Archives: June 2007

30 Jun 2007, Comments Off on Timor election: Sending safety thoughts

Timor election: Sending safety thoughts

Author: Helen

You wouldn’t know about it by reading, looking at or listening to the MSM at the moment, but there’s an election on in East Timor. While here in Victoria we have gale force winds and floods, the weather in Timor is pretty dramatic as well. And it’s not just the weather.

However, heavily armed soldiers were a visible presence on the streets of the capital Dili late today, in a reminder of the potential for election-related violence which caused two shooting deaths early in the campaign.

I’m wishing for a peaceful outcome to the election, but there is a selfish reason this time.

My beautiful nephew is over there volunteering at a polling centre. Just wanted to say I’m so proud of him.

27 Jun 2007, Comments Off on In which I judge a book by its cover

In which I judge a book by its cover

Author: Helen

Recently, the folks at IBTP have been bemoaning the pinkification of everything (something also deplored by Barbara Ehrenreich, Twisty and Tigtog). Coincidentally, while relaxing with the dead-tree paper, I wandered by accident into the My Career section. Normally I would toss this bulky wad, with its depressing articles about young billionaires who are all twenty years younger than me, over my shoulder. This time, like someone driving slowly past a car crash, I couldn’t avert my eyes from a book review by Wendy Taylor (whose column is titled “Expert Advice”).
The name of the book is: “The Girl’s Guide to being a Boss”. Because, presumably, if you’re a grown woman contemplating a position of authority, you’ll rush out and buy a book which refers to you as a “girl”. As if that isn’t enough, the full title as shown by is “TGGTBAB (Without Being a Bitch): Valuable Lessons, Smart Suggestions, and True Stories for Succeeding as the Chick in Charge”. Because, you know, the greatest danger in taking on a management role is that people will think you’re a bitch? And who could resist a book on professional development with a cover like this? Here’s the version shown in the AGE review:

Image from Allen and Unwin

And here’s the version shown on Amazon:

Image from

Because, you know, if you want to direct a professional development book at women, it’s gotta be pink. (there was a picture of a large, pink, six inch heeled shoe somewhere to the right of the review, for no apparent reason. Chicks. Shoes. Pink. You know.)

Since this isn’t available online, and I have no intention of buying – or reading it, I need to stress that I’m criticising the marketing of the thing. The cover. The artwork. The presumption that if you aren’t an underling, you’re going to be labelled “a bitch”. And being called a “chick” even if you have the corner office. Just in case you get a bit uppity. I won’t second guess what advice they give, as I say I haven’t read the book, but I hope they aren’t using a double standard of male and female managerial behaviour. Well, I can always hope.

What is it about these people who write or do artwork for professional women and their obsession with the Barbie aesthetic and all things pink?

Taylor’s review stresses how easy the book is to read, but the blurb at lays it on with a trowel. “Most management books put you to sleep…No jargon and no need for an MBA. The Girl’s Guide to Being a Boss Without Being a Bitch is a fun read that offers information without intimidation and includes all the advice you need to learn to lead, inspire and motivate. We include quizzes, tips, checklists and fun sidebars such as “Celluloid Bitches,” and “The Girl’s Guide to Gossip” throughout.”

Business is hard!
Chicks haz short attention spanz!
More pink shoes!
Let’s go shopping!

Here is a collection of career development books I found while trying to find the review I’ve mentioned. They don’t seem to feel the need to talk down to their target market, and there is no… bloody… pink. But then, the cover artwork only shows men.

*Updated 28/06/2007 to include some excellent Pinkification links I’d neglected to add.

24 Jun 2007, Comments Off on “Stabilise, Normalise and Exit”

“Stabilise, Normalise and Exit”

Author: Helen

That’s Mal Brough’s military-style description of the Government’s plan for the response to the national state of emergency. Does it fill you with confidence?

The conservatives are controlling this issue in the MSM. Even the indigenous voice is given over to conservatives like Noel Pearson (and I think the government proposals go beyond even what he’d recommend) and Wesley Aird, a member of the Bennelong Society, which is a pro-assimilation front group with links to Western Mining, Quadrant, the Lavoisier Group, the IPA and others. Non-indigenous conservatives like Louis Nowra and Gerard Henderson dominate the airwaves and printed pages.

The “debate” will now go like this:

1. The Howard government and their supporters have offered a set of measures as a matter of emergency. This is undoubtedly a Good Thing.
2. Many people will examine the detail of the messages and suggest that many of them are half-baked, insuffiently funded, likely to cause further trauma, or likely to punish an entire population and maybe even make things worse.
3. The right-wing noise machine will say that this is proof positive that the pomo multi-culti leftist luvvies are Soft on Child Abuse (if not positively in favour of it.)

It’s time to take this paragraph by Chris Clarke, drop it into Word, format it in landscape with 28-point font and maybe a black border, and tape it to your refrigerator:

Saying that every time one discusses a bad thing, one is obliged to point out that it is a bad thing, and that bad things are bad, and that failure to point this out every single time is an offense punishable by witch hunt, firing, ostracism and the like? Fuck that noise.

OK. Also, saying “If the Aboriginal communities have been telling you this for several years, and only now you have suddenly sprung into action and declared an emergency, why now, John?“, will just be treated as shallow cynicism which won’t help anybody. So I’ll just ignore that fishy odour and say that it’s more important to ask: are the proposals workable? Are they likely to achieve the stated aims? Are they aligned at all with what Aboriginal elders, themselves, have been asking for for the last decade? But I’m sure that by asking these things, we’re putting ourselves up to be pilloried, as well.

And where are the indigenous women community leaders in all this? Why are all the Aboriginal spokesmen, well, spokesmen?

Kim at Larvatus Prodeo and Ken Parish at Club Troppo have kicked off a discussion which gives the issues involved a good workout. Ken Lovell at Surfdom highlights the militaristic and punitive aspect of the proposals. Lowitja O’Donohue and Malcolm Fraser point out on Crikey that paternalism has been well and truly tried before – and hasn’t worked. Tigtog highlights the disturbing aspects of the medical examination for all children.

The topic is getting traction in overseas blogs like Feministe and Echidne of the Snakes. (Her permalinks are permanently broken, so I suggest using “Find” and typing in “Howard”.) Lauredhel at Hoyden has more.

Cam at Polemica has published the actual Anderson/Wild report leading to the State of Emergency announcement.

I’m sure there are many good responses I’ve left out, so feel free to suggest others.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

24 Jun 2007, Comments Off on More Intelligent than Britney Spears

More Intelligent than Britney Spears

Author: Helen

Congratulations to John Quiggin on his five-year blogiversary. Five years is a long time for a blog– I only discovered it in 2003, and it’s still a must-read. Here’s a repost of something I wrote in 2005 about why academic blogs like JQ’s are so valuable for the rest of us non-academics.

Someone like me — two kids, fulltime job, busy life– reads an article quoting fearfully respectable pundits from fearfully brainy-sounding think tanks, universities and consultancies. I probably read it during my half hour lunch, or on the weekend in between chauffeuring and sprog manintenance duties. I do not have time to put my busy life on hold to acquire a degree in science and to thoroughly research everyone’s background and work (although once you get into the habit, a google is always good.) What a normal working stiff like me needs is a bearded professor ™ in the room to tell us when people are trying to gaslight us on one topic or another.

Quiggin and Immanuel Rant unpick the disengenuities for us. [Unfortunately, Rant is no longer with us.] Tim Lambert, who is on the Professor’s blogroll, is also great for these Bad Science moments, although I don’t know if he has a beard or not.

Now that I’ve pulled up that old post, I’ve noticed the similarity between what I’ve said and what Hilzoy has said recently (see previous post). I think it’s a concern for a lot of people.

I’m not sure quite how bearded John is since the World’s Greatest Shave – he’s also a great donater and raiser of funds for good causes – but he is still a great bullshit detector and explainer of complex issues. Long may he blog.

(The title of this post was an endorsement from Jason Soon of Catallaxy, which is proudly published on John’s sidebar.)

23 Jun 2007, Comments Off on The BS will come straight at you

The BS will come straight at you

Author: Helen

Rachel Carson and the environmental movement responsible for the genocide of millions! Heard that one? Good, isn’t it?

May 27 was the centenary of Rachel Carson’s birth, so a bit of celebration of the author of Silent Spring was in order. Some US politicians, bless ’em, decided to honour her with a resolution to honour her birth (whatever that entailed, I don’t know, but I hope there would have been cake.) They also intended to name a post office after her, which was not really trying very hard in my opinion, but sweet all the same.

Image from
You’ll have guessed by the “would have been” and “intended” that these things never came to pass. A republican senator called Tom Coburn blocked the bills and a further 50 voted it down. Why?

“Dr. Coburn believes the tremendous harm Carson’s junk science claims about DDT did to the developing world overshadow her other contributions…. Millions of people in the developing world, particularly children under five, died because governments bought into Carson’s junk science claims about DDT. To put it in language the Left understands, her ‘intelligence’ was wrong and it had deadly consequences.”

This shabby little factoid has been in existence since at least the 1990s, beamed from tower to tower in the rightwing blogs and opinion pages. The facts are: There was no worldwide ban on DDT. DDT was either banned or just fell out of favour in many places for agricultural use, largely because of the development of resistance in mosquitoes. DDT has always been used for domestic purposes in areas where malaria is a problem, but due to resistance, again, a variety of methods always have been needed. DDT was banned in the USA, where there was no malaria problem, for broadacre cropping, not malaria prevention. DDT bans for agriculture actually help its use for health purposes by slowing down the growth of resistance.

So how come something that’s an outright lie gain so much respectability in the press and in the US government? If you have been following this, you might be… as bemused as I am. If not, you need to read this post by Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings.

I recommend this post in particular because it’s such an excellent roundup of, or introduction to, the manufactured controversy. I have to say though, that it is John Quiggin and Tim Lambert, who Hilzoy links to, who have done the heavy lifting. These guys have been writing about this topic for some years, but as JQ remarks wryly, it’s as if the proponents live in a parallel universe, immune to facts. It’s interesting that this bit of Astroturfing can possibly be traced, like so much “junk science”, to Big Tobacco. As an Australian I’m always inclined to assume a stuffup (or many interrelated stuffups) than a conspiracy. But however they emerged, it’s horrifying that these toxic memes can be created and, like the stories that credulous relatives forward to you by email, accepted as true pretty much forever.

Hilzoy puts her finger on the importance of it.

This sort of thing makes me angry. It is hard to go slogging through the journals finding refutations to all this. The people who fund this sort of thing are counting on that fact: on the fact that most people will not have the time, or the medical journal subscriptions, to discover that what they are saying is false. And so they’ll just be left with a vague sense that environmentalists and other do-gooders are off there being naive again, and have managed to coopt large public health organizations like the WHO, at the expense of millions of lives.

…And precisely because the tobacco industry, and whoever else is paying these shills, are counting on people not having the time to wade through the journals and find answers, I propose to prove them wrong. Please feel free to ask me any questions you’d like to ask on this topic, and I will do my best to find out the answer.

Because intellectual corruption should not go unchallenged.

The AGE Good Weekend had an article on Rachel Carson’s centenary which discussed this matter and made it clear that the allegations about her, and environmentalists generally, are false. That was a relief, because in previous years the SMH (memo to overseas readers: Same paper, basically, different region) retailed the idea as truth. Why isn’t there a page on Snopes? I’ll email them and tell you what they say, if anything.

Some of you will be saying “Why’s the Cast Iron balcony writing about stuff with a hook that was current last month and most of us are across anyway?” I just think that as the rightwing opinionators echo-chamber this stuff, I feel the need to contribute to an alternative echo-chamber of truthiness.

“Ara” on Obsidian Wings:

So the question is: given that powerful harmful moneyed interests are going to come at you with lies, how are you going to combat that, knowing that in a toe-to-toe between the truth and pure BS, often the truth doesn’t win and more often, the truth becomes bloodied and battered under the avalanche of tactical BS, such that it takes very intelligent people years to figure out what happened and, by postponing action for that long, those moneyed interests achieved their aims?

Because the BS will come straight at you…

Oh, and Senator Coburn? Rachel Carson has been honoured and has had bridges, parks and schools named after her. Plays and books have been written. In 1981 she posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which according to Wikipedia is the highest civilian honour in the USA.

So you can take your piece of petty revenge and stick it up your arse.

14 Jun 2007, Comments Off on They don’t know much about art but they Know what they Like

They don’t know much about art but they Know what they Like

Author: Helen

Image from

Some art world person on the news radio this morning, about the record price for Brett Whiteley’s painting The Olgas for Ernest Giles. (From memory): “There’s quite a lot of genitalia in there. That makes it highly desirable for any corporate foyer or boardroom.”

12 Jun 2007, Comments Off on But this cheered me up again

But this cheered me up again

Author: Helen

Mainstream media discusses bloggers without insulting them or being patronising! Is this a first?

Twice! In one weekend!

First there was an article in the Saturday AGE featuring Stephanie Trigg, who listed some of her recommended blogs– Pavlovs Cat, Geoffrey Chaucer hath a Blog, Grannyvibes (Spinning Tumor) and Ask the Bronte Sisters (spelled “Bronti” sisters – tsk) got a mention.

Then in the Sunday magazine there was an article on craft bloggers (Warning – PDF), featuring Poppalina (Shula), The Elegant Sufficiency
(Stephanie Wood, who wrote the article), Six and a half Stitches (Alison Brooksbank) and others.

Youse is all legends.

12 Jun 2007, Comments Off on My Obstreperal Lobe is set to explode

My Obstreperal Lobe is set to explode

Author: Helen

The obstreperal lobe, of course, is the part of the brain discovered by the great Twisty Faster, gentleman farmer and spinster aunt. Mine sent me to the cupboard in search of panadol, as so often happens, following a look at a Fairfax thinkpiece.

Kim of LP has been pretty extensively insulted and misquoted lately in the ozblogosphere by right-wingers who have just gleefully discovered the disgusting practice of FGM (Most of you won’t need an explanation, but here’s one if you need it.) Because she refuses to take their simplistic “If you haven’t denounced X loudly in the last week, that means you’re too weak to oppose it!” statements seriously, and tries to explain some of the complexities of this rare but deeply embedded problem.

For her trouble, she’s been pilloried in the OpEd section of the AGE by Julie Szego.

Consider this little blogosphere spat inspired by [Ayaan Hirsi] Ali’s visit. During a discussion about female circumcision on left-leaning site Larvatus Prodeo, blogger Kim said: “It would also be useful to know more about what sorts of methods those working against the practice in Australia are using. It would seem to me counterproductive to have loud denunciations of it – the key thing should be to convince people it’s wrong.”

Which just goes to show, dear reader, that Kim and the rest of us feminists must support female genital mutilation; it’s logical isn’t it? Can’t quite see it? Well, Szego gets a quote from someone sensible on the other side to show what we should be thinking:

Conservative blogger Tim Blair pounced soon enough. “You’d think if there was one issue on which a Western feminist might be moved to loud denunciation, it’d be the genital mutilation of little girls. But no; this instead turns out to be an issue (one of the few) about which the likes of Kim are inclined to shut the hell up. In the rock-scissors-paper hierarchy of the modern left, sensitivity to Islam trumps clitoral scissors every time.”

This is the quote that Szego has chosen to single out for admiration. The sheer bad-faithness of the argument is bad enough – and there’s something perversely brilliant about someone who, in one short paragraph, can simultaneously accuse feminists of not being feminist enough while making it clear that it would be better if they shut up more. Then there’s the comments thread on the post she quoted:

Commenter “Blogagog” tries to lighten the thread up hurh, hurh:

Hey, this girl just ticked me off (she said ‘no’ when I asked her to dance in the club). Can I legally apply to get her genitals mutilated? I’ll become a muslim if it will help grease the wheels.

(Just a joke! I want no woman’s genitals mutilated. Wow, it really crushes the humor quotient when it’s attached to a disclaimer, huh.)

“MareeS” displays her touching concern for Muslim women thus:

re genital mutilation reducing odour, the women of islam wouldn’t smell if they washed each day (which many of them in Europe seem not to do with any regularity). Girls are taught from the outset that “down below” is a no-touchy zone for them. Slicing and dicing the offending spot removes the temptation but not the odour.

“Mojo” displays his:

An experiment: Let’s slice Kim’s clitoris off and see how she feels about it then.

While “Dave Surls” froths:

“FGM is an abhorrent practice, and I am very sorry that it was inflicted on Ali. But rather than preaching about allegedly universal values and some sort of right that “we” have to intervene…”–Lil Kimmie

Got news for you, twat. If I witness a little girl being tortured and mutilitated, not only do I have a right to intervene, I have a duty to do so.

Don’t tell me I have no right to intervene to put a stop to the torture and mutilation of little girls, you worthless piece of shit.

If this is the kind of company that Szego prefers to keep, good on ‘er, but it’s not going to do much for the AGE as an alternative to the tabloids.

Feminists have known about FGM (as well as many of the other atrocities taking place in “traditional” societies”) for many years, because other feminists have written about it, as well as other dreadful lefty organisations. The “conservatives” have paid scant attention to it until now, when it’s been discovered as a handy wedge. This is a truly disgusting attempt to use genuine suffering to try and score off your perceived enemies, and professional journalists should surely be alert to the faux “feminism” espoused by some people who really have no shame at all. Excuse me but I have to go and have a shower with steel wool now.

8 Jun 2007, Comments Off on I was going to title this Men Behaving Badly but it doesn’t even begin to describe it

I was going to title this Men Behaving Badly but it doesn’t even begin to describe it

Author: Helen

So, I’m standing in the pub having a drink and minding my own business, and one of my dearest friends is standing right next to me doing likewise, when she’s suddenly sexually assaulted (or subjected to high-level harassment and intimidation, I’m not interested in arguing the toss) by a man she doesn’t know and to whom she’s been introduced about a minute earlier. By me. For fuck’s sake.

The man is someone I know slightly; I’ve met him, socially, about four or five times. He’s never given any indication of being anything other than a nice guy. No, make that Nice Guy™. He just walked up to her with no warning and bearhugged her. And then didn’t let go.

Funny how a bearhug can go from slightly inappropriate to downright creepy in ten seconds or so. Thirty seconds to a minute later it’s getting really scary.

Then he whispered in her ear that he’d like a blow job. And then once she shook him off, he stalked her, creepily, until oh-so-politely chucked out by the bar staff.

Now I know that according to Helen Garner, in this situation I’m supposed to just come down on his foot, hard, with a spiked heel or something. (Hi-yaaaa! optional). Unfortunately, not only was I not wearing sharp high heels, but my reaction to this egregious behaviour was my usual: having brought up since birth to be polite, to be nice, incidents like these leave me paralysed, with my brain throwing out its customary 404 error message: This is not fucking happening!?

I didn’t hear the blow job bit, so I’d like to think that if I had that would have jolted me out of my social rictus and prompted me to action. Incidents like these remind me of Germaine Greer’s famous quotation, “women don’t realize how much men hate them.”

You know, even spending hours as I do in the threads of feminist blogs, I constantly forget just how powerful white male privilege still is, once I get back out into the world of my friends and family and workmates. Well, that’s not to say I don’t note it, but I lose the gut sense of it. He didn’t think to ask before touching, because in his drunken state she had become just like a book in a shelf he was welcome to take out and browse, or a chocolate in a box, instead of a human being like himself. That’s the true meaning of that old sixties word, objectification. Objectification in action.

Can you imagine– I’m talking to a hypothetical female reader here, I guess– being so engorged with privilege and dominance that you’d think you had permission to wrap your arms around a complete stranger and whisper lewd comments in their ear? Me neither.

If you think the personal isn’t political, I’m sorry, you’re dreaming. “…[T]he harm of sexual harassment as a harm to women’s citizenship or personhood….We are degraded … when our ‘sex’ is defined, symbolised and treated as antithetical to equal personhood and citizenship.” I’ll also mention that from the little I know about this man, he chooses to portray himself as fully conversant with and sympathetic to the goals of feminism. For which all the more shame on him. It just reinforces what the world has tried to teach me, with so little success: Trust nobody!

I think another ingredient in my state of shock was the fact that my friend and I are over forty, and so we usually fly under the sexual predators’ radar. It’s been a while since I worried about this sort of thing happening to me or my friends. But it brought back the memory that yes, when we were in our teens and twenties and even thirties, we had to put up with this kind of low-level menace all the fucking time. Maybe I lost a lot of my useful anger. Maybe I needed a recharge.

The next day, I rediscovered the wonderful Crimitism, who very much gets it, and read through the comment thread on the YouTube page for the Girls Rock! documentary trailer. It’s disheartening. We all know these attitudes are as strong as ever and there’s still a cohort of boys growing up in the FHM style of relating to women.

Laura has had a different kind of scary brush with bizarro man, too. Different behaviour, same idea: entitlement, entitlement, entitlement. I wish I’d had the guts to respond in the way she did.

8 Jun 2007, Comments Off on Friday Dog Blogging: Sweet potato

Friday Dog Blogging: Sweet potato

Author: Helen

I has a sweet potato. Via Making Light.