If Colleen Had A Dick…

 “At least a third of a woman’s life is marked with aging; about a third of her body is made of fat. Both symbols are being transformed into operable conditions so that women will only feel healthy if they are two thirds of the women they could be. How can an “ideal” be about women if it is defined by how much of a female sexual characteristic does not show on her body, and how much of a female life does not show on her face?”  – Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth


1422596159009Colleen McCullough was this week honoured with an obituary in The Australian which opened with the following:

‘Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was nevertheless a woman of wit and warmth.  In one interview she said: ‘I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men’

This is the translation for anyone not yet up to speed:

‘Although she was fat and ugly she still managed to have some smarts and charm.  And overall she’s okay ‘cause men still wanted to fuck her.’

I’m not naive.  I know that the way a woman looks, matters.  It is what it is.  It shouldn’t matter, but it does.  We know this because even our representatives of the “ideal” in this culture have the shit photo-shopped out of them.  Women, and men, are prescribed a female beauty standard that is cruel, unachievable, and extraordinarily limiting.

So we start there.  From infancy.  Women being told they are fundamentally flawed in order to sustain the cosmetic/beauty industry and men being told a woman’s worth is dependent upon her striving for the cruelly unachievable, in order to be attractive to the very men who use the unachievable ideal to criticize real women.  This becomes even more diabolical as women and men age.  Women are cautioned about aging as if it were a disease, an illness which can and should be treated.  A woman with a soft belly and stretch marks, ample bottom, and boobs like pendulums, is thought to have “let herself go”. ‘Exactly where have I let myself go to?’ I always want to ask.   Seems like my body is going places without me.  And as my body goes it seems I have to get louder.

Men, on the other hand, have no such sanction.  They can become fat.  They can wrinkle and go grey and be bald and be impotent and people will still listen to what they have to say.  The world has created forgiving and respectful euphemisms for fat, old, impotent men.  They are well-built, dignified, regal, and have EDD.  EDD, for fuck’s sake.  And this pomposity is completely accepted.

I think Colleen McCullough was beautiful, and her beauty was the least of her triumphs.  But that’s because I listened to what she had to say.   And the tragedy is, if she had a dick, The Australian would have celebrated her beauty as much as I do.

Bullying and Self Esteem

“People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.”

― Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing


So people who love themselves don’t hurt others?  I’m calling bullshit on this one.     8wAE51

It’s a good lie, perpetrated for decades on end by the psychoanalytical elite and spawned during the salad-acid days of the self-esteem movement and post-modernist mummy blaming.  If this person had only been raised to believe they were special.  If only they had a sense of their own self-worth.  If only they loved themselves. If they had been breast fed longer, not been breast fed so long, had been held more, had been cosseted less, if they had only been permitted to express themselves, if they had just been told to shut the fuck up occasionally…some parents are so thumb-screwed by PC fascism that they are actually afraid of their own children.  Loathe to do something that will impact on their child’s self-esteem, many choose to simply do nothing at all.

I’ve never believed that bullies have low self esteem.  They seem to me to have an excess of self-esteem.  The willy-nilly over-application of child-praise seems to create a disturbing sense of entitlement in them while simultaneously draining out any vestiges of empathy.  Our child-worshipping culture is like a catheter – indulgent self-satisfaction in, narcissism and conceit out.  Self-confidence, self-regard, self-approval – self, self, self – the roots of self-esteem and bullying are almost indistinguishable.

I know I may be out here on my own again, but I think that sometimes it’s okay to tell little Johnny he’s just being a right little shit.  Sometimes it’s ok to bypass the hours of analysis and counsel, the behavior plan, the positive reinforcement and every other accoutrement in the psychologist’s arsenal, lobbed into the void in an effort to discover and placate the origins of little Johnny’s anger.  Has anyone just considered telling him that it is a requirement that he stop tormenting his peers?  God forbid we just throw some good old fashioned discipline at little Johnny – the latest American psychoanalytical studies are touting that asking a child to take sole responsibility for the pain they cause others is retaliating against the bully with bullying.

Here’s the rub: they who bully with impunity as children, bully with impunity as adults.  And then they raise more little bullies.  More of us should be standing in the face of this and saying “No”.  Quietly, firmly, unflinchingly – No.  And teaching our children to do the same.  This in no way implies a deficit of compassion, but it does require a lack of fear in all of us.  Sometimes it’s okay to tell little Johnny he’s just being a right little shit.


The Darling Bitch

I do not fight against men, but against the system that is sexist.

~ Elfriede Jelinek (Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004)

I answered the phone at work the other day and a fellow gave me his name and the company he was calling from.  I asked how I could assist him.  And he said: “What I’m calling about darl, is – “ I cut him off there and asked: “Did you just call me darl?”  He said: “Yes.”  So I hung up on him.
He called back within seconds and immediately said: “Look, if you don’t want to be called “darl” you just have to – “  I hung up again.
He called back again within seconds and said one word: “Bitch”.
I should preface this by saying that I knew this was a marketing call.  I always try to be polite to marketers (they’re only doing their job) unless they get me on a bad day at which time I tell them the owner of the company, aka The Chosen One, is currently in conference with Satan.  I must also add the waiver that I do have clients who call me “Love”, usually older gentlemen who think I’m the slightly-smarter-than-average-secretary, and I have no problem with this because I recognise the motivation is pure and their choice of language generational.
But lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that for a lot of men, in professional situations, I am either “Darl” or “Bitch”.  I don’t know if it’s specific to the industry I work in or not, but I do get called “Darl” or “Love” a lot.  Here’s the thing – whether I’m standing in front of you or on the telephone with you, I always seem to remember your name.  Miraculous, isn’t it? And in a group situation, even when there are more than two of you, I still remember your names.  If I find myself in a situation where your name escapes me, I revert to “Sir”, because that is the etiquette, isn’t it?  You seem to remember the names of all the men in the room, but still I am, always and somehow, “Darl”.
“Darl” might do your laundry, get you coffee, pick up your dry-cleaning, or give you a toothless blow-job in a back alley for $50, but she doesn’t pay your invoices, or remedy your contract issues, or carry out the logistical and administrative requirements necessary for keeping multiple construction sites up and running.  And confiding in me that your secretary is a bitch tells me a whole lot more about you than it does about her. 
And you know when it is I segue from “Darl” to “Bitch”?  The moment I insist on being spoken to the same way you would speak to a man calling to hire a chemical toilet.  The second I insist on maintaining professionalism when you want to reduce me to a vagina, I become the “bitch” without a sense of humour.  I can’t fucking win: if I’m friendly I’m a flirt and if I’m firm I’m on my period (oh yes, that’s been said to me too). 
So here’s the deal:  when you call me “Darl” or “Love” I promise to turn into the nail-filing, gum-snapping, breast-enhanced, fake-tanned, stiletto-wearing, high-school-drop-out you assume I am.

Don’t be surprised when your phone calls don’t get returned, your invoices get misplaced, your messages shredded and your urgent business shuffled to the bottom of the pile I plan to get to in 2016.  Just because I don’t carry my brains around in a sack between my legs, don’t assume my IQ is no bigger than your shoe-size, love.  “Darl” is a feminist issue.

Oh, and did I mention? – My eyes are up here….

Why the Terror Teat keeps ’em Sweet…

“So, in the interests of survival, they trained themselves to be agreeing machines instead of thinking machines. All their minds had to do was to discover what other people were thinking, and then they thought that, too.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

This week children attending the two large Islamic schools in Perth, schools I visited regularly as a bookseller, were advised not to wear their uniforms on public transport.  The reason? – They were being emotionally and physically intimidated by members of the public.  Got to remember these kids probably also carry backpacks – that’s some scary shit right there.  They say they’re just carrying homework and a cut lunch but we don’t want to take any chances.    
During the same week, a man entered an Islamic school in Sydney swinging a machete and asking if this was indeed an Islamic school.  Kids hid under their desks, got all upset – bit alarmist really.  I mean, this bloke was clearly terrified.  He has a right to protect himself from little Johnny.
And then there’s the young New Zealander who was bailed up at traffic lights on the Gold Coast by a car full of patriots who threatened to behead him.  In their defense, the young man had a beard.  I’m sure Mr. Abbott is currently looking into some facial hair legislation to ensure we are at least threatening the right people.  Because we just can’t have bearded people with darker skin driving willy-nilly around the neighbourhood.  We have a right to feel safe.
Mr. Abbott’s War on Terror.  This is some of the best goddamn marketing I have ever seen.  The whole idea of marketing a weak product (and you are far more likely to die of Ebola right now than succumb to a terrorist wielding a cutlass) is to artificially inflate the need this product will satisfy.  Like the War on Mould in my shower: clearly the mould will kill me so I must buy ridiculously expensive industrial strength toxic products that burn my eyes and irritate my skin unless I’m wearing a full body condom while applying them.  Marketing convinces me that filling my house with poison will keep me safe.
These poisons are a great distraction too.  There’s lots of tiny, tiny print on the bottles, and websites you can visit that describe what Mould does to your respiratory tract.  I don’t want any of that microscopic shit controlling my life, except all of a sudden it is.  And I lose track of the fact that if I rescue one more cat I’m more likely to trip over one on the way to the toilet in the middle of the night, crack my head open, and bleed to death before morning.  And the Mould will end up living longer than I do.
It’s the same principle as showing something shiny to a screaming baby.
So climate change, the cost of education, the insidious threat to our personal freedoms, pensioner poverty, homelessness, welfare hysteria, our violation of human rights, the depersonalization of people who look and sound different to us, and every other nasty little right wing agenda-laden product peddled to us during the last 12 months will slip into the back of our consciousness because all of a sudden there’s something much bigger to worry about.  But Uncle Tony will protect us. 
Fear.  No matter how contradictory or boilerplate the origin, fear remains the one great controller and captivator of both individuals and entire populations.  And we’re all suckling now…

Aging Women Are Ugly…

“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: “It’s a girl.” – Shirley Chisholm

Driving to work this morning listening to the radio I heard a disquieting discussion between the breakfast hosts.  I am the last one to take things too seriously – anyone who knows me can attest to that.  But this really pissed me off. 
It was a discussion about hot actors who had “let themselves go”.  I’ve always thought “hot” to be a distinctly relative term, and don’t even get me started on the definition of letting oneself go.  However I’m not here to argue semantics.  My day started with Kathleen Turner:
                “I think she’s the spokesperson now for Winnie Blue.  And Bakewell pies.”
                “Spokesperson!?  I think she’s the taster for Bakewell pies”
                “Have you seen her lately?”

                “I think her last role she was playing a bloke.” 

Then Carrie Fisher:

                “I finally watched the original Star Wars movies.”
                “See what we mean?”
                “Yep – saw her in the gold bikini – I DO see what you mean…”


And then Brenda Vacarro:
                “Yeah, she’s another one.”
                “What’s that film she was in where she was hot?”
What irritates the shit out of me is this expectation that women will remain preternaturally attractive despite age and all of the accoutrements which naturally accompany aging.  The things which are forgiven if one is male – weight gain, wrinkles, thinning skin, grey hair.  To name but a few.  That aging in women is seen as an ugly failure, rather than a rite of passage indicative of a lifetime of experience and enviable wisdom.  All of the women mentioned on the radio this morning, and in this Blog, are beautiful.  And guess what? – Marlon never came up once…
“Lines trace her thought and radiate from the corners of her eyes as she smiles. You could call the lines a network of ‘serious lesions’ or you could see that in a precise calligraphy, thought has etched marks of concentration between her brows, and drawn across her forehead the horizontal creases of surprise, delight, compassion and good talk. A lifetime of kissing, of speaking and weeping, shows expressively around a mouth scored like a leaf in motion. The skin loosens on her face and throat, giving her features a setting of sensual dignity; her features grow stronger as she does. She has looked around in her life and it shows. When gray and white reflect in her hair, you could call it a dirty secret or you could call it silver or moonlight. Her body fills into itself, taking on gravity like a bather breasting water, growing generous with the rest of her. The darkening under her eyes, the weight of her lids, their minute cross-hatching, reveal that what she has been part of has left in her its complexity and richness. She is darker, stronger, looser, tougher, sexier. The maturing of a woman who has continued to grow is a beautiful thing to behold.” 
        –   Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women

#6Degrees of Separation: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

I have been invited to participate in the 6 Degrees of Separation Meme, an original blog tour created by Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith.  The rules are posted at the end of this Blog.  Before I get started I just have to say…Kevin Bacon.
We start this month with The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.  Here is a picture of the lovely cover, which is as far as I have ventured:
Emma has specified that one does not have to have read the first book in the chain in order to participate and can I just say – thank fuck.  With a ‘must read’ pile that has left the town of Daunting and is now approaching the borders of Unachievable, I reserve the right to bypass a tome the size of a house brick which someone dear to me recently described as ‘like chewing cardboard’.  I have no doubt that Eleanor Catton is brilliant, and well-deserving of the Booker.  But I’m middle aged and no longer read things simply because I’ve been told I ‘should’.
Having said that, I bloody love the idea of The Luminaries.  The synopsis, the description of the intricacies of character and plot, the style – it should read like a chic, Victorian-esque cat’s-cradle of intrigue and people you forget aren’t real.  And I do love a wordy book.   Which brings me to the first book in my chain…
Ah, Wilkie Collins.  How many nights have we curled up together like cats.  The Woman in White (1859) is a wordy book, a Victorian epic, a chilling and picaresque melodrama, and a bit of a feminist shout-out.  Wilkie had an understanding of the Victorian Sisterhood.  It also deals with layers of reality and identity – and I love that.  He’s better than Charlie.  You heard it here first.  Which leads me to…
John Fowles.  Talk about your layers of reality and I’m talking The Magus (1965).  Big, fat wordy book about a narcissist having tea with a nihilist, psychological warfare dressed as salvation and manipulation just another mask to wear to the party.  Simply put.  The fact that a large part of the story involved Conchis’ story of his experiences during Nazi occupation leads me to…
Isaac Bashevis Singer.  Specifically, Shadows on the Hudson (English translation 1998).  Funny and bitter.  It’s dark, but again there are layers of reality – that search for balance between the parameters of orthodoxy, new prosperity and deep grief.  What I remember most about this book was being transported.  Lifting my head from the page and thinking ‘Where am I?’ Of really forgetting these people were not real.  Which brings me to…
Diary of a Young Girl (1947).  I read an abridged version of Anne Frank’s diary as a child, then read the unabridged later in life.  Singer never used the word ‘Holocaust’, but by the time I came to both of these books I was emotionally raw to the word.  This is also a book that deals with layers of reality – Anne’s loneliness and isolation pressed hard against the struggle for a sense of normality in extreme circumstances, where no one actually uses the words ‘I’m terrified’.  Which leads me to…
We Need To Talk About Kevin (2003) by Lionel Shriver.  And can I just say ‘I’m terrified’Again, loneliness and isolation struggling to be understood. Fiction dressed as non-fiction (i.e. a collection of letters) – again the layering of reality.  We have the story of multiple people told through the reminiscences of one biased narrator/letter writer.  And that slow, torturous lifting of the veil, the realization of what’s really going on, the deliberately measured pace which is still too fast because as you’re reading you’re begging not to be taken where you’re obviously being taken.  Which brings me to the final book in my chain…
The Lucifer Effect (2007) by Philip Zimbardo.  I can’t believe I’ve ended up with non-fiction.  Is that allowed? Zimbardo is best known for his controversial Stanford Prison Experiment, and the subtitle of this book Understanding How Good People Turn Evil sort of says it all.  We’re all born with a clean slate.  Sure, genetics may load the gun, but that begs the question – Who or what pulls the trigger?
So there’s my chain.  Please check out the chains of Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith, and everyone else who has taken part.  And have a go! – Here are the rules…