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Men. This is what you can do for us.

24 Feb

 

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The increasing tension provoked by men participating in public discussions about family violence is serving only to distract us from our focus on the topic.

This excellent piece by Amy Gray in The Guardian in which she analyses the problematics of a dominantly male panel on ABC TV’s Qanda last night (unfortunately titled “Family Violence Special”) affirms my assertion and I urge you to read it.

Denying anyone a voice is not my thing, often to my own disadvantage and at times almost ruin, but on this topic, at this stage, I don’t think men on panels are doing us much good at all.

I speak only for myself, and when I see that a panel on family violence, perpetrated by far more men than women, is a panel actually dominated by men, my question is WTF?

Followed by, I’m tuning out because there is nothing men have to say on this topic that I am ready and willing to hear at this point. That doesn’t mean I don’t like you, respect you and in some instances, love you. It means you need to step away because we need our moment, like we need the air we breathe.

I want the issue handled publicly by women, and there are thousands of women in this country who have the most extraordinary insight, expertise and personal experience to keep a thousand panels going for a thousand and one nights.

If I was a man I can’t imagine fronting up to such a gig and thinking my point of view counted for very much at all in that setting.

Addressing reasons why men are violent towards women and children is of course fundamental to prevention. Perhaps this is a topic that could sustain a panel all of its own, and not be conflated with the rare opportunity for the primary victims and survivors of family violence and their advocates to speak publicly on the topic.

I am likely going to cop all kinds of shit for saying this, but what I ask of men is that you focus your attention on other men, and vacate the space, just quietly leave the space of public discussion such as last night’s Qanda, for women. This is what you can do for us.

I know not all men hit women and children, and I know it’s offensive to some men to be lumped in with the hitters. But what I say to you is your sense of offence is nothing compared to us being hit, so don’t ask us to deal with it, and don’t expect us to listen to it because we can’t, and there’s no reason why we should.

We cannot stop violent men making non violent men look and feel bad. You have to do that yourselves.

Women need our moment. We need it like the air we breathe. You can do this for us. Respect.

 

 

 

It isn’t what it effing is.

24 Feb

id est quo id est

I’m not a physically violent woman but when somebody says “It is what it is” I want to smack them repeatedly upside the head  and bite them till they swear never to say it again, at least not in my hearing.

What does it mean? What does it effing mean? What does it mean when someone stands in front of you like Obi-Wan Kenobi and says, “It is what it is” and why is it wrong to want to poke them in both ears with your Jedi knight light saber?

The meaning of the phrase is illegible. It lacks any relation to reality. It contributes nothing to the understanding of our lives.

The phrase belongs in a suppository of ersatz wisdom of the kind peddled by pop psychology hacks, who think that the mere repetition of words like “Love” “Happiness” “Acceptance” “Joy” “Family” will make everything that’s nasty go away, especially if you paint those words on a piece of distressed faux wood and hang it on the wall.

The signs claim and are claimed to represent the real.  This is a fine example of Baudrillard’s “order of sorcery” in which meaning is conjured so that it appears to be referentially linked to the real, but in fact simulates reality and renders meaning illegible and obsolete.

Our biggest and most difficult concepts reduced to prescriptives on distressed faux wood.

Representation used as replacement for the real. Unlike the myriad forms of art, which at their best are an exploration of the emotion and psychology of our big ideas that move, inspire, frighten and otherwise stir the human heart.

From a psychological perspective the phrase sounds to me like resignation, capitulation, the verbal expression of a depressive perception that nothing can ever change, because “it is what it is.”

Or it’s a closing down of conversation, as in, what is the point of talking about this anymore because “it is what it is.”

Well, sod off, Jedi Master. By all means say, I don’t want to talk about this anymore. That’s honest. But don’t disguise your reluctance for discussion as the utterance of a universal truth.

It isn’t what it effing is. If we have learnt nothing else these past decades, we ought to have learned the inevitable fluidity of circumstances, that nothing is or can be certain, and that one of the most damaging things we can do to ourselves or others is to demand certainty where there can be none.

finis

 

 

The Bali Two, and profiting from human misery

21 Feb

 

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In his piece on Thursday in The Drum, Jonathan Green asks what of the victims of heroin traffickers Chan and Sukumaran, had the two succeeded in smuggling their product into Australia?

Green points out that the traffickers made a “Faustian” pact, the reality of the death of others against their own enrichment: the most brutal and callous entrepreneurship imaginable.

There’s no contesting that fact. Yet if we’re going to discuss profiting from the misery of others, more than half the human species will be found guilty of that Faustian pact. If these millions (billions?) of guilty face the fate of Chan and Sukumaran, the planet will be drenched in blood, a good deal of it the exsanguination of people in high places.

While it’s de rigueur to focus attention on the drug trade as the cause of suffering and death from which others make enormous financial profit, the list of such businesses is long, many of them are legal and many of them are state sanctioned, from the war machines of the Western world, to the liquor outlet that sells more alcohol to the already drunk who then get in a car and kill innocent bystanders.

And this is only thinking in terms of profiting from death. What about the myriad other forms of misery inflicted on one human by another for profit that results not in death, but in a tormented life? Then think about what we do to other species in the unrelenting search for profit, and the prestige, comfort and power profit brings.

That Chan and Sukumaran should be singled out from all the rest for execution makes little sense.

It is one of the awful realities of victimisation that justice is rarely commensurate with the crime.

Chan and Sukumaran chose to deal drugs, knowing that fatalities would result. Users choose to buy and use them, knowing the risk they take with their lives and the lives of those who love and care for them. These ghastly transactions take place in a society that is wilfully blind to its own stupidities in the matter of illegal drugs, such as how that illegality is determined and on what prejudices it is based, and the resulting  failure of that society to combat both the trade, and its devastating effects on so many lives.

In other words it is a systemic failure, and the system as it currently functions enables a marketplace for the plying of the deadly business.

I have no truck with celebrities unconvincingly claiming “I stand for mercy” in the matter of Chan and Sukumaran. Not because I want those two young men to die such ghastly deaths. I don’t. But as Green points out, where are the celebrities when thousands are put to death in the US, China, Saudi Arabia, and where are the celebrities when foreign nationals are tied to posts for execution in Indonesia?

And where are the celebrities when yet another user dies a solitary death because a government refuses safe injecting rooms, and needle exchanges, and  leaves its young to die alone in filthy gutters?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to swim

20 Feb

Last night on ABC TV one of the more interesting truth seekers of the last decade, documentary film maker Louis Theroux, spent time with paroled sex offenders in Los Angeles.

I was a little chary of watching after growing up with abuse. It’s never possible to be certain that something you see or hear or smell or taste or feel or touch won’t revive a memory you thought safely long gone, as Proust observed some while before the term “trigger warning” was coined.

Theroux has the style of the best therapists: his presence is fearless, he will go wherever his subject wants to take him, and his skilled use of silence creates a space in which others can speak what they may not otherwise say.

As he frankly admitted, there were ways in which Theroux liked some of his subjects, while at the same time being unwilling and unable to set aside from his thinking their crimes, and the effects of those crimes on others, particularly children.

I felt sadness and pity for the broken, lonely lives led by the offenders.

It is almost impossibly difficult to express any emotions other than revulsion, hatred, and outrage towards sex offenders, and their crimes are deserving of all those feelings.  It is understandably required of us that our compassion be directed only towards their victims. But I am wondering if it is possible to hold the care and concern for the victim, and the sad pity for the perpetrator in the mind and heart at the same time.

It isn’t something I could have considered until I’d spent decades dealing with an aftermath of traumatic abuse that never really ends. It just changes. There are ways in which a life is broken by such experiences, and is only really ever cobbled together again. If you haven’t had a childhood, nothing and no one can ever give it to you. There is a loneliness in knowing darkness, because darkness separates you forever from those who haven’t known it. The predator passes on their broken, lonely life.

Because of my circumstances and its effects on me, I never learned to properly swim. One day, Mrs Chook said, I am going to teach you to swim properly.

I was full of fear. I couldn’t put my head under water, or breathe. She coaxed, and encouraged, and rewarded and persisted, and one day it all fell into place, and I was swimming properly.

This is one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me. I can be a child in the pool. I never knew what it was to be a child in a pool. Now I take that child for a swim whenever I have the chance and when we’ve swum our laps, we play.

 

Quint Buccholz Two

 

So the point of this is, I  was wondering if this long, gradual, infinite process of healing myself as best I can, with the most enormous amount of help and love, has brought me to a place where I can watch Louis Theroux give a voice to people like the one who stole my childhood, and feel sad pity for his broken life. I am wondering, is this what forgiveness is?

I am currently confined by two circumstances. Illness, and the edges of tropical cyclone Marcia. Our house is like a snug, dry cave and through the windows there’s our garden, lush, green and dripping. Confinement has it purposes, if one can but see them.

Mansplaining shrink gets the flick, or the death of the author

17 Feb

Of all the things for which one could acquire a tainted reputation, chronic plagiarism must be one of the most ignominious.

Psychiatrist and columnist Dr Tanveer Ahmed, winner of the inaugural No Place for Sheep Order of Arrogant Ignorance for his mansplaining article on domestic violence, has just been “let go” by The Australian for plagiarising great chunks of the ill-informed drivel he claimed to have written for that newspaper in his role as a White Ribbon Ambassador. This here link tells you what that organisation thought about it. I gather they planned to send him to re-education camp.

The very notion of The Oz letting one of its people go for plagiarising had me ROFLMAO. (That’s rolling on the floor laughing my arse off, if you don’t do Twitter). What, they’ve suddenly acquired some integrity over there? They fire people for plagiarism? Lies, distortion and right-wing propaganda are fine, but Rupert won’t have plagiarism at The Oz?

Ahmed was sacked by the Sydney Morning Herald a while back for the same offence.

Obviously he’s a post-structuralist. He believes in the death of the author, that every text is a tissue of all other texts, that there is no single authorial voice, that one does not need to know the author’s identity to distill meaning from the text.  It’s a post-modern pastiche, a bit of cut and paste with intimate violence for its theme.

I once taught with someone who asked me to give a lecture for them when they were ill. I read the lecture the night before I was due to deliver it. Every word lifted. Every single bloody word. What aggravated me most about that, I have to confess, is that my senior colleague thought I’d be too ill-read to recognise the work. That, and having to write another lecture at the eleventh hour.

The fact that Ahmed plagiarised is not as important as the dangerous misinformation he plagiarised and peddled about. Fortunately, there won’t be any mainstream media willing to employ him again, I don’t imagine, so we’ve one less ignorant arrogant mansplaining voice to put up with.

Actually, I think Roland Barthes is nifty. And I don’t know that he ever recommended non-attribution.

Roland Barthes Death of the Author

 

 

Regulating desire: 50 shades of mind your own business

15 Feb

Keep calm & spank me

 

I haven’t seen the film Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve read perhaps three pages of the first book which was far more than I needed to tell me it wasn’t going to cause any quivers in my nethers, and it would be self-abuse to persist in reading the excruciatingly awful writing for absolutely no reward.

The narrative centres around the relationship between an “ordinary” young woman and a wealthy man in which she is his submissive, and he controls her life. They practice consensual bondage, domination, sadism and masochism.

I was interested in what some others were saying about the movie so I read the erudite scorn of Razer, the feminist outrage of Tyler, and the, well, I don’t know quite how to describe Mia Freedman’s take in which she claims that reading all three books brings both knowledge and understanding to the film, a brand new angle on the concept of a lord of the rings trilogy which seems to endow Fifty Shades with far more intellectual and imaginative gravitas than it can possible deserve.

Tyler’s piece in the Conversation launches a full frontal attack on the practices of bondage, domination, sadism and masochism, which she claims are only ever abusive, even when engaged in by consenting adults. Adults are never capable of “individual” consent, the argument goes, because all of our actions take place within the context of a culture that constructs our desires, so  people only think they want BDSM because they’ve been taught to be dominant or submissive by the patriarchy. BDSM eroticises domination and subordination and this is wrong, she writes, when we consider how many women are subjected to violence and abuse to which they do not consent.

This argument is a little like saying that nobody should be allowed to eat hot chips because some people are dangerously obese.

The conflation of intimate violence with consensual BDSM offends me mightily. I haven’t explored all the potential of BDSM yet in my life, but I do know the erotic delight of yielding and submission, and the equally erotic delight of dominating in sexual games played in an atmosphere of trust and exploration. I’m not that interested in hurting and being hurt, so I’d be a very low-level kind of BDSM person in that it doesn’t take a lot to transport me to the altered state where complex emotions and sensations are aroused by submitting, and by dominating. And this is surely what BDSM is about – people want the feels and will do what it takes to get them, and who is to say they shouldn’t and when the physical performance is abusive, excepting those involved?

Yes, there are times when BDSM goes wrong. There are times when practically everything you can think of goes wrong: we inhabit a Manichean universe of dark and light, and oftentimes the distance between the two is narrower than a bee’s dick. Of late, this universe seems to be increasingly populated by those who wish to prevent anything ever going wrong, an impossible task that can only result in nobody being allowed to do anything at all, in case it goes wrong.

I have experienced family violence and childhood sexual abuse, and there is absolutely no comparison between those experiences  and consensual BDSM, and it is dishonest in every way for anybody to claim they are inevitably the same. They may well become the same if wishes aren’t respected in BDSM encounters, just as ordinary old heterosexual sex can go wrong if wishes aren’t respected. What is wrong in both instances in the disrespect of wishes, not the practices.

To be honest, I’ve had it with pearl-clutching repressives who want to vanilla the world, and try to achieve that by shaming others about their sexual desires and practices. They are far more of a menace than Fifty Shades can ever be.

In a period of our evolution in which we are supposedly increasingly free from sexual oppression and repression, merely by virtue of being allowed to speak of sex in ways that were unthinkable fifty years ago, it seems to me that this freedom has brought with it a focus of concentration on the morality or otherwise of how we perform sex, rather than on the more important matter of respecting another’s wishes in sexual encounters of all kinds.

If I want to be spanked, I’ll get spanked, and problems will only arise for me if I’m spanked when I don’t want to be. Then I’ve been assaulted and there are already laws in place to address that.

But I can’t see anything in the least coherent in telling me I can’t have a spanking because others are being subjected to intimate violence. Conflation is one of the scourges of our times.

 

 

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