Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
Yes, it’s that time again in Wellington. Sevens time. Where packs of dudebros roam the streets, puddles of vomit adorn the city suburbs and those of us who think basically being a shithead is dumb get called snobs. Good times.
Dante’s seventh circle of hell houses, among others, those who are violent against people and property. How very apt. So, my guide for the weekend:
1. Leave town, if you possibly can. This is very short notice, but seriously, wouldn’t a weekend in invercargill be lovely? At the very least, try Petone. There’ll still be some fuckknuckles that have slipped through the cracks, but less en masse.
2. Carry a bat. A big one. For every time someone yells “get your tits out for the boys”, and does not respond to your raised middle finger.
3. If you cannot source a bat, try an actual sevens player. They are big, fast, and the ones I have met have always been appalled by the behaviour their tournament engenders. Such a shame the organisers don’t appear to have the same qualms.
4. Employ mis-direction. Point in the opposite direction and yell “look! That guy is dressed like a couch! Hahahahahahaha.”
5. Try to remember that there are thousands of people who go to the sevens and enjoy it without causing any problems and don’t assault or otherwise harass anyone.
6. If you’re going, try to remember that “the full sevens experience” doesn’t have to involve vomiting, urinating or any other bodily functions in public. It doesn’t have to involve asking women to indulge your fantasies, or otherwise being a gross, entitled fuckwit. It doesn’t have to involve using the security of you and your friends dressing the same to form a pack that simply serves to intimidate and frighten strangers. It doesn’t have to involve “dressing like a slut”, if you don’t feel comfortable with that, and if you do, it doesn’t mean anyone gets to treat you with anything less than respect.
7. Seriously. This is not a nice time to be in the city, if you’re not interested in large crowds of very drunk and excitable people. Last year, several drunk men surrounded me, and demanded I show them my tits. At lunchtime. On The Terrace. A few years ago, I was watching a guy shave his head, being impressed at his dedication to his costume, when he waved the clippers at me, and offered to give me a Brazilian. And not in such polite language. Courtenay Place will be feral and disgusting. Avoid it if you can. If you can’t, do what you need to do to keep yourself safe. Tell people to leave you alone. Enlist the help of whoever you need to, whether it’s the police, your friends, or bouncers. And don’t take any shit from anyone. Be safe, darlings.
A brief summary. Suzanne Moore wrote a column in the New Statesman. In it she made what I’ll unhesitatingly call a “poor decision” to invoke the image of a “Brazillian transexual”. People objected. Instead of apologising, she doubled down, and some of the things she went on to say on Twitter were… really appalling. Abuse went both ways.
Good things came out of it. Stella Duffy wrote a post which generated a lot of useful constructive discussion. She followed it up with what I found a much better one, talking about what she’d learned. There was this response. And I found it good to be reminded that it actually wasn’t all that long ago that I didn’t know what “cis” meant, and I hadn’t heard of Transgender Day of Remembrance.
And then Julie Burchill wrote a piece [trigger warning for stunning transphobia] that would be in stiff competition for “stupidest most offensive thing ever to appear outside of 4chan”, and The Observer decided to publish it. Today they undecided to publish it, and of course this being the internet, it’s vanished without trace.
I think the Burchill piece is actually hugely useful. It’s the very simple answer to the question, “Why are these people so angry?” Why did people react so strongly to the Moore piece? Because it was written against a background where people feel okay saying things like:
To my mind – I have given cool-headed consideration to the matter – a gaggle of transsexuals telling Suzanne Moore how to write looks a lot like how I’d imagine the Black and White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run would look. That rude and ridic.
We know that everything we have we got for ourselves. We have no family money, no safety net. And we are damned if we are going to be accused of being privileged by a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.
On the other hand, this is going to be the last website to pretend there aren’t jerks in any demographic, including trans* activists. I’m not tone-argumenting, it’s just a fact from years of experience at web moderation that the best results come when people try to express themselves reasonably even when they’re offended, and people try to listen and respond even when they’re angry.
People like Burchill and Bindell and Greer and our own Rosemary McLeod should be challenged on their transphobia. Their attitude that it’s distracting from the “real issues” and their refusal to acknowledge their own privilege is… well, it’s ironic to say the least.
But there are a whole bunch of other people, people like Stella Duffy, who are prepared to listen and to learn. We all had to learn at some stage, and we should offer others the same patience and help we needed.
Girl on the Net put it better, talking about a time when she was Called Out by a transwoman:
But I promise you this: I will never deliberately say hateful, horrible things that ignore my privilege and make life harder for you. I will always try to empathise and – if you correct me – I’ll try to clarify what I’m saying, or apologise if I’m wrong. If you tell me about my mistakes I can correct and clarify. If you call me a hateful psycho bitch-whore, I’ll never fucking learn.
Just in time for Christmas, the NZ Listener served up a dose of food guilt and You Must Diet and food is not for fun and LOSE WEIGHT NOW! To be fair to The Listener, the article avoids saying that fat people are unhealthy (if you are sceptical about this claim, check this story about the non-link between fat and health in the New York Times). However, The Listener story does have an underlying theme of making people feel bad about food, and it tacitly claims that losing weight is just a matter of sufficient willpower. This is despite the magazine having previously run stories on the myths of weight loss (see my summary of the story here), and willpower (long story short – it can be done, but only with huge effort, unless there are structural supports around you).
Whatever. And what a way to cast a pall of nagging tut-tut-tut over a celebration.
So in the spirit of simply enjoying good food and good company, I offer you our Christmas Day menu.
We started the day with Bucks Fizz – champagne version for the adults, lemonade version for the children, although those children who wanted to do so were invited to try some of the former.
For breakfast, we had warmed croissants stuffed with our butcher’s secret recipe homecured bacon, and lightly stewed peaches, still warm from the pan, all drizzled with maple syrup.
I made a superb bacon quiche for lunch. I would show you a picture, but we ate it all before I thought about taking a photo. Likewise with the pre-dinner nibbles, alas. Or perhaps not so alas, because the homemade pate, blue cheese, chippies, and homemade hummus were delicious.
This was the main part of dinner.
It’s a whole leg of lamb, studded with cloves of garlic, then rubbed with lemon juice and olive oil, then placed on a bed of freshly cut oregano, and wrapped in baking paper and brown paper. I cooked it long and slow, for about three hours, and I rested it for half an hour before serving it. It was meltingly tender, and flavoursome. The recipe comes from Ruth Pretty.
I accompanied the lamb with asparagus drizzled with lemon infused olive oil, a medley of green beans, broad beans and peas with melted mint butter, and herby Jersey Benny potatoes (best potatoes ever).
Yummy yummy yummy.
And then there was dessert.
From left to right, fresh cherries, a berry medley, marscapone apricot tart, whipped cream, yoghurt, a strawberry pavlova, and lemon semi-freddo. The pavlova was excellent, crisp on the outside, and soft marshmallow without a hint of chewiness in the middle. The lemon semi-freddo was good too, creamy and tart, and not at all icy. I was very pleased with the way it turned out.
Just in case anyone was still hungry, we finished off with Christmas cake. Lurid Christmas cake.
I hope that you ate some wonderful food over the festive season too. Feel free to share.
(trigger warnings for sexual violence, and…everything. The world is fucked up – Tallulah.)
This guest post comes to us from Jane, who works with an organisation helping girls in Cambodia. More on that at the bottom of the post. She wanted to respond to last week’s guest post.
Your post is sad. So sad. But, without wishing to diminish or minimize your experiences in any way at all, reading it just makes me so much more aware of the terrible things that girls in Cambodia are experiencing as I type this response. Right now. Girls from isolated rural areas are being sold, often by their parents (because they are hungry and it enables them to feed the boys) with the encouragement of the village elders. They are sold for ‘domestic work’, which starts as general all-round slavery and nearly always continues on to rape and sexual abuse. They are sexual slaves.
These young girls are silenced too. Their ‘owners’ addict them to drugs so if they run away they have to come back to feed their habit. They’re taken to another country where they can’t speak the language so they can’t complain or ask for help. They’re beaten, and humiliated in a horrifying range of ways, their self-respect is crushed so their expectation of a better life dies.
Let’s focus on the positive though. By speaking out (‘blogging out’?) and by demanding change, we can slowly change things in our own country. By educating girls and their families in Cambodia we can enable them to resist the approaches of the ‘agents’ the come to ‘recruit’ the girls. We can give them the tools to provide for themselves, to feel the rewards of working and supporting themselves and their families for a better future.
Let’s look forwards. Let’s focus on what we can do to change the world, one girl at a time. If you’d like to join me in doing just that, let me know. I’d love to have a blog about it, and talk more about the work I do, and/or have email or phone conversations if anyone would like to do that. You can email me or visit the website if you’d like to make a start!