Monday, September 25, 2017

Menism


So New Zealand, the country that first granted women the vote, has just shown in its re-election of a right-wing party that is essentially of and for men, that it, like the US, continues to stand at the altar of menism, the first (and last) cult indeed.

In its desperate bid to curb the rise of women - justice, equality and truth - the corrupt cult of Menism worldwide is reviving and regrouping against these ideals that women have consistently fought and voted for. Indeed they are the ideals and values of feminism alone, not socialism, not liberalism, not environmentalism.

It is a sad day for New Zealand, and for the world, that with such a clear alternative in favour of equality, justice and truth presented to us we have voted for this corrupt cult yet again, if not all of us (46%) and there remains a slight possibility of a centre-left coalition government forming yet, but only with the help of a paid up member of the cult gone rogue, a man now being called, and treated as, 'King-maker' indeed, which says it all.  

And so just like America, so like America, though we pretend otherwise of course -- English (so aptly named) has better hair and is less orange but no less hairy and white -- we baulked at the gates of freedom and showed we could not handle the truth and did not care about justice. An opportunity missed; hopefully the last.



   





Saturday, September 23, 2017

VOTE


As they say, stand up (hand up) and be counted or sit down and shut up. Your choice.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The people's politician


In the first country in the world to grant women the vote, on this 124th anniversary of Suffrage Day indeed, if ever there was a clear choice to take a country forward into a future that has any hope of bringing about improvements in the quality of life and prospects for the majority of its people and doing the opposite of that by continuing to increase the obscene income and asset inequality between the richest 1-5% of people living in that country and everyone else by cutting public education, community sector and health care funding that removes vital support life-lines to all sorts of people struggling with life, increases the debt a whole generation of young people head into their futures with while extending the length of time people wait with life-threatening illnesses for treatment in the public health system, for the sake of cutting taxes to the rich and opening up borders and loopholes to allow overseas property speculation and ownership to price the younger generation out of any prospect of home ownership in the country's cities where the job opportunities are, along with those who have underpaid public service jobs in the education and health care sectors who are unable to afford the cost of living to remain in the cities, bringing about chronic shortages of teachers and nurses in those cities that are ultimately handed over to the rich and greedy here and overseas to outbid mid-level investors and buy up large with no intention of living on the land they buy for the profits they squirrel away into trust funds that escape taxes on and or send offshore to build the economies of countries elsewhere, it is the choice between LABOUR and its new no-bullshit, let's-do-this-good-and-right-thing young leader Jacinda Ardern and the other party with its been-around-in-wrong-wing-politics-forever-and-never-done-a-thing-to-improve-the-well-being-of-his-country's-people leader in the upcoming New Zealand general election this Saturday! (Apologies for the long sentence but those buggers have been in power a long time, so it's fitting).

Lead the way for New Zealand and this worried world, New Zealand, show us, and everyone beyond our shores who has a functioning bull-shit detector, that we know what we are doing and will help you to know and do the right thing too! Let's do this!

 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cal and Clementine

So my youngest, Cal (not short for anything) turns 19 today, which makes me feel, shall we say, less than young, but also grateful that he has reached such a significant age, relatively unscathed and happy.

He is an interesting, somewhat unusual study of a boy-man and his father and I look forward to his future, fairly confident that he will do well in the world, just quite unsure how.  But that uncertainty makes it more exciting, in many ways. At least it did...

Last night, Cal's father and I went to listen to a talk by Australian feminist online activist and author of Fight Like a Girl, Clementine Ford (who has a baby son of her own) and the issues she highlighted about the obscenely misogynistic abuse she gets on a daily, hourly basis online - examples of which she displayed screen shots of - from teenage boys and adult men made me more nervous than I had been about the future for both of my sons and, indeed, for my daughter (who is a feminist).

I have been a feminist a long time, as you know, and have faced considerable backlash from anti-feminists within my wider family and friend circle, as well as from the public at large, researching and writing as I did for many years on domestic violence and homicide, a subject that made me angry and outspoken at a time when the F-word and anger about sexism was rarely spoken of in the media without derision.

But the 'hate male', as Clementine cleverly and unflinchingly calls the online onslaught of abuse she receives from men, young and old, some of them pictured with their children, is so relentlessly misogynist and demeaning to women, wishing her raped and dead in so many vile ways, telling her how ugly and fat she is, and using their real names more often than not, suggesting they feel quite safe and sure in their community and families to be openly threatening and misogynist, that my anxiety about the future of all our sons and our daughters was taken to another level.

I was also, however, reassured that women like Clementine are out there increasingly, fighting the good fight for justice for girls and boys, fighting like a girl indeed. Because girls will stick up for boys in a way that boys will not and have not stuck up for girls, and the same goes for women and men. So few persons of the male gender have actively fought for women and gender justice throughout history and this continues to be true. Many have actively fought against it, of course, about a third of men in the western world are actively abusive towards women, while the bulk of men have remained 'neutral', which amounts to a passively sexist denial of the abuse and injustice suffered by women at the hands of men. They don't want to think about it. They get the luxury of not having to, or they have done. This must change and is beginning to.

There was Q & A after Clementine's talk but I left others to ask the questions, which I kind of regret now. But what I wanted to ask, about how to be a good feminist mother to teenage boys, I felt was too hard and too close to the bone. And I have struggled with this task, to be honest. I also felt that I should have something clearer than I did have to say on the subject, rather than to expect Clementine, at 36, with only a baby son at this stage, to speak to such a difficult and pressing issue. Because the raising of boys to not be sexist and abusive to girls and women is hard enough in an openly misogynistic world, but the harder struggle, arguably, the one I continue to fight, is to raise them not to be passive and 'neutral' or in denial about sexism and misogyny and their complicity in it if they do and say nothing against it.

And so it is to that ultimate gender-justice struggle that I now turn my pen to at length. In fact I had already embarked on such a project, but Clementine and my boys (young men) growing up so fast and practically living online where so much of the hate happens, have given the project the extra push it needed.

So thank you courageous Clementine, and a happy and healthy birthday to you, curious Cal. Together, you have inspired me and together, I hope, we can do this difficult but totally worthwhile and wonderful thing.    

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Second Kating


I came of feminist age in an era when the radical feminism of the "second wave" that was launched by Kate Millett's book Sexual Politics (1970) had been rejected by most women as patronising in portraying women as helpless victims who needed our consciousness raised to realise just how oppressed and deluded about our freedoms and choices we were, so as not to collude in our own oppression.

Many young women in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s rejected 'radical' feminism and feminists as old-fashioned, aggressive, anti-men and altogether unsexy, claiming they had power in their sexuality and the freedom to do whatever they wanted and they only had to assert that 'girl power'. The system was not the problem, men were not the problem, women whinging about it was. Indeed the battle of the sexes was pretty much won and feminism was a politics we no longer needed or wanted. Women's Studies courses shut up shop and 'gender mainstreaming' became the new, 'post-feminist' ideal. In 2010 Taylor Swift, one of the most influential role-models for young women, declared she was not a feminist. The "F-word" was officially dead.

Kate Millett meanwhile was quietly going broke, having found herself for many years unemployable, and struggling to make her women's artist collective work (by growing and selling Christmas trees).  

It is bittersweet that she died just as the feminism she politicised that argued that the personal is political, that almost everything we do, as women (and as men), reinforces the system of patriarchal oppression unless we speak out against it and resist the structures that uphold that system, from sexist cultural narratives in media and art to ongoing inequities in the number of women in positions of power and influence, is undergoing a revival. Taylor Swift now identifies as a feminist, indeed.

If Kate had to live to see Trump elected to lead her country, rather than the election of the first female president, and after he actually campaigned on threats to remove women's reproductive rights and send women who have abortions to prison, rights she had fought to set in place, she also got to see the new and similarly radical feminist wave of resistance and 'consciousness raising' that his election unleashed. The feminist sisterhood is back with renewed purpose and force.  

While I personally never gave up on the radical feminist message of a politicised sisterhood bringing about a cultural revolution, despite coming of age between the waves and being raised by an anti-feminist mother who came of age between the first and second waves, if Millett's life and work tells us anything lasting it is that the battle for the equality of the sexes and against entrenched ideas and systems of male domination in culture, law and politics, must not lose faith and force again. A wave every thirty to fifty years hardly a sea of change makes.

So I can hardly say rest in peace, Kate Millett, while there is so much yet to be done in her name. But at least I might wish that she rest in the knowledge that she was right and that her efforts were not in vain. The personal is political indeed, but with radical feminist change it doesn't have to be. Viva la permanent wave!  
 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Stood up

So last night I stood up at the Classic comedy club in Auckland and did my funny-feministish thang and got a fair few laughs from a mostly young, many-gendered crowd. Hurrah and ha ha for me!

This here is not me, however, though I do have green eyes, if mine are more green with envy than genetics when it comes to this green-eyed genius stand-up Maria Bamford who is, like, my comedy idol, although younger than me and standing up long before I could even do the comedy crawl, much less stand up.

But to be any good as a stand-up -- she is about to say from her wealth of one-year's experience -- you have to do your own thing (or thang), so envy is not really relevant, much less helpful; in fact it is certain death to a comedian. Admiration but not enviation, that is the key.

So stand up against enviation I will continue to endeavour to do to find my own green-eyed funny, though I do like (envy) Maria's hair, jacket and nail-polish, earrings, eyebrows and expression and might consider adopting all or some of those for my act. Imitation is the sincerest form of admiration, after all. Has she had a face-lift? Hmm...  

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Dombey and Daughter

Florence Dombey in ‘Captain Cuttle’s Parlour’ by William Maw Egley, 1888 
Better late than never, I have just finished reading for the first time one of Dickens' lesser known classics, Dombey and Son, and am very pleased and a little bit surprised to report that it is a feminist novel -- possibly even the first, overtly feminist novel -- that takes the '& Son' of timeless patriarchal family tradition to task head on.

This is a later painted portrait of the much neglected daughter in the story, Florence Dombey, who Dickens writes as the heroine of his first proper novel, who endures her father's near hatred and resentment of her, if he acknowledges her existence at all, as he has eyes and heart only for his son and heir and then, when that son dies, along with his mother, he lives in the hope of producing another son with the woman he next marries chiefly for that purpose, without any love or even affection for her.

But then his second wife, who knows she has been effectively bought by the rich Dombey for this purpose and considers herself no better than a commodity or slave (a challenging notion for the times with possible echoes of John Stuart Mill's Subjection that came out earlier in the same decade), refuses to submit to his will -- in bed or out of it. She is a proud, highly intelligent woman who has no time for Dombey's arrogant self-importance and assumed authority, nor his immense wealth; she married him largely to satisfy her mother and put to an end her relentless quest to marry her off.

The two-year marriage produces a final confrontation between husband and wife where she stands up to Dombey and tells him how much she loathes him, how appalling he is in his treatment of his daughter (who loves him despite his woeful neglect) and that she would rather die than remain his wife.

It is a very satisfying and dramatic scene, but one that must have been quite challenging for Dickens fans in the 1840s. As a Dickens fan myself, my appreciation of his work is in some degree despite his lack of feminist themes or even sympathies, though his range of secondary female characters has always impressed me as extraordinary and includes a number of daughters misused and taken-for-granted by their fathers.

But I didn't expect overt feminism from Dickens -- certainly Dickens is not reviewed or advertised in these terms. Indeed I hardly expect it (and almost never find it) from modern male writers. And considering Darwin wrote his deeply sexist Descent of Man detailing his theory about how men have evolved to a higher level of intelligence and ability than women more than thirty years after Dombey and Son was published, it would seem that Dickens was a man well ahead of his time and a much braver (smarter and more honest) man than his famous countryman and fellow writer whose name also happens to start with the letter D.

And if Dombey and Son had been promoted and embraced as a feminist text at the time it was published in 1848, perhaps it might have had more cultural influence and curbed Darwin's readiness to put his sweepingly stupid and culturally ignorant sexist claims in print, claims that have provided the basis for countless sexist theories committed to print ever since.

But it remains reassuring to know that Dickens knew the dangers of male arrogance and sense of entitled superiority over women, their wives as well as daughters, even when hardly anyone else did -- or at least hardly anyone else braved the topic in print.

So I strongly recommend everyone read it and for those that can, especially the men, write a modern day Dombey. Heaven knows there are enough real-life examples around still to inspire one.

Just btw, it's my father's birthday today. He would have been 96; almost as old as Dickens, and almost as cool. Happy birthday, Dad; we came right in the end, just like Dombey and daughter.