Banter in the Garden
|Presenting the 51st… on Guest Post: Women’s Refu…|
|Fuck off, Bob Jones,… on Risky Business|
|Daniel Copeland on Risky Business|
|Emma on Risky Business|
|Deborah on A plea for your voice.|
Tea and Strumpets
20/20 is screening a story about fat activism in New Zealand tonight. You can read about the story on Friend of Marilyn – Fat Activism in New Zealand on 20/20.
20/20 is on TV2, at 9.30pm tonight.
Like Annanonymous, the latest breast vs bottle dust-up has touched a raw nerve for me, no doubt due to my own experiences with breast feeding. But also because I find the number of shoulds and shouldn’ts that are dished out endlessly to parents deeply wearying. All too often the edicts seem to be handed out with little thought as to how parents might achieve them, or what constraints there might be, or what other issues a parent may be facing.
I’ve found some of the language used disturbing. This sentence from Dita di Boni’s column in the Herald is a case in point.
[La Leche League / midwives / etc] can suggest, coerce and press the issue, but it is a mother’s choice in the end whether or not to take the advice proffered.
Well, that’s… revealing. “Coerce.” That has been exactly the problem for many mothers who have tried breastfeeding, but experienced tremendous difficulties, for whatever reason. There is an enormous amount of pressure on women to breastfeed their babies. And it is facile to say that women can just choose whether or not to take the advice. When that pressure to breastfeed is applied by an expert, it is very hard to resist it. All the more so in those early weeks and months with a new baby, especially a first baby. So many new parents know so very little about how to care for babies, so they are very dependent on midwives and health nurses and and La Leche League experts. To suggest that a new mother who is struggling with pain, and cracked nipples, and ever-feeding infants, has the emotional resources to withstand the pressure applied by those she is depending on is bizarre.
di Boni goes on to say that, “It is up to women to have confidence in their choices.”
And there it is again. Holding individual women responsible for the failings of a society that promotes breastfeeding, but doesn’t provide the resources to enable women to access help with it, and then berating them for lacking confidence if they try to withstand the pressure put on them by those who are experts. Experts in breastfeeding, that is, but not necessarily at all knowledgeable about the particular contexts within which individual women are living and rearing children.
On the other hand, I am baffled by the idea that being pro-breastfeeding is equivalent to being anti-fathers and fathers being involved in their children’s lives, and that bottle feeding is great because then men can be involved in caring for their children. That’s the view espoused by fathers’ rights activist Darrell Carlin.
But there are myriad ways for parents of any gender to care for their children: talking, playing, reading books, cuddling, settling to sleep, dressing, changing nappies, taking to doctors’ appointments, toting them around the house in a sling while you get the housework done, going for walks, singing. And that’s all just in the first few weeks, and just the things that you can do with the baby (c/f say, earning an income to support the baby, or doing housework while the baby is asleep). There is precisely one task that the great majority of fathers can’t do: breastfeeding. And really, if they really, really, really do want to do it, then they could always try a Lact-Aid.
The remainder of Carlin’s column is taken up with wailing about how the nasty feminists have taken over the world and men are oppressed. And put upon. And really, women should be fighting for men’s rights because after all, men gave women the vote. Also, the nasty feminists again. Whatever.
And the last thing that has surprised me: La Leche League’s complete inability to use social media. LLL has tried to say that all it did was ask the Health Council to remove a few seconds from an anti-smoking/pro-smokefree public service ad showing Piri Weepu feeding his baby. In doing this, the only thing they were trying to achieve was to ensure that one public service message – smoke-free – wasnt’ contradicting another – pro-breastfeeding.
But actually, that’s not all they did. As it turns out, what they also did was alert their membership to the issue.
The irony is the damage to the league was done by its own hand. When the Health Sponsorship Council asked their opinion on the Weepu advertisement, La Leche supporters responded intemperately by launching a mass email campaign. The language in the emails was, by the admission of one supporter, “passionate”.
“Passionate” was one word that was used to describe the e-mails. I also heard, “virulently intemperate”. I haven’t seen any of the e-mails, but I’m guessing that they were not polite. And that’s what created the story. Not the request made by LLL, but the allegedly vicious language used in the e-mails sent by supporters. I’m guessing that if LLL had simply given some advice on the ad, without initiating the e-mail campaign, then the story would never have hit the headlines in the first place.
Because there’s no such thing as a stigma against fat people, some days, it slips my mind that I am overweight. You see, I don’t ever get random abuse shouted at me on the street. The fact that I can only shop in about 5% of the clothes shops in my city in no way makes me feel like I’ve been corralled off into some paddock where the un-sexy fatties go to pig out and wear unflattering clothes. Buying clothes on the internet, and the extra cost involved, and hit-and-miss nature of it, passes me by. Going on that traditionally “girly” expedition, Shopping, with friends of “normal” sizes, in NO WAY feels like torture. I don’t ever end up buying, like, a $100 scarf, just to feel like “one of the girls”. And I certainly don’t own masses of shoes and scarfs and jewellery, because they’re the Fat Girl’s Consolation.
I don’t get well-meaning comments from my relatives, EVER. My mother doesn’t ever say “have you lost weight?” in a hopeful, but forlorn voice. Nor does she use the fact that I haven’t eaten for 4 days because I’m heartbroken as a positive, because I might drop a kilo or two.
No one ever comments on the size of my ass or tits or stomach. No stranger has ever yelled “hey fat bitch” at me, or mooed. I’ve never scanned the room to see if I am the fattest person in it, and hated myself for being slightly gleeful if I am not.
I don’t live in fear of being filmed as the “headless fat person illustrating a story of OH MY GOD THE OBESITIY EPIDEMIC!!1!!” I don’t ever feel like I have to apologise for taking up so much space.
I never worry that my size might make flying difficult, that things other people do without thinking, like canoeing, or cycling, or simply sitting in a chair might be hard for me. For the record, bar stools don’t ever fill me with dread.
It has never crossed my mind that my size is stopping me from finding True Wuv. I don’t worry that no one will ever find me attractive again, because I’m fat, and I don’t look like Charlize Theron. Never. That’s not a thought that keeps me awake at night AT ALL.
I don’t get told that I might not suffer from depression if I “exercised a little bit”, as if the person involved knows anything about how much I exercise. No one has ever told me they’re “just worried about [my] health”, without ever actually bringing up my health, just my size. And I’ve certainly never felt like I could tell those people to MIND THEIR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS, because of course my fatness is public property and a perfectly acceptable topic of conversation, and why on earth should I be offended about people bringing it up.
I never feel judged eating in public. No one ever looks askance at me if I happen to be eating a burger. That didn’t just happen in fact, like, yesterday. I’ve never not ordered what I actually wanted so as not to be judged by my fellow diners. I’ve never felt the need to lie about my eating habits, even when, in reality, they are perfectly healthy. No one has ever asked me if I “really need that“.
I’ve never felt the need to cover up my arms, or my thighs, as if my body is offensive to others, and it’s up to me to police that.
I don’t dress to emphasize my cleavage, because my big tits are the one socially acceptable thing on my body. I’ve never suffered the gauntlet of shopping for lingerie or swimwear for the “larger woman”, and the inherent humiliation. I’ve never worn clothes that are uncomfortable, or too hot, or too tight, or just Not Quite Right, because it was for a performance or uniform of some kind.
I never, ever, have to point out the simple fact that weight and/or size don’t correlate to health. I never feel compelled to point out my perfect blood pressure and low cholesterol. No one ever brings up the history of heart disease and diabetes in my family.
I’ve never felt ashamed of my body, wanted to hide in a corner and curl up to make myself as small as possible, because of something someone unthinkingly said. Or didn’t. I’ve never wanted to hide, just because I’m short and fat and round, and don’t fit how people should look. I’ve never, ever, not once, forced myself to be gregarious and happy and the life of the party, while secretly wanting to escape to the corner with a bag of chips because sometimes, it’s just All Too Much. I don’t feign confidence and sexiness that I often don’t feel because, hey, fuck you society and your strict interpretation of what is attractive. I don’t EVER, EVER feel like my size suggests I should act, or be, a certain way. And I certainly don’t feel like saying Fuck You to society in that way is exhausting and neverending and pointless.
So, thanks, Stuff. Because just in case none of us knew we are fat, it is fucking brilliant to know that you are on the case. I’ll rest MUCH FUCKING EASIER tonight.
Many people linked us this week, to this delightful piece of commentary from Rosemary McLeod about sex work.
My own response was, oh, shut up. Oh, and Don’t Read The Comments. But I thought someone with more knowledge and experience than me might have a somewhat more eloquent response. So I asked the wonderful Dorothy Dentata if she would consider guest posting for us. She’s amazing, and here it is.
Hi Rosemary! I got told yesterday that you have some words in your recent article dedicated to little ol’ me, so I thought I’d sit down and type you this reply.
Now, as articles are prone to do, Michelle Cooke in her recent article on sex work conditions combined aspects of two seperate stories into the information about me. You mention in your diatribe against us dirty-footed dupes that you wondered how my mother reacted. Let me tell you!
When I told my mother I was a sex worker, she told me she thought I was about to tell her something bad. She then hugged me and told me how she loved me, how she trusted me to make my own decisions about my employment, that I owed her nothing in terms of divulging this and that she felt honoured beyond belief that I would be vulnerable and share such information with her.
When I told my dad the same information, weeks before my 21st, his response was to tell me he loved me and that he had never paid for sex but didn’t see an ethical problem with anyone doing so now that it was decriminalised. He also said he was happy I was working somewhere safe and supportive, and then he hugged me. That sort of emotional openness from my father about how he personally saw paying for sexual services was really meaningful to me. I thought it was amazing that my dad would even discuss the possibility of being a punter with me.
Of course, you probably don’t think so. You probably think that my parents are ignorant of the fact that “nothing could be quite as soul-destroying as performing fellatio for a living” and you probably include my dad in your stereotype of men as weird, lazy, and driven by their dick.
Well. Let’s talk about my side of the story, huh?
I started sex work at 19 years of age. I have worked in several different brothels and agencies, both here and in Melbourne. I have worked privately. I have had experiences with clients I didn’t enjoy, I have had mostly experiences with respectful and generally considerate clients. I have made some of the greatest friendships in my life with both punters and other working girls. I’ve had a year off. I’ve had a mixture of clients, both in terms of background, age, and genders. Whilst the majority of clients have been male, white, and wealthy, there has also been more diversity in my experiences than I think you could fathom.
The clients who come to see me, including the men, sometimes ask me questions about my opinions, they listen to my stories, they often share with me their innermost vulnerabilities (whether they mean to or not). Sometimes these vulnerabilities are unsettling or confusing or unattractive to me. Sometimes those thoughts are sweet and endearing and make me feel great about my job for weeks at a time.
Sometimes the clients who come to see me truly don’t care that much about knowing what’s going on in my brain. And you know what? That’s okay! Because with boundaries negotiated and a safe premises, I am totally happy to fuck and be fucked for a booking without any pretense of conversation or deeper connection. Sometimes, Rosemary, people just want sex without fuss. Sometimes people want sex that is good, easy, and completely without a relationship. That’s pretty normal.
Yes, as you snidely added ‘brains are a selling point’. Journalists aren’t often in the habit of interviewing inarticulate workers to quote about a specific industry. Brains are a selling point in more ways, though, for example my ad. The fact that ads highlighting a workers intelligence, personality, and strengths work much better than ads simply highlighting physical assets might disprove your little theory that clients don’t care about what’s going on behind my eyes.
So that’s how I see my job. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I’m frustrated or aggravated or anxious about it, and sometimes it’s just a job. As a colleague of mine said in response to your article “I fully stand behind my right to hate my job and do it anyway” and I feel that cuts to the point I actually want to make today.
Sex work is WORK. Your title, declaring “prostitution not just selling your body” is misleading in itself. For me, you see, prostitution ISN’T selling my body. The same learned colleague of mine states “when you pay someone to give you physiotherapy for an hour, you do not buy the physiotherapist. When you pay someone to cut your hair for an hour, you do not buy the person who cuts you hair”. The same rings true here. When you decide to come to Funhouse and fuck me senseless (or brush my hair or wrestle me or eat my pussy) you do not buy me. You negotiate such services and I either agree or decline, based on my own boundaries and personal preferences. At any stage, any stage of the booking, I have the right to declare a certain activity is not on offer anymore. It may mean a partial refund, but more usually it means we just do something else. You know, like I talk to my sexual partners who aren’t paying me.
Moreover, capitalism is an economic system that requires people to work in order to make money. Many people have jobs that require using their bodies in ways they wouldn’t normally, extra labour or occassional unpleasant aspects or things that sometimes just suck. People are generally required to work due to economic need. The same is generally true of sex workers (who, by the way, are not just ‘women’). As through all of society, you see negative aspects of sex work. As with doctors and lawyers, there are sex workers who are addicted to drugs. As with nannies and couriers and plumbers, there are sex workers with mental health problems. As with pilots and retail assistants and journalists, there are sex workers who are exposed to sexual abuse. As with politicians and teachers and CEOs there are sex workers who are unhappy in their job.
I was even going to put in a touching and endearing ramble about how clean my feet were, to disprove the evident assumptions that sex workers are dirty and degraded, but I decided not to. You know why? Because people from all walks of life sometimes have dirty feet and split toenails. I don’t need to try and convince you how ‘nice’ and ‘safe’ parts of the sex industry are, because that is true for me but it’s not true for everyone. Being poor, or sad, or drug-addicted, does not make anyone nor their life deserving of vitriolic attacks by ill-informed journalists. Having dirty feet is not a reason to write off somebody’s entire lived experience, Rosemary, coz here’s the thing about lived experience: you cannot know what it’s like until you’ve lived it. You are not allowed to tell hookers what we should be doing with our lives without actually knowing our lives.
When sex workers are finally able to stop having to defend our industry and our work from bigoted hooker-haters like you, maybe we’ll be able to start directing our energies towards discussions on how the industry can be improved. When it’s no longer a matter of ‘positive’ vs ‘negative’ accounts of the sex industry, and we can realise every experience is more nuanced and more conflicting and that what should be happening is work towards improving working conditions for ALL sex workers.
I realise this has been an INCREDIBLY long ramble and I hope I haven’t bored you. I also hope I haven’t antagonised you so much that my invitation to you to come and have coffee (off the record) with me and some sex worker friends and learn a little about our lives will be ignored.
Twitter has been down for me for nearly an hour. This is problematic for me, because it means I go and look at other things on the internet. And because I am stupid and unable to control myself, that ends up with me looking at Garth George’s latest piece of editorial excellence.
First of all, to George’s imaginary “pro-life” friend. The New Zealand Green Party is not the Victorian Green Party. You understand we don’t actually live in Australia, right? I mean, feel free to go live there, we’d all be happier, I think. You can make friends with Tony Abbott, and leave New Zealand women the fuck alone.
Second, that “sinister hidden agenda”? Pretty comprehensively spelled out on the Greens’ website. The Greens have had well signposted private members bills on all kinds of things reprehensible to you, Garth. Have you not been paying attention?
And you know, they increased their portion of the vote markedly in this election. Has it occurred to you that a bunch of people agree with them? And that New Zealand First, your supposed foil for the Greens might too? Possibly not Richard “Ban the Burqa” Prosser, but certainly the delightful Ben Craven who appeared on behalf of NZF at Ladies In The House, was pro-choice.
And lastly, what they have in Victoria:
It provides that any woman can demand an abortion for any reason. The Greens in Australia also support same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption, and an education system which teaches that homosexuality is normal.
sounds like FUCKING PARADISE. You don’t like the “murderously liberal humanism”? I can not stand your fucking creepy interest in the contents of my vagina and womb. I can not stand the way you think you have the right to control what I do with my body. The way you think your right to a legal union is more important than my friends’. You say
Improvements to the economy, health, education, infrastructure and communication are all very well. But it is decisions on these humanitarian issues which will ultimately dictate the shape of our future society.
And you know what? I will fight until I am as old and out of touch as you are, so that those things you hate – you know, equity, tolerance, acceptance, BASIC FUCKING HUMAN RIGHTS – are part of that future society.
Some things. For a start, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this piece you wrote? Is supposed to be a news article, not an opinion piece.
I understand, also, that with a lack of solid information, it’s part of your job to speculate about different combinations of leaders and deputies. It’s just that normally I don’t expect “speculate” to quite so literally mean “make shit up”.
However. What the fucking FUCK were you thinking when you wrote this?
And Shane Jones is also an outside chance as a running mate. He and Mr Shearer together would represent a return to a more pragmatic party, with less emphasis on gays and feminists.
I’m not complaining about you starting a sentence with a conjunction, either.
Possibly you might have been tipped there was something wrong with this when you saw you’d put the words “pragmatic” and “Shane Jones” so close together. I’m not sure, but perhaps the word you wanted there was “phlegmatic”.
Because that word? Pragmatic? I don’t think it means what you think it means.
See, you know who disproportionately vote Left? Women. And “Gays”. What the hell is “pragmatic” about a left-wing party placing “less emphasis” on left-wing voters? Fucking hell. If the Labour Party put actual emphasis on LGBTI and feminist issues, you know what? I might actually fucking vote for them. If Labour secured the votes of all the chicks and fags, they’d be the goddamn government.
Though possibly only after someone had taken Shane Jones and Damian O’Connor for a long walk in the bush and lost them. That’d be FAB-u-lous.
I have an article about the pay gap in the Dominion Post this morning.
Instead of thinking what might be the best way to assess and reward work, we assume that the way that work is structured and paid right now is the way that work ought to be structured and paid. The real solution to the pay equity gap is not to make women behave like men, or men to behave like women, but to engage in a serious discussion about better ways of working, and better ways of understanding and valuing all work.
Friends of TLG might prefer to comment on it here rather than entering the fray at Stuff…
Breaking News: Bob McCroskie won’t be wearing a white ribbon this year. Why? Because it’s not a gender issue. And you ladies should stop telling lies.
If we’re serious about reducing family violence, we need to open both eyes – and tell the truth. The website says “Violence is endemic within New Zealand. One in three women are victims of violence from a partner”. The first part is right – the second misrepresents the facts….But will the researchers ask men to what level they have been victims of intimate partner violence? How many men would say they, too, have been physically assaulted, or made to feel bad, humiliated in front of others or intimidated by their partner?
Now. I’m not going to negate that there is certainly violence against men, nor that women can also commit family violence. (And that your analysis completely – and shockingly – ignores anyone who isn’t cis and hetero.) But if we’re going to have this conversation, wouldn’t it be good to do it without some hand-picked statistics selected to prove Bob’s point?
Here’s one I found, simply by googling “crime stats NZ”:
There were 1,696 fewer family violence offences recorded in 2010/11 than in 2009/10 – a 3.1% reduction. A total of 52,408 family violence offences were recorded compared with 54,104 during the same time last year. This 3.1% drop marks a strong reversal in the steady upward trend of recent years.
Within this figure there were 555 fewer family violence assaults – down -2.1% from 25,935 to 25,380 family violence assault offences. Most of these assaults were male assaults female which decreased by 904 from 8768 to 7864 offences.
Here’s something else I found with a really quick Google:
In 2005 the New Zealand Police recorded 62,470 offence and non-offence family violence incidents; 62,615 children and young people aged under 17 years were involved (TAVF 2006). Between 2000 and 2004 54 women were murdered by men through family violence, and three men were murdered by women (TAVF 2006). Although the overall murder rate is declining, murders that are domestically related are not (TAVF 2006); in fact the number of deaths of women due to domestic violence has increased from an average of nine per year in the 10 years to 1987 (Fanslow et al. 1991) to an average of 15 in the years 2000 to 2004, suggesting a real increase (see TAVF 2006). In 2007, 25 of 53 murders were recorded as family violence-related (TAVF 2007). In 2005 Women’s Refuge supported 17,212 women and 9,904 children (TAVF 2006). Between 90 and 95% of all applicants for protection orders in New Zealand are women, and most respondents are men (Bartlett 2006, Law Commission 2003).
Want more? (if you can stomach it).
I’m sure, if I had the time and the inclination, I could find as many statistics as I wanted. And I am fairly certain that LGBT people would be over-represented therein. But frankly, I don’t feel like spending my afternoon trawling through facts and figures about women being assaulted, smacked around, intimidated or murdered.
But no, Bob, it’s not a gendered issue, is it? And in fact, you’re right, it’s not. But not for the reasons you have. Not because your self-righteous, holier-than-thou, indignant sensibilities are offended by an ad campaign that happens to be aimed at people like you. (Which, as the White Ribbon campaign points out works, because more men respond to messages aimed directly at them.) It’s also not because WOMEN DO IT TOO, no matter how loudly you try to scream that.
It’s not, because stopping family violence is incumbent on us all, regardless of our gender. It’s because standing up and saying “this isn’t OK”, stepping in where we can, helping out where we can, doing what we can do – that’s for all of us. And for you, Bob, to say that you won’t support the campaign because “the statistics lie”, is disingenuous at best, and downright fucking disgraceful at worst. And I know which I believe it is.
Courtesy of DPF, a list of people who have been part of The Panel on Radio NZ’s Afternoon Show with Jim Mora in the last month or so. DPF is interested in political diversity, so he divides the people into right leaning, left leaning, and unknown. He comes up with 7 right wing people, 19 left wing people and 11 unknown.
I’m interested in diversity too, and the particular type of diversity that concerns me is gender diversity. So here’s DPF’s list of people, grouped by gender.
1. David Farrar
2. Neil Miller
3. John Bishop
4. Sam Johnson
5. Stephen Franks
6. Matt Nippert
7. Martyn Bradbury
8. Jeremy Elwood
9. Simon Pound
10. Duncan Webb
11. Brian Edwards
12. Mike Williams
13. Gary McCormick
14. Tim Watkin
15. David Slack
16. Chris Trotter
17. Don Donovan
18. Finlay MacDonald
19. Gary Moore
20. Scott Yorke
21. Tony Doe
22. Graham Bell
23. David McPhail
24. John Dunne
25. Chris Wikaira
26. Richard Langston
1. Joanne Black
2. Michelle Boag
3. Deborah Hill-Cone
4. Michelle A’Court
5. Anna Chinn
6. Islay McLeod
7. Liz Bowen-Clewley
8. Irene Gardiner
9. Rosemary McLeod
10. Ali Jones
11. Jane Clifton
Hmmm…. I’m spotting a slight lack of diversity there. Only about 30% of the guest panelists are women. So, Jim Mora, and Radio NZ, how about making a bit of an effort to get some more opinionated women on the panel? I’m sure there are plenty to be found.
As for other diversities, I could find only one obviously Maori name on the list. My guess is that there is more than one Maori panelist, but I can’t tell from names alone. And I would be willing to bet good money that there aren’t all that many Maori appearing on the show as panelists. Or Pacific Islanders, for that matter. I wonder if Radio NZ and Jim Mora would consider approaching someone like Tapu Misa to appear on the show? Or Anjum Rahman?
Update: Following a comment from David Slack, I did a quick count-up using the Radio NZ Archives. Counting yesterday (Wednesday 12 October) and working back to and including Tuesday 13 September, I found that DPF had omitted Jock Anderson, Richard Langston, Bruce Slane, Peter Elliot, Peggy Ashton and Linda Clark. Michelle Boag appeared twice, as did DPF, and Neil Miller. So in all, there were 30 male guests, and 13 female guests. In terms of appearances, there were 32 appearances by men, and 14 by women. So yes, there have been other women appearing on the panel. But if we take the last month as representative (and yes, I know there could be issues around that), then no matter how we massage the data, there’s a something like a 2.3:1 ratio of male to female panelists.