Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Young Media

Young Media are running a survey about children's television. You can participate by clicking on the link below. Also they are organising a conference on children and the media for March next year. Details on their website.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Taking power

A summary of the story of the girl who is embarrassing the AFL by releasing photos of players naked. The girl has not been treated well by the players and is taking revenge.

If she was your friend or daughter or neighbour, what would you advise her? Would you say that this is how men treat women and you just have to cop it sweet? That she was out of her depth, and the situation isn't surprising? Would you say that nobody gives you power, you just have to take it, and do what you can to bring the issues to light? Or would you suggest she get legal advice and go on 60 minutes to tell her story? Is the problem particular to the culture of football players, or is it a broader problem?

What do you think?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Birth Injuries

A story in The Guardian about birth injuries in the UK, particularly fistula.

We usually think of fistula as a condition which affects women in developing countries, but it happens here too. The article says that a post on Mumsnet (the UK mum forum) about birth injuries has garnered 1395 posts. Many woman are too embarrassed to get help, and it can effect their relationships and ability to work.

I've read a book about fistula in Australia - it happened to writer Susan Johnson, who underwent repeated surgeries and a colostomy. The book is called 'A Better Woman'.

I fractured my coccyx in childbirth, which was something I was never told could happen.

Do you think we need to be more open about injuries which could result from childbirth? I think we need to create the space where women can talk about what has happened to them, and allow them the support to get the help they need. But how much do we need to tell women who haven't had children? Would it scare them off childbirth?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas in Australia

Ah, Christmas in Australia.

Every year I find it more confounding and confusing.

Trying to live according to one’s values and beliefs, while being respectful of other people’s values and beliefs, isn’t always easy. Especially when it comes to Santa.

I can understand celebrating the birth of Jesus if you believe he was born to save us from sin. I can admire the way non-Christians celebrate around the Christian dominance of the season, with pagans celebrating the Summer Solstice, or Jews celebrating Hannukah, and I can acknowledge that being Muslim at Christmastime is a little more tricky. Circumventing the Christian message and celebrating Christmas as a time to be with family and friends is written about by Damon Young in SMH. He says, as an atheist, Christmas is a time of creativity, reflection, gratitude and communion. I’m with him on that. I’m always banging on about the need for ritual and community, and how the church fills these needs. Christmas does too. This piece has drawn 277 comments so far.

He drew this comment:
Jesus himself was an atheist when it came to believing in a god or gods that justified self-righteous judgment of others, especially the judgment of life's ordinary punters and battlers.
Right Reverend Bruce Wilson retired Anglican bishop, Leura
(SMH Letters 21.12.10)

I love hearing about Jesus the rebel who criticised the church.

Dick Gross, another atheist, wrote about how Christmas belongs to everyone and has garnered 323 comments.

He suggests that atheists can go with the flow here, that to boycott is churlish and that the story of the birth of Jesus is a story for everyone. I agree. We have to be inclusive and flexible. And I also want to say here that subscribing to a religious institution or religious practice or a form of spirituality can be a personal and fluid and complex thing. I was taught to meditate by a Christian Brother who also identified as Buddhist. I know Christian clerics who are considered rebels. Priests and Brothers and Nuns and Ministers who question the church and do their own thing, or who are more conservative than their congregations. Or religious folk who do not belong to any religious institution but maintain a serious private practice. There is a wide spectrum of religious life. There is a wide spectrum of atheist life. (And that is one reason why I think it is unhelpful to ask children in public primary schools to be slotted into a narrow identifier of religion.)

For many people Christmas is a time to acknowledge great sadnesses - people who have died or have left. At a time when people celebrate togetherness, others can’t escape their aloneness. There is a lot of pressure to be with people we love on the day.

There are lots of things about Christmas in Australia that I don’t understand. We celebrate as if we are in the Northern Hemisphere. We adopt the pagan symbols and rituals as if we are living in the snowy depths of winter. We bring a tree inside and decorate it. We cover shopfronts with fake snow. We eat mince pies and fruit cake and roast dinner. We wear green and red. We sing songs about Jesus and Santa and call them carols by candlelight even though it is daylight savings. During the year we think about the limits of the earth’s resources and reducing our carbon emissions, but come Christmas we wrap lights around the biggest thing we own, our houses, and buy gifts for everyone we know (even family members we hardly ever see, even people who don’t need a thing) and wrap all those presents in Christmas wrapping paper that will go in the bin. We put foam reindeer antlers on our cars. We wear Santa hats. We break bon bons. We buy Christmas decorations for the table. We buy packaged toys galore. We make a lot of rubbish that is going to landfill for hundreds of years.

But strangest of all is the deep and broad conspiracy that is Santa. Every stranger is happy to talk to children about Santa. Every shopping centre has a Santa. Every Post Office collects letters to Santa. The tv is running films about Santa. At no other time of year would we be happy for children to sit on a strange mans’ knee and smile and take their photographs, and accept lollies, and be happy that a strange man is coming into their houses in the middle of the night. It is all very strange. Parents tell children that Santa knows who has been naughty or nice and that you won’t get any presents if you don’t behave. Parents tell their children if they don’t believe, they won’t receive. I wonder if Santa is really a means for parents to try to control their kids. I know a lot of parents really enjoy the pretend of Santa - leaving out a carrot for the reindeer, sneaking out the presents when the children are asleep. Parents say they love the look of joy on their children's faces on Christmas morning and Christmas is a time of magic and wonder and special part of childhood. Because the joy and wonder of the natural world and the human body and the universe just isn’t enough, and the pleasure of receiving gifts from people we know and love isn’t special enough. I really don’t get it.

We tried having Santa when he children were small, but I never felt comfortable about it. A few years ago I only told the children that it was Christmas Day after they had eaten their porridge. There was no-one counting down the days and whipping them into a frenzy. When my oldest child was four she was asking a lot of questions about Santa. If Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, when is Santa’s birthday? The whole logistics of Santa didn’t make sense to her. She said to me ‘tell me the truth’ and I did. I explained the whole thing. That Christmas celebrations took over pagan celebrations. That some people think Jesus was born in April. The way myths grow and change and customs grow from one country to another. I understand how that has happened, but if you step back and look at it, it is all rather bizarre.

If you read the mum forums you will see how much attention parents place on Santa. The photos. The gifts. The pretence. I want to tell them that they don't have to have Santa. He isn't real.

Mothers are running around buying gifts for children, waiting in the Lay Buy queues, hiding presents from their own children and buying for other people’s children. (How many gifts do most children in the affluent west receive for Christmas? Twenty? Thirty?) Mothers are planning and running around and giving the credit of their work to a fictional character. Mothers are shopping for food and planning meals and counting seats and doing the cooking and making the Christmas wheels turn. Meanwhile, news stories report men doing their Christmas shopping on Christmas eve. They don’t care. They turn up on the day for a meal and a drink. They don’t think much about the gifts and preparations.

We need to think about a new way of celebrating Christmas. Sometimes I think if an evil villain wanted to destroy the world, he would introduce Christmas the way we celebrate it now.

So, what I want to say is, lets make Christmas relevant. Lets celebrate in accordance with our values and beliefs, including our concern for the environment. If it is women doing most of the work here, lets rein it in a little. Can we do things differently, and take the pressure off, and find our own meaning, and be a little more conscious about where everything comes from and where it goes and what we really need and what it’s all about?

And, as usual, I’ve been looking for songs, secular Christmas songs. So I’ll leave my Christmas post with Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Advice for new mums

My daughter's teacher is about to have a baby. I offered to send her some tips and resources (without being overwhelming). This is what I sent her. (I didn't mention the fact that I fractured my coccyx during childbirth because no-one caught the baby during a fast delivery - first babies usually aren't fast deliveries.) What advice would you give to someone who was about to have her first baby?

My birth tip - take laxatives to hospital and take one each day until you no longer need to.

Don’t forget the placenta - it could take up to 45 mins to deliver the placenta, so you don’t want to invite people in just after the birth of the baby - you might not be finished and cleaned up yet (not very presentable when holding a baby, hovering over slops with the umbilical cord, with scissors on the end, hanging out of you.)

If you need help with breastfeeding, ask. Keep asking. Never poke or restrict your breasts - you’ll get mastitis. Learn about mastitis now so you know what to look out for.

summer pouch (I also liked hug-a-bub wrap sling)

Online forums
- you can ask questions, have a chat, get help

Essential Baby


Calming a baby
Singing to baby is to keep the mum calm
Wrap - keep wrapping
Try to have the baby self settle before s/he can move around too much, ie, before 6 months, put baby in cot to sleep (not holding or feeding to sleep). After six months it is much harder to teach babies to self settle (when they are standing up in the cot.) By 6 months, have a routine.

Mum blogs here

Be with other mums
Join the mothers group, playgroup etc, go to everything where you meet other mums with babies the same age. Network.

Accept any help offered.

You don’t have to sign up to any prescriptive method. You can do a bit of attachment parenting, a bit of Gina Ford, a bit of any style that works for you. Do what you are comfortable doing. You probably don't need and won't use most of the baby stuff in the shops.

Nothing is ever the baby’s fault.

Sometimes you will feel like it is.

The beginning is just about bodies
Yours as well as the baby's. Eat. Sleep. Poo. The basics of life. Stay well. Then exercise, play, and some stimulation, (as well as eat, sleep poo) for you as well as the baby.

Good luck, and feel free to ask me anything. I'm here.

I should have added it is good to work out a policy for when to give panadol, go to the doctor's and go to hospital. It took a while to work that out, and having a sick baby is rather frightening...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mothering and Literacies

I regularly receive emails calling for people to review books, contribute to journals or give presentations at conferences about a range of issues around mothering. I thought I'd share this one, since someone might want to contribute to this publication. The range of suggestions is vast. I might write something myself.

Demeter Press
is seeking submissions for an edited collection on

Mothering and Literacies

Editor: Amanda Richey Publication Date: 2012/2013

Deadline for abstracts: April 15, 2011

This collection will explore the connections between mothering/motherhood and literacy as it is broadly defined. Literacy, in this case, encompasses reading/writing literacy as well as multimodal, "new"/digital, and contested multiliteracies that are socio-culturally situated and contextually defined. Mothers are often the object of cultural and popular discourses on family literacy, as well as targets in international campaigns to increase literacy learning. There has been little scholarly attention paid to how mothers in diverse socio-cultural contexts do literacy, as well as how "new" digital literacies have been mediated or challenged by mothers and motherhood. By critically examining the connections between mothers and literacies, this collection will open up a new area of inquiry. We especially encourage submissions that interrogate popular discourses about mothering and literacy in and out of educational contexts. Also welcome in this volume are alternative or new definitions of literacy/literacies across a diverse array of community contexts and disciplinary areas.

Suggested topics may include but are not limited to:

Motherhood studies' and New Literacy Studies; family literacy; race, class, ethnicity and mothering; Motherwork; Adrienne Rich and literacy; being mothered in school; intersectionality, constructions of mothering/motherhood as literate practice, as social activism, as a set of literacies; reading/literacy education; teen pregnancy and school experience; literacy narratives; pedagogical practices in prek-16 (and beyond); adult education pedagogy; Paulo Freire and motherhood/parenthood; mothers and fathers "doing" literacy; mothering as literacy; motherhood and poetry, blogging, fiction, nonfiction, essay-writing, mommyblogging; the "new momism;" parenting as literacy, autoethnography of mothering and literacy learning/teaching; multiliteracies; language learning and mothering; homework literacies; cyber-literacies; health literacies and reproductive technologies; literacy/motherhood journey; narrative & autobiographical accounts of literacy; mothering in educational contexts; "other" mothers in education; gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender mothering and literacy; reading and writing though/about pregnancy, birth, motherhood, adoption; photojournalism/photo-documentation as literacy; Facebook as a "new literacy" for mothers/mothering; bicultural/bilingual family literacy; international mothering; women's literacy initiatives in international development; family literacy discourses; "teach the parent, reach the child," and popular literacy advice; discourse analysis of literacy advice/texts/campaigns; quilting/sewing/cooking as literacy; oral literacy, storytelling and motherhood; feminist literacy; popular cultural and the maternal; homeschooling literacy and family practices; mothers, religion, and literacy; mothering in the academy; mothering as literacy assessment; grieving literacies; deconstructing literacy; critical literacy in education and beyond; educational policy, motherhood, and literacy

Submission Guidelines:

Abstract submissions should be 250 words. Please also include a brief biography (50 words).

Deadline for abstracts is April 15st, 2011

Please send submissions directly to

Amanda Richey at

Accepted papers of 4000-5000 words (15-20 pages) will be due November 1st, 2011

and should conform to MLA style.

Demeter Press
140 Holland St. West, PO 13022
Bradford, ON, L3Z 2Y5

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hypatia of Alexandria

A friend of mine has lent me a book on ancient female philosophers. Amongst the women is Hypatia of Alexandria, who lived in the fourth century, was a neo-Platonic philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and teacher. She lived at the time which saw the end of paganism, the rise of Christianity, and conflict between Jews and Christians. Her students gained positions of power, and consulted her whilst in these positions. She wrote three books, one on Ptolemy’s work, one on Conic Sections, and is thought to have invented an instrument to determine the weights of liquids to be administered to the sick. It is possible that Copernicus, who deduced that the sun rather than the earth was the centre of the universe, was influenced by her work.

She taught a type of philosophy that was compatible with paganism and Christianity. Before the age of thirty she was a famous teacher. She taught men, and moved freely in the world of men. The Roman government of the time persecuted pagans and Jews, but paid Hypatia, who was known as a pagan (although there is no documentation of her religion), to head the prestigious school of Plotinus, in the Museum of Alexandria, which was a univeriversity. Alexandria was known as the centre of ancient intellectual life, and the Library housed thousands of volumes of scholarly works. The library was burnt twice. Plutarch (CE 46–120) wrote that during his visit to Alexandria in 48 BCE Julius Caesar accidentally burned the library down when he set fire to his own ships in a strategic military action. The daughter library, based on a collection given to Cleopatra by Marc Antony, was destroyed by the Bishop of Alexandria, who ordered the destruction of the Serapeum (pagan temple) in 391.

Hypatia was killed by a Christian mob who skinned her alive, quartered her and burned her body.

I saw a film yesterday called Agora which tells this story. An agora in ancient Greece was an open space (we get the word agoraphobia from the word), a public space. In ancient Greece it was the centre of government. The film is rated M, because of the violence. What is shows is mostly factual, and it raises lots of issues about many things. The message for me was about religious tolerance, particularly pertinent in light of the ethics course just being introduced in public primary schools in NSW as an option for those who don't subscribe to a world religion. Also, showing a strong woman who excels in her work (and it helps if you keep slaves), it can also be seen as feminist. She remained unmarried, and the way she deterred her suitor in the film is based on truth.

I recommend the film. Let me know what you think.

Conference at Uni Qld, Mothers at the Margins

I'll be attending this conference at UQ in April. Why not see if you can come along too?!?


Mothers at the Margins

Sixth Australian International, Interdisciplinary Conference on Motherhood -

Wednesday, 27 April, 2011- 5pm, - Saturday 30 April, 2011 - 12 noon
The University of Queensland, St Lucia Q 4072, Brisbane, Australia

Final Deadline for Abstracts: January 14, 2011!

Keynote speakers include Andrea O'Reilly and Sonya Andermaher

Send a 200-word abstract and 50-word bio by January 14, 2011
to: Dr Marie Porter (

Send abstract as attachment with title and name attached

Australian and New Zealand paper-givers must be/become members of ARM-A

International presenters must be/become 2011 members of MIRCI prior to the conference
Email: info@motherhoodinitiative.orgWebsite:


The Faculty of Arts, The University of Queensland

The Centre for Research on Women, Gender, Culture and Social Change, School of EMSAH, the University of Queensland

The Australian Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (formerly ARM-A)

The Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement in Canada (formerly ARM)

The Queensland Centre for Mothers and Babies (QCMB), School of Psychology, the University of Queensland


Registration will open in early January 2011. Registration fees are as follows:

Early bird through Friday, 18 February 201

Early Bird (before Feb 19, 2011) and all ARM-A and MIRCI members

E.B Registration - $253.00

E.B. Concession - $187.00

Full registration Saturday, 19 February through Thursday, 21 April 2011

Full Registration - $308.00

*Concession Price - $ 253.00

Day rates - $100

Keynotes $25 each

Registrations close at midnight, Thursday, 21 April 2011.

Cancellation Policy:

Cancellations prior to 3 April - full refund.

Cancellations 3 - 15 April - 50% refund.

Cancellations after 15 April - no refund available.

Registration includes a light supper on Wed. evening, morning and afternoon teas and lunch on Thursday and Friday, and morning tea Saturday.

*Concession rates are applicable to all full-time students and registrants in less than half-time employment.

Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (MIRCI)
140 Holland St. West, PO Box 13022, Bradford, ON, L3Z 2Y5

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Mothers Be Heard

I'd like to give a shout out to Felicity Chapman in Adelaide. Her site is Mothers Be Heard. You can find it here.

I met Felicity at a conference for the Association for Research in Mothering. She is a counsellor and community worker who is active in supporting mothers. She devised and runs workshops in maternal health and believes we need to acknowledge the complexity of the transition to motherhood by listening to mothers.

Have a look at her website, where she shares book reviews, resources, and women's stories. You can share your own.

Well done Felicity!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Volunteer mums push back

A story in The New York Times, bizarrely in the Homes and Garden section, about volunteer mums burning out and dropping out.

Schools in the states seem to have more school functions and fundraisers than we have here, but the politics of volunteering is the same. A small group of people are called upon to do too much. Some quotes:

Around the country there are a number of altruistic, devoted and totally burned-out mothers just like Ms. Lentzner who are becoming emboldened to push back against the relentless requests from their children’s schools for their time. What started out as an admirable civic gesture somehow snowballed into an inability to say no to any committee assignment or project request, and spiraled into night, weekend and after-school commitments, middle-of-the-night e-mail exchanges, as well as frozen dinners, takeout pizza and baby sitters at home. ...

Other forces are at work besides the lack of free time. The growing world of mom blogging has provided ample forums for exposing the darker feelings of motherhood, and a number of women have taken to cyberspace to gripe about school volunteer work. Some complain that the system preys on maternal guilt and that it creates a sense that a mother’s worthiness is measured in how many hours she puts in at her children’s schools. Under the headline “Just Say NO to Volunteering,” Sarah Auerswald, a former PTA president in Los Angeles, wrote in June, “What I am about to say is not very PC, so get ready: Moms, stop volunteering so much.”

Ms. Auerswald, who estimated that she had sat through 1,000 meetings over the last 10 years as a volunteer, said all her work for the schools had left her “a run-down, crabby, resentful wreck.” Worse, she said in an interview, “My kids got really resentful.” When she would leave them with yet another baby sitter, or drag them along for yet another Saturday Clean-up Day at school, they implored, “Why is it always you who has to do everything, Mom?”

Ms. Auerswald emphasized that her children’s school had a very real need for parents’ volunteer work. But she said she has learned that parents need to set realistic expectations about what they can accomplish and how much of themselves they can give. ...

That is what most parents assume — that school volunteer work is in the best interests of their children. But some veterans are skeptical. Jen Christensen’s epiphany came on her 41st birthday in May 2009. She was presiding over Teacher Appreciation Week at her children’s school in San Mateo, Calif., and getting up daily at 4 a.m. to work on the school auction. She was so overcommitted, she said, that she could not find time to celebrate.

What hit harder still was that she had given up working when she had children to be home with them — and now she was continually leaving them with baby sitters because she had to attend a meeting at school.

The next fall, Ms. Christensen declared herself off-limits to all school volunteer requests. “I said: ‘I’m done. I quit. Don’t call. Don’t e-mail.’ I said I have given so much of myself. I’m spending 50 hours a week working on a volunteer position. Where does it end? You want some blood? I wouldn’t even let my husband write a check.”

Ms. Christensen added: “It felt fabulous. I took a step back and was able to see what was wrong and appreciate the opportunity I have. I don’t have to work, and being able to spend time with my kids is what my job really should be.” ...

Some of the push-back stems from just plain irritation over the way volunteer requests are made, often involving large numbers of increasingly desperate-sounding e-mails. A few years ago, Karen Bantuveris was on a plane on a business trip. “I looked down and literally saw my BlackBerry fill up with reply-all e-mails about whose turn it is to help at recess and to bring snacks,” she said. “The more I talked to working moms, the more I heard: ‘I can’t volunteer anymore. This is ridiculous.’ ”

Ms. Bantuveris put her training as a management consultant to work. She invented an online system — similar to the popular Evite invitation service — that sends a calendar of volunteer opportunities and allows parents to sign up for those of their choosing without multiple e-mail exchanges. She now runs a company called VolunteerSpot that markets the system, coordinating 460,000 volunteers, 75 percent of them parents in schools. ...

Sounds very tempting. I know a few school mums who volunteer in a number of ways, at the Community Centre, sports clubs, preschool, playgroups, and at schools. There is always a need for volunteers at schools. At our school there is a core group that does lots, and many more parents who do what they can. I would go so far as to say that most parents volunteer their time in some way. The core group does discuss burn-out. We do postpone events because we are exhausted.

Do my kids like me helping out at school? Yes they do. Do they want me to attend meetings at night? No they don't. Still working on getting that balance right.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Action against gender stereotyped toys for children - the movement is growing

A story in The Guardian today about gendering of toys. Did you know you could buy a pink globe for your daughter?? There is rising awareness and action against gender stereotyping for children. 'Feminist parenting' is taking off! Having just watched some Saturday Disney with my kids (I like 'Sonny with a Chance'), I must say, the message hasn't reached tv advertisers here yet. The ad for a lego game featured only boys playing, and the Bratz ad is a shocker.

Abi Moore, co-founder of Pink Stinks, says her organisation has been inundated with messages from parents all over the world. "Our campaign last year was covered in 43 countries. We are constantly being asked by parents, 'What can we do?'" Parents of girls and boys alike are sick of the marketing messages and, especially, the gender assumptions children are forced to lap up.

So are parents' views finally being heard by the marketing bods? Many,including Pink Stinks, openly or loosely align themselves with "feminist parenting". In the UK there is an online campaigning organisation called CRAP! which stands for Child Rearing Against Patriarchy. In the US there are hundreds of feminist parenting blogs such as "Raising My Boychick" ("parenting a presumably straight white male"), "Feminist Dad" (although he says "my daughter LOVES Disney") and "She Has My Eyes" ("anti-bigotry and anti-bullshit parenting").

The group Mothers for Women's Lib holds an online Carnival of Feminist Parenting. Many of its fans boast of having a "family feminist mission statement", presumably stuck on the fridge door. Must get one of those.

"I have attended a lot of events recently where I've been struck by how much people want to talk about feminist parenting and consumerism," says Natasha Walter, author of Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism. "People see that we're at a bad point and they are always asking me, "How can I resist this for my son or my daughter?""

So how can we prevent gender-specific consumerism taking over? Jan Williams, a mother of two teens, a boy and a girl, ran a workshop at October's Feminism in London Conference, attended by more than 1,000 people. "You see it from the way children are pushed at school. 'You do like football, don't you?' 'You come over here and play with the dolls.'" There is a huge reaction from parents against this at the moment, she says, especially from parents who want to learn how to cope with incessant demands from the miniature consumers they live with, especially at Christmas. "It's as simple as the old drugs message. Just. Say. No. I meet a lot of parents who can't. But you have to be able to say no in a calm and peaceful way. Support their choices in the toys they really love. Or if you can't, let them save up their own money for them."