Archives: September 2009

Janice Turner writes about everyday sexism – you know, the ordinary stuff which we soak in – and invites readers to submit their own stories. (H/T: The F Word.) Which is a great idea, no? Except:

When The Times published my article last month on how feminism’s silence over the past decade has ushered in a grim, sexualised culture, I was astonished by the response. Hundreds of women — and some men — commented on the website, many more e-mailed me directly. The message overwhelmingly was: thank God, someone is saying this — I thought I was alone.

Get that? Don’t Blame the Patriarchy; it’s feminism’s silence which is responsible for the grim, sexualised culture. Leave the patriarchy out of it; what did feminism expect, going out dressed like that? It didn’t scream or try to run away!

It’s just that I’ve had it up to here with the “feminists have been silent about…” trope that springs up everywhere in the media both on line and off.

As far as daily life goes, in her anecdote about the newspaper editor, she illustrates beautifully the “not ruining the entire afternoon” and “not wanting to be the strident joy-killer” pressures that weigh on women and girls who are already conditioned to be nice and nonconfrontational. As well as the forces of “get over it” and “sense of humour” and “overreacting”, there’s the Concern Troll which sometimes appears when we do bring the topic of everyday sexism: Why are you blogging/writing talking about this trivia which is only the concern of rich, western white women? Why are you Silent about [insert preferred topic here]. As many of us don’t want to be entitled whingers, that shuts us up, too. It would be nice if Turner could have paid some attention to the pressures that silence us.

Turning to the writing thing, for one, most of us – unlike Turner – don’t have a platform in the mainstream media. Indeed, you don’t go out and force yourself into the mainstream media as an opinion writer; you get invited in, so how she could judge us as silent or not in the days before blogging is a mystery. It’s also a mystery why she should blame feminist “silence” instead of the much more likely assumption that the mainstream doesn’t like us and that a male dominated media company and editorial staff are likely to reflect that dislike. Most importantly, she demonstrates a lack of knowledge or disregard of just what has been going on in the online world for the last decade.

Turner could educate herself a little as to just how silent feminists have been by going through the archives at Feministe, Shakesville and its predecessor Shakespeare’s Sister, Pandagon, Feministing, The F word, I Blame the Patriarchy, Hoyden about Town and of course I could go on (and on and on), but you get the idea.

Ad for Times on Line LUXX magazine featuring woman in crazee Couture with headgear like black bunny ears, described as Power Dressing.

This is described as Power Dressing.

I notice that Turner herself is silent about the fact that (1) the editors have relegated her article about a gender issue to the Life and Style section, again, and (2) her job of convincing any sceptical reader is massively reduced by having pictures like the one above on advertising links in the sidebar. (Power dressing? You have to be joking. Isn’t it hard enough for women to be taken seriously in positions of power without dressing up in ridiculous space outfits with little black bunny ears? Fuck off.)

But fear not, because, having discovered sexism in late 2009, she will now Save Feminism:

Feminism — or whatever you want to call it — is back, and we’re not going to take it any more.

Corr! Powerful stuff, Janice. Thing is, it hadn’t gone away. She just wasn’t paying attention. And that’s not a crime, but it makes her look silly when she plays the “Silence of the Feminists” card.

There is absolutely no reason why Grace Gichuhi and Teresia Ndikaru Muturi shouldn’t be offered asylum in Australia under the provisions of existing international treaties: ”race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion”.

So, Immigration spokespeople and Senator Evans and Refugee tribunal, you think being a female member of a social subgroup which practices forced genital mutilation on women doesn’t constitute being a member of a particular social group?

There’s legislation set to go through Parliament to offer “complementary protection” to cover such cases, if their supporters can keep them here until then. Senator Evans, though, also has a measure of discretionary power and could have approved their application already. For reasons which I can only guess at, in this case, “can’t” means “won’t”.


(Contact Senator Chris Evans)

21 Sep 2009, Comments (20)

Black Harvest

Author: Helen

When was it that the word “harvesting” began to creep into the debate over the logging of old growth forest in our State? I can’t quite put my finger on it. It was some time last year that I became aware that the usual suspects – the timber lobby groups and their supporters – were using the word freely to describe what’s happening away from the concealing strips of forest left on either side of the tourist roads.

The words Harvest and Harvesting are freighted with positive associations. Although on an intellectual level we know that it’s mostly about combine harvesters and pea pickers these days, they’re still words which evoke the warm glow of late summer and autumn. Haystacks with horny lads and lassies in them drinking cider at the end of a long day. Heaped cornucopias of pumpkins, squash and sheaves of corn at the altar at Harvest Festival. Pagan and Christian rituals of joy and thanks. Baskets of apples as red as the cheeks of the pickers carrying them… Baisakhi, Gawai Dayak, the Moon Festival…

As opposed to this.

Clearfelling at Brown Mountain

A Supreme Court judge has compared images of a felled forest with a World War I battlefield before ordering a temporary ban on logging in a hotly contested part of East Gippsland.
Environmentalists claimed a historic victory after winning an injunction over logging of two zones of old-growth forest at Brown Mountain, seen as a symbolic battleground by greens and the timber industry.
The injunction will stand until a trial to test whether the logging would pose a threat to endangered species, particularly the long-footed potoroo.
Justice Jack Forrest said the case had been strengthened by photographs showing the ”apparent total obliteration” of a nearby site during logging and subsequent burning off.
”To put it bluntly, once the logging is carried out and the native habitat destroyed, then it cannot be reinstated or repaired in anything but the very, very long term,” he said.
Earlier, Justice Forrest told the court: ”I know what it was like before and I know what it was like after, and I’ve also seen pictures of the battlefields of the Somme.”

More pictures here.

In bygone days, the defenders of logging were at least honest enough to call it by that name. In South-Eastern Australia, “logging” of old growth forest means “clear felling and woodchipping”. “Clear Felling”, as practiced here, means the removal of all trees from designated areas, in mountainous regions where the soil is highly suceptible to erosion and runoff without those trees. The residue is then burned (firebombed) using a substance similar to napalm. Bulldozers, logging trucks and other machinery criss-cross the area, leaving deep ruts and compacted soil. The forest is then expected to regenerate “naturally”. The firebombing is compared to indigenous mosaic burning of the forest before European settlement.

Attempts to locate evidence of indigenous bulldozers have so far been fruitless.

No wonder the Judge saw a comparison to a war zone rather than a “harvest”. Next time you see that particular weasel word in the newspaper, in relation to Brown Mountain or any other remnants of our ancient old growth, remember that picture up there.

More background and action alert here.

20 Sep 2009, Comments (12)

What Mr Bucket did next

Author: Helen

As of Monday after next, SO no longer has a job.

He hasn’t been a casualty of the financial crisis. He no longer has a job because things are going so well. Mr Bucket sales are through the roof and he can’t keep up.

You’ll remember that Mr Bucket started Going Off back in March. I forgot to blog about the Rose Street Market fashion-show-with-models for L’Oreal Fashion Week. Which was a whole lot of fun – see the ultra-professional Bucket segment here. Ahem.

He’s started running the stall on St Kilda Esplanade on Sundays and has been included in this book.

Wolf at the Door, a new place in Hepburn Springs, bought a fuckton of T shirts and were sold out by the weekend after that. He also had a writeup in Men’s Style mag – no link for that.

Week after next Mr Bucket moves into his new studio in an old factory in Brooklyn, next to an artisan associated with the Wolf at the Door, who runs a bronze casting foundry.

Oh, and he has bought this thing, which is really cute, but the exciting part for me is that our family mitsu-bashi isn’t the Bucket car any more and I get to do things on weekends like a normal person!

So, life is set to change. It seems all go for the Buckets and unusual and exciting things are happening all the time. SO has his books all in order and is doing his own super and insurance and everything properly. I’ll be looking at the Dow and the Futsi and the All Ordinaries with more than usual anxiety in the next twelve months and hoping we don’t have this W-shaped recession that some party poopers are talking about.

Excuse me while I just go and hyperventilate into this brown paper bag.

6 Sep 2009, Comments (20)

Men, Women and Risk

Author: Helen

Anson Cameron glares truculently out from the AGE Saturday opinion page (photo, sadly, not featured on this online version) and dishes it out to all those panty-waists, girly-men, Deltas, Gammas and drones “with fat voices” who would dare to suggest that bushwalking by yourself in a remote alpine area minus emergency beacon, crampons and other necessaries? Maybe not such a great idea.

It’s sad to live in a time when a man is slated for walking alone on a mountain. A cowardly age where the supine pontificate through a spray of Cheezels crumbs. Could John McDouall Stuart have foreseen a day when Australians upbraided one another for going close to the edge? Could Albert Jacka have imagined so many of his countrymen would come to believe mollycoddling themselves through their allotted span and dying amid a symphony of chirps and beeps given off by medical machines was a life lived? What might Nancy Bird have made of an age where her fellow Australians sit there and tut, immersed in disapproval, while stunning themselves with whatever calorific high their lapbands allow? How despondent would Sir John Monash be to see so many of his countrymen lost in a Bermuda triangle of couch, TV and fridge?

…etc. Yes, I think we get the idea.

Other people were more about the positives of the Minister’s solo walk and the spiritual high which such an experience can give. A climber called Andrew Ramsay described the Mount Feathertop experience as like “a drug”.

‘It’s really spiritual. It’s communing with nature in a way, well to me, it’s like no other.

”I’m sure it’s the way surfers talk about big waves and solitary beaches. They’ve got the danger of getting washed on to the rocks or shark attack and things, and they’re out there surfing on their own in wild seas.”

One reason Tim Holding came in for criticism was the cost of his rescue, which was considerable (involving helicopters, 50-plus volunteers – with the concomitant risk to their lives and safety – plus a Super Seekrit spy plane which the owners, the Federal Police, hadn’t even unveiled yet. So, again the question was asked, and again the debate came down on the side of the bushwalkers, the solo boaters, the kayakers, and all the followers of extreme solo sports. Because awww, what a blow it would be to the human psyche if we weren’t allowed to push ourselves to the limit like that, even if in rare cases someone needs an expensive emergency rescue? How can we allow filthy lucre to dictate the extent to which we extend help to those who are prepared to go further than the next person?

Meanwhile, a debate with a very different tone was going on over at Crikey and the newspapers over the Victorian changes to the rules for home birth midwives, which turned, of course, into a debate about the pros and cons of home birth. The consensus on home birth seems to be that it’s terribly dangerous (which I haven’t researched in depth but appears to be untrue for properly regulated systems like the one they have in Canada) but also that it will direct taxpayer’s funds to the selfish wants of selfish, middle class (boo!) women!

Commenter “Chris Johnson”:

Since when did insurance companies hand out life policies to tight-rope walkers? If you use an unlicensed tradesman to build the family home you pay for the fall-out. So isn’t this debate about much the same? Improving birth options within the health system for the majority of users shouldn’t be interpreted as cracking down on a handful of people who prefer in this case to birth outside it. No one is preventing births from taking place at home or in the backyard swimming pool as long as liability for the outcome is accepted by those seeking the alternative. Directing taxes towards improved birth facilities in public hospitals where most births take place and where there’s a concentrate of medical and allied health professionals seems more constructive than handing out Medicare rebates to a minority opting for makeshift delivery rooms. We’d all prefer to be tucked up in our own environment when in need of family support but if we can’t offer the luxury to millions of ageing Australians it seems a bit rich to pander to .22% of our population. Our health system is begging for a revolution but there’s a national budget that can only go so far. Using taxes to install and upgrade facilities for the majority of birth experiences seems more logical and realistic to me. Wingnuts or selfish sods – take your pick Bernard.

What’s the difference between the two? Is it that extreme sports and exploratory solo journeys, while not exclusively done by men, are still dude-approved activities, while home birth is not something that any dude is thinking of participating in? Let’s line them up and compare:

Mountaineering dude: Very expensive for taxpayers. But it would be an inestimable blow to the human psyche if we discouraged people from following their dreams and pitting themselves against the wilderness.
Homebirths: Seen as expensive for taxpayers, so forget it. Selfish women.

Mountaineering dude: As the search and rescue leader told us repeatedly, Mountaineering dude could be responsible for the deaths or disability of others if there were further accidents out there as a result of the search in the terrible weather conditions. However, no injunctions against going out on Silly Walks.
Homebirths: If something goes wrong, a transfer to hospital is in order. If everything possible goes pear-shaped, it is possible that someone could end up dead or disabled. (The idea that this happens in hospitals too is rarely mentioned.)

Mountaineering dude: It’s a drug, it’s a spiritual experience. I need it to get away from the humdrum existence and relieve the pressure of my responsibilities. Chance to get close to something that’s bigger than myself etc…
The Plain People of Australia: Right on!!! And that spy plane is way cool boy-toy!
Homebirths: The experience of birth in the home environment will be immeasurably better for me and for the baby, although I always keep my responsibilities in mind throughout.
The Plain People of Australia: I’m not going to let the Government spend MY TAXES just so you can have YOUR EXPERIENCE, Lady.

And just a hypothetical – although one of these examples is true:

Mountaineering dude: Describes the Mount Feathertop experience as “a drug”. Is interviewed respectfully.
Homebirth mum: Describes her home birth experience as “a drug”. Is held up as an example of these irrational hippie moonbats.

Interesting, isn’t it? Mountaineering Dude and Homebirther seem to be a bit of a wash, risk wise. I can only surmise that it’s part of the tangled web of gender expectation. Men take risk, good; it all fits with the manly character (and the idea of venture capitalism) and is necessary and good. Also, their experience matters; they should be allowed to enjoy risktaking behaviour without criticism or undue financial …err, risk! (Wait, what?)

Women take risk, bad: Should shut up and do what we tell them to do. And their experience is neither here nor there. If they want a spiritual high they can do the Dude-approved thing and climb a mountain; Home birth, being very much womens’ business, can’t possibly be accorded the dignity – and tax dollars – that we assign to recreational climbing.

4 Sep 2009, Comments (2)

Friday Earworm: Pete Murray

Author: Helen

The boychild introduced me to this singer. I’d heard of Neil Murray, but not Pete Murray.

I can’t work out whether this one is my favourite, or this:

I love the way the rhythm section flies in the chorus.

That natural voice, sitting pretty in the natural range, with a bit of breath, no meslisma and pyrotechnics: Idols please note.