his open window. Probably to me. Because there was nobody else around.

My thoughts began to speed up, I checked my surroundings wondering if he was slowing to give me a warning about some sort of nearby danger, maybe someone was nicking my car, but how would he know which car was mine, and why do we suddenly think these weird sorts of things?

There was only one thing to do.

“I beg your pardon,” I genuinely asked, looking for clarification of the impending danger.

“Yaprollydoneffennohowotyearrrr,” came the repetitive, slur-ry reply.

Now, I know the helpful grinning man was repeating his statement so I could better understand it, but it sounded just the same, only slightly slower.

As my brain worked overtime to decipher it, and matching it with his boofhead smile, I instinctively realised bodily danger was not imminent. Besides, there was a fence and a car between him and me.

And then it clicked.

“You probably don’t even know how hot you are,” was the helpful offering of life advice, in a thick Irish brogue.

And what was my brilliant reply?

“Okey doke.”

Brilliant! A wordsmith without the wherewithall to wield them.

Well, what was I supposed to say? And what was it all supposed to mean?

But, back to my first question – was this harmless gent a sexist oaf?

No. I think he thought he was giving me a compliment. Because, it’s a looong walk from the train station to the deserted car park and I don’t know how much more silence I could have endured without a reassuring ‘compliment’ from a stranger. Withdrawals already!

We women need reassuring that we are hot, don’t we. I will refrain from making a dad-joke about the weather at this point. (Ooops, was I being sexist then? Sorry dad.)

Was I being an anti-feminist by not calling him out as a sexist or in fact, not realising that’s probably what he was being? It only became clearer when watching this week’s hooha following Chris Gayle’s clumsy and inappropriate flirtation with TV sports reporter Mel McLaughlin. I’m a bit slow on the uptake some days.

I say inappropriate because it’s not nice to show someone up in public for your own entertainment. If a romantic relationship did eventuate from this shallow televised attempt, expect more of the same top quality respect for your feelings. Privately and publicly.

But, unsurprisingly, I digress.

In a nutshell, I was momentarily confused. I didn’t feel like a victim, because I don’t think our Irish friend set out to make me feel that way. I think Chris Gayle distinctively did. Ms McLaughlin certainly didn’t appear as a slaughtered lamb.

So, I am not an anti-feminist for just ‘shaking my head’ at the thoughtless things some men will do to communicate to a woman that they think they’re a bit of alright. I don’t think I needed to take any stronger action…I think my ‘okey doke’ will have convinced him beyond doubt of his stupid, sexist actions…pfffffttt!

But, seriously guys, what do you want us women to do when you offer an uninvited impression of our attractiveness? Scale the fence between us, clamber through your open window and plant sloppy, thankful kisses all over your dusty, stubble-pocked face, then use a hanky to wipe the spittle away and remind you to put your dirty work clothes in the laundry basket and not on the bedroom floor?

No. Well, behave then.

On another aside, we women don’t publicly voice our impressions of men’s physical appeal because from the moment we are born little girls are conditioned to behave politely and be sensitive to the feelings of others. It’s as simple as that. Or is it?

Blokes, it’s time to be awesome role models for the little men in your lives. It can’t just be mum’s job any more.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Picture: Norbert Rosing/Getty Images

 

 

Going round the Benz

 

It’s morning peak hour, just as harried working mothers are ferrying their children to school in the nick of time, up and down already congested roads, when the unthinkable happens.

Your car conks out right at an insanely busy intersection to an arterial route linking to the main freeway of the capital city in which you live.

This was me today. I apologise to everyone behind me in the metal line-up that stretched as far as the eye could see as cars, trucks, bikes, taxis, utes, SUVs, limousines (ok, that might be stretching the truth – ha! See what I did there…), did their best to steer around my forlorn 1975 Mercedes-Benz as it languished in the turning lane.

A remarkable woman for her age, the white automatic I’ve dubbed Ida – because she’s my private Idaho, not after the popular Germanic woman’s name – decided to have a little nanna nap at the lights.

Yeah, tell that to the frustrated, previously on-time drivers, doing their utmost not to erupt in road rage as they attempt what they do least best – merge.

Thankfully, as I fumbled in my purse for my gold RAC card, which I couldn’t find, then Googled the magic phone number and dialled it, only one fellow road user honked in desperation. But I was very focussed on trying to get myself out of a pickle so there were probably multitudinous birds being flipped, and looks trying to kill.

Finally, after what seemed like an absolute century, I successfully made contact with roadside assist who would send a tow truck forthwith to pull me off the road, freeing up the congestion I was sure must now be part of every commercial radio station’s droll 8am traffic report.

“A silly wild-haired woman is stranded in her posh (near) vintage petrol-guzzling Merc at one of the most used intersections linking to the City’s only congested freeway system, otherwise known as the carpark. Will someone give her a hand to push the clapped out piece of art onto the bloody median strip! Doesn’t she know we’ve all got deadlines to meet and rubber to burn at this time of day!!!”

Then, just as my stress levels peaked, a knight in shining armour pulled up beside me in a deep cherry red 90s Landcruiser, having logically mounted the kerb to do so, and offered to pull me off. What! That’s two offers in the space of three minutes! Maybe my luck was changing.

Michael ‘The Practical’ said he would happily attach a rope to the front of his car and the back of mine, before reversing up onto the generous, grassy median, removing me from harm’s way, and letting morning peak hour catch up with itself.

I couldn’t have been more overjoyed, especially when he mused that someone really should have offered help well before now, shading his eyes as they gazed into the distance at the endless snaking vehicular centipede.

Resolved to take action, I looked down at my gearstick and realised, sheepishly, that it was sitting neatly in ‘drive’…possibly the reason for my ignitionless ignition…oh, ooohhhhhh.

I gently put her in ‘park’ and turning the ignition again, Ida’s rhythmic pistons sparked into throaty life.

While she had stuttered on take-off due to her customary flat spot on acceleration, she probably would have started again quite quickly had I put her in park before trying to turn her over.

I admit it. Sometimes I am a silly wild-haired woman. But I guess you’ve figured that out by now.

So, why, when I have a perfectly serviceable 2010 Nissan sitting in my garage, was I driving that dinosaur, you ask?

Just to keep the motor ticking over 🙂

Designer vaginas – the next must-have beauty treatment?

Is your vagina designer?

What? Don’t play stupid with me – Has it seen better days? Have people been complaining about its appearance? Does it need redoing, you know, like your holiday house décor, or your roots?

Because, apparently if your ‘ladyparts’ don’t look like a petite, perfectly closed purse you need surgery to fix that – a bit like those boobs in need of perkifying and that unattractive non-trout pout.

According to a gloriously pink full page ad in a weekly newspaper delivered to Perth’s most elite beach and riverside suburbs, local women should contact a particular ‘medical aesthetic centre’ to find out how they can get their own designer vagina.

‘Tighten vaginal tissue, remodel collagen and rejuvenate the vulva. Revive the sensations, revitalise the tissue of the vagina and improve urinary incontinence’ is the ad’s teasing hook line (and sinker), with a web address using the words petite and lady, because that’s what we all aspire to be, isn’t it!?

I mean, I don’t know about you, but I would love myself sick, and so would others, if my brain, pay packet, personality, role and presence on this planet was so much smaller, thinner and petite than they really are.

I’m so thankful I have the choice to get a designer vagina if I want one – hooray! Unless it’s just another way to make women part with their hard-earned and their self respect by buying into the pressure to conform to yet another sanitised, feminine ideal of sameness.

What is the perfect vagina? One that can adequately birth children and still function as a pleasure receptor and provider, surely.

If you need help with urinary incontinence, pelvic floor exercises work wonders and if not it’s a bone fide medical condition that may need specialist surgery; it’s not an excuse for a ‘medical aesthetic centre’ to charge you thousands to improve the appearance of something that is already unique, beautiful and functional.

Is this pressure to possess a ‘healed’ over vulva coming from men, if so, is there a particular age range flexing their muscles? Is it women – it seems unlikely, you can’t even show off the finished product? Is it the cosmetic surgery industry?

I’ll go with the last one – I’m informed there is a demand for the service at this western suburbs clinic, but advertising the designer vagina treatment perpetuates what is a sad, damaging cycle – it doesn’t just involve medically unnecessary surgery with a painful recovery but the reiteration of an unhealthy and inaccurate belief that as women, our natural appearance is not good enough.

I’ve even heard the frightening anecdote of a teenage girl so ashamed of her vagina that she is convinced she needs surgery – and she hasn’t yet seen what an amazing array of yonis are even out there, so that she can see she is perfectly normal, or given birth…but that’s a topic for another day.      

We cry foul at the thought of women undergoing female circumcision and/or genital mutilation. I don’t see how this is any different, except that the patients have been brainwashed into thinking it’s just a normal desire all women have the right to fulfil.

Get real. There’s nothing wrong with your vagina. Embrace it. And do your pelvic floors.