Archives: July 2012

28 Jul 2012, Comments (3)

Grans Lock On

Author: Helen
Two 60+ year old women sitting under a huge piece of machinery, locked on to defend logging coupes near Toolangi. Photo from RegnansTree FB group

Photo from Regnans Tree Facebook group

VicForests has been clearfelling coupes near Toolangi (Mt St Leonard) in the Central Highlands of Victoria. This cool temperate rainforest is part of the tiny remnant which remains to us in this, the most cleared State in Australia. It’s the habitat of the increasingly rare Leadbeater’s Possum, our State emblem – evidently the Victorian Government would like to join Tasmania in having an extinct species as a faunal emblem.

These forests survived the 2009 Black Saturday fires. The residents of Toolangi and Castella fear for what will happen when they are surrounded by spindly young commercial regrowth instead of wet forest.

A group of grandmothers has locked onto machinery in truly terrible winter weather. Their spirit and determination absolutely blows me away.

Toolangi resident Bernie Mace says the works are destroying the environment and it will take specialised equipment to remove the women.
“Well they’ve used some pretty elaborate apparatus which is going to require police search and rescue to remove them from this equipment,” he said.
“Well the desperation is just palpable, no matter what we do the trees just keep coming down.
“It’s a very serious matter as far as the community is concerned.”
VicForest us urging the protesters to undertake “more constructive dialogue.”

“Constructive dialogue”? Like when My Environment took them to court and won, so now they’re seeking to move the goalposts (i.e. water down the Flora and Fauna Guarantee act) to prevent that happening? Like when they obfuscate and mangle the language to try to convince others that what they’re doing is “sustainable” and “harvesting” and not at all damaging to the environment we’re all supposed to protect for future generations? Right.

Googling the womens’ courageous action today, the reponse from our mainstream media appears to be…crickets chirping. They did report this, which throws their bravery into even sharper relief.

You can make a donation to the campaign here, if you have any dollars to spare.
Crossposted at Hoyden About Town

We used to describe the Liberal party’s attitude as “born to rule”. Seems that attitude has seeped into the Labor party, both State and Federal. Labor is keen to portray the Greens as naive and starry eyed idealists, unfit for the pragmatism of real government. I’m sure the Labor party would have been similarly portrayed back in the day when it, too, had principles and some genuinely social democratic policies.

So, Daniel Andrews, your party won the seat of Melbourne (Jennifer Kanis, Labor, v. Cathy Oke, Greens) by a bee’s dick pretty much. Yet you’re described by the Hun as having “taunted the Greens for blowing their chance”, yada yada. Really.

I’d like to think that if I were the leader of a party which had scraped in on the back of the preferences of an ultra-right party like Family First, and my opponents had won the largest number of primary votes, I’d be pulling my head in and keeping a bit quiet about it instead of crowing and preening as if my mob had actually achieved something to be proud of. 51.4% to 48.6% two-party-preferred isn’t exactly a rout, you know.

Rather than carrying on like nerny-nerny-ner schoolboys I’d be going away to think up a few policies for the next State election, actual progressive ones that is, instead of just “overdevelopment, freeways, coal, woodchip, hooray!!”

That is certainly a wonderful speech – I think that’s the kind of thing people mean when they say “speaking truth to power” – and I certainly hope you found it. It’s not the “Melbourne Grammar speech”, but the “Scotch College speech”. Since it seems to be so much in demand, here’s a new link, republished by Maloney with an accompanying gloss. I’ve added it to the Resources page too. I’m glad it’s popular, since it’s more pertinent than ever.

There’s another link to this article and many others here, too.

Or for a more snerk-inducing take, here’s First Dog on the Moon.

If you’re interested in the fight for public education, please read the Gonski report and “like” this page.

It’s bash the bloggers season again, I see. There have been several “Oh, how about those bloggers!!” articles in my favoured dead-tree daily lately. I guess the recent carnage in the Fairfax group and promise of carnage-to-come in the News Ltd group has prompted a fresh outbreak of insecurity and defensiveness in journos and trollumnists alike. We’ve had the usual slew of commentators making the incorrect assumption that blogging equals “citizen journalism” and complaining that bloggers want to replace journalists. NO. Just… for the ten thousandth time… NO.

Most bloggers are essayists, or diarists, not citizen journalists. Sometimes we write about the news. In fact, those of us who write about things we see in the news generally include links – something the AGE and Herald Sun are just beginning to learn to do – which give many more hits to their journos’ columns than they would otherwise get. (If the “citizen journo” myth has any merit it would be that many bloggers are filling in the details on local events which mainstream news outlets only skim over, or providing an alternative view on material easily obtainable from primary sources –press releases online, the Gonski report– which reward discussion or which haven’t been well served by the media.)

Christine Croyden writes in the SMH:

I’M VISITING Paris, where newspapers and books written in English are expensive and can be hard to locate, so I’ve taken to reading a wide range of blogs. I find most are written by people who give expansive accounts of their dealings with the world, yet are not particularly attentive to the world’s responses.

Oh, you just know this is going to go well.

The headline of the article puts two stonkin’ great cliches in one line: “I blog, therefore I am. Life in modern times”. Charmian Clift, eat your heart out. But perhaps we can blame a sub editor for this, if there are any left, so we’ll pay that one for now.

”Look at me, let me tell you what I like, where I’m going, what I think about anything and everything in the world, what I had for breakfast and how fascinating I am” is the gist of most.

And that tells you everything you need to know: it’s another anti-blogging article of type 2663a/C, “I haven’t actually done much blog reading, but I feel knowledgeable enough to write a trollumn for the SMH telling them what numpties they are.” Have we been here before? Yes, we have! With all the financial problems besetting Fairfax, couldn’t they just pick one example of type 2663a/C and republish it every three months?

Croyden’s critique is rather amusing in the light of the article itself which is a feast of the very I – statements about her own fascinating trivia which she complains about in the writing of others. “I’m visiting Paris”. “I’ve taken to reading a wide range of blogs”. “I recently found myself uploading photos onto Facebook”. “I’m of a certain age and not right up with every new thing… I am mother to three young adult children…” et cetera. (Can you handle the excitement?) Yairs, Croyden is not narcissistic for publishing all this trivia because… because… well, because she is a playwright, as opposed to a mere desk jockey, which means she is allowed to talk about her trivia in this manner. Legitimately. And Shut Up, you there up the back.

(Ms Croyden, since you asked, “Do I want people to know I’m away?” when you post on Facebook? No. You don’t. Upload the photos when you get back. This has been a public service announcement. Also: part of your article is conflating Facebook with blogging. They are not the same thing.)

Thing is, there are plenty of writers out there who aren’t snobbish about blogs. The literary critics, expert makers, polymorphous polymaths, fiction writers, environmentalists, contrarians, academicsso many academicsscientists and writers on subjects like feminism on which mainstream journalism/commentariat just seems to spin its wheels. As for the personal (or personal-political) bloggers like me, we’re just doing it to learn how to write. Some more successfully than others, but the blogosphere is much more than a bunch of ninnies wittering about nothing.

Truly, some blogs offer fresh social and political opinions, some do a decent theatre or restaurant review, and there are a few specific interest blogs of value. But these are far outnumbered by the ”look at me” variety.

Most people are familiar with the adage that ”everyone has one novel in them” or the latest, and even sillier idea, that anybody can write, as demonstrated by the thousands of bloggers who give it a red-hot go every day. So why discourage them? After all, the only way to improve writing is to keep at it. But in most cases, although style may improve, it doesn’t mean everyone can become some sort of contemporary seer.

Thanks, Captain Obvious. But I see from this interview at Australian Stage that Croyden worked as a nurse and midwife for 10 years before getting a professional writing gig.

AS: So how/when did you get started as a writer?
CC: I’ve always written – I’d rather write down how I feel and what I think of something than talk about it any day. My first short story was published in 1998 but I’d spent many years writing and crafting short stories prior to that and still love the form. I read a lot of short stories.

So at one point, Croyden herself was an amateur, a writer for the sheer hell of it, “writ(ing) down how I feel”. But someone else doing it on the Web is “narcissistic”. I imagine at some point someone in the writing world gave this aspiring writer a break. I wonder whether anyone sneered at her and told her to stick to changing catheters. It’s a shame she can’t do any better than snipe and carp at other aspiring writers (and many others that are fully fledged) because they publish online.

My wish is that before bloggers decide to post another word, they read a few good books, think about what it is they want to say, wonder for a while about how often it’s been said before, and, once they realise it’s been said in many more insightful, well-written and interesting ways on numerous occasions they go to bed and forget about “their blog”.

You would have to have a pretty high opinion of your own talents to write something so dismissive, belittling and downright patronising, especially having been on the other side of the fence yourself.

But is the article even sincere? In a final egregious example of “it’s all right for me but not for them”, in googling information for this post, I found she runs a blog herself, and has done so since 2008. And here’s an instance of her commenting on an activist blog. That sheds a different light on the “I’ve just noticed this thing called blogging and I’m not really up with all this newfangled internet stuff but it seems loopy to me” boilerplate. It appears it’s not just mean and ungenerous, it seems like a bit of a performance as well. Maybe some anti-blogger screeds on the mainstream media sites are written to order and purchased by the yard. Maybe the editor just says “Hey, get me another type 2663a/C, thanks.”

3 Jul 2012, Comments (4)

Ad Nauseam: Huggies

Author: Helen


Ad transcript:

(All scenes split screen)
A boy toddler, dressed in bright blue, plays with a red truck. A girl, dressed in pale pink, plays with a baby doll.

Boy, dressed in blue and white striped T shirt, plays with mud and has mud all over his clothes. The girl, clean in pale pink with a peter pan collar, is doing cooking play with dough, or sand.

Voiceover: Boys and girls are different.

Boy is dressed in red and white stripes now. He is dressed as a pirate and waving a toy sword. Girl is in pink (again), dressed as a fairy, or princess? and waving a wand.

Boy is gurning like a pale imitation of Paul Hogan and reading a book about TRUCKS. Girl blandly reads a book called The Princess.

Now they’re in bed. The little boy has his plastic tyrannosaurus and the little girl has a lilac unicorn.

Voiceover: That’s why only Huggies nappies have tailored absorbency surge layer where they need it most… Huggies nappies. Because there is a difference.”

You know who to call when besieged by egregious gender policing of tiny helpless children and in danger of wrecking the TV by throwing some heavy object at it? Cordelia Fine! I searched and searched for my copy of Delusions of Gender, which is temporarily (I hope) lost somewhere in the house, unless it’s been “borrowed”. But no matter, because I found this wonderful review which gives a detailed introduction to the book.

Why do people take such pleasure in biological justifica-
tions of gender stereotypes? And why is their automatic reaction
when you point out the rather large leaps in their “reasoning”
to say: “Oh, you feminists just don’t want to accept facts”?
So it has been a great pleasure, this winter vacation, to read
Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society,
and Neurosexism Create Difference, which carefully and with
great precision demolishes the nonsense that pervades the
popular and technical literature pretending to be scientific
fact, exposing it as truthiness which is nowhere close to
To set some context, consider the industry—that’s the
only word for it—that has grown up pushing purported sex
differences in public policy. One example, would it were
the only one, is the Gurian Institute…

…and about a million other shoddy “scientific studies”, not to mention “news reports” which consist of little more than credulous regurgitation of press releases.

Read the whole thing, then run, don’t walk, to your bookshop or library, depending on your budget, and get this book if you don’t already have it. Today, when “hardwired” is one of the most popular words in the popular writer’s lexicon, toy departments of chain stores observe a gender apartheid which would make P.W. Botha whistle with admiration, and every attempt to criticise this relentless gender policing is met with cries of “Political Correctness!”, this book is so necessary. It’s also – as the reviewer points out – studded with gems of Fine’s wry deadpan humour.

In 2002, Hines and Alexander studied the play of
vervet monkeys. !ey gave them two boy toys, two girl toys,
and two neutral toys. Male vervets divided their time equally,
but female vervets spent more than a third of their time
with the girl toys. Impressive, yes? But, wait, one of the girl
toys was a pan. To quote Fine, “Although it is true that pri-
matologists regularly uncover hitherto unknown skills in our
nonhuman cousins, the art of heated cuisine is not yet one
of them.”

Parents typically underestimate the power of the cultural signals which bombard their kids literally from the moment they’re out of the womb (see the example of the difference in boy and girl birth announcements and differing treatment of boy and girl babies in general). Suddenly, everyone’s going hooray! for gender essentialism, and the whole infernal machine is given another spin for the next generation. Ads like this simply capitalise on the whole phenomenon and ram the message home with all the subtlety of a full disposable nappy in the face.