Archive | January, 2015

Monogamy’s police

31 Jan

 

Wandering eyes

 

I saw an advertisement on television the other day in which a man, thinking himself unobserved,  is “caught” by his wife looking longingly at a young woman. The wife’s face assumes an expression of furious exasperation, of the kind that infers the intense frustration of one who knows they have little control over such situations, that is, the male randomly desiring gaze, yet will not, ever, give up seeking that control.

When the husband realises he’s been “caught” he cringes with guilt, averts his gaze, then attempts to placate his aggravated wife with a shrug intended to convey his both his apology, and his helplessness in the face of his nature.

What I immediately saw in this small scenario was a deeply embedded heterosexual cultural belief that it is wrong for men to look at women other than their partners with admiration or any form of desire, and it is the female partner’s job to police his gaze and wrangle him back under control.

Frankly, I’m sick to death of this infantilising by women of men. They are such children they must be micro managed and surveilled by their female partners to the point where looking at another woman is a cause for her anger and his guilt? Are even children subjected to such an intensity of repressive surveillance?

Haven’t we got anything better to do? I mean, really. Haven’t we? We must be mummy-wives for our entire lives?

According to the advertising industry, which one imagines has its finger on the majority pulse, yes we must.

I’m not sure about how this works in reverse. There is a prevalent myth that women are not as visually sexually stimulated as are men, so our gaze is not as inclined to wander. However, I would vigorously contest that myth. I think women are very capable of experiencing and enjoying visual stimulation, but we aren’t supposed to be. It’s another of those culturally imposed gendered beliefs that are attributed to biology, the “nature” of things, essentialism: men get turned on by looking, women don’t. It’s elephant shit. I speak with the authority of personal experience. So instead of watching who he’s watching, get some visual pleasure of your own.

Apart from all that, the idea of being constantly watched by a partner when we’re out and about, just to see who I’m looking at so I can be brought under control is, quite frankly, absolutely creepy.

We are rightly infuriated when women are blamed for being raped because of what we wear, where we go, whether we’re drunk or sober. Rape is the rapist’s responsibility, not ours. Yet at the same time, women are encouraged in monogamous heterosexual culture to believe we have sole responsibility for controlling the male gaze and what that gaze might lead to, because he can’t be trusted to do it himself. Apparently many of us accept this responsibility and in the acceptance, enable the man-child, not the man.

If heterosexual monogamy needs this much policing by women, it’s a failed project.  Struth, any relationship with policing at its core is a failed project, isn’t it?

I can’t remember what that ad I saw was for. I can only remember the ludicrous content. So epic fail in that project too,  advertisers.

 

 

 

 

Playing monogamy

30 Jan

monogamyWere I to write the thinking woman’s book of advice for potential lovers of the already committed I would firstly say, it isn’t thinking that gets us into such situations, and it usually isn’t thinking that gets us out. It will come as a confronting shock for many thinking women to discover that thinking only goes so far, and cannot by itself save you from yourself.

I would then say, it is extremely important for your own survival to remember there are always three people in your relationship, one of whom is quite likely unknown to you.

It is also important when everything goes pear-shaped (probably more important than anything else) to invest time in understanding why you decided to inflict this particular kind of torment on yourself in the first place.

I don’t want to gender my imaginary book: women take extra marital lovers as well as men, lesbians are unfaithful and so are gay guys, and I don’t know how gender and sexual orientation change the dynamics of betrayal, or if they only add variation to its expression.

Also, for the sake of convenience I’d use the term marriage in the largest sense, to include committed relationships without the State’s imprimatur.

In my case, I blundered into a marital minefield. Because of what I knew of my lover, and also because of what he said, such as “I am only doing this because you are irresistible, I don’t tell lies to my wife,”  I thought adultery was a rare event in his life.  As it turned out he’d been engaging in extra marital affairs since the 1970s, and they were, in fact, part of the established pattern of his long marriage. I was a rarity in the sense that, according to his wife, I was “the only one he’d done this with,” this meaning  fallen in love with, and so deeply threatened the marital equilibrium. The others had apparently been little more than co-operative receptacles for his ejaculatory fluids, and of minimum consequence, and she’d seen them off without too much trouble. Annoyingly, I have this sense of myself as an equal human being, and an unwillingness to crawl under a stone when someone decides I am no longer of use to them.

My lover’s wife had, she told me, become very cynical about men and their pathetic sexual desperation. I told her I couldn’t imagine becoming cynical about an entire gender, but, I added, perhaps that was my downfall. I don’t think sexual desperation is particularly gendered, women can and do yearn and desire. Woman can and do go looking for a zipless fuck, and feel ashamedly desperate both for wanting it and doing it. It is one of our culture’s epic fails, that human sexuality is looked upon with such severe moral judgement, and such complete lack of understanding.

As well, I felt sorry for my lover’s wife. After all those years she probably thought his adulteries were over, and then he’d gone and done the worst one of all.

These people were to all appearances living in a long-term monogamous marriage, the kind that is held up to us as a model, as a desirable peak of  human intimate achievement. They were “pillars of the community,” forgive the cliché, an outstanding example of a bourgeoisie that still exerts repressive control over public morality, and expectations of sexual behaviour. They do not, as she accused me of doing,  “write intimate things all over the Internet.” But they are pretenders. There is nothing in the least monogamous about their marriage and hasn’t been for decades. Indeed, the biggest threat I apparently represented to this couple was not the ending of their marriage, but the power I had to reveal them to their community and family as two-faced long-term fakes.

You always take enormous emotional risks when entering into affairs with married people. But when you walk into an already well-established pattern of infidelity it’s like walking into a spider’s web of lies, half-truths, games, dishonesties, and an accumulation of dysfunction, all of which cling to your face and heart with a nasty stickiness that is extremely difficult to remove.

They are practised at playing this game, you may not be, and believe me if you aren’t, you will not know what has hit you. You are a pawn. They will use you. You will be the means to their duplicitous end. You, and others before you, have served to keep together a marriage that otherwise might long ago have blown apart, had it been truly monogamous instead of only pretending to be. You are an outlet, dear. For a man’s or woman’s desire that cannot be contained and satisfied within the monogamy to which he or she has committed themselves, and lacks the courage to examine.

“I knew I should never have let him meet you that first time on his own!” his wife raged at me and I saw immediately that I was not dealing with an adult when I got involved with this man. I was dealing with a naughty child who couldn’t be let out without a wife to guard him from himself. But by then it was too late. I’d done it.

Personally, I don’t see the point of monogamy as a life goal, or as any measure of moral achievement. It may be an ideal situation for some people. I can see it has potential. It worked for me because I never found anybody else as interesting as my husband, which was simply great good luck, not to do with any strong moral sense about monogamy, or strong resistance to temptation. Of which I obviously have neither.

It isn’t the desire for another that is wrong, or even the acting on it. It’s the arrogant sense of entitlement that allows people to use and then dispose of other women or men as temporary sexual and emotional outlets, in order to help them maintain the treasured illusion of the perfection of monogamy, that in itself counts for so much in the assessment of what is a “successful” marriage.

When we are devastated by betrayal, and the profound hurt and jealousies it brings, it can seem to help, I suppose, to call up a moral framework from within which to hurl fury and pain at the perpetrator. Not only have they done you wrong, they are  wrong, in the terms of this moral framework. It might temporarily help with the pain, but in fact, it’s just another illusion.

I am a symptom of the troubles in your marriage, I told my lover’s wife. I am not the cause. To her credit, she agreed with me.

It is a mystery to me why people do not sort these things out. Come to some mutual arrangement about a partner’s ranging desires. Refuse to come to such an arrangement and leave. Live as single people free to love who they will. To play the same old game of betrayal and remorse and broken promises for decades, in the service of a constructed ideal of  family founded on monogamy, smacks of idiocy to me. I prefer the deeper intimacy that comes from acknowledging and sharing the truth of a situation, even if it means frightening change and sometimes endings.

What is  “family” if there isn’t truth at its foundations?

This all matters very much, because the monogamous relationship is held to be the cornerstone of our culture. It’s increasingly challenged, and that can only be good, because I doubt my experience is an isolated one. I suspect there are many more playing at monogamy, and I suspect that the cornerstone is neither strong nor true. Challenging its cultural stranglehold is likely one of the more significant tasks we face, and the ramifications are extensive.

 

 

 

The Credlin thing.

29 Jan

Credlin & Abbott Two

 

I don’t get all this Murdoch-inspired hoo haa about Peta Credlin, the Prime Minister’s embattled Chief of Staff.

Ms Credlin has been in the spotlight ever since her boss was Opposition Leader.

Remember how her IVF journey was so thoroughly manipulated as to become “evidence” for Abbott’s “compassion” for women?  Ms Credlin gave generous media interviews about this most personal of experiences, and never once mentioned her partner in the journey, her husband, Brian Loughnane. Instead, it was entirely about how her boss was helping her by keeping her eggs in his fridge. I can’t think of any other situation that compares, in which a Chief of Staff so publicly reveals her or his private life for the sole purpose of  helping her or his boss win an election.

It was Abbott’s apparent unpopularity with women voters that provoked the Credlin IVF pieces. It was intended to portray him as a softie with the ladies, as was hauling out his three daughters who giggled on cue about their lovely churchy dad.

I may have a limited imagination, but I find it hard to visualise a male chief of staff being so forthcoming as was Credlin  about his personal life, in order to make his boss more popular with the voters.

It therefore makes a kind of bizarre sense that when things go as badly wrong as they have for Abbott, ridding himself of Credlin is seen as the first move that might lead to some kind of improvement. It won’t, of course, because the man is beyond all help, but they have to try something as they aren’t ready to replace him. Yet. May they continue not to be. He is the ALP’s best asset.

As far as Ms Credlin is concerned, the situation sucks. She obviously isn’t responsible for the numerous outstandingly appalling decisions the Abbott government has attempted to inflict on an electorate that trusted them to behave in entirely different ways. It is, of course, impossible to know what her input has been into these decisions, nevertheless, Abbott has taken them, and being above Ms Credlin in the chain of command, is entirely responsible for them. With great power cometh great responsibility.

There was a period in which Ms Credlin and Mr Abbott were photographed so frequently together on occasions when one would have expected Mrs Abbott to be at her husband’s side rather than his Chief of Staff, that prurient speculation as to the nature of their relationship was rife. It has today been suggested that Mr Abbott is “psychologically dependent” on Ms Credlin. (That link may be paywalled, but it may not. I did my best). Psychological dependency on another person can be a problem, especially for a political leader. It can cloud his or her judgement, and lead him or her to become deafened to other points of view.

We cannot, of course, escape the gender issue in this latest government drama. Is Ms Credlin easier to scapegoat because she’s a woman? It was her gender that was exploited in Abbott’s election campaign, and nobody much complained about it then, least of all Ms Credlin. Female gender was exploited to gain Abbott votes. Female gender will be exploited again if it is considered to be a factor in losing Abbott votes.

When a man is an idiot, blaming the woman behind and beside him is a common default position. There is in our culture a pervasive belief that women are responsible for controlling men in almost every situation one can think of, and this belief could well be at work in the Credlin situation. Of course, we women aren’t and can’t be responsible for what men do, and the sooner we all divest ourselves of that mythology the better.

I have suddenly remembered footage of Wendi Deng hurling herself in front of her then husband Rupert Murdoch at the News of the World hacking hearings, when somebody attempted to assault him with a cream pie. Sometimes we ladies are our own worst enemies.

 

 

 

 

 

Missing you.

28 Jan

Today, for the first time since you died, I sat with someone in a room and wept and wept for the loss of you.

I know you will understand why it has taken me these whole six months to find the strength to grieve for you. You well know the strength that grieving demands. You thought Freud was firstly a poet, with his “labour of mourning.”

I am trying to imagine which quote you would find for me now, because you always found a quote for me in all my situations and at times, I was less than grateful.

Perhaps it would be Auden: “In the deserts of the heart, let the healing fountain start.”

Perhaps it would be Dylan: “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Perhaps it would be Blake: “For all eternity I forgive you and you forgive me.”

I am lost without you.  I have no idea how to proceed in a world that no longer has you in it.

He asked me, the man  in whose room I sat today, a quiet man who well knows the uses of silence, he asked me, what did he do, your husband?

I told him your doctorate was on Shakespeare’s comedies. I told him you loved Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen, and Lenny Bruce, and Seinfeld, and Larry David, and William Blake, and Tony Soprano, and John Donne, and Bach’s concertos, and Mahler, and the list of what you loved was way too long,  you were interested in everything, and I told him how sometimes I would tell you that your mind was so open, everything just fell out.

I told him  that you fought with me about Foucault, and feminism, and I fought with you about F.R. Leavis and fucking white male privilege and the damn canon. I told him how you were the only man I’d ever known who was confident enough in himself to tell me I was smarter than he was. I told him how you used to look at me and say, “I could die happy right now, just being with you.”

But mostly I just cried, love.

Buccholz

Abbott admits he’s wasting 4.3 million taxpayer dollars.

26 Jan

 

 

Abbott on frugality

 

This, today from a Prime Minister who spends 4.3 million of taxpayer dollars monitoring social media, and employing spin doctors to “offer strategic communications advice” from the information gleaned:

I’ll leave social media to its own devices [said Abbott today]. Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media,” Mr Abbott said. You wouldn’t report what’s sprayed up on the walls of buildings…

In spite of that 4.3 million taxpayer dollars’ worth of strategic communication advice, in spite of the iron control reportedly exerted over the PM by Chief of Staff Peta Credlin, Abbott continues to make the most astounding, cringe-worthy gaffes that stretch all credulity, and nobody wants him anywhere near them.

So it would seem the spin doctors and Ms Credlin are catastrophically useless at their jobs, because just when you think Abbott can’t get anymore bizarre, he goes and smashes all his previous records of stupid.

If Credlin and the strategic communications advisors were employed by anyone other than the LNP government they’d be sacked. I wonder how any of them will ever find alternative employment, given their unbroken record of spectacular failure with the Prime Minister.

Please do leave social media to its own devices, Mr Abbott, and stop wasting our money on monitoring it to see what it’s saying about you. It’s never anything good, you can be sure of that. How many millions of our dollars do you need to spend to find out what an absolute fool we think you are?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear. No matter how many dollars and spin doctors  you throw at it, you just can’t. A pig’s ear is a pig’s ear and right now, on Australia Day 2015, we have a pig’s ear in charge.

(I suppose I should say sorry to pigs, who are really pretty smart animals.)

(Which Tony Abbott is not. A smart animal, that is.)

Pigs can fly

Family Violence. Where’s THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN?

26 Jan

I can’t help wondering what Prime Minister Tony Abbott, also known as THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN, thought and felt when he announced as Australian of the Year the most outstanding advocate for women and children I’ve heard in a very long time, Rosie Batty.

Ms Batty’s son Luke was brutally murdered by his father, a man with history of serious violence towards his family. Their story is at the worst end of the family violence continuum, as are many others.

That we even have the phrase “family violence” in our lexicon, with the most appalling statistics to justify its existence, ought to be a matter of serious concern for THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN, whose responsibility it surely is to give political backup and practical support to people like Rosie Batty, who shouldn’t have to work as she has without a word of encouragement from the LEADER OF THIS GREAT NATION AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN, TONY ABBOTT.

Somehow, in the brief time since Luke was murdered by his father, Ms Batty has garnered the strength and courage to campaign with vigour and a resounding authenticity, against family violence. No voice could be more convincing than hers on this topic at this point in time.

While the “king hitting” of  a handful of young men brings out Abbott’s anger and righteous indignation, as does the threat of terrorism and the horrible, unspeakable, spine chilling crime of asylum seekers breaching the sovereignty of our borders; as the thrilling notion of going to war, some war, somewhere, anywhere, for whatever reason causes the bedraggled budgie in the Prime Minister’s rapidly fraying smugglers to sluggishly stir, the slaughter and suffering of women and children in our own backyard goes unaddressed  by THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN, in fact he NEVER EVEN MENTIONS IT! 

I can’t imagine any other minister NEVER EVEN MENTIONING the topic of his portfolio. Can you?

Rosie Batty. Woman of calibre. Salute.

Rosie and Luke

Rosie and Luke

Australia: a country of vengeful malcontents

24 Jan

 

wall-of-hate

In this piece titled “Manus Island: what will it take to shock us?” Julian Burnside, barrister and refugee advocate, gives a powerful synopsis of the cruelty the Australian public is prepared to tolerate its governments inflicting on asylum seekers, in the crazed collective desire to “stop the boats” and protect the country’s “sovereign borders.”

The answer to Mr Burnside’s question is, of course, that the only thing that will shock anyone at this point is a government that is prepared to cease and desist from using asylum seekers as human fodder in election campaigns. We have reached the stage in this matter where the only possibility for provoking shock is decent behaviour.

The contempt in which the Australian public holds asylum seekers who arrive here by boat is sickening. As has been noted on other occasions, we treat people who are far more threatening to us individually and collectively much better than we treat unarmed people seeking sanctuary who travel here by boat. The unexamined hatred, prejudice, loathing and contempt directed towards asylum seekers, chillingly orchestrated by political leaders of both major parties, is mind numbing, and it has numbed the minds of the Australian public in general to the degree that many believe we aren’t harsh enough. 60% of Australians, according to a poll conducted in September 2014, (see link) believe we are not treating waterborne asylum seekers badly enough.

From a psychological perspective, this leads me to believe that we are a nation of desperately unhappy, dissatisfied people who for many reasons, some of them undeniably sound, live with a sense of profound grievance that has to negatively express itself towards somebody and something. I draw this conclusion because people who are living lives in which they find satisfaction and enjoyment at least some of the time, are not inclined to desire the persecution of others, let alone bay for blood like rabid wolves because a few thousand stateless persons have turned up looking for sanctuary.

Regrettably, it would seem that these miserably vengeful Australians are in the majority, and one has to ask, why is this so? What has gone so awry in this lucky country that so many of us need to take out our apparently endemic discontent on the helpless and the vulnerable? Because it is not only asylum seekers towards whom this loathing is directed, although they are the extreme example of its concrete manifestation at this moment in time. In reality, any individual and group that can be defined as less than what the miserable majority  consider the “norm” are targeted for persecution in some way, and our politicians lead the ranting, bloodthirsty, vengeful pack.

“Fair go” is a principle inherent in the Australian “character?” My arse it is. My arse it ever has been. If it was, we would not have politicians who seek election and re-election on the backs of the most vulnerable in the first place, because it wouldn’t win them votes.

What will it take for us to be shocked? Common sense and decency in our political leaders. That’s what it will take to shock us. Don’t hold your breath. Neither of those things is coming to a marketplace near you anytime soon.

This blog on The Monthly on conditions on Manus as reported by workers there is well worth a read. Thanks to Robyn here for the link.

 

 

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