Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sometimes my children surprise me

Sometimes my children surprise me. No, this isn’t a story about how capable they are and how they exceed my expectations.

Sometimes the children say things that cause me to exclaim ‘Are you delirious?’ or ‘Are you trying to be ex-communicated from the family?’

Like when Banjo said ‘ I hate books’ or Clancy said ‘I’m sick of the Beatles’ or, today from Matilda, ‘I don’t care about music’.

Who ARE these people, and what are they doing in my house??

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cordelia Fine's article on Porn in The Monthly

I like Cordelia Fine. I spoke to her at the Growing Up Fast and Furious Conference last year, not knowing she was about to present. I want to read her book Delusions of Gender which is not only well reviewed but considered a book of important ideas. Have a look at her website to see her considerable achievements.

Cordelia Fine wrote the lead article in The Monthly this month. I saw it at the newsagents, and, lucky me, found I could read it for free online, so I'm sharing the link here.

The article describes, explicitly, what happens in porn, so not for the squeamish. She looks at the book Pornland, by Gail Dines and the new anthology edited by Melinda Tankard Reist, Big Porn Inc.

... social norms need to be wrested back from the pornographers, as many contributors to Big Porn Inc are attempting to do, and returned to something more closely aligned with the idea of half the population enjoying as much respect and recognition of their full humanity as the other. It isn’t prudishness that explains why there aren’t endless images of headless men’s bulging crotches on billboards, and prepubescent boys in ‘mankinis’ like little sex objects in training. It’s just … civility. Pornland world-order, in which women exist to titillate men, does not belong in everyday life. In the twenty-first century, Zoo magazine belongs on the front counter of a convenience store about as much as a magazine called Best of Black and White Minstrel Shows.

She ends with a call for a Lysistrata type campaign. Dines says there's no room for porn in a just society. Fine suggests ‘No equality, no porn.’


Christmas gift ideas (or things I like online)

Three months away, I know, but I like to get a jump on ideas for Christmas presents.

We don’t want to bring a whole lot of new stuff into the house. So we shop carefully. Lots of what we buy is second hand. And we try to give gifts of experience.

So here are the ideas on the boil for Christmas this year.

I’m thinking of giving all the kids (and maybe CyberGuy) an annual pass to Luna Park.

Tickets to see the musical Annie.

Matilda is having some extra dance classes.

I’ve bought Clancy some books and kids cds online (I did this when the Australian dollar starting going down). They’re second hand. She helped choose, and included some Horrible Histories books. (I’m stocking up on kids cds that I’ve bought online as gifts for kids for birthday presents too. Partly because it is hard to buy for other people’s kids - they mostly have everything they could want - and partly because there is a gap in the Australian market for cds for kids. Many more available OS than here, and they’re good - we like them.)

Banjo wants some hair accessories and toys for hairstyling. So, I’ll get her that. She wants some more Fancy Nancy books too.

Here are links to some other things I like. I’m not saying I’m getting all these - just that I like them. (I’ll wait and see how the Australian dollar goes...)

I love looking at ModCloth - the retro styles suit me. It’s the site I take my eyes to for a rest. I've already worn lost of these styles, so it's kind of a nostalgic fashion trip for me. Or I've found these styles in op-shops, so I don't need to buy from the site.

However, I do like this bag. There is also a Great Gatsby bag and t shirt.

And I love their swimmers.

And this hedgehog doormat

I like these t shirts with Harry Potter slogans. (I like the ‘Keep Calm and Drink Tea’ one too.)

And I like the Luna quotes too.

And I like these instructional dance and exercise videos, Some of them are very affordable (and there are some I’d like for myself or might suggest for the dance program at school.)

I’ll get CyberGuy some books on rock music, or classic rock t shirts.

I’ll get my sisters some finds from op shops that suit them, or maybe a cd each. I’ll ask what they want.

For myself, I only ever want books or cds. I've kept my list of wants on a very large Amazon Wishlist for the last few years - it documents my interests. I know where to keep books and cds in the house - on shelves. (Although I'm just as happy to use the ones at the library.) Tickets to shows are always nice too. And lovely tea. I never want anything else really.

And Christmas shopping is done. That’s it!

Do you have any good ideas for gifts of experience for Christmas?

Are there any online shops you keep coming back to?

Friday, September 23, 2011

This is the kind of nerd I am

Nothing to do with feminist mothering. I could draw a long bow, but I'm not going to bother.

This conversation is making me nostalgic for hanging out with Classicists at university. I wrote my M. Lit thesis on a feminist rewriting of Cassandra. A friend and I created a student journal for Classics students to publish their works. (We had a crush on Ovid and Catullus). I think I've read all the books mentioned in the post and the comments. All the ancient ones. I can't wait until I can share them with my children.

Just for fun - here are my favourites.

Homer - The Iliad and The Odyssey (of course)

Virgil - The Aeneid (the quest, a guided hero, and Dido)

Ovid - everything (he's such a wag)

Catullus - poems (falling in love, being in love, rejected by love)

Petronius - The Satyricon (the anti-hero - more modern than today)

Apuleius - The Golden Ass (circular storytelling, robbers and thieves and a talking donkey)

Euripides - Medea (a wife's revenge), The Women of Troy (the spoils of war), The Bacchae, Iphigenia in Aulis (sacrifice of Agamemnon's daughter)

Appolonius of Rhodes - The Argonautica ( I love Hypsipyle)

Longus - Daphnis and Chloe (like a fairy tale)

Sophocles - Oedipus The King (the first recorded/extant use of dramatic irony), Antigone (she stand up for what she believes in)

Sappho - poetry (the first recorded/surviving use of the word 'bittersweet')

Aristophanes - Lysistrata (women protesting the war)

My favourite rewriting from ancient myth is Kliest's Penthesilea. (She was Queen of the Amazons.)

OK, I wish I had time to write about feminism in ancient classics. But while I'm writing my assignment for my Dip Ed, this has been a nice distraction to keep me keen to teach. So much fun.

Have you read and enjoyed any other these?

In what way are you a nerd?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

10 Campaign to stop child labour on cocoa plantations

Stop the Traffick has joined forces with World Vision and other organisations to campaign against child labour being used on cocoa plantations.

Ten years ago
Ten years ago the global chocolate industry, through its various trade associations, signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol, a 6-point roadmap that was to enable the elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL) in the cocoa sector of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. However, according to Tulane University, mandated by the US government to report on progress on the Protocol from 2006 to 2011, none of the Protocol’s six articles calling for action were fully implemented, and the required industry-wide reform in the cocoa sector has not taken place. Tulane also documented the systemic nature of the problem: an estimated 1.8 million children are working, some in hazardous labor conditions, in the cocoa sector of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.

10 Campaign
Major civil society organisations and trade unions working throughout the world on ethical cocoa (including Stop The Traffik, International Labor Rights Forum, World Vision Australia and many others) have joined the campaign to speak with one voice on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Protocol. Together they call on national and international legislative bodies to implement key legislation to ensure that companies get the task done.

From 2001 to 2011, the global revenue from cocoa products was an estimated USD 1 trillion. However, in order for the elimination of these practices to actually come to pass, clear and strong legislation is needed as the status quo is not acceptable: why should children toil, at the expense of their health, education and sometimes their lives, for an industry so immensely profitable?

You can participate here

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Moon Girls Girl-Caught Campaign

Girls Take a Stand Against Disrespect in the Media

New Moon Girls presents its new Girl-Caught Campaign

09.19.2011– From lingerie for 4-year-olds to “I’m too pretty for math,” T-shirts, girls are bombarded with messages that destroy their self-esteem and self-worth, telling them that they need to be pretty, sexy, and not too smart.

Enough is enough, and New Moon Girls is empowering girls to say, “Stop It!” with the Girl-Caught campaign on Sept. 22, 2011: Day of the Girl to honor this important day.

In the 19 years since New Moon Girls started, sexualization of toys, games, clothes, movies, TV and music marketed to and for under 16-year-olds has increased dramatically. The Girl-Caught campaign site gives girls, boys and adults an empowering way to show and comment on both negative and positive images and messages about girls and women.

New Moon Girls is partnering with Day of the Girl, Mind on the Media, Pigtail Pals, Powered By Girl, School Girls Unite, and Shaping Youth to give girls and others a voice, and spread the word far and wide that we do not have to accept these disrespectful messages anymore, and to increase respect for girls and women in all media.

Make the world better in four easy steps:
1. Go to the Girl-Caught site.
2. Download or print out your own Girl-Caught stickers.
3. Paste them to the negative or positive Girl-Catches you find.
4. Upload them to Girl-Caught!

New Moon Girls is also planning an event in Washington, DC and Congressional offices nationwide to deliver thousands of Girl-Catches to Congress in support of the Healthy Media for Youth Act.

Through Girl-Caught, girls, boys, women, and men can have an impact on the messages girls and women receive from companies and the media today, and shape how they see themselves tomorrow.

Go girls. And they use pictures from French Vogue as an example of images that are disrespectful to girls. I'm happy for my daughters to be involved in New Moon Girls.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

PM baby-wearing

The day the festival dream died

Baby Björn-swaddled David Cameron meets Jeremy Clarkson at Alex James's cheese festival – could it get any worse?

Alex James looks on as Jeremy Clarkson talks to David Cameron
Say cheese: Alex James looks on as Jeremy Clarkson talks to David Cameron at Harvest. Photograph: PA

Behold, a snapshop from last weekend's Harvest festival organised by Alex James.

This, from The Guardian.

Alex James was the guitarist in Blur, now into cheese, apparently.

I just had to share this pic of the British PM wearing his baby. Check how he is expanding his chest, and doesn't touch the baby, as if he's ignoring the fact he is wearing a baby. But anyhoo, good on him for wearing his baby. Can't recall seeing any Australian male politicians wearing a baby pouch.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Motherhood: The Musical - another chance

Motherhood: The Musical is back

Oct 13 -15 at the Seymour Centre, if you missed it the first time around.


Education and Social Justice

All teachers in training in NSW have to cover a unit on social justice. Like me, they are being taught to be conscious of issues such as race, ethnicity and multiculturalism, gender and sexuality, bias in the curriculum, class, the city/country divide, indigenous issues in education, globalisation, ethics and critical thinking.

We are directed to videos such as this one, which challenges what education is all about. Link

I’ve noticed teacher, Phil Beadle, who was named Secondary School Teacher of the Year in the UK in 2004 (before becoming a teacher he was a rock musician). He was shown on a reality tv series called The Unteachables, and now writes and speaks about teaching. Everything he says about how to teach (eg, every child has something to offer, you need to get to know what the kids are interested in and tailor the lesson to their interests etc) is what we are being taught. He is, I think, not the exception, but the standard. At least in NSW education training. And he says he teaches for social justice.

Pretty reassuring, isn’t it. That all teachers are covering education in terms of social justice.
And lots of what we cover can also be applied to issues in motherhood studies. Neat.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mindy Sotiri - Divorce Songs (really, songs about mothering)

I attended this cd launch this week. It was great to hear songs about mothering in an Australian accent, and an Australian context. I'm glad it can be considered rock 'n' roll. Well done Mindy.

“When I first heard the sublime Mindy Sotiri sing about baby monitor static at an inner-city pub, I burst into tears and smudged all my eyeliner. Sure at the time I was a hormonal wreck because I, too, was up all night breastfeeding. But words can't express how amazing, re-assuring and downright subversive it was to witness my new maternal existence making an appearance at an actual live music gig. NO-ONE sings about this stuff. And they SHOULD. Because it's huge and it's important and it can make women crazy if they think they're the only ones going through it. Mindy is not just an outrageously talented musician - she's bringing women's intense private worlds into the public (or at least the pub-y) sphere. And that's as rock as it gets” (Emma Tom, 2010)

“Tender, stark and honest” (The Brag, 2010)

Mindy Sotiri is launching her third album Divorce Songs. Released through Laughing Outlaw Records, Divorce Songs is a close-up look at a long term relationship – it’s grand romantic threads (love, infidelity, ambivalence) set up against the domestic love catastrophe of real life: play groups, sleep deprivation, baby monitor static, sore boobs and toddler snot.
Situated somewhere to the east of Ani Difranco and Suzanne Vega, and occasionally channeling the eminent grumpy old men of folk, Mindy Sotiri makes music from the mess of everyday life. Incisive, direct and occasionally hilarious- this is alt-folk at its best; inventive playing, a unique voice, a cracking and versatile band. And tunes that have something to say.

Divorce Songs evolved in the rare quiet spaces of a busy, boring, and occasionally tumultuous domestic life. Retreating to the bathroom (the only room in the house to have the bonuses of both a lock AND sufficient distance from bedrooms to allow for noisy strumming) Mindy wrote songs while perched on the loo, paper, pens and capos balanced on the edge of the bath, pausing to open the door every 3 minutes to check no-one had woken up and started crying. This approach seemed to work. Babies slept a bit, were fed a lot, and over the space of a couple of years tunes for an album were written.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Australia now has a Global Ambassador for Women and Girls

Penny Williams is the newly appointed Australian Global Ambassador for Women and Girls.

A career diplomat and mother of four from Tasmania, Ms Williams will tackle gender inequality in the Asia Pacific, focus governments' attention on the needs of women after wars and conflict, and ensure Australia's aid dollars are helping to tackle maternal deaths and domestic violence.

Read more:

Good news.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My questions to Q&A for tonight

I've sent these questions in for tonight's show. I'll let you know if they're shortlisted.

Melinda Tankard Reist

You lobby for respectful images of women in the media. In spite of decades of talking about gender issues, and women’s rights, women and girls are disrespected by images on billboards, and now also on t shirts. A few years ago the NSW Police Commissioner said that women are fundamentally disrespected in our society. What is it going to take to change our culture so that women are fundamentally respected?

Melinda Tankard Reist

At the end of each year we read stories about dance concerts where scantily clad little girls are bumping and grinding. My family was asked to leave our dance school when I suggested that having children dance to songs about sex when they don’t know it is about sex is exploitation. How do we educate dance schools to be more aware of their gendered messages, and to have more respect for children?

Prof Greer

You once said that mothers need a union. Given the aims of the women's movement have not been met - we still don't value care work, we don't equally share domestic work and women are not fairly represented in positions of power - how can we activate mothers for social change?

There is a limit of 80 words for the questions, so you have to keep it snappy. You can submit your questions here:

Naomi Stadlen, who wrote What Mothers Do, Especially When it Looks Like Nothing, has a new book

    Naomi Stadlen
    Naomi Stadlen: 'With mothering you can always put things right, make things better' Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

    Naomi Stadlen likes mothers. She has written two books with the word in the title: What Mothers Do, Especially When it Looks Like Nothing and her latest one, How Mothers Love and How Relationships are Born. She has for 20 years run weekly Mothers Talking meetings, at which she chats with mothers about the sort of week they have had, spring-boarding various discussions. She is a mother of three and a grandmother of two. I don't think to ask how old she is as it doesn't seem to matter; she is in the "wise" category. She's an existential psychotherapist, so I know she is careful with words because she understands the weight they carry. Her answer to the question "Why are you obsessed with mothers?" is unexpected. "I come from a line of problematic mothers." Oh....

"For too long, mothers have let other people dominate the way motherhood is framed and seen and now, for the first time, there is a much bigger generation of mothers who are educated to question all these things that have been said about them. But they don't. You have these people say to you, 'I'd rather be nice to my baby than not, but the books tell me I'm not a firm enough mother.'"

Whereas what mothers do is actually more scientific – and less anecdotal – than they realise...

"Everyone says 'parenting' these days," she gently chides, as I tell her an anecdote about a mother, but use the word parenting. "What's wrong with the word mothering?"

From here

Reading aloud to your child

A book written by 23 year old Alice Ozma about her dad reading to her ever night from the ages 9 -to 18, when she left home. Only Alice and her dad lived in the family home and the fact of reading together gave them a connection, and a language they could share. It's a lovely story.

Reminds me to turn off the tv, and get back to reading nightly to the kids.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Missrepresentation - a film about how women are portrayed in the media

Thanks to Joan for sharing this. A trailor for a new film from the US called Missrepresentation about how powerful women are portrayed in the media, and how this impacts on young people. Have a look.

Whatever the media do badly, they could do well. Time for a change.

There is also a website where people who support the ideas in the film are asked to take action by speaking out about demeaning representations of women and girls.

Part of what I've done to encourage change is supporting New Moon Girls. This is a feminist magazine for girls that exists online and in hardcopy that is created by and for girls. My eleven year old daughter has a subscription and enjoys participating in the site, including safe online chat. It is run from the US by mums who became the change they wanted to see.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

More women onto Boards - a good move.

Just how business would channel the 55 per cent of university graduates who were women into career pathways to the senior executive ranks, and boards, demanded a cultural shift.

''We talk a lot about female role models, and they are very important,'' Ms Hewson said.

''But the real key to this would be male role models working flexible hours, taking their share of leaving early to pick up the children two days a week. A male role model at the chief executive or chairman level is incredibly powerful...''

ONE OF Australia's most powerful female company directors, Carolyn Hewson, has a message. If women are to participate fully in corporate life, Australia must embrace the nanny culture.

''We do not have a nanny culture in this country, and it severely hampers us - and I speak here from personal and desperate experience,'' the former investment banker told the Women in Banking and Finance forum.

''In Asia, and in Europe, there's a much more appropriate nanny culture,'' she said.

Getting more women onto boards is a move in the right direction, for a lot of reasons. And it looks like it is happening.

The boardroom blitz was an election commitment of the government. It set a target that by 2015, boards were to have no more than 60 per cent of either gender. In June last year, women comprised 34.5 per cent of members of all government boards...

The increasing demand for female board members has been driven by the Australian Securities Exchange's new gender diversity policy.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors recently reported that this year, women accounted for nearly 30 per cent of new board appointments in ASX 200 companies - a 600 per cent increase on 2009 when they accounted for 7.5 per cent of appointments.

Setting targets. Male executives being seen as parents with care responsibilities. Nannies. We're ready. Lets go.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Send a question to Q&A

Next Monday night both Germaine Greer and Melinda Tankard Reist are on the panel for Q&A. That's exciting. I've been in the audience when Germaine Greer has appeared on the show before. The producers liked a question I submitted and paid for my cab fare so I could attend. I didn't get to ask my question in the end, but I really enjoyed being there.

With two active feminists on the show, this is a good opportunity to submit a question. Send a question you really want to know the answer to, or send a question to draw attention to your burning issue. A good opportunity to talk about mothering and feminism, protecting children, social policy or work/life balance.

You might want to ask something about the issues Melinda Tankard Reist works with on Collective Shout.

The link to the ABC website is here:

I'll see what I can come up with and submit a few questions. I'm looking forward to watching next week's show.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Dancing to the wrong song - here we go again!

The dance groups at our school are pretty popular. We’re lucky that we have the teachers who are prepared to teach these groups in their own time, and that they are so well supported. We are even having a special dance showcase night where the dance groups will perform and individual dancers can perform solos or their own performance pieces in small groups (Matilda is doing a ballet solo to Sleeping Beauty).

However, there is still a problem with the choices of the male teacher who takes the senior boys dance group. He has been teaching the boys a dance to Sweat, by Snoop Dogg and David Guetta. The dance includes an appearance by a young girl. The whole idea is just wrong wrong wrong. The teacher has been told by the head of the dance program to change the song, but the problem remains that the teacher thought it was ok. He originally wanted to use an Eminem song, but edit out some lyrics. Still wrong.

I know someone who works for the Dep’t of Ed Arts Unit, who says that if a group wants to perform at a State performance, they must submit the lyrics to the song. This song would not pass. Some schools run the lyrics by the Principal before beginning work on the dance. I think this is what we need to organise.

But the point I want to write across the sky is this: if the children think the song is about one thing, but the audience knows it is about sex, that is exploitation. That isn’t respectful. That isn’t ok. And I’m not prepared to let that happen.

I need to have a chat with the dance teacher, or ask that the head of the program or the Principal explain why choosing to dance to songs about sex (and the stereotyped depictions of gender, power, and relationships), and have children perform those dances in public, is wrong. But I also need to approach this carefully. Wish me luck.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Fashion Faux Pas

About ten years ago I saw a colour and style consultant. It means I know what colours suit me (deep jewel colours and icy tones), and what styles (scoop neck over v neck, sweetheart neckline best). It means I can swoop into an opshop and quickly identify any decent options by colour, feel of fabric (fabric must breathe), style and size. For many clothing shops I know there is no point entering because there is nothing inside for me. It was a good investment; one I wish I had made earlier.

Last week, feeling that spring has sprung, I was looking for my pink shoes with the flowers on them. I bought them about two years ago and had never worn them, but decided this was the day. I couldn’t find them. I must have given them away, in the cold of winter, feeling that, being mid-forties, I’m too old to wear cute clothes and pink flowered shoes.

I want those shoes back!

My fashion faux pas these days is giving away clothes then later regretting it. I regret giving away the long dress I made. After having three kids it would have fit well with a good bra and a pair of spanx. Why didn’t I think of that? I now have no garments that I have made in my wardrobe. I’ve given them all away. I regret giving away the blue polka dot dress. And the steel blue tencel pants. And the yellow mini-cardi that tied up under the bust, Regency style. So cute. I regret giving away my grandmother’s dress. I’ve never again seen a dress cut like that. And my mothers’ Fletcher Jones skirts I gave to a French exchange student. What was I thinking? I gave away the clothes that weren’t practical to wear while breastfeeding, or cooking with toddlers underfoot. How short-sighted of me. No long dresses or flared long sleeves in my wardrobe anymore.

I wish I had time to style each day. My fashion sense as a teenager and young adult was ‘theatrical’. I went to fashion school. I made my own clothes at a time when it was cheaper to do so. Now clothes are so cheap, there isn’t much point. Clothes at an opshop could cost more than new, but they’re more interesting, and, for me, buying from a charity shop is more ethical. When the children were younger I was in danger of my main fashion influence being Hi-5. Now, my main fashion influence is Lionel Shriver, because, she says, she wears the same thing for a week. That’s what I do. The truth is, I don’t have time for anything else. Every day I wear a bag that crosses my upper body, so my hands are free when we’re out and about. It’s very practical. Not very fashionable.

I care about fashion. Not high fashion but day to day wearable fashion. I just look like I don’t. But I don't want to look like I've given up (a reference to my partner's comment when I popped on a big blue poncho). Wearing all black now makes me look like an Italian widow. I'm taking a cue from Cherie, by Collette, where Cherie says softer pinks are kinder when you age. Will I be an eccentric-looking old person, when I have more time to be stylish? Do I have to wait? I don't want to wear tight clothes, or lots of accesories or anything crazy. I don't want to go all Carrie Bradshaw. But can I still wear cute clothes in my mid-forties, or would that be mutton dressed as lamb?