Saturday, July 28, 2012

Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2012

Have you seen the list of events for this year's Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House.

There are some I'm interested in going to, and if you'd like to come with me, let me know so we can book tickets this week.

On Sat 29th Sept:

How Many Dangerous Idea Can One Person Have? - Germaine Greer
Abolish Private School (the Finnish model of education) -  Pasi Sahlberg & panel
The Delusion of Free Will - Sam Harris

On Sun 30th Sept:

All Women Hate Each Other - Germaine Greer, Eva Cox, Tara Moss
If Mother Nature Could Sue: Wild Law and the Rights of Nature - Cormac Cullinan
You are Being Greenwashed - Guy Pearse

Also, there is a talk by John Ralston Saul called It's Broke: How Can We Fix It? It's scheduled for 26 August. I might go to that one too.

I think I'd rather go to a good talk than any other type of entertainment at the moment. Or is it just that too much of the entertainment I attend is directed at children? 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Normalising the Language of the Sex Industry

Have you noticed the language of the sex industry had filtered down to everyday life. Anything now can be described as hardcore. Sport. Music.
And now this. ABC3 has a game for children called 'Pimp Scotty's Van'. Yes, I know pimp can be used as a verb, but used as a verb for a children's game? Not good.

Who do I write to?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Parent Envy

Two people close to me have recently told me they envy me for having children.

Well, one says he envies me, and the other says she’s upset that my child, years ago, when my child was about four, pointed out that she didn’t have children, which hurt her feelings, because she doesn’t have children. Neither of these people who are close to me visit me regularly. They don’t spend much time with me and my kids.

The one who was offended said, years ago, when invited over, that she spends her working days with small children, and doesn’t want to be with them in her own time. Fair enough. Of course, she could have had a child on her own if she really wanted to. She doesn’t spend time with us because her feelings were hurt by an offhand remark by a preschooler.

My other friend, the male, has pursued a career in the creative arts, and his relationships haven’t produced any children, even though he has always wanted to have kids of his own. He may yet have children. It’s not too late.

Here’s what I don’t get. Since I’ve had kids most of my friends have stayed away in droves. I’ve made new friends in the neighbourhood, friends who have kids. My friends who don’t have kids are living a life of freedom, relationships, work, holidays, parties, outings, and it all looks pretty good from the outside. No-one from my family or old friends have ever taken my children on an outing. The only person who have ever taken a child out is my ex-neighbour, a single woman, who has taken each child in turn on a daytrip to visit her friends who live on an island in the Hawkesbury River.  No member of my family, nor an old friend has ever had my kids stay overnight. They’ve never come to a child performance. Old friends and family members have never offered to take the kids for me because I have an essay to write or an exam to study for. My partner and I know that we’re on our own, and if we want to call on help, we ask local parents for help. That’s why I started the babysitting club.

To tell the truth there have been a few times when I’ve really needed help. When I’ve given birth. It was difficult to find someone to look after my children so I could have a baby. I had to inconvenience someone, who came over, even though she didn’t want to, even though she was on holidays, to look after my kids so I could give birth. When we moved house with three small children. We needed to return to the old house to clean it the next day, and I asked a number of people to come over and mind the kids. Most said no. Even though they had nothing else on. Some said they needed to rest on the weekend. We were exhausted after moving house and hadn’t begun setting up the new house, and had to clean the old house on our own. But they needed their weekend to rest. Thanks to the old friend, who I hardly see, who came through for us. And one time when I was sick. An old friend came over to look after the kids during the day. That’s it. It’s hard to find people to help us. I did once ask a friend of my partners' for help. He did help, but his wife disapproved and I haven't seen them since.

Why aren’t people without kids spending time with us? If I was single, and didn’t have kids, I would want to have relationships with the kids who could be in my life, and take them places and have them over, and attend their events, and enjoy being with them and watching them grow. I know there are children who have aunties and uncles and family friends who are involved in their lives. but those children aren’t my children. My children just have their parents, and maybe their friends’ parents. I really appreciate their friends’ parents being involved in their care.   

So, when people say they envy me for having children, should I take it with a grain of salt? Because if they really think my kids are cool, and smart, and interesting and fun to be with, wouldn’t they actually make an effort to be with them?

Friday, July 20, 2012

50 Shades of Grey - this review made me LOL

I won't be reading the book. I don't like repetitive descriptions, a la Twilight, and I have many other books to read as higher priorities, but I do congratualate the author. Good on you. Enjoy your success. There's room in the world for many types of writing, music, art. Obviously.

If you aren't sick of reading about the book already, here is a review which made me LOL. It's clever, and, it moves! Enjoy.

Bogan Bashing on TV

I’m quite perplexed by these tv shows. 

Have you seen the tv ad for Big Brother on Channel Nine? The show is positioning itself as an anti-bogan show. The show is going to be hosted by Sonia Kruger. She’s been on tv quite a lot, mostly in designer gowns, as far as I’ve seen, so I’m not pegging her a  natural beauty kind of gal, although it would be hard to tell. Classy? That’s what I’m supposed to think of her. I’m not buying. In the tv ad she’s wearing what looks like vinyl tights. Her hair is dyed. She’s wearing makeup. She’s waxed and  she looks like she works out. Not exactly a freewheeling bohemian type. The distance between her and the bogans who are denied entry is pretty small. Different hairstyle. Different dancestyle. Covering her midriff on this occasion. The difference in style is just a matter of degree.

Channel Nine is the station that airs Two and Half Men, Funniest Home Videos and Underbelly, so it’s hardly the pinnacle of high culture. Hmm. Are they insulting their audience? 

The same with Snog Marry Avoid. The host is disparaging to the over-groomed guests on the show, asking that they tone down their looks to look more like her. But she’s no natural beauty either (well she could be but we’ll never know). Her hair is dyed, she is skinny, wears makeup, wears fashionable clothes, and is meant to be the example of proper, acceptable style. Again, it is just a matter of degree. 

And now, The Shire, which I haven’t seen. Another show in this trend of bogan-bashing.

So, we want women on tv to look good, to be clear about caring about how they look, but to look like they’re not trying too hard. We couldn’t have a plain or unfashionable or overweight or un-groomed (waxed, dyed, buffed, tightened, botoxed) woman on tv. Grooming now is more than just cleaning your teeth and brushing your hair. It’s a commitment that requires time and money. But we don’t want women who are overdone, by certain standards. Even though there are lot of women in our culture who do spend a lot of time on their appearance, even if they don’t need to.

Are we really so smug and self-satisfied that we enjoy making fun of people we consider below us due to their fashion choices? Or is this coming from insecurity? Do we see that we are only one step away from being ’bogans’ ourselves. Nearly everyone can afford new clothes, hair dye, manicures, electronic gadgets, mobile phones, flatscreen tvs and dvd players, and a playstation/ds for their children. People of all classes have tattoos and piercings. It’s getting harder to tell the classes apart. So we need tv for do it for us.

The working class now have access to the goods and services once only available to the middle class, but they’re getting it wrong (by middle class standards), and we’re laughing at them for their aspirations. They’ll never be middle class. Fools for trying. That’s the attitude.

What would be really edgy and interesting would be a show that depicts the people I will no longer refer to as bogans (we used to call them ‘westies’) because that’s what these shows want me to call them, as people who are resourceful and witty, subtle and sophisticated, who have deep relationships, and how working class culture (is that what it is?) is a culture that is valid in its own right. We look at cultures from other countries and communities with respect. We legislate against discrimination on the basis of cultural background, but we currently have no respect for white working class culture. 

What do you think is going on here?

* Written whilst wearing my ugg boots.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Intensive Mothering - call for papers.

I think I have something to offer here. If you do too, submit a paper. 

Demeter Press
is seeking submissions for an edited collection
Intensive Mothering: The Cultural Contradictions Of Modern Motherhood
Editor: Dr. Linda Ennis

To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Sharon Hays' landmark book, "The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood", this collection will revisit Hays' concept of "intensive mothering" as a continuing, yet controversial representation of modern motherhood. In Hays' original work, she spoke of "intensive mothering" as primarily being conducted by mothers, centered on children's needs with methods informed by experts, which are labour-intensive and costly simply because children are entitled to this maternal investment. While respecting the important need for connection between mother and baby that is prevalent in the teachings of Attachment Theory, this collection raises into question whether an over-investment of mothers in their children's lives is as effective a mode of parenting, as being conveyed by representations of modern motherhood. In a world where independence is encouraged, why are we still engaging in "intensive motherhood"?

Topics can also include (but are not limited to):
Reconciling early childhood theory with intensive mothering; the impact of Sharon Hays work; comparing intensive motherhood today with that of the 90s; motives behind intensive mothering; independence and dependency; working/stay-at-home mothers and intensive motherhood; empty nest and intensive mothering; the mommy track and intensive mothering; intensive mothering throughout the life-span; fathers and intensive mothering; economics of intensive motherhood; self-centeredness, perfectionism and intensive motherhood; ambivalence, guilt and intensive mothering; career success and intensive mothering; education and intensive mothering; the role of the school in condoning intensive motherhood; the decline of the family unit and intensive mothering; the use of technology to maintain intensive mothering; single mothers and intensive mothering; immigrant mothers and intensive mothering; grandmothers and intensive mothering; intensive mothering from a distance; intensive mothering and medical well-being; depression and intensive mothering; stories about intensive mothering experiences; intensive motherhood, as portrayed in literature.
Submission Guidelines

Abstracts: 250 words. Please include a 50-word biography
Deadline for abstracts is March 1, 2013
Please send submissions and inquiries directly to: Dr. Linda Ennis

Completed manuscripts not exceeding 20 pages will be due September 2014,
and should conform to MLA guidelines.

Acceptance is contingent and will depend upon the strength and fit of the final piece.
Demeter Press
140 Holland St. West, PO 13022
Bradford, ON L3Z 2Y5 Tel: (905) 775-9089

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Let Them Be Bored

Stuvac. A study vacation. That’s what I’ve been on. Happy to sleep in most mornings. Reading for uni and working on assignments in the gaps of each day - the gaps are between appointments for children’s health. And getting there! After beginning the holiday, and the trimester, feeling like it was all impossible, I’m travelling ok. I get it. I know what to do and I’m doing it.

In the meantime, the children. They’ve spent lots of days in their pyjamas and watched lots of tv. We’d had slow days, quiet days, hanging out at home days.

‘Let them be bored’, I say. I’m a fan of children being bored, for lots of reasons.  

Famous people were bored when they were children. Not just bored but forced into boredom by illness. Joni Mitchell and Neil Young suffered polio when they were children. This meant a long time lying in bed. For Joni, she said it forged in her the determination to be an artist. It’s when she started singing. Tom Jones was diagnosed with tuberculosis at age 12. He spent two years recovering, listening to the radio and drawing. Patti Smith had a childhood full of illness: bronchitis, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, three different kinds of measles. That’s a lot of time in bed, doing, not much. Now, I’m not suggesting that being sick has a major upside. I’m just saying that boredom turns people on to creative solutions.

Boredom doesn’t disappear when you grow up, so you’d better get used to it.

The more you put into something, the more you get out of it. If you are bored, you need to find a way to engage more with what you’re doing. Whether it’s cooking. cleaning, studying, work or relationships. And that’s about mental discipline, making meaningful connections and creativity. The sooner children learn that the better.

As my Masters supervisor used to say to me, and I say to my children, after boredom comes discovery. Boredom is part of the process, and gives you a kick up the bum to do something really interesting.

So, during the holidays the children have been reading, playing in the backyard, playing board games and card games, singing and dancing. They’ve been having a fine holiday while their mother studies.

Choices within structures and not ‘having it all’.

For the past twelve years I’ve been a stay at home mum. As a woman who identified as feminist before leaving school, it was never part of my plan to be financially dependent on a man, but I have been for long time, and that man has been a ‘good provider’.

Recently my partner has had to find another job. During that transition time, my old job, that I was happy doing before I had children, was advertised. I thought about it. I liked that job and I know I can do it. It like the people I worked with and it is a job that is worth doing - in a non-profit educational area. Of course, my partner could run the household and look after the kids while I work full time, but we would expect him to find full time work sooner or later, and then what?

When we considered me working full time, as well as my partner, through school holidays, and all the implications of that for the family, it just wouldn’t be worth it. The consequences include the children's’ before and after school activities being squashed into the weekend and the expense of transferring to more expensive forms of instruction. The expense of before and after school care. The expense of vacation care, in whatever form that may take, as we don’t have any family members who could help us. The expense of transport to and from work. The expense of a work wardrobe. It would mean other people would need to be found to replace the jobs I do now, paid and voluntary. It would mean I’m removed from my community. And it would mean less time. Less time to cook cheap meals and ensure that clothes are clean. Less time with the children. Less time for the children to relax. Less time for me to relax. We would live in a mad panic and everyone would be unhappy.

So we decided to stick to the current plan. I become a teacher. It really is the only job I could do that fits with our family.

So, what about ‘having it all?’

Well, it’s a phrase in regard to feminism that I wish we would retire. Of course, no-one can have ‘it all’ all the time, and what is ‘it all’ anyway? Is it just greed? Here’s Rebecca Traister.

Here is what is wrong, what has always been wrong, with equating feminist success with "having it all": It's a misrepresentation of a revolutionary social movement. The notion that female achievement should be measured by women's ability to "have it all" recasts a righteous struggle for greater political, economic, social, sexual and political parity as a piggy and acquisitive project.

What does "having it all" even mean? Affordable childcare or a nanny who speaks Mandarin? Decent school lunches or organic string cheese? A windowed office or a higher minimum wage? Public transportation that reliably gets you to work or a driver who will whisk you from kindergarten dropoff  in time for the board meeting? Does it mean never feeling stress or guilt? Does it mean feeling satisfied all the time?

It is a trap, a setup for inevitable feminist short-fall. Irresponsibly conflating liberation with satisfaction, the "have it all" formulation sets an impossible bar for female success and then ensures that when women fail to clear it, it's feminism - as opposed to persistent gender inequity - that's to blame.

We know that most mothers move in and out of phases in regard to work and caring for children. Anne-Marie Slaughter has agreed to stop saying ‘having it all’ and also suggests were retire ‘mommy wars’, and ’mommy track’. She’s rewritten the title of the piece as Why Working Mothers Need Better Choices to Be Able to Stay in the Pool and Make It to the Top. What she has learned following the debate she sparked is here:

The good part of the recent attention to the issues raised by the article in The Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter is the focus on structures. Of course, people make decisions within structures. Structures around gender expectations, work and care responsibilities, structures around communities and economies. These structures are socially and politically created and can be changed.

Amy Walburn has written a piece saying we need to realise that the educated career women in western societies outsource domestic and care tasks to poorer women, who have fewer choices, and in developing countries many women leave their families to work for rich families. For many women it isn’t a question of ‘having it all’, but mere survival.

As part of my study I’ve been reading the speeches set for study in HSC English. Included is the piece by Jessie Street, made on radio in 1944, where she argues that women shouldn’t be forced back to the kitchen after the war. That fighting for freedom includes the freedom for women to work if they want to. She argues that we need to make family life less hard for women. And that we need equal pay for equal work.

The world moves very slowly.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Have you seen the Toy Sale Catalogues??

KMart has pictures of girls playing with boys' toys. No boys playing with girls' toys, but it's a start. Yay!

Target has few children in their catalogue, so hard to judge. But Big W is more segregated than ever. Parts of the catalogue are labelled Girls Toy and Boys Toys, so not a lot of gender integration there. The most radical representation they include is a girl wearing a Skylanders T shirt. Boo!

I've been looking thorough them because it is Banjo's birthday this week, and I've organised nothing for her, except giving a large amount of money to the orthodontist. She's turning eight, and I'm glad she's still interested in baby dolls. I don't want her to grow up too quickly.

The amount of toys that have come through our house and out to the op shops just makes my head spin, so I need to be careful and cautious. I'm tempted to change the batteries of all the unused toys in the house and present them to the children as if new.

What I've noticed is that the toys are cheaper than ever before. A few years ago a Baby Alive doll was $100. Now you can get one for about $20. Everything is so cheap. Cheaper than I've ever seen. Yes, made in China, and made of plastic. I don't wonder why people buy so much. Mostly it makes me wonder how the environmental cost could possibly be factored into the price. And what kind of conditions are the workers enduring?

Cheap for us, but at what expense?

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Don't Change a Hair for Me: Wear a lap lap

Did you see the reaction, about a week ago, to this picture of Irish writer Emer O'Toole, exposing her pit hair on a UK breakfast show?

This is from her article in The Guardian, explaining herself, in question and answer form:

Don't small children run when they see you, fearing you will lure them to your gingerbread house?

A scene from my life:
Small child: Why do you have hair under your arms?
Me: Because when girls and boys grow up into women and men they grow hair under their arms.
Small child: My mum doesn't have hair under her arms.
Me: She shaves it off.
Small child: She doesn't.
Me: She does. Ask her.
Small child: Mum, do you?
Mother of small child: Yes.
Small child: Why?
Exactly, small child. Exactly.

And this:

Intriguing. I am considering ditching my Gillette Multi-Blade Princess Goddess Sexy Miracle Razor. What do you say to me?

Remember that you are doing the necessary and important work of challenging stupid, arbitrary, gendered bullshit. And when you get to feminist heaven, Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir will be waiting with bubbly wine, a corn-fed organic roast chicken, Bikini Kill and the entire cast of Monty Python. Do you want to miss that party?

Hey, that's a party I'm already on my way to joining!

If she'd revealed her tattoos or facial piercings, no-one would turn a hair (if they had the hairs to turn). We don't say 'yuk'. We may not want tattoos and facial piercings for ourselves, but we accept them. I find it refreshing to see an image of a woman who has hairy pits. She looks like a lovely, clean, intelligent woman, showing us that you have a choice about these things. It has been a long time since there was public comment on Deb Conway showing her hairy pits.  

Sometimes I tell people that one piece of advice I would give to young women is to never shave their bodies. People assume I'm encouraging waxing or lasering as means of hair removal. But no. I mean, just don't remove your body hair. Radical, I know. But I say it because I really wish I'd never started. I don't shave much. I shave my legs to the knee and have never gone higher. I've rarely been waxed. I shave my pits when I feel I need to - not for swimming but for the gym. Shaving the pits is becoming a bit tricky - when I'm in the shower and think to do it I really need to wear my glasses, which would steam up - so mostly I just don't bother. My mother never removed her body hair and her hair was soft and fine. The more you shave and wax the bigger the area that needs attention, and the coarser and darker the hair. This is a point my partner argues about, but I'm sticking to my truth here. The same may not apply to other women of different colouring, but for me, a fair woman with dark hair, I really need never to have started. Blonde women probably need never to start. I apply The Beauty Myth logic. Removing your body hair as an regular obligation is expensive and time consuming. Adding the Caitlin Moran argument: no man worth having has ever knocked back a shag with a women on the basis of her having body hair. I don't argue that you should keep it because it is natural. (Mould is natural.So are disasters.) I just believe it isn't worth doing, because once you start you set up the expectation that you will keep doing it, every week or so, for the rest of your life. And that's a long time, with a lot of other better things you could be doing.

My other reason is for diversity. We need to see many more different representations of women. I'm happy to be the women in the change room at the pool who has hair. If girl children don't see it on other people, how do they know not to be ashamed when their own body hair grows. They don't get to see body hair on women anywhere else. I understand there is a growing trend for adolescent girls to be waxed as soon as any hair grows. What kind of message is that? Girls growing up not knowing what their bodies are really like without the intervention of unnecessary grooming.

When I was younger I had a fascination for the Romany people. I read that when Romany women flashed their pit hair at a man it was considered to be erotic, because of the suggestion of hair elsewhere. We've lost that. We could bring it back.

About twenty years ago I bought a second hand swimsuit which was a blue, halterneck swimming dress. I loved it. My friend and I wrote a song. Here are the lyrics. Imagine it sung in the style of the Singing Nun. (And yes, I acknowledge the nod to Dorothy Parker.) (And, yes, she performed this in public!)

The Lap Lap Song

Lets all sing in praise of the humble lap lap
Don't change the shape of your sweet Tassie map map
Your body wants hair not those rashy bald gap gaps
Lets all go to the beach wearing Tarzan like flap flaps

A girl without hair, what a ute-load of clap trap
No prizes in guessing it started with a chap chap
He'd never felt electrolysis zap zap
It's time we all stopped this self-mutilating trap trap

Oh waxing stings
Shaving cuts
Tweezers hurt
Depilatory sucks

And what about those ads - they deserve a big slap slap
You have the choice - don't be a sap sap
You'll have more time - take a well-earned nap nap
Put your hands in the air, show your hair and all clap clap

Oh waxing stings
Shaving cuts
Tweezers hurt
Depilatory sucks

Lets all sing in praise of the humble lap lap
Don't change the shape of your sweet Tassie map map
Your body wants hair not those rashy bald gap gaps
Who cares if your hair's hanging down from your flap flaps

Abandon your care
Keep your hair
Wear a lap lap