Archives: February 2006

27 Feb 2006, Comments Off on When I am old I Shall Wear Purple Specifically to annoy Virginia Haussegger

When I am old I Shall Wear Purple Specifically to annoy Virginia Haussegger

Author: Helen

The Age (our beloved least worst local rag) always manages to find strange, ahem, right of centre writers to comment on “womens’ issues”.

Remember Virginia Haussegger? She wrote the sad article in 2002 accusing older, “purple-clad” feminists of overemphasising career to the detriment of her personal life, because none of them had remembered to tell her personally about fertility declining as you get older, the stupid old bags. (Did Virginia never go for a pap smear? Did it occur to her to ask a GP?)

Anyways, as I conducted my usual exhausting, no-expense-spared research for this post (Google, only fingers moving) I came across proof that at least one feminist did tell Virginia about the use-by date on her ovaries. Jane Caro, the convenor of Priority Public, spelled it out for her while on holiday in 1987. Did she listen? No.

Sprung, Virginia.

Now, in the interests of fairness, Hausegger does occasionally make some sense on the occasions she turns from feminist-bashing to actual work-life balance issues. But in this latest confused outpouring, Hausseger reckons Australian feminists “hate” Maureen Dowd because they can’t handle the uncomfortable truths in her pot-boiler “Are Men Necessary?” This is because they are horrible. They “sharpen” their “squints”, their “claws are out”. Meow!

If Virginia had just let her fingers do the walking, like me, she would find plenty of American feminists who don’t like “Are Men Necessary” either. One woman’s “sassy” is another woman’s “mind-blowing stupidity“.

Virginia’s Haus style seems to consist mainly of a series of bald assertions, none of them backed up by any empirical evidence, most pertaining to a small substratum of society to which she belongs (we used to call them “yuppies”)… and some of which are simply off the planet.

Dowd’s razor-sharp depiction of women who choose to parade their breasts instead of their brains (in order to enjoy the greater rewards), and who have ditched old-fashioned aspirations of gender equality for slut-culture supremacy, is just too much of an insult to delicate Australian feminist sensibilities.

Who-kicked-who-in-the-what-now?… Is she being wittily tongue in cheek but just getting the tone wrong? Is she drunk? Old-fashioned aspirations of gender equality? Maybe it’s because I haven’t read Dowd’s book that I don’t even get what she is trying to say here – but the idea of an opinion piece/book review is to present your ideas clearly enough that that shouldn’t be required in order to understand your point. And the idea that if you don’t embrace Slut Culture you’re a gimlet-eyed, punishing old Puritan feminist, well, how many times has that poor old worn-out thing been around the track?

I’d be here all day if I tried to analyse the whole mess, and other people have already called her on her cherrypicking other writers ‘ arguments, but one of the most annoying themes is the distaste she shows for “empirical evidence” and her attempt to have it both ways. In the same breath, Australian feminists are judging Maureen Dowd completely on her presentation and persona rather than “ruminat(ing) on the argument”. They “go for the girl”. (I must say, there’s nothing I find so empowering as having a 54 year old woman referred to as a “girl”.) Then she tries to say they’re ruminating too much on the argument. They’re actually asking for evidence… and layers of complexity! The bitchez.

Dowd… is about to experience first-hand our naive lack of humour and tortured desire for layers of complexity.

Well, damn those layers of complexity!

Winnie Salamon was at pains to point out that as Australian women “we need discussion that is meaningful”. Dowd’s playful suggestion that all men will be infertile in 125,000 years, and possibly extinct in 10 million years, was not complex enough for Salamon, whose hunger for serious empirical data found this undignified romp through the “Y chromosome” all a bit “kitschy and futuristic”.

Damn those empirical data! We should be able to have feminist books without all that hard, unfeminine thinking stuff, boop-boop-a-doop!

Enough of that. Now I’m off to sharpen my squint.

26 Feb 2006, Comments Off on Andy Baylor benefit

Andy Baylor benefit

Author: Helen

Picture from

Noone can come within cooee of the roots music scene in Melbourne without being aware of the Baylor brothers.

I don’t know Andy, but I have had the privilege of playing with his brother, Peter, who plays guitar and is generally a triffic guy. A couple of years ago, Andy contracted lymphoma and went into remission. He continued playing and recording as before but now the lymphoma has returned. So there’s a benefit for him next Saturday, March 4. Here are the details:

291 Albert street Brunswick.
1.00pm – 1.00am

There is a full list available of the star studded lineup here.

26 Feb 2006, Comments Off on SuperBarbieMom!


Author: Helen

Picture from

Sometimes, I get the feeling that a lot of people don’t really get the whole women working, work-life-balance thing.

Poking around the other day, I discovered Management Issues (at the heart of the changing workplace). The linked article is describing the new action figures made by an adult toy company, Happy Worker.

These 6-inch plastic action figures are the brainchild of Happy Worker, a Toronto-based company making “toys for big kids”. Each comes equipped with fun accessories, superpowers, and vulnerabilities – just like the real thing.

BossMan: “Leading a crusade to reach objectives he empowers, implements change and captures mindshare…”

GeekMan: “With oodles of brain power he authors code, battles tech holy wars and moves nerdom to new heights…”

MoneyMan: “Focused on ROI and the bottom line he fights for free enterprise and keeps working capital at work…”

Now, says Happy Worker’s Shirley Yee, “we created SuperMom for everyone who’s trying for that near-impossible balance of managing kids and work while standing on their head.”

Got that, ladies?

BossMan, GeekMan, and MoneyMan are all doing Real Stuff, while anything SuperMom may be doing isn’t mentioned, since the mere fact that she is able to get to work (hampered as she is with doing all the Mom work) is considered enough to constitute her whole identity. She is defined by being a Mom, and nothing else, even though she’s got the suit.

No tech holy war or change implementation for her. No wonder there are plenty of other articles like this on Management Issues.

I respectfully suggest that BossMan, GeekMan and MoneyMan may turn their huge abilities to share the load with SuperMom. Then we might find out what she actually does for a living.

…Update: Oh, and the 9th Carnival of Feminists is on now.

25 Feb 2006, Comments Off on Coming to a workplace near you

Coming to a workplace near you

Author: Helen

Remember when the IR legislation was going through, we were told “this bill in its present form will provide more jobs [and] higher wages,” and “In 12 months time people will be wondering what the fuss was about…” ?

Now as the new laws are about to take effect, the message appears to have changed to “ha, ha, sucked in badly”, just as I’d feared. The management at a car parts factory in Clayton have gleefully begun cutting their workers wages and conditions.

ACTU secretary Greg Combet and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary Doug Cameron addressed a stopwork meeting of more than 200 Dana employees outside the company’s Clayton plant yesterday, over what they say are Dana’s plans to drastically cut workers’ wages and conditions.

The company’s enterprise bargaining demands, put to the union this month, are for a 5 per cent drop in pay for current workers, 20 per cent pay cut for new workers, removal of rostered days off and restrictions on sick day and overtime entitlements.

20 per cent!? This went far beyond anything I expected, and I thought I was a pessimist.

Despite his unbelievable demands, and the fact that the company made he still made a net profit of $25 million last year, the Dana boss, Bob Day, still described the stopwork meeting as a “grandstanding publicity stunt”. That’s chutzpah.

Mr Day said Dana had not asked employees to work for $1 an hour as in China or India.

But he had his fingers crossed behind his back when he said that, since his next utterance was:

“We’re trying to invest in technology and (remove) some of the manacles and shackles that people like the AMWU place on you so that you can achieve productivity that’s achievable in other parts of the world.”

“Other parts of the world” is a bit of a giveaway.

I was halfway through this post when I clicked on Larvatus Prodeo and found out that Qantas, too, is trying to cut its workers pay and conditions.

21 Feb 2006, Comments Off on Last Friday

Last Friday

Author: Helen

Unfortunately, some people just cannae hold their drink and have to go TOO FAR, yes I

Brownie, Boynton, The G-G (That’s the back of my head), Aftergrogblog, William Burroughs’ Baboon, Barista, Gummo Trotsky, Knotted paths, Copper witch, Darlene Taylor, Armaniac, Nabakov, Mallrat, Laputan Logic

…and two gorgeous women who looked like the Corrs…

Hello to Daily Flute, who couldn’t make it. Hope everything’s OK.

15 Feb 2006, Comments Off on Oh, the pain. The pain.

Oh, the pain. The pain.

Author: Helen

After my dinner on Monday evening the telephone rang and the senior deputy editor of The Age asked me if I had made a submission to the worldwide competition for the longest run-on sentence.

There is a moment of confusion that is almost religious as you try to make up your mind where to insert a full stop, but in reality, your paragraphs are in free-fall at this point in time and your prolixity just takes over and your stomach rises up somewhere around your ears as you descend suddenly into the special netherworld which is the long long long sentence which you cry out to God who is in the back paddock, or the Powers that be for this sentence to end like it must have ended for the Von Trapp family at some stage but then again maybe not.

I emailed the Elbonians and asked them to remove the hoax paragraph and the spoof words as I would ring a neighbour in the bush and ask them to pick all the oranges on the dear old Orange Tree and turn them into marmalade and then go out to the chook shed and look under the third chicken on the right, not the Rhode Island Red but the speckly white one, to see if there was an egg sitting there for me in all its pure and holy egginess, and whip me up a batch of fairy cakes; it was a simple and practical request and then, after a few scones of forgiveness with the jam of friendship and the cream of verisimilitude on them I jumped into the dear saggy grey ticking bed and then, having missed it, jumped in a second time rubbing the bruises on my nether regions which were nowhere as bad as the bruises on my psyche from being spoofed on the internets, and swallowing the medication of forgiveness with yet more water.

After so much water, I had to go out to the outhouse. God was there in the paddock, as always, but this time a bunch of helicopters landed with a bunch of journalists in them, all too much for a National Treasure to have to endure.

Disclaimer: The Cast Iron Balcony does not wish to imply that it’s acceptable to use someone else’s cartoon in a competition without their consent.

13 Feb 2006, Comments Off on What I’m reading

What I’m reading

Author: Helen

Elayne Riggs, writing about the Norwegian cartoons, asks: “Qui Bono?Woman Reading, by Mary CassattSoj of Flogging the Simian gives her a very interesting take on it. Here’s a followup on Kos.

Oh, and I love the collection of quotations on Soj’s sidebar.

When I die, I would like to go peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather did. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in the car.


Ms Piss and Barista reckon we should read Sternezine, and after reading this piece, I knew they were so right. Do it now.

Creek running North is a little-known (in Australia) but lovely blog. If you’ve also read the uber-RWDB James Lileks, you’ll love this post. It’s the most beautifully crafted pisstake you’ll ever see. (Lileks can be a pain, but I can’t help loving his Institute of Official Cheer.)

9 Feb 2006, Comments Off on R U having a lend of me, Tony?

R U having a lend of me, Tony?

Author: Helen

Well, as Suki just pointed out, The Senate has voted 45 to 28 in favour of taking the decision (to approve, or not, the use of medical abortion by RU486) away from the health minister. And may I say that I have never seen such an egregious pile of steaming dingoes’ kidneys as the arguments from the opposing side.

Tony Abbott!! Who in God’s name has ever suggested that RU486 is going to be sold in the supermarket? You can’t even get Panadeine in the supermarket. Kerry O’Brien also called you on your use of the word “backyard”, you disingenuous little man.

Then there was the brilliant argument that medical abortion is so important that it can’t be left merely to bureaucrats like the Therapeutic Goods people. I mean, just because they’re trained in medical matters. No, this is something so solemn it must be left to ministerial discretion. Ponder that one for a while. Surely other things are also very important? Maybe Abbott should have to perform brain surgery and do medical research himself, since these things are far too important to be left to mere surgeons and mere scientists.

But the hot and sexy argument du jour was, of course, “RU486 is going to kill mothers” (in rural and remote areas, many of them possibly Liberal voters).

Never mind, Tony, I have the solution. As RU-486 duplicates the effects of an ordinary miscarriage and a full-term pregnancy is vastly more risky than either, I think that the only course of action is for the Federal government to ban sex in the outback altogether. Happily, we have a precedent (think something like the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management bill 2005), so this shouldn’t be a problem.

Well, I reckon it’s as sensible as some of the stuff I heard from our parliamentarians today.

9 Feb 2006, Comments Off on No woman gets an orgasm from polishing the SUV

No woman gets an orgasm from polishing the SUV

Author: Helen

Picture from

Betty Friedan‘s The Feminine Mystique is part of the remembered landscape of my childhood.

From the time I learned to read, the spine with The Feminine Mystique jumped out at me from the bookshelves. The interesting title gave it, well, mystique. I had a bad habit, back then, of guessing at what words meant from context, instead of going to the dictionary. I imagined the book would be about how women think– the mystery behind it. Because as Friedan herself pointed out in the book, Freudian cliches- such as “what do women want” – permeated society then, trivialised and distorted through the lens of popular culture. Hmmm, plus ca change… When I was old enough to read the book, I discovered something quite different.

My mum was a passionate, dreamy literature buff with an offbeat sense of humour. While my father populated the shelves with Walter Scott, Rudyard Kipling and nonfiction, my mother was the source of titles like Cold Comfort Farm, books by Ogden Nash, James Thurber, modern poetry and novels. In the way of the postwar period, she’d graduated with a BA in English Lit and then moved to the role of a faculty wife and stay-at-home mum.

An old friend described to me a visit to our house in about 1961, when my brother and I were very little. “There were dishes up to there,” she said “and your mum had forgotten we were coming. She was deep in a book at the time.

“You children were very much wanted – they just weren’t sure what to do with you when they had you.” A common situation, I think, in those days when motherhood was supposed to be “instinctive” and Dads weren’t supposed to be involved in working it all out.

I’m not saying her whole identity was subsumed by her domestic role; she was too spirited for that. But even as a kid I felt our mum needed something more than domestic science and sherry parties in her life. Betty Friedan spoke to people like her about that phenomenon: the problem that has no name. I wish I could talk to her now to ask her what she thought of it as she read, which ideas appealed to her.

My mum would have flowered in the Whitlam era. I imagine she might have returned to study and who knows what kind of employment. she would have regained her autonomy, not just as wife-of and mother-to, but something else: herself. But what you get from life isn’t necessarily what you deserve. In 1969, as the old patriarchal order began to crumble – at least around the edges – she died of an agressive cancer.

Betty may have been a flawed feminist (I’m sure she cringed in later life remembering the “lavender menace”) but her measured, authoriative writing did the job for me. We need to remember these older feminists with thanks. They really did change the world.

3 Feb 2006, Comments Off on Hey! Big, dumb opinion writer!

Hey! Big, dumb opinion writer!

Author: Helen

Talking about right-wing funny men! That Jim Schembri’s a hoot all right.

all that stuff about hunting whales for research purposes is not a ruse. Whaling does produce valuable scientific data – not about whales, but about how many Greenpeace activists you can bullseye with a high-pressure hose. Tip: go for the body mass or aim high and allow for wind drift.

Oh yes, Jim’s so much more urbane and clever than those silly Greenpeace hippies (fancy risking your life for something!) Can we get a fourth-grader up to the front of the class now to explain to him that whales are mammals?

Wassup with the sub editor situation at Fairfax? Tracy Bartram Hutchison from RRR made the same mistake, on the opinion page no less, a few weeks back. Do they have only one sub editor left and he/she’s still on holiday?

Update 4/2: Wrong Tracee/Tracey/Tracy. Tracy Hutchison is the one who writes for the Age opinion page, although they’re both primarily employed in radio broadcasting.