Dogs. Mountains. And Writing.

17 Jan

Derrida

 

I emerged from my cave around eleven this morning, after spending the hours from dawn wrangling language and discovering to my immense satisfaction that I’m some 25,000 plus words  into the book I’m writing.

The household was in disarray. Three dogs were lined up outside the glass door that opens onto the verandah, gazing sorrowfully into the kitchen. J, in high dudgeon, told me that the youngest, an Australian Shepherd born without a tail, had found a hole in the fence through which she scrambled into the next property, and then proceeded to chase Farmer Pete’s brown cows all over the paddock.

J managed to get her back, gave her a good slap on the snout and thought that was the end of the matter. But all three dogs, the others border collies, had different plans. The next time J looked over the verandah they were obviously stalking something. She took off down the hill to see what the hell they were up to. They’d stalked and caught a large lizard, and were torturing it to death. She hauled them off and whacked the lot of them, then found she’d have to destroy the poor lizard, who was too badly injured to be left to live. So she found a rock, and did the deed, and buried it under a cairn of stones so the damn dogs can’t do anything else to it.

By this point in the telling, J was in tears. I looked at the dogs through the glass door. This is why you can’t have nice things, I mouthed at them. They wagged their tails at me, except the youngest who hasn’t got one, and she waggled her whole bottom. It was as if I’d mouthed, you are the most beautiful dogs in the entire universe, which is something I might well have said before this morning.

I’m writing this on the verandah, pausing now and then to look at the Snowy Mountains and Lake Jindabyne in the foreground. Three dogs are sleeping around me and I think every one of them is farting. I have no idea what’s going on in the world outside this minuscule part of it, and I don’t much care. I’ve just done a food and drink run into Jindabyne, as that seemed the most useful thing I could contribute at this point.  J is now running a fever, which is a change from me running a fever. There are HUGE flies up here, and yesterday when I was walking by the Thredbo river I stopped for a bush wee and they bit me on the arse. J said they’re March flies. I said what the hell are March flies doing out in January and she said that question was stupid.

I have just re-read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she describes the demented state of mind she experienced after the sudden death of her husband during her daughter’s life-threatening illness. I’m only now beginning to see that the state I experienced after my husband’s death was, actually, demented. Nobody tells you this about grief. Nobody says, you may become demented, you might find yourself doing all kinds of extraordinary things you’ve never done before and you won’t even realise you’re doing them and that’s because grief can make you demented. Well, everybody ought to read Joan Didion’s account of it and prepare themselves. Society does not deal well with the demented bereaved. After the ashes are scattered or the coffin laid in the ground you’re supposed to move on because nobody knows what to do with you. Well, fuck that for a joke.

Now I’ve just eaten a lunch of ripe organic Brie, snow peas, tiny sweet tomatoes and green olives, followed by the most luscious cherries I’ve tasted in years for dessert. J is sleeping. There are thunder clouds building up over the mountains. There are 25,000 more words clamouring to be written. I’m on a deadline. Talk soon.

 

Vaya con Dios, The Man Who Fell to Earth

12 Jan

Probably won’t be writing much for the next little while, as I’m leaving for the annual road trip to the Snowy Mountains today, listening to David Bowie all the way.

Haven’t felt so sad about a performer’s death since James Gandolfini carked in 2013.  They leave a hole in the world when they go, these shiningly talented people.

Anyways, be well Sheep people, will catch up again soon and here is Mabel Jane in my arms in a milk coma, because life goes on and who knows who the next shiningly talented person will be?

Mabel Jane January 2016

 

 

 

Why the Knox piece fails in every way.

10 Jan

Parody

 

It’s difficult to read respected Fairfax sports journalist Malcolm Knox’s “parody” piece criticising Chris Gayle’s sexist on-air comments to journalist Mel McLaughlin, as anything other than racist.

Dominated by Knox’s use of patois, a dialect infused with racist cultural and political history, its tone leans, for mine, rather more towards a taunt than a parody, and were I to hazard a guess at Knox’s state of mind during the composing of the piece I’d say, red- hot angry.

A keen follower of sport and Knox gave me some background on the relations between Gayle and other West Indian cricketers, and the largely white male media who are knowledgable insiders. It was suggested that there’s a general fed-upness at the perceived latitude enjoyed by Gayle and his colleagues in the matter of their public behaviours: words such as antics, and they can get away with anything because they’re charismatic, were used. Being completely ignorant of just about everything to do with cricket I can offer no opinion, but Knox’s piece does read as if he’s reacting to the straw that broke the camel’s back, rather than the singular McLaughlin incident.

If Knox wanted to make the point that sexist behaviour resembles racist behaviour in the capacity of both to dehumanise their targets, he surely could have achieved this in one sentence of patois. How do you feel, Chris Gayle, he might have asked, when someone speaks to you thus. Angry? Humiliated? Demeaned? Well, that’s exactly how women feel when you speak to them as you did to Mel. Or something along those lines.

A good parody will achieve its goal with the minimum and very subtle use of how do you like it when. Persist in the lesson for an entire article and you sound like an enraged bully.

For mine, I do not need white knights coming to my rescue by attacking misogynists on the basis of their race. The most awful experiences I’ve had with sexism have involved white males, and quite what race has to do with misogyny I don’t know. Privileged white males seem equally capable of behaving badly towards women as do males of any other skin colour.  Misogyny is about power, entitlement, ignorance and infantility, not the colour of a man’s skin.

The Knox article fails to meet any of its objectives. It doesn’t work at all as parody. It doesn’t address the issue of male sexism in sport. It doesn’t address the specific incident that inspired it. It reads like a great big dummy spit that benefits nobody, and in fact deflects attention from the issues onto itself. Like those advertisements that are so distracting the viewer can never remember the product the ads were pushing.

The piece also racialises misogyny, and suggests that black men ought to know how sexism feels because racism, so logically white women ought to know how racism feels because sexism. White men, on the other hand, don’t suffer either so don’t have to know anything except how to position themselves  as superior to both.

 

By a man for men: repeat after me, blokes

6 Jan

Harassment

 

Guest post by Dr Stewart Hase

There is a belief in the minds of too many men that it is somehow appropriate for males to force themselves sexually on women. It is borne from a sense of entitlement that men feel they have of women: that somehow she does not have the right to resist and that her vagina is his right.

We have had a disgusting reminder of this aspect of the minds of men in the recent episode (for those not living in Australia or asleep) where a minister of the government recently sexually harassed a staff member while they were both on a business trip to Hong Kong. There have been at least two brilliant exposes of this event from Kate Galloway and Jennifer Wilson on this blog, for those interested in reading the women’s view.

However, I am a bloke and I want to give my blokey point of view on this. One of the most shameful of the various dimensions to this saga is that at least one of the above mentioned female correspondents received a large number of abusive and extremely violent responses because she criticized the behavior of this minister, Jamie Briggs. The sense of entitlement over the bodies of women in the minds of some men is so strong that they think it essential to defend those who have been caught. You don’t need to be a shrink to realize that what they are doing is guiltily defending their own predilections in a phenomenon that psychologists call projection.

Not only has this abuse occurred on an industrial scale but yesterday one of the most senior members of the current government, Peter Dutton (I refuse to call him ‘The Honourable’) sent a text of support to Jamie Briggs telling him that a certain newspaper reporter, who had publicly chastised him, was a ‘..mad f*&^@ng witch’. So, there’s a wonderful role model for our citizens about how to treat women who ‘bell the cat’ from someone who should be calling for the head of Jamie Briggs and distancing himself as a matter of moral and ethical course.

Curiously enough, Dutton was part of a committee that sacked Briggs from the ministry when the event was publicized. So, in public Dutton is appalled by the sexual harassment of Briggs but in private he is supporting his gender buddy. Duplicity knows no bounds it seems and the message is clear that sexual harassment is just fine. The reason Dutton’s message was revealed was because he sent it to the newspaper reporter by mistake (his incompetence knows no bounds either). He then apologized publicly. Of course, if he had not made this mistake then he would have got away with revealing what he really thinks.

And, of course, there has been the usual round of victim blaming and excuses. He was drunk was the first and she shouldn’t have been there was a second. So, it is fine to sexually harass someone if you are drunk. ‘Your honour, the alcohol made me do it’. And worse, that she was somehow responsible for his behavior. It’s the old, ‘she asked for it’ routine. This is the Western equivalent of women wearing a a burka and chador so that they won’t cause men to become aroused. ‘She made my penis get out of control, your honour’. There was also the usual barrage of misinformation that one sees in these sorts of cases that attempted to obfuscate and blur the true story and focus on the victim not the perpetrator. The truth is lost in the fog of misdirection.

Let’s remember that this staff person is an employee of a government minister who is in an extremely powerful position. Briggs knew this and would have known too that his victim would have been more likely to succumb to his advances because of his power. Clearly he suffers from the delusions reinforced by too many movies and TV series about the ‘rights of men’. His victim knew it too and has been extremely brave to have reported the incident, which, incidentally, she attempted to deal with, in the first instance, without publicity by talking to a senior staff immediately.

The mechanisms behind this almost exclusively male belief about their rights to the bodies (and minds presumably) of women are not hard to find. The fact that he is a naughty boy for behaving badly and she is a slut for letting him are powerful messages reinforced by families, in the first instance, and by society in general. I travel a lot and I am astounded at how pervasive misogyny is among ‘normal’ men in every country and town that I have visited.

I’m a bloke. I understand impulses and sexual desire. As a psychologist I am aware of the biological drivers for these impulses and desires. I also understand being drunk. Been there and done that in spades. So, trust me my fellow-men, when I say that there are many men out there who can control their impulses, who can challenge this belief about entitlement, and their potential power. And that latter issue is the raw meaning behind all this. The need for power.

So, what’s so different about those who know where the boundaries are, who know what is right and what is wrong? It’s not all about education because perpetrators come from both the educated and uneducated. It’s not about race.

It has to do with self-awareness, respect for fellow travelers on this planet, about self-confidence and a healthy belief in self, and knowing how to use power well rather than for self-interest. It is about being civilized and raising ourselves up from the primal swamp where impulse and narcissistic behavior was a matter of survival.

Blokes, we are better than that. It’s time for all of us, including our leaders, to stand up and be counted. It is time to really take a stand against this scourge. We need to behave well and recognize when we have not done our best and be accountable. We need to support and listen to women who tell us about how they want to be treated rather than abuse and attempt to disempower them. Guys, we don’t need to be bullies to have fulfilling relationships. In fact the former will prevent the latter.

Repeat after me blokes. ‘ One: I need unambiguous permission to make sexual advances to a woman and if she makes it clear that advances are not welcome then I need to back off. And this means I need to raise my emotional intelligence beyond the age of three years of age and really listen to what women are telling me so that I can read them appropriately. Two: I should never make sexual advances towards women (or men for that matter) who are my staff. Three: I should not be getting drunk with my staff if I am their manager. Four: No means no. Five: I need to make it clear in words they understand to any male I know that their behavior is or was inappropriate if they have been guilty of sexual harassment (or bullying).’

 Dr Stewart Hase is a registered psychologist and has a doctorate in organisational behaviour as well as a BA, Diploma of Psychology, and a Master of Arts (Hons) in psychology. Stewart blogs at stewarthase.blogspot.com where this post was first published

Let me pierce you with my eyes…

4 Jan

Witches

 

I swear, you could not make this stuff up.  

Late yesterday it was revealed that Immigration Minister Peter (Cabbage) Dutton sent a text describing journalist Samantha Maiden as “that mad fucking witch” to, wait for it, the “mad fucking witch” herself, in error. (True)

Apparently he was in a crowded bar after a hard day, the hour was late and he was far from home. A passing femme fatale brushed up against him with her ample breast, and his finger slipped as he was scrolling through his contacts list. (I made that bit up.)

This next bit is true, based on the information we’ve been given. Dutton’s text was meant for Jamie Briggs, who lost his ministerial portfolio only hours earlier after allegedly sexually harassing a subordinate in a crowded bar after a long day when he was far from home and she pierced him with her eyes.

Maiden had just published a column critical of Briggs’ behaviour and apparently Dutton’s text was in response to that criticism, and intended to give Briggs support in his time of trouble. After all, what man needs to listen to the opinions of a mad fucking witch?

Dutton was a member of the governance sub-committee who unanimously decided Briggs had to go, so his vehement disagreement with Maiden’s opinion appears, at first blush, odd. But we are used to odd from the Immigration Minister, aren’t we.

By now Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who seems to have retreated to his multi-million dollar bunker with harbour views to have a good think, might be wishing he’d stayed in merchant banking, as one cabinet minister after another redefines the outer limits of sleaze, sexism, and stupid.

These things frequently, like Tony Abbott’s slogans (and the witches in Macbeth, lololololol) come in threes, so who will be next? I’m keeping my fingers crossed it’s Scott Morrison.

It must be a source of great frustration for Turnbull that his ministers are unable to keep their contempt for women in check, given his recent blatherings on the need for men to show respect towards us as the first step in ending epidemic proportions of violence against us. Ordered by their leader to control their primitive urges, Briggs and Dutton have finally broken bad with the sense of entitlement and contemptuous verbal abuse we are now seeing is the default position of LNP males towards women.

Sooner or later it’s going to sink in that while they might get away with all manner of perfidy, the time when they can abuse women and get away with it is rapidly coming to an end. Or they’ll die out, like the dinosaurs they are, in the unstoppable onslaught of the Mad Fucking Witches’ meteoric wrath.

I cannot wait to see how The Australian journalist Chris Kenny writes up this latest episode. Kenny is a great believer in taking legal action against those who cause him offence. Some of you may remember the controversial suggestion made by The Chaser some years ago that Kenny was a dog fucker, the raising of which possibility landed them in court and caused the ABC to humbly apologise for any tasteless insinuations of bestiality. Logically, Kenny ought to be urging Maiden and the woman in the Hong Kong bar with piercing eyes to call their lawyers, though Kenny and logic are really not words that should appear in the same sentence.

Today we are all Mad Fucking Witches as, apparently, any woman with a mind and an opinion who doesn’t want to be barefoot and pregnant or a member of the LNP, must be. So this Mad Fucking Witch is making a voodoo dolly and buying pins while considering original places where the sun don’t shine in which she might park her broomstick while she does the ironing.

Here’s the thing. It’s very straightforward. Don’t touch us without permission. Don’t verbally abuse us, especially if you don’t know how to send a text. This is what respect means, you dumb fucking warlocks, and if you can’t get your cabbage heads around that come here, and let me pierce you with my eyes. I’m a witch. My gaze is fatal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, Jamie, shit happens

2 Jan

shit-happens-wi-border.001

 

Following the post yesterday on the Jamie Briggs sacking:

The Australian today has published details of the complainant in the Jamie Briggs’ alleged sexual harassment scandal that allow the woman to be identified, while simultaneously trumpeting that it is withholding her name in order to protect her privacy.

This is one of the many reasons women hesitate to report sexual harassment and assault, especially when the alleged perpetrator is a public figure.

The Australian also reports that some MPs are greatly unsettled by the decision to sack Briggs because of alleged sexual harassment, as it sets the ministerial bar “impossibly high.” Respecting women, much?

Just don’t touch us without permission, how’s that for starters? Can you manage that? Because if you can’t be in charge of yourself, you shouldn’t be in charge of the country.

It’s worth repeating that Briggs was the subject of two LNP inquiries into the behaviour that provoked the complaint lodged against him. In the first instance, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet engaged an independent official to investigate the matter. It was subsequently referred to the cabinet’s governance sub-committee, members of whom included Warren Truss, George Brandis, Julie Bishop, Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison, Michaelia Cash and Arthur Sinodinos. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the allegations as “a serious matter.”  The decision of the subcommittee was that Briggs had to go.

If even that bunch of charlatans couldn’t find a way to get Briggs out of it, it must have been serious.

It’s simple to avoid the situation Briggs created for himself, but apparently it isn’t easy. There are at least two obvious considerations. The first might be: if you are in a relationship that is committed to monogamy, don’t make sexual advances to other people. The second might be, if you are in a position of power, do not make sexual advances to a subordinate. The third might be: if you disregard the first two recommendations fasten your seatbelt, because you may well have just blown your life, the lives of your spouse, your children and the individual you harassed, to bits.

The problem with men such as Briggs is that they apparently don’t believe these very human rules apply to them. Perhaps the most useful thing Briggs has achieved in his career thus far is to demonstrate, albeit it entirely unwillingly, that these rules do apply, even to LNP ministers, and that his peers have enforced them against him.

For Briggs’ “conga line of apologists” , as Paula Matthewson puts it, including The Australian, to attempt to discredit the complainant despite the outcome of his peer review, is, while despicable, sadly unsurprising given the prevalent attitude towards women who complain about the unacceptable behaviour of men.

The sub-committee who decided Briggs must go likely had more than one agenda, nevertheless, it is one small step towards justice for women who take a stand against harassment in the workplace. I can only hope this is not undone by the rabid attentions of a media hellbent on protecting out-dated male privilege and presumption of entitlement, regardless of the vile behaviours this engenders.

Perhaps we can offer to Jamie the consoling words his pal Tony Abbott offered to those he rendered unemployed during his brief term as a failed Prime Minister: see this as a liberation, mate, an opportunity to learn something entirely new.

In the meantime, Jamie’s struck another blow at the supposedly monolithic sanctity of heterosexual marriage, demonstrating yet again that its biggest threat isn’t from anyone in the LGBTI community who wants equal access to the institution, but from those already ensconced who just can’t seem to honour their commitments.

For an excellent analysis of the Briggs affair and how to recognise and set sexual boundaries in the workplace, see here, by Kate Galloway

For interesting insight into how the Press Gallery handles these issues, go to Andrew Elder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We need to talk about what Jamie did.

1 Jan

 

Brigg's Family Xmas card

Brigg’s Family Xmas card

Jamie Briggs resigned this week from his ministerial portfolio in the Turnbull government because of “inappropriate” behaviour towards a female public servant late one night in a Hong Kong bar, when he found himself apparently disinhibited by alcohol and the lateness of the hour.

Briggs was rapidly supported on Twitter by at least two of his colleagues, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Queensland MP Ewen Jones, both of whom describe Briggs as a good, decent man and a better bloke having a bad day. The Australian journalist Chris Kenny also came to Brigg’s defence on Twitter in a desperate attempt to frame the incident as being all about alcohol and staying up late in bars, with no reference to the alleged sexual harassment.

The public servant, it should be noted, did not complain that Briggs was drunk or up late, but that he had sexually harassed her, according to one report telling her she had such “piercing eyes,” before falling upon her neck. Mrs Estee Briggs, (who, like her husband, also worked for John Howard) is standing by her man, and has declared Prime Minister Turnbull’s sacking of her husband from the ministry an “exaggerated over-reaction” unwarranted by the triviality of the incident.

Some of us women set the bar low for ourselves, but perhaps we shouldn’t expect that the rest of the community will hold similar standards. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard women defend partners who act “inappropriately” towards them and other women, and what astonishes me every time is their expectation, indeed demand, that the rest of us hold the same minimal expectations.  Stand by your man by all means, but don’t tell others we’re “over-reacting” when we refuse to embrace your low standards.

It’s interesting that if a woman is drunk, and sexually harassed or assaulted, society’s default position is still that she shouldn’t have been drinking. On the other hand, the Briggs incident reaffirms for us that there are people in positions of considerable influence and power who still believe that if a man sexually harasses woman when he’s drunk it isn’t his fault: he’s really a decent bloke who’s had a hard day, and he can blame it on the drink. The woman, on the other hand, is a moll and a slut for getting out there and getting pissed and assaulted, and nobody even asks if she’s had a hard day.

I mean, really. When are we going to get past this? Ever?

I don’t know what Briggs’ defenders mean by “decent.” For mine, if you’re married and cheating on your spouse, you aren’t “decent.” You’re duplicitous, deceitful and probably more concerned with your own needs than those of your wife, family and lover. Infidelity demands a strong sense of entitlement, bordering on narcissism. It’s all about what the cheater thinks he/she needs, not the people he/she will damage. I mean, if you aren’t getting what you need in your partnership, have the courage to do something about it that doesn’t require duplicity and betrayal, or accept your lot. Deceiving the people who trust you is no way to address your needs.

As a man bent on betrayal once told me: I know I am behaving abominably to my wife and family, but you are so good for me. 

Says it all, really.

The point of this is that if a man (or woman) can justify the betrayal of those he/she cares most about, why would he/she think twice about betraying anybody else? We may know little else about the cheating spouse, but we do know with absolute certainty that he/she is a liar.

Ministerial standards are high, as they should be if governments are determined to give individual ministers the kind of power over others granted to Immigration Minister Dutton, for example. Why on earth should such power be in the hands of a man who has proved himself a liar, capable of intentionally deceiving his own wife? He’s demonstrated what he is willing to do to achieve his own ends: are we to be so naive as to think he’d only do this to his wife, and not the country?

The incident may not have been “illegal,” as Briggs hastens to assure us, though quite what he means by that I don’t know. It certainly highlights yet again that women are still seen by some societal groups as irrelevant in comparison to the needs and ambitions of men. Briggs was daft for getting drunk and staying up late, but hey, he’s human and works hard. Let’s not mention the predatory sexual behaviour: it was only a woman.

I don’t know the extent of Briggs’ harassment of the woman involved, what I do know is that until men like Briggs stop believing they are entitled to our attention and our bodies we have to call them on every incident, no matter how “trivial” it might seem to someone else. We are not comfort women for when such men are having a difficult time. We aren’t cuddly things for such men to grab and grope. Such men as Briggs are not inherently entitled to our bodies, our emotions, our attention and our time.

The “trivial” nature or otherwise of the sexual harassment is irrelevant here: what matters is the belief men such as Briggs hold that they are entitled to us whenever they feel the need of us. Nothing will substantially change for women until such men are disabused of this sense of entitlement, and until women who support these men demand higher standards from them instead of enabling them. We’re not “over-reacting” in thinking your husband should be fired, Mrs Briggs. It’s bad enough that men such as Jamie Briggs harass and assault us in the first place, we don’t have to lower our standards to yours as well.

Please note: I very rarely delete comments and even more rarely block people. However, I’ve just deleted an abusive comment from a poster called “Simon,” and will continue to delete and block abuse. This is a courtesy notification, so if abuse is on your mind you don’t waste your time.

 

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