Saturday, October 29, 2011

An obscence gesture in the classroom and resources for White Ribbon Day

Some teachers at our school are putting together a program for White Ribbon Day, the campaign to stop violence against women, which happens on Nov 25th. I offered to write a brochure to help parents and teachers choose media for their children, including the findings from the Growing Up Fast and Furious Conference I attended, and other sites, blogs, resources and gender issues that I talk about here on my blog. I have lots of feminist stuff but I'm lacking some info for boys.

The other day I was helping with reading in my daughter's Year 1 class,. We were reading in a small group, and one of the boys put his fingers under his mouth, like a V, and stuck his tongue out. He did that at me. I was a little shocked. I asked him what he was doing. A small girl in the group asked if he was cutting off his tongue. I directed our attention back to our books. The incident bothered me all day, so at school pick up I told the teacher.

This boy is seven years old. I know his mum. They are a nice family. They are a church family. He has older siblings, but they are at primary school. I'm hoping he was just trying to show off, and didn't know what it means. I have no idea how a seven year old boy has picked up the obscene gesture for cunnilingus.

Perhaps it is a glimpse of what I can expect teaching at high school.

So, I'm asking. If you have any resources for boys, let me know, and I'll add it to the brochure.

And if you are interested in seeing the brochure as it is so far, about encouraging respectful relationships, let me know and I'll email you the document.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Costumes for women

I'm not getting into the whole Halloween is unAustralian/pagan ritual/wrong hemisphere debate. I'm not into Halloween. My kids won't be trick or treating. However, the school does have a Halloween Disco. It's a Halloween Disco because our school calender is so full, when we found a date for a school disco, it happened to be near the date for Halloween, so it became a dress up disco. Fun for young and old. Cyberguy does the music, which is fun for him (and the only volunteering he does for the school).

The point of the post is to share a celebration of women. There is a company that sells costumes for women celebrating famous women in history. Scientists, Queens, Goddesses, from all over the world. I'm not suggesting you buy any of these costumes, but you could use them as inspiration to make your own costumes. Really, I'm just happy to celebrate amazing women in history. The business was created in reaction to the sexification of Halloween costumes (well, the Playboy Bunny version of sexy, that seems to be common in Halloween costumes). Have a look.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Museum of Motherhood, Mamapalooza and a course

I'm loving learning about The Museum of Motherhood in New York - photography, artwork, interactive exhibits, theatre works, and academic work. They have exhibitions in a child friendly space. You can drop in for playgroups and storytime. Sounds fantastic. And now, an online course. Have a look.

Wouldn't it be great to make a similar space in Australia!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Issues in old movies

I was raised on Bill Collins Golden Years of Hollywood. So I love watching the old films on ABC2 on a Saturday night. Two I’ve seen recently have made me think about social issues: Kramer Vs Kramer, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Which movie seems outdated now?

Kramer vs Kramer
was made in 1979. It stars Dustin Hoffman as Ted, and Meryl Streep as Joanna, a married couple who have one son, Billy, aged 5. The film opens with Joanna leaving the family home. Ted has no experience of caring for his son, nor of running a household. The film shows his struggles. It also shows his career slide as care work interferes with his working life. Joanna returns, wanting custody, and explains she felt she needed to work but Ted never listened to her. She felt being a SAHM was crippling her sense of self. She needed to get away, have therapy, get a job, but she never stopped loving her boy. They go to court, and hurt each other in ways they don’t intend. Ted asks why can’t a man be as good a parent as a woman? Joanna win custody, but decides to leave Billy with his father, as he is already home there.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
was released in 1969. It is about the problems of a prospective interracial marriage. The prospective groom is Sidney Portier playing a doctor - who could object to him? But, at the time, interracial marriage was illegal some states of the USA. Hard to believe now. Interracial relationships don’t turn a hair now. I live in the one of most multicultural municipalities of Australia. I can’t imagine anyone questioning interracial relationships. It feels strange to even say the words. My children watched this movie one afternoon and I had to explain that people used to consider interracial marriage a problem. They couldn't see why.

So, we’ve come a long way on one issue, but not on the other. My children would recognise the issues in Kramer vs Kramer.

This letter was on the SMH site recently.

THANK you (name) and (name) (Working women owed a break, September 25). It is about time we had some serious public debate on the genuine feasibility of female participation in corporate Australia and the need for our government to extend more than just platitudes to help solve the problem. As a mother of two pre-school children, I recently returned from a seven-year stint in Canada, taking up a full-time management position in the financial sector.
Putting aside the free obstetrics and paid maternity leave that met my introduction to the world of motherhood in Canada, childcare was a breeze. Canada encourages migration of caregivers under a scheme whereby they are employed as live-in nannies or elder-care nurses for a specified period of time, after which they may apply for permanent residency. Employers of live-in caregivers receive a significant tax credit which is not means-tested. Is it any wonder that few (if any) of my female colleagues care to join me in this ridiculous working-mother juggling act?
As long as the Australian corporate culture expects ever-increasing hours, our childcare centres continue to close at 6pm and our government fails to support flexible, in-home care options, there will continue to be a dearth of female role models to inspire and mentor the next generation of working mothers.

name Sydney letter SMH site 9.10.11

So, another ten years, perhaps, until this is sorted? I'm hoping my grandchildren will be able to watch Kramer vs Kramer and not understand how the care work of parenting was ever in conflict with being in paid employment.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Child Sacrifice in Uganda

Some very disturbing things going on in Africa.

I can't argue that children have been sacrificed in a lot of cultures throughout history, so perhaps it is on a spectrum of normal human behaviour. It is unimaginable how anyone could think this is OK.

Albinos are being murdered and their remains sold to witch doctors in Tanzania. Children are being murdered for ritual sacrifice in Uganda. People who go to witch doctors there believe that sacrificing a child will bring them prosperity or protect their wealth. About 900 children have been sacrificed. Numbers have increased over the last three years as Uganda has become more prosperous.

The Jubilee Campaign, an organisation operating out of the UK, is asking that people support their work by signing their petition, or donating money. They also work to free children from prison, and remove children from brothels. Just heartbreaking.

Have a look at the Jubilee Campaign.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Louis Theroux: A Place for Paedophiles

In my teacher training we have a textbook about student behaviour in which we are told some aspects of child sexual abuse. How to recognise it and what supports are available and so on. It also lists statistics which shocked me. The incidence is higher than I expected. My textbook says that adult abusers molest about 150 times before being detected. That about 20% of men and 7% of women report having some sexual interest in children. 7% of males and 3% of women would act on this interest if they believe they wouldn’t get caught. Most abusers are known to their victims. Between 20 and 50% of offences are committed by adolescents, half of which is sibling incest. Most abusers were not abused themselves. Basically, we are being told that we will be teaching children who are being, or have been, sexually abused.

I watched Louis Theroux’s documentary last night. It is about the inmates of a Californian psychiatric hospital for convicted paedophiles and rapists. The men are kept there after they have served their prison sentence. Only 30% are involved in the rehabilitation program. The rest are appealing through legal channels, or just being kept there until they die.

A graduate of the rehabilitation program had authorities looking for a place for him to live in the community. So far, 1100 prospective landlords or communities had rejected him. This man had been castrated, at his own request. Only 13 inmates had graduated out of the hospital and into the community.

It was hard to watch. The men seemed very normal. For some, decades had passed since their crimes. For others, there were many more victims of their crimes than the legal system was aware of. One man said he had about 50 victims. Some acknowledged the damage they had done.

As well as group therapy and working with social workers, the men in the program are subjected to lie detector tests and a test where their physical reaction to various types of visual stimulus is recorded. An implement is attached to the penis to measure this reaction. The stimulus can be adult sexual material, or material that suggests children are sexual. They can’t use child pornography, so, the clinicians said, they use pictures of children in bathing suits playing with water or eating fruit. Playing with water or eating fruit. I admit I didn’t see the actual photos, and didn’t see how suggestively children were playing with water or eating fruit. But really. Water and fruit? Whether a response would be recorded by showing child beauty pageants or children in skimpy costumes bumping and grinding at the local dance school concert or children in French Vogue, I don't know.

The whole discussion leads me to lots of questions.

Images of children in advertising, and in our culture generally. The pornification of our culture. We can’t pretend it is harmless. What are the messages that people are receiving that encourage sexual abuse, and that don’t encourage respect for women, girls and boys as whole people who have a right to be safe? I think we already know the answer to that one.

Empowering kids. We need to train kids to stand up for themselves. To speak out and be confident. Which leads to the issue of connection. It is more likely that kids who lack a strong social network are the kids targeted by opportunistic abusers and paedophiles. Isolated kids are at risk kids.

The question of justice. I understand that these men are not welcome in the community. But are their rights being violated? After serving their prison sentences, should they be returned to the community? Perpetrators of other crimes - murderers, embezzlers, armed robbers - are returned to the community. These men are being held on the basis that they might re-offend. Other types of criminals are not treated the same way. Or is holding these men indefinitely sending a clear message to potential offenders that their crime will cost them their futures?

This is a shocking question, but I have to ask it. In Ancient Greece, men had sex with adolescent boys. It was considered normal. And we know that children are trafficked into the sex trade all over the world. Are there any cultures in which child sexual abuse hasn’t happened? If not, then we have to ask if adult sexual interest in children is part of a range of normality, as abhorrent as that idea may be. Is child sexual abuse something we can prevent with education and laws and respect and kindness? Or will there always be people who have the urge and take their opportunities, and the best we can do is try to keep children, not just our children, but all children, out of their way? If there are or have been cultures in which adult sexual interest in children didn't exist, keeping in mind that in some cultures childhood ended earlier than our current age of consent, what was it about those cultures that may have contributed to the sexual safety of children, and what can we learn from them?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Facebook Rape Pages - Petition

You may have heard about rape culture pages on Facebook.These are pages where people make jokes about rape, and generally, promote rape culture. The story is here:

If you want to protest, a petition can be found here:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A big week in politics

Two of the major issues in Australian politics are now settled. We have a carbon tax. Asylum seekers will be processed onshore. Done and dusted.

So, what are we going to talk about now?

Q&A can't run programs only talking about gay marriage.

What are the issues you hope will come to the fore of public discussion now that the issues of the carbon tax and accepting asylum seekers are put to rest?

(I'll have a think too. I'm up to my elbows in assignments, but have been pretending I'm not - proofed a friend's thesis, applied to teach ethics in schools, working on a cookbook for school, wrote out a document of resources to support the White Ribbon Day program at school, compiled from info on my blog, more volunteering than you can shake a stick at - but now, back to the assignments...)

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Resource for choosing music for kids - Common Sense Media

I've updated one of my most popular posts, Music for Kids to Dance to, because I've found this great resource that helps you choose not only music, but films, games and books. The site provides brief reviews of books, cds, songs, and electronic media. You can search by age or genre. The film reviews also suggests issues that you might want to discuss with your child. You can find out which Glee cds have the more adult content, and which are OK for tweens. You can find apps that are made for toddlers. And you can browse through lists of old films that you'd forgotten about, but would love to share with your children.

I especially like the Hidden Gems.

Enjoy. (And avoid the oops of buying the Bruno Mars cd for 7 year old.)

Also, the Australian site that reviews films so you Know Before You Go

MIRCI seeks support

Every who knows me in RL knows I'm always banging on about MIRCI (Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement, previously known as ARM - Association for Research on Mothering) which was started and is run by the fabulous Andrea O'Reilly. Andrea circulated an email this week to let people know what is happening with the organisation, and that she needs some help. If you have been thinking about buying some journals or other publications from Demeter Press, now would be a good time to do it. (Before our dollar drops any lower.) Here is the email.

I am emailing concerning MIRCI; some great news and some difficult challenges.

As you no doubt are aware, we have moved to publishing 6-8 Demeter titles a year so we can qualify for some significant funding through the Canadian Government (Cdn Council and Heritage Canada). As a result we had to publish 4 titles this fall to qualify for the grants (Cdn Council nov 1 deadline and Heritage Canada april 1 2012)

The good news is that these are not like sshcc grants: once you meet the eligibility requirements and do the hard work of submitting the application (full financial information, sales reports etc) you receive the grant and it is renewed annually as long as you continue to meet the requirements. We are talking serious money: (10,000-25,000 per year for Cdn Council and 20,000 plus for Heritage Canada). Once we receive these grants, Demeter Press' future will be secure, particularly as we now have a distributor that will also bring in increased sales.

The good news is that we have just learned yesterday that our assessment for Cdn Council grant has been approved and we will be submitting the grant in November (this was a huge hurdle to get over).

The challenging news is that we need to have these four titles published this fall for this grant (and to apply for the even bigger Heritage Canada grant in April). The cost of publishing these 4 titles is more than $30,000 and this must be paid over the next 3 months.Some of this money will be raised through book sales but we still have to raise a lot of money fast to cover these printing costs so we are eligible for these grants: if we don't we can not apply. So we are truly behind a rock and hard place.

I am spending the next few days emailing the loyal supporters of MIRCI/Demeter press in the hope that they can do one or more of the following to raise the needed money so we can publish these titles and secure this grant funding: renew your 2012 membership NOW (form will be on site by end of the week) ideally as a sustaining member, purchase Demeter titles for yourself, a friend or colleagues or make a donation to MIRCI or Demeter Press. Again, the money needs to be raised as soon as possible so we can keep moving these Fall titles into production.

If most of our loyal members did just one of the above we would have the needed money to get these books printed and thus secure these grants to make possible a secure future for Demeter we can keep doing the important and necessary work of publishing high quality motherhood scholarship.

I do hope that you can.



Here is the link

Thursday, October 06, 2011

October is Buy Nothing New Month

As you know, we shop second hand here at Motherhugger Manor. We recently bought a second hand toaster and microwave. I'd rather not buy new if we can avoid it.

If you want to be part of the movement to avoid buying new, by way of helping the earth and your own budget, have a look at the Buy Nothing New site.

The idea is to get people thinking. Do you really need it? Where does it come from? Where does it go? Can you borrow or swap or buy second hand instead?

There seems to be more of a vintage/op-shop culture in Victoria. They have Savers Recycle Superstores that we don't have in NSW. Brotherhood Books are selling books online with free postage. In Victoria they have stylists visit Brotherhood of St Laurence Hunter Gather stores. That's very cool. I'd love that job!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Playboy at Diva

The jewellery store, Diva, has a new range of Playboy jewellery. Have a look. For many girls, this kind of shop is their first foray into buying jewellery. Diva knows that selling Playboy merchandise offends some people, but, according to the message at the bottom of their homepage, they don't care.

If you think it is wrong to market porn industry products to young girls, here's what you can do.

Write to Diva here:

You can let them know what you think on their Facebook page.

Phone them: 02 9938 3311 or 1300 348 228

Collective Shout has a petition you can sign.

Or read the post here

The time warp

This year, has been a strange kind of time warp
At the end of term 1 I felt as if the year was done.
At the end of term 3 I felt as if the term had just begun.
We’ve spent the year lurching from one annual event to the next, interrupted by children’s illnesses. Regularly. Too regularly.

Remember how last holidays I said we were resting, because everyone had been sick, and we wanted to keep the sicknesses at bay? Well, it didn’t work.

This term the children have had four bouts of tonsillitis, we’ve had vomiting, diarrhoea and high temperatures. Banjo fractured both her wrists. She fell off the monkey bars at school. She had one purple cast and one red, which she used to colour co-ordinate her outfits. Matilda fell on her arm but it wasn’t fractured. On the way to the ENT specialist the other day, Banjo vomited on the train. Lovely. She needs to have her tonsils and adenoids out, her ears drained, grommets inserted and the sides of somewhere inside her nose shaved off. She’ll be off school for two weeks (and we need to rethink Christmas, holidays, and anything that involves money.)

This term I’ve done most of my uni readings in doctor’s waiting rooms and at the hospital.

This term all the children had to write and perform speeches. It’s the bane of every family. Matilda’s was on animal rights and food production. Then she decided she’s giving up red meat. Even kangaroo sausages. Now, her dad is vegetarian, so this wasn’t a big step for us, but even so. There are few enough intersections of what the children will eat. Spag bol was a one. Potato Bake. Vietnamese rolls. Homemade pizza. Carrot sticks. Porridge (our resident Scotsman is handy with a spurtle). Pancakes. Apples. That’s about it.

Then I told the children that, being school holidays and me having a uni assignment due, they were in charge of dinner. And voila. Red meat is back on the menu. Clancy made meatballs and pasta in a tomato sauce, and Matilda made Chicken Teriyaki (of a type).

Now, we really are on the home stretch. All the end of year events are coming up. I wonder if it will feel like the end of the year. I’m looking forward to all our duties being dispensed with and we can just relax. I hope.

Unwatchable - Save the Congo

A viral film campaign by Save the Congo is causing controversy in the UK. The film is called 'Unwatchable'. Based on the principle that western audiences are desensitised to violence and horror, especially the violence in Africa, the film transposes the story of an African girl being raped to a blonde girl in a market town in Glocestershire. The film depicts the vicious gang rape of the girl and the murder of her parents.

The aim of the film, according to Vava Tampa, director of Save the Congo, is the entirely laudable one of raising awareness about the use of conflict minerals mined in the Congo and used in mobile phones. If you manage to get to the end of the film there are storyboards that spell it out. Rape is used as a tactic of war by militias keen to gain control over valuable minerals such as tungsten, tin and tantalum.

"You have the power," the film intones, "to demand your mobile phone manufacturer stops using blood minerals." It urges us to "find out more, sign the petition, share this film".

I'm not going to link to the film.Instead I'm linking to the film of the women whose story this is based upon. It is as disturbing as anything you could see or read, but it is the truth.

I've written about women in the DRC and about mining minerals for mobile phones before. Some campaigners say that every mobile phone carries a bit of the war in the Congo. I hope that people will protest what is happening there without having to watch graphic violence, whether that violence be perpetrated on English people in fiction, or on African people in reality.


Ladynerd is a one woman cabaret by Kiera Daley celebrating smart women. It was presented by Sydney Fringe Festival.

This show is funny. Great singing. Informative. Great LadyNerds celebrated on the night included Marie Curie (research on radioactivity), Hedy Lemarr (Hollywood actress who invented frequency hopping - mobile phones would not work without it), Ada Lovelace (daughter of Lord Byron who wrote the first computer program before computers were made), Bette Nesmith Graham (invented Liquid Paper) and all nerdy women everyone.

Great feminism and great entertainment.

Everytime I click my fingers
Is putting an apostrophe in the wrong place!

A Dangerous Idea - All Women are Sluts.

I know I said I wouldn’t be going to The Festival of Dangerous Ideas, but my very kind friend Michelle shouted me to join her at two sessions.

The first one was Sleeping with the Enemy: Collaborating with Corporations by Mike Daisy - about how we are all complicit with the rise and power of inhumane corporations and should be fighting a war of resistance against then by socially shunning anyone who works for one. He also does a monologue about Apple and Steve Jobs and factory workers in China.
He had me from the start when he said we were hypocrites - there will be no dangerous ideas for the comfortable middle classes at our lovely Opera House.

And then there was.

The session, All Women Are Sluts.

The panel consisted of: Clem Bastow, writer, broadcaster and music critic based in Melbourne; Samah Hadid is a young human rights advocate and 2010 Australian Youth Representative to the UN; and Catherine Lumby, author, public commentator and Director of Journalism and Media Research at UNSW.
It was chaired by Ann Mossop.

The members of the panel all agreed with each other. They embraced the word 'Slut’, saying, we’re all sluts now; lets empty the word of its power, lets claim it for ourselves (as minorities have done with the word nigger, or queer or dyke), yet were appalled on hearing a teenage girl in the audience say that girls in her school call each other sluts as a way of bullying each other. So, does the word have power or not?

What is the point of having a panel where everyone agrees? The points raised by people in the audience we more interesting than the panelists’.

Sorry, I will not embrace my ‘sluthood’. I think you are all misguided.

What was not covered was how this may affect children. If the word is embraced as something that is a positive thing for women’s identity, does that mean we are happy for children to call each other sluts? No. No-one told the girl she should say, ‘yes I’m a slut and proud of it.’

Samah Hadid said that a rape victim had told her she had recovered because she can embrace the term slut. It is hard to believe.

I’m as against slut shaming and victim blaming as the next feminist, but embracing the word slut is leading us in the wrong direction. Slutwalk did get a conversation started. It has brought younger women into a feminist protest. But it hasn’t been well thought through.

What about women in developing nations who are forced into the sex trade? Would they be happy to identify as sluts? Does slutwalk help them? I don’t see the UN Women calling for more Slutwalks.

And what was it with bagging Reclaim the Night? It has the same message that women should be able to walk down the street at night wearing whatever they like and not be raped. It is a message to men to not rape. Why is that event now not OK? Is it not considered cool by younger feminists? They want something more edgy?

And what is it with bagging out Gail Dines? There is more to the arguments around porn than ‘porn can be fun’ or ‘feminists make porn’. Raunch culture/porn/slut-shaming/rape culture all intersect.

In the advertisement for the new film, Crazy Stupid Love, a male character says something like. ‘The war of the sexes is over. We won when women started doing poledancing for fitness.’ I feel that slutwalk is like that. It shows we’ve given up. It’s not that we’ve lost. We’ve given it away. Why can’t we protest to be respected, but do it in a way that respects ourselves, our children, and women all over the world as well?

I won’t be campaigning for the right for my children to be called sluts. The word should die from disuse. As should any other word that demeans women - bitch, cunt, strumpet, slag, scrubber etc

Slutwalk runs counter to other feminist work. I hope this year’s event will be the last.

So, I’m asking; can we workshop the ideas a little more please, so that the movement doesn’t damage women or children?

Proud Hoydens Take Back the Night, perhaps? Or Take Back the Fucking Night?

I've sent emails to Clem Bastow and Samah Hadid asking if Slutwalk is helpful to children or women in developing countries.