Monday, May 30, 2011

Pulling the plug on beauty

You know what? I give up. I'm quitting the beauty race. Am throwing my hands up and declaring "enough".
My final shaking of the beauty shackles was prompted by an unlikely source - the cosmetic surgery industry and it's pervasiveness.
(It was a bit tricky to get actual figures on procedure numbers in Australia. Apparently the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons is "working towards the development of collection tools to gather data on plastic surgery".)
It seems everyone (almost) is into it these days. Botox on your lunch break. Boob jobs at 18. Butt lifts as birthday presents.
But if that's what you have to do to keep up, then I don't want to play anymore.
The decision to pack up my bat and ball had been coming for a while.
Firstly, I got in quite a huff over what goes on in magazines. The retouching of photos, the constant peddling of (often hideously expensive) products and the bombardment of unobtainable 'beauty' images. And you're to blame too, Mr Entertainment Industry. And you, Advertising.
The battiness of some 'must-have' and 'so now' looks the industry tries to flog also had a bit to do with it, admittedly. Or, as Paul describes them, the 'wild get-ups some sheilas wear'. I mean, when someone encourages you to look like this:
Image source:

Or this:

I'm always disappointed when I wear
lipstick because it never lasts.
Something tells me if I tried this colour
I wouldn't mind so much.
Image source:

... you have to suspect they're pulling your leg.
Age also played a part. With it came the realisation the battle to look like Gisele or Marilyn or whoever, hard as it already had been, was only going to get harder. If I couldn't achieve it when at least youth was on my side, what hope would I have now? That's right. None.
Then the idea that the whole beauty ideal was in fact a big fat crock sunk in. I accepted what I had. Became grateful for it, even.
Eventually I got not just tired of it all but also insulted. Must I strive to look always 'sexy' and skinny, simply because Celebrity Slim and Extreme Makeover and the myriad heap of crock beauty/weight-loss focused organisations decree that is how any woman of worth looks?
No thank you. I prefer to spend my spare time - and cash - doing things I enjoy rather than on physical self-improvement just so I can meet some faceless person's idea of what I should be. Am I not enough as I am? Of course I bloody am. We all are. Anyone who tries to tell us differently - and they are incredibly numerous and very, very loud - deserves the finger.
I won't even start on the fashion and weight expectations mere children now face (though a rant on that will come some time in the near future)*.
All this is not to say I won't take any pride in my appearance. I don't want to frighten young children in the street. I will still wear make-up (mostly) when I go out. Will still sigh over beautiful shoes. Will aim to keep my girth within a range my clothes can accommodate. But, however I look as I walk out the door, it will be more than adequate.
So thank you, beauty industry and western society. With your pushiness and silly demands, you've finally gone too far and set me free.

* Also coming up sooner or later, but probably later: How much do you spend on your beauty regimen?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post. Have you opted out of the beauty race? What was your tipping point? Maybe you were smart and never bought into it to begin with?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This week I'm grateful for ... a shiny new computer!

There's a new love in my life - my new computer.
Image source:
This week I'm grateful for my new computer. It arrived last week and I'm in love. 
It means we now have about 17 devices that can take photos. Which is probably why I needed a bigger computer - I have to store all those snaps somewhere because I never think to actually print the bloody things. 
I've long been a gadget girl and a new, whizz-bang laptop is the ultimate toy. It is, at least, until I can justify the cost of a longed-for iPad.
We bought the old laptop (the cantankerous one mentioned in my profile. Its days are now officially up) back in the olden days. Meaning, 2007. It's a little alarming to realise how quickly something can go from shiny and clever to old and decrepit in today's world, but that is a whole other post.  
It had served me well but it just couldn't hack it anymore. Too weak. Too slow. Too small. I could nip out the front door and save the world while Internet Explorer loaded. And I once celebrated several Christmases  while waiting for Photoshop to open a picture.  
This new one cracks along at lightning speed. Like a willing lover, or an already opened block of Cadbury, it's always ready for me. It has fancy yet easy-to-use software. A mouse that feels like an extension of my hand.
It is my new BFF. I've even kissed it goodnight. But that was only once.  

This post has been part of the lovely Maxabella Loves 'Grateful' link-up.

What are you grateful for this week?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Go(ing) west. This is what we did. Part V

Just an average evening of Gunn Point glory.
So, where were we? That's right. In Darwin. After leaving Cairns about a fortnight earlier.
What we did next was probably the highlight of the entire trip.
Because we had five days at what can only be described as paradise. Well, a camping version of paradise. There were still pesky/carnivorous insects and no running water.
Paul's friend in Darwin, Ian, took us to this slice of paradise. It's called Gunn Point, and is about 40 minutes from Darwin. Think pristine beach, secluded camp spots, sea breezes, fresh-caught seafood and sunsets over the sea. And think all that, with no crowds.
We arrived early Friday afternoon, before anyone else, and claimed the best camping spot. Several other groups arrived later but by Monday morning they were gone again and there was not another living soul in sight.
Which did mean we couldn't share around the mutant-sized March flies that descended in hordes upon sunset, but that was a small price to pay for heaven.
What does one do in heaven, you may ask. Well, not much, as it turns out. Which is probably a big reason for its appeal.
My days looked something like this:
6am: Wake up. Peek out tent window and check our two dogs are still in the vicinity and also have not been gnawed to bones by ferocious March flies (I swear those things had teeth). Go back to sleep.
7am(ish): Wake up. Notice Paul is getting up. And that it's light outside. Go back to sleep.
8am(ish): Wake up. Get up. Walk along beach with dogs in tow.
9am: Breakfast on the beach.
10am: Paul, who has been out exploring/being a boy on his motorbike, returns. Knowing his activities hold infinitely more fascination for me than the bestselling book in my lap, kindly fills me in. Where he went. What he saw. The people he saw. What speed he got up to on the bike. Where he moved the crab pots to and the chances of us catching, and therefore eating, a mud crab or two that day (a matter that was, in fact, of great interest to me).
10.30am: We duck back into the tent for, ahem, married-people-on-holidays activities.
11am: We have coffee in the shade by the beach.
11.30am: We go for a drive to the mangrove area nearby so Paul can go 'crab-spearing'. I won't go into details, but suffice to say PETA will be knocking on my door any minute now (it is legal, though). Most days he snaffles a crab. Including the day he found one but failed to get a firm hold on it and flung it out of it's hole and almost onto my foot. My toes were lucky to survive that incident.
1pm: Return to camp. Have lunch. And another coffee. By the beach (of course).
2pm: Read. Talk to the dogs. Generally laze about.
3.30pm: Start cooking day's catch of mud crabs. Eat mud crabs.
5pm: Have happy hour (drinks, cheese etc). Followed by dinner.
6pm: Watch the sun set over the beach and marvel at how life can give you moments of absolute perfection. While wearing thick woolly socks to protect self from voracious March flies, which seem to attack only the lower leg area and can't get fangs through said socks.

The fishing crew.

Foiled! The monster March flies went hungry that night.

You can never do enough beach exploring.

Our Darwin friends, Ian and Cath, came out for the Saturday night so we had ourselves a bit of a party and feast. The guys wandered about doing guy stuff for the afternoon and Cath, also a book person, and I parked ourselves in the shade with our tomes (ok, they were chick-lit numbers, but give us a break - we were on holidays!).
After five nights we decided to return to civilisation. Which offered the benefits of bathrooms. And significantly fewer March flies and piles of sand, the presence of which admittedly had started to wear a bit thin. But it was a magical place, and we had a magical stay there. We couldn't believe our luck in finding such a wonderful spot, having it to ourselves, and being able to eat fresh (and free!) seafood virtually every afternoon.
More glorious-ness.

Best friends, watchin' the world go by. 

Low tide at sunset.

To be continued...

For other Going West chapters, see:
Go(ing west). This is what we did. Part I
Go(ing west). This is what we did. Part II
Go(ing west). This is what we did. Part III

Go(ing west). This is what we did. Part IV

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post! You can leave a comment below or send me an email. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Water

Welcome to my first, official Wordless Wednesday. I'm kicking off with a 'Water' slideshow, which is a collection of pics I've taken at some of the beautiful Australian beaches and waterways I've been lucky enough to visit.
Oh, and it's not 100 per cent wordless - I've put it to one of my favourite KT Tunstall songs, The Other Side Of The World.
Like the idea of Wordless Wednesday? (Or just glad I've shut up for a bit?) Well, you can find more Wordless Wednesday over at My Little Drummer Boys.
Hope you enjoy!

PS I was too slack to caption the pics, but if you want to know where any of them where taken, just ask.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post! You can leave a comment below or send me an email. Thanks!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Slutwalk. I can't tear my eyes away from it

Women marching in a Slutwalk event.
Image source:
I have found the whole Slutwalk thing enthralling. Especially as it kind of came out of the blue and exploded.
I'm thrilled to see women getting mad and speaking out. Any form of victim-blaming needs to be knocked on the head once and for all. Right now.
Yet ... I too share in some of the reservations other observers have expressed. The shying away from the term 'feminist' by some of the protesters, for one. Also, the notion that shouting about your love of sex is a worthy, even admirable way, to bend people to your cause and win power. Why must we be people who have a strong, public association with sex to be valued? Why can't we be valued simply because we are people?

Here are some views, and background information, on the event I've found interesting (warning: the language isn't exactly G-rated in some of these pieces):

"Having been a confident slut for sometime, this January the word was slung out again as an epithet, but this time it wasn’t by a high school kid. It was by someone who demands respect by way of authority. Someone who’s charged with a person’s safety. Someone who should know better. So when I read the quote in the Excal, “don’t dress like a slut…”, I could almost hear the blame dripping from the word.
It angered me to think that while I managed to learn about healthy sexuality in my adulthood, why hadn’t this person done the same? Who was he to insult people in such a way? I knew that he hadn’t read the Ethical Slut. I knew that he wasn’t using the word in a positive light, as many do these days. He used it as a slur, and it was laced with ideas that some people don’t deserve respect. Sure, he may not think that sluts deserve to get raped, but he didn’t launch a conversation that day about sexuality and language. He continued to perpetuate a stereotype."

"Many will simply take away the idea that it’s now OK to call women sluts if they’re showing some cleavage.
Others will see it as an easy opportunity to perve on a bunch of semi-clad chicks. Older people and conservatives will see it as proof of the moral laxity of today’s women.
But worst of all, it will enforce the idea that women should be defined by their sexuality.
It will have an effect on girls and young women who will see these protests in the papers, online and in the news. And it will reinforce the already widespread impression that sex, for a woman, is power. Or the route to power."

"I followed the progress of Slutwalk Toronto and, in particular, the threads and posts on their Facebook page, as it seemed to be the place where the most of the conversations were happening. I looked and looked for some mention of feminism, some alignment and acknowledgment that this was, indeed, a feminist issue and a feminist fight – a fight that has been being faught by women for decades. Instead what I found, over and over again was, not only a refusal to align with feminism, but often, an outright aversion to it. 
I saw numerous attacks on radical feminism and radical feminists and I witnessed the reinforcement of negative and untrue stereotypes about feminism (you know the ones: man-hating, misandrist, no-fun, sex-negative, etc). While I do believe the organizers had good intentions, desiring that Slutwalk be inclusive to all, it began to look a lot like the ‘funfeminist’ – NO NO WE’RE THE CONVENTIONALLY ATTRACTIVE FEMINISTS. THE FUN ONES. WE’RE OK. WE LIKE PENISES AND PORN AND LOOKING SEXY kind of feminism that, in the end doesn’t successfully challenge much of anything, and simply repackages sexist imagery in ‘empowering’ wrapping paper."

"On May 16th, Slutwalk Calgary issued a statement which addressed the whole issue of ‘The Name’, concluding that “This will probably be our last comment on the name. That conversation is nothing more than a distraction from the real issue, which is our communities blaming sexual assault survivors for the actions of their attackers. Period.”
Well. Ok. I agree. Sort of. The conversation should be about blaming victims for having been assaulted. But wait. Then WHY is the conversation continually being re-focused back onto the whole name thing? And the assertion that one group, on behalf of all women, regardless to how this might impact them, are ‘taking it back’. MY opinion on this? If you don’t want to talk about the name, then don’t call your event Slutwalk."

See? An endlessly fascinating topic, wouldn't you agree?
It saddens and frustrates me that a cause like this has to be presented in such a way to gain this level of traction. Any well-earned success of the 'movement' notwithstanding, the fact it takes something called Slutwalk to gain mainstream attention shows how far we have to go, and the strength of the stereotypes women are so often confined to even today.

I will be watching with great interest to see what happens after all the walks.

I would LOVE to get your thoughts on this. (Not necessarily right away, or today. If you do read all the above pieces in full it will take some getting through). But, like I said, I find people's views on this topic fascinating. Does any of it resonate with you, or do you think it's irrelevant? I'm also keen to see anything you may have read on the issue and found interesting.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This week I'm grateful for ... getting out of the kitchen

I don't actually hate cooking. Just cooking every day.
Image source:
This week I'm grateful for not having to cook dinner. The husband, Paul, and I try to take it in turns but recently (as in for-the-past-six-months recently) I was getting home a lot earlier so kind of fell into doing it all the time.
But now we happen to be on exactly the same roster, and Paul has got his butt back in the kitchen. And - bonus! - to play a bit of catch-up and get his dinner duty fortnights synchronised with his on-call roster he'll be there for One. Whole. Month.
He's just finished his first fortnight and for this blissful period whenever he has asked:
* "What should we have for dinner tonight?" I've been able to answer with an uninterested yet gleeful "I don't care. You're cooking!"
* "Do we have any soy sauce?" With "I don't know. You check. You're cooking!"
* "So we'd better write out a shopping list tonight." with "Probably. You work out what to buy though and write it. You're cooking!"
* "Do you think I should make enough rissoles (the man has anointed himself the high priest of rissoles thanks to his popular 'secret recipe') for us to have leftovers tomorrow?" With "If you like. I don't care. YOU'RE COOKING! AHAA HA HA HA!"
It has indeed been a wonderful time. And we're only halfway through. Aah. 

This post is part of the lovely 'I'm Grateful For' link-up by hosted by Maxabella Loves.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Derrieres in demand

Pippa Middleton in the dress that launched her
bottom onto 'must-have' lists across the UK,
and probably elsewhere.
Image source:
Oh dear, this is a little concerning. According to news reports, oodles of British women are signing up to have their bottoms surgically reshaped into replicas of Pippa Middleton's rear.
The Brisbane Times says:

The frenzy surrounding Pippa Middleton's derriere has led to a spike in bookings for bottom-lifting treatments in Britain.
Since April's royal wedding, cosmetic surgeons have reported a 60 per cent increase for work on British backsides.
One cosmetic clinic has even named a surgery, The Pip Package Perfect Posterior, which can cost up £8000 ($12,000).
Middleton became known around the world for her buttocks during her role as maid of honour for her sister Catherine's wedding to Prince William on April 29 at Westminster Abbey.
"We are now seeing scores of female clients seeking the perfect bottom," Lesley Khan of London's Harley Street Skin Clinic told London's Daily Star.
"A few years back everyone wanted the Jennifer Lopez look, but now everyone asks for a bottom like Pippa's - curvy but not too peachy."

This is all of absolutely zero use to me. Because even if I had the wish (and the cash) to put my bum under the knife, I doubt the engineering methods required to lift it have yet been developed. It's sheer girth and weight would make it an impossibility. (Unless they first carved slabs off it and attached them to my sorry excuse for a chest).
Regardless of the changes in fashion that take us from peachy-curvy rears to medium-curvy ones to whatever is next, mine will have to remain the kind that demands Bisley work pants in '92 Stout' size. Pulling on clothes that yell 'stout' at you every morning does wonders for a girl's self-esteem, I can assure you.

Do you think having surgery to get someone else's bottom is a tad ridiculous? If not, whose would you want?

Monday, May 16, 2011

To tattoo or not to tattoo. Have you?

Extreme full-head tattoo, nicely (perhaps ironically?)
accessorised with a conservative tie.
Image source:
There is a certain something I lack. Something that not everyone, but many others, do have. I would see these folk out and about with theirs and think "Am I a little odd, backward even, to not possess such an item". The item in question being a tattoo.
Then I moved to Coolgardie/Kalgoorlie and my nakedness really stuck out like the proverbial, ahem, canine appendages.
Here it appears so uncommon to be uninked it puts me on the verge of freak territory. I'd guess there are more tattoos here than there are people.
I did a quick yet highly scientific survey while in the main street one recent afternoon and spied six separate tattoos over a total of eight men, three over a total of six women and one dog with its ruff area shaved and 'Freo Rulz' inked there. (Yes I made that last bit up, but people do love their tats around here. As well as football and mangled English, so it's entirely possible such a dog exists).
And that was just the ones visible on a mild May day.
I don't have an aversion to tattoos - or needles - but have never felt the urge to get one. In my mother's words, "they just don't appeal to me".
Excepting tattoos that form part of the owner's ethnic culture, for instance Maori tattoos, I've always viewed them as an expression of a kind of hardcore, rocker culture. So, and maybe it's the purist streak in me, but I think a tattoo should either stick to those origins or represent some other deeply important part of the owner's identity they wish to express. I can't help thinking that anything else is just a tacky tattoo gained for the sake of getting a tattoo.
My sister-in-law, for example, has several of what I'd describe as the above-mentioned rock-chick genre. Not everyone could pull them off but they look great on her because they suit her rock music-loving, live-life-loud-and-full personality.
Whenever I had that 'I don't think I'd like to get a tattoo because what the hell would I get' conversation people said 'oh, you could get a nice flower, or a sun or dolphin or something'. Which, despite their good intentions, makes me want to gag.
I do like flowers. But not enough to stamp one on me. The fake ones I stick in vases around my house is enough flower-tackiness for one person.
The sun is lovely, I'll give you that. But I'm not exactly sunny myself.
As for dolphins, they're very nice swimming about in the sea but I don't feel a resounding connection to them.
So, I believe I'll remain ink-free for the foreseeable future.
Now, there is something about tattoos that sparks my curiosity. And that is the craze for ones declaring the name, and sometimes birthdate, of one's progeny. Given countless generations of parents experienced the wonders of parenthood without accompanying tattoos, what is so compelling about them now? Can anyone fill me in?

So, what about you? Do you have any tattoos, and if so, what is their significance to you? Do you plan to get one, or add to your collection? Or are you someone who's changed their mind and had ink removed?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'm on the 'mothers should work' side of the fence. You?

UPDATE: I've since posted a follow-up to this one expanding on points only touched on here. You can read it here:

Ok, I admit I picked this photo because mother and daughter
are both smiling, and that suits my purposes.
Image credit:
I read an interesting column this week. It was called 'Staying mum's a cop-out'. What was even more interesting was that it was published 10 years ago. And writing it got the author, Leslie Cannold, fired.
Her basic premise was that women, including mothers, should be expected to work in a paid job. Here is part of what she said:

Feminists expect fathers to do domestic work, so how can they tacitly exempt mothers from paid work?
This is how I remember a conversation last week between me and two other mothers of grade 1 children:
Mother 1: Does your child sleep at night?
Me: Yes, why? Doesn’t yours?
Mother 1: She gets up two or three times a night.
Me: I think it’s because I did some “controlled comfort” with him when he was little; it teaches them how to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up.
Mother 2: I think “controlled comfort” is barbaric.
Mother 1: Well, I’m just exhausted.
Mother 2: Me too. Actually, half the time she sleeps in my bed. That’s why I could never get a job. I’m too exhausted: motherhood is my full-time job.
Is it really barbaric to set limits for your children? To expect them to, say, put themselves to sleep and to sleep in their own bed? Or is it simply weak and self-indulgent to refuse to draw the line, and to characterise this refusal as evidence of maternal love and dedication?
This is not an idle question (although I am sure some of you are wishing I’d left it idling). Rather, it is an explosive issue that the women’s movement has long sought to stifle with the rhetoric of “choice”. So while feminists have long struggled to enshrine all women’s social freedom and legal right to work, regardless of whether they are married and/or mothers, most have argued that the decision to engage in paid work or to make motherhood a full-time job is a woman’s prerogative.

You can read the rest of it here:

So, is she right? Are you cheering her, even 10 years later (as I am)? Or is she totally out of line? A deluded cow who should count herself lucky that the worst she got was the sack?
I could write at length about all the variables involved in this topic but want to keep it short so will say this: I agree with her on virtually every point.
There are myriad reasons for parents not working. And I accept that not all are completely invalid. But the idea that some mothers use the demands of parenting as an excuse and an escape is also valid.
And one other aspect of this debate that bugs me (I know, I know, I said I'd keep it short! I fibbed) is the limited ways in which stay-at-home women are portrayed. According to mainstream media, they seem to be in two camps only: a) the (often self-described) mothers who are so wholly consumed by their role and responsibilities they don't have time to change their socks; or b) the carefree, swanning-about ladies of leisure whose biggest challenge of the day is deciding between Oprah and Days of Our Lives?
Surely the reality (excepting mothers of newborns) is somewhere in between?

So. Anyone like to share their thoughts?

Mothers should work. Part II

Warning: this is very long. So long it might make Blogger crash again. I wanted to keep my last post, about expecting mothers to work, short. That didn't work. So I've expanded on it here. I make no promises to keep this one short. In fact I can't promise it will still be 2011 by the time you get to the end of today's musings. 

Image source:
I am not a mother, no, but believe I have the right to share a piece written by a mother (Leslie Cannold's 'Staying mum's a cop out' it's here: if you want the link again). And the right to stand by two basic ideas presented in that piece:

* That if we (feminists) want to share work at home, we should share in paid work.

* That work provides benefits for the worker.
Not work that doesn't fit around family needs - that's a recipe for disaster. Nor soul-destroying work - I do speak from experience when I say having a job you hate and which sucks the life from you provides very little benefit beyond the financial one. And its negative impact can outweigh even that. I looked to run away too - but didn't use motherhood as an escape path. I was far, far from ready to be a mother, yet felt I knew enough about it to know hating my job wasn't a good enough reason to bring a child into the world.

Now, to clarify some of my points and the implications that seem to have been taken from them:

* I did not say stay-at-home mum equals lazy woman. The portrayal of mums who sit around watching the soaps and going on countless coffee dates shits me because it's rubbish. Of course I don't know this first-hand, but everything I've seen during time spent with family members and friends who are mothers, and what I've read by mothers, indicates this stereotype is a load of hooey.

* I was not attacking anyone (except media outlets that persist with the above-mentioned stereotype). I was reiterating the point that working is good for people. As Cannold points out: "Without paid employment, women lack social identity, social status and social freedom. From the woman who feels ignored at the cocktail party once she reveals her long-term maternal role, to the victim of domestic violence lacking the means to take her kids and flee, paid work gives women things long-term motherhood never can or will."
Oh, and while I'm talking about the benefits of work, I imagine it would be nice, when woken by a crying child, to say to your partner from time to time "Oh darling, you go to her this time - I have to work tomorrow too". (It may not surprise you to know my husband and I have already had this argument - as a hypothetical because, as is abundantly clear, we don't currently have a child to get up to. It wasn't really resolved. I think he just let me win because it wasn't a real argument.)

* I'm not claiming motherhood is easy. Nor am I suggesting combining it with work or study would be a breeze. Again, I'm going to speak as a non-mother, but I believe mothers do a great job. They themselves, and many others across the world, are often too hard on them. Mums, give yourselves a pat on the back! And eat some chocolate. You deserve it.

* I don't claim to know the emotional impact of motherhood. Though presumably Leslie Cannold did and still felt it could be combined with work.

* I do expect capable people to pull their weight. Which is not to say that having children doesn't count as a major contribution. The 'dole bludger' style of person is irritating and I do judge them. But I don't find them interesting and wasn't really addressing them here.
Those I'm more interested in are mothers who continue to use motherhood as a public shield against work when this shield is long past its use-by date. I don't know why these mothers don't want to work. Maybe some are actually lazy. Maybe some lack the confidence to do so. Maybe others have selfish husbands who put up such a song and dance at the prospect of her working she caves and decides it's just not worth it. So while they frustrate and disappoint me, and I think they should do something to overcome those barriers, I don't necessarily hold them entirely responsible.
As a feminist, I'd argue that avoiding work when you actually are capable of it demonstrates a rude and ungrateful attitude towards the women who fought to have our right to work recognised (along with all the other benefits arising from feminism).
On a side note, if you're loath, or even hesitant, to call yourself a feminist and don't in fact believe you have a right to a job, or expect your partner to help with housework, you're of course free to do so. But I'd suggest considering that stand next time you, say, go to the pub, vote, or use a bank account that includes your name.

Image source:

My aim in writing the post was precisely to help counter at least some of this "judging" - how can society tell you you're a bad mother for going to work if it's actually telling you to go to work? Mothers who have to work financially are in a particularly bad place for this (again, this is something Cannold also points out).

I regard the expectations placed on mothers, and everything 'mothering' is apparently supposed to achieve, as too severe. They're terrifying! If, as Cannold suggests, mothering was viewed as part of the female experience and not used to assess a woman's entire worth (for example I'm judged for being a non-mother and therefore deficient more often than my husband is as a non-father), some of the stress and weight heaped on mothers could be alleviated.
My (perhaps unrealistic) logic is that if work was something everyone was expected to participate in, we might have more success in bringing about changes that would make everyone's working life easier. In relation to this particular issue, that would mean family-friendly workplaces and jobs, and better access to child care.
As long as work is seen as a "choice" for parents/mothers, the powers that be at too many workplaces can 'choose' to refuse to make them friendlier to families. If workplaces were more respectful of parents, I'd hope parents wouldn't feel the desire to "escape" and they could more easily combine work and parenting.
And while it remains a choice, women will be criticised for their choices. If you're expected to work, and do so, you can't be labelled as irresponsible, selfish, cruel and all the other ridiculous ways working mothers are described (and I note how rarely working dads are similarly labelled).
Or as it is here, Mums!
Image source:

As a feminist I believe in the sisterhood (corny as it may sound. May I assure you however no bras of mine have been so much as singed during the raising of my conscious). So I am disappointed an unintended result of my post was creating a woman vs woman scenario.
On that note, I'd be surprised - but delighted! - if men did enter the discussion. Because typically this is an issue discussed almost solely by women. Which is exasperating; I think men - as fathers, employers and colleagues - should have opinions on the mixing of work and family, and the rights and roles of the mothers in their lives. And should voice them, provided this is done in good faith.

I admit to judging. I look at situations, find out as much as I can, and make a personal judgement (not always the same as being judgemental). If someone is not needed at home for several hours each day and is capable of some kind of work yet does not pursue it I will not be impressed.

Image source:

So, in summary, what I do advocate:
* Dads sharing in child care and housework and mums sharing in paid work.
* Quality child care
* Family-friendly workplaces that offer flexible and part-time work and which don't penalise anyone - parents or not - for having valid commitments outside work.
* If you've read this far without succumbing to sleep or getting up and moving around, to do so. I don't want anyone risking deep-vein thrombosis.
* The notion that having a job provides benefits beyond financial reward

What I don't advocate:
* Any set period of time between having a child and returning to work (other than saying 'before the youngest child leaves home or you hit retirement'. It's kind of moot after that).
* That there is a right or wrong amount of hours a parent should work.
* Parents beating themselves up. Privately or publicly. I repeat: Parents, you're doing a good job.
* Leaving a screaming baby in a cot or not doing so. I don't advocate any specific parenting methods.
* Staying in a job if it's destroying you. Quit and look for another one; do some study and training in the meantime if you have the desire and means to.
* Women being defined solely as mothers or non-mothers.
* Verbally or physically assaulting your computer because you don't like what I've written. Its hardly the computer's fault. Instead, punch out (gently) a comment below or email me.
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PS If anyone is interested in posts related to feminism, I have one coming up on Slutwalk - what aspects of it resonate with me and what don't.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Birthday fun. And birthday fail

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I had a birthday the other day. How excitement. Happy birthday me. It fell during my break from work and so was lovely. That is, except for the bits that weren't.
Let's start with the highlights:
* Sensational breakfast of banana bread, banana, mascarpone cheese, maple syrup and bacon, whipped up by Paul. There was enough on my plate alone to feed a Logies audience. "Don't you think I eat between birthdays?" I queried. To which he replied: "Well there was all that stuff there in the fridge so I thought I might as well cook it." He's not always one for food storage logic, my Paul.
* Many, many birthday wishes via facebook, SMS and phone calls. It is nice to pop up on people's radar. Even the radar of those who appear to spend 80 per cent of their waking hours on facebook and would likely even chat to Muammar Gaddafi for the interaction. It's also a bit awkward getting a message from someone who's birthday you haven't noted in years, possibly ever. Heartfelt apologies to anyone in this category.
* A sense of being entitled to laze about all day.
* Lazing about all day.
* Sleep, wine, more 'special occasion' food .
* Birthday present money.
* Imagining spending birthday money. I live in Coolgardie - I can't nip off and buy something nice right away, unless you count a chiko roll from Caltex 'nice'.

And for the low-lights:
* No present (besides breakfast) from my husband. Admittedly this is in part because I hadn't really come up with anything I wanted. We did see something that would have sufficed - a K-mart outdoor setting - when in town last week, but they didn't have any for-sale stock. So nada for me on the day from him. Not even a box of chocolates or cheap but cute scented candle. Which are apparently lame these days, but I, in my dagginess, am partial to.
* No one coming to my party. Not that a party, as such, was really ever on the cards. We didn't have anything planned until Paul suggested the in-laws drop in for a few drinks on the Saturday night. On an impulse I also sent out a last-minute invite to some work mates. But none made it. (Not a surprise, of course. I myself almost never attend spontaneous events because I too usually have plans and am loath to have them interfered with). But in the end not even the even in-laws showed. So it was just me, Paul, the fire flickering in our make-shift firepit, and the starry sky. And the plate of cheeses and bowl of chips - nothing could spoil my enjoyment of the nosh.
* While sitting like nigel-no-friends by the fire I started reminiscing about my birthday last year. And how much better different it was. Remarkably different, what with the award-winning, beachside restaurant we ate at (Nu Nu's at Palm Cove; go there if you ever get the chance), the balmy tropical evening and the group of very dear friends in attendance. I miss you, people!
* As well as the husband's failure to produce a gift was his failure to deliver treats he had promised. Apparently he got "sidetracked" (by the couch and a stack of DVDs, for the record). This wasn't a major lowlight, merely a bit of a disappointment, because these treats (of the massage variety - see why I'm not really complaining?) were provided on the following days.

In retrospect it's clear the highlights outweigh the low-lights. It's also clear I've become rather whiny of late, haven't I?

Have you ever had a birthday that didn't quite meet expectations? Or had either a spectacularly bad or spectacularly good one?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hello, I'm baa-ack!

Hiatus [hahy-ey-tuhs] noun: A break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.

Or, in simple terms and specifically in relation to this blog: being slack. And a bit busy. But mostly slack.

Apologies to anyone who's missed my posts in recent weeks (I like to think there are some of you out there). I've missed it too. I've also missed the time and energy it takes to maintain it.

I know I've no right to the time-poor complaint when there are people with children, and especially people with paid jobs and children, coping with being far busier and much more harried than me. But that doesn't negate the fact that I have been busy, and, more to the point, feeling busy.

I'm someone who, when faced with the promise of ample free time, likes to make the most of it and attempt to use it constructively (provided this constructive activity is also enjoyable. Like blogging. Not like ironing). I also like routine (to a point - day after day of doing the 9ish-5ish thing became as much fun as going to a Justin Bieber concert every night of your life. Or even for one night of your life, for that matter).

I like to know where I'll be and what I'll be doing at what time, and when I will have the opportunity to do my own thing. That way I can organise myself. Up to a month or two ago I had free time and routine aplenty: go to work from 6am to 2pm, Monday to Friday. An hour or two for houseworky stuff at home. And the rest of the day was mine.

This system functioned quite well for a while. Then work went haywire. Regular hours and weeks were out. In were sporadic days off and shifts that lurched from 9 hours to 11 to 7 to 12. (Don't worry about getting out the violins - I've had my sook, followed it up with a tablespoon of cement powder and am over it now, thank you.)

Anyway, the lack of routine left me feeling all at sea, and the lack of free time left me, well, not-free. Obviously. In the midst of this I moved to a different department (from gold room to the lab) and was therefore learning a whole new job. Which meant for the first time in several months I actually had to concentrate. My brain, while loving being engaged again, didn't know what hit it and went a bit fuggy for the first few days.

Ultimately, I simply didn't have the willpower to also blog at the end of the day (ie was slack). Not that I even had anything to blog about. My weeks were consumed with work and, fascinating as that work is, the thrills of hitting the on/off button of a pump 20,000 times a day, or squirting solution into test tubes 5000 times, are hardly blog-worthy topics*.

Now, however, I'm pleased to report I've got a handle on the new job. And am extremely pleased to report am on a regular and generous roster that should allow me to heartily indulge my blogging habit.

So this is my longwinded way of saying sorry for going AWOL, but I'm back now and would love for you to stay tuned. Pretty please!

* Figures are estimates only and may be slightly exaggerated.

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