2011 - My Year in Review, In Photos

Saturday, 31 December 2011
Being a news junkie, I've always loved those "Year in Review" shows the networks wheel out about now. This year's batch should be especially entertaining. It was a hell of a year for the world. And for me personally - what with all the moving and new jobs and babies and politics. Rather than bore you all with 1500 words about it all, here is my photographic year in review.



Gratuitous cute kid pic - bye everyone and see you in 2012.

The Silly News Season

Thursday, 22 December 2011
According to the fluorescent yellow banner on Channel 9 news, there's an "Asylum Seeker Crisis". Paying close attention so I know exactly how much to panic, I realise we've hit that time of year - the silly news season, where news room editors scramble to find any dross they can to fill the 24 hour news cycle over the Christmas period.

Last week's sinking of an asylum seeker boat off the coast of Indonesia was a horrible tragedy, with a death toll that may never be known for sure but almost certainly in the hundreds. The news chiefs, however, must have been squealing with glee. What a chance to fill dead airtime, not with the stories of the men, women and children - people with families and hopes and dreams - who have perished, but by manufacturing a political "crisis" about the ever-menacing hoardes of illegals destined for our shores. What should have been the story of a humanitarian disaster deserving of the most somber and respectful reflection was transformed into yet another attempt to bait political parties against each other, bait "Aussie battlers" against the "do gooders" in a relentless attempt to drive up ratings and web hits. Ugh.

There's still rather a lot of news space to fill even when we're done creating a crisis out of a pitiful few asylum seekers, but creating crises is what the commercial news media do best. Channel 7 news breathlessly reported that nearly a quarter of first time mothers are now over the age of 35. This shock horror over the advancing age of mothers is nothing new, but no one let that get in the way of creating a good crisis. Various "experts" were wheeled the news shows to lament the whole ghastly thing. "This shows the message [about declining fertility levels with age] is not getting through" bemoaned an obstetric talking head on the morning news. Heavens to murgatroid. You'd have to be on an extensive media blackout to have missed the news that women's fertility declines with age, and you shouldn't put your career in front of having children - as if it is always a choice to delay having children, and as if it is solely women's responsibility. And surely the fact that more women are having babies older shows that there isn't a problem? If women are choosing to have their babies later, it's obviously working for them and it's fine. "Crisis - women doing what they want to do" hardly makes for a good story though.

Sadly, in the midst of all this, real news stories can get lost. There's so much outrage over people cheating Centrelink. News Ltd tabloids publish front page banner headlines decrying the disgraceful welfare cheats; people gleefully report their neighbour who claims sole parenting payment with a live in boyfriend or Newstart allowance despite doing cash-in-hand work. We are incensed by the individual who defrauds Centrelink of a few hundred dollars. But when an organisation does it - such as employment agencies falsely claiming Job Network payments they were not entitled to, of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, it barely raises a ripple. Some of these are purportedly "charitable" organisations. They're "ripping off the system" to a far greater extent than the poor guy who fudges his job seeker diary. But where is the outrage? The story sinks with barely a trace. Back to Nauru and sneering at Kim Jong Il. And there's the disgrace.

Reflections on Almost Four Months of Parenthood

Monday, 19 December 2011
When I was pregnant, I was so obsessed with reading about all the physical manifestations of the condition that I rather failed to pay enough attention to how things might be once BabyG was actually here. I laboured (pun intended, the only labour I experienced) under several misapprehensions, thinking I would finally figure out this problems of motherhood stuff that has plagued women for century. Amongst other embarrassing erroneous beliefs, I wondered...

  • Why new parents moaned so much about lack of sleep when newborn babies slept twenty hours a day? I'd just sleep when the baby slept, every time. Problem solved!

  • How on earth could newborn babies produce all the laundry everyone complained of? Their clothes are tiny. I figured most parents were just way too fussy about washing their kid's clothes every time they wore them. I wouldn't make that mistake.

  • And why would a work-at-home parent need to put their kid in daycare? I'd get a bunch of writing and research done during BabyG's naps. Whoops, that's when I was going to sleep. Well, I'd work whilst BabyG rocked gently in a bouncer by my feet.

    I just want to laugh at my pregnant self and say "let me know how you that goes." It went. And it didn't go well.

    Firstly not all babies sleep twenty hours a day. That is a filthy lie. Some only manage twelve to fourteen, and when they do sleep it is all broken up. You try just drifting off to sleep with jangled nerves from four hours of comforting a fractious newborn - and with the knowledge that that baby could wake up at any time, probably in twenty minutes if their previous naps are anything to go by. Anyway that nap may be the only chance you actually get to have a shower and change out of the milk-soaked and sweaty nightdress you've been wearing for the previous eighteen hours.

    Which brings us to the laundry. I think BabyG has worn the same thing twice without it being washed once in nearly four months. Babies have no control whatsoever over any of their bodily functions, and are usually emitting bodily fluids from at least two, and sometimes up to five, orifices at once. Nappies leak, noses run, and the vomit. Oh god, the vomit. Everything in our house more pliable than cork - including soft furnishings, pillows, and all clothes - has ended up reeking of used milk. The only things which have a hope of staying clean are wondersuits I picked up at Vinnies, which BabyG shows a mysterious restraint about vomiting in. His Bebé pants, on the other hand, will be sicked up on before I've taken them all the way out of the drawer.

    And of course, I can't get anything done. It was actually a little easier when BabyG was a newborn. Now he's getting a little older, he gets bored if he's left in his bouncer without entertainment for any length of time. I could stick him in front of the TV, but I'm still at the stage of kidding myself I'm not the kind of mother who does such a thing, so the only option is to provide a constant repertoire of songs and games.The lack of sleep thing also makes it pretty difficult to concentrate. Volunteering and research is just going to have to wait a little while.

    I've made parenthood sound like a horrorshow of epic proportions in this post, I realise. It really isn't. But no one wants to read my gushing over the wonder of BabyG, and if I can laugh at my naivety, I hope someone else can, too.
  • Outpost - Cockatoo Island

    Saturday, 17 December 2011
    In recent years, I've become a big fan of street art, so I was thrilled to hear about Outpost, a massive street art exhibit held at one of my favourite places, Cockatoo Island. Unfortunately I only heard about the thing three days before it closed - multiple visits would have been rewarding, especially without a young baby in tow - but I was fortunate enough to get along on a gorgeous Sydney spring afternoon, ferry strikes notwithstanding, and enjoyed it immensely; everywhere you turned was something new and exciting to see. Although not doing much justice to the show, here's a few pictures from Outpost I hope you enjoy as much as I enjoyed taking them.

    A Letter from the Aspies to the World

    Wednesday, 14 December 2011
    Please understand that Asperger's Syndrome does not simply mean "anti-social". It's a lot more complicated than that, a form of high-functioning autism usually involving difficulties in social interaction and repetitive behaviour. Here are some things we'd like you to take into consideration when interacting with us - yes, we would like consideration, even if you sometimes feel you don't get it from us.

    Please don't draw attention to my "stimming", or self stimulation. I might be fiddling with my tie, or the hem of my skirt; twirling a piece of paper in my fingers; or flicking my fingers near my eyes. I might not even be aware I'm doing it and if you ask me what I'm doing or why, I'll be embarrassed.

    Please don't make jokes where you know it's a joke and I don't - otherwise known as pulling my leg and/or having me on. I often can't tell it's a joke. It doesn't mean I'm less intelligent than you, just that I can't judge your facial and verbal cues. But it is incredibly frustrating and upsetting for me.

    About that "anti-social" thing. It's true that I usually prefer my own company. Often though I would like to talk to you, I'm just maybe not sure what about or how. You might not understand my interest in plane engine numbers, but I really don't get why you would care what I'm having for lunch, either. I like to talk, just not the small variety.

    At the other end of the scale, please don't think I don't care about the really important stuff you've got going on in your life  (death in the family/divorce/lost job) because I haven't said anything. Often I really want to let you know I do care, but fear coming across the wrong way, so I remain silent. I know sometimes I have the capacity to make people feel worse, and I really don't want to do that to you.

    Please don't think I'm avoiding eye contact because I'm rude, or not paying attention. It's just really hard for me. Anyway in a lot of cultures avoiding eye contact is a sign of respect, so think of it that way!

    Please don't tell me to "get a life" if you find out I'm really into classifying rocks, or trainspotting, or whatever. This is my life. You don't get why I read Railway Digest, I don't get why you read New Weekly. (Kim Kardashian is a noted expert in extinct Indo-European languages, right?). Who's to say which set of interests are more valid? Except we all know, it's mine.

    It's Not What You're Thinking

    Sunday, 11 December 2011
    Disappointing as it was this week to hear of Father Chris Riley's support for Clubs Australia's fight against poker machine reform (I'm sure Father Riley, a man of unimpeachable moral character, was in no way swayed by any large donations made to his cause from such an organisation), it was truly disgusting, though not at all surprising, to hear of the plans of Sydney's newly-renamed Star Casino to increase revenue. According to the SMH the casino plans to target low income migrants seeking to acquire the good life through gambling, offering shuttle buses and promotions to lure in gamblers from low income areas with high migrant populations (and just how likely are recent immigrants to be able to access counselling services vaunted by clubs as the solution to problem gambling, hmm?). Clubs in the geographic areas targeted for busing are particularly peeved. Bankstown Sports Club, mentioned in the article, claims that unlike the greed of The Star, they plough their profits back into the community (true to a point - 24% of their profits went to "Sports, Welfare and Youth Club expenses" in "furtherance of the club's objectives" in the 2009/2010 financial year according to their financial report.

    If what you're thinking from all this is that gambling institutions are rather unscrupulous and loose with the truth then heavens, no. Just ask them, they'll tell you. According to The Star themselves, they're not actually planning to fleece newly arrived immigrants with poor English skills and little social supports out of the paltry amount of money they have. No, all that was just the plans of the evil consulting company which wrote the report that The Star commissioned! I'm sure we will see Star management in the media repudiating such repugnant ideas soon.

    Also from the "you've got me all wrong" department is NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell who has announced a lifting on the uranium exploration ban in NSW. We shouldn't jump to any conclusions about Australia commencing uranium sales to India, or NSW wanting to get in on the action to prop up our pissweak economy. The decision has nothing to do with mining. We just need to see what's out there! I'm sure if large quantities of readily extractable uranium are found, the government will allow the traditional owners of the land where the uranium is found to decide what happens to it. We just wanted to know where the uranium was is all. In this spirit, I suggested to Mr O'Farrell that we go looking for bunyips, but he hasn't gotten back to me yet.

    So it's in this spirit that I ask you to ignore the massive quantities of alcohol I've purchased recently. Don't jump to any conclusions. It's not that after not drinking for a year, and with Christmas coming up, I've got a little crazy at the intoxicating - in so many ways - prospect of drinking. It's for cooking. And sharing, in case we make any friends and any of them pop over for Christmas drinks. It's not what you're thinking.

    The Truth About Babies

    Wednesday, 7 December 2011
    The opportunity to raise and nurture a child, to be alongside them and gently guide them as they introduce themselves to the world, develop, and grow, is a magical and sacred experience that reminds us all what life is really about.

    I'm still bored off my tits being home every day with BabyG, though. It's the truth that dare not speak its name: that a desperately wanted and so dearly loved child can be quite, quite dull.

    I love BabyG so much that sometimes I can cry just looking at him. It doesn't mean I don't get pretty fed up by about the third hour of making Mr Bun dance to "Take A Chance On Me" for BabyG's amusement while he whinges (BabyG whinges, not Mr Bun, although I'm sure if Mr Bun could talk he'd express reservations as well).

    Very poor conversationalist
    In the past few years I have done so much. I've tried my hand at roller derby and qualified as a youth worker and worked at more and less pleasant jobs and volunteered on election campaigns and attended policy and agency meetings and travelled and gotten married. But now life has shrunk, without a car and post c-section, to within the four walls of the flat most of the time. There's really very little you can do with them - I've spent more time at Westfield since BabyG was born than I had in all my previous life, because they are climate controlled and flat and have parents' rooms. A woman from my Facebook friends list, whose daughter was born the day after BabyG, remarked when the babies were two weeks old that she was bored, and someone whom I'm guessing hasn't spent much time around newborns replied "but you have a baby to play with!". How I laughed.

    I knew this going into it, of course. I knew having a baby wasn't always going to be a barrel of laughs. And I yearned to be a mother nonetheless. But no amount of longing for a child can ease the frustration of having spend two hours rocking and patting and humming to sleep that child then having them, three minutes later, fart themselves awake.

    I'm sure there are parents who revel in every minute of this, who adore babyhood, right down to the cactus hours that are a feature of life with a newborn (six hours of nonstop crying!), just as there are those who would give just about anything for the chance to be bored by a baby at all. But can we be honest enough to admit there are those of us who are bored silly by our kids, even as we love them, and that sometimes it can be a minor victory not to swig the cooking wine at 8am?

    I Am Not Mia Freedman

    Sunday, 4 December 2011
    Dang. There I was thinking my blog title was so original and esoteric - but I keep being asked if this whole thing is a homage to Mia Freedman. Well, no.
    Ms Freedman's blog Mama Mia is a pun on her name (and the ABBA song), where she reflects on modern motherhood and society to her many fans - and detractors. She is the former editor of Australian Cosmo and it rather shows in her writing style. I don't dislike the blog, but I'm not a fan either, and have only visited once or twice. The thing never crossed my consciousness when naming this here blog you're reading now.

    Mamaenima has a slightly more complicated naming history. When I decided I wanted a new blog, rather than updating my old one to become the Xander and Nico and DH and Ruby and Gloom and Baby-to-be Pod (which would now be the Xander and Nico and DH and Ruby and Gloom Pod featuring Baby G), I needed a snazzy title to distinguish it from the thousands of other essentially similar mediocre blogs out there. Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones, but I meshed the title of Tool's 1996 album Ænima (itself a combination of words), with mama. So we had life force, enemas and motherhood in one title. I was quite taken with myself.

    I didn't initially intend to be a "Mummy blogger" (what the hell is that, anyway?). Certainly I hoped through keeping up my involvement in politics and other interests, to have something else to talk about. But then I'd see my twitter stream full of complaints about being woken at 8am on a Sunday, feel tempted to reply "just wait till you have kids!" and catch myself. I will not be that person - the smug know it all parent. Who's to say those twitter tweeps will have kids or want them? Who's to say having kids is such a great or laudable thing anyway? I went into this with open eyes and whilst I may complain to other parents, I'm refuse to bang on to my childless acquaintances about what an awesome sacrifice I'm making for the good of humanity, hoping to remember how it felt to be on the other side. Sure I hope Baby G grows up to be a thoughtful, fully realised young man with a dedication to social justice, but he could end up being a bit of a pompous ass. We don't know, so it's a bit early for me to claim I'm doing the world any favours by raising him (but if it turns out to be justified, I'll waste absolutely no time in doing so!). I'll try to stick to the politics, but a few motherhood things might slip in there too, which is okay.

    An Old Man Wins Me Over On Same Sex Marriage

    Saturday, 3 December 2011
    A sort-of historic day! (Partial) victory! A great moment for trying to have a bet each way...well it is the Labor party we're talking about here, who have today agreed at their national conference to change their official party policy to support of same sex marriage, and to allow a conscience vote in Parliament on the issue. The ALP doesn't normally allow independent voting - MPs must stick to the party line even, as John Faulkner pointed out, on votes to go to war - so for them to not require a vote on party lines here is very disappointing. In order for the issue to pass, it will require the Liberal party to allow a conscience vote, and then for enough Coalition MPs to vote in favour of the amendment to the Marriage Act. It could go either way. It's sobering to remember that due to John Howard's mean-spirited amendments to the Marriage Act, same sex marriage is not just not legal in Australia, it is expressly outlawed. Icky, isn't it? Some are calling for a referendum on same sex marriage. I don't agree. I just don't see why it should be up to anyone else to decide whom an adult acting of free will can marry. We cannot possibly claim we have equality of the sexes in Australia as long as your sex determines your choice of marriage partner. This is a fundamental human rights issue. Just get on with it.
    Well, so I thought. But then I saw this letter, from Norm of Forestville, in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

    Marriage has been convened over the centuries of civilisation to legally formalise the union between male and female, and provide protection of the rights of any off-spring that result from the union. I don't have a problem with gay people that want some legal recognition of their relationship. I would have thought a civil union contract would suffice, and I cannot see why they are insisting on the right to marry. Maybe I'm just getting old.

    And I got to thinking. Norm is right. Marriage is designed to set out the roles and relationships between the sexes. It is designed to elevate the children of the marriage relationship. It is traditional. It's time we abolished it immediately.

    If marriage hasn't evolved past the traditional roles of men and women, if we haven't evolved past the notion of legitimate and illegitimate children, then it hasn't evolved fast enough to keep up with society; it's a useless pretence we must be rid of. Traditional marriage - a man and a woman who is his legal property? The abhorrent notion that children are somehow more worthy dependent on the marital status of their parents? We don't need that. I'm going to ask DH for a divorce. Yes I still love him and hope and believe we will be together for the rest of our lives. But we should have followed the lead of some friends who are refusing to get married as long as same sex marriage remains illegal. Which - now that we are abolishing the outdated institution of marriage - means neither they, nor anyone else, can ever get married at all.

    You've completely won me over, Norm. Cheers.

    The World's Best Hotel

    Thursday, 1 December 2011
    Caring for a small baby is a wondrous, magical experience that gives you lots and lots of time to watch an awful lot of crappy TV. Lately I've been passing the hours on the couch with BabyG by watching travel shows. Gosh those shows manage to make every place they go look glossy and appealing. Apart from anywhere with water, I'm particularly taken with the hotels - the ultra luxurious, beautifully equipped World's Best Hotels that send the imagination into a spin.

    But somehow all of these are lacking something. I'm thinking of what, to me, would be the world's best hotel. Facilities would be clean and functional, but that's it. It's not why you're there. In the hotel of my (literal) dreams, all the rooms are thoroughly soundproofed. There are world class blackout screens. Fresh white sheets and a pillow menu (I can't be the only one who finds pillows in hotels too damn thick). Check out time is 10am - that's the earliest you're allowed to check out, and no one is allowed to roam the corridors before then. There are no room service trolleys or housekeepers outside your door, no one shoving faxes under your door at 3am, no false alarms requiring you to evacuate three hours before you need to get up for your flight (I seem to have suffered a disproportionate number of those in hotels around the world during my travelling life).

    You're here for one thing, and one thing only. Sleep. This hotel does all it can to ensure whomever requires it can have an atmosphere conducive to the best night's sleep possible. I've been lucky enough to stay in some amazing hotels - including a couple on the list - but even in the most ritzy of hotels, there's still light from the skyline, tour groups in the hall checking out at 5:30am, or a laughing couple throwing their shoes at the door*. My dream hotel can't offer any guarantees, but with dark, silent rooms, quiet corridors, blocking mobile and data reception to the rooms for those who just can't help themselves, and an absence of disturbances, they'll do all they can to ensure a good night's sleep for those who just can't get it any other way. Heck - it would even have a doctor on staff to prescribe a little something of the benzodiazepine variety for those who felt they needed it (a reputable doctor, so the place doesn't go all Conrad Murray and have to shut down).

    Well, that's my idea of the perfect hotel, anyway. I think I might be just a little sleep obsessed lately...

    * This may or may not have been DH and I on our wedding night. We're sorry.

    How Can You Say You Love Australia If You Don't Know How It Works?

    Saturday, 19 November 2011
    Yesterday saw the horrific fire at the Quakers Hill nursing home which has so far claimed the lives of five people. It was extremely hard to watch the news footage of the terrified, confused elderly residents who had lost their home, possessions and friends, struggling to comprehend what had happened to them. There certainly was a lot of graphic vision - evidently the TV news crews thought a compassionate telling of the story required them to shove cameras in the faces of the fire victims as they were loaded into ambulances, and I sure hope people are at least demanded to explain themselves for stripping these vulnerable people of their dignity at a time when they have precious little else left.

    At any rate, overnight a suspect has been charged with arson. It is difficult to comprehend that such horror could have been the result of a deliberate act, but people are reminding each other that we must not rush to judge, that the slow wheels of the legal system need to turn, that justice must take its course.

    I'm kidding, of course. The internet hordes are baying for blood. There are the usual calls to bring back capital punishment, with several commentators offering to take care of the offender themselves involving hot things and sharp things. The possibility that the defendant will plead mental illness is raised, with comments such as "He will claim he was mentally ill and get away with it. (my apologies to those out there living with mental illness) but too many people claim that they are sick and get away with it". We even ventured into the realms of fantasy, with one commentator opining that "you dont deserve a trial if you think its ok to murder innocent elderly people." As with comments regarding politics ("I didn't vote for Julia Gillard/a carbon tax! Bring on an election now!"), I'm no longer surprised but merely saddened that there are so many adults walking the streets of our society, so blissfully ignorant of how that society actually works.

    Of course in Australia, we have a representative democracy. We elect politicians to make decisions for us, and no one voted for or against the carbon tax. Gillard did say she wouldn't bring in a carbon tax in a government she led. Her error was not one of delusion but omission - she left out the word "majority" before government. Left without a majority, she needed to introduce a carbon tax proposal in order to form a minority government. Those red-faced harpies calling 2GB to complain about the unfairness of it all can't quite grasp this nuance; that we don't have elections "for" anything, and that referenda are only held to change the Constitution, not on individual laws. They invoke the spectre of 1998 as the "GST election" - John Howard took the GST to the people and won, making it a legitimate decision - when it wasn't and he didn't. In their misunderstanding, they call for fresh elections/referenda on everything from same sex marriage (like it's anyone else's business who gay people marry) to whether we should process asylum seekers offshore or really, really far offshore. The principle of representative democracy and the process by which bills become law are unknown to these people.

    It's the same with the legal system. Precepts such as the right to a fair trial and innocent until proven guilty are misunderstood and thrown aside in the rush to judgement. The notion that a trial is not deserved shows a belief that is a privilege to be earned for lack of guilt, not the right of all people to assess their guilt. The concept of mental illness is beyond them - some sort of made-up thing used by criminals to get away with their crimes. Does it matter that people have these erroneous beliefs? Of course! These are adults who vote in elections and serve on juries; they nominally control a system they barely comprehend. They would, I bet, all call themselves "proud Aussies", be proud of Australia's "freedom", not understanding that freedom confers the right to a fair trial and that the public deciding every issue which crosses the parliamentary floor is not democracy, but mob rule.

    When it works well, democracy is the best system we have, but for it to work, we need an educated citizenry. Parliamentary democracy and a free judicial system can't function if large chunks of the population have no idea how they work. So what is the answer, high school civics classes? Well, they'd be a start. But even loving the details of our system as I do, I can see that civics classes have the potential to be the week's most boring subject in an already crowded curriculum; besides, such classes would be no help to everyone who's already helping to run the country, through their votes and jury service, even if they don't know how.

    Let's make civics a national TV event. Let's gather up Eddie Maguire, Bert Newton, the cast of Packed To The Rafters, and Jessica Mauboy to sing the big opening number, to host Take Back Australia!, a TV spectacular with great production values, shiny graphics, and a gentle attempt to explain how the legislative, executive and judicial framework of Australia actually functions. There could be an iPhone app, quizzes with cash prizes and cutaways to members of the Australian cricket team and whoever won whatever televised talent quest the twisted mind of Simon Fuller has disgorged upon us this year. If you're groaning at the thought of watching such a spectacle, that's okay; you're excused from watching. If all this sounds heinous to you, chances are you know this stuff already.

    White Whining

    Wednesday, 16 November 2011
    The latest mock outrage making its way 'round the internet is the term "white whine". If one is in a privileged position - and on a global scale, having internet access and white skin is a position of privilege - than any complaints about the trivial matters of life are labelled as a white whine.

    Sure, most of these complaints are trivial. But does that mean we're not allowed to have them? This morning I got up, after a fitful few hours sleep with a ten week old baby, to discover our fridge seals have died, so the fridge door was essentially open all night and all the food inside went bad and had to be thrown away. Whilst I was cleaning it up and throwing out food we could financially have done without having to replace with a new baby, Christmas coming up, and a bunch of unforeseen expenses, BabyG added abundantly to the mess as only a baby can (I'm trying to be delicate), requiring a bath, change of clothes, and to scrub his bouncinette. And the ground coffee I'd bought to help cope with the lack of sleep turned out to be decaf.

    Petty? Trivial? Hell yes. I know I am lucky to have a fridge at all, and a roof over my head, and BabyG a healthy baby; most people on Earth can't rely on any of these things. And yes I have had genuinely bad things happen in my life. But none of that makes cleaning up baby poop or rotten cheeses with a caffeine deprivation headache and chronic lack of sleep more fun. I like to think I'm not a selfish person. I've chosen a career in helping others. But dammit, it's important to let this stuff out; I'm cranky and exhausted. Accuse me of white whining and I won't deny it, but let me have it, please. As long as one remembers how good one really has it, the white whine is a harmless way to let off steam every now and then. Otherwise I, and others like me, will hoard all our anger in a tight little ball until it is released at an inappropriate moment, possibly whilst drinking. And we can't have that, can we?

    Fighting Misogyny - What's Wrong With Men Call Me Things

    Friday, 11 November 2011
    When I first heard of the Men Call Me Things campaign on Twitter, I was deeply concerned. Not because I disagree with the aim of the campaign - feminist writers using the #mencallmethings exposing the vile misogynistic comments, including threats of rape and murder, they receive from pieces of distended monkey rectum who hide behind the anonymity of the Internet whilst calling themselves "men".  I was horrified at the sheer extent and nastiness (if that is not too mild a term) of the abuse that some of the victims, including Mel Tankard Reist, Emily Maguire, and Nina Funnel, have been subjected to. I am not denying for one second that there is an undertone of misogyny to much of our culture or that there is great structural inequality inherent in our society. It manifests in the most horrific way on the Internet in the cowards who hurl women-hating abuse at the women who dare to speak out about it.

    Given all that, I just can't help but wish that those involved in this worthwhile campaign had called it something other than Men Call Me Things. There's the problem - men. Not some men, awful men, men who disgrace the rest of them, but generic men who are carrying out these acts. I think in the long term, it does the cause of feminism more harm than good to paint "men" as the enemy. Please don't misunderstand me - I am not suggesting men are the victims here, nor am I saying that we have to be nice to men in the hope they will decide to let us share the power.

    Tarring all men with the same brush, however, only serves to perpetuate the belief in some sections that hating women is what men do. Confusing misogyny with men in general helps to normalise these attitudes.If hating women was stigmatised as the view of a disturbed subsection of the male community, more young men would be driven to reject it. If boys grow up hearing the message "men are awful" there's a very real risk some of them will internalise it; say to themselves "yes we are and yes I am". This is the last thing any of us should want. The message I want my son to grow up hearing is not that he is a male (working on the assumption for the sake of this post that he will self-identify as male) and males do awful things; but that he is a male and he must join in upholding attitudes and behaviours which respect women and disdain those few males who do not have that respect.

    Twitter is great, but it has it's limits (140 characters, in fact); so I hope I've been able to make myself a little clearer here.

    Why Retail Is Dying

    Wednesday, 2 November 2011
    Yesterday, I was attempting to purchase a breastfeeding bra when the sales assistant approached me and said "You look lost".

    "No, I'm not", I replied. "I'm simply trying to buy an attractive, yet supportive and comfortable feeding bra, something I would imagine there would be some demand for, and as stunning as it may be to you, the perplexed, dismayed look on my face is not one of astonishment at the breadth and complexity of your product range, therefore requiring the expertise and mastery of one such as yourself to gently guide me through it. It is sheer fucking frustration at your mediocre little range of maternity bras in this, purportedly Australia's largest lingerie retailer; annoyance that all you can offer are a few dull, unsupportive bras in a choice of beige or black only, and in a completely inadequate range of sizes - I'd make an educated guess that at least 40% women require a bra larger that what you have on offer. I guess stocking a decent range of maternity bras would reduce the amount of floor space available to sell your french maid and naughty nurse costumes. Sure, maternity bras aren't as sexy as the outfits you flog to fake-tanned twenty year olds to titillate their gormless boyfriends with the perpetuation of female stereotypes, but given that I would hope many women would spend at least as much time breastfeeding as following the advice of Cosmo articles on how to excite your man, then providing a decent maternity lingerie range would make sense form a business point of view, even if it did detract somewhat from your desired "naughty", hip young image. And given all this, I find it frankly condescending and a little rude that you act like the problem is on my end, not yours."

    Well, that's what I should have said. Instead I said "Sorry, you don't have what I'm after", and walked out. Damn.

    Occupy Sydney: Why The Doubters Are Wrong

    Thursday, 27 October 2011
    There's nothing worse than finding yourself on the same side of an issue as one of the right wing bile spewers you normally despise - certainly during the Bill Henson controversy was mortified to find myself agreeing with Miranda Devine. I guess safety in numbers would help, at least for many lefty types I know who have come out against the Occupy Sydney/Melbourne/Australia protests. It must be hard being on the same side as John Howard's stunt double Gerald Henderson, who applies his right wing touch to the protests. We'd expect that from the conservative chorus. But why are so many normally open minded progressive types in agreement?

    It's a partial agreement, to be fair. "I support the Occupy Wall Street protests" the line from the sneering hipsters runs, "But not Occupy Australian City. What have they got to complain about?" However, they've completely missed the point of the thing. One popular post doing the rounds (on Tumblr, no less) sums up why they just don't get it.

    Yes, Australia has come through the GFC largely unscathed. But not completely. Around 100,000 Australians lost their jobs as a direct result of the economic downturn (I was one of them) - not huge numbers, but if you were one of them, it kinda rankles when people act like you don't exist. Unemployment overall is low, so most of those people, apparently, found other jobs (although Australia suffers from gross under reporting in unemployment statistics) but the effects of the GFC will be felt for years to come as we pay off the budget deficit acquired to stave off the worst of the economic woes. The system which allowed the GFC to happen is still very much in place.

    And we are vulnerable to it in Australia; we're part of the global economy. The decisions made in corporate boardrooms around the world very much affect us here. The protests are global, too. One of the dumbest criticisms of the protests has been "the Australian economy isn't like the U.S. economy". Well for a start the global Occupy movement started in Madrid - Occupy Wall Street came later - and second it's about showing solidarity, and Australia is very much at the whims of the global system of capitalism. We still have a system where CEOs can receive obscene bonuses whilst laying off staff and cutting costs to the detriment of service and safety; we still have a system that is reliant on personal over corporate taxation for the backbone of federal revenue. Services which were once provided by the government are now outsourced. We are going down the path of two-tier health and education systems. Yes Australia has it better than many other countries, but for how much longer if we keep sitting back and letting it get worse?

    Perhaps the most amusing, or offensive, comment from the anti-Occupy brigade is "wouldn't it be great if those participating in the Occupy protests did volunteer work instead." Aside from the irony of smug hipsters sitting in coffee shops tapping on their iPads telling those who actually get off their butts and do something that they should be doing something else instead, it's just plain wrong. Volunteer work is something we should all be doing. But it's grassroots stuff. There's that hackneyed old saying "give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime." It's true here. Volunteering does nothing to address the long term problems of social inequality. It's the ordinary people cleaning up the messes which have arisen through the actions of the powerful - closing mental hospitals, underfunding disability services. We need the short term help of volunteers. We also need to fix the problems which require them. So do both. But don't attack those who choose to protest by declaring what else they should be doing, whilst you do nothing at all.

    Rather than declaring what's wrong with the protests, or quibbling every detail of their sometimes blurred agenda, we should be supporting them in recognition that the current system needs to change. Maybe the alternatives aren't perfect, but is capitalism?

    The Greens - I'm With The Brand

    Thursday, 20 October 2011
    You'd think someone of my political persuasion, being a Greens member and all, would be a nature lover. Nope. I can't stand nature. I'm a lady out of the concrete canyons. I hate dirt, trees, fresh air, and being away from wifi. And nature hates me back - look at all the dangerous things that happen to people woh go out in nature. There's an awful lot of weather out there, and you can get lost, and aren't "natural" disasters the worst sort? That said, I'm a pretty peaceful sort of person, so I wish no particular ill upon nature; I just think the best place for humans is in medium-density housing in the city, leaving nature well alone.

    So I'm not a tree hugger, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. I understand the need for a pristine natural environment, but it's not one of my main passions. And whilst I'm well aware that environmental protection is the Greens' raison d'etre, I was nonetheless surprised to read that, according to the SMH, the Greens brand is outdated and they need to remarked themselves to appeal to a new demographic on social justice issues. Really? It's not like the Greens are doing too badly. Leaving aside the untrue line that the Greens are actually running the country (that'd be nice!), they're doing pretty well in the polling at the moment, and getting some good work done in parliament, with nine senators and Australia's best-looking parliamentarian, Adam Bandt (although he would have faced some stiff competition from the lovely and vivacious Helen Coonan).

    So is the Greens' image really that of sandal-wearing hippies? I began voting for the Greens, and later joined the party, because of their policies on social justice issues. Labor and Liberal were largely indistinguishable on many of the issues - asylum seekers, same sex marriage, welfare, education - and believing that the measure of a society is how we treat the worst-off of us, I could no longer in good conscience keep supporting the Labor party. I'm not alone; it has been lamented that Labor is losing a generation of talent to the Greens, so it seems that even if the Greens are perceived as crusty dreadlocked types chained to trees, there is more than that attracting the 1.4 million Australians who gave the Greens there first preference at the 2010 federal election.

    Does it really matter that "Greens" has become a pejorative term on talkback radio, a synonym for socialism, government control, do gooders and bleeding hearts? I'm proud to be "insulted" by talkback radio callers and News Ltd columnists; the bile spewing from the right may actually be doing some good. Would rebranding the Greens do any good anyway? The Country Party became the National Party, but without a significant change of party they've not exactly set alight inner urban electorates.
    Besides, Greens parties an international movement, thanks in part to Bob Brown. The Australian Greens would be nuts to distance themselves from it. No, the Greens should stay proud to stay exactly the way they are.

    The Day of Unrest - Occupy Sydney

    Sunday, 16 October 2011
    Apparently I'm part of the 99%. It's not often in my life I'm in the majority - I'm a socialist, after all, which can be a kind of lonely position. Seems though that all over the world, people are waking up to the gross economic injustice which has arisen as a result of free market capitalism, and they want to do something about it. The protest movement which began with The Indignants Movement in Madrid, and spawned Occupy Wall Street, is spreading across the globe, and yesterday it was Sydney's turn, as part of the global day of action. There have been plenty of knockers, and it's true that crowds were modest, but you have to start somewhere. I wonder how many of those sneering at the protest now would turn up if it continues and grows? In any case, I wanted to add my support, and have BabyG see something important even if he doesn't know it yet, so we went along for the afternoon.

    Was a little slow to kick off.

    It was a lovely day for it, anyway.

    Looking west on Martin Place; the Channel 7 studios are in the right background.

    The banners mounted over Martin Place at the moment seem very appropriate.

    There were so few people holding sings that those who had them were in great demand for photos.

    The ostensible organisers. I was rather alarmed at the age of some of them - these kids haven't even started to be screwed over by capitalism yet.

    The protest in Australia were a fraction of the size of other nations. The GFC hasn't really touched us here - the unemployment rate in Australia is a quarter that of Spain, for instance, and we've had no austerity measures, so we just haven't developed the intense anger of other nations who've watched their economies turn to crud. Also, let's face it, Australia has a pretty poor tradition of political protest. We're to damn laid back sometimes. What exactly do the protesters hope to achieve? In some ways that isn't important. What is important is they have something to say, and they get to say it, and they have hope someone will listen. It's that hope I want to pass on to my son, to stand up and be counted.
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