Saturday, February 27, 2010

Aiming for the lowest standard??

A tv advertisement that has been banned from being shown, is being contested on the grounds that more sexist images are being shown on Video Hits in the morning.

Crazy Domains managing director Gavin Collins said the ad was "tongue in cheek" and blamed feminist bloggers for stirring up complaints. He asked for a review of the decision. "This decision makes no sense and is completely un-Australian – we're certainly not going to take this lying down," Mr Collins said. "Have you seen Video Hits on a Saturday morning? There are much more graphic and sexually explicit images on that show every week ... during a morning timeslot."

Well, sir, if you think the images in Video Hits are inappropriate, graphic and sexually explicit, then protest about it - don't copy it!!

And un-Australian? It is un-Australian to stand up for women to be presented respectfully? What's that about? Sheesh.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Inspiring quotes about mothering now.

I've come across some quotes recently, from maternal feminist writers I've read over the years, that sum up how I got onto this track, and turned me on to the mothers movement. Most of these are from the books I've listed in an earlier post.

The Australian blogger known as blue milk has compiled eleven quotes from feminist maternal thinkers. I'll include a sample here, but it is really worthwhile to read her eleven.

3. They may have been living comfortably with their spouses for a decade, but when they become mothers, the gender inequality becomes more noticeable to them. These women are really trying to question how we do motherhood.
(To fathers who challenge this point, O’Reilly would offer a pop quiz: What is your child’s shoe size? When was their last immunization? What food won’t they eat? When is their next dentist appointment? What is their issue right now?) Real equality means men are doing that thinking, too. – Andrea O’Reilly

4. We’ve internalized the notion of rugged individualism so deeply that we believe we are solely responsible for our children’s health and well-being. And we believe that this belief, instead of being a sign of hubris or of despair, is an entirely normal and natural thing. This leads us to place terrible pressure upon ourselves – and gets our society almost entirely off the hook as far as responsibility for children and families goes.
Our “post-feminist” generation grew up believing we could do and be anything – and as young women it’s fair to say that we pretty much could. But all this ran aground once we had children. For many women it became very difficult to reconcile not just “work” and “family,” but our pre-motherhood and post-motherhood selves. The equal partnership marriages so many of us believed we’d entered into (so naturally that we didn’t even articulate it to ourselves at the time) changed once we became parents. Many women found themselves sweeping up Cheerios, picking up boxer shorts, and contemplating their husbands at the breakfast table through the protective screen of “his” newspaper. Many began to nurse a simmering rage. – Judith Warner

6. There was something so valuable about what happened when one became a mother. For me it was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me. . . . Liberating because the demands that children make are not the demands of a normal ‘other.’ The children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humor. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. . . . Somehow all of the baggage that I had accumulated as a person about what was valuable just fell away. I could not only be me -– whatever that was -– but somebody actually needed me to be that. . . . If you listen to [your children], somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things, and deliver a better self, one that you like. The person that was in me that I liked best was the one my children seemed to want. - Toni Morrison.

10. The ante on motherhood has been upped. June Cleaver had it easier: she could just send the kids outside to play. Nowadays, mom is not only supposed to raise children but raise them to an impossibly high standard. For example, when Dr. Stanley Greenspan introduced the concept of floor time for children on the autism spectrum, it was a specific treatment for children with specific needs. Now, mothers with healthy babies are supposed to commit to floor time and to feel badly if at the end of the day they haven’t done enough floor time with their babies. Oh, and vacuum the floor, too. Seriously, it’s extraordinary when you think of it how much energy goes into one child, extraordinary how much worry goes into one child. Educated, caring parents see a study — say, the one about not exposing preschoolers to television — then feel devastated about showing their newborns Baby Einstein videos. Somehow, in all of this we’ve put aside common sense. We rely too heavily on experts. We need to take the veneer off of motherhood. Here’s another thing I find fascinating about this time in our culture: we love for science to prove parenting theories right. Dr. Sears appeals to the science adoring, proof-hungry parent, but at the same time, he justifies his prescriptions by citing practices of primitive cultures. So, science and women in Africa prove you should wear your baby in a sling all day long. Does anyone talk about why women in Africa wear their babies? Because they are working all day long and they have no other place to put the babies. If they were given a choice, would they perhaps put the babies down more often? What the experts tap into is women’s profound ambivalence about how much this experience of motherhood should dictate their lives and their identities. – Meredith Michaels

These were sent to me by my friend Joan:

From the Swedish Ministry of Labor: “To make it possible for both men and women to combine parenthood and gainful employment, a new view of the male role and a radical change in the organization of working life are required.”

Nancy Fraser continued “The trick is to imagine a social world in which citizens’ lives integrate wage earning, care giving, community activism, political participation, and involvement in the associational life of civil society – while also leaving time for some fun. This world is not likely to come into being in the immediate future, but it is the only imaginable postindustrial world that promises true gender equity. And unless we are guided by this vision now, we will never get any closer to achieving it.”

Nancy Fraser, 1997, Justice Interruptus, p. 62.

So many fantastic and brave women working on this - I just want to tell everyone what is going on!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cotton On withdraws stock

This is encouraging.

Kids Free 2B Kids announced that after public outcry regarding Cotton On's offensive t-shirt slogans for babies and children, and after Julie Gale, the Director of Kids Free 2 B Kids met with the CEO of Cotton On, they are in the process of withdrawing 40,000 items of stock. Campaigns are still being run against Supre and Roger David. And campaigns are being run about other issues too. More info here:

I just looked at the Roger David t-shirts and others that Melinda Tankard Reist has on her blog and I don't know whether to scream or cry - these are VILE! Please take action to have these taken off the market.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Favourite mothering songs

Here are the lyrics to some of my favourite mothering songs (more to come).

The first two are by Lisa Miller - a singer/songwriter from Melbourne. The third is by Lori McKenna, who is from the US. The fourth is by Laura Nyro, so was probably written in the 70s.

Lisa Miller - I Love You A Thousand Dollars

Well I admit there are times
I don't feel cut out for this game
Busier than I've ever been
While bored out of my brain
And as unglamorous as it may seem
To welcome the sound of a pre-school theme
And reading the paper is something to get excited about

Go on and make me ashamed to say
There's nothing more beautiful to me
The impossible softness of the sin
The part underneath his unformed chin

I could tell you

Well you ask why we do it
Why we put ourselves through it
Is there an intelligent case
Or is it as you suspect
For the survival of the human race
Well pick off that crumbed suit and off you go
To coffee with a friend or a new show
Whenever there's not much more to get excited about

Go on and make me ashamed...

'Cause I live in sleepy hollow
There's tears but joy follows
And it's so far from here
I could tell you..

So why don't you just turn the other way
Go back to your friends with so much to say
And try and find something to get excited about

Go on and make me ashamed...

And it opens a well of emotional colour
He calls out I love you a thousand dollars

I love you a thousand dollars
Like it's the biggest thing in the world
And it's so far from here

I could tell you...

Little Stars - Lisa Miller

Sometimes I feel like those little stars
We pinned above your bed
Now falling down by the bed
I just want to lie there
Forgotten and quiet
Away from this riot

But I'll never break your little heart
I'll never break your little heart

As constant as the old arguments
There goes another glass crashing down to the floor
Your face so flushed with innocence
How could I ever say
I can't take any more

'Cause I'll never break your little heart
I'll never break your little heart

And though your fingernail moon is gone
For most of the day you know it's there anyway
Just like my love for you shines on
Though eclipsed it may seem
By the things that we say

'Cause I'll never break your little heart
I'll never break your little heart

Your heart
What more is there
Your sweet heart
What more is there

Unglamorous - Lori McKenna

Understated, overrated side
Carnival ride
Curtains faded, threadbare rug's real nice
The baby stayed up all night

How wonderful
Rhinestones on black satin shoes
How beautiful
The one's I never get to use
No frills, no fuss, perfectly us

Frozen dinner, jelly glass of wine
Tastes just fine
Two bread winners, five kids in short time
With eyes just like mine
How wonderful

Crowded dinners at the kitchen table
How beautiful
One TV set - no cable
No frills, no fuss, perfectly us

No diamonds in our bathtub rings
Peanut butter on everything
No frills, no fuss - unglamorous

How wonderful
A gravel road leading to a front door
How beautiful
Old wool socks on a bedroom floor
No frills, no fuss, perfectly us -unglamorous

Laura Nyro - To A Child

What is life?
Did you read about it
In a magazine?
Silent lies
Never give you what you need
Is there hope
For a mother
And an elf on speed?

Kiss the sun hello
Child in the park
Make your life a lovin' thing
I'm so tired
You're so wired
And I'm a poet
Without a poem
And you are my child

So serene
Read about us in a magazine
Then why are we
Crying by the washing machine?
Let's run away child
And follow a dream

Kiss the sun hello
Child in the park
Make your life a lovin' thing
The park is late
The wind is strong
The trees have eyes
And you are my song
My lovely song

What is love?
Child I am here
to stand by you
And you will find
Your own way hard and true
And I'll find mine
'Cause I'm growin' with you

Kiss the sun hello
God & Goddess
Make his life a lovin' thing
And if I smile as you reach
above the climbin' bars
To see the stars
You are my love
Child my love

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Equality Illusion- new book

A new book in the UK sets out the state of gender inequality today. Books like this appear regularly, here, in the UK and the US. Some gain more traction than others. Full of statistics, and meaning to be a wake-up call. I suppose if they make people aware that the problem is far from solved, then they do some good. Can you tell I've already read lots of them? That things are changing fast enough for me?

A review in the Guardian here.

Gender imbalance in media

Actress and mother, Geena Davis, has set up an institute to investigate and report on the gender imbalance in the media. While watching preschool programs and G rated movies with her kids, she noticed that male characters outnumbered female characters, and decided to investigate. See her findings here.

And her institute here.

Here are their recommendations:


1. G-rated movies and certain TV categories need more females as main characters, minor characters, narrators, and in crowds.
2. G-rated movies and certain TV categories need more characters of color, especially female characters of color as main characters, minor characters, narrators, and in crowds.
3. G-rated movies need to create more female characters with aspirations beyond romance.
4. G-rated movies need to create more women and girl characters that are valued for their inner character, too


And we all know that a woman has never won an Academy Award for Best Director. Maybe this year...

Good the see this issue is getting some attention.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Intensive parenting is bad for children

Here is an article from the Guardian saying that focusing on your own relationship is better for kids than focusing on them. It claims that kids who get too much attention are more prone to become anxious and depressed.

Another strike against intensive parenting...

Motherhood in France sets Feminism back

An article in the Guardian about a French philosopher who states that the current trend of intensive mothering, based on breastfeeding, cloth nappies and experts advice on children's behaviour, is in danger of setting feminism back decades. And I thought France was one of the countries we could look to for getting it right.

Need to think again...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Courage to Give Up a Dream

Most parents teach their children to dream, and to dream big. 'You can be anything you want to be'. I notice the trend in children's clothing with the slogans of Princess or Popstar. The message is, from so many movies and songs and other sources, anybody can be a star. You deserve it. You're worth it.

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, because the truth is that not everybody can be a star. In fact, most people who aspire to great heights, be they creative or sporting or academic, or in any career, will have their hopes dashed. Most people live ordinary lives. Most people who dream big at some point give up those dreams to live a normal life, a life of stability and responsibility. Does that make for happiness? I'd say that it depends on how graciously you can give up your dream.

One of the ways of being happy is to want what you already have. Dreamers don't do that - they want more, or something else, which is kind of insulting the people around them, who are content to be doing what they're doing and being ordinary. One of the ways to be happy is to be where you are, to be present. Dreamers don't do that either - they are somewhere else.

Now I should say here that I've just read the works of Salinger, who talks a lot about spirituality and how to be happy. Of course, we know, in his own life he shunned fame, and I admire him for that. We know about the impositions of fame; it is not for the feint-hearted. A theme of his work is how the little incidental observed moment of innocence can motivate a person to keep on going, to feel humbled and able to continue. It is the same kind of message mothers often talk about, or are told, that although it is difficult it all seems worthwhile when you see your child sleeping or when your child gives you a kiss etc. I'm not sure how realistic this is, or if it is just pat sentimentality and what is expected of mothers. When Salinger does it is seems significant and a revelation. When mothers say it, I'm not so sure it is enough. That's why I'm concentrating on the 'change what you can' part of the serenity prayer, in being active for change.

And, in Salinger's work, it is the clever, the intellectual and the high achievers who see the injustices and the inconsistencies and that life and art could be so much better. Those insights don't make for happiness. Knowing that you are the smartest person in the room certainly doesn't make for a happy life. The most intelligent people I've known have been depressive, alcoholics, drug addicts. As Salinger has Zooey tells Franny, shine your shoes for the fat lady, because the fat lady is Christ himself; being smug or unkind does not make for happiness.

Then I happened upon these messages from the GROW group - a support program for people with mental health issues. Reading their brochure they have a few sayings that could be helpful.

'The Overall Key to Mental Health and Happiness: Settle for disorder in lesser things for the sake of order in greater things; and therefore be content to be discontent in many things.'

This is particularly pertinent when you live with small children in your care. You certainly have to let go of the perfect house or your social life or your place on the career ladder to be with your children.

And another: 'I can be ordinary. I can do whatever ordinary good people do, and avoid whatever ordinary good people avoid. My special abilities will develop in harmony only if my foremost aim is to be a good ordinary human being.'

That message is so rare that it is almost shocking. We all think we are unique, special, and worthy of the best, but the truth is that we are also ordinary. So are our children. For people who are able-bodied and of sound mind, it is unlikely we are satisfied with being ordinary.

I'm thinking about this in the context of people who I knew had creative ambitions, as I did. I trained as an actor. I spent the twenty years before I had kids with writers, artists, musicians, actors, academics. Of all the people I spent time with, perhaps one has made it big, a few have had fleeting success. Some can periodically earn money from their talent. The people who succeeded weren't more talented, or more determined, or in any way more deserving. They were just luckier. Some found personal happiness and didn't need their dream anymore. Still others took a practical route of a stable job and responsibilities. Some became teachers. Some continue as amateurs or develop their talents as a hobby. Some never gave up on their dream, to their detriment.

Isn't that what growing up is? Giving up on the dream to be content with the ordinary? Living an ordinary life, without disappointment. And the dream may have been a life of wealth, of romance, of children. Very few people have all their expectations of life met.

Why don't we celebrate the ordinary more often? We might do so in photographs of people living in poverty, or in tribes in third world countries, but we don't do it for ourselves.

And I'm thinking about it in the context of mothers, who may have their own aspirations and desires that they can't pursue due to the demands of raising children, and I might add, the endless menial tasks involved in caring for children and running a household. If you do that work with a 'why me?' attitude, I'm afraid you're sunk. If you do it graciously, believing that it is OK to live a little life, an ordinary life filled with ordinary moments, there is a kind of greatness in that.

Now, I know there is a lot more to say. That this could be a gendered question, but I'm not sure that it is. That we want to give our children hope. That we want them to be happy, so, knowing their dreams will probably be unfulfilled, what should we teach them? And that we want to be happy ourselves. And while I certainly don't want to raise my housework to an artform, and I don't consciously do my housework as a blessing for my family, I do want everyone, not just mothers, but men and children and everyone, to see the honour and the value in all the little menial tasks that make up our ordinary lives. To see that no-one is too good or above doing these tasks. That it is as much a part of normal life as dressing yourself. That we can do these jobs consciously. That we are all worthy of them. And that it takes courage to give up a dream to do these ordinary things.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

NSW Children's Commisioner

It is good to see an article this month in Sydney's Child by the NSW Children's Commissioner, Gillian Calvert. I bet most people don't know that this position exists. She has held this position for ten years - makes me wonder how well she is doing the job?

She says parents are stressed and anxious about their parenting, and that parents are doing it on their own - they need more support. That children need healthy relationships, and relationship require time. That the amount of information directed to parents is confusing. that modern life is faster, more complex, too competitive, too material and consumer oriented.

She says we need:
- paid parental leave
- family friendly work places
- mothers in the workplace
- affordable and accessible child-care
- improve after school care
- improve qualifications of child-care staff and improve staff-child ratios
- services to support vulnerable lower socio-economic parents
- improve conditions for Indigenous children
- support schools and value teachers
- less homework and scheduled activities and more time to play
- provide community spaces where kids can play and interact
- ensure we leave a healthy planet for our children to live on

All these things she says we need for children are the same things we say we need for mothers. And what we need to improve the wellbeing of men. How long is it going to take? We've been talking about all these issues for a long time.

The proposal she makes which is new to me is that we appoint an Australian Children's Commissioner, to be a voice for children's rights. Considering we hear little from the NSW one, I wonder if having an Australian one would be better.

What do you think?