Turnbull: women must be respected but only if they are of our tribe.

10 Oct



If you can take away the freedom of one man [sic] you strike at the liberty of all.

I don’t think the truth of that statement has struck me quite as forcefully as it has since I learnt of the young Somali refugee who was raped and left pregnant on Nauru some fourteen weeks ago.

Since her ordeal began, the woman has repeatedly appealed to the Australian government to allow her to travel to this country for termination of the pregnancy. Abortion is illegal in Nauru. A termination can only be performed in Papua New Guinea prior to twelve weeks. There is no option for this young woman, other than being brought to Australia.

While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull patronisingly assures us that his government is in tune with the Somali refugee’s needs, and while Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has assured us that any asylum seeker in off-shore detention will be brought to Australia for medical treatment if deemed necessary, the reality is that a pregnancy waits for no man, and fourteen weeks is more than enough time for a woman to be flown to this country and receive the treatment she is owed, and so desperately needs.

It’s starkly apparent that Nauru is a most unsafe environment for women and children, in detention and out of it. Both the Labor and LNP governments bear the entire responsibility for attacks on women and children they’ve imprisoned in a country that has virtually no rule of law, and whose aid has been revoked by the New Zealand government precisely because of its lack of an adequate justice system.

Malcolm Turnbull’s politically opportunistic proclamation that women in Australia deserve respect and must be respected is entirely undermined by his government’s attitude towards women in off-shore detention. If you do not respect women other than those who are of your tribe, then you do not respect women at all. Your respect for women is conditional, and the condition is that they are women you consider worthy, (or of calibre) according to your own criteria.

The government’s ongoing willingness to subject women in off-shore detention to abuses, sexual assaults, intimidation, fear, and hopelessness tells me that its respect for me is subject to its approval of me as a member of the accepted tribe. Were I to fall outside those criteria, I would no longer be considered worthy of respect and protection.

This isn’t good enough. If you take away respect from one woman, you take away respect from all of us. Respect for women should have no boundaries, political, geographic, ethnic or national.

In this instance, what Turnbull’s government perpetuates, as has every government since Paul Keating built the first detention centres, is the patriarchy’s favoured myth of the madonna and the whore: there are women you respect, and there are women you rape. Men decide which of us is which. In the case of asylum seekers who arrived here by boat, their very situation has placed them in the latter category as they are perceived by the hegemony as other. Other means not quite as human, because not of our tribe.

What Turnbull is doing to refugee women in off-shore detention is a variation of what men who sexually assault us always do: dehumanising those they consider of less value than themselves, and the women they choose to protect.

No, Mr Turnbull, you do not respect me and you do not respect Australian women, and as long as you permit the ill-treatment of women in your off-shore concentration camps, your proclamations of respect will ring as hollow as a clanging cymbal.

Bring the Somali refugee to Australia for the medical treatment you owe her. She is suffering as you never have and never will suffer. Show her some respect.



Save the babies down under. #shoutyourabortion

1 Oct

Right to choose


The Turnbull government has cancelled the visa of US anti-abortion activist Mr Troy Newman, spokesperson for the Operation Rescue group, on the grounds that he is not of good character.

There are some who’d argue Immigration Minister Peter Dutton isn’t of particularly good character either, but that’s beside the point, apparently.

There are many who’d argue that nobody associated with the current policy of permitting refugee women on Nauru and Manus Island to be raped in order to deter possible future boat arrivals has anything approaching a good character, but that is also beside the point, apparently.

In fact, one woman has reportedly been impregnated by her rapist and is seeking to come to Australia for an abortion. Will the good Mr Dutton permit her that relief, or will she be doomed by his whim, to carry and give birth to the rapist’s child?

Everywhere you look there’s a moral dilemma.

Troy Newman was visiting our country to give a speech titled “Save the babies down under” at an event organised by Right to Life Australia.

Troy’s lack of good character is apparently evidenced by his written exhortation in a book he co-authored, Their Blood Cries Out, which contains the passage: In addition to our personal guilt in abortion, the United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty. This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt from the land and people.

This passage has been interpreted as Newman advocating the murder of practitioners involved in abortion procedures, however, much as I loathe the sentiments he expresses, for mine, he is calling on the state, rather than individuals, to administer what he determines to be justice. There is a considerable difference, as there always is between individual acts of slaughter, and those that are sanctioned by the state.

The most powerful effect this will have is to give the Right to Life movement a martyr’s platform, and indeed, it already has as cries of denial of freedom of speech and persecution rise from their ranks. They may have a point. If what is considered negative speech is forbidden, there is no freedom of speech, alas and alack.

Also, I am not quite sure how someone calling on the state to extend capital punishment to include abortion providers is a danger to the Australian way of life. We don’t have capital punishment in the first place.

I wonder if Troy’s visa would have been cancelled under an Abbott government, given the ex-PM’s opinion that abortion is a stain on our society, and merely serves a mother’s convenience? We should, Abbott remonstrates, be haunted by the hundreds of thousands of Australians lost to abortion, which is a bit rich coming from a man whose conservative policies were neither woman nor live-child friendly.

The former PM even managed to be nationalistic about abortion. Perhaps every flag that flanked him represented thousands of Australian babies murdered at their mother’s convenience?

But fathoming the minds of the unhinged is a futile exercise: one can only hope to avoid them.

At the other end of the continuum we find the #shoutyourabortion hash tag which exhorts women to speak out about our abortions, and end the blaming and shaming that we fear will see us ostracised and maligned for choosing not to continue with a pregnancy.

As far as I can ascertain, the experience of abortion is hugely varied. For some it’s distressing and undertaken with reluctance. For some it’s an enormous relief. For some it’s not emotionally charged at all and I can’t see why any of that is the business of Troy Newman, Margaret Tighe of Right to Life, or any so-called pro-life politician of whom there are many, across the political spectrum.

I am hoping that by the time the youngest member of our family, a little girl now three weeks old, is of an age to be concerned by such matters, abortion will be no more of a social issue than any other medical procedure. That is not to say women will cease to experience personal emotions around the experience, but that they will be just that: personal emotions, un-politicised, free from the judgements of those who have absolutely nothing to do with the woman’s personal situation and will likely be the very last to help her and the foetus they’d like to forced her to carry to term.

In the meantime we must somehow survive the hypocrisy.




Give us shelter: why new DV funding isn’t anywhere near enough

27 Sep



The Turnbull government’s announcement last week of $100 million worth of funding to address domestic violence is better than than silence, and goes to some small way towards acknowledging the enormous problem this country has with male violence against women.

But what it does not do, and for this appalling omission the government should be unrelentingly and loudly pilloried, is fund the urgent immediate need for frontline services such as refuges and community legal centres, both of which are a woman’s first stop when she’s forced to flee a dangerous domestic situation.

What this says to me is that safe, secure, un-threatened people such as politicians have absolutely no idea what it is like to be in a situation of  such extreme danger that you have to flee, or risk injury or death to yourself and your children by staying.

And flee to where, exactly?

Not only do these fortunate politicians have no idea what this situation feels like, they apparently don’t care. Neither do have they the imagination to picture such a scene, and how they might feel in it.

Legal services are outraged at Minister for Women Michaelia Cash’s apparent spin on funding cuts that will directly affect women suffering domestic violence, and will see the centres in dire financial straits by 2017.

If politicians had the capacity to imagine themselves in such a situation, they would perhaps begin to understand that providing refuges for women and children must be the first priority in any plan to end family violence, in conjunction with some of the other options funding currently covers.

As I write this and as you read it, there will be women, alone or with their children, trying to get out of a house which is not a safe environment for them because it’s inhabited by a violent male intent on doing them harm. They need somewhere to go. Right now.

This ought not to be a difficult situation for a government to remedy. Providing funding for women’s refuges and legal centres is not going to break the budget. Yet, after decades of feminist activism we are going backwards: closing refuges, threatening the funding of community legal centres, handing over the refuges that remain to religious organisations who have little or no experience with the repercussions of domestic violence, and whose workers are primarily trained to deal with homelessness, not specifically with traumatised women and children fleeing abuse.

Solutions to domestic violence can’t be a one size fits all. Some women will be able to stay in their homes. Others will absolutely not. The period when a woman attempts to leave an abusive situation is well-recognised as the most dangerous for her, and for children involved. It is when she is most likely to be murdered, or severely injured, as the perpetrator’s rage escalates at the prospect of abandonment, and loss of control over his partner. Nothing will help in such situations if first-off, the woman has nowhere to go.

This is not complicated. Why will politicians not act to save women’s lives in the most pressing, the most obvious way, by adequately funding and staffing refuges and legal centres for the increasing numbers of women and children who have to get out, and have no place to which they can flee?

Credlin: victim of sexism and feminist martyr?

23 Sep

Audre Lorde Feminism


It is extremely difficult for me to think of Peta Credlin, the former Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, as being a victim of anything at all.

She hasn’t lost her job as CoS because of sexism. She’s lost it because Tony Abbott is no longer Prime Minister.

She copped a lot of criticism from some journalists and MPs for her management style. There’s no doubt some of that criticism has been sexist, however, none of that sexist criticism caused her to lose her job.

This is not to excuse sexist criticism because it is not excusable. That others resorted to sexist attacks is a reflection on them, not Credlin. Yet it is entirely possible that her manner of conducting herself was offensive, not because she’s a woman, but because her manner was an offensive way for one human being to behave towards others.

Credlin is neither a feminist icon nor a feminist martyr. If, as she claims, she is responsible for the LNP’s transition from opposition to government it was nothing to do with her gender, feminism, or women in any capacity at all, as was evidenced by the lack of female representation in Abbott’s cabinet.

Credlin worked closely with a man whose opinions on women are well-documented and they aren’t inspiring, with the exception of very few females of “calibre,” and his relatives.

I am unable to see how Credlin’s alleged feminism informed her boss’s policies in any way at all. Feminism by stealth entirely failed as a project in the Abbott government.

If we are going to judge Credlin, and we will for some time to come I think, we need to focus on her behaviour and not her gender.   It has to be possible to criticise women in powerful positions without having those criticisms dismissed as sexist. Kevin Rudd was accused of similar failings: micro management and excessive control, for example, without reference to his gender.

Credlin wielded immense power in a centre of hyper-masculinity. In spite of that power, she was apparently entirely unable to influence Abbott’s attitude to women. Whether she tried or not we have yet to discover. This doesn’t mean she deserves sexist barbs. She doesn’t. It does mean she isn’t a feminist icon, and she isn’t a feminist martyr.

Credlin used the master’s tools. Not one brick of the master’s house fell to feminist ideals. Yet feminist women will protest sexist attacks on Credlin, as we should, and we will also retain the right to critique Credlin’s behaviours as we do the behaviours of all powerful figures, even as we protest the gender-based insults.





Credlin: It’s not me it’s them

23 Sep
I'm more powerful than you & don't you forget it Julie

I’m more powerful than you & don’t you forget it Julie


There’s a point in just about any desirable human characteristic when it can tip over into pathology, and self-confidence is no exception.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin (otherwise known as the Horsewoman of the Apocalypse) has spoken publicly for the first time since the powerful couple were ousted by their party a few days ago.

The ousting was, Ms Credlin insisted at a Women’s Weekly woman of the future event, caused by the “tripe and bile” of a media fed anonymous commentary by despicable persons who leaked.

The double ousting can be seen, I suppose, as evidence that the voice of Murdoch’s Newscorpse, otherwise known as the LNP Weekly, was drowned out by other voices to a degree sufficient enough to persuade the Liberal party to dump its leader. These other voices are, no doubt, the “tripe and bile” to which Ms Credlin refers.

Let us take a moment to reflect on the Murdoch rags and their global standard of journalism, shall we? Just for perspective.

As examples of individuals promoted beyond their merit (defined as not up to dealing with her) Ms Credlin cites  Cabinet Minsters and journalists, who should not, she states, be in their jobs at all if they are intimidated by a Chief of Staff.

Ms Credlin also stated that she had got the opposition into government:

If I was a guy I wouldn’t be bossy, I would be strong. If I was a guy I wouldn’t be a micro-manager, I would be across the detail,” she said.

“If I wasn’t strong, determined, controlling – and got them into Government from Opposition, I might add – I would be weak and not up to it and would have to go and be replaced.

As in all the best spin, there’s elements of truth in Credlin’s assessment of herself, and only the most naive would deny she is as subject to sexist character analysis as are the rest of our gender. Be that as it may, like her former boss Credlin’s strongest message is that she is beyond criticism, indeed she cannot and will not take criticism. In other words, I’m totally OK, you most certainly are not.

Being unable to take criticism isn’t a marker of self-confidence and strength. It’s a marker of delusion and weakness. It’s an indicator that self-confidence has reached its tipping point, and has begun its descent into pathology.

How fortunate we are to have escaped Ms Credlin’s anointing as the most powerful woman in Australia.

But did they ask her if she’s a feminist? That’s what I want to know.

PS: My bestest canine Twitter pal @missbaileywoof just sent me this video of a horse with brilliant instincts:


I did not have sex with that pig

21 Sep

Cameron and pigs


British Prime Minister David Cameron was overnight accused of having indulged in a tastelessly demeaning act of necro-bestiality in Delingpole’s rooms at the Pickwater Quad, Oxford, when he was an undergraduate.

Cameron, it is alleged, placed his penis (erect or flaccid?) in the mouth of a dead pig. After merciless media attention, Cameron has admitted that he did indeed pop his willy doodle in the deceased pig’s mouth but, he claims: “I did not come.”

Parallels have been drawn between former US President Bill Clinton’s denial of a) drug abuse (I didn’t inhale), and b) infidelity (I did not have sex with that woman). Nevertheless, the British Prime Minister has unforgivably besmirched the brand of British Pork, and many of us will never again feel easy ordering a pulled pork sandwich.

It’s unclear whether or not the deceased pig wore lipstick.

The revelation that the staunchly heterosexual Cameron performed a sexual act upon a dead animal has thrown up an unexpected challenge to Australian Liberal politician and right-wing nut job, Cory Bernardi. Bernardi has long-held that same-sex marriage will lead to bestiality. Yet here, on his own side of politics no less, is stark evidence that such questionable practices are already in the conservative heterosexual DNA.

My first reaction to this scandal was to pity David Cameron. Perhaps nothing with a pulse was willing to accept his penis?

However, descriptions of the navy tailcoat, mustard waistcoat, and sky-blue bow tie he allegedly wore when he performed this act of gross indecency in Delingpole’s rooms brought me to my senses.

The wealthy inhabit another country, and besides, the pig is dead.



I was a bachelor aus virgin

19 Sep

I love you


That is, I was until about two hours ago, when, after listening to a critique of the program on ABC Radio National Life Matters the other day titled Can a Real feminist enjoy The Bachelor, I decided I better have a look at this show if I wanted to get a bead on where popular culture is currently at in the matter of romance, rose petals, and true lurve.

It was approximately one hour and twenty minutes of my life I will never get back.

I would also like to take up with Life Matters what exactly they mean by a “real” feminist, but one thing at a time.

After watching the final episode of Bachelor (I wasn’t going to submit myself to the torment of the previous fifteen) I was left with the kind of feeling I get when I’ve eaten an entire packet of jelly snakes, which, coincidentally, I also did this week. Sickened, guilty, ashamed, and wondering if I put my finger down my throat and barf will I be restored to my un-polluted self?

The Bachelor, whose name I believe is Sam Wood, scared the bejesus out of me at first glance owing to his uncanny physical resemblance to the actor Jamie Dornan, who, as you will all know, played the character Christian Grey in the movie Fifty Shades of Grey.

An aside: When I first heard the title Fifty Shades of Grey I thought it referred to a new L’Oreal hair colour chart. Then I thought it must be about very old ghosts. Then a friend gave me the book and I chucked it in the recycling. Anyhow. Be that as it may.

Jamie Dornan also played a seriously alarming psychopath in The Fall, alarming because of his ability to both conduct an apparently straightforward and loving family life, while transmogrifying into a serial killer at night. This surely must be the  heterosexual woman’s worst nightmare, that the man with whom you’ve chosen to spend your life and allowed to give you babies has a side you never see until it’s too late.

In a Freudian chain of association these thoughts provoked by The Bachelor are not entirely non sequiturs, given that two people, brought together in entirely unrealistic circumstances, must decide on the basis of absolutely no knowledge of one another to join lives because, as the bachelor puts it :”I have to follow my heart and know that will lead me where I’m meant to go.”

Cue ten jelly snakes cos references to destiny. Biology is destiny. Damn you, Freud.

It took me a good ten minutes to silence the clamour of cultural references, and take Sam at face value. He seems like an OK guy and has very good teeth. He was also kind to the ladies. He lost credibility for mine when he appeared at the end in a royal blue suit.

Also, I have never seen a woman get so dressed up for a dumping. It was heartbreaking the trouble Lana had gone to, only to be told, you are an incredible woman but not my incredible woman, or some such blather, after which she took herself off and stood under a tree asking not to be filmed, but they filmed her anyway.

Look, this is ghastly. It should be bombed.

The Bachelor’s premise is scarcity: a harem of women competing for one man.

Its message to women is warped. You have no agency, rather a man will choose you or he will reject you. You must make every effort to suss out what it is this man wants from a woman and then you must give it to him, even if it isn’t in your nature. This man’s approval is everything. He has absolute power in the circumstances. You have none.

Helicopter rides are incredible. Flower-strewn rowboats mysteriously anchored in the middle of water-lilies are incredible. Classic cars are incredible. The champagne is incredible. Every woman looks incredible to Sam. This word incredible features more than any other adjective in the script and that is, unwittingly, entirely fitting because the entire stupid moronic concept is totally incredible, and so sickeningly hetero-normative it makes me want to barf up all my jelly snakes.

And I still don’t know what a real feminist is, but people seem to have been arguing about it for years.




The relief of being relieved of a liar

18 Sep



(This is an update of a piece I posted in November 2014.)

Wednesday September 16 2015.

 ABC News: We asked how you felt about Malcolm Turnbull replacing Tony Abbott as prime minister and the response was overwhelming. The morning after the challenge almost 25,000 readers told us their mood and one word stood out – relief.


“It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards.” Tony Abbott, August 22, 2011

Every time Abbott lies to the citizens of this country we become increasingly disaffected, and not only from our Prime Minister, but from the institution he represents. Abbott has normalised the discourse of lies. He has taken the dishonesty of politicians to a whole new level. We barely expect anything else from him, and from his fellow politicians. Under the leadership of our mendacious Prime Minister, we have increasingly abandoned hope of fairness, straightforwardness, belief and trust. Our Prime Minister doesn’t think we are deserving of the truth.

One of the many unpleasant effects of being lied to is that the liar insults and patronises me by creating a false reality that I have to inhabit, until I discover I’m the victim of deception.The liar denies me the right to know the truth, a serious offence against me, because truth is something no one has the right to deny me.

Whether it’s on a personal or a political level, lying to me signifies the liar doesn’t consider me as entitled to the truth as is he or she. This infantilises me, is disrespectful to me, and denies me the knowledge I need to make informed decisions about my life. There’s little more insulting than being lied to, kept in the dark with lies of omission, and intentionally misled because the liar doesn’t consider you capable of handling the truth, or is acting entirely in their own self-interest because you knowing the truth will in some way threaten them.

The Prime Minister of our country, Tony Abbott, has never made any secret of his ambivalent relationship with truth. There is his notorious assertion that nothing he says is “gospel” truth unless it’s written down.

There’s his prescriptive declaration that “It is better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.” While this isn’t necessarily an endorsement of lying, it is a ruthless and callous prescription for relationship with one’s fellow humans. It recommends that one do that which one desires, and if it backfires, apologise, but it isn’t necessary under the terms of Abbott’s prescriptive to negotiate with or communicate intention to others, prior to taking an action. This has a similar effect to lying, in that it assumes an inferiority of some kind on the part of another that doesn’t require Abbott to enter into an equal, respectful relationship in which another’s opinions and wishes count for the same as his own.

We have a liar for a leader. When the lies start at the top, there’s little hope truth will ever see the light of day. Abbott is leading us into an abyss of normalised deception that will damage every one of us, because when dedicated liars are in power, the country will inevitably lose its way.


It makes perfect sense that relief is the feeling described by so many after Abbott was relieved of the prime ministership earlier this week. There is little more psychologically disturbing, both personally and politically, than living life under the pernicious influence of a liar. The toll this takes on individual and collective well-being is often not recognised until the experience is over. Abbott trashed the unspoken social contract that allows civilised society to prevail over anarchy and chaos: most of us will, to the best of our ability, strive to be truthful to one another.

We will not, as did the former Prime Minister, adopt dishonesty as a way of being and publicly justify that choice. Once a person has admitted their penchant for and comfort with lying, it is not possible to establish or maintain a healthy relationship with them. While all politicians lie to some degree, as does everyone, Abbott made the lie the foundation from which he attempted to govern.

We are well rid of this lying little man. There was not one issue on which we could trust his words. In itself, this creates a climate of fear and apprehension in the country, as the worst kind of uncertainty prevails. What we most value in one another, what we most take for granted in our society and without which we will crumble, the will to truth, was contemptuously dismissed by the country’s leader as counting for nothing.

Good riddance to the liar.


Behind every man…

16 Sep


Abbott & Credlin


According to Paul Sheehan, the Abbott coup wasn’t entirely about the ex-PM.  It was about his Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin.

The allegedly widely-loathed and uber-controlling Ms Credlin was rusted onto the PM, or he on her, and word is, Abbott couldn’t put his socks on without her approval. The only way to rid the party of this meddlesome female was to give her boss the flick.

Sheehan’s effort to construct this Shakespearean interpretation of events probably says a whole lot more about his attitudes to women than it does about the actual situation, however, that the PM and his CoS were a dark and destructive dyad is likely incontestable.

I must say Abbott cut a lonely figure when he said his barbed goodbyes. Where were the women in his life at his darkest hour? No flaunting of a wife and daughters clothed in white garments. And only two flags.

Enter Malcolm Turnbull, also supported by a formidable woman, wife Lucinda. At first blush, this couple couldn’t be more different from Abbott and Credlin, which is not to say that their philosophy will be anymore palatable, only that it will be more palatably presented which, if you think about it, could well be even worse for us.

Somebody better do something about LOTO Bill Shorten, and they better do it soon. He has all the conviction of a dying cod. I don’t know what’s wrong with the man, but his delivery stinks, its content is excruciating, and he has the energy levels of someone at the high-end of a depression test score. Turnbull will wipe the floor with him.

Indeed, the entire cohort of ALP MPs appeared to be in baffled retreat in Question Time yesterday, stunned by the speed of events and at finding themselves unexpectedly confronted by a government front bench revelling in its liberation from the stifling oppression of three-word slogans, and the narrow-minded narrative of goodies and baddies preached by a failed priest who never quite managed to move beyond the unctuous tones and medieval attitudes acquired in the seminary yonks ago. Shorten might well have taken this man down in the next election. But Turnbull is a whole other kettle of fish.

Bemused overseas observers claim that for Australians, changing our Prime Ministers has become a national sport. But it actually isn’t us, the people. The parties elect their leaders and the parties give them the boot. That we’ve had five PMs in as many years speaks to the inability of our major parties to conduct their affairs in a reasonable manner. The criteria they’re using to choose their leaders are well borked. Until they dig deep into their collective psyches and address what’s driving them into serial unforced errors, many of us will turn our backs and give our votes to independents and minor parties, which will result in hung parliaments and tetchy senates.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with hung parliaments and tetchy senates. They act as safeguards against increasingly fascist governments. However, revolving door leadership is draining, time-wasting and a bit pathetic, to be honest, so it would be nice if the majors took a good look at themselves and remembered their raison d’être is to serve the public, not to conduct personal feuds at our expense.

Abbott gave us all such brilliant material. I don’t know what we’ll carp about in the immediate future. Adios, Tones. Don’t let the door hit your unsaleable arse on your way out.

Leunig. The End




Minister for Women, you are CRAP at your job.

12 Sep

Domestic Violence is terrorism

In what other portfolio would a minister who remains consistently silent about his responsibilities to the huge demographic covered by that portfolio, even in the face of a staggering number of the cohort dying, be permitted to retain his job? Yet Tony Abbott continues to claim for himself the title “Minister for Women.”

Has there ever been a greater political insult to Australian women than this? He’s having a laugh. He always was.

In spite of an enormous recent increase in media and public attention directed towards intimate and family violence, the Abbott federal and the Baird state LNP governments have cut funding to specialist women’s services since Abbott won government in 2013.

These cuts have resulted in women’s refuges in NSW urban and regional areas being re-situated under the umbrella of homelessness services, thus denying the specific difficulties faced by women who are not primarily homeless, rather who are fleeing their homes because those homes are inhabited by a violent partner.

Many refuges are now run by faith-based organisations. Experience in addressing intimate and family violence is not a prerequisite for winning a contract, indeed the criteria for determining the awarding of contracts don’t even mention domestic violence concerns.

This Women’s Agenda headline would seem premature: Our Watch Awards celebrate the power of journalism in ending male violence against women. Neither journalism nor anything else has ended male violence against women, and while media attention to the appalling statistics and the stories behind them is absolutely necessary, the power of journalism alone to end violence against women and children is yet to be demonstrated. There has to be action with the talk, and I mean direct action against perpetrators, such as immediate custodial sentences when an AVO is breached, for a start.

As long as we have privileged and ignorant male politicians redesigning frontline domestic violence services in ways that can only make the plight of women and children fleeing violence worse, we will not end that violence, indeed we will only make it easier for perpetrators, as women’s options are eroded. Already, the legal aid situation is so dire a perpetrator can access free advice and representation, but the woman he assaulted may not be so lucky.

The toll of one man’s violence against his partner is inestimable. It has long-term effects on children, immediate family members, extended family members, neighbours, workmates, and when perpetrated in public, as have murders and attacks in the last week in Queensland, has traumatising effects on every witness, and every member of the public who attempts to intervene.

Then there’s the cumulative toll domestic violence takes on services such as police, paramedics, hospital staff, counsellors, and those who provide legal aid services. In terms of its capacity for widespread and generational damage, intimate and family violence is a catastrophic event far exceeding any terrorist threat we face.

Yet the Minister for Women’s only intervention is to cut funding to frontline services when they ought to be urgently increased, and by tenfold.

As a salve and to appear as if he’s interested, Abbott promised an awareness campaign. However, he’s failed to address where women and children will go for assistance and shelter after our collective awareness is raised. We don’t need another government awareness campaign when services are inadequate, or don’t exist. We need the services. Abbott’s promised awareness campaign, in conjunction with service cuts, is one of the most cynical moves this government has made. That is saying much.

Tony Abbott is a crap Minister for Women. Probably the most crap Minister for Women in the world. The sooner he takes his sorry arse out of that portfolio and appoints someone who gives a damn, the better. With Abbott at the top, violence against women and children is never going to decrease in this country, and with his funding cuts he’s making it easier for perpetrators to be left on the loose and unaccountable.

Someone once said you can judge the state of a country by the way it allows animals to be treated. I think you can judge the state of a country by the way its government allows women and children to be treated. And by any measure, this government’s attitude to violence against women and children is absolute crap.



Politics, policy makers, and religion.

6 Sep
Religion vs politics. Ruth Clotworthy

Religion vs politics. Ruth Clotworthy


Last time Sheep ventured into this territory I was threatened with defamation action, however, undeterred, we’re going there again.

If you argue that a politician’s religious beliefs don’t affect his or her attitudes to policy, firstly consider this exchange between Catholic Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Qanda’s Tony Jones on refugees and immigration, back in the days when Abbott was LOTO and not too lily-livered to front up to an unpredictable live audience.

Note: It’s a measure of a leader’s failure that he becomes less available to unpredictable audiences, not more. In case you need another example of his failure but you probably don’t 

TONY ABBOTT: …Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone. I mean Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it is not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.

TONY JONES: It’s quite an interesting analogy because, as you know, and a whip was used on that occasion to drive people out of the temple. You know, if that’s the analogy you’re choosing, should we take it at face value?

TONY ABBOTT: No. No. I’m just saying that, look, Jesus was the best man who ever lived but that doesn’t mean that he said yes to everyone, that he was permissive to everything, and this idea that Jesus would say to every person who wanted to come to Australia, “Fine”, the door is open, I just don’t think is necessarily right. But let’s not verbal Jesus. I mean, he’s not here to defend himself.

Now read this piece titled “Scott Morrison and the conveniently comforting doctrine of predestination,” written when Morrison was Immigration Minister.

Briefly, the doctrine of predestination followed by Morrison’s Pentecostal faith claims that god has determined whether or not you will be saved before even you are born. Your material status in the world identifies you as chosen or rejected by God. Wealth, standing and comfort identify you as chosen. Poverty, lack of standing and misery confirm you as rejected. Therefore, the chosen do not have to feel anything other than pity and contempt for the rejected: according to the doctrine of predestination, it’s futile to attempt to improve their lot because god has already decided their fate. Indeed, attempting to improve the lives of those god has already rejected is an affront to god.

It’s impossible to argue that the religious beliefs of these two men have not affected their political judgements, not only in the matter of asylum seekers and refugees. However, asylum seeker policies illustrate with stark clarity how religious beliefs can be used as justification for barbarous practices, by Christians as well as by other religions.

At least twelve of Abbott’s cabinet of nineteen are Christians, and eight of them are Catholics. The LNP candidate for the West Australian seat of Canning, Andrew Hastie, recently blasted a journalist from Perth Now, who put to him questions about his own religious beliefs, the beliefs of his father, a Presbyterian theologian with interests in creationism, and a blog posted under the byline of Hastie’s wife Ruth, in which Christian opposition to same-sex marriage is outlined. Hastie responded emotionally and publicly to the journalist’s private email inquiry on these topics, angrily warning media they could go after him but they’d better not go after his family, and finally claiming that personal religious beliefs have no relevance to politics and he won’t answer any more questions on the topic.

I have no interest in anyone’s religious practices unless she or he is  in a position to affect and legislate public policy, and then I have a great deal of interest in the beliefs they hold.

When a religious individual in a position of influence claims their beliefs will not affect their political decisions, this indicates at the very least a disturbing capacity for duplicity: the Christian religion is a proselytising religion, its followers are exhorted to demonstrate their faith and to live out that faith in every aspect of their lives, unashamedly bearing witness. They must therefore either betray their Christian principles, or betray the secular voter, as they cannot feasibly hold faith with both.

There’s a vast chasm between the philosophies of the man Jesus, and the teachings of religions such as those followed by many of our politicians. Religions are constructed by men to further their self-interests. It ought to be a fundamental requirement of aspiring politicians and policy makers that they disclose any religious beliefs they hold. It isn’t a private matter, when you’re charged with determining the nature and course of a society.



Thanks to @davispg for links and inspiration



Abbott: Even a Nazi feels shame, but those illegal immigrants? Shameless

5 Sep

The Atlantic. Asylum Seekers flood into Hungary


Our socially dominating right-wing authoritarian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is talking more even more drivel than usual. ISIS, his pet death cult, are worse than the Nazis he claims, because unlike the Nazis, they have no shame.

I’ve searched far and wide. I can find no suggestion anywhere that the Nazis were ashamed of themselves. Never mind.

In practically the same breath Abbott has busied himself criminalising the estimated four million Syrian women, children and men fleeing their country and the ISIS death cult, by declaring them to be “illegal” immigrants.

In other words, death cult is badder than bad Nazis, but fleeing bad death cult is even badder then bad Nazis AND badder death cult?

Prime Minister Abbott then co-opted the death by drowning of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi to justify his stop the boats campaign, saying at least we don’t have drowned babies washing up here anymore because we’ve stopped the boats.

By the way, remember the Christmas Island boat tragedy when then immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison said we shouldn’t pay for the funerals of drowned babies? Flying corpses to the mainland for burial, Morrison said, was not giving taxpayers “value for money.”

(I urge you to read the article in New Matilda I’ve linked to in my first sentence, for an insight into the psychology of right-wing authoritarians. It explains much.)

British Murdoch columnist Katy Hopkins suggested that Europe should adopt Australia’s approach to asylum seekers by “threatening them with violence until they bugger off.” Which is a pretty good précis of off-shore detention, when you think about it. Australians have big balls and tiny hearts, Katy claims, admiringly, as apparently that’s the perfect combination for male-dominated leadership and murdering, directly and indirectly, millions of people seeking asylum.

At this point things become confusing. Nazis are bad for murdering millions but they have the capacity for shame, so not as bad as ISIS death cult who aspire to murder millions, as many as possible on social media so definitely no shame, so badder than Nazis. But Europeans should directly and indirectly murder millions and that’s good, no shame required, because big balls and tiny hearts are great. As long as they’re in white, non-Nazi bodies. Right.

Meanwhile, the New York Times published an excoriating editorial damning Abbott’s ruthless and inhumane asylum seeker policies. For which Abbott feels no shame, because…all right, I won’t say it all again but if he gets to talk in threes why can’t I?

There was considerable robust debate the other day concerning whether or not the image of the tiny body of Aylan Kurdi, washed up drowned on the beach, should have been published by The Guardian, and re-posted on social media.

For mine, the very fact of this debate highlighted our privilege: we do not have to directly deal with such horrendous circumstances, rather, from a safe distance, we have the option to debate whether or not it is kind or unkind to us that we are confronted with images of those circumstances.

There seems to be an attitude about that we have an inherent right not to be disturbed and discomfited. We don’t. Nobody was forced to look at the images, and warnings were issued for those who wanted to turn away. As Carol Duncan quite rightly tweeted, if you don’t want to see the pictures, exercise your privilege and turn off your devices.

With millions of displaced, desperate people roaming the globe, and the numbers set to increase, we have no right to demand censorship of images of their plight. If you don’t want to see it, don’t look, but please, spare us the preciousness of your complaints that you are traumatised by looking.

Shame, anyone?

A Syrian refugee plays Thursday after heavy rain at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

A Syrian refugee plays Thursday after heavy rain at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.







When you can’t say no

3 Sep
The Persistence of Memory Dali

The Persistence of Memory


Long read on a difficult topic.

There’s an abundance of evidence in the literature that women who have been sexually abused in childhood are twice as likely to experience sexual assaults at some later point in our lives, than are women who have not.

The reasons for this are many: an inability to recognise and avoid predators, high risk behaviour, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug use; inability to refuse unwanted sexual contact, inability to behave assertively with a man in a sexual situation, emotional flooding and numbing when in situations of unwanted sexual activity. All these can lead to what is known as “re-victimisation,” and that in turn leads to long-lasting and high levels of psychological distress and compounded trauma, as the re-traumatising impact of the adult abuse adds to and exacerbates that already experienced in childhood.

Somehow, after years of severe CSA I escaped re-victimisation, not by any conscious effort on my part because I was entirely unaware of the perils that can be the consequence of early abuse, but because I didn’t encounter any predators. I had a suite of other significant difficulties to deal with as a result of that childhood, such as trusting people, fear of abandonment, hyper-vigilance, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and the rest, but the re-traumatisation of further sexual assault was not among the obstacles I encountered in my desire to fully live my life, in spite of my childhood.

Until last year, that is, when I became another statistic. Another survivor of CSA who experienced re-victimisation, re-traumatisation, and is now on the long, long road to getting my life back. Again.

I’m reminded here of the Twitter hash tag “ Not all men.” Intended to counter generalisations about men’s behavior, the phrase has been criticized for deflecting conversations from uncomfortable topics, such as sexual assault. Whenever women write and speak about our negative experiences with men, someone inevitably chimes in, “Not all men are like that.” I’ve said it myself, because I’m wary of the stereotyping that is inevitable with gender-based arguments, and I don’t like it when it’s used against women. At the same time, there’s no doubt the phrase is used to derail and distract. Instead of a discussion about sexual assault it becomes a brawl about “not all men do it.” I don’t know how we circumvent this, unless we replace the word “men” with “predators,” when we’re talking about male perpetrated violence against women.

There’s no doubt that not all men are predatory, and the men I encountered for decades posed no threat to me.


Eerily, the circumstances of last year’s sexual assault almost exactly replicated scenes from my childhood. I continue to be tormented by the possibility that the man had sufficient knowledge about my history to make this deliberate, rather than coincidental. I have written about my childhood in some detail on this blog, and in my PhD, which is online and easily accessible. In fact, at our second meeting the man asked me about my childhood abuse, and it was after I’d briefly answered that he made his first sexual overture.

I’ve never found it easy to speak of those childhood events. Writing, though, is another experience altogether. Writing allows me to make some kind of order from the chaos of that time, and bring the fragments of myself back together into something approaching a whole. We are nothing if not story, and the urge to have our story make sense to us is a powerful one. There’s a necessary discipline in autobiographical writing that allows the author to stand back from the immediate rawness of her own narrative. She becomes an observer and recorder, a witness, bearing testament to her own self. These are skills I acquired to help save myself from annihilation by the dark magnitude of sexual abuse. Stepping back, while at the same time never letting go of her, that child who couldn’t say no.


The assault last year took place in a car parked in a secluded area, one of my stepfather’s settings of choice when I was a child. I had gone to considerable lengths to ensure that situation, one that had occurred with this man on two previous occasions, was not repeated. The present-day experiences had left me struggling with a crippling distress I didn’t recognise, couldn’t analyse, and had no desire to repeat. I told the man I had been distressed by the sexual encounters in the car, and I didn’t want to do it again. He responded by assuring me that he never wanted to do anything that distressed me, and that the manner in which we next met was entirely up to me. He agreed when I said our next meeting would be in public, and there would be no intimate contact. I resolved that I would use that meeting to end the relationship.

Unfortunately, the man did not respect our agreement, and without any attempt to renegotiate the terms of engagement, drove me to a secluded place. I think it was when I realised he was unnecessarily driving me somewhere that I first began to feel a vague unease. But I had no reason to distrust him. Rather, I distrusted my own feelings.


Traumatic events can lead to extremes of remembering and forgetting. The events may be remembered with intense vividness, or deeply repressed. Often there’s a combination of both. Traumatic events can remain fixed in the memory just as they occurred, their intensity unassuaged by the passage of time and experience. The extreme emotional arousal experienced in such a situation may account for the unique nature of traumatic memory, as the body’s chemical response to terror interferes with normal memory function.

I had never experienced flashbacks to do with the specific childhood circumstance of my stepfather’s car, though I have over the years struggled with them in other settings. They became increasingly infrequent, until I almost never experienced them at all. The emotional scaffolding of traumatic memory was, I believed, sufficiently disassembled after years of hard work in and out of therapy, and I was free.


I didn’t like how I’d felt about the sexual encounters in the car with the man. They felt demeaning, but I initially attributed those feelings to the adolescent and unsatisfactory nature of such encounters that I wouldn’t expect, as a mature woman with a long and satisfying partnership behind her, to enjoy.

However, I had not in my life thus far experienced anything that might trigger memories of my stepfather’s sexual assaults on me in his car. I remember on one or two occasions in my life being a passenger in a car with leather seats. The smell of those seats nauseated me, and caused me a strange emotional discomfort, but it wasn’t until years later I remembered my stepfather’s car had leather seats, and I was able to make the connection.

What was necessary for the trigger to become fully operational was that the experience be forced upon me. The unease that started up as the man drove away from where we were supposed to be, became the silent terror I endured when my stepfather picked me up from my boarding school and drove me somewhere I did not want to go, to do things I did not want to do. I was unable even to ask the man where he was going. Already I’d lost touch with the present, and the process of being engulfed by the past had, unbeknown to me, begun.


Trigger. There’s a term with its fair share of controversy. Last year, in the US, there were demands across many university campuses for trigger warnings to be attached to all manner of texts, so that students would know in advance that some of them contained material that might cause distress. The term “trigger warning’ first appeared in feminist spaces to alert women that topics such as sexual abuse and other forms of violence against women were discussed in these spaces, at times graphically, to give them the opportunity to choose not to go there. Fair enough. This makes sense. However, things got rather out of hand, for mine, when students demanded The Great Gatsby be marked with a trigger warning, and various other kinds of, for mine, silly demands that, like the “not all men” claim, serves to derail and distract from the very serious matters of discussions of violence against women, and the provision of opportunities for women to speak out, in detail if we wish, about what has been done to our bodies, our minds and our hearts. There is a dark world of difference between feeling uncomfortable or disturbed by confronting scenes in literature, and experiencing a flashback.

What is a trigger, then? It’s smell, sight, sound, taste, touch, a circumstance that particularly evokes the memory of a past traumatic event. It results in a flashback that returns the victim to the original trauma, with all the intensity and immediacy of the initial experience. Obviously, triggers are unique to the individual survivor.

A flashback can be visual, when traumatic events are vividly re-seen by the mind’s eye. It can be experienced entirely in the body, with no visual component. The body has its own memories, stored in all its secret places.

The flashback can consist entirely of feelings, with no images attached to them. For me, it is generally the latter, accompanied by bodily sensations. I rarely visualise. I am flooded with overwhelming and chaotic emotions that make no sense in the present, and that paralyse me. I feel a sensation of extreme cold in my belly, and I tremble at my core. My legs feel unusually weak, and I fear they won’t work. Terror dominates, and keeps me physically locked in place. All this is concealed. There are no overt manifestations. As a child I knew I couldn’t show any fear or resistance. I had to comply, while inside me the terror roared and swirled.

These are the things that happened to me last year with the man in the car. It was as if the two earlier encounters were preparatory rumbles, and this third one, compounded by the shock and disbelief of his profound betrayal, his abduction of me against our agreement and my firmly expressed wishes, unleashed the full force of traumatic memory. I could do and say nothing. I couldn’t refuse, and I couldn’t resist. I complied.

The intensity was such that eventually I became numbed, and dissociated. I watched myself take his penis in my mouth and suck until he came, just as I’d done with my stepfather. I saw the leaves of the trees through the windscreen, just as I’d done with my stepfather. I felt nothing, and I felt, chaotically, everything. He moaned, like my stepfather. He even said, repeatedly, “We’re not really doing this,” a phrase so reminiscent of my stepfather’s order that I forget what had happened and tell no one that to this day, I feel shaken by the coincidence.

I told no one for almost twelve months.


My stepfather, though a violent man in other areas of family life, was never violent with me sexually. Rather he wanted to be a lover, and he wanted me to respond in kind. The man was not violent either. He wanted to be my lover, and he wanted me to respond in kind. They wanted me to enjoy them, and to enjoy myself. I’ve often thought that this deeply corrupted message of “love” and apparent consideration for my enjoyment in circumstances that make enjoyment inconceivable, has messed with my head to such a degree that I will never entirely clear myself of its corruption. They walked softly, and carried the big stick of love and harm made one. They saw me only as a means to their end.

This is characteristic of predators. They are unable to distinguish between love and great harm, and so they perpetrate the latter, while proclaiming the former. There is no firm ground left for you to stand on, once you’ve encountered ambiguities of that complexity.


As a child I found solace in books, and in music. Later, I found writing. Against all odds I became a reasonably accomplished pianist, I think because when I sat at the piano in some unaccountable way my body became mine again, through the music I made. At every possible opportunity I hid myself away in a practice room, and played. There was an ageing nun at my boarding school who liked to sit beside me, and knit black mittens while she listened. Her presence was comforting, though we rarely spoke more than a few words.

A few weeks ago, struggling with after-effects over which I have little control, I felt a powerful desire to play the piano again, as I haven’t for years. In a fine piece of serendipity a woman round the corner had a piano she didn’t want anymore, and now it’s mine. I have much of my old music, kept since girlhood. When it arrived, I approached the instrument with a great deal of trepidation. What if I couldn’t play anymore?

My fingers are stiff and inflexible, compared to how they used to be. I’m starting with scales and arpeggios. Yet even as I fumble I feel the return of the mysterious force that moves through my fingers and connects my body to the source of sound. I hear the musical possibilities in the mundane and repetitive notes of a scale. I feel the joy of making sound, the satisfaction, humble as the sound I make is. I can’t resist attempting to play a simple piece, though I hear my teacher’s voice telling me I’m not ready yet. A sweet arabesque, and to my delight the fingering comes back to me, it’s still there after all these years, another kind of memory triggered by an altogether different set of circumstances, a welcome memory, a memory that reminds me who I am, and what I can still be.

When you can’t say no, you have no freedom, no agency. You’re anybody’s victim. When you write, when you play music, when you read the text you act with agency, you exercise your freedom. You are a human being, no longer only a means to another’s end.


Next week, we are expecting our newest family member, who we already know is a little girl. Today I bought pink rompers for her, then I said to her mother on the phone, I had to buy just one pink thing, I don’t know why, I don’t believe in all that stupid stuff, I’m not buying one more pink thing, I swear, just this one.

I want to be here to help teach her everything she needs to know.

I want to be here to read to her.

I want to be here to teach her how to play the piano, should she be so inclined.

I want to be here. That is all.



To thine own self be true

1 Sep



Last night I saw the Bell Shakespeare production of Hamlet, with Josh McConville in the lead role, stealing all the thunder.

As we drove home, we rather sheepishly admitted to one another that we’d both thought at points during the performance, ah! That line would do well for Tony Abbott! And that one for Dyson Heydon! And that one for the entire Labor Party. Which is, when you think about it, a double tragedy in itself: that we are so immersed in current politics we can’t watch Hamlet without reference to them, and that those politics are of such a hysterically dramatic  and comedic nature, they lend themselves to the centuries-old utterances of the imaginary inhabitants of the rotten state of a fictional Denmark.

Of course this is an aspect of Shakespeare’s genius. Capturing the timelessness of emotion and its multitude of expressions, particularly, in this play, through politics both public and private.

The production was comedic, more so than any production I’ve seen, and it worked remarkably well. Hamlet is the blackest of black comedies, with a rapid-cycling central character possessed of a sharp wit, honed by grief and rage, intent on revenge, maddened by betrayal, cruel in his torment, unspeakably savage to the hapless Ophelia, who loves him. The scenes of Hamlet’s emotional and at times physical savagery towards Ophelia are awful to watch. He raves, frothing, then grabs her crotch in a gesture drenched in both violent contempt and desperate desire, as she, poor girl, attempts to protect herself from forces beyond her comprehension. Then he kills her father. Swine.

For a modern audience, Shakespeare’s ability to leap without warning from the comedic to the tragic to the farcical is a little disconcerting: we’re used to consuming our entertainment in discrete categories and when it is dished up complex, it’s more likely to be found in lengthy television series such as The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, both of which, for mine, are Shakespearean in their mastery of emotional complexity. So it’s a tad challenging to cope with such variety in a period of two hours, and I admire Elizabethan audiences for their stamina.

This morning I found in my inbox the following pome from lovely M. I woke up with Ophelia on my mind, thinking she had so little voice, so little agency, and I wanted another ending for her rather than suicide in the river. While the pome doesn’t give her the outcome I’d have chosen I think it is an interesting one, and the last stanza is perfect, opening up another aspect of Hamlet’s complexity not explored in the play. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 



By Susan B. Anthony Somers-Willett

The air tonight is thick as curry;
like every night this summer I could cut it
with my wine glass, spray it with mace.
Over and over it would heal together
like a wound, follow my click and pace of heels
down Conti Street, St. Ann, Bourbon.

Oh Hamlet, if you could see me now
as I pump and swagger across that stage, cape dripping to the floor,
me in three-inch heels and a technicolor G-string—
you would not wish me in a convent.
They’ve made me a queen here, married me off
to a quarter bag and a pint of gin.

The old men tend bark and splatter, rabid
at each table. I think they stay up all night
just to spite the moon. They bring their diseased
mouths to the French Market in the morning,
sell Creole tomatoes to tourists who don’t know
what they are. Each bald head shines plump and red.

It seems like so long ago that I modeled
for those legs outside of Big Daddy’s—
the ones over the door that swing in, out, in, out—
the sculptor made me painted as Mardi Gras.
I thought you might recognize them if you ever passed
with the boys, parading from Abbey to Tavern,
or think them royal feet in need of slippers.

Someday I expect to find you here,
sitting at the table between the first and second rows,
fingering bones or something worse.
And in the end you will throw me a columbine,
light me a Marlboro and take me to a 24-7 where
jukebox light quivers, makes us as thin as ghosts.

But for now, I will dance for the fat man
who sits in your place and sweats his love for me at 3 a.m.,
because only he knows I am Horatio in drag.

Susan B. A. Somers-Willett, “Ophelia’s Technicolor G-String: An Urban Mythology” from Roam. Copyright © 2006 by Susan B. A. Somers-Willett.










If you think she’s less human because of what she wears, you’ve got the problem not her.

31 Aug

Sexualisation of girls


There’s an article in The Conversation this morning titledSexualised girls are seen as less intelligent and less worthy of help than their peers.

The piece is the result of a study conducted with the goal of ascertaining if adults are as condemning of “sexualised” girls as they are of “sexualised” women. “Sexualised” in this instance refers to the clothing girls and women are wearing.

The conclusion is yes, study participants perceived girls in sexualised clothing as less moral, less intelligent, and less worthy of care and concern than are their less sartorially “sexualised” peers. This mirrors societal attitudes to “sexualised” women, attitudes that can determine, for example, empathy or lack of it for women and girls who are rape victims. This empathy can be considerably reduced if the victim is perceived as immoral, unintelligent, and even deserving of rape if she was wearing “sexualised” clothing at the time.

“Sexualised” women and girls are perceived as less human than the non-sexualised, as objects lacking in intelligence and up for use and abuse, and as more likely to be responsible for sexual assaults perpetrated upon them.

While I have no doubt that the study is accurately reporting its findings on society’s perceptions of women and girls,  it seems to me the problem is not the clothes we wear, rather the problem is society’s attitudes towards us.  These attitudes and perceptions remain unchallenged by the authors of the study, indeed the study appears to be assuming such attitudes are inevitable and  acceptable, and that women and girls must conform to them by policing what we wear.

The entire notion of “sexualisation” is born from a repressive and unhealthy attitude to sex, and to women who enjoy our sexuality, and who dress in ways considered to emphasise our sexuality. There is absolutely nothing wrong with us enjoying our sexuality and dressing how we like. What is wrong is a societal assumption that we are immoral, less human, and deserving of rape if we do.

Obviously there must be something inherently dodgy about sex, if women are deserving of punishment for overtly expressing enjoyment of our sexuality.

There is no question that given societal attitudes, it’s hideously perverted to dress young girls in the same way. It should come as no surprise to anyone that if young girls are dressed in a “sexualised” manner, there are adults who will perceive them as potentially objects for sexual gratification, and not much use for anything else.

However. What opponents of “sexualisation” consistently avoid or overlook, is that dressing girls and women in garments considered modest will do absolutely nothing to change a dominating perception of overt female sexuality as immoral, dangerous and an indicator of sub-humanity and low intelligence. This perception will persist, no matter what women and girls wear, and this is what urgently needs to be challenged and changed, not some bits of cloth in which we clad or omit to clad ourselves.

Look to those doing the “sexualising” if you want attitudes to women and girls to change. You can wrap us in burqas and they’ll find a way to “sexualise” us. People who perceive women and girls as sexual objects are the problem, and will remain the problem.

Why the hell should we be called upon to repress ourselves because of their brutish ignorance?

And why don’t the authors of studies such as this one in The Conversation turn their attention to the cause, rather than the symptom?

Abbott says we should be ashamed and he should know.

30 Aug

In his reaction to ribald public outrage against the Australian Border Farce yesterday, The Huffington Post today reports Prime Minister Tony Abbott as saying that mockers of all kinds should be ashamed of ourselves, and those Melbourne people who were actually there are especially culpable in contributing to the ruination of Operation Fortitude.


Abbott in Mankini


Meanwhile, back in the bunker, Hitler learns of the failure of Operation Fortitude:



Government by distraction

29 Aug

Sans Papiers


It behooves us to speculate what might have happened if there hadn’t been a public furore yesterday in protest at the aggressive assertion by Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s paramilitary Blackshirts, the Australian Border Force, that it was their intention to confront anyone who “crosses our path” on the matter of whether or not he or she was abroad in the streets, sans papiers. 

Someone of my Aryan appearance, fair-haired, blue-eyed, white-skinned (tbh my hair is very short and dyed candy pink at the moment and that’s another story however,  a pink-haired female may well have necessitated further investigation…) is unlikely to be stopped by the Border Force and asked to produce evidence of my right to be walking around Melbourne. The only possible criterium the Border Force could employ when deciding whom to accost and whom to leave alone is appearance, and that is racial profiling.

Had it not been for the extraordinarily prompt mobilisation of protesters via social media, yesterday might well have been the first day in this country that people have been stopped in city streets by a paramilitary force purely on the grounds of their appearance, and told they had to prove their right to be here. What a milestone, on what a road.

(In case you missed it, here is the ABF’s explanation of yesterday’s fiasco, given by Commissioner Quaedvlieg. Ummm…)

Look, this just keeps on getting more nutty. The operation in which the ABF were involved yesterday was codenamed Operation Fortitude. Do look up the history of this title, initially used in World War Two to describe a military deception…(Thanks Forrest)

However, this farce is but the latest in the ongoing spectacle performed for us matinees and evenings by the Abbott government. They can’t govern worth a toss, so they are left with little choice but to seek to distract us with increasingly ludicrous cock ups. Abbott endorses an ex-SAS candidate for Canning, who has an unfortunate history to do with the mutilation of Taliban corpses. Be that as it may, it seems the candidate’s other chief claim to suitability is that he hasn’t wasted his life “behind a desk.”

I have. I have totally wasted my life behind a desk when I should have been out and about fighting foreign wars because in Abbott’s Australia, that’s what our values are, none of this subversive thinking and writing, and btw, we only want art that furthers the government’s agenda. Yes.

There’s the murky account of how the US President rang Abbott from Border Force One, oooops, sorry, Air Force One, and begged him, begged him to send six of our fighter jets to end the turmoil in Syria. Not so, say senior government sources. Abbott begged the US President to let us play.

There’s the tortuous unravelling of Abbott’s beloved Trade Union Royal Commission, as the unfortunately named Dyson Heydon retires to consider in solitude whether or not he is guilty of apprehended bias. The vacuum cleaner jokes have been marvellous. The emails just won’t stop coming. At $12,500 per day, Heydon is free to pace his rooms in hand-wringing angst, as he struggles to arrive at a decision about his own behaviour. I could tell him in five minutes at a fraction of the cost, but we live in times when common sense and the bleeding obvious count for nothing.  Nothing, I tell you!

There’s the ex Speaker of the House of Representatives and the PM’s political mother Bronwyn Bishop’s penchant for crowd-stopping arrivals at party fundraisers in luxury helicopters underwritten by hapless taxpayers.

There’s Treasurer Joe Hockey’s tax plan speech the other day that has been lambasted by financial notables including the usually reticent Certified Practicing Accountants, leaving me wondering just who ought to be certified.

There’s Abbott’s much-vaunted journey along the narrow road to the deep north. In the community of Bamaga, the PM displayed his ignorance and ill-preparedness on the matter of Indigenous education, and was firmly corrected by people who actually know. He didn’t do his homework, they claim, but I fear there is something more serious at work here. Abbott has his own ideas about the world around him and increasingly, they do not coincide with reality. There is what Abbott insists is going on in the world, and there is what is actually going on in the world. The man has little interest in the latter, and is enchanted by the former. This isn’t an uncommon state and mostly those who suffer from it get by and are little more than irritants to others around them. But when it’s the Prime Minister, we all need to be worried.

The Abbott government seems bereft of policy, vision and nous about governance. Instead, we are treated to spectacle after spectacle and while it might once have been legitimate to suggest these spectacles were deliberate distractions from matters upon which the government did not wish its citizens to dwell, it’s now no longer possible to tell which are the fake cock-ups and which are the real.

I am becoming nostalgic for the days when all we had to worry about was slipping in the spilled blood of knifed ALP leaders.


Probing the anal

26 Aug


In a pig's arse

In a pig’s arse


On Monday night’s Qanda, somebody in the ABC’s employ allowed a tweet with the hash tag #abbottlovesanal to appear onscreen with Annabel Crabb, and the Twitterati haven’t stopped cacking ourselves since.

The situation was only exacerbated by Malcolm Turnbull who protested too much, methinks, at the allegedly inappropriate nature of the hash tag.

It was pointed out on Twitter more than once that Abbott can’t expect to have it both ways (lol). After all, he has cut the ABC’s budget to an alarming degree, and it must be very difficult to stretch meagre funding to cover censorship of Qanda tweets. Annabel Crabb then revealed her disappointment that the guilty tweep had misspelled her name, and had surely meant to write #abbottlovesannabel. ABC managing director Mark Scott issued another abject apology to the Prime Minister, thus ensuring the scandal an extended life. A creative type photo shopped an image of Abbott and Christopher Pyne, languid with post-coital bliss and naked under the Australian flag. Relief was widely expressed: at last we know the reason for the PM’s peculiar gait, and questions were raised about butt plugs.

Scott Morrison attempted a diversion, posting an image of an Irish pilot-boat in the Irish Sea, to which was added the caption, Border Force One. He claimed the craft was being used to convey himself and the PM around the Torres Strait. I tweeted my disbelief, and the manager of the Minister’s Twitter account, employed by the taxpayer, promptly blocked me. The attempted distraction, genuinely inappropriate, tasteless and hubristically arrogant, failed dismally, and Morrison himself became the target of social media mirth. They simply do not learn, these people, do they?

But it’s worth unpacking (sorry) the reasons anal sex was at the root (sorry) of all that mirth. The most unpleasant explanation is that it’s (wrongly) associated primarily with homosexual practices therefore the joke has homophobic origins. Anal sex in heterosexual relationships is not uncommonly portrayed as forced and undesirable: an act intended to degrade a woman. To anally penetrate a man is to feminize him, and for a man to welcome anal penetration is an indicator of his lack of masculinity. These are common cultural assumptions about anal sex, and they all contribute to the reasons why the #abbotlovesanal hash tag works as a source of widespread mirth.

The alliteration helps as well.

The psychoanalytic theory of anal retention also bears a mention. Freud’s anal retentive personality displays character traits similar to many apparent in our Prime Minister’s demeanour, such as stubbornness, a compulsion for control, repetitive speech, infantile desires for the security of institutionalised hierarchical structures such as the military, the Catholic church, and the police. These traits have their origins in conflicts experienced during toilet training, and in the PM’s case, could account for classic Freudian slips such as his misspeak on the suppository of wisdom.

A little deconstruction of the #abbottlovesanal hash tag reveals its complexity, and perhaps that is the fundamental (sorry) reason it’s turned out to be such a rich source of wit and pants-wetting jollity. The best jokes are the ones with many layers, the deceptively simple, the multiple meanings initially hidden.

Then of course there is the most obvious explanation: our Prime Minister commands no respect, and nothing delights us quite as much as making an arse of him.

Oh, and don’t forget, he did say he’d sell that arse to get the job…



Trust, and the Ashley Madison hack

25 Aug



Look. Call me unsophisticated, but I would not describe myself as “happily married” if I, or my spouse, were having a secret affair.

For me, the value of a so-called “committed” relationship is to be found in the trust between parties. If that’s not there everyone might muddle along reasonably well to all appearances. However, there is a depth of intimacy that is inaccessible in such a situation, because it only blossoms in trust. Trust is inherent in the concept of monogamy, and once it’s broken, the entire concept is under challenge.

The possibility of experiencing those intimate depths with another is the only reason I can see for committing to the monogamous state. Without that experience it seems a tiresome, repressive and unfulfilling arrangement.

I also find it difficult to imagine much equality in a relationship where trust is absent, and where one party is necessarily surveilling the other.

I admire those who manage to negotiate the complexities of trust in polyamorous relationships: humans being as possessive, jealous and psychologically perverse as we are, the challenges in those situations must be enormous.

When my husband had an affair I asked him (after we’d cleaned up the broken dinner plates) do you want a monogamous relationship with me or not? Realising such an arrangement would work both ways he decided in the affirmative, and we carried on in that understanding. Neither of us considered ourselves suitable candidates for polyamory.

(There are limits to the number of times this understanding can be reached: serial betrayers make a mockery of it.)

However, if my partner or I were secretly active on an infidelity website, the deliberate intention to deceive and betray implied by that choice would crash through our trust like a wrecking ball. So it is with some disbelief that I’m reading comments by the hacked that they don’t want their spouses knowing because they’re so happily married.

It makes me wonder, what constitutes a happy marriage, then? Apparently not trust and equality.

I don’t think any of those people deserved, in some wowserish moral sense, to be outed as they have been. It’s more a case of actions and consequences than it is of morality, as in, if you do a, b is likely to result. It’s a bit rich, though, for individuals engaged in betraying the trust of their nearest and dearest to make a song and dance when someone else invades their privacy. The same can be said for the Ashley Madison website: if you’re dedicated to deception, why complain when someone betrays you? There’s a kind of inevitability about it, really.

For mine, I’d much rather my partner told me if he or she felt desire for someone other than me, desire that he or she wished to act upon. While I don’t know what I’d do in reaction to such information, at least telling me would allow us to maintain our trust. Feeling desire for another isn’t the deal breaker: deception and betrayal are. You can’t swear you’ll never want anyone else: you can promise to put trust and equality first, and be honest about your desires.

Unless of course you’re dedicated to the illicit, and then you’ve no business doing monogamy in the first place. The two are entirely incompatible, aren’t they?




Domestic violence and the bourgeoisie

23 Aug

Domestic Violence Silence


In the last few weeks two rather disparate male journalists, Martin McKenzie-Murray in The Saturday Paper and Mark Latham, late of the Australian Financial Review, have observed that the current orthodox position on domestic violence against women and children holds that domestic violence can affect any woman, in any demographic, and is not socioeconomically determined.

Both men contest that position, arguing instead that women living in poverty are disproportionately vulnerable to domestic attacks, and that current opinion is based on the erroneous belief that patriarchal notions of male domination, entitlement and privilege (otherwise known as rape culture) are the cause of violence against women.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to the concept of so-called rape culture as the sole cause of violence against women, but neither do I agree that violence against women is predominantly determined by socioeconomic conditions.

What I find interesting is that two white middle class males have within weeks of each other put forward the argument that middle class women are significantly less subject to domestic violence perpetrated by intimate partners than are less affluent women. It’s interesting because feminists have spent the last few decades struggling to expose middle class violence, and it has been a far more difficult exposure than one might at first imagine.

Both Latham and McKenzie-Murray point to statistics to support their view, however, neither explores the possibility that domestic violence is quite likely underreported by middle class women. Without even trying, I can think of a wealth of examples of women and children living middle class lives, all of whom have endured or are enduring violence perpetrated by intimate partners and who have not, and will not, report the crime to police.

The middle class life has long been associated with denial and repression, and a pathological dedication to privacy, all of which are designed to build a wall of silence intended to keep things in the family. The common prescription is to refrain from airing dirty family linen in public. To transgress these bourgeois norms is to commit a social crime that is not readily forgiven or forgotten by peers. If you doubt me, reflect how only very recently have we begun to hold institutions and public figures to account for decades of sexual transgressions against children, and how so many offenders got away with it because it was wicked of them to say bad things about that good kind man. Why, even our Prime Minister appears in court to provide character references for paedophile priests!

It’s perfectly possible to account for domestic violence as both a socioeconomic issue, and a product of male privilege and entitlement. There is also, as McKenzie-Murray points out, the criminological aspect of domestic violence, which acknowledges the individual pathologies of perpetrators. Surely, if we are to have any chance at all of halting this epidemic we have to address all possible contributing factors?

I am uncertain why this argument that ostensibly pits the middle class woman against the less affluent in terms of their comparative rates of suffering, has suddenly emerged. I don’t think it’s a good sign. For far too long domestic violence was framed as an us and them problem: consigned to the poor, to Indigenous communities, far removed from the middle class whom, it was unquestioningly assumed, did not behave like that.

What we ought to be doing is making it easier for middle class women to come out of the closet about our experiences of family violence, not advocating a caste system of suffering based on socioeconomic factors. Domestic violence and violence against women is not an us and them situation, however comforting that delusion might be to some. It’s alarming to note the beginnings of a swing back to that delusion, after so many years of feminist efforts to escape it.

In the interests of fairness I disclose that I grew up in a professional family whose male head, a doctor, perpetrated unspeakable violence on its members.


But he is an honourable man…

15 Aug

Dyson Heydon

What is notable in the impassioned defence of Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Attorney-General George Brandis, and Christopher Pyne (what’s he do again?) is the choice of descriptors such as eminent, esteemed, distinguished, above reproach, honourable…the list is long, you get the idea.

While Mr Heydon may well enjoy some or all of those qualities in certain aspects of his life and personality, we ought to know by now that such attributes in no way preclude their bearer from undesirable and even unethical actions, neither do they make those actions any the less heinous.

We know this from the frequent exposure of esteemed, respected, eminent, irreproachable, honourable men (sorry, but they are overwhelmingly men) who are publicly revealed to have a darker and more dangerous side, from the eminent legal and political members of pedophile rings, to the growing list of globally renowned entertainers who’ve sexually preyed on women and children, to the irreproachable religious leaders who’ve succumbed to worldly temptations. You think we’d know by now that the words eminent, irreproachable, distinguished, honourable and so on mean, unfortunately, absolutely nothing when used in defence of men of achievement who’ve been outed as alarmingly two-faced.

And yet Abbott et al seem to believe that the increasingly desperate enunciation of these linguistic accolades will put Dyson Heydon beyond accountability, in much the same way as Abbott’s description to the court of the convicted pedophile Father Nestor as a virtuous and upright man was intended to distract from, or at the very least ameliorate, his crimes. These blokes make mistakes but they are essentially honourable men, so come on.  Yes. Indeed.

It’s beyond belief that Dyson Heydon, given his experience and eminence in his profession, could be unaware that he is required to be free of all political allegiances. If by some oversight he was unaware of the nature of the Liberal Party invitation to give the Sir Garfield Barwick lecture, rumour has it that Attorney-General George Brandis was also invited to the same event some time back in April. Surely he noticed that looming conflict of interest? No?

Indeed, did no legal personage in the ranks of Liberal lawyers grasp the ethical implications of a Royal Commissioner heading an investigation into trade unions and the Labor party simultaneously giving the keynote address at a Liberal party fundraiser? Because if they are that thick, how are they making a living?

The collapse of institutions once respected and even revered has eroded popular faith in the perceived trustworthy and honourable nature of authority, simply because it is authority. Too often those who wield the power of authority have been shown to have abused that power and we are increasingly disillusioned. Or perhaps we’re on the road to a more healthy realism and self-responsibility. Like believing in the sky fairy, trusting a man because he is eminent in his profession, no matter what his field, is, sadly, a loony and outdated idea. It belongs in the era when a man’s word was binding: how many centuries ago was that?

Besides, if Abbott found Nestor virtuous and upright that tells us everything we need to know about his capacity for good judgement.

Abbott say SSM is a deeply personal issue but you can’t have a free vote. What?

12 Aug

same-sex marriage dolls


Two notable outcomes resulted from the Coalition’s six and a half hour joint party room meeting called to debate the legalising of same-sex marriage last night. The obvious outcome is that there will be no legal same-sex marriage on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s watch, and that should surprise no one, remembering how Abbott once famously remarked that he felt “threatened” by gays.

The second is that the Liberal party is not a party that is supportive of the free vote for its members, contrary to decades of received wisdom on the noble nature and purpose of core liberal ideology. The Liberal party is actually driven entirely by right-wing ideology, much of which is firmly grounded in bizarre religious beliefs that have no basis in reality, and do not withstand the most rudimentary logical and rational enquiry.

It’s my personal opinion that the State has no place in anybody’s bedroom. Neither am I particularly enamoured of the inherently exclusionary institution of heterosexual marriage, and have witnessed many crimes committed under its state-sanctioned umbrella.

That being said, when participation in an institution is a legal hallmark of belonging in a culture, it is clearly an aggressive and hostile act to deny that sense of legal belonging to any social group, purely on the basis of sexual orientation. In other words, if LGBTI people wish to throw in their lot with the heterosexuals and commit to the exclusivity of the institution of marriage, it is ridiculous for any government to go to this much trouble to stop them.

Now we are faced with the ludicrously unnecessary and immensely expensive prospect of a referendum on the subject after the next election, should the LNP win government. Unlike Ireland, it is not necessary for us to have a referendum to change the Constitution (see 1.2.3.) on the definition of marriage and who may and may not enter into that state. Indeed, when John Howard was Prime Minister in 2004, he thought the Constitution so open to interpretation he found it necessary to amend the Marriage Act to define marriage as an event that could take place only between a man and a woman.

Deeply conservative ideological forces are fighting an increasingly desperate and losing battle to control society’s narrative. According to polling, the majority of Australians are at ease with the concept of same-sex marriage, a fact Prime Minister Abbott steadfastly chooses to ignore. This is a ridiculous, unnecessary and anachronistic debate.

Abbott continues to insist that same-sex marriage is “a very personal issue.” This apparently contradicts his refusal to permit a free vote, and yet again, we see the trickery of this profoundly duplicitous Prime Minister as on the one hand he concedes the deeply personal nature of the matter, while simultaneously denying every MP the right to address it in accordance with their “deeply personal” feelings.

In so doing, he denies the Australian public the right to live according to our “deeply personal” opinions on same-sex marriage in pursuit, yet again, of his ideological, religious, and in this particular case, “deeply personal” sexual prejudices.





Abbott: is the cur taking a whipping?

11 Aug

Abbott Tony

This could well be wishful thinking on my part, however…

Yesterday, as I watched the anointing of the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, I could have sworn I saw in the face and body of Prime Minister Tony Abbott the sullen demeanour of a whipped cur, already plotting his devious revenge.

It seemed to me that in his petulant insistence on yet again prime ministerially exonerating ex-Speaker Bronwyn Bishop of what is potentially criminal behaviour (if anyone ever bothers to seriously direct their investigation in that direction) Abbott reinforced his profound political and emotional identification with Ms Bishop, and his outrage that for a mere mistake or two she has been so ignominiously ejected from the Chair, only to land on her corseted arse in the back benches where she can surely have very few friends.

Abbott is given to prime ministerial exonerations of his mouldy mates. Rather like the Pope speaking ex cathedra, once Abbott has written a character reference or stated in Parliament or out of it that you’re an all right fellow or gal, any formal performance of justice is in his opinion rendered unnecessary, and the courts merely unbelieving saboteurs, damn their eyes.

Bishop was Abbott’s Captain’s pick for the prestigious position of Speaker. This time Abbott was just another party member, and it is rumoured that he isn’t too chuffed about his party’s choice, Tony Smith. This must be a bitter pill for the authoritarian PM to swallow, after all, this is the second time in six months he’s been forcibly reminded that he isn’t a party of one supported by a few potentially duplicitous but for the time being supportive henchmen and women.

In other words, this is the second time in six months the PM has been put in his place by his party and as he sat in the House glowering while the new Speaker promised fairness and admitted to friendships on the other side, Abbott’s lips closed so tight I thought he’d surely swallowed them. The man has little control over his facial expressions and his body language. I’m stout of heart, but there are times when the barely repressed dark fury that emanates menacingly from his physical being almost scares me.

I am slightly heartened by Abbott’s capitulation to public opinion and the demands of his party. Another Captain’s pick for Speaker, or anything much else given the disastrous nature of every pick thus far, may well bring him entirely undone. The man has a tin ear. He is tone-deaf. He is wilfully ignorant. He has an ideological agenda, and lacks the intelligence or the desire to understand its limitations. Like every crazed ideologue, he believes he can force others to adopt his beliefs, simply by the relentless exertion of his will. He runs the country like an old-style priest runs a parish, sermonising to the flock at every opportunity from a position of steadfast denial of reality.

But reality bites, and I dare to hope it has begun to nibble at the PM’s quite remarkable capacity for obduracy. He and Bishop are a perfect match (the expressions on both faces were eerily similar, the grim, thin-lipped smile, the coldly enraged eyes) and that is no recommendation for the character of a Prime Minister. I dare to believe that the majority of the Coalition are not on the same page as either Bishop or Abbott, and that they are, at long last, prepared to take a stand for something more evolved than rampant self-interest.

But hey. What do I know. Like everybody else, I can only live in despair, mitigated by the occasional flash of hope. Hold on, sisters and brothers, and trust in hubris and the karma bus.

The Pynes have never seen the fireworks. Right this wrong.

9 Aug

Fireworks NYE Sydney


In defending a $5000 cost for Christopher Pyne and three of his family members to fly to Sydney from Adelaide over the Christmas/New Year period, a spokesperson explained that Pyne did engage in work activities and he and his family had never seen the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Either this spokesperson has a burning ambition to dump Pyne and the rest of the Coalition government even further in it, or he or she is so steeped in the tradition of political entitlement and privilege that they can see no downside to revealing that we, the hapless taxpayers, many of whom never have and never will see the fireworks in Sydney on New Year’s Eve except on the telly, paid for the Pyne family to enjoy this cultural privilege.

I have never subscribed to the belief that any one human being is of greater significance than any other so naturally, I don’t see why my tax dollars should fund the Pyne kids’ excursion to the fireworks just because they have Christopher for their father. Oh, but wait. They have Christopher for their father. I may need to rethink my position on their disadvantage.

It may be a glitch in my constitution, but I have never found reason to respect any individual simply because she or he holds a particular office. There are actually very few people I do respect, and none of them are politicians or public figures. If I was going to shout anyone a trip to the fireworks, it would be one of them. There is much codswallop bandied about with regard to respecting “the office,” but one cautious glimpse at the increasingly unhinged Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, ought to disabuse anyone of the notion of respecting an office, given the type of lunatic who can apparently hold it. An office, like an institution, is only as good as the human beings inhabiting it, and that can be very very bad indeed.

We do not have “politicians” anymore, in the sense of a class of people willing to give a period of their lives to the service and well-being of the citizenry and the country. We have instead ideologues, intent on pursuing their self-interested goals and taking every possible advantage of us while they do it. It matters little on which side of the House they plonk their narcissistic arses, as is evidenced in the uncharacteristic rush to defend one another’s expenses claims. Of course extravagance is in the rules: politicians wrote the rules and they may not know much about running a country, but they do know how to look after themselves.

Pyne says he will not be repaying the airfares we coughed up  for his family to see the fireworks. Why am I not surprised. Call me cynical, but if anything comes from Abbott’s apparent determination to address the “entitlement” rules I suspect it will be an amendment to permit taxpayer-funded travel to party fundraisers. The man who wrings his hands over the denial of coal supplies to poverty-stricken millions on the sub continent who will, he claims, suffer and possibly die because of the Federal Court decision on the Adani Carmichael coal mine, gives not a fig for the Australian taxpayer who, while increasingly unable to make ends meet, has to watch his or her tax dollars pay for the children of comfortable and privileged politicians to fly business class and see the spectacles.

Time to get out the metaphorical tumbrils.








The scent of a lime

8 Aug

I’ve just had a late lunch of Yamba prawns, which, as anyone who is knowledgeable about prawns will tell you are the best in the country, and we get them fresh from the trawler.

But what was more important than the Yamba prawns were the limes I squeezed over them. I can’t smell, let alone taste a lime, without experiencing a powerfully sensual evocation of Mexico, where I encountered more limes than ever in my life before or since, in a variety of situations from beach cafes on Isla Mujeres where we scuffed our feet in the white sand as we ate fresh grilled fish (with limes) and drank beer (with sliced limes) to the mountainous country of the Zapatistas, where we sat snacking on tortillas (with limes) in the zocalos watching shamen pore over the entrails of dead armadillos. Limes, their scent and their flavour, became Mexico to me, along with the odour of the Lismore sewage plant. Ah, I think every time I drive past it. Mexico.

It is just over twelve months since my husband died. He wasn’t in Mexico with me, much to his chagrin. He cried at the airport when he saw me off and for some reason I can see as clearly as if it was yesterday not his face, but his bare feet in his Teva sandals. The recollection of those sandaled feet brings me completely undone: who would have thought?

Twelve months down the goat track of widowhood, his body is as vivid in my memory as it was when we first fell in love, and it is incomprehensible to me how that body can no longer exist in this material world.

I don’t know what is this animal thing in us that can make us weep and howl for the loss of the sensation of the flesh of a beloved against our own.

In Mexico people prepare feasts, take picnics to the graves of loved ones, believing their spirits are present and engaging with the living. Día de Muertos. There are times when I imagine I can hear his voice. There are moments when I think a man I’ve caught a glimpse of must be him. Is this what they mean, the people who believe the dead are always amongst us?

If I return to Mexico as I’ve long wanted,  he won’t be there in his Teva sandals to weep into his handkerchief at the airport, and remonstrate with me for leaving him behind. He’s left me behind, as he always said he would, because he didn’t want to live in this world without me.

There are many reasons why Mexico would inevitably be different next time, but the fact that he will not be waiting for me to come home is the at the heart of them. There is absence, and there is terminal absence. There is a temporary separation, and there is the ungraspable concept of infinite finality.

We never fully live, Freud claimed, unless we acknowledge the inevitability of our mortality. In denying our mortality, we live in rooms untouched by death, wrote Walter Benjamin, dry dwellers of eternity.

I had no idea that when I sliced the lunchtime limes I would be overwhelmed by memories of my dead husband’s slender feet and his gait, lopsided owing to one leg being slightly shorter than the other, and his hand on my shoulder as we waited for a train. Such is the nature of memory: inexplicable as life itself. The scent of a lime. The make of a shoe. A whole country. And the one who no longer waits for me to come home. Vale, beloved.

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead



Abbott blames the system. Bishop is its victim. Ahahahahahahahahahahaha! That’s funny

2 Aug

Bishop Bronwyn


Prime Minister Tony Abbott today absolves his “political mother” Bronwyn Bishop from all wrong doing:

 What has become apparent, particularly over the last few days, is that the problem is not any particular individual; the problem is the entitlement system more generally,” he said.

“We have a situation where spending is arguably inside the rules, but plainly outside of community expectations, and that’s what needs to be dealt with once and for all.

Surely it is not too much to expect that politicians will exercise ethical and moral judgement sufficient to contain their expenses within “community expectations,” aka the “sniff test?”

Obviously it is, as has been so spectacularly  brought to our attention by the revelation of decades of indulgence and extravagance practiced by Bishop, who seems to be enchanted by the fantasy that she is a reincarnation of Marie Antoinette.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m over Tony Abbott’s sophistry, his constant use of specious and fallacious argument to deceive and obfuscate. If Bishop hasn’t done anything wrong, why has she resigned, and why has Abbott accepted her resignation? If Bishop is a victim of the system, as Abbott apparently alleges, why did she have to go?

And how can Abbott and his henchmen and women expect to escape charges of hypocrisy when the comparison is noted between the excuses made for Bishop, and the ruthless hounding of “particular individual” former Speaker Peter Slipper, over less than $1000 abuse of travel expenses? Slipper made a number of attempts to resolve his matter administratively, that is, to pay the money back, as does everybody else, but these attempts were thwarted and he found himself in court.

Will we see Bronwyn Bishop in court over her outrageous excesses? If not why not?

Abbott’s attempts to spin Bishop as a victim of a system that allows politicians far too much leeway is adding insult to injury as far as the electorate is concerned. Bishop’s sense of entitlement and privilege allowed her to abuse the system to such an extraordinary degree: she is not the system’s victim, she is a practised exploiter who would have continued her exploitative practices until the day she expired, if she hadn’t been caught.

Bronwyn Bishop loves the Australian people, she claims in her resignation statement. So why did she squander so  much of the people’s money, and why has it taken her this long to express remorse, and sod off?



Perpetrator to victim

31 Jul



It’s your fault for being who you are and where you are, and if you weren’t who you are and you weren’t where you are I wouldn’t be able to abuse you.

If only you’d said it differently I wouldn’t have humiliated you, abused you, hit you, raped you.

If only you’d done it differently I wouldn’t have humiliated you, abused you, hit you, raped you.

If only you weren’t you but someone else altogether I wouldn’t have humiliated you, abused you, hit you, raped you.

If only you weren’t…..(use here whatever comes to mind it doesn’t really matter).

It is your fault for existing as you are, and being where you are. If you didn’t exist as you are, and you weren’t where you are, I wouldn’t be able to abuse you.

It is your fault for existing.

Now I suppose you’ll play the victim card.

Thanks to Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Tony Abbott blah blah blah etc etc etc for their valuable contribution to this monologue.

Bishop stays. Goodes goes. Abbott is silent. What is wrong with this picture?

31 Jul



In case you are still in any doubt about what matters and what doesn’t to the Anglo-Saxon hegemony think on this: white Speaker of the House of Representatives and Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s personal pick Bronwyn Bishop remains in charge of the House, in spite of decades of financial abuse of taxpayer funds, the obscene details of which are unfolding daily before our disbelieving eyes. The only thing that keeps her in her job is Abbott’s support, because while the Prime Minister cannot actually sack a Speaker, there’s little doubt that if Abbott pressured her to get on her bike, she’d be mad not to obey.

On the other hand, Indigenous football star and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes has been driven from his sport and public life by unrelenting racist attacks every time he shows his face. Goodes’ reaction to a thirteen-year-old girl calling him an ape has been held up by the racist commentariat such as Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt as being the reason footy crowds have taken such a set against him. However, it seems to have escaped the commentators’ collective memory that it was in fact the illustrious Eddie Maguire who at the same time called Goodes “King Kong.”

What also seems to have escaped their racist filter is that Goodes did not know at the time that a young girl was responsible for calling him an ape, and when he did become aware of this he handled the situation admirably, meeting with the girl and her mother, and engaging them  in conversation about the wounding and divisive nature of racist insults.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, normally a man with an opinion on everything no matter how irrelevant, remains conspicuously silent on both matters. Ms Bishop’s shenanigans with helicopters and luxury limos have left rotten egg splattered all over Tony’s face, an ungracious response on her part to the man who, when he won government, rewarded her with the prestigious job of Speaker. Getting rid of Bronwyn will cause Tony to lose egg-splattered face, as it will be an admission of his lack of judgement of a woman he’s known for decades, and indeed, has been heard to refer to as his “political mother.”

But as Freud would have it, an adult man must at some point cut ties with his mother, and this could be Tony’s moment to sever the umbilical cord.

Abbott apparently can’t say anything on the Goodes’ matter either, given his demographic is fundamentally xenophobic and racist, and he can’t risk alienating them. While the country engages in a national conversation about racism, our leader remains unacceptably silent, missing in action. While the indignation and outrage at Bishop’s fraudulent behaviour escalates, our leader remains silent, missing in action. The number of topics Abbott can publicly engage with seems to be shrinking daily: he certainly seems incapable of entering into the energetic debates that will shape and reshape our nation in a most concrete fashion. In other words, he’s useless.

Ideology can do that to a man. Render him useless.




Politicians: undoing their folded lies

24 Jul

lies2It ought to be self-evident that any individual or politician or government or opposition sincerely concerned with the welfare of waterborne asylum seekers who seek refuge in this country, would find their indefinite incarceration in off-shore detention centres obscene, and altogether unacceptable.

Remarkably, they don’t. Politicians from both major parties currently arguing that “turning back the boats” is an altruistic effort to stop people drowning at sea, need to be confronted with hard questions about what they continue to do to women, children and men after they have saved them from drowning at sea. Report after report, formal and anecdotal, reveals the appalling conditions asylum seekers endure on Nauru and Manus Island, and one has to question the sanity of anyone who advocates saving people from drowning only to treat them as human detritus, by either incarcerating them, or sending them back to a torment they’ve fled.

This is a sick and profoundly twisted argument, emanating from sick, and profoundly twisted minds. Australia treats the lives of waterborne asylum seekers with utter contempt and callous disregard, so why anyone believes politicians give a toss about saving their lives in the first place is a puzzle in an enigma wrapped up in a mystery.

We should also challenge the language in which this turn back option is framed.  it is not boats that are being turned back. It is human beings.

There are two matters that are screaming for our attention. One is the way in which we currently treat asylum seekers and presumably the ALP intends to continue treating asylum seekers, as we’ve heard no plans to address and improve their life conditions expressed so far by the alternative government.

The other is the folded lie, in which on the one hand moral arguments are made by politicians implying concern for saving life, while simultaneously caring nothing for that life once it is saved. The implication is that these lives must not be lost in our waters but they can be lost anywhere else and that is neither our concern nor our responsibility.  Lives we save can subsequently be subjected to all kinds of ill-treatment: our obligations to those lives are ended by saving them from dying in our waters.

It would be naive to imagine there was a golden age during which politicians didn’t lie. Politicians have always been liars, it’s part of the job description. Perhaps the difference is that there was a time when politicians actually cared about being perceived as liars, and endeavoured to convince us and themselves that they spoke a truth.

My distinct impression now is that politicians know they are liars, and they know we know they are liars and they no longer care enough to even pretend they aren’t. What matters most in politics is not the welfare of the country and its citizens, but who can lie with most authority, not the authority that makes a lie sound like truth, but the authority that says, I am the most powerful because I care the least about lying, and I am the most adept at the complex, folded lie.

A Speaker “on probation” cannot remain a Speaker

20 Jul
PM Tony Abbott congratulating the New Speaker Bronwyn Bishop after being elected as speaker, in the House of Representatives Chambers at the Opening of the 44th Parliament at  Parliament House in Canberra.

PM Tony Abbott congratulating the New Speaker Bronwyn Bishop after being elected as speaker, in the House of Representatives Chambers at the Opening of the 44th Parliament at Parliament House in Canberra.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to put his handpicked Speaker Bronwyn Bishop “on probation” demonstrates, as perhaps little else can, his contemptuous disregard for our Parliament and its processes.

As Speaker, it is Bishop’s job to discipline all MPs, thus setting the tone for parliamentary behaviour, and using the authority of her position to ensure that behaviour is within the guidelines and traditions of the Westminster system.

There is already considerable discontent abroad concerning the incompetent and biased manner with which Bishop has performed her powerful job. This latest scandal surrounding her dodgy use of taxpayer funds to enhance her lifestyle and feed her apparently insatiable sense of self-importance and entitlement ought to be the last straw.

It is unclear, at least to me, exactly what Abbott means by declaring Bishop to be “on probation.” Her expenses will be scrutinised for a period of three months perhaps? She will be obliged to stay away from helicopters and limousines for six weeks? How, exactly, is a Speaker of the House of Representatives put “on probation” and more importantly, how does a Speaker “on probation” retain any authority at all over any MP in that House?

A Speaker “on probation” cannot possibly remain a Speaker. A Speaker “on probation” has lost all her authority. A Speaker must be above being put “on probation” by her Prime Minister. The very idea is an insane notion that makes absolutely no sense in any known universe. It demonstrates Abbott’s utter contempt for the Westminster system he claims to revere.

Abbott assures us that Bishop is “contrite,” however, Bishop has given the public no indication of contrition at all.

Obviously, Abbott considers his Speaker to be at fault, otherwise there would be no talk of “probation” in the first place. The errors Bishop has made disqualify her from the extraordinarily demanding requisites of her position: a Speaker of the House of Representatives cannot authoritatively carry out her duties while “on probation,” and a Prime Minister who believes that is a satisfactory solution is demonstrating his profound contempt both for Australian voters, and the Westminster system of government over which he presides.

It’s time. For both Bishop and Abbott to go. Every day they remain is a further insult to this country and to our system of governance.



Bronnie’s shoes: a fractured fairytale

19 Jul

Bronwyn Bishop


Back in the day, second-wave feminists warned us to ditch our high heels because they hampered us if we needed to move fast or even at a reasonable pace, and if you ever wear high heels, you know that to be true. I just dug out an ancient pair, red satin with a high gold heel and long pointed toes and if the heels don’t cripple you the toes will become trapped in pavement cracks and you’ll go either arse backwards or head forward and either way, your progress will be impeded and physical injury may result.

My heels aren’t anywhere near as high as those worn by the Speaker of the House of the Representatives, Bronwyn Helicopter Bishop. So I absolutely understand why, on a recent European jaunt, she ran up a bill of around $1000 per day on a specially equipped black BMW limo to transport her from her luxury accommodations to wherever she needed to be. Only a spiteful, ill-wishing fairy would think she should walk, or take a cab or even an everyday embassy car, none of which would be safe enough to accommodate both her and her stilettos.

Women’s feet, and the type of shoe in which we encase them, have been the stuff of fairy tales in many cultures. There’s the ancient Chinese custom of foot binding. There’s the Grimm’s fairytale of the pubescent mermaid, who so desperately wanted to love a landlocked prince she exchanged her glorious asexual mermaid’s tail for legs, feet, and a clitoris, and forever after suffered as if she was walking on daggers, unless she was flat on her back. Yes. We’ve all been there, haven’t we.

Then there’s the grotesque Hans Christian Anderson saga of the red shoes, which involves a little girl the author describes as vain, who, after complaining of her ungainly footwear is given a pair of red shoes that won’t stop dancing all by themselves, leading to a desperate amputation of her legs at the ankle, and crutches for life. The ill-natured shoes, with her mutilated and bloodied feet inside them, hubristically continue to boogie in front of her everywhere she goes, reminding her of the wages of vanity and self-indulgence. It is this latter story that is perhaps most pertinent to Ms Bishop, as us punters struggle to establish which is the larger insult: the helicopter hired to serve the country (club) or the limo cos shoes.

As accounts of Bronnie’s indulgences at the serfs’ expense continue to unfold, I am reminded of nothing as much as a syphilis maddened British monarch demanding the gratification of every whim, which surprises me, as I had previously held this image as belonging solely to the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. But hey nonny, the two are apparently cut from the same cloth, and Bronnie, rumoured to be one of the Captain’s earliest picks (after his nose) continues to enjoy the unqualified support of her leader, against the advice of  at least one of his party elders.

Bronnie is out of step with the times, so to speak. She would be far more at home in the Georgian era, getting about in a sedan chair with a couple of bearers she could flog if they didn’t keep up the pace or jerked her about. A couple of hair extensions fashioned into ringlets and she’s all set to go.



I don’t know that we should advocate severing Bronnie’s legs at the ankle. However, there is something to be said for casting her feet (in stilettos of choice) and ankles in bronze, and placing them in a glass case in the entrance hall of Parliament House. These shoes, the placard might read, caused taxpayers to fork out $1000 per day for over two weeks, as they rendered the wearer incapable of using her god-given ability to walk. Only women of calibre should contemplate wearing such shoes, and then only when some other patsy foots the bill for the limo.




Tony Abbott: the human face of evil

1 Jul

silencing dissent


More than forty current and former workers at Australia’s detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island are challenging Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton to prosecute them under the new secrecy laws for speaking out over human rights abuses. 

What, exactly, is the government going to do to these forty professionals, and others who will no doubt join them? Arrest them all? Charge them?

While the very notion of threatening professional workers who speak out about human rights abuses in their workplace with prosecution is, in any western democracy, a travesty that is beyond comprehension, what’s even worse is that we are governed by individuals of such gargantuan stupidity they believe this is reasonable action to take in the first place, with an opposition that colludes, and apparently a demographic that supports this intimidatory silencing.

The government is on a hiding to nothing with these threats of prosecution. The legislation may well work as a deterrent, silencing those who might otherwise speak out, and that is likely its core purpose. However, the government now faces a direct challenge to its new laws, and the world will be watching what it does next.

No such laws have ever existed in our country before today, and I can’t think of any other comparable country in which they exist. What other liberal democratic government threatens professionals with imprisonment if they speak out about human rights abuses, including the sexual abuse of children, violence against women, and ill-treatment of people who are not criminals, not terrorists, and are in a situation of absolute helplessness and vulnerability.

They arrived seeking asylum in Australia by boat, a perfectly legal enterprise, and as we are still signatories to the Refugee Convention, though god knows why, we invited them to seek asylum here in the first place, using any means of transport they chose.

Now we have taken away the very last right they had – the right to a voice, albeit via a third-party, by threatening those third parties with prosecution if they bear witness. Yes. If you bear witness to the atrocities permitted by the Abbott government to be visited upon innocent people, you risk imprisonment. This is what we’ve come to.

This legislation has not been passed to protect Australian citizens. It has been passed to protect politicians. It will allow them to do what they like when they like to waterborne asylum seekers, without any accountability at all. This government and the opposition, who couldn’t oppose a wet lettuce, will permit all kinds of torments to be visited upon women, children and men in offshore detention, and they will prosecute and imprison anyone who reveals their secret savagery.

I’m not much given to use of the word evil. But evil has a human face and the human face of evil today is Tony Abbott. What the ALP has done is supporting this vile legislation is perhaps even more evil: they had the opportunity to resist it. Yet they did not, they endorsed it without as much as a murmur of dissent.

This is a government dedicated to secrecy, silencing, authoritarianism and the sowing of discord and disharmony, supported every step of the way by a spineless opposition. I have no idea where this will end, but every time I think it can’t get any worse, it does.

Why I don’t have to be offended by the same things as somebody else

29 Jun


offending people


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the 2013 update to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) classification and diagnostic tool. In the United States the DSM serves as a universal authority for psychiatric diagnosis.

A friend of mine sent me a public tweet listing the DSM 5 criteria for one of the borderline personality disorders, with the wry observation that Tony Abbott’s public behaviours seemed to fulfil them all.

I thought this was pretty good on several levels, the most imaginative being that I know both my friend and I regard the DSM 5 as a frightful load of bollocks, and using its criteria to categorize Abbott, whom we also think of as a frightful load of bollocks, made a satisfying little irony.

However. Within hours we were set upon by two blokes who stridently accused us of using mental illness as a political tool against an opponent, and in so doing, being unbelievably disregarding of other people’s pain. One of them was a psych student. The other said we had no right diagnosing Abbott when we hadn’t ever treated him. Which is true, of course, except that my friend wasn’t diagnosing Abbott, she was pointing out the self-evident truth that the DSM 5 criteria bore a striking resemblance to Abbott’s way of being in the world, a way of being we can all daily, even sadly hourly, observe.

I am very sorry that I have never treated Abbott. I would give my right arm to treat Abbott, and to what, I will not, at this point, say.

I should say here that both my friend and I have our battles with mental ill-health, and we both feel comfortable with finding certain characteristics in the DSM 5 that seem to scream at us: Abbott. I do not feel using such criteria to describe Abbott is a personal insult to my mental health or lack thereof. That everyone will not share my view is inevitable, as I pointed out to the angry blokes, and I see no reason why they should. However, I insisted, I do have the right to express a differing opinion without incurring abuse, as do they.

What I understood afresh after the increasingly abusive exchanges we were treated to on Twitter, is that there is apparently an expectation that everyone with, say, a mental illness, will feel the same as everyone else with a mental illness, react to stimuli in the same manner, be offended by the same things, and that if you don’t you either aren’t really suffering mental illness, or you are a traitor who cares nothing for the suffering of others. In this mindset, there appears to be little distinction between mental illnesses: they’re all the same, apparently.

This, to my mind, is offensive. The assumption that there is a stereotypical mentally ill person offends me profoundly.

It doesn’t matter to which situation this totalitarian perspective is applied. I’ve heard it used about survivors of child sexual abuse, and  survivors of all kinds of trauma. If this has happened to you, you will think, feel, and behave in these ways. At its source, it is a typical right-wing nut job argument, and Tony Abbott employs it better than anyone: if you don’t think like we do you aren’t one of us, ergo you are bad because we are good.

The totalitarian mind cannot bear variation: what offends it must offend everyone.

Defending against the mindless stupidity of this argument is what got me embroiled in the Twitter fight in the first place: one cannot, in this zeitgeist, pass up any opportunity to take on these hive minds who believe that if you do not think as they do, you are a very bad person in urgent need of re-education. These minds turn up in the most unexpected of places: they are as common amongst the so-called Left as they are amongst the Right. They are why the victorious revolutionaries always become the bourgeoisie.

While there are definitely characteristics common to certain human experiences, reactions to those experiences are as individual as the human beings involved in them. Even within the individual reactions to trauma will change over time, and what brings us to our knees initially will, hopefully, lose much of its force and its ability to hurt.

Everyone has, to my mind, the inviolable right to deal with their mental illness, or trauma, or physical illness in ways that best suit them, within the parameters of everyone’s safety. So I sat in a cafe with my friend who’d just lost a testicle to cancer and we told one another cancer jokes someone else might very well find extremely offensive: does this mean we can’t tell them, even though for us, black humour is a central part of how we cope with our circumstances?

I understand you are offended by my friend’s tweet, I told one of the angry blokes. I am not offended. I do not have to be offended to please you. Are you intending to attempt to bully me into pretending offence, because I will not do that. I have the right to not feel offended. I have the right to be true to what I feel, and I do not feel offence.  Would you like to shoot me, because this is where the continuum you are on eventually leads.

We have a terrifyingly secretive government, and a useless opposition. We are, as citizens, being controlled and silenced to a degree many of us have never before experienced. Our freedoms are being eroded, bit by little bit. There is no freedom without the freedom to offend. There is no freedom without the freedom to decide what is offensive to you, and what is not.  I can imagine a future in which if we are not overtly expressing offence at circumstances the government decrees we must find offensive, we could well find ourselves in all kinds of trouble.

There is no I in team, yet without I, the team is nothing more than a herd.



When will women learn?

28 Jun


What is it we need to learn this time? Oh, yes, women need to learn not to send intimate photos of ourselves to people we trust. For christ’s sake, this isn’t rocket science, women. We already know you can’t bloody learn that. No, all you have to learn is not to point the camera at your bits and press send. How hard can it be?

And if by chance those photos are used as revenge porn, or hacked, or, as happened in my case, the relationship breaks up and the ill-mannered swine refuses you the reassurance of telling you he’s deleted them, you have only yourselves to blame because if you hadn’t taken them in the first place, nobody could have exploited you.

Actually, it’s worse than that. If you didn’t have a vagina in the first place nobody could have exploited you. If you didn’t have breasts nobody could have exploited you. If you weren’t female, nobody could have exploited you so if we’re being completely honest none of this is about what you do, it is really about who you are. 

Yes, yes, yes I know there are men who are exploited, and they can speak for themselves. I’m currently dealing with the apparently never-ending story, most recently perpetuated afresh by channel 7’s Sunrise Face Book page, that women need to learn we’re asking for trouble if we express our sexuality because men cannot help themselves.

These men who cannot help themselves in the face of female sexuality are, when I last looked, the same gender who are running corporations, governments, intelligence agencies, police forces, universities, the armed forces, the medical profession, the legal profession, media – the planet, actually. Yet they allegedly cannot govern either their own desires, or the desires of their fellows. The sight of a woman’s naked breasts will call forth unmanageable primal instincts, which, if they are expressed as abuse, assault, threats of violence, threats of rape, scorn, disparagement, and unbridled lust will not be the man’s responsibility but yours, woman, for putting your tits and bits out there in the first place. 

You won’t only hear this from men. You’ll hear it, at times ferociously, from the women who enable men in their childish abdication of responsibility, and the self-serving perpetuation of the myth of the male as unable to control his desires in the face of female irresistibility. These women will not hold men accountable, they will hold women accountable. It takes two, they’ll say, when their man sexually assaults another woman. Yes. I’ve actually heard that. It doesn’t get much more sickening.

What is at issue here is a woman’s right to perform her sexuality in any way she chooses without fear of violent repercussion, emotional, physical, and mental. We do not need to learn how not to do this. Men, and the women who enable male ill-treatment of other women need to learn, among other things, about consent. You don’t just take because you want it and if you do, it’s your bad behaviour, nobody else’s. This is what we teach two-year-olds. Why are we still trying to teach it to adult men and enabling women?

Our youngest family members are boys of roughly two and almost four. The two-year-old has recently taken to persecuting his older brother with various types of bodily torment. Archie has learned to say, Stop it, I don’t like it. But Ted hasn’t learned to hear that yet. So he has to be hauled off his brother, taken to another room, and have it explained to him ten times a day that when you’re being physical and somebody says, stop it, I don’t like it, you have to hear that and you have to stop. This instructing is most often done by his dad, backed up by whoever is in charge when dad isn’t. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but I know none of us are giving up. These little boys are tomorrow’s men. They are learning about consent. It isn’t rocket science so how come so many men, the gender that rule the damn planet, don’t fucking know it?

I am absolutely fed up with hearing about what women “need to learn” to protect ourselves from men who are dangerous to us, physically, mentally and emotionally. This is an arse-about and spurious load of codswallop. What we are witnessing, as is evidenced by the outrage generated by the Sunrise Face Book question, is that women are learning, and what we are learning is to hold men who hurt us publicly accountable for their actions.

Women are still being held accountable for crimes that are committed against us. Enough already. There’s only one way this will change, and I believe it’s begun. Challenge the myth. Challenge the men and women who are in its thrall. Treat them like two-year-olds who need to be taught ten times a day that when I say stop it, I don’t like it, you fucking well have to hear me, and stop.  

Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Women, Sex, Why?

24 Jun

So, if I came away with anything after last night’s final episode of ABC TV’s The Killing Fields, oops, sorry, The Killing Season, it was a sense of profound shock and awe at the ALP’s astounding ability to squander political capital to the degree that in six short years they went from owning the room to a derelict mob of squabbling, self-important cane toads with over-active thyroids and a death wish, oozing poison from every pore, who had become and remain of little use to anyone, especially themselves. Don’t let your dog lick  them. It will cark.

Apart from anything else, what kind of lunatics install Australia’s first female Prime Minister after she’s executed a midnight assassination of her ludicrously popular male predecessor? Women cannot do that, for christ’s sake. Men can coup. Women can only be behind the man who coups. What is wrong with everybody?

In the penultimate episode Rudd, quite understandably in my view, took serious umbrage at Gillard’s babbling efforts to psychoanalyse him. Last night Gillard made the breathtaking claim that she believed knifing Kevin at midnight would provide him with the opportunity for a good rest he badly needed. This put me in mind of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s claims that sacking workers offers them the chance of a new beginning. I find it interesting that two leaders from opposing ends of the political spectrum share such similar moral opinions on the misfortunes of others.

I have no idea who was lying and who told the truth in that three-part account of the ALP’s downfall, nor do I care. Mostly I just wanted to bang their stupid heads together. It takes a particular kind of perverse talent to have a country at your feet and still manage to turn it into a cock-up.

Speaking of Abbott, I once attempted to imagine him as a sexual being. My mind exploded. Everything went black. I regained consciousness in the  compost heap, with the dog licking rotting mango flesh from my eyebrows.

I pushed myself to this brink because I had just read the following comment by the Minister for Women:

I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak.

Reading this statement I wonder first what kind of impoverished universe Tony Abbott inhabits if in it, sex comes down to a gendered right to “withhold” and gendered a right to demand, both of which, according to him, require moderation.

The word “withhold” implies an act of calculated deprivation as in withholding payment, withholding supplies, withholding access to bank accounts, withholding information. In order to use this word at all, Abbott must be starting from the assumption that men are always entitled to sex, like a worker is always entitled to payment, and if a woman doesn’t want sex for whatever reason, it’s a hostile act of denial on her part.

In other words, women are not permitted to not want sex, in Abbott’s world, without being perceived as denying a man what is his due.  In more other words, in Abbott’s world women have no autonomy, and no agency over our own sexual desires, because our sexual decisions are perceived as being entirely to do with whether we withhold or gratify male desire.

It’s in the use of the word “withhold” that Abbot reveals his attitude to women and sex. The idea that sex is a man’s right to demand part of the statement is irrelevant, really, because in the use of the word “withhold” Abbott has assumed a man’s right to demand.

This is our Minister, ladies. He doesn’t think we just don’t feel like it, are tired, have cramps, don’t find the male partner especially exciting. No. Women withhold.

Finally, if you want to see how little things have changed for women in some parts of the legal system, read this enlightening piece in Overland titled the Ethics of Defence, by barrister Catriona MacLennan . (Thanks to Maria for alerting me to this.) It takes a great deal of courage to even use the words ethics and morals these days without being laughed off the planet, unless you’re the government talking about ABC TV’s Qanda.


witholding sex








Abbott will keep you safe: unless you’re a woman and as long as you vote for him

17 Jun

Abbott's mouth


The release of the Lowy Institute’s latest poll on the rising fears of Australians and our insecurities regarding the potential effects on us of terrorism, gave Prime Minister Tony Abbott what he likely considers a God-sent opportunity to reassure citizens that his government will do anything to “take care of our people and keep you safe.”

We heard similar paternalistic reassurances in the preceding days, this time on the matter of doing anything to keep our country safe from job lots of asylum seekers, including paying people smugglers good taxpayer money to steer their fragile craft in the direction of Indonesia. If you didn’t see a business opportunity in that offer,  you’re a total failure as a people smuggler.

This keeping you safe business is one of Abbott’s core manipulations: while hyping up the threat of stranger danger, he rarely refers to the dangers that are literally in our own back yards. In February 2015 he promised that “with every fibre of his being” he would “keep us safe” from terrorist threats, but there was not one mention in his Press Club speech of the deaths of two women every week in Australia from the domestic terrorists who murder, abuse and sexually assault us. This omission is made even more remarkable because Abbott holds the portfolio of Minister for Women.

“I will with every fibre of my being keep you safe.” It’s a wedding vow. It’s the overwhelming emotion of the father when he first kisses the head of his newborn infant. It’s a language that has little relationship to reality and reason, and while appropriate as expression of feeling in a personal context, in the political it’s emotionally manipulative, duplicitous, and deliberately employed to soothe fears that cannot, in reality, be soothed.

It sounds so seductive, doesn’t it, to humans who yearn for certainty and safety in a world where neither can ever be on offer. Abbott is the wolf in the fairy tale grooming children with wild promises, dry-mouthed in anticipation of the ecstasy of devouring them, smacking his lips at the prospect of savouring their sweet flesh. Orally fixated, I want, I want, I want is Abbott’s true three-word mantra, and like any seductor, he projects his desire onto the objects of his lusts and convinces himself that they want it just as much as he does. I will keep you safe and that’s what you want me to do, he whispers, lick, smack, lick, smack, the eerie rhythms of his drily ravenous mouth the stuff of nightmares.

Just who Abbott means by “our people” is unclear, but I suspect it means only the brain-dead cohort who are satiated into a coma by hollow sloganic rhetoric. He won’t want to be keeping anyone safe who doesn’t give him a vote, you can count on that. This is how Abbott decides who to regard as fully human: do they vote for him?

All too often, the one who promises I will keep you safe turns out to be the one who presents the greatest threat. Paternalism is never honest. The paternalist inevitably has tickets on himself: it’s always about him and his superior ability that entitles him to know what’s best for you. So he invades your privacy and commands your metadata, he erodes your liberties bit by tiny bit, all the while whispering, I am keeping you safe, just like I said I would, and in the end, you are entirely his.

There’s only one way to understand this government: get out your original copy of Grimm’s’ Fairy Tales, the one before the frightened people sanitised it, thinking it too nasty for children, overlooking how very nasty children can be. Abbott is speaking to adults in denial, to a childlike audience so desperate for reassurance it will settle for the temporary quelling of anxieties, the temporary relief of a leader promising, I will keep you safe. Abbott is the monster who manufactures monstrosities, from which he then promises to protect you. Like little children, his gullible demographic flock to his promises of protection, never understanding that like the waterborne asylum seekers, they are fleeing into danger.

Nobody can keep us safe. Abbott offers the image of an Australia protected from all outside threat by the vigilance of his government, but this will never be anything other than a dangerous illusion. What we must do is learn how to live with uncertainty, rather than accept the dummy of false reassurance to soothe us, and silence our cries. Nobody can keep us safe, least of all a mad man like Abbott.

Women know this. We are never safe. And the biggest threat to our safety is not ISIS, or terrorism of any kind, but the other humans who share our lives. Will Abbott, our ministerial saviour, call on every fibre of his being to keep us safe from them?



It isn’t the only question that matters, Mr Abbott.

15 Jun



“Again I keep making the point the only question that matters is, is this government prepared to do what is necessary to keep the boats stopped, the answer is yes.” Prime Minister Tony Abbott when asked about alleged payments to people smugglers by the Australian government.

There is never only one question that matters. When the leader of the country reveals this conviction as his bottom line, you know he has abandoned the basic the principles of liberal democracy.

Abbott has now publicly confirmed that in his world view the means absolutely justifies the end. If you believe he will only apply this conviction in order to “stop the boats” you’re dreaming.

What it sounds like to me is that Abbott is constructing rationalisations, minimisations and justifications for misappropriating taxpayers’ money  in order to engage in the illegal act of bribing people traffickers to find a destination other than Australia, in preparation for these allegations being confirmed.

The levels on which this is corrupt, degenerate, and potentially lethal to human life are myriad, but Abbott hopes to reframe these acts of bastardry as the necessary means to the noble end of keeping Australia safe.

If it is Abbott’s creed that the means justifies then end, he is without doubt crazed. It’s a belief that can be, has been and will continue to be used to justify every kind of violence, genocide, repression, oppression and suppression, and those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

There is, in the Australian abhorrence for waterborne asylum seekers as represented by both ALP and LNP governments, more than a tinge of racism. The vicious punishments meted out to them, such as indefinite detention in off-shore hell holes, demonstrate a disregard for humanity other than our own that is but a few steps away on the continuum of contempt from murdering  them.

Let’s not forget that Abbott once memorably and bizarrely observed that Jesus didn’t intend everyone to come to Australia, so not only do we have the means to an end conviction in Abbott, we have the religious fanatic’s belief that he knows what God wants and is carrying out his wishes.

“The only question that matters” is a phrase favoured by those who have something to hide. It’s an avoidance phrase, and it’s a phrase intended not to inform but to obfuscate. It’s up there along with “the details don’t matter.” As soon as someone tells you the details don’t matter you know those details are central, and someone desperately doesn’t want them revealed.

It is not for a politician to determine the “only question that matters,” at least not in a western democracy. That’s the language of dictatorship. If Abbott is using taxpayers money to pay off people smugglers that’s a question that damn well matters. Apart from that, nobody thinking straight wants to be at the mercy of a government that is so flagrantly prepared to use human beings as a means to their own ends.



Abbott’s denial of reality

14 Jun



It’s the goal of every political party to impose its particular concept of reality onto the nation over which it desires governance. Treasurer Joe Hockey, for example, wants to convince us that if we have a “good” job that pays sufficiently well we will be able to buy a house, even in what governor of the Reserve Bank Glenn Stevens describes as Sydney’s “crazy” market.

In other words, Hockey wants to impose his party’s ideological belief that all that is required is hard work to get you where you want to be. In the matter of affordable housing this fallacy is easily challenged: nurses, emergency workers, teachers, police, all essential to the safety of any community, are paid so comparatively poorly they have reduced opportunities to purchase a home in the city in which they serve, yet their jobs are “good” in every other sense of the word, and they work hard in traumatic and difficult circumstances.

In Hockey’s ideology the individual is entirely responsible for his or her fate, and the wider social and cultural context in which we exist is of no relevance whatsoever.

Even cabinet ministers occasionally have difficulty meeting their mortgage payments, Prime Minister Tony Abbott folksily tells us, and his own daughters are wondering how they’ll ever get into the market. These comments only serve to confirm the “craziness” referred to by Glenn Stevens, however this is not Abbott’s intention. In yet another cosy homily, the Prime Minister is attempting to brainwash the nation into the belief that it is normal to struggle mightily to own a home, and that housing is a privilege, not a human right.

The LNP ideology in general, not just as it is revealed through the prism of the housing market, is based entirely on the denial of the reality of everyone other than themselves and the like-minded. So as another example, in what must be the most twisted effort thus far to keep the country free of asylum seekers arriving by boat, we now hear that the Abbott government is allegedly using tax payer dollars to persuade people smugglers to turn their over-loaded boats towards Indonesia where they presumably will either offload their cargo of human misery, or conceivably turn right back around in the hope of being intercepted by another representative of the Australian navy and border patrol who will, if they are lucky, pay them more thousands of dollars to turn back to Indonesia.

This interesting variation on Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence will, the government assures us, ensure ongoing success in its campaign to turn back the boats and keep Australia safe. The fact that we pay those vile people smugglers to turn around will not, of course, encourage the people smuggler trade, because the Abbott government wants to stamp that trade out and paying them to turn back will stamp that trade out, dummy, what is wrong with you that you can’t get that?  It won’t even risk more drownings at sea because paying people smugglers to turn back their boats will stop drownings at sea, or at least in the bit of the sea that belongs to us, because the people smugglers have been paid and paying them means nobody will drown.

Are you gas-lighted yet?

The government has zero interest in the reality of waterborne asylum seekers, their struggles and their fate. The only reality that matters is that of a group of largely white males who currently comprise the orthodoxy, and whose sole goal is to remain in power. Their task is, by hook or by crook, to quote their leader, to persuade enough of the citizens of this country to share that reality and vote them back in. Denial of every other reality is essential to achieve this outcome, onshore and off.

Denial is an insidious psychological mechanism, on a personal, community, national and political level. One of the most destructive of its effects is the barrier it inevitable constructs against change. Nowhere do we see this played out more dramatically than in the Abbott government’s fanatical loyalty to the continued use of fossil fuels, brought yet again into stark focus this week by the Prime Minister’s brain fart on the aesthetic offensiveness of wind farms and his intention to find, by hook or by crook, expert evidence to prove their danger to human life.

A few weeks ago Jeff Sparrow tweeted about the demented wind farm phobia displayed by both Hockey and now the PM. Its roots, he claimed, lie in the fear that at their every turn the turbines are whispering: “Hang the bourgeoisie. Hang the bourgeoisie.”

Denial, in the psychological sense, causes a refusal to accept evidence-based reality, refusal to acknowledge the repercussions of one’s own actions and the effects those actions have on others. The denier uses minimisation, rationalisation and justification to cling to a status quo under challenge, and the more frightening the challenge, the more desperately the tools of denial are brought into play.

The Abbot government suffers a group psychosis, so deeply ingrained is its pathological denial of any reality other than its own; its callous disregard for the effects of its actions on any other group, and its narcissistic belief in its own entitlement and superiority. This can only go one way: downhill. Currently, we have no significant organised challenge to the Abbott government’s dominance, but when we do, and we must, even if it means widespread civil disobedience, the orthodoxy will decompensate, and hopefully implode. This will not be a pretty process: overthrowing tyrants never is.

Change is an anathema to conservatives, and we are in a time of enormous global changes that must be maturely addressed. They will not cope. They are already not coping, and if we had an opposition with any kind of a spine, the government’s sick reality would be under real and consistent challenge.


Leave of absence

12 Jun

leave of absence


I might not be around on Sheep very regularly for a while as there are personal circumstances to deal with.

I’m writing about them on The Practice of Goodness from time to time, they aren’t political in the ordinary sense, and I need to keep them separate from No Place for Sheep.

All the best to everyone.


How to avoid the democratic process within your own party

7 Jun



In December 2014, then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison made this alarming lunge for sole power over citizenship decisions without recourse to judicial review:

The DIBP submission to a Senate committee argues that an elected member of parliament and minister of the Crown has gained a particular insight into the community’s standards and values. This particular insight therefore qualifies Morrison to overrule AAT decisions. It is the bill’s intention to grant a minister, in this case Morrison, the power to determine an individual’s “good character” or otherwise, regardless of any ruling made by the AAT. Morrison’s decision will be unchallengeable.

Peter Dutton has now replaced Morrison as Minister for Immigration and is in the process of attempting a similar grab for sole power over the stripping of citizenship from those he alone deems unsuitable to retain it.

No citizen can have confidence in a government or an opposition that supports one politician being granted absolute power over such decisions. It is absolutely contrary to all democratic instincts and practices. The question we must ask is why is it thought necessary to invest one politician with this much power? The answer is obviously that the government cannot risk internal debate, and is determined to avoid that democratic process. The Minister is answerable to no one within his party, let alone outside of it. It is only a matter of time before more Ministers are granted similar authority over who knows what circumstances, and anyone who believes or trusts otherwise has their head in a sack. The government has no mandate to invest a Minister with absolute power, not even within its own ranks.



There are currently so many disturbing events initiated by the Abbott government it’s difficult to triage, however, surely one of the more alarming is the decision to imprison for up to two years doctors, nurses and teachers who disclose adverse conditions at asylum seeker detention centres on Manus and Nauru.

In spite of the border protection rhetoric that surrounds this decision, it’s apparent to anyone with a brain that the only interests served by imposing these draconian restrictions on professionals who, in Australia, are mandated to report abuses they become aware of in the course of their work, are the interests of the Abbott government, supported by the Labor opposition.

Neither major party wants us or the rest of the world to know what goes on in the off-shore detention centres. Knowledge of abuses inflicted upon the detained cannot possibly be a threat to our national security, and if that is what the major parties continue to insist, they need to explain exactly how they justify that claim.

Indeed, if there was any logic to the government’s argument the ill-treatment of asylum seekers ought to be trumpeted from the rooftops as a deterrence to anyone else attempting to come here by boat. Not only will you never be resettled in Australia, you and your children will be subjected to inhumane treatment and conditions in tropical hell holes as well.

As head of the Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs so eloquently pointed out, we are currently being subjected to an erosion of rights that ought to have us taking to the streets in protest at the over-reach of executive power by the Abbott government. It is not far-fetched to imagine that a government prepared to imprison professionals for doing their jobs in off-shore detention centres will extend that threat to professionals doing their jobs in the homeland, should it serve their interests. There’s certainly no future in entreating the ALP to take a stand, indeed, the ALP seems more than happy for Abbott to do this dirty work.

Porn is a symptom, not a cause

6 Jun

Porn Rescue


In a piece titled Porn’s Distortions on the ABC 7.30 Report of June 4 2015, it was claimed that the sexual expectations of the young are being unrealistically shaped by the pornography they view, and that there is no education available that presents them with a perspective other than that of the stereotype of male as entitled aggressor, and female as submissive.

It goes without saying that the discussion was confined to heterosexual relations, but I’ll say it anyway.

I’ll also say that the moral and religious alternative of no sex without love (or “romance”) is a load of codswallop as well. Show me a romance in which a woman is not ultimately required to be just as submissive as she is in mainstream porn, albeit in different ways. Consensual and satisfying sex is perfectly possibly without intense emotional involvement, and to claim that it isn’t is, in its own way, just as distorting as the model provided by stereotypical porn.

Young women are apparently feeling overwhelming pressure to perform sex as their young male partners, educated by porn, want it performed, and this can include the demand for sexual acts young women do not want and do not enjoy, but feel obliged to comply with if they want a boyfriend.

What struck me most forcibly about the role of pornography in this impoverished notion of sexuality is that it is a symptom, not a cause, and what it is a symptom of is the entitlement some human beings feel they have to use and abuse the bodies of other human beings for their own gratification. This profound dysfunction expresses itself most notoriously in the entitlement many men feel they have to use the bodies of women, for sex, as punching bags, as objects of ownership and in other indignities major and minor that we read of every day in domestic violence reports and most starkly, in the murders of two women each week at the hands of men.

I am not conflating the pornographically tainted sexual expectations of the young with the slaughter of women by murderous men, but I am pointing out the sense of entitlement to a woman’s body, her mental and emotional attentions, and the demand for her compliance that underlies both situations, and all the situations on the continuum.

I believe this is often referred to as “rape culture.” I prefer to think of it as “entitlement culture.”

Nor do I have any objection to pornography when viewed by consenting adults, but as a sex education tool I fear it has little going for it. On our honeymoon, my beloved late husband took me on a visit to a movie house in San Francisco famous for its porn screenings, just for the hell of it, and after the first half hour I was bored witless by the unrelenting pneumatic drilling and the fake ecstasy the women on-screen displayed at being drilled. The thought of the young being offered such scenes as modelling for an enjoyable sexual experience is, I admit, disturbing.

I don’t know how we are going to overthrow or subvert a culture in which male entitlement to women’s bodies, hearts, and minds is so profoundly entrenched as to be normalised, and goes largely unremarked. This entitlement is the root of the problem, stereotypical porn that enacts that entitlement merely a branch.

I want girls to be able to say to boys who demand sexual acts or any other performance a girl does not wish to engage in, piss off, I’m not doing that, and then to grow into women who can say the same thing.

A sense of entitlement does not allow for the acknowledgement of another’s humanity. A sense of entitlement breeds the perception of another as a means to an end, as less than human, as an object of gratification. The age of entitlement is far from over in heterosexual relations, and it serves nobody well, least of all the young.

Porn is not distorting anything. Stereotypical porn accurately reflects the prevailing cultural attitude of entitlement to women’s bodies. Anti-porn campaigners have got it the wrong way round. Abolishing porn, or restricting access to it will not change a thing. The problem runs far deeper, is far more confronting, and far more frightening. It’s that of human beings believing they are entitled to the use of another as a means to an end, and acting on that belief.


Perpetrators and enablers. Abbott’s deafening silence.

28 May

Catholic church


Watching convicted pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale give evidence at the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse yesterday was not easy, yet his appearance emphasised, as I believe is the Commission’s intention, the reality that his crimes did not take place in a vacuum. They were perpetrated within a community, and others in Ridsdale’s community knew of them, though the offender is unclear as to how many knew what, and how much. It might be more accurate to note that it is unclear how many members of Ridsdale’s community are prepared to admit what they knew or suspected. However, it seems that his crimes were known by at least one of his superiors, who did absolutely nothing to help either Ridsdale or his victims and who bears a terrible responsibility for the suffering of hundreds of children over decades because of his lack of intervention.

Revealing his own connection with Ridsdale on Radio National Breakfast, journalist Paul Bongiornio noted that pedophiles are extremely good at hiding their activities, and hardly likely to boast about them. He made a comparison with a partner who carries on daily life with his or her spouse whilst conducting an affair: the spouse can be completely unaware of the betrayal, even while living in an intimate relationship. It’s not surprising, then, that those who like Bongiornio shared a house and a community with Ridsdale had no idea of the man’s predilections, and the extent to which he was acting them out.

It was, I have to admit, a comparison that hadn’t occurred to me but on reflection I see that the two activities have much in common: secrecy, the thrill of the illicit, the ability to behave in a profoundly duplicitous manner, the talent to present one face to those closest, whilst concealing from them powerful and secret sexual desires and acts. Obviously there are also differences, but to take Bongiornio’s point, people are infinitely capable of constructing and living double lives, and it has become a cliché to exclaim, when the next door neighbour is found to have dead bodies buried in the cellar, oh, he seemed like such a nice quiet man.

What is incontestable is that senior members of the Catholic church worldwide knew of the activities of their pedophile priests and did nothing to help and protect the victims, or to assist their profoundly disturbed clergy. They enabled priests. They created the conditions in which it was possible for the priests to continue to abuse and destroy lives.

As I watched Ridsdale I thought, this didn’t have to happen. All the hundreds of children he abused did not have to suffer, for the rest of their lives, his appalling attacks and their ongoing aftermath. Multiply that by how many thousands globally who also did not have to suffer if only, if only those who knew about the pedophile priests had not enabled them, and created the climate in which they could continue wreaking their awful havoc on the young.

It isn’t possible to overestimate the guilt and responsibility of the enablers. I have no sympathy for Ridsdale, but I did think as I watched this man, now in his eighties, attempt to give an accounting of himself to the Royal Commission, that he did deserve assistance from his superiors as far back as the nineteen sixties when his crimes first were brought to their attention. They owed him guidance, advice, treatment, and even prosecution for his crimes against children. Instead, they let him loose, shunting him from parish to parish, an out-of-control pedophile with a mind so deranged and distorted he thought his desire for “closeness” was appropriately expressed and gratified by terrifying and damaging the young in his care.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott remarked yesterday, in connection with those who leave Australia to fight in foreign wars and will lose citizenship as a consequence of their choices, that “A crime is a crime is a crime.” I continue to be astounded on a daily basis that the Prime Minister remains so uncharacteristically silent on the crimes committed by pedophile priests and the superiors who enabled them. Abbott is a staunch Catholic, and a great friend of Cardinal George Pell, who was also Abbott’s confessor. Surely the Prime Minister, who has such enviable clarity on the nature of crime, ought to be passing some comment on the crimes committed by pedophile priest and their enablers on such a massive scale over so many decades? Were Abbott not so outspoken on practically every other crime that comes to public attention, his silence on this one would seem unremarkable, however, we have come to expect his moral opinion on just about everything of note, bar the criminal priests and their enablers within his own church.

The Recording Angel

24 May



Twelve months ago, I found myself in a situation that eerily replicated scenes from childhood. I had done everything in my power to avoid the circumstances, knowing the damaging effect they would likely have on me. In the initial example of traumatic repetition the matter was taken out of my hands by the other party in a betrayal of trust that continues to leave me stunned, and exhausted by the fatigue that accompanies the struggle to come to terms with events over which one has no control.

I behaved exactly as I had when a child. I became compliant. I tried to anticipate the other’s wishes. I did what I thought the other wanted me to do. I felt outside of myself, an observer rather than a participant. I fled, as I did as a child, into the persona I came to think of as the recording angel, the only part of me with any agency, the part of me that witnessed, the part of me whose role it was to remember.

I’ve watched and listened as survivors of childhood sexual abuse give their wrenching testimony to the Royal Commission. Every one of them has, like me, their own recording angel who witnessed, and remembers the events that determined the course of our lives. Every one of us found ways in which to stay alive except for those of us who didn’t, and who died of grief, and despair, and wounds that would never heal. Every one of us knows what it is to live a life in which every choice we make, every step we take, is steeped in the aftermath of our experiences and so is never free, and all too often self-destructive or at the very least, not in our own best interests. We have tainted perspectives on our own best interests. How could it be any other way?

My experience of a year ago plunged me into an ongoing nightmare of flashbacks, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, terror, self-blame, and ultimately despair that I will never be free of my history. I thought I was free, or at least as much as I could expect to be. I thought I had learned to manage the ongoing fallout from childhood. I thought that managing it was the best I could hope to achieve and all in all, that wasn’t too bad an outcome. Yet out of nowhere I encountered circumstances that released the demons; as an adult I failed to protect myself though I was certain that I had, and in a matter of minutes I found myself as powerless as I was when I was ten.

My life-long belief in my ability to manage, even overcome the damage of childhood was destroyed in those few minutes. That was the scaffolding on which I built my adult life, and it collapsed.

When survivors tell the Royal Commission their lives were stolen, this is one of the things they mean. We are never free. We never know what circumstances lie in wait that might hurl us back at the speed of light into the terror and powerlessness of childhood experiences. We cannot trust that our scaffolding will hold fast, subject as it is to the vagaries of memory provoked by unforseen reminders of hideous events.

There is what the abusers did to our bodies. There is what the abusers did to our hearts. There is what the abusers did to our spirits. And there is the recording angel, witness and testifier, speaker of truth.

To Cardinal Pell I would say, find the courage to face the testimony of the recording angels. If you wish to salvage something of your soul.









On entitlement and celibacy

23 May


A sense of entitlement is listed as one of the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which seems so obvious you probably don’t need to go to the DSM-5 or the Mayo Clinic webpage to find that out.

Over the last couple of years there’s been debate as to whether or not celibacy requirements in the Catholic church contribute to the sexual abuse by priests of children in their charge. Personally, I think that theory is ridiculous and a red herring.  There are plenty of child sex offenders who are not Catholic priests and not celibate.

(How utterly awful it is to continually acknowledge the prevalence of this crime.)

It takes a particular type of psycho sexual mindset to cause a man or woman, (though male offenders far exceed female) to seek sexual gratification from the body of a child, and many offenders engage in adult sexual relationships as well as preying on children.

What is common to all of them, I’d argue, is a sense of entitlement. Child sex abusers feel entitled to gratify their desires, regardless of the effects on the life of their victim. This sense of entitlement is not, of course, peculiar to child sex offenders: anyone who acts upon another as if he or she is a means to an end is exercising a sense of entitlement that allows them to disregard the effects of their actions, and focus solely on their own gratification.

The Catholic church is unlikely to admit that it attracts narcissistic personalities, given that its  purpose and mission is service. That human paradox is of a depth and complexity greater even than the fantasies of god, faith, belief and transubstantiation.

A sense of entitlement takes many forms, feeling chosen by god is just one of them, but they all have in common a feeling of superiority, perhaps an overcompensation for deeper feelings of inferiority, if you want to use the psychoanalytic rather than the moral framework to deconstruct the narcissist.

Whatever the perils of enforced celibacy, and I imagine they are many, it is reductionist and simplistic to claim that priests sexually abuse children because of those vows. It takes a particular kind of attachment to secrecy, danger, duplicity, power, self-gratification, self-delusion and compartmentalisation, as well as the ability to care not one jot for the life of the child you abuse to construct the personality of the child sex abuser, not the vow of celibacy. It may well be easier for the church to look to celibacy as a cause, rather than admit that the psycho sexual dysfunction of so many who join its ranks precedes any vows of celibacy they may take.

The sense of entitlement is a scourge.  Not only as it manifests in those who abuse children, but wherever it rears its head, in all situations where people are used as a means to another’s end. Politicians can be leading entitlement practitioners, indeed, a sense of entitlement is almost entirely normalised in Western culture, to the extent that it is virtually invisible.

Whether everyone with a sense of entitlement is also a narcissist is up for discussion, though it would appear to be the most significant symptom of that disorder.

Is narcissism a necessary component of capitalism? Is patriarchy inherently narcissistic? Is the Christian god a narcissist? Do helicopter parents create narcissistic children? Are you entitled to exploit me to get what you think you need? Are we entitled to destroy the planet in order to get what we think we need to have?

If we can manage nothing else at least we have to ask the questions, because the sense of entitlement is, one way and another, perhaps currently the most destructive of human characteristics. It is not one we are born with, we are encultured into the attitude to a greater or lesser degree, damaging the sense of common vulnerability and humanity that might otherwise ameliorate narcissistic impulses.

This is what the Catholic church needs to investigate. Celibacy may well bring all kinds of challenges, but the sexual abuse of children is a deeper, greater darkness that cannot be explained away by the church denying adults a mature sexual life.

The Cardinal Pell: Slouching towards Bethlehem

22 May

Cardinal George Pell Two


In my experience one of the more dangerous types of human is the man or woman with an intense and unshakeable conviction that he or she is a “good” person, doing the “right” thing.

The danger is that such a person will see everything they think, say and do through the prism of perceived good and rightness, and this vision inevitably blinds them to the damage they are, like every other human being, capable of inflicting. Because they are unable to see they are incapable of taking responsibility, let alone making atonement or working towards change. So they continue on their blundering path, leaving havoc in their wake, entirely unable to acknowledge they’ve had any part in its production.

Or as Yeats puts it:  The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.

(Actually, that poem, The Second Coming, is worth a read: it seems eerily appropriate for these times. Decades before Jacques Derrida’s Structure, Sign and Play…,  Irish poet William Butler Yeats noted that “the centre cannot hold.” I find this strangely reassuring. That the poets got to it before the post structuralists, I mean. But I digress…)

The Cardinal George Pell is one such human. Indeed, the most powerful conviction I can see in Pell is his conviction that he is always innocent, always good, and always right, and he clings to these self-perceptions with all the passionate intensity of a man clinging to the lid of an esky in a turbulent sea into which he has been unceremoniously pitched from a sinking vessel. The Catholic church is not holding its centre: The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned…

Serious allegations of bribery and cover-up have yet again been made against George Pell at the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse. The Cardinal, strategically parachuted into a leading role in the Vatican’s finance department when things got a little hot for him here in Australia, responded with a written denial, fully supported by his good friend and failed priest Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Abbott, who has a moral point of view on everything, is strangely reluctant to offer one on this matter, saying only that it is up to Pell whether or not he returns to face the Commission’s questioning.

I cannot recall a conversation I had forty years ago, declared the Cardinal, however, for those who were traumatised by such conversations they remain unforgettable. The Cardinal has the luxury of forgetting what continues to haunt and torment victims to this day. For this alone one would expect him to express some gratitude.

It is difficult to imagine that a conversation in a swimming pool change room in which Royal Commission witness Timothy Green informed the then Father Pell that boys were being sexually molested by pedophile Brother Dowlan could have been invented by Mr Green forty years later, in an effort to further discredit George Pell.

It would perhaps be fitting for Pell to emulate the crucified Christ, who died in agony for the sins of the world even though according to the mythology he committed very few if any of them himself. Of course I’m not suggesting a literal crucifixion for the Cardinal, rather a metaphorical sacrifice of self on the altar of the Royal Commission. A written statement from his luxury accommodations in Rome does not, contrary to Prime Minister Abbott’s view, seem nearly sufficient. George Pell needs to front up, and not simply for himself, but for the victims and for the Catholic church, if he wishes that institution to retain any last shred of credibility.

The extent of the sexual abuse of children in institutions, and in the family, is almost beyond comprehension. The frequency with which it is and was committed, and is and was covered up by people who consider themselves “good,” reveals an epidemic of psycho-sexual dysfunction that has been repressed and suppressed to a degree that is also incomprehensible. This denial has occurred at the centre: the centre of institutions, the centre of families, the very centre of our culture and our society.  The reality of the margins is confronting the fantasy of the centre, and the centre is no longer holding.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Funeral music

15 May

I’ve spent much of today compiling a playlist for the funeral of a member of my extended family who died suddenly on Sunday night.

I wanted songs like I did it my way by the Sex Pistols.

Give over, they said.

So next I thought of Amazing Grace by the Dropkick Murphys

For god’s sake, they said.

Hey, you get off of my cloud I suggested.

I’m coming up soon, get the party started. Pink’s version? I asked tentatively.

Another one bites the dust. Queen?

We’re sacking you as musical director, they threatened. I never asked to be anyway, I retorted, stung.

So they went with:

You raise me up. Il Divo.

I first and last heard this at very loved one’s wedding. The bride’s mum asked for it. The officiating priest was drunk as. The quartet, dependent on his erratic cues, got themselves right out of sync. The bride docked the priest ten dollars from his fee for every mistake he made, and twenty dollars for asking the groom if he wanted to marry himself.

At the reception the good father spent much of his time on his mobile, betting on the horses. Then he danced with me and said, Jennifer, I’m a better drinker than dancer, and I was forced to agree. There are photos of me holding him up. It was the best wedding any of us have ever attended.

Bridge over troubled waters. Johnny Cash

Come Healing. Leonard Cohen. (If they refused Leonard Cohen I was done with them. Forever.)

Thank you for the music. Abba. A good metaphorical note to go out on, I think.


As for the Sex Pistols, and the Dropkick Murphys – they’re on my funeral playlist.

And this one:


Vaya Con Dios, R.N.





Abbott’s latest attack on women: “rorting and fraudulent mothers”

14 May




Prime Minister Tony Abbott, aka The Minister for Women, has a long history of disparaging, degrading and disrespecting women, as well as substantiated allegations of violence against one woman who got in his way.

Abbott’s latest attack on women is his government’s declaration that there are women who are double dipping, defrauding and rorting paid parental leave schemes, in spite of the fact that there is nothing in the least fraudulent about women accessing available support from both employers and government when they give birth.

This is a new low in Abbott’s misogyny. When the leader of the country allows his ministers to use language such as rorting and fraudulent about women who are acting entirely within the law, we’re in a hostile and dangerous environment.

There is the issue of how the Abbott government’s latest variation of PPL will affect women. Then there is the separate issue of how the Abbott government describes women, from the “women of calibre” lauded by Abbott in his first attempt at creating a PPL, to the allegedly fraudulent and rorting female schemers attempting to take allegedly illegal advantage of both employer and government generosity when they give birth.

How much longer are we going to tolerate these tired, dishonest variations on the old madonna/whore dichotomy? Women are either of calibre (good women) or fraudulent and rorting (bad women). Language matters. Language is revelatory and what is revealed by the Abbott government’s latest linguistic attack on women is contempt, an utter lack of understanding, and a despicable willingness to exploit us and our babies for short-term political gain. Just how far have we come, when our government can describe us in such derogatory and debasing terms? Not much further than Euripides, it seems.


 Good woman:bad woman




A small photo essay

13 May

Greetings from the mountains.


Thredbo River

Thredbo River


Thredbo River near Crackenback

Thredbo River near Crackenback


Thredbo River again

Thredbo River again


Thredbo River, sorry

Thredbo River, sorry


Thredbo River. Cos I can

Thredbo River. Cos I can


Very cold blogger. Charlotte Pass

Very cold blogger. Charlotte Pass


Frozen blogger.

Frozen blogger.


Evening sky. Jindabyne

Evening sky. Jindabyne


Evening sky again

Evening sky again


There. That should cheer everybody up. xxx

The freedom to offend

13 May

 Freedom of Expression


This morning I’m thinking about Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson’s infamous “Occupy Melbourne” tweet; this piece I wrote about Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s tyrannical demand that public servants “dob in” workmates they suspect of speaking ill of the government, and the fantasy of the “freedom to be heard.”

Wilson’s Timsplain on the “civilising” and “regulating” goals of curbing freedom of speech, specifically in employment contracts, can be read here.

The tweet:

@timwilsoncomau Walked past Occupy Melbourne protest, all people who think freedom of speech = freedom 2 b heard, time wasters … send in the water cannons

While sending in water cannons certainly serves to “regulate” behaviour, it is not in itself a civilised reaction to citizens exercising their right to speak freely about the principles and actions of governments. It still disturbs me to know that the Australian Commissioner for Freedom advocates state violence to suppress what he regards as “time-wasting” dissent, and considers such action “civilised.”

There is no such thing as the freedom to be heard. It’s impossible to make someone hear if he or she doesn’t wish to hear: they may give all the appearance of listening, but that doesn’t mean they’re hearing. It’s part of the vulnerability of being human that we can’t make anyone hear us, we can only hope that the other will care enough to bother.

Exercising the freedom not to hear is not a license to forcibly silence, whether by the use of water cannon or by implementing laws designed to protect those who don’t want to hear. For example, if Mr Wilson doesn’t want to hear protestors he doesn’t have to: he can take an alternative route, turn up his iPod, ignore news reports, in short, he can take responsibility for protecting himself from what he doesn’t want to hear, rather than depending on the state to do it for him.

While there is no right to freedom to be heard, there is no right not to be offended either. The increasing demand for the state to protect individuals from what is regarded as “offensive” across the entire spectrum of human behaviours is alarming, and crippling. It is paradoxical that conservative politicians and public figures make much of their desire for “small government,” while simultaneously seeking to prescribe state enforced restrictions on a wide range of attitudes and behaviours in their attempt to establish a society in which no one behaves in a manner determined by them to be “offensive.” To “offend” someone has become a significant, well, offence.

It goes without saying, one imagines, that to commit any crime against another is inherently offensive, and our laws already have crimes covered. Offence is subjective: I am offended by Mr Wilson’s use of social media to advocate state violence against protestors, however, even if I wanted to, I have no means available to me to turn the water cannon on him because he does not have the freedom to be heard. I can ignore him. Block him on social media. Complain about him on my blog. In other words, take responsibility for regulating and civilising my own world without calling upon the state to do it for me.

The only citizens the state will protect from “offence” are those with whom it is in agreement. All others it will seek to silence, one way or another. Even in a liberal democracy such as ours, the state will and does seek to silence dissent. It is in the nature of political power that those who have it seek to retain it, by any means available. The courts are hog-tied by whatever legislation the government of the day manages to implement.

For an insight into this demand for protection from the “offensive” on a popular cultural level, it’s worth reading Helen Razer’s piece on how difficult it is to be a “bad girl,” and the effort now required if one is to be at all transgressive, and why.

Transgression is impossible without causing offence. Transgression is by its very nature offensive to someone. A society that punishes what it considers offensive, making the offensive a crime in itself, is a society in which transgression of all kinds  is increasingly curtailed and silenced. The current dearth of satirical political comment in this country is but one example of this curtailing of transgression on the grounds that it is “offensive” and, as Mr Wilson would have it, uncivilised.

There is no human right that promises the freedom not to be offended. It is to say the least extremely unfortunate that we have in this country a Commissioner for Freedom who advocates turning water cannon on those who offend him. The protestors did not attack him. They did not threaten him. They merely spoke what he did not wish to hear. If we are entering or have entered a period in which another’s free speech is just cause for advocating state violence in order to silence them, we are in very dangerous waters indeed.

(I just looked out of my bedroom window to see snow falling. Ah.)



Is Struggle Street poverty porn?

7 May

Struggle Street

SBS aired the first episode of the documentary Struggle Street last night, amidst the kind of publicity and controversy media outlets dream of.

Briefly, the program follows the daily lives of families and individuals who live in Mount Druitt, a suburb in Sydney’s far west where unemployment and poverty are rife, and all the complexities created by lack of opportunity and marginalisation serve to oppress, in some cases, beyond endurance.

In this erudite review in The Conversation the program is described as “poverty porn,” created by the entitled for the entertainment of the entitled. It’s worth noting the author of this piece had not seen the program before writing his review of it. Always a mistake, in my opinion.

An alternative perspective can be found here, written by a journalist who has, thankfully, actually watched the documentary.

For the first ten minutes I found Struggle Street almost impossible to watch, so palpable was the pain, confusion, frustration and sorrow of the people involved. There seems to be an inevitability about the trajectory of their lives: the possibility of a happy ending, or an even slightly improved ending seems severely limited, not because the people involved are inherently undeserving or morally lax, but because of circumstances so complex that unravelling them requires skills and resources that are simply not available, and that authorities are unwilling to make available.

It is convenient to cast people in such situations as being entirely responsible for their own misfortunes, ignoring the vast web of circumstances created by the more privileged sectors of society, circumstances that inevitably create an underclass whom the privileged then have the satisfaction of despising.

To be poor is to be surveilled in a manner entirely alien to the middle class, where the possibilities of concealment are many and varied, and to whom “privacy” and the right not to be offended or embarrassed is a privilege enshrined in law.  It could be argued that the documentary is yet another form of surveillance of the marginalised, ostensibly entered into voluntarily, to which the middle class would never subject itself. It could also be argued that the privileged creators and viewers who perhaps voyeuristically consumed the program last night found moral gratification, if they needed to look for it, in the abyss between the them of Struggle Street, and the us of the entitled gaze.

For me, what fought its way through the grim despair that haunts the daily lives of many of the participants in this documentary is their humanity. The love of a father for his recalcitrant offspring who steal from him to buy drugs. The determined attempts to create, from nothing, a party atmosphere for small children. The yearning of a young woman, homeless for two years owing to family disruption, to return to learning and thus make something of her life. The ongoing adversarial encounters with authorities such as Centrelink and the police that are part of the daily grind that must be faced and endured. People keep struggling to love, to make things better, to stay alive, all against the overwhelming influences of forces beyond their control.

Struggle Street is not, to my mind, poverty porn, though there are those who will choose to view it as such. This says more to me about them, than it does about the program and its participants. There will be the righteously self-congratulatory who measure their success against the apparent failures of the residents of Struggle Street. That can’t be avoided, however, that they need to make such a measure speaks volumes, and not about Struggle Street. What I would hope is that this documentary will confront us with the ferocious inequalities in our society, and the inhumanity of political authority that refuses resources and care to those who most need it, opting instead to blame and punish and marginalise. Mount Druitt does not exist in a vacuum. If this series demonstrates anything, it ought to be that reality.

PS: And the Guardian agrees with me.


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