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.

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The electric blanket of guilt and other magical winter discoveries.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, which could explain why Perth’s recent and persistent freezing cold morning temperatures have colluded with my body’s inability to effectively circulate blood to my extremities.

I call it the perfect epiphany storm, and here’s why.

I’ve had several. Epiphanies.

Those beautiful, crystalising moments when something becomes so blindingly clear that the relief you feel is merely an echo of your brain as it expands slightly in size and weight.

Cogs meet and turn, and click……So thaaaaaaat’s why!

Ugh (my spelling, and hopeful shield against copyright war) boots – I’ve never understood the hideous things. Until now.

And my sensitive little feet want them desperately.

From their thick, rubbery soles splaying clumsily beneath each foot, to their stain-prone ovine hides, to the sweat-absorbing innards of woollen pelt, I fear necessity has invented actual reasons why these ghastly-looking cave shoes deserve a place in my post-modern footwear-worshipping life.

When it’s -1.6 degrees just a couple of suburbs away at 6.59am on a Wednesday, I need a full-body Ugh boot!

Which brings me to my (secret) leg-warming electric blanket. Can’t I just wear one of these ‘mother guilt’-inducing garments to work, or stay put in my animal-print lined cave (bed)?

Convention (like computers), says no. But I can imagine now, how Ugh boots and a ‘down’ electric blanket could really compliment each other on the sardinous train journey to Perth nestled among fashionable fellow commuters. Can’t you?

My beige gloves with the bow became an essential ingredient of my daily get-up since the breakfast temperature dropped below 12 degrees. Along with stockings, laddered or not.

On the back of the paleo diet, this new winter uniform is Neolithic in its sartorial relevancy, Aurelio!

In my desperation to stay warm, avoid fingers and toes that turn white with a lack of blood and buzz with an almost electrical numbness, these phalange-saving epiphanies have been sprouting thick and fast.

  • Put that bloody electric blanket luxury item on the bed, even if the kids don’t have one!
  • Oh, alright then! Get the kids their own electric blanket luxury items!
  • Buy a pair of godawful Ugh boots, and sloth smugly around the house in cocooned comfort!
  • The winter solstice was an anti-climax and the sun still sets way before 6pm!

133 days ‘til summer.

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

 

 

The myth of why women don’t need men.

SOME men believe women don’t need them. And it’s making them sad. In fact some are suicidal, believing that they don’t know what it means to be a man anymore.
Maybe we don’t ‘need’ them – women can today earn a living and own property, unlike in bygone eras, but I’m fairly certain that we do want them. Very much.
We want our dads and our brothers and our male friends. We want our husbands and boyfriends – what heterosexual woman doesn’t want the special attention of her soul mate and lover as they share challenges throughout their lives.
But here’s what we don’t want, and it’s very similar to what heterosexual men wouldn’t stand for either.
We don’t want to be controlled. Let us blossom into the individuals that we all deserve to be with the freedoms we all have a right to in our democratic society.
We don’t want to be made to feel guilty for not making sacrifices that damage our self-esteem or health.
We don’t want to be taken for granted, or made to feel used.
We don’t want to be told how wonderful you are, we want to see your wonderfulness in action. For eternity.
We want you to be reliable and do what you say you will.
We want you to be honest.
We want you to talk to us so we can understand and help you.
We want you to listen so you can understand us.
We want you to accept our maternal drive to put the children first. It doesn’t mean we don’t love you deeply.
We want you to not be afraid to also put those defenceless family members first. They will grow into their independent, adult selves soon enough.
That’s mostly what we want. Does it make sense?
As a heterosexual woman, I can’t speak of what gay people want from their significant others but it’s probably very similar. And very simple.

The myth of why women don’t need men..

Work wrangling women: Why they’re wonderful

I work in a team of three other women. Don’t Cringe! They – we – are amazing. Together we put out two newspapers each week, including multiple editions for one. How we achieve that, week in week out, with the ordinary, various and constant challenges we each face in our personal lives, never fails to baffle or impress me.
With an independent 18-year-old daughter who has already left home and a 15-year-old daughter still at home but who no longer needs me as she did in bygone weeks, nay years, my life in comparison to theirs, is a bit dull, which is just the way I like it thankyou very much. If you forget the fact that until just weeks ago I was travelling 50 minutes to and from work (and school) in peak hour traffic to sleep in a suburb I rarely saw in the light of day. A month ago I, my remaining daughter and our two dogs, moved house to be 30 minutes closer to our daily pursuits. Enough said about that challenge. We are just starting to feel normal again despite not knowing where the light switches are.
I have also spent time, because I’m obviously a glutton for mental punishment, trading my car in, and like the awesome grown up I now obviously am, I have a brand spanker (to me) in my new carport. A roller door will arrive in less than two weeks, along with a rapid dip in savings.
But let me share the amusing life challenges faced by my co-workers. One has a two-year-old, a shift-working husband and a whelping bitch, moved house two months ago and is required to jam her work into just three days, including after hours meetings.
Another is going through an emotional divorce after less than a year’s marriage. She has moved house four times in the past year and has a tenacious case of chronic insomnia.
My third team member returned to fulltime work a year ago and has two primary school aged children with the usual sporting commitments, a mother who lives in-house and when not recovering from surgery, is an amazing hands-on granny, and a husband who travels every other week for work.
Together they have embarked on an ambitious renovation of their 70s home and the all-important kitchen and bathroom refurbs took place while the man of the house was overseas for two weeks and granny was unable to drive, lift, cook or care for kids. Days of fast food, frazzled nerves, a roving grazing mouse, no hot water and brick-dust covered belongings teamed with a cracker of a flu don’t even tell the half of it.
Most weeks I shake my head with pride at just how good the publications we put out are, with consistently top quality, crafted articles that require the kind of intelligent research and grasp I’m always pleasantly surprised and relieved to know our taxed brains can achieve. All while having our well-deserved cake and eating it distractedly, too.

OLD

OLD.
It’s a word that takes some getting used to when you hit your 40s – you know it’s that misty, rocky landscape over the horizon and although it looms larger every year despite encroaching myopia, you persistently backpedal which can look slightly clumsy and undignified when you’re on a one-way street with signs that scream ‘Wrong Way Turn Back’.
Making the journey even more perilous, is the fact I’m still riding my penny-farthing, balancing high on that big solo wheel, five years after falling off my tandem cycle – well, I temporarily lost balance after an unscheduled dismount by the other rider in favour of a bike 15 years his junior.
But that’s old news now. And there it is again, that word, old…the fact it rhymes with mould doesn’t help.
But I have a sneaking suspicion I may already be too old for some things. Rubbish! I hear you gasp – so, you’re in denial too!
Short skirts. I never was a huge fan, they are so restrictive to freedom of movement. But now I feel as though onlookers may think I fancy myself as a leg of butterflied lamb as opposed to a gently spiced lamb curry, if my skirt is too far above the (slightly sagging) knee.
Blonde hair. There is an unfortunate Japanese phrase (which escapes me right now) that means you look good from behind, but the reality is disappointing when you turn around. I’m not as blonde as I naturally once was, but am acutely aware blonde is the favoured hue of the greying. I have visions I may look as though I’m wearing one of those mole-ridden, pointy-nosed witch masks on the opposite side of my hirsute head.
A sports car. It’s so cliché, even for women, to be seen driving ‘topless’ and in their middle years – it harks of a desperation when I know it’s just the joy of finally being able to afford one and loving the feel of the wind in your thinning hair.
Chewing and/or bubble gum. It looks bad enough when teens masticate monotonously, but apparently it’s good for dental health, unless your fangs are acrylic.
Café canoodling. Young couples in Paris are admired but maturing folk enthusiastically resurrecting the joy of a good long pash in public risk appalled stares, if not tomatoes.
Wearing a bikini. The Germans have the right idea, bare it all regardless of age and size. And I’m still wearing my black bikini on relatively unpopulated beaches but it’s just a matter of time before my full piece rules the waves.
I’ll check in with a few additions in weeks to come, when I remember what they are;)

Riding the elevator of shared parenting

IT’S been five years since the father of my two daughters and I parted ways. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge, much has changed, and many new scenarios have come home to roost – most are welcome and enjoyable, like not feeling the pressure to always prepare an evening meal featuring some variety of meat and carbohydrate, usually with an international flavour to disguise my daily cookery conundrum, or more correctly, boredom.

In fact, evening meals have become a really slap dash (but still healthy!) affair, which is a whole other blog topic I’ll attempt another day.

One of the new and initially dreaded scenarios of separation was the phenomenon of waiting for my offspring to go stay overnight with their dad, coping while they were away, expectantly awaiting their return, and more importantly, surviving the 24-48 hours after the homecoming.

Be prepared for an emotional elevator – it still takes me for a ride all these years later, if I let it.

I’ll cut to the chase – yes, you are going through a stressful new experience that probably takes up a lot of your emotional energy, but so are the kids, and it’ll be obvious from their unsettled behaviour and mindset when they come home.

While you are dying to see them, smother them with your affection and find out what they’ve been up to because you’ve missed them so much, be prepared for them to be standoffish and snappy. I would routinely be offended by their behaviour and admonish them for being rude to me, or each other, and the homecoming would be spoiled, which would have me snivelling quietly in a corner of my bedroom.

But, after a while I noticed it was a pattern and it was how they coped with the readjustment to living arrangements and rules, and probably from being on such good behaviour for their dad who they missed and weren’t seeing nearly as much as I (still) felt (feel) they should. I don’t even think they realised they were doing it.

So now I give them a wide berth for a day or so, and they eventually come to me with open arms and stories to share. They can still appear cranky when they get home, but I just ignore it, knowing it’s only temporary and let those meaningless knee-jerk reactions ‘go through to the keeper’, as they say.

As for preparing for their departure, I would always be so anxious for it to just happen so I could stop worrying about it. When their dad was late, which was usual, they would be strung out wondering why and I would just have to pretend it was all ok and cool to go with the flow – inside I was seething because they were so excited to spend time with their dad – didn’t he realise that?

The first few times I would peek out the window and watch them drive away from the house, big tears welling in my eyes and a feeling of having pieces of my heart ripped out through my heaving ribcage.

These days I rotate between collapsing in a thankful heap at the opportunity to rest – no cooking, laundry, shopping, taxi-ing or homework – or I madly catch up with girlfriends and morph into a dirty stop-out, enjoying meals, movies, shows, wine and lots of chat.

Having a social life or time and space to just be comatose is quite a novelty so it’s normal to experience slight dread at their return, so don’t go feeling guilty about that either – your offspring also experience this emotional seesaw too.

Just ride it like a wave…expect to go A over T a few times but you’ll eventually find your balance and enjoy the changing scenery.
Pic Credit: melphoto.com