A slew of opinions

I’ve been reading through a variety of articles today, and thought I would share my thoughts on some of them.

I will begin with “The question no man ever gets asked” by Anne Summers <www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/the-question-no-man-ever-gets-asked-20130216-2ejul.html> to view the full post.

In this post, the writer positions the reader to question why women are asked how they ‘do it all’ having a career and raising a family while men are not. Highlighting that many still seem to believe, deep down, that women should be in the home, and shouldn’t be able to cope with the demands of both family and work. Now, this I believe is a fair point. If we are a society that really believes in equality then we should believe that women can be just as capable of men to work and have families. However, I was disappointed when Anne wrote these two paragraphs:

“In Australia we are censorious towards women who don’t conform to our (impossible) ideals. We prefer women with children to stay home (they can worry later about losing their skills and their confidence and their super), or if they insist on combining motherhood with having a job, we expect them to be totally stressed out all the time. That’ll teach you, we seem to be saying.

Then there’s the women who have had the temerity to have successful careers and neglected to have children. Our two leading female politicians, Julia Gillard and Julie Bishop, are both alternately castigated and pitied for being in this category. Not for not “having it all” but for choosing a different path. And seeming pretty damned satisfied with their choices, too.”

And in this moment she has denied modern women the right to want to stay home and raise their children. I believe that both men and women have the right to choose how they live their lives without judgement. And I don’t believe that being a woman who wants to be a stay-at-home-mum is any sort of betrayal to equality movements. Whether men or women want to raise their children themselves at home, work without children, or have a career and children, should not be anyone’s business but theirs. I do worry about the future where children are raised by the state (through childcare and the education system) rather than their own parents. But it’s time that we acknowledged that we are all different. Some people want to work, some people want families, others want both; and this shouldn’t be something decided lightly. But everyone, man or woman, has the right to decide for themselves.

The next three articles I’d like to place together, because they tackle similar ideas. The first “Why do we bother with make-up free campaigns?” by Clementine Ford <http://www.dailylife.com.au/life-and-love/real-life/why-do-we-bother-with-makeup-free-campaigns-20130823-2sgi7.html&gt; discusses the deeper problems with women and their body-confidence. The second “Hands up if you’re feeling any less revolting …” by Germaine Greer <http://www.dailylife.com.au/health-and-fitness/dl-wellbeing/hands-up-if-youre-feeling-any-less-revolting–20121214-2bdrm.html&gt; speaks about self-esteem and advertising. And “I like a little something to hold on to*” by Annie Stevens <www.dailylife.com.au/life-and-love/i-like-a-little-something-to-hold-on-to-20120621-20q5q.html> which talks about women’s self image in relation to men.

These articles made me consider the way that women are both portrayed and self-judged based on how they look, and how they feel they look. Clementine Ford talks about how even though many movements over time, which claim to be liberating women’s bodies and working to celebrate the ‘natural woman’ such as the recent “make-up free” look, still have women wanting to look good while they embrace it:

I want to appear to stand before the world having overtly rejected all its expectations – the hair removal, the corsets, even the make up – and revel in the knowledge that in its barest state, my body won’t betray me with its untidy flaws but glow like one blessed from birth. Oh, you’re so beautiful without make up! So perky, so fresh! Your hair is so fine that you don’t even need to shave! Stripped of sanctioned artifice, I could stand there, unshaven but still smooth. Unmade up but still pretty. Unshackled but still winsome, my pert breasts bouncing beneath a figure hugging tee shirt declaring THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE.

Which seems to me, the irony of women’s liberation ideas. Women want to look good, so do men. It’s human nature to want to be attractive. Attractiveness is a natural aphrodisiac and often a social lubricant as well. A strategy like make-up free, is just another paradigm for women to try to be attractive within. And there’s a huge market for skin products and anti-aging devices cashing in on this need, which Germaine Greer speaks about in her article. But it was this paragraph, that I think that brought up a much more interesting issue:

At an event in Amsterdam recently, I was ordered by a woman on the stage to take the hand of the woman next to me, who happened to be 76-year-old Hedy d’Ancona, and tell her she was beautiful. This would be more conducive to her self-esteem, apparently, than reminding her that, having served as a minister under two Dutch governments, as a member of the European Parliament, and as chairman of Dutch Oxfam, she was immensely distinguished and I was honoured to be sitting next to her.

Even though women are in the workforce, and have achieved great things in their own right, we are still being told that women are only to be valued for their appearance. I read a blog post, quite a while ago now, which spoke about the importance of complimenting little girls on more than their appearance. On refraining from immediately telling them how beautiful they are in favor of finding out about their interests or complimenting their intelligence or achievements. I think this is an amazingly important thing, because women are much more than their looks, and we should begin acknowledging that as early as possible. Though I don’t necessarily agree that never complimenting girls or women on their looks is the best answer. Genuine compliments aren’t necessarily a bad thing, a young girl that’s never told they look nice is probably just as at risk of developing anxiety, as a girl who only hears comments about her looks. It would be nice to hear that people can find a balance, and frankly, give compliments when you genuinely mean them. If someone can’t sing, don’t tell them they have an amazing voice. If they do, tell them. But help people find the value of themselves, within themselves, rather than through external sources.

And speaking of external sources, Annie Stevens article talks about the effect of male gaze on women’s self-perceptions. Women strive to meet the ‘beauty’ ideals of their own culture, this has been well documented throughout history. Foot-binding in Asian cultures, corsets in Western history, breast surgery in modern times, and of course, the illusive ‘ideal weight’ are all examples of societal pressures and often regulations molding women’s bodies to be ‘attractive’. This, Annie argues, is not exclusively the fault of men, but is exacerbated by the ‘norm’ that the male gaze is important in determining attractiveness.

Now, I don’t think this is entirely fair. Again, just as wanting to be attractive is natural, so too, wanting to attract the opposite sex is natural. I think the problem is actually more the homogenization of what is considered ‘attractive’ that is causing so much stress and anxiety among men and women. Women expect men to want the images of women that society and the media are pushing onto us as ‘desirable’ and men feel that those are the types of bodies that they should want.

I must admit though, on a personal level, I can’t relate to the women that ask their partner’s whether they look fat. Partly because we all know the expected response, and most men aren’t suicidal enough to vary from it. But also because, I’ve never asked my partner this question, I see no point, it’s a fact that I am. I’m more concerned with such questions as, ‘do you think I look pretty’ which admittedly, make me feel better and again he’s not likely to say no. But I’m not asking whether I look pretty in general, compared to other women or expected norms. I want to know if he thinks I’m pretty. Because I want to be attractive to him, because he’s my mate.

Ideally, everyone should feel comfortable with who they are, and how they look. Realistically, as humans we will always look to others as part of our measure of attractiveness. The main thing should be an acceptance that everybody is different. And that what one person finds attractive is often going to be different to another. Most people probably wouldn’t find me attractive, but that doesn’t matter. I found someone that likes the way I look, but more importantly, loves who I am, and would love me if I was always this weight, or if I lost weight and because more “acceptable” in social terms. Surely these are the things that really matter.

Now, some of the more serious reading.

An article on rape culture “Your vagina is not a car” also by Clementine Ford <www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/your-vagina-is-not-a-car-20121022-28102.html> is essentially a resistance to the victim blaming we continue to see in regards to rape. The propensity of well-meaning people to suggest that women should be more careful in their dress and behavior because their vagina is just some ‘thing’ that is open to violation is insulting. It should be reasonable for people to go about their day’s and their business without coming to harm, and especially not harm of such a horrific nature as rape. And the recent examples of people blaming victims for ‘asking for it’ or ‘well, look at how she was dressed’ is disgusting. People, men or women, who rape. And yes, women can rape, maybe not as often, and certainly not according to the law, but they can. So, people who rape choose to do so, and they should be punished accordingly. There is no excuse. However, I find a deeper question here, is why. Why are we hearing more about rapes occurring, and why does it seem to be okay to excuse rapists for their actions?

Are women becoming more objectified than ever before? Do rapists feel more able to rape, or more entitled to rape? Is the legal system too lenient on offenders that are caught? Are women valuing their own safety less? Or is it that they are not being empowered to protect themselves? I feel like there is something underlying this problem that is much more systematic than “well young girls are dressing like sluts”. Women could walk around naked without fear of rape if society made rape the unforgivable crime that it is.

After reading about all these thoughts and issues, I find that as usual I just wish people could simply accept others for who they are. To appreciate that some people are tall, some are fat, some are more naturally attractive; we have different races, genders, backgrounds, religions; and that’s ok. Seriously. It’s ok. We are allowed to be different. And just because someone fits into a particular ‘group’ doesn’t make that who they are. I know it’s not natural, but I think it’s time that humanity matured enough to judge people based on their individual traits and actions, rather than broad strokes of stereotypical nonsense. And to accept that everyone has something to give.

Fat

Okay, this isn’t an easy topic for me to talk about. But, it’s about time I tried to work through some of it.

I’m fat. And I’m not proud of it. Now I don’t mean the type of fat where you go “ohh I’m so fat” and everyone looks at you like you’re crazy; but neither am I can’t-get-out-of-my-front-door fat.

And I’m finding recently, that as much as I want to lose weight. To feel acceptable to society. To feel acceptable to myself. Every time I try there’s this mental roadblock that I can’t get past.

I’m not worth it. Just about everything I’ve ever experienced tells me I’m not worth it.

The media tells me that I’m part of an epidemic, that I should lose weight because I’m going to die of a heart attack or diabetes, because I’m costing taxpayers with my unhealthy ways. It tells me that I’m lazy, ugly and disgusting, and that I’m a failure for continuing to look the way I do. I’m bombarded with images of women that succeeded and it was easy so it should be easy for me too. And sometimes I’m told that curves are fine, because Beyonce is “bootylicious” as though she has any fat on her body. Yet apparently she’s a hero of plus sized women because she’s not some stick of a model. WTF

As an aside, I am reasonably healthy and rarely have to go to the doctors. The only thing that I have to worry about which is probably because of my weight is high cholesterol, and fat people aren’t the only ones that get that either. But I don’t have high blood pressure, and despite several tests, I have no signs of diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Then there’s the commercial market. A place where I’m often shunned and embarrassed to go because most places won’t cater to people like me. Now that’s their right. But when I can’t get nice clothes, I’m reminded that I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough to wear something that makes me feel good about myself. And if I find clothes that are nice, they are so expensive I can’t afford them anyway. And, on the odd occasion that I feel like having take away food, I get to feel the judgement of anyone around as they look at me like “what are you doing here fatty, aren’t fat enough already, greedy pig”. While the thin person beside me doesn’t even get a second glance. Apparently they have earned the right to eat what they want, unhealthy or not.

And unfortunately, there’s always a personal side to these things. The place where nothing I did was ever good enough for my mother. Where the few years I actually was skinny my step-father tainted with his unwanted attentions. I’m sure a 13 year old understands that when the man who professes to be the closest thing to a father she has tries to cop a feel it’s because he’s a sick perverted man, and that it’s not her fault. Strangely enough, when combined with constant verbal and emotional abuse, no she didn’t. It’s taken about this long to even fully appreciate what happened all those years ago.

So, when I think about what it would be like if I lost weight, while there’s a feeling of hope, there’s also a paralyzing fear that comes over me. The fear that if I became what society wanted me to be, if I became “desirable” then maybe once again I would be subjected to attentions far from anything I could possibly want.

Maybe to most people it seems like a simple equation. Eat well + exercise = lose weight. And sure, biologically that’s how it works. The problem is, how to get past the psychological issues that cloud your judgement? How to feel the motivation to look after yourself when you don’t feel worthy of being looked after?

Is it really fair to judge people on their weight, when you have no idea what gets them there? And what keeps them there.

Is Stupidity on the Rise?

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You might assume that given the steady rise of undulating masses of humanity around the world that stupidity is a likely accompaniment. Yet, outside of this population boom my question remains, is stupidity on the rise? Are we becoming less critical in our consumerism, more skeptical of science, or simply thinking less in an age where we prefer to be busy than happy?

Recently, watching ‘The Vaccine War’ on SBS, I was struck by the amount of people with such strong and completely illogical convictions. Granted, it is a situation with children, where most are likely to be overcome by their emotions than their logic, but is that really enough to believe that you are right regardless of the evidence of science. And in some cases regardless of having not actually considered what you’re arguing properly. One woman – strongly against vaccination – claimed that, among numerous other scientifically unfounded reasons, there were no cases of certain diseases left in America, so surely there was no need to vaccinate against them….

Anyone spotted a problem yet?

You’re right! America isn’t the only country in the world and people with diseases could bring them into that population. While I feel sympathy for the children of individuals like this one, there is a small part of me that feels it would be deserved for their children to contract one of these diseases as a result of their complacency. Natural Selection as it’s finest. Especially when, although they won’t admit it, these parents are putting others at risk. If their child gets a disease, they could easily pass it on to other vulnerable individuals in the populations, like newborns that can’t be vaccinated. And do you really want to punish parents who aren’t stupid enough to succumb to baseless fear-mongering of anti-vaccination groups and do want to vaccinate their child? Do those parents deserve to have a sick, or dead baby because it was “YOUR RIGHT” to risk your child’s life?

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To move onto another topic, there was also a recent edition of ‘Insight’ on SBS (it seems like this is my new favourite channel) about Gay Marriage. Now, I certainly have my own views on the issue already, and I’m also aware of much of the atrocious discrimination that this group still endures. And, while I’ve been grappling with the relevance of this, I’m not gay myself, though I have many loved ones that are.

Frankly, though, in watching this show, I was appalled and disgusted at the blatant ignorance shown by some of the guests. For example, the contention of a couple of people that children are somehow disadvantaged by having same-sex parents, disguised in the argument that children have a right to a mother and a father. Now, this can easily be argued in a number of ways. Firstly, that children of same-sex parents are disadvantaged in some way – an old assumption and one which has been continually disproved by scientific studies. Children of same-sex couples have been consistently shown to perform as well or better than other children. Secondly, there’s an assumption that heterosexual parents are synonymous with good parents, which is completely ridiculous. And finally, in saying that children have a right to a mother and a father is an issue that is much larger than sexuality on it’s own. Many children are created now through sperm donations or surrogate pregnancies which aren’t necessarily going to infertile couples. The ‘right’ of children to know these ‘parents’ has been questioned, and many seem to feel that the ‘rights’ of the donors in these situations is unimportant compared to children ‘needing’ to know a person that contributed to their genetics while wanting no part in their upbringing. Seems like a situation fraught with disaster to me. Especially if the children are looking for a meaningful, family connection. And even regardless of these situations, the number of single parents is large and doesn’t seem to be about to change anytime soon. Now, in my humble opinion, children have a right to a safe, loving family. Whether that family consists of same-sex parents, heterosexual parents, grandparents, extended family, or single parents is irrelevant. What children need is love, care, compassion and guidance to grow into successful, happy adults.

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My main point here, in terms of stupidity, is this – you don’t have to like homosexuality, or gay marriage. But you do need to acknowledge that they are you’re OPINIONS, trying to act like what you’re saying is intelligent, or in any way supported by science or fact makes you look stupid, it makes you sound stupid, and doesn’t make me want to listen to anything else you’re saying.

Now, I’m sure I could go through inane examples of everyday stupidity, but really, we all see these. There’s no reason to go through it. What frustrates me, is when people are so stupid they believe they’re intelligent, and then try to peddle their stupidity to others whose intellectual capacity is not such that they can see through the bullshit. We have the ability now, more than ever before, to test opinions and find truths in a reasonably reliable way. Maybe we need to use it. Maybe we need to start thinking critically about these things; including science; instead of blindly believing what we’re told, or giving in to fear and prejudice.

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