Julia Gillard’s gone. What then must we do?

Julia Gillard’s been booted out. After doing Knitting PMall the hard leadership yards.The fact that it happened is not shocking.

 

What is shocking is how many people have swallowed the dominant story in the media, put there and maintained by News.

When I was young, I was forever reminded by adults that “you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers”. Journalists regularly ranked somewhere next to lawyers and politicians in terms of trustworthiness surveys. When did we all become so stupid that we forgot to pay attention? The price of freedom, they say, is eternal vigilance.

You know what would make a real difference?

An angry, informed, deliberate, grass-roots campaign to educate people about politics, the political system, basic economics and civil rights.

That would make a difference to LGBT, to sexism, to the repetitive hoodwinking of the average Australian by the mainstream media (there are people in my social media feeds who don’t realise that there is no carbon tax on them), to the union movement, everyone vaguely left – and some of the wets from the right.

That would make a difference.

Who’s in?

 

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Our male space in our town

queensparkI wrote this yesterday:

My hands are shaking so hard I can’t type properly. I don’t know whether it’s anger, fear or disappointment.

We live right near a long line of parks in a country town. I’ve just returned from walking my dog.

My dog is very familiar with the stretch, with goes all the way to the centre of town, a walk taking perhaps 15 minutes.

This morning, a neighbour walked his dogs past, off the lead (you are supposed to have them on the lead but many people let them off when they know they can control them).

I happen to know these three dogs as I have met their other owner, a nice, very clever woman who is perhaps in her 70s. Our dogs have played together off the leash in the park. The dogs are generally well behaved and friendly, as mine is.

My Be(a)stie is a feminist bitchPeople who own small dogs, many of whom never train them, usually just pick them up if there is any sign of ‘trouble’. Trouble is, in the owner’s eyes, by projection, anything they don’t like. The irresponsible yappy dog owners frequently anthropomorphize their dogs: “Ooh, he’s snarling because that big dog is scaring him!” Therefore, many yappy little dogs receive a very thorough lesson, via behavioural conditioning, that snapping and barking wildly at other dogs is rewarded with being picked up and whisked away from their target. This is a major win for them as they get to assert themselves however they like without being accountable – in the dog world – for their actions. They also score a bonus cuddle.

People who train their dogs properly know that an important part of this training (and indeed, ongoing dog life) is to allow them to socialise with other dogs who have learned how to play nicely. In other words, running around off-lead, barking, sniffing bums, with the occasional little warning growl if things don’t go the way they want, with other dogs is perhaps the best way to raise a dog that is not dangerous.

But those two types don’t mix. The presence of the irresponsible yappy dog owners and their dogs have made owners of other, well-trained dogs, paranoid about having their dogs off the leash, lest the yappy dog bowls in, hurling insults and aggressive challenges at the others who, although well-trained, do not put up with bullshit. Dogs don’t really see themselves in terms of size.

Bordering this park is a long creek, with its usual Australian fringe of long grass, thick, scrubby bush and trees.

Our town is also popular with European backpackers, especially heading into grape harvest season.

So this neighbour walked past my place, his dogs off-leash. I decided to seize the opportunity for some (rare) wholesome play for my dog, and followed him, expecting him to stop at the next open space, where our dogs could play. Instead, this man, weighing at least 150kg and with a big build, turns around, throws his big arms up in the air and bellows at me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!” He continues on his way, stopping pointedly every twenty metres or so, arms on hips, glaring.

At first, I thought he had been bellowing at the dogs. I couldn’t read his expression, so we kept following, with my dog off her leash, excitedly sniffing her way towards the others. Eventually, I worked it out. I stopped, let my dog play by herself, then headed home.

On the way back, I found myself about 50 metres from a man, standing in the open near a large tree, with his penis hanging out, this lower body apparently in some kind of black sling. At first, I thought it was a flasher, but then I saw his backpack, and realised he was just a tourist who, being used to busy cities, didn’t realise that people still walked about in country parks. I turned around and faced the other way, waiting for him to finish. He kept going. I had to peek a few times until he had finally finished. That close-cropped grass in the park, the carefully maintained sports ground, had not given him enough clues. There was thick bush a mere ten metres from where he stood, pissing, swinging it about, but he chose that space instead.

As I walked home, a little voice in my mind kept saying things about both of those men, like “he didn’t realise”, “it was a public space, people can do what they want, can’t they?”, “he thought he was on his own”, “men need to walk their dogs, go to the toilet just as women do”, “don’t be such a rabid feminist”, “stop over-reacting”.

I walked in my own front door, and I calmed down a little. Why? It was my space, and I felt safe. Thereafter, I just wanted to cry or go to bed. I stayed up and started writing again. I believed that part of the self-talk was correct – I was over-reacting.

Now that I have written this story down, I am sad for a different reason. I had had real symptoms of real fear and both things had happened within sight of my home. Even with a dog who was not to be messed with (a sort-of blue heeler), the social, societal right I theoretically had to walk unhindered in public spaces had been rudely and effectively negated in about five minutes. The saddest thought, the one I just can’t lose yet is, “How could I have so stupidly and blindly blundered about in my own park with my beloved dog, tripping joyously after friendship, and think I could get away with it?”

I had said something to the backpacker. I had said, “This is my space, too you know. You could always go in the bush”. And I had pointed to the path that all the school children (including my daughter) walked down when they got off the bus, 20 metres away. He was genuinely sorry, he hadn’t realised. But how could it be that we live in a world where men piss in public and it’s no big deal?

Next, I waited until the aggro neighbour came past again. Despite my fear and sadness, I walked outside my house and asked him why he bellowed at me. He was even worse, ranting and justifying it all in terms of me “coming up behind me”. In his view I deserved everything he got. I insisted he discuss his behaviour with me. He bellowed and bellowed. I said well then, if my dog isn’t allowed off the lead, his wouldn’t be either. I would call the council next time I saw them.  He walked off, bellowing “I don’t care, you silly cow!” So sure of himself, even though I know where he lives, a few doors up.

I had been doing the exact same thing he was doing, but he thought he and his dogs had a right to be there whilst I did not. It wouldn’t occur to him that he would not have bellowed at another man in that way, lest a fight break out, or to say the things he said to me, to a man. And it wouldn’t occur to him that I had made a friendship with his mother. (Now all I can do is worry about her).

When we women tell our male friends that sexism and misogyny is still part of daily life, this is what we mean.

Big Money for Ladies

Dear Ladies,

We need to talk about big money.

It is Thursday afternoon, in a parliamentary democracy. As I twatch the two major parties

thrust and parry to and fro in this afternoon’s question time, I think about how lucky we are to be able to discuss things in the open. Most peoples of the world are not allowed to speak out publicly about what they want from the governments, or be represented, or question their elites. In Australia, we can and do.

This thought leads to the next one, the thought about all the questions that aren’t being asked, and whether that’s because they don’t matter, or because they’re too hard, or because we don’t know what we don’t know.

It is liberating and fascinating when you realise just how much of your life is made up of areas that you don’t know about or don’t understand. It’s like when you find out that Amanda Vanstone can have non-partisan conversations even though she supported some dreadful immigration policies, or when you find out that the guy on ‘Giggle and Hoot’, whose name really is Jimmy, is exactly the same in real life as he is on a children’s television show mostly famous for its lobotomal (neologism) scripts.

I had this boyfriend once who was a pretty good small business man. He was also loaded. He was a generous person but deeply sexist (so not so generous after all), so we parted ways, but not before he passed on his passion for spread sheets. In between almost-daily episodes of unbelievable sex, book-ended by cooking delicious, continental foods, he showed me his numbers. Rivers of dollars eddied into billabongs of income-producing thingummies, swirling around his accounts, into one and out of another, earning more money here, discarding waste there.

Once, we were due to travel overseas. The racehorse in which he held a share was due to run at a small meeting the day before. With a packet of money in the breast pocket of his suit (think it was $1000) he met me for lunch, intending to place specific bets straight afterwards.  The race turned out exactly how he wished it to, and he looked forward to spending the $7000-odd dollars on our trip.

Caught up in the romance of it all, he forgot to place the bets. So, no $7000. He was annoyed with himself for a couple of hours, vaguely disappointed for another day, and then got over it.

The point is, this guy, like so many other fat, entitled, manipulative, macho souls, was used to viewing money in the millions (household money) and billions (what he was aiming for in his business). And there are tens of thousands of other educated, middle class people who also see large numbers every day, including politicians and bureaucrats.

But single mothers, the caring people who help them, and Centrelink staff do not. To a single mother who’s been living on Parenting Payments and a casual customer service job, $100,000 is a lot of money. Most working people think the $20 million lotto jackpot is a lot of money.

How dare she, who works in the supermarket and drives a second-hand Camry, presume to even look at a politician’s budget? How can she possibly bridge the gap between her detailed expertise in running a family close to the bread line, and a government department that could perhaps waste the odd $20 million on an IT contract that didn’t work out?

And why would she anyway? This is a patriarchy characterised by masculine-style market competition for resources, with structures and customs that favour private information for people who are privileged, and which discourages public discourse about technical subjects. Experts are ridiculed, banks are bashed and economists are called self-interested liars. How can the average person ever really understand how three consecutive investment juniors at XYZ fund lost $9,000 of their super during the GFC?

The world I want to live in is one where we approach the financial literacy that Paul Keating thought was possible when he introduced compulsory superannuation, in the era when the TV news bulletins began to run stock market reports and Clem Dimsey’s race reports disappeared from the Channel 10 bulletin.
I want to live in a world where I can discuss funding allocations for Indigenous arts projects over the back fence with my neighbour, productivity at the local supermarket and defence spending at playgroup.

I want Australian women to be capable of questioning and speaking up about a $70 million black hole, seeing this mistake in NLP costings for what it is – a full 10% of the amount of money the ALP has taken away from single mums ($700 million) normally used to pay their living costs, coincidentally, a mere 50% of the amount of  money the government could collect from deadbeat dads via Child Support Agency ($1.4 billion outstanding), but which the mums are third or fourth in line for after the ATO and other creditors.

I want Australian women to be capable of unpacking what I said above without having their eyes glaze over.

I am going to nag you all about it until it gets done.

From Chris Brown’s verified account….it was pretty promptly deleted – Imgur

Sick of Chris Brown and his type. May they go down in a blaze of syphilis or something like that.

From Chris Brown’s verified account….it was pretty promptly deleted – Imgur.

Not sledging, not joking, not expression, not political point-scoring, plain old violence against women

It’s so much part of the landscape that it seems nobody at the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age or anywhere for that matter is calling out about it.

Why is it okay to for Grahame Morris to joke about kicking a woman to death? Why is that funny? Is it funny like the famous Alexander Downer line, ‘the things that batter’?

Why do we go along with the idea that it could, possibly, very likely, be just a bit of fun? For those of you who don’t understand we are calling you on your misogyny, here’s an update by Clementine Ford, just published today, just in time to help you figure out if us feminists really are being wowsers or sour bitches or have gone too far.

I say ‘gone too far’ is saying the Prime Minister should be kicked to death. Who among us would say Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey should be kicked to death?

The headlines in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald claim that Grahame Morris has apologised, so it looks like the story has had its day and everyone’s moving on. A thing that us women are always being told to do, whenever we complain about threats of violence, sexual assaults, etc etc.

The problem is, he hasn’t done anything of the sort. The person who apologised is David Speers, on Morris’ behalf. I can picture how that conversation went:

“Shit, mate, what did you say that for?”
“What? Well she does deserve a bloody big kicking”
“We know that, mate, but you just can’t say things like that”
“OK”

Blokes know it’s not a joke

Girls, don’t swallow that tripe about it just being a bit of fun. The blokes do actually know and understand the impact of their violence. They know it’s not funny. They take it really seriously, when we’re not talking about women.

Just have a look at the weekly AFL tribunal commentary if you’re in any doubt. For example, yesterday The Age was showing this graph. Note that almost 1,000 people had voted. There was extensive coverage of the minutae of striking charges, how much pressure was applied in the strike, who was standing where when it happened. Exhausting stuff.

The Australian also displayed a similar obsession.

But of course we don’t notice anything unusual about this, because it’s footy, and it’s normal. Just like wanting to kick a female political leader to death is normal.

PS Here is an article in Wendy Harmer’s The Hoopla about some of the worst comments about the Prime Minister.

Sexism and retaliation


In a post in Forbes about sexism in the workplace, the author, Meghan Casserly, discusses the question of how (or whether, even) women can speak up about it at work without retaliation.


She did her homework and asked women to respond, and the story was quite interesting because of the colour of those responses. She found two women who had successfully raised it as an issue, and, not wanting to give up yet, is carrying the conversation on in Twitter and Facebook.

What bothers me, though, is that the article has missed the point about sexism in the workplace: sexism is designed to remind others that there are two groups, and that one is not as good to be in as the other one – to use a really blunt pencil. The article, however, uses a very common ‘female’ way of interrogating meaning: it assumed that the actual words the women used to call out sexism were some kind of magic medicine, which needed the correct dosage applied at the right time and the right place.

For example, the reason that the first successful caller-outer had not received backlash was because she had been really informal about it, and had used a light touch. She had just said “inappropriate” in passing, without making a big deal out of it, and it work. In other words, the right medicine at the right dose.

The second successful caller-outer said her successful technique was to speak to the two sexist-comment-makers one-on-one, privately – that way, they did not lose face. The right medicine, administered in private.

The problem with this whole way of conceiving the solution to sexism in the workplace is that it ignores the element that is central to sexism: the maintenance of power. The variable not controlled in any of the interactions described was whether the woman who did the calling-out had power over the person being sexist. In other words, what man is going to tell his female boss – or even someone a bit higher up in the social pecking order of the office – to get lost?

Sure, it seemed to solve the problem for those two women, but another woman in an identical setting saying “inappropriate”, no matter how quietly, could be inviting serious retaliation.

For example:

Male supervisor in restaurant: I want all of you fillies out on the floor now, or you’re sacked.
Woman waitress (to his disappearing back): Inappropriate.

or

Male supervisor in restaurant: I want all of you fillies out on the floor now, or you’re sacked.
Woman waitress: Inappropriate.
Male supervisor: What did you just say to me?
Woman waitress: Inappropriate.
Male supervisor: How could it be inappropriate for me to tell you to get out on the floor?
Woman waitress: It’s inappropriate language, because we’re women, not ‘fillies’.
Male supervisor: What? Look, I don’t have time for this. Do you work here or not?