On the (Rest of the) Net.

Did Madonna call Britney fat? [The Vine]

Clementine Ford’s take on the Australia Day protest hullabaloo. [ABC Unleashed]

And here, what really went down outside the Lobby restaurant. [RedStache]

All the single ladies: are you sick of continuously being asked why you’re single? Bailey Elliot is, too:

“Why is it socially acceptable to comment on someone’s single status, but definitely not OK to comment on someone’s relationship? There have been many times when someone has said something offensive to me, and I will look at their relationship and wish that I could fire something judgmental back. Some of the people who have said the worst things to me are the ones in the most dysfunctional relationships: married to a raging alcoholic who abuses pets while drunk, a patronising and controlling man, or a man who refuses to communicate in any real way. Are we so enamoured with the idea of marriage that we believe that any marriage, no matter how dysfunctional, is better than singledom?” [Jezebel]

Why is it that everywhere you turn (family restaurants, the gym, the bowling alley), there’s a Pussycat Doll spreading her legs, asks Mia Freedman. [MamaMia]

For the U.S.’s Black History Month, let’s remember that Rosa Parks did much more than just refuse to give up her seat on the bus. [Ms. Magazine]

What the?! The banning of naked A-cup adult breasts lest they promote pedophilia?! Granted, this story is two years old, but interesting nonetheless. [Crikey]

How to be a celebrity in this era of “16th minute”, “I am me”, reality fame. [New York Magazine]

The apparent conservative agenda of the Susan G. Komen foundation which has come to light in their refusal to funnel through donations to Planned Parenthood. [Jezebel]

It’s all happening in the world of MamaMia: no more SkyNews show, but an e-publishing sector instead! And deputy editor Bec Sparrow had a baby! [MamaMia]

Erica Bartle’s thoughts on the whole Melinda Tankard Reist debacle. I’m still ruminating over her post, and I might be back with a response of my own. [Girl with a Satchel]

Image via Pop Sugar.

12 Posts of Christmas: In Defence of Mia Freedman.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th. 

You might remember back in July when Cadel Evans won the Tour de France, Mia Freedman said on the Today show that sportspeople aren’t heroes, and a shitstorm ensued. You can read the original post here.

Mia Freedman’s copped it pretty hard in the media the last couple of weeks, ever since her comments about Cadel Evans and sports stars being held up as heroes.

It’s no secret that Freedman is my idol, so I will go to bat for her til the cows come home. She’s the reason I became a writer. She’s the reason I did work experience at Cosmo. I share a lot of her views. Whether it’s just a happy coincidence, or I’ve shaped my views around hers (I started reading Cosmo at 15, a very impressionable age, so it’s more than likely the latter), I don’t know.

I’ve written about my love for Freedman, followed closely by formerGirlfriend and Cleo editor, and current Sunday Life editor, Sarah Oakes, numerous times, and how the incestuous nature of the magazine world ensures a similar writing and editing style from those who work together. Take Freedman and Zoë Foster, for example. Or Oakes and Girl with a Satchel’s Erica Bartle and Musings of an Inappropriate Woman’s Rachel Hills.

Speaking of Sunday Life, Freedman’s column last weekend solidified why she’s a woman after my own heart.

She wrote about spending time with her family, and how planning big events are always a disaster and it’s the little, “mundane moments” that are memorable.

But back to the issue at hand: sportspeople as heroes.

I agree wholeheartedly that sportsmen and women aren’t heroes. (I threw up in my mouth a little bit when Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson stood for the national anthem after Evans won the Tour de France.) Yay, they can “swim fast”, “kick a ball with accuracy”, “run quickly” and “jump over high things”. But how does this make them heroes? It makes them superficial “heroes” or emblems of sporting events in which they did good, but not actual heroes. We can leave that title to soldiers, doctors, activists, social workers, firefighters and others who face death and social injustice to save lives and make the world a better place.

As Freedman reiterates:

“I roll my eyes every time another Australian of the Year is named and it’s a sportsperson. I cringe at the CONSTANT sycophancy and praise heaped on sportspeople and the way they are forever lauded as heroes… How does being highly physically capable make you a hero?”

I read somewhere that it is highly likely Evans will be named 2011’s Australian of the Year, so start warming up those eye sockets, Mia!

I brought this notion up with a coworker last week, who said doctors aren’t heroes just because they’re saving lives. But what about Doctors Without Borders, or doctors and nurses with the armed forces? “Well, that’s different,” he said. Why? Because they’re facing their own death whilst trying to prevent someone else’s? But sportspeople aren’t facing death (okay, sometimes they are), and their payoff is purely selfish.

Said coworker mentioned some AFL “hero” who, back in the ’70s (I think; don’t quote me on this), finished the grand final with a torn ligament and brought the premiership home. Some might call it heroism; others stupidity.

And I think the sportsperson=hero dichotomy is abhorrent, considering the extracurricular allegations levelled at some of them. Is Nick D’Arcy a hero for punching some guy and leaving him with irreparable facial damage? Are the Collingwood FC guys heroes for winning last year’s premiership, with some of them subsequently going on to allegedly sexually assault one or some groupies? How about the world class douchebag Brendan Fevola? Or Tiger Woods? O.J. Simpson? Hardly heroes.

Perhaps we should be looking to sportspeople like Glenn McGrath, who works tirelessly for his late wife’s breast cancer foundation. Or the Essendon FC, who work with schools to improve literacy. While not exactly heroes per se, at least they’re doing something other than hitting and kicking balls.

Freedman writes in a related piece:

“Sporting stars may have great physical skills but that’s all. They’re no smarter or better or nicer or more well intentioned than the average Australian. In fact, I would argue that generally (and of course this is a generalisation), they are less informed, less aware and less street smart than the average bear.

“This is because to become a great athlete, you have to spend many years from the time you are very young, refining your skills. That’s years swimming up and down a pool. Years running around a track. Years kicking a ball or hitting it with a bat.

“Years…

“I’m happy for anyone who CHOOSES to spend years of their life dedicated to their sport. Go for it. But let’s not pretend it’s a selfless or noble pursuit.

“Professional athletes do it for many reasons. Sponsorship dollars. Personal satisfaction. A desire to represent their country or be the best at swimming or kicking or hitting or whatever it is they’re good at.”

Without humiliating anyone, I find the “less informed, less aware and less street smart” contention is particularly true of one of my physically gifted friends.

While he has a Masters and is one of the most book-smart people I know, he admitted to me that until he was in his late teens, he was completely sheltered by his parents. So much so that he didn’t buy his first CD until around this age. Up to that point, he listened to whatever his parents wanted to listen to, because it was pretty much school, practice, competitions, and the only musical exposure he got was in the car on the way to said school, practice, competitions.

Now the kind of sports he plays aren’t exactly your true blue AFL or cricket (in fact, they’re so obscure I won’t mention them here at the risk of giving him away!), so he’s in another boat altogether: his sports would be, and have been, ridiculed by both your Aussie bogan and your highbrow cultured Australian.

Now, from what I’ve read, Cadel Evans is involved in other noble pursuits, like charity. Unfortunately, I think Freedman’s point was sullied by using Evans to bring it up on national television. Perhaps if she were talking about Stephanie Rice or Ben Cousins her contention would have been more well received. But that’s the risk you run when you voice an opinion that’s not of the norm.

And that’s why I love her. Sure, she got crapped on by most of Australia for making a valid point. But she was able to return to voicing her opinion on Today the same time the following week, joking about going into witness protection, but getting a haircut instead. She was able to find the humour in the situation, and see where she might have been wrong.

For the record, I don’t think she was wrong.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] In Defence of Mia Freedman.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Everything They Touch Turns to Gold.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Mama Mia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines & Motherhood By Mia Freedman Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Mia Culpa: Confessions from the Watercooler of Life by Mia Freedman Review.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Cadel Evans: Is He a Hero?

[MamaMia] Cadel: Here’s What I Learned.

[MamaMia] Is Being Australian Really So Much About Gold Medals?

[MamaMia] Stephanie Rice. Enough With the Hero Worship.

[MamaMia] When Family Time is a Nightmare.

12 Posts of Christmas: Paper Dwarves, Digital Giants.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th. 

This one was written after Paper Giants aired on ABC in April, comparing the heyday of magazines with the impact of the digital world. You can read the original post here.

A few weeks ago, in response to ABC’s Paper Giants: The Birth of CleoMia Freedman wrote on MamaMia about her thoughts on the state of the (mag) nation and if magazines are still relevant and the amount of influence they wield in 2011:

“… Not that much excitement goes on in magazines anymore… [It’s a struggle to] get them [those who work on a magazine] to try and think about something that hasn’t been done before, something that will start a conversation and boost sales.”

Freedman compares pay TV’s Park Street, a The Devil Wears Prada-esque reality show about ACP’s head offices, featuring the editors of DollyCleoCosmoMadison and Shop Til You Drop, which received dismal ratings and poor audience response, to the critical success and brilliant take on Cleo in her influential heyday of Paper Giants. She says, “Gemma Crisp [editor of Cleo] explained the editorial process that a story undergoes from conception to publication. It takes a minimum of three months… When was the last time you waited three months for something? Life doesn’t happen in increments of months anymore. It happens in moments, in text messages, in Tweets. It’s fast and it’s relentless and if it takes you three months (or even three weeks) to get from thought to print then that’s just too long to retain the attention of your audience.”

When she puts it like that, Freedman makes me long for a simpler time, when I hung on the every word magazines published, as opposed to reading hundreds of articles a week, mostly on blogs, but also in magazines, in an attempt to stay on top of my blogging game.

Erica Bartle, creator of Girl with a Satchel and a former mag girl herself, says Freedman’s “blog-cum-website” “deals in what everyone’s talking about TODAY. It feeds off the 24-hour news cycle. And Mia’s own profile. And her opinion… It’s like a current affairs program for women online.” And now with MamaMia launching on SkyNews, Freedman’s brand is literally a current affairs program.

Not all blogs can operate this way. MamaMia has a team of bloggers, editors and techs who keep the site running smoothly which thus, as Bartle said, allows it to operate on a 24-hour news cycle.

Personally, I have a part-time paid job I go to four times a week, this means I only get to blog two or three days a week, and with so much info to process and a maximum of 15 posts per week to churn out in a small amount of time, this means The Early Bird Catches the Worm is not always the early bird.

But even for those who blog fulltime, like Bartle, it’s not always about what’s happening right NOW as it is about maintaining the blog’s integrity.“I personally operate on a different plane, because my beliefs very much inform my work. For that, I’m willing to sacrifice certain economic constraints,” she says.

Still in the blogging world, you have someone like Gala Darling, who is very much a self-made businesswoman as a result of her über-successful blog of the same name. She’s gone from strength to strength over the past few years; something she could never have done had she been a magazine editor (bar the select few, like Anna Wintour, Anna Dello Russo and yes, Freedman).

But, essentially, MamaMia has the advantage of possessing “a figurehead with credibility whose background is in traditional media. She has the gut instinct of an editor. Online you need news nous as well as technological nous and business nous.”

Another editor who has these qualities in spades is former Cleo and Girlfriend editor, Sarah Oakes, whom Bartle worked under at Girlfriend. Bartle says she invoked an atmosphere of ghosts of magazines past, creating “camaraderie, creativity and positivity, which I think she achieved. She gave you more work if she thought you could be stretched; gave you a talking to if you had crossed a line; gave you a pat on the back for a job well done.” Very Ita-like, wouldn’t you say?

Oakes is now editor of The Age Sydney Morning Herald’s Sunday Life supplement, a title which has improved markedly since she took over. (I have also blogged here about how I think both Girlfriend and Cleo became better titles under her leadership.)

In fact, newspaper inserts are giving the glossies on the newsstand a run for their money, as they “are getting exclusives and have strong writing and design teams, as well as columnists and styling/shoots. These free weekly titles, because of the mastheads they reside within, have enviable readerships and access to celebrities. They are also respectable, well executed and FREE,” Bartle notes.

But at the end of the day, are magazines relevant?

Freedman writes:

“The internet has not only sucked up their readers, it has also gobbled up their purpose: to be a way women form tribes and communicate. Now there’s YouPorn and any other number of sites for titillation, Google for questions about sex, and any number of websites or free newspaper magazines if you’re looking for other types of content or a magazine-style experience. Women don’t want to be spoken TO anymore. They want to be part of the conversation, something which the internet allows, in fact depends on… the internet has taken the sting out of the raunch-factor for mags like Cosmo and Cleo.”

Yes, as Freedman says, there are much raunchier locales to get what would have been included in a sealed section only a few years ago. There’s also Perez Hilton, TMZ and even shows like Entertainment Tonight and E! News that monopolise celebrity content, while the fashion blogs are more of a go-to for what kids are wearing these days.

Sure, Vogue’s always going to be a premiere source for high fashion shoots from photographers the likes of Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier and David LaChapelle, but magazines “seem to exist on a strangely distant planet where all the people look like plastic and the sole pursuit is ‘perfection’. Except that perfection doesn’t really exist,” says Freedman.

When sites like JezebelCover Girl Culture and, yes, MamaMia and Girl with a Satchel are debunking photoshop myths and striving for more realistic representations of women in the media, magazines are doing this movement any favours. (Except maybe Brigitte.)

And when you can get most of a magazine’s content online anyway (I passed on a near-$20 copy of US Harper’s Bazaar in favour of accessing interviews with Kim Kardashian and Hillary Clinton on their website), are they really worth it?

Bartle doesn’t think so. “No, but they need to be distinctive from what we can get online or elsewhere if we are going to part with $5-$10 to purchase one. Premium magazines, which I have no qualms spending extra on, include The Gentlewoman and O The Oprah Magazine, because they cater to my tastes, sensibility and need for a good read on a Saturday afternoon with a cup of tea.”

I agree with Bartle’s sentiments.

While online is great for content from individuals not curated and/or watered down by magazines editors to fit the mold of their magazine, holding a truly great glossy in your hands, like the appeal of a physical book, while at the hairdressers, a café or tucked up in bed, means magazines will always hold a place in our hearts.

Right next to the Kindle and Google Reader.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Paper Dwarves, Digital Giants.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Everything They Touch Turns To Gold.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Evolution of the Bookshop at The Wheeler Centre.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Paper Giants VS. Park Street: Why Magazines Are Not What They Used to Be.

[MamaMia] MamaMia Gets a TV Show.

[Girl with a Satchel] Homepage.

[Girl with a Satchel] Mid-Week Media Musings.

[Gala Darling] Homepage.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

How much is that doggy in the window?

Toddlers & Tiaras dog with its “pageant mom”.

New York City’s M23 bus.

We are the 99%!

Gala Darling and Jezebel have some fab pics up from the Tompkins Square Park Halloween dog parade. Squee!

Still with Halloween, how can we de-gender and -sexualise children’s costumes? [Miss Representation]

And for those of us who’ve moved on from childhood, some more “sexy” costume alternatives. My costume for this year is in there (albeit with the slut-factor turned up), and I was inspired for next year’s costume, too. [Jezebel]

Rihanna as the scapegoat for raunch culture:

“… For real, quality disapproval, it has to be Rihanna. We love to disapprove of her. We love to disapprove of her cute, pert bottom; we love to disapprove of her luscious breasts and smooth skin, barely covered by those disgustingly small leather thongs she likes to wear, the hussy. Look at her sexualising our children. Look at her, sexualising away in those horrifyingly sexualised sexy pants. We disapprove of those, too…

“I’m not saying that there aren’t big, big problems with the kind of raunch culture that has made Rihanna rich. What I am saying is that perhaps, just perhaps, the best way to address those problems might not be to applaud a religious fundamentalist for telling a young woman to cover herself up in his presence.” [New Statesman]

Sesame Street’s new character: the “food-insecure” Lily, whose family can’t always afford to put food on the table. [Think Progress]

A tale of two protests: SlutWalk and Occupy Wall Street. [Rabbit Write]

Speaking of the Occupy protests, it’s all about how hot its women are, apparently. [Jezebel]

Girl-on-girl friendships: passive-aggressive undermining or a true sisterhood? Kate Carraway goes with the former. [Vice]

From poignant porn insights a few weeks ago back to this: Bettina Arndt on how Julia Gillard is bucking the system when it comes to traditional relationships and whether she’s setting a good example. Who cares? [Sydney Morning Herald]

A new collector’s edition Barbie, complete with pink hair and tattoos, has a certain Gala Darling quality to her, wouldn’t you say? But while parents are lamenting the bad influence of the doll, they could only hope their children turn to Gala Darling as a role model, with her “radical self-love” message and what not. [Jezebel]

Weight VS. health. [Jezebel]

Why is there such an absence of female sports—and female sporting role models—in the media? [MamaMia]

Porn, what is it good for? Girl with a Satchel weighs in on the great porn debate.

Images via Jezebel, Celebuzz, FanPop.

Magazines: Is Lea Michele Too Sexy?

I originally wrote this article several months ago as a guest post for Girl with a Satchel, however it was never published due to issues such as timeliness. So, I decided to post it here on The Early Bird. Since when have I ever been concerned with timeliness here?!

Earlier in the year, Glee star Lea Michele, who plays the uptight perfectionist lead singer in knee-high socks of William McKinley High School’s glee club, posed for a sexy cover shoot for US Cosmopolitan.

On the cover of the March issue, Michele looks sultry in a low cut black top, but it’s nothing compared to her racy, and downright inappropriate, pictorial with fellow Glee clubbers, Diana Agron and Cory Monteith, for GQ last year. Sure, it was shot by the notorious Terry Richardson, so expectations weren’t that high to begin with. But the vacant, open-mouthed stare of Michele as she sits, legs akimbo, on a locker-room bench, or suggestively sucks on a lollypop, are confronting to say the least.

I have briefly blogged about this “disturbing” photo shoot, to which I can understand the public outcry.

However, Michele’s Cosmo shoot is tamely vanilla in comparison, but drew an almost equal uproar from parental groups:

“I think Lea Michele is sending the wrong message. She plays such a ‘good girl’ on Glee, and a lot of kids look up to her persona. Then she poses very provocatively on two magazine covers… I find it frustrating as a parent who is trying to teach right from wrong to their kids and then you have things like this happen which is showing middle schoolers things like sex sells and all that goes along with that.”

To my mind, Michele is 24 years old; an adult who seemingly has her head screwed on right and is in control of her own life. Her idea of the perfect night is a bath, Skype and a glass of wine, which is a far cry from the extracurricular activities of other starlets her age. Lindsay Lohan, anyone?

But, on the other hand, we have to ask the question: why does Michele feel the need to sex-up her image when, by her own admission, that is not the way she sees herself.

Dr. Karen Brooks explains, in relation to the GQ pictorial:

“I think they’re attempting to draw the line between their young characters and the fact they’re sexual adults and they feel that the way to this, rightly or wrongly, is by being hypersexual. It’s a graphic announcement to the public not to confuse or conflate the fiction of their onscreen persona with their real life; [they’re saying] ‘I may play a child’, but, in what’s almost an unintentional parody of the Helen Reddy feminist anthem, ‘I am woman, hear me roar’, they’re saying, ‘I am woman, see my score!’ It’s extreme, it gets attention (for the show, the character and the actor) and therefore, sadly, works.”

Ultimately it is her choice to get a bit sexy but, when I asked Erica Bartle of Girl with a Satchel for her thoughts on this topic, she wondered if maybe Michele’s just “conforming to the status quo?”:

“How much say does a star really have in how she’s portrayed?”

As Jezebel notes, “it isn’t as if Lea’s doing Playboy.” Cosmo is a magazine for women, and the cover isn’t as threatening as, say, the GQ one, or Rihanna’s Rolling Stone cover, in which her butt cheeks hung out of mesh shorts. There are a lot of magazines for women out there, like Yen, The Gentlewoman, and Brigitte, which cater to needs other than “how to please your boyfriend in bed”, and don’t require their cover star to, as Coco Chanel once said, take something off. In most cases, it’s their bra. (One argument for Michele’s down-to-there black top might be that *cue sarcasm* she really bares her heart and soul.)

But at the end of the day, it’s just a magazine cover. For mature adults like ourselves, we can make the decision to buy or not to buy into the sexy image of Michele on the cover of Cosmo, Rihanna in chain mail shorts for Rolling Stone, or the flesh-baring on the blue carpet at the Brownlows on Monday night. As educated, critical thinkers, we also realise that because Michele is dressed provocatively, it doesn’t make her any less of a singer, actor or seemingly normal 24-year-old when the makeup comes off and the spotlight goes down.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Lea Michele Just Can’t Win.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Disturbing Behaviour: Terry Richardson Does Glee.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] In Defence of Rachel Berry.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Rachel Berry as Feminist.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] VCE Top Designs: frankie Editor Jo Walker Talks to Media Students.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Is There Really a Beauty Myth?

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Righteous Moms Just Can’t Let Lea Michele Be Sexy.

Images via Reality by Rach, Twenty2.OnSugar.

What Makes a Good Person?

Recently, Erica Bartle wrote about her Christian angst on Girl with a Satchel.

She said her “newfound sensibility” has made her “hyper-sensitive” to all that is wrong in the world. “Why can’t everything just be nice and Christian?!” she bemoans.

I wrote in response in the comments section that I don’t think what she’s experiencing is an exclusively faith (in the religious sense of the world; I’m an agnostic, yet I still believe in a higher power of some kind and that all things that are meant to be will eventuate. I know atheists who, like George Michael, have faith.) -based problem.

Last week, a former colleague and Facebook friend wrote an anti-refugee status along the lines of “fuck off, we’re full”. Classy. I commented, saying that as the “lucky country”, we should be extending our resources and welcoming asylum seekers with open arms, as they have a legal right to seek asylum in whichever country they can gain access to which is safer than their own. To cut a long story short, a shitstorm ensued, and bigoted bogans far and wide chimed in to berate me and asylum seekers alike.

They claimed “boat people” were making their local kinders stop celebrating Easter and Christmas and that while people like me have to pay for my education, they get it for free. I don’t know where they get this misinformation (middle-right mainstream media, step right up), which is what I wrote, albeit in a more forceful manner, and was attacked personally for it.

There is a fine line between standing up for what you believe in and berating all others who don’t subscribe to the same school of thought. If bigotry means not being able to see the other side and thinking less of those on it, then call me one, because I just can’t see the reasoning behind being so uncaring and un-compassionate. (The downside to free speech.)

So if standing up for what you believe in and the rights of others makes you a “good person” by a lot of peoples’ definitions, which side makes you a “better” person? The side that wants to protect our country’s borders and focus our money and resources on people already in it, or the side that believes we should extend those privileges to those in need, no matter which country they hail from? And why isn’t the latter the more mainstream and accepted view?

Bartle writes that sometimes her hypersensitivity to issues not unlike the one I just mentioned makes her wail, “Why can’t I just be NORMAL?!”

What is normal, anyway?

If normal means having the prejudiced views of the friends of my Facebook friend and, indeed, the two main governmental parties in this country, then normal is something I do not want to be. From the last two and a half years of content Bartle has posted on her blog (not to mention the two years before I discovered GWAS), I doubt it’s something she would really strive for, either.

But, to be a woman of God means to “let go of the idea of your awesomeness, your pride and your talents” and “burning ambitions/dreams/desires”. Forgive me, but the “god” I believe in wants me to be the best I can possibly be at whatever I choose. (“God” is starting to sound an awful lot like “mum”.) I want me to be, too. There’s that pride thing Bartle’s talking about…

So does being a “good person” mean being agreeable, having no passion and being boring? I know some of these people and, to my mind, they mightn’t be bad people, but they’re not much brighter than “normal”, either. To be a good person you need to buck the status quo, and be both passionate and compassionate. These things make you anything but boring and “normal”.

But we see what these things lead to, and it’s anything but compassion.

Take the Mia Freedman/Cadel Evans saga, for example. Freedman has made a career out of giving her opinion on all things media- and woman-centric, which is exactly why the unwashed masses turned on her when she deigned to question the focus we put on sportspeople at the expense of other, perhaps more deserving, people.

Bartle includes an excerpt from Get Her Off the Pitch: How Sport Took Over My Life by Lynne Truss, in which the author writes that sport can sometimes be a waste of time (my thoughts exactly!) which, in turn, got me thinking about pack mentality, both in sport and in religion.

We’ve seen how mobs of sports fans engage in rioting, amongst other pack-like behaviour. Even the very act of cheering and booing your favourite/least favourite team in the stands is inherently mob-like. Not to mention the “group-bonding” sessions of gang rape and group sex amongst teammates. (This is not to say all sport is bad; it’s just not for me, and this is just one of the myriad of reasons why.)

Religion, I believe, also encourages such actions. The use of deities to justify all manner of wars, massacres, executions, terrorism, riots, rapes, murders, stonings, and law reform, amongst many others. (This is not to say all those who are religious subscribe to such extremities, but I do believe that all organised religion is a crock.)

And we, as a society, accept such behaviours because they are hidden under the cloak of Godliness, or Australianess. (More on what is considered Australian and un-Australian tomorrow.)

So, this has gotten a little off-track, but I suppose I’m putting the question out there: “What makes a good person?” Obviously, this is a never-ending debate, but I do know that being one is certainly not dependent on religion or “patriotism”.

I think it’s dependent on being courageous, compassionate, respectful, which in turn generates respect, standing up for what you believe in and having the courage of your convictions, staying true to yourself, standing up for the underdog and yes, being a little bit proud and selfish every now and then. ’Cause no one respects a “yes” (wo)man.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] In Defence of Mia Freedman.

Elsewhere: [Girl with a Satchel] I’m a Christian, Get Me Outta Here!

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Attack of the cupcakes!:

“… Badassery and toughness aren’t mutually exclusive with cupcakes. A woman can go home from her power-suit-wearing corporate job and unwind in front of Cute Overload. A ‘supermom’ can enjoy a vintage cocktail—and even wear a vintage apron, if she wants to—without becoming squishy and ineffective…” [Feministe, HuffPo]

Gloria Steinem’s not the feminist hero we think she is, according to Suzanne Venker. [National Review Online]

The Catholic Church respects women more than feminism? Laughable. [National Catholic Register]

Erica Bartle writes on the perils of being a Christian in a sometimes-misunderstanding world. I don’t think what she’s experiencing is a uniquely “Christian” thing. (More on that next week.) I abhor organised religion, but I still feel “hyper-sensitive”, as she puts it, to the small-minded bigots around me. I think it comes down to what kind of person you are, regardless of religion and faith, which aren’t mutually exclusive.

I think you can still keep your “awesomeness”, “pride” and “talents” and fight like Mike Tyson (minus the ear-biting and sexual assault). Those are the things that make us good people, in my opinion. [Girl with a Satchel]

Gala Darling on how “to be the person in the photo, instead of the person looking at it.”

The Help from a porcupine and bumblebee’s point of view. You’ll get it from mine next week. [Jezebel]

In the wake of recent assertions that Hillary Clinton might have made a better president than Barack Obama, I came across this 2008 article pitting the “Madonna” against the “whore”; “the hard-ass” against “the lightweight”; “the battle-ax” against “the bubblehead”; “the serious, pursed-lipped shrew” against “the silly, ineffectual girl”; “the bitch” against  “the ditz”, and why the Clinton/Sarah Palin debate was a futile one. [New York Magazine, The New York Times]

It’s all about the discontent of young Asian women, and how they want to look more Western. [Gender Across Borders, Sydney Morning Herald, SBS Insight]

To the inconsiderate douches who use the word “rape” as a joke. Brilliant. [Lipstick Feminists]

“The Deficient Single Woman.” [Zero at the Bone]

Discrepancies in the way college men and women dress are lauded as anti-feminist by Lisa Belkin, while Amanda Marcotte contends the sight of a woman dancing in her underwear on Halloween doesn’t mean she’s a) not a feminist, b) going to insight yearnings of violent assault in all men who lay eyes on her, and c) dumb:

“Men are perfectly capable of being turned on by a woman dancing in her underwear while never forgetting that said woman has a family that loves her, a mind of her own, and ambitions that are equal to his.  We don’t allow men’s sexuality to dehumanise them in our eyes.  If a young man spends his weekends partying and flirting with women, and spends his time in the classroom pulling down As, we don’t see that as a contradiction. The belief that female sexual expression is uniquely dehumanising is a double standard, no matter how much you dress it up in feminist language.” [The New York Times, Slate]

Somewhat in response to Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman (I’m eagerly awaiting my copy in the mail), Jason Sperber tells us “How to Be a Man”. [The Good Men Project]

Baby Beyonce is inciting debate about motherhood, race, and “doing it the right way”. [Jezebel]

Gay marriage is a human rights violation of children to be brought up by a female mother and a male father. Hmm… [The Australian]

“Professor Feminism” and the “Chronicles of Mansplaining”:

“I’m pretty confident that Professor Feminism is not Professor Understands Sarcasm, either, so I’ll spell it out: The point of listening to women and feminists is to listen to women and feminists. Because if you listen to them, you might start to understand certain basic points, such as: Women do not automatically have to accept you as an expert, particularly not when the subject under discussion (sexism!) is something you’ve never experienced first-hand. Women do not have to make you ‘comfortable’ and ‘welcome’ in every single conversation. Women do not automatically have to grant you a space in their discussions, on their blogs, or in their lives. Women do not have to permit you to enter their political movements, their self-created spaces, their personal space, their bodies, or anything else that belongs to them; you, as a man, are not entitled to women’s attention, praise, affection, respect, or company, just because you want it. And when a woman says ‘no,’ you respect that this particular woman said ‘no,’ and you stop. You don’t make excuses, you don’t explain why you should be able to get what you want, you don’t throw a tantrum, you don’t call that woman names: You just stop what you are doing. Because she said ‘no.’” [Tiger Beatdown]

See here for another example.

What Adele… and Lil Wayne… can teach us about love. [This Single Life]

“I Thought Success Meant Wearing a Suit.” So did I. I used to fantasise about working on Southbank, wearing suits (I had a penchant for an imaginary hot pink one!) and carrying my files in a suitcase-on-wheels. My how the tables have turned. In my day job, I wear a uniform that I try to spice up every now and then with biker boots and studded flats, and for my unpaid blogging duties, it’s usually trackies or pyjamas. This morning it’s raining, so I’ve invested in some extra insulation with my dressing gown. What do you were that indicates “success”. (In no way am I equating my mundane daily grind with success. I loath my paid job. Just doing it to pay the bills.) [MamaMia]

The facts and fictions of television’s crime dramas. [Jezebel]

Apparently, “Confronting Men About Sexism Makes Them Nicer,” and from my experience, I believe it. [Jezebel]

Sarah Wilson contemplates stopping for optimism. What am I optimistic about when I have to stop? The last two bouts of gastro I had I used to lie in bed and catch up on box sets between running to the bathroom. I don’t have an excuse for doing this every other day!

Images via YouTube, Jezebel, BuzzFeed. Bump Shack.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

“The Case for Dry Humping: Why Being Prude is a Feminist Statement.” [HuffPo]

Alone time is my siren call. Here, Jezebel’s Social Minefield tells you how to get more “me time” without offended those who want to have “we time” with you.

One woman goes mirror-free for a year. [Jezebel]

Lady Gaga’s run out of people to plagiarise, so she’s turned to herself for inspiration in her latest video for “Yoü & I”. [Fashionista]

Nipple slips from Khloe Kardashian, Nicki Minaj and Kelly Rowland in quick succession: shock, horror! [The Washington Post] (SFW)

Camilla Peffer on Beyonce as the anti-feminist. [Girls Are Made From Pepsi]

The gender politics of Justin Bieber. [FBomb]

Is there a need for women to have their periods?:

“… I do want to raise the question that while we do the work of destigmatising menstruation and teach young girls to be proud and excited about their menarche don’t we also have a responsibility to question its necessity? We tell women they don’t have to have sex to have children, that breast cancer can be beaten, that they can have their tubes tied and then re-connected and their faces lifted and de-wrinkled. We live in a modern world with modern solutions, isn’t it time we started seriously thinking and talking about the need to bleed?” [Feminaust]

Porn star and new mum displays picture of her breastfeeding her newborn daughter in an exhibition challenging the Madonna/whore dichotomy of motherhood, controversy ensues:

“The idea that there is something inherently prurient about a porn star breast-feeding plays right into that classic either-or thinking: Her breasts are erotic in one venue, so they can’t be wholesome in another. It’s a wonder anyone lets her breast-feed at all! On the one hand, it’s surprising to see this attitude coming from a pornographer; on… [yet an]other hand, it’s perfectly appropriate given the way motherhood is fetishised in porn.

“…We don’t like to think of moms as sexual beings—except for in the taboo-busting world of porn (paging Dr. Freud). It’s fitting for a porn star mama, the rare industry ‘MILF’ who is actually a mom, to remind folks that, generally speaking, one has to have sex in order to become a mom.” [Salon]

Anne Hathaway’s new effort, One Day, has a “bleak worldview of co-dependence where men need women to improve them, and women need to improve themselves to deserve men’s notice and achieve their purpose,” with The Film Stage dubbing it “the most toxic romance of the year”.

Also at The Film Stage, a breakdown of Katherine Heigl’s stereotype-reinforcing rom-coms, from the career-making Knocked Up, which she subsequently dissed for being sexist, to the just-as-sexist Killers and Life as We Know It.

Here’s an extended version of Erica Bartle’s debut piece for Sunday Life. While I don’t necessarily agree with her sentiments on faith most of the time, this is a great read. Better than the published piece, dare I say? [Girl with a Satchel]

Taylor Swift VS. feminism. [Autostraddle]

Is it “time for an abortion pride movement”?:

“… Women should not merely have the right to end unwanted pregnancies, they should have the right to be proud of having done so. Surely, there is enough suffering in this world already without adding infants with Tay-Sachs disease and Lesch-Nyhan syndrome to the mix. Women who step up to the ethical plate and have the strength to say, ‘This is the wrong time,’ or ‘This is the wrong fetus,’ should hold their heads high in the streets.” [Opposing Views]

Oh, the hilarity of Photoshop on this Glee/Vogue/Fashion’s Night Out advertisement. [Styleite]

It’s not just women who get the short end of the stick when it comes to Disney films: “Sexism, Strength & Dominance—Masculinity in Disney Films.” [FBomb]

The awesomeness that is Adam Lambert. [Autostraddle]

One from the vault: Buffy’s Willow Rosenberg destroys the world when her lesbian love is killed, calling into question the show’s support of the LGBT community. [Salon]

A mother’s perspective on the dysfunctional Twilight-saga relationship between Edward and Bella. [Persephone Magazine]

The politics of the SlutWalk. [New York Times]

Five of The Simpsons’ best recipes, including 64 slices of American cheese and Vaseline toast! [Warming Glow]

Image via Chubby Wubby Girl, Styleite, Salon.

In the News: In Defence of Mia Freedman.

Mia Freedman’s copped it pretty hard in the media the last couple of weeks, ever since her comments about Cadel Evans and sports stars being held up as heroes.

It’s no secret that Freedman is my idol, so I will go to bat for her til the cows come home. She’s the reason I became a writer. She’s the reason I did work experience at Cosmo. I share a lot of her views. Whether it’s just a happy coincidence, or I’ve shaped my views around hers (I started reading Cosmo at 15, a very impressionable age, so it’s more than likely the latter), I don’t know.

I’ve written about my love for Freedman, followed closely by former Girlfriend and Cleo editor, and current Sunday Life editor, Sarah Oakes, numerous times, and how the incestuous nature of the magazine world ensures a similar writing and editing style from those who work together. Take Freedman and Zoë Foster, for example. Or Oakes and Girl with a Satchel’s Erica Bartle and Musings of an Inappropriate Woman’s Rachel Hills.

Speaking of Sunday Life, Freedman’s column last weekend solidified why she’s a woman after my own heart.

She wrote about spending time with her family, and how planning big events are always a disaster and it’s the little, “mundane moments” that are memorable.

But back to the issue at hand: sportspeople as heroes.

I agree wholeheartedly that sportsmen and women aren’t heroes. (I threw up in my mouth a little bit when Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson stood for the national anthem after Evans won the Tour de France.) Yay, they can “swim fast”, “kick a ball with accuracy”, “run quickly” and “jump over high things”. But how does this make them heroes? It makes them superficial “heroes” or emblems of sporting events in which they did good, but not actual heroes. We can leave that title to soldiers, doctors, activists, social workers, firefighters and others who face death and social injustice to save lives and make the world a better place.

As Freedman reiterates:

“I roll my eyes every time another Australian of the Year is named and it’s a sportsperson. I cringe at the CONSTANT sycophancy and praise heaped on sportspeople and the way they are forever lauded as heroes… How does being highly physically capable make you a hero?”

I read somewhere that it is highly likely Evans will be named 2011’s Australian of the Year, so start warming up those eye sockets, Mia!

I brought this notion up with a coworker last week, who said doctors aren’t heroes just because they’re saving lives. But what about Doctors Without Borders, or doctors and nurses with the armed forces? “Well, that’s different,” he said. Why? Because they’re facing their own death whilst trying to prevent someone else’s? But sportspeople aren’t facing death (okay, sometimes they are), and their payoff is purely selfish.

Said coworker mentioned some AFL “hero” who, back in the ’70s (I think; don’t quote me on this), finished the grand final with a torn ligament and brought the premiership home. Some might call it heroism; others stupidity.

And I think the sportsperson=hero dichotomy is abhorrent, considering the extracurricular allegations levelled at some of them. Is Nick D’Arcy a hero for punching some guy and leaving him with irreparable facial damage? Are the Collingwood FC guys heroes for winning last year’s premiership, with some of them subsequently going on to allegedly sexually assault one or some groupies? How about the world class douchebag Brendan Fevola? Or Tiger Woods? O.J. Simpson? Hardly heroes.

Perhaps we should be looking to sportspeople like Glenn McGrath, who works tirelessly for his late wife’s breast cancer foundation. Or the Essendon FC, who work with schools to improve literacy. While not exactly heroes per se, at least they’re doing something other than hitting and kicking balls.

Freedman writes in a related piece:

“Sporting stars may have great physical skills but that’s all. They’re no smarter or better or nicer or more well intentioned than the average Australian. In fact, I would argue that generally (and of course this is a generalisation), they are less informed, less aware and less street smart than the average bear.

“This is because to become a great athlete, you have to spend many years from the time you are very young, refining your skills. That’s years swimming up and down a pool. Years running around a track. Years kicking a ball or hitting it with a bat.

“Years…

“I’m happy for anyone who CHOOSES to spend years of their life dedicated to their sport. Go for it. But let’s not pretend it’s a selfless or noble pursuit.

“Professional athletes do it for many reasons. Sponsorship dollars. Personal satisfaction. A desire to represent their country or be the best at swimming or kicking or hitting or whatever it is they’re good at.”

Without humiliating anyone, I find the “less informed, less aware and less street smart” contention is particularly true of one of my physically gifted friends.

While he has a Masters and is one of the most book-smart people I know, he admitted to me that until he was in his late teens, he was completely sheltered by his parents. So much so that he didn’t buy his first CD until around this age. Up to that point, he listened to whatever his parents wanted to listen to, because it was pretty much school, practice, competitions, and the only musical exposure he got was in the car on the way to said school, practice, competitions.

Now the kind of sports he plays aren’t exactly your true blue AFL or cricket (in fact, they’re so obscure I won’t mention them here at the risk of giving him away!), so he’s in another boat altogether: his sports would be, and have been, ridiculed by both your Aussie bogan and your highbrow cultured Australian.

Now, from what I’ve read, Cadel Evans is involved in other noble pursuits, like charity. Unfortunately, I think Freedman’s point was sullied by using Evans to bring it up on national television. Perhaps if she were talking about Stephanie Rice or Ben Cousins her contention would have been more well received. But that’s the risk you run when you voice an opinion that’s not of the norm.

And that’s why I love her. Sure, she got crapped on by most of Australia for making a valid point. But she was able to return to voicing her opinion on Today the same time the following week, joking about going into witness protection, but getting a haircut instead. She was able to find the humour in the situation, and see where she might have been wrong.

For the record, I don’t think she was wrong.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Everything They Touch Turns to Gold.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Mama Mia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines & Motherhood By Mia Freedman Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Mia Culpa: Confessions from the Watercooler of Life by Mia Freedman Review.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Cadel Evans: Is He a Hero?

[MamaMia] Cadel: Here’s What I Learned.

[MamaMia] Is Being Australian Really So Much About Gold Medals?

[MamaMia] Stephanie Rice. Enough With the Hero Worship.

[MamaMia] When Family Time is a Nightmare.

Image via ArtsHub.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

While I don’t agree with most of the Prime Minster’s actions, this cake of Julia Gillard getting attacked by a crocodile is a bit much. Northern Territory Senator Nigel Scullion didn’t seem to think so, and neither did the voters who crowned him the winner of a local cake baking competition! Scullion could be investigated for insinuating violence against Gillard. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Six steps to come across smarter. [MamaMia]

The best is yet to come, despite some peoples’ seemingly dreary destinies? [Girl with a Satchel]

Read the full version of this article on Kate Ellis being too sexy, which I wrote about in my Sunday Life review last week. [MamaMia]

Amy Winehouse’s death was treated like a spectacle by the media. [The Guardian]

Naww, the languages of love. [MamaMia]

Rachel Hills has some nice things to say about my nice things to say about her Sunday Life column last weekend. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Following on from her post on Musings last week, Hills writes for the Sydney Morning Herald on the assertion that young people are no longer interested in sex.

 

How your Tweets can betray your gender. [Fast Company]

“Clare’s Law: Should Abuse History be Revealed to New Partners?” Hell to the yeah! [Sydney Morning Herald]

There’s no such thing as “having it all”. [We Mixed Our Drinks]

On the (potential) end of Law & Order: SVU:

“I can’t imagine life after SVU. Mariska Hargitay is taking it much better than me:

“‘For the past 12 years Chris Meloni has been my partner and friend, both on screen and off. He inspired me every day with his integrity, his extraordinary talent and his commitment to the truth. I love him deeply and will miss him terribly—I’m so excited to see what he’ll do next.’

“Speak for yourself, Benson. Unless what he is doing is going back to taking his clothes off on HBO, I’m finding it difficult to muster up enthusiasm for my favourite detective being anything other than that. If anyone needs me, I’ll be crying in bed watching the entire first season on Netflix.” [The Hairpin]

In praise of Joan Holloway. [Pamflet]

Mia Freedman debriefs on the Cadel-Evans-sportspeople-aren’t-heroes hullabaloo from last week. More on this to come next week on The Early Bird. [MamaMia]

Emily Maguire on society’s obsession with female virginity, from April last year. [The Monthly]

The Sweetest Thing, Bridesmaids, Bad Teacher & the Female Raunch Comedy”:

“Comedic movie actresses have to be allowed to not be hot. Not like, high-heel-stuck-in-a sewer-grate, frizzy-flyaway-hair, Anne Hathaway-in-nerd-glasses not-hot. I mean genuinely not-hot. Full-attack mode physical-comedy not-hot. John Belushi not-hot. Not-pretty enough to be actually funny, because vanity contraindicates comedy. And this was the most revolutionary aspect of Bridesmaids; the pratfalls are actually pratfalls, the dick jokes are legitimately obscene.” [Grantland]

Women who don’t wear makeup are “arrogant, lazy or deluded, and frequently all three.” That counts me out, then! [The Daily Mail]

Three years on from Vogue Italia’s “all-black” issue, has the racial landscape of the modeling industry changed? You tell me… [Jezebel]

Tiger wife Wendi Deng-Murdoch’s defensive right hook, which came to the aid of her almost foam pie-faced husband, Rupert, has renewed “belief in love”. [Newsweek]

“In Defence of Imperfection.” [Persephone Magazine]

“30 Years of Women on MTV.” [Jezebel]

Images via MamaMia, Fast Company, Jezebel.