To Live & Die in Brunswick: Reflections on Jill Meagher.

I’m not usually one to be so deeply affected by violent crimes resulting in the deaths of people I don’t even know, but there’s something different about Jill Meagher’s brutal abduction, rape and murder that has touched the hearts of many. Perhaps later this week or next I will attempt to unpack what Jill’s death and the litany of speculation surrounding it means to me, but first, I thought I’d ask a friend who lived in the suburb that Jill also lived and (presumably) died in for her experiences in Brunswick.

Laura Money is no stranger to guest posting on The Early Bird, just as she’s no stranger to the pitfalls of living in Brunswick, a suburb that both I and she, and I’m sure many other women, have experienced street harassment in. Maybe it’s not just Brunswick, as Laura asserts below. Maybe it’s just a Melbourne thing. Or maybe it’s what comes with the territory of being female in public.

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Hi, I’m Laura and I’m from Brunswick. Sounds like a confession. In the wake of the rape and murder of Jill Meagher the idea of living in Brunswick has become hollow. I lived in Brunswick from 2009 to January this year after moving to Melbourne from Perth. It’s a similar story to Jill’s: her family are in Perth as well.

When I first moved to Brunswick I was so excited. My street had beautiful old cottages and Victorian-era terraces. Old people peered over their white picket fences to chat to one another. They gave me lemons and sometimes herbs. (Always legitimate!) It was a beautiful place to live. My boyfriend and I secured a one-bedroom unit you couldn’t have swung a cat in but we loved it. One of the reasons was its location: we were only two streets away from Sydney Road, where Jill disappeared. Pubs, bars, late night restaurants and enough kebab shops to ensure that your night out ended well and not regretfully.

Sydney Road was also a place where I felt pretty safe. I must have walked alone to get home so many times I’ve lost count. Until moving to Melbourne, though, I’d never really experienced much street harassment. Sure, I had a guy show up at my work every day to propose until I had to hide in the back room while my colleagues told him I didn’t work there anymore. I also had one guy decide he liked me that much he brought his whole family to my work to meet me, even though all I’d said to him was “hi”. My mistake, obviously, victim-blamers would decry. There was a creepy guy who requested I grow my leg hair for him and a couple of other incidents. But being harassed on the street was new to me, until Brunswick.

I’m not going to document everything but I will give you my top three not-feeling-so-safe-now moments. Firstly, I was reading on the train. I do this a lot. I was getting so involved in my book that I missed my stop. I do this frequently too! I got off at the next stop and decided to walk; hey I could use the exercise. It was about 6pm and the street was deserted so I decided to be a little cocky and keep reading while walking along the pathway near the train tracks. Hey, it was a really good book! I hadn’t been walking long when I noticed a small group of young men up ahead. As I got closer the cat calling started. I ignored it. They followed me. I ignored them. They postulated how they wanted to “shove that book up me if kept ignoring them”. I put down the book, placed it under my arm and told them to get lost. I then half walked, half ran to a tram stop and caught the tram the rest of the way. Walk home ruined.

Secondly, I was waiting for the tram. My stop was the first one, and the tram came empty from the depot so I always got a seat. As I was waiting, I was reading and standing next to the giant picnic bag I had. An old man came over and asked me for the time, presumably so he could look at the timetable, though I could have told him that it had been vandalised ages ago and you had to text for the next tram time. I told him the time and he asked where I was going. “I’m going to the city. I’m having a picnic with some friends,” I replied. “Oh, are your friends men? Are you married?” “No, just a few girlfriends. I’m not married.”

At this point I put my book back up and hoped the tram would hurry up. The tram came and I hoisted my picnic bag up, found a seat and continued reading. The old man walked up and down the tram before sitting down next to me. Seriously, he had the whole tram. I tried to keep reading.

“You must like that book, is it good?”

“Yes.”

“What’s it about?”

(Why did I answer?) “Oh, it’s just a detective series I’ve been reading.”

“So, are your friends single?”

“Sorry?”

“The girls you’re meeting, are they single?”

“Yes, it’s just a picnic in the park. Good weather, isn’t it?” I tried to change the subject.

“I’m single. Keep looking for a nice girl. I can’t go out with women my age, they’re all too boring. I need someone young, like you.”

At this point I start to panic and smile sympathetically for lack of another option.

“You don’t have to go and meet your friends. I’ve got a high-rise apartment in the city. If you come with me, I can give you a present.”

This on-sided conversation occurred throughout the entire tram ride, he even followed me when I moved seats and spoke like that in front of other passengers. A few of them laughed. I kept my eye out at the tram stop for him for weeks.

Thirdly, I was stalked home. I wrote a post a about it. It was pretty scary.

I know this sounds like Brunswick-bashing but hear me out. Despite all of these things happening, I just thought it was Melbourne. To a certain extent it is. These things happen anywhere. I’m back in Perth now and have already had a few incidents occur. My dad didn’t want me to move to Melbourne; he said it was too dangerous. In the first two months of me moving there there was a shooting, two bashings, a building collapse and a warehouse fire all within a kilometre radius from my dream-unit.  This didn’t stop me from living my life, though. I was often out late, heading home to my boyfriend. My mum reads and watches a lot of true crime. Because of this, I would call her or my brother in Perth late at night—time differences are great, aren’t they?— and say “I’m calling you while I ‘m walking home so that if I get attacked or something they will know my last whereabouts!” It was always a bit of a joke but I used to think that it was unlikely that they would attack someone on the phone because they’d get caught. When I saw the footage of Jill Meagher calling her brother in Perth shortly after talking to the man in the hoodie, I knew what she was doing.

To reiterate, my name is Laura and I used to live in Brunswick. I now live in Perth again and the harassment has slowed down. Actually it’s pretty much just at my new place of employment—gotta love that! For those who think, “if you felt threatened, why not just take a taxi?” Firstly, it’s only two blocks: so not worth it! Secondly, I used to get taxis after work f I was working late and the company paid. I got hit on in those taxis on most nights. Sure, I like a chat. I even chatted to a taxi driver so much that he remembered us later on when my friend left her phone in the cab. He was able to identify us because I’d been taking to him. By the same token, often when I got in the taxis from work, the male drivers would stare at my skirt. One driver focused the rear-view mirror onto my cleavage and one dropped the receipt onto my lap and groped around to find it. Fun stuff.

—Laura Money.

Related: On Stalking.

The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.

The Harassed & the Harassed-Nots.

I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl: Street Harassment in CLEO.

Elsewhere: [Daily Life] Brunswick, Alone & After Dark.

[unWinona] I Debated Whether Or Not to Share This Story.

Image via Daily Life.

My Month in Pictures.

It’s been a little while since a “My Week in Pictures” post so, what with Christmas and all that jazz, I thought I’d catch you up on what’s been going on in my life over the past month. First up…

… Christmas partying in the Garden of Eden, honey.

The theme: heroes and villains. Some notable costumes: Rebecca Brooks, Shane Warne, Joan of Arc (to which some philistine partygoers knowingly replied, “Oh, like Noah’s wife.” Hmm.), Darth Maul and a Planeteer. Funnily enough, my original idea for a costume was a Captain Planet and the Planeteers group effort, but I thought Adam and Eve was more appropriate so I coerced my coworker Jackson into baring almost all for, you know, authenticity purposes. It turns out we made the right decision, as we won best group costume!

The Muppets movie.

I won four free passes to see The Muppets early in December, thanks to the folks at All Star Comics. I got swept up in the awesomeness of it originally, so I plan to see it again once it’s on general release. Review pending.

Baking Christmas goods.

Okay, “baking” might be too strenuous of a word. My Mum did most of the hard work while I whipped some cream for a chocolate ripple cake. Mmm…

Rocking around the Christmas tree.

This being my first Christmas at my place, not the family home, there was an abundance of presents under the Christmas tree, including an overnight bag for my Mum, some books and ornamental items for my room for me, a fondue set for my housemate, Eddie (personal joke), not a lot for my sister as her present is still en route from the U.K., and chocolate goodness for everybody! What did you get for Christmas?

New Years Evil movie marathon.

Both my housemate and I aren’t big fans of New Years, so we decided to do a housemate-only all-day movie marathon. We watched MacGruber, Black Swan, The Good Son, Silence of the Lambs, Trick ’R Treat, The Last House on the Left (both 1972 and 2009 versions) and I Know Who Killed Me. As you can see, they’re mostly thrillers/horrors, hence the “New Years Evil” title. Yes, we need to get lives.

White Christmas.

As I’m sure you heard/saw/read about on the news, many parts of Australia suffered extreme weather conditions on Christmas Day. What started out as a hot, low-30s day ended up with golf ball-sized hail storms and flooding in Melbourne. While my area didn’t cop the brunt of it, we still experienced somewhat of a white Christmas.

Christmas Eve Eve party.

For the past two years my friend Laura has held a Christmas Eve Eve party (23rd December). Last year I wasn’t able to attend as I was back home in Bendigo, but this year my Mum came to stay with me, so I left her home alone and hit the town Brunswick. We ate, drank, listened to Carols and played Christmas celebrity heads. The night was bittersweet, as Laura’s moving back to Perth, where she’s from, next week.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Getting Our Pirate On, Christmas Party Style.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Top 11 Films of 2011.

Elsewhere: [All Star Comics Melbourne] Homepage.

Event: The Catholic Church Is Not a Force For Good in the World.

I’ve always thought religion is bullshit, so when I saw a debate with the topic sentence “the Catholic Church is a force for good in the world” as part of the Intelligence2 debate series, I bought a ticket with my friend Laura immediately.

Going in, we’d both had our minds made up that the Catholic Church certainly wasn’t a force for good in the world, as did 34% of our fellow debate-goers, a door poll reflected.

The affirmative side didn’t do much to sway anyone’s opinion, as lawyer Julian McMahon and Sister Libby Rogerson were pretty poor debaters.

McMahon spoke about how love is the driving force behind the Church and Jesus’ teachings, which has obviously been lost in a lot of hot-button religious topics such as gay rights, and instead we have the “language of The Simpson’s”. I’d say this was true even ten years ago, but the language of today is very much a cyber one, which is perhaps why the Church is losing influence and followers. (Albeit, speaker for the opposition, Anne Summers A.O., pointed out that followers of Catholicism have increased less than one percent in recent years.)

Sister Libby went on to talk about Catholics who volunteer and work in Indigenous communities and in prisons. I don’t know too much about how the Catholic Church has been more of a hindrance than a help in Indigenous Australia, but Laura was obviously upset by the Sister’s assertion, rolling her eyes and groaning. My beef with volunteering being a primarily religious domain is that yes, perhaps a lot of Catholics volunteer, but a lot of non-Catholics volunteer, too. For example, I’m agnostic and I used to volunteer at the RSPCA. As event facilitator Simon Longstaff said, quoting Thomas Aquinas, “Not even the pope has sovereignty over a well-informed conscience.” Amen to that.

In the face of criticism, Sister Libby said the Church is a “flawed, human institution” and makes mistakes just like anyone else. Where have we heard that before?

The affirmative’s only saving grace was Helen Coonan, who actually read from her notes instead of waffling on about dot points. She said there is no excusing the past injustices of the Church, but we need to focus on the present. Coonan spoke at length about the Occupy movement, using their non-hierarchy (un)structure and myriad of messages to undercut all anti-establishment movements. (SlutWalk comes to mind.) That’s the trouble with Occupy: those in opposition to it judge all movements by its measuring stick. But that’s another post for another time.

She spoke at length about wealth in the Catholic Church and using it as a metaphor for how the world should structure its monetary dealings. Hmm… To be honest, as well as Coonan spoke, her focus on economics kind of bored me.

To rebut this, Father Peter of the opposition said the Church favours the idea of “pray, pay, obey” and doesn’t give its followers a voice.

Still with the opposition—debating for the notion that the Catholic Church isn’t a force of good—consisting of Summers, the excommunicated Father Peter Kennedy and writer David Marr, they brought the house down with their poignant points.

Summers spoke about the women’s movement in relation to the Church which, when Summers and fellow Catholic school-educated feminists such as Germaine Greer were at school, consisted of either “being a nun or a mother of six”. She spoke about abortion, birth control and choosing whether and when to become a mother.

During the floor debate, one woman about my age tried to debunk Summers’ theory that women who subscribe to the teachings of the Church don’t make their own choices. The fact that her mother was born in the ’30s, has several (Catholic school?) degrees and NINE CHILDREN leads me to believe that she wasn’t making a choice to do these things so much as she was brainwashed to do them. As Marr said during his time, sex as a non-reproductive act is frowned upon by the Church.

Speaking of Marr, he was by far the best debater and is my new favourite person! He talked about sex as a sin and that followers of the Catholic Church are supposed to engage in “no sex at all, ever!” unless it’s between a married, heterosexual man and woman for the purpose of procreation. How boring!

He pointed out four main problems with the view the Catholic Church has of sex:

1. Celibacy as purity. And we all know how damaging that is to young sexuality, in particular.

2. Condoms being outlawed. When Marr asked the affirmative panel if they support the banning of condoms to stop the spread of disease, like HIV/AIDS in Africa, McMahon awkwardly and roundaboutly agreed with the Church’s position. He said that abstinence and sex only within marriage would stop the spread of disease in Africa, forgetting that in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo rape is rife and abstinence only sex education doesn’t work. His response was laden with racism and rape-apologist attitudes, in my opinion. For all his accomplishments, this debate illustrated that McMahon is severely out of touch with the realities of our world.

3. Homosexuals are bad, okay? I think we all know the Church’s stance on homosexuality, despite most Catholics, according to Marr, believing in granting the right of marriage to the gays.

4. Shame. That sex, being sexual and looking sexy is shame-worthy. I would argue that this attitude has permeated secular society, but that secular society also laughs in the face of point #1, and also prude-shames those who aren’t having sex, being sexual or looking sexy. You can’t win either way.

By the end of the debate, in which Coonan rebutted that “ordinary Catholics”—those who acknowledge and agree with most points from both sides of the argument, and who aren’t caricatures of fanatical militant Catholics—“need a voice”, which I certainly agree with, 57% of the audience was against the Catholic Church as a force for good in the world. Hope for atheism—or at least agnosticism, which is the philosophy I subscribe to—isn’t dead yet, which is more than I can say for the Catholic Church.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Feminism Respects Women More Than Anything, Including the Catholic Church!

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “Who The Bloody Hell Are We?”: The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “The First Time” Episode.

Elsewhere: [The Telegraph] Tiger Woods Says “I’m Only Human” After Mystery Crash.

Image via YouTube.

Guest Post: Feminism Respects Women More Than Anything, Including the Catholic Church!

Just over a week ago I was reading this here blog when I came across an article that shocked me. It was a response to a feminist blog that stated that the Catholic Church disrespects women. The response was supposed to demonstrate that “[the Catholic Church is] one of the few places in the modern world where women can find true acceptance and respect.” I almost choked when I read those words. Surely a Solidarity Salon or feminist society would be a more accepting place.

The Catholic Church has systematically stripped away women’s rights from the outset. Before people go asking for evidence, permit me to quote the Bible:

“That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discrete, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Titus 2:4, 5 (emphasis mine).

According to this, women are subservient to men, must marry, have children and behave in a particular way—chaste, pure, with loving eyes only for him. The most important point here, however, is that wives must be obedient to their husbands. This indicates that women are viewed as being unequal to men. I cannot see how we can possibly feel respected if we do not feel equal.

Women in the Bible, and therefore in the eyes of the Catholic Church, are always presented in one of two ways: the Madonna or the whore. The Virgin Mary (mother of Christ and most famous of all biblical “vessels”), Priscilla (devoted wife of Aquila who extended her hospitality to St. Paul when he was in need), Ruth (loyally took care of her sick mother-in-law) and Elizabeth (who bore a son, John the Baptist, despite being well past child-bearing age) are all examples of the Madonna; the virtuous woman in the Bible.

So some of the examples are a little stretched for goodness—I’ll gladly look after my mother-in-law but I doubt that alone makes me a good person. That is because women are painted as sinners and whores far more frequently in the good old pages of the Bible. A small list of examples include: Eve (duh, she started it all by defying God and eating some fruit), Jezebel (worshipped false gods and murdered her husband and sons), Delilah (betrayed Samson, lured him with her sexuality and maimed him by cutting off his hair in which his strength lay, effectively leading to his death), Salome (flirted and danced seductively for her step-father to persuade him to execute John the Baptist—at the age of thirteen! [Early Bird note: so the sexualisation of children isn’t just a raunch culture, Internet-age thing!]), Mary Magdalene (one of Jesus’ most reliable disciples, however she was painted as a prostitute until 1969 when the Pope recognised her as a true disciple). I could go on. Is it just me, or are the stories about the “evil” women just so much more fun? Now that we’ve had a who’s who of female biblical figures, I’d like to address some of the points that were made in the article.

The first point, predictably, is abortion. Apparently, because a high percentage of women having abortions reported using contraception and it failing “there is a huge problem with contraception—something the Church has said all along.” The Catholic Church is against contraception because they believe that every union between sperm and egg is a life and that only God has the right to give or take away life. Jennifer Fulwiler’s argument seems to be more centred on the science of contraception, an aspect of the argument that the Catholic Church has never really looked into being clouded with the morality angle. There were a few comments written in response asserting that if feminists want to be environmentalists as well, they shouldn’t pump their bodies and waterways with chemicals that inhibit pregnancy. Aaah, psedo-science!  As both a feminist and an environmentalist, I endorse the use of the Pill. All medication carries a risk, even aspirin. I received a very competent education on the menstrual cycle and how the pill works to inhibit the release of an egg by adding more oestrogen and progesterone, hormones that are naturally produced in the body, at a particular time in the cycle. If you are educated on how it works, you won’t be afraid of it. I would like to ask a question about sperm, though. If the church posits that the union between egg and sperm is a human being, do they believe that individual sperm and unfertilised eggs are also people? If this is the case, how can they condone the reproduction process, considering how many poor innocent sperm die in the hostile environment of the womb? [Early Bird note: Or in “masturbatory emissions”, as Elle Woods would say?! Oh, that’s right: masturbation is evil.]

The article goes on to say that—shock, horror!—women are having sex for pleasure, not procreation. Really? In 2011? I had no idea! This is blamed on being “bombarded with about a zillion messages a day that portray sex as… pleasure and fun” and that you only have to “turn on the E! Network or flip through an issue of Cosmo” to see this message being touted and lauded as positive. I must admit, I always go to Cosmo for the best sex tips! The hyper-sexualisation of society is something that religion in general often uses as a way of renouncing feminism.  In a Google search of feminism, the third option is a website called Feminism is Evil. Not only is the sheer ridiculousness of the “argument” against feminism laughable, the only evidence appears to be quotes from the Bible. Feminism is Evil also blames the media for the unfeminine behaviour of women:

“The television is about as false and misleading as can be nowadays… People are being indoctrinated, especially our youth, to have a false view of reality. Television nowadays is being used as a weapon to promote agendas that go 100% contrary to the Word of God; such agendas as homosexuality, feminism and abortion.” (Original emphasis removed.)

At one point, the site makes the argument that men are more pure than women because “not one man has ever had an abortion”! I still believe that the mainstream media presents a patriarchal, homophobic lifestyle as the norm. Whilst there may be more divorced characters on television, they still promote impeccable family values. In CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, I would argue that Catherine works extra hard on her relationship with her daughter, Lyndsay, insisting on things like eating dinner together at the table and having movie nights. If anything, she is the most family-oriented character on the show. Similarly, Glee deals with a gay character, Kurt, by placing him in a highly supportive family. He has a great relationship with his father and becomes integrated into a full family unit with the marriage of his dad to fellow Glee clubber Finn’s mum.

Whilst I am the first to discuss the objectification of women in advertising that portrays them as sexual objects, it’s strange how we actually agree on something but think that it’s wrong for completely different reasons. I still maintain that most adverts place women in domestic spheres. This is completely compliant with the church, according to Feminism is Evil, as “biblically a woman’s place is in the home.” If I have to see one more advertisement for cleaning or cooking products in which only women appear, or in which they are exasperated at the incompetence of their husbands (and they are always husbands), I feel I might scream! The media systematically proliferates society with these wholesome messages of propaganda for “traditional” gender roles as a response to the increasing feminist and homosexual rights movements. People just don’t see it, as the message is more subtle than the ads of the ’50s and ’60s.

Back to the article at hand, and Fulwiler falsely states that “secular feminists are not willing to stand up for all women.” This is a sweeping generalisation. She cannot speak for everyone, and neither can I, however I was offended by this statement. I, personally, am willing to stand up for all women, even ones who, like her, are victims of the patriarchy. I actually feel that women who have been indoctrinated into a repressive and unequal culture need to be represented more, as they have lost their own voices.

As the article goes on, however, I realise that I don’t represent all women, if Fulwiler is to be believed:

“Pro-choice feminism only respects women once they’ve reached a certain age, usually about 36 weeks; the ones who are younger than that are not considered worthy of consideration as human beings, let alone worthy of respect. The Catholic Church respects all women, no matter how small and voiceless.”

Oh, right, I see what she means. I could not disagree more. This issue is, undoubtedly, highly subjective based on when one considers a foetus becomes a person.

I am not speaking for any other secular feminist at this point but I don’t consider an aborted foetus a woman that I have failed to represent. This is not about neglecting women here; this is about terminating a pregnancy, not a life.  I believe that the person to focus on is the woman who should be given the choice as to whether she wants to continue the pregnancy and eventually give birth to a fully-fledged human, or terminate that pregnancy and not bring an extra child into the world. Each case is individual and should be treated that way, however, at the end of the day, the choice should only ever be that of the woman’s.

Once again, there is a misconstrued notion that the Catholic Church educates women on abortion better than pro-choice organisations or abortion clinics. I disagree, and I went on quite a few websites to discover what they say the procedure consists of. According to Better Health Victoria, two types of abortion are currently available:

  • Surgical abortion: a low-risk procedure most commonly used for first trimester (7–12 weeks) abortion in Australia. Known as suction aspiration or suction curette, it involves removing the lining and contents of the uterus (womb). A range of other surgical techniques are used for abortion later in pregnancy.
  • Medical abortion: a low-risk alternative to surgery used for terminating pregnancies earlier than 7–9 weeks (depending on the clinic). RU486 (mifepristone), also known as “the abortion pill/drug”, is the most widely known medication used for this procedure. It’s available in some clinics in Australia and is up to 98 per cent effective when used in the first nine weeks of pregnancy.

This seems to be the general consensus on most abortion websites I visited. I did come across several problems, though, as most of the sites had been hijacked by religious pro-life propaganda. One website, called Pro-Choice.com, was full of pictures of foetuses and religious messages. If you can’t go to a site labelled “pro-choice” without it being corrupted by religion, where can you go?  I find it quite insulting to read that apparently the Catholic Church provides more accurate information on abortion. Women undergoing the procedure are given accurate and thorough information regarding the process just like any other medical procedure. The Church’s scare mongering and twisting of the facts are not scientifically- or medically-based enough to be considered “information.”

Now, Ms Fulwiler is not saying that “secular feminists intend to disrespect women”; she thinks we “mean well but are simply misguided.” How nice of her to be concerned!  She says she knows how we feel because she used to be the same until she found God was brainwashed. She then says that she started “questioning assumptions.” For someone who questions assumptions, she sure makes a few herself. the first being that the Catholic Church has moved into a modern world in which Eve and Jezebel are not real but allegorical so that women are really seen as respectable in the eyes of the Church. According to Feminism is Evil, even female ministers are going against the word of God and should get back to the kitchen!

The second assumption she makes is that women are being blindly led to the abortion clinic the second they get pregnant. As I stated earlier, every case is different and I feel that there is a tendency to sweep over that and assume that pro-choice women relish in the devilry of their abortive practices.

The third and final assumption is that God exists. I understand that this is a faith-based claim, as there hasn’t been an awful lot of concrete evidence that He has spoken to anyone of late, yet the whole church system relies on the fact that he’s real. If the assumption is wrong, as I believe, then the reasoning behind the oppression of women and the pro-life argument go completely out the window.

Oh, and one final assumption: that secular feminists care what you think.

—Laura Money.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] On Stalking.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] On Stripping.

Elsewhere: [National Catholic Register] Feminists Don’t Respect Women; the Catholic Church Does.

[YouTube] Legally Blonde Part 5.

[Feminism is Evil] Homepage.

[Better Health Victoria] Abortion.

[ProChoice] Homepage.

My Week in Pictures.

Not much to report this week as my days have pretty much consisted of sleeping in, blogging, unpacking, exercising, watching True Blood and reading. Blogging, jogging and True Blooding, as it has been dubbed by friends of mine.

The movie.

Green Lantern was the order of the day last Thursday. After almost a year of going on about our matching Green Lantern rings, Eddie forgot to bring his!

The trivia night.

Last night a bunch of us participated in trivia against other departments at my workplace. Since my co-worker Ken is inept at taking photos, please excuse the blurriness of the above group shot, which consisted of the youngies on our team: me, Eddie, Clare, Laura and Michelle. We certainly lived up to our reputation by being the only group to correctly name the theme song from Clarissa Explains it All and “Got the Feelin’” by Five in a “guess the portion of the song” portion of the program!

Also, Laura won a lucky door prize: double VIP passes to Puffing Billy! She also had the honour of saying the wankiest quote of the night, when she named Mozart instead of Beethoven as the answer to a question that now escapes me: “I thought it was Mozart because of the operas, you see.”

The west side.

Now that I live on the west side of Melbourne, I no longer get a nice view of the city from my apartment, but I do get to be included as part of the City of Melbourne (as opposed to Stonnington or Moonee Valley, which were the municipalities of my last two residences, and a view of the industrial sector. Not as pretty, but it makes me nostalgic for the days when we would drive home from spending a day in the city shopping and going to wrestling and go over the CityLink bridge and back into boring country life. Oh, and I now have a house!

The stack.

Did you see Miranda Kerr on the cover of last week’s Who?! She looks bangin’! Motherhood clearly agrees with her.

The double rainbow.

Two double rainbows in one fortnight: spoilt! At some stages it even morphed into a triple and quadruple rainbow!

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Pictures 11th August 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Pictures 4th August 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Pictures 28th July 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Pictures 21st July 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Pictures 14th July 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Pictures 7th July 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Pictures 1st July 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Green Lantern Review.

Event: Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Ralliers outside the State Library on Swanston Street.

Best. Sign. Ever.

Last Saturday the highly anticipated SlutWalk occurred in several Australian cities, and I attended the Melbourne event with my fellow anti-slut-shamer friend Laura (both of us below).

We rocked up in our sluttiest outfits, which you can see above, complete with permanent marker declarations of our proud sluthood to boot. Some of the other outfits we noticed were short skirts with knee-high skull print socks and customised Doc Martins, worn by event organiser Clem Bastow (below), lace dresses and gym gear, the latter of which adorned a short-haired tattoo fan with a body Tracy Anderson would envy.

Clem Bastow.

Monica Dux.

As Bastow commented when she gave one of the opening addresses, along with fellow event organisers Karen Pickering and Lauren Clair, and noted feminists Monica Dux (above) and Leslie Cannold, amongst others: “thank you, God, it looks like you’re going to rain on me”. But no one was gonna rain on our parade and, despite the chilly temperatures, we still walked tall and proud in whatever get-ups we chose to wear.

Dux said this is the beginning of a movement, which I have to disagree with. SlutWalk is not the beginning of a movement; it is part of the reignited battle to stop victim-blaming and slut-shaming based on one cop’s archaic musings on rape and how much a woman was “asking for it”. Here’s a fun fact: WE’RE NEVER ASKING FOR IT! (See Bastow’s sign, above). No matter how we are dressed, where we are, how much we’ve had to drink, or what we do for work.

Speaking of, I was really proud to see the representation of sex workers at the event, and president of the Australian Sex Workers’ Association, the Scarlet Alliance (represent!), Elena Jeffreys (above) spoke about her sexual assault and that even though she was paid for sex, she was not consenting to assault. Her opinions on the SlutWalk were really interesting and I hope they receive as much publicity as the negative perceptions of the rally have in the media.

In the days leading up to SlutWalk, I was embroiled in a heated debate on Facebook with a friend who disagrees with the SlutWalk. I think he confused—like a lot of people—the meaning of the SlutWalk with an excuse to get gussied up in a very risqué manner when, in fact, that was not at all what it was about. That didn’t stop protestors on the steps of Parliament House at the top of Bourke Street brandishing their “rape is horrifying, but so is immodesty” placards (above). Like one of the speakers (whose identity escapes me: should have used my BlackBerry voice recorder!) said: it’s not up to us to curb our behaviour (and that includes how we choose to dress) at the risk of potentially being sexually assaulted; it’s up to those who sexually assault to curb their behaviour!

I think most people against the SlutWalk had a problem with the use of the word slut. As Cannold said, “words matter…: … we won’t stand for one, the same one, being slung at us over and over again to demean and degrade us.” Lori Adelman, in a post on Feministing, said she didn’t agree with the term “slut” and that she “would much rather have attended a ‘Do Not Rape’ Walk”:

“I find that the term disproportionately impacts women of colour and poor women in order to reinforce their status as inherently dirty and second-class, and hence more rape-able.”

To me, “slut” is just a word. It meant as much to me to be called a slut when I was 12 as it does today; as they (and Rihanna) say, sticks and stones will break my bones but names can never hurt me. It’s not about the term “slut”, it’s about the backwards and extremely offensive views that go along with that word. As coordinator of the first SlutWalk in Toronto, Sonya Barnett, told Rachel Hills: “if he [the policeman] had said something else, we would have called it something else.”

The speaker who garnered the most attention, though, was transgendered man, Cody Smith (above), who had been raped both as a biological female, and as a trans man. There were tears a plenty during his speech!

It was nice to see such a welcoming, non-judgmental turnout of everyday men, women and children of all walks of life, wearing all sorts of garb, not just the fishnetted and cut-out body con dresses that certain attendees chose to wear (guilty as charged!). After all, rape is not about what you’re wearing, what you look like, what size you are, how old you are, what your sexual orientation or gender is, or any other denomination that you happen to belong to as a person. It is about the perpetrator, and nothing you can or cannot do will stop them from attempting to rape you.

As Smith said, it shouldn’t be the victims of sexual assaults’ responsibility to educate the general public on sexual assault and victim-blaming. And I thought the sexual revolution happened several decades ago: it shouldn’t be up to members of a fringe movement to educate the general public on the sexual rights of women to express themselves however they please without the threat of retaliation. In fact, feminism—which is what the SlutWalk was all about—shouldn’t be considered as on the fringe in 2011.

[Feministing] SlutWalk: To March or Not to March.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Ask Rachel: What Are Your Thoughts on SlutWalk?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] UPDATED: SlutWalk.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] So a Tattoo Makes Me Public Property, Huh?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Has Feminism Failed?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “S&M”: Is it Really So Much Worse Than Rihanna’s Other Stuff?

Black and white images via Ali Ryan Photography.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

“The Fashion Industry’s Anorexia Problem.”

Gala Darling offers an interesting take on pageantry. It seems not all beauty queens are vapid glorified prom queens with “miles of hair extensions, industrial-sized cans of hairspray and gallons of butt glue”.

Do you have to be a mother to be empathetic?:

“The reason Queensland Premier Anna Bligh was able to handle the flood crisis with such competence [is because she is a mother], according to a fellow mum. How true, how true, clucked a host of TV talk show mums the next day, as the commentators all agree that Anna won the ‘image’ war over Julia in the aftermath. Then of course she would—only a mother can cry with conviction for lives lost.”

90210: “The Sexist Postcode”?:

“So 90210 was an important early building block of enlightened sexism because it insisted that the true, gratifying pleasures for girls, and their real source of power, came from consumerism, girliness, and the approval of guys…”

My friend Anthony and I were discussing the benefits of cheap Coles milk when we paused and though, what exactly does cheap milk mean for farmers and why all the fuss? Rick Morton of MamaMia is here to answer our questions.

Also at MamaMia, the defence force sex scandal.

Speaking of, MamaMia’s 3.0 launch is the only blog redesign I’ve liked in recent months (Jezebel, I’m looking at you).

“Wait? What? This is where it gets interesting for me as a sex positive parent. My son just went from wishing he was sexy to shaming a girl for being just that? I rolled up my sleeves and got ready to do some unpacking.” The unpacking the primary school backpack on “Slut-Shaming on the Playground”.

This is just plain wrong: “The 15 Most Inappropriate Baby Outfits”.

The cigarette packaging reform.

Michael Cole, WWE announcer, tweets a gay slur. GLAAD faux pas or staying in character?

Are disability jokes really that bad? Or are we all just going PC crazy? (Just ask Laura Money and Kieran Eaton at their Unfinished Business stand-up show for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.)

The meaning of Sucker Punch according to io9:

“1. Insane people and sex workers are interchangeable.

“2. Women can only triumph over adversity in their dreams.

“3. Action movies spring from the imaginations of enslaved, mentally unstable prostitutes.”

“Do You Know What a Normal Female Body Looks Like Anymore?”

Francine Pascal as feminist literature pioneer?:

“In the beginning, that wasn’t enough for many booksellers, who deemed Sweet Valley too ‘commercial’ for their readers. The Times snubbed the series; librarians fought to keep their stacks free of the ‘skimpy-looking paperbacks,’ as one library journal put it. It was Pascal’s fans who defended her: buying a dizzying 250 million copies before the series published its 152nd and final title, in 2003. The series even became a case study in how to get young girls to read. ‘Sweet Valley changed the dynamics of the industry,’ says Barbara Marcus, who, as former president of Scholastic’s children’s business, published The Babysitter’s Club, Goosebumps, and Harry Potter. Sweet Valley spawned seven spinoff series, a TV show, a board game, and dolls. Not until Twilight came along have girl fans been so loyal.”

In this vintage post from the time of Jersey Shore’s debut, Irin Carmon discusses the cast’s views “On Beauty & Not Even Looking Italian”. Quite interesting, actually.

It’s time to go, Betty Draper.

Forget menopause; say hello to “manopause”.

First the video music world, now the movie world: Rebecca Black’s film debut in “Sunday Comes Afterwards”.

Porn WikiLeaks: damaging the reputation and safety of porn performers by publishing addresses, personal documents and hateful HIV diatribes (SFW).

The ugly step sister?

Images via Jezebel.

Event: “Who the Bloody Hell Are We?”—The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.

I was so looking forward to “So Who the Bloody Hell Are We?: The Sentimental Bloke”, held on Monday night at the Wheeler Centre, which I attended with my staunchly feminist friend Laura (who has written for The Early Bird here, and whom I’ve written about on The Early Bird here) and staunchly masculist friend Andrew (who has also guest posted here and here).

I was rudely disappointed.

I expected the panel to delve into the masculinity crisis facing Australian men today by addressing such issues as rape culture in sport, domestic violence, metrosexuality and parenting. Well, three out of four ain’t bad.

I’m not the only one who felt that way, as Andrew Frank writes:

“I’ve got two words for you: Sarah Palin”—Dr. Anne Summers, AO.

I didn’t get it. Based on the participation rates of the laughter that followed, I don’t think half the audience did either.

Using a right wing American female politician to attempt to illustrate that there are no gender issues related to  men that hunt in contemporary Australia, only cultural ones, is using a form of logic that I can’t understand. But then again, she claims to be a feminist.

The setting was The Wheeler Centre, and the discussion loosely titled, “So Who the Bloody Hell Are We?: The Sentimental Bloke”. The presenter: Michael Cathcart. The panel was comprised of Craig Reucassel, founding editor of The Chaser newspaper and ABC television personality, Craig Sherborne, memoirist, poet and playwright, and Dr. Anne Summers AO, “best-selling author, journalist, and thought leader”. About that last one: I am worried.

Initially, the discussion promised to focus upon being a man, as individuals and as an ideal, in contemporary Australian society. This would include several aspects of particular relevance, such as parenting, the workplace, and various social settings. It would also examine the evolution of the ideals of masculinity, over the 20th century to the present. I was sadly disappointed.

After being egged on by Scarlett and Laura to “man up” [Early Bird note: I say that sarcastically; I strongly disagree with “man-up” as motivation to be courageous.], I decided to ask the question that plagued me from the start, and gets under my skin from time to time. My question went something like this:

“I am a very passionate hunter. I do it because I love it, not because I need to feel manlier. This is something for which I am socially criticized, in a manner that suggests I use it as a method of compensation for feelings of being emasculated. Do any of you perceive any distinction between the social pressures placed on men of decades past to be the stiff-upper-lipped, emotionally suppressed and distant figure, and the social pressures contemporary Australian men are subject to in terms of being ‘metrosexual’ or the ‘Sensitive New Age Guy’?”

I missed Sherborne’s reaction, but Reucassel mocked hunting as an activity for the royal family {unbeknownst to him, I also fence!). Dr Anne Summers, screwed up her face and said, “Between being a SNAG and hunting?” in as condescending a tone as you can imagine.

It was asked that the microphone be returned to me. Reucassel asked me how I started hunting. I replied that it came to me through my Dad, and my Dad’s Dad. I then turned my attention to Summers again and stated that the hunting’s relevance here rested in the fact that according to my friends, hunting and masculinity were, for the distant father figure, and are, now, according to my friends, inextricably intertwined. It is the quintessential example of men today not conforming to the metrosexual, SNAG criteria.

Reucassel then said that the idea of hunting abhors him; that It is definitely an antiquated recreation, but it takes bravery to pursue in light of contemporary attitudes and if I want to, then more power to me. I respect his viewpoint. I would never force someone to hunt who didn’t want to, and he reflects my right to be autonomous in deciding where I get my food. But he missed the vital issue: is there a difference between my social pressure not to hunt and the social pressure on men from decades past to be emotionally restrained?

Insert Summers’ initial right-winged impression here, to which I didn’t get another chance to respond.

Sarah Palin hunts. I think Summers was trying to say that dealing with the bad rap that being a hunter carries is not specifically a male problem. And in that single fact, she is correct. So therefore, the issue faced here by hunters is not gendered, but cultural. However, to go so far as to imply that because Palin hunts, the social criticism of male Australian hunters—or indeed other men who engage in traditionally masculine recreational activities—does not warrant discussion is a fallacy. I believe that is what she intended to say. And soon after it became apparent from the comments of Cathcart and Sherborne that they believed she had jumped on the “cultural, not gendered” tack as well. However, because I did not warrant a detailed response, evidenced in hindsight by her curt reply and insulting tone, we cannot be sure. Perhaps she meant to say that Palin is an idiot, and therefore, all hunters are. But I shall continue through with the interpretation that Laura helped me conclude.

If we accept the premise of Summers, any criticism of my masculinity with hunting as evidence is blatantly flawed. Speaking regarding men in contemporary society, Summers has decided that the social reality is… wrong? Because a number of women engage in hunting, including the prominent Palin, they must be subject to exactly the same social criticisms that the men who engage in this statistically dominated male activity, right? If we accept this, Summers did not respond to me, as she intended. She responded to those that undermine the masculinity of Australian male hunters. Undermining my “masculinity in the metrosexual sense” because I hunt is wrong because women hunt, too. Unfortunately for her, your average person that rips on a hunter seems unaware of the tradition that hunting is a male thing. By the way: I hate that tradition. I really, really do.

On that count, any person seeking a discourse regarding being a man in contemporary Australia rather than trying to fulfill a feminist agenda would disagree. It’s like saying because both men and women are in the police force they obviously have precisely the same experience—I would have loved to get her started on that one pertaining to rape cases. If the topic for the evening had been, “The Sentimental Bloke and the Empowered Woman: Being a Man, Or a Woman, in Contemporary Society”, then perhaps it would have been a valid vein of thought. But could anyone really think that her premise was not flimsy and tenuous? She, too, missed the point: attempting to discern the differences and similarities of social pressure on males not to hunt and the social pressure on men from decades past to be emotionally restrained.

Discussion that followed pigeonholed me into the “shooter” stereotype as if I wasn’t even there. I won’t forget for a long time the sneer in her voice: “He’s a shooter”. I despise hoons that are hunters according to external perception, blazing through the bush with a beer in one hand and a gun in the other. Summers was perfectly willing to condemn me using a stereotype to which I do not conform. This after using a prominent female American politician, a single example, to attempt to nullify two gendered stereotypes and the resulting social pressures of two different eras that I wished to contrast. Yeah, that woman totally understood the topic for the evening. She is sooo smart! And yes, I’m bitter I didn’t get to verbally tear her to shreds.

The presenter, in my opinion, then made an awful mistake. Cathcart asked the panel, “Have any of you killed a mammal, and eaten it?” I think this was asked with the goal of illustrating the cultural differences between the contemporary and past societies in which hunters and men have existed. This wandered further still from the vital issue, as whether or not someone has killed an animal they have eaten and whether or not hunting is ethical does not address the relevant gendered issues. Reucassel said no, and then admitted to being a meat eater which, he realised, weakened his argument. Sherborne said yes, and told stories of how he grew up on a farm. Summers said no, and her admission to being a meat eater was accompanied with a bowed head.

In order to further display her tight grasp on the issues that were, but should not have been at hand, I remember Sherborne raising the following issue, when asked if he himself has ever hunted:

Sherborne: “Is fishing hunting?”

Summers: “No.”

Cathcart: “Why not?”

Summers: “I don’t know”

Cathcart ended that portion of the discussion with, “Well, I don’t know if we answered your question, but they certainly had fun ridiculing you”.

Subsequent audience questions referred to mine. They tried again to get at my “underlying question.” As far as I could tell, no such luck. My spirits were buoyed somewhat as I exited the room, as I heard the word hunting on the lips of four or five people, was complimented by a few others, and heard several chide the panel’s incorrect interpretation and inadequate response to my questioning. Walking down the street five minutes later I fortuitously heard an elderly couple discussing the exact same issue, and they could not have approved of my thoughts more.

Perhaps my motivation to have written all this down rests in the fact that I wanted answers—validation—and I didn’t get any. I am a hunter. I am also a kind, caring and sensitive man, who fully acknowledges the depths of his emotion wherever possible. I even have passing interests in skin care from time to time. The people on the stage were supposed to confirm my belief that pressures on me to be the latter (SNAG) are directly related to pressures not to be the former (strong, silent and conventionally “masculine”), and that the same situation with different polarities existed for men decades ago. Or, they were supposed to admonish this point of view, and provide me with enlightenment such that I could embrace my modern masculinity as the sensitive young man and the hunter with no sense of conflict.

But they didn’t. Aspects of life difficult for the contemporary sentimental bloke didn’t exist for every sentimental bloke. Consequently they were considered circumstantial and did not warrant discussion. Or difficulties that didn’t apply only for men, as women suffered similarly, meant that they did not warrant discussion. Or difficulties founded in culture were dealt with in a manner that suggested their gendered implications were irrelevant. Honestly, the only issue duly treated, was the evolution of male parents who now change nappies and push prams, juxtaposed against past male parents who would only pace outside the birthing room then work to support the child, occasionally throwing in a life lesson. Everything else was glossed over in a cursory fashion, played way, way down, or even straight out denied, suggesting that none of the panel members were prepared to really get their hands dirty and discuss issues that contemporary Australian men deal with in defining who and what we are. After all, even though the title of the event was “So Who the Bloody Hell Are We?: The Sentimental Bloke” it just wouldn’t be fair to deal with the impact issues have on men when they also effect women, would it?

[The Wheeler Centre] So Who the Bloody Hell Are We?: The Sentimental Bloke.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] How to Make a Woman Fall in Love with You, Glee Style.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Double Standards.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] On Stripping.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Unfinished Business at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Images via The Wheeler Centre, Indie Posted.

Event: Unfinished Business at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

If you’ve ever wondered what goes into a Melbourne International Comedy Festival gig, Unfinished Business, the brainchild of Laura Money and Kieran Eaton, answers all your questions, including “can a couple do a comedy show together?”

Yes, they can.

Unfinished Business begins with Laura arriving home from a day at work, where Kieran greets her with toilet humour and “fat beats about wanking”, which got the show off to a shaky but promising start.

Knowing Laura and Kieran personally, it was fun to see their odd-couple dynamic come alive on stage as they fictionally battled for who would headline this year’s MICF show, as they can only afford for one of them to enter the festival. Kieran likens his lady love to a potato, professing that he “likes my women like my potatoes”: in a brown jacket (insert a conveniently brown t-shirt-clad Laura). Sometimes he even likes them mashed up and to stick carrots inside.

Kieran does have a certain odd-ball quality, which he milks for all it’s worth, likening his social awkwardness to a mild case of autism, to which Laura replies, “Maybe I should apply for a carer’s card?” Joke of the night.

Meanwhile, Laura brings her signature sarcastic bitchiness to the table, mocking a girl she works with, whom she likes to call the “OMG girl”, which was totes, like, epic and shit, and a brilliant take on pretentious Toorak mums with their “prams the size of the Himalayas”, “babychinos” and “gluten-free, sugarless biscotti’s” when they’re actually “looking wistfully over at the lemon meringue pie and thinking, ‘If only I could separate eggs’.”

The show culminates in the duo giving us their best comedic scenarios and one-liners, including a fabulous “I did I.T. at uni cos I liked the book by Steven King” quip.

If you’re into independent comedy and have a spare $12 left over from seeing the Akmals Saleh’s, Danny Bhoy’s and Catherine Deveny’s, you should check out Unfinished Business. And not just because Kieran and Laura spared me $12 (media pass; score!) to say that!

Tickets available via TicketMaster and at the door of Caz Reitops Dirty Secrets, 80 Smith Street, Fitzroy.

[Melbourne International Comedy Festival] Kieran Eaton & Laura Money in Unfinished Business.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] On Stripping.