Archive | August, 2015

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

Infidelity

 

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.

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