October 13, 2014
This post is pretty over due. Hell, I’ve got lots of posts in my head which are overdue being written. But I promised myself to get this one out. It’s been out there as a Facebook post for a while and I just wanted to document the event here on the blog as well. Now that I’ve built that up ridiculously, here goes.
Some weeks ago we were on a road trip and in a city in Aotearoa New Zealand that we are not often in. There were six of us. My mother (Grandma), my cousin, my partner and our two kids.
For those who don’t know, we have two daughters. They are 8 and soon-to-be 7. Wide-eyed, confident and adventurous creatures.
Out for dinner one night, we were in a restaurant that was busy and full of people. The kind of room that is big and full of tables with servers bustling to and fro. We settled in with a full order of food and some wine on the way (for the adults, not the kids).
Proudly, the 8 year old felt able to go the bathroom by herself. We could see the door from where we were so we knew she couldn’t get lost. Off she trotted, returning a few minutes later, slipping silently back to her chair. And dinner continued.
A few minutes later she announced that there had been a man in the bathroom. ‘What do you mean?’ we asked mildly (but my heart started pounding). ‘When I came out of the stalls,’ she said, ‘a man was in there’. We asked a few more questions, to try to ascertain if he had posed a threat in anyway. When she said that he seemed confused and didn’t do/say anything, we praised her for telling us and then, almost brushed it off. In fact, if I’m honest, there was a strong urge to do just that, to minimise. ‘He probably just made a mistake’, I heard us saying.
And maybe that would have been fine. Maybe brushing it off after hearing the story would have been ok and we would have not paid it any further thought. She seemed ok.
But I think what happened next was better. At first she was ok, but then she wasn’t. She said she felt ‘uncomfortable’ and we could tell she was unnerved. We asked her what she wanted us to do and if she could remember what the man looked like and she described him to us. We agreed that I would speak with the manager.
I approached the manager not sure what to expect. I knew it was important to tell him what had happened. Not because I expected him to do anything to be honest, but because I wanted our daughters to see that we believed her and that we would take action. I approached him almost tentatively and I told him what happened, that she felt uncomfortable and, almost apologetically, that it’s important the girls see that they can tell and that they’ll be believed. I had a horrible feeling he was going to brush us off or dismiss us completely. This is what I expected, but he did the opposite.
He immediately sent a female employee into the women’s bathroom to check it out and then he approached our table and gently asked us if our daughter would be able to describe the man, which she did. He thanked her directly and later came back with a gift for her and her sister and thanked her again for saying something.
He really seemed to get it. He got that it’s important to listen, to believe and to take action. He got that even a little short scrawny kid’s feelings of discomfort matter. He spoke to her directly and kindly and seriously. He reassured her that she had done a brave thing by speaking up.
I got a little emotional if I’m honest. I often feel brutally aware of how vulnerable children are and as a parent, I am sure I’m not alone when I feel like I sometimes see dangers in the shadow, even though my rational mind knows that most people and places are good and safe. But I’m no fool too. I know the stats. And while this may have been a small incident in concrete terms, this event was hugely symbolic and instructive.
Kids, especially girls, get many messages as they grow up that their experiences and feelings are not as important as those of adults. This undermines their confidence and their ability to speak up for themselves and their needs, to give voice to their concerns and fears. And while my parenting is far from perfect, I think the way we handled this situation was pretty spot on. Our hope, is that by us and the manager, listening and believing and taking action, she and her sister have learned that if something feels wrong, they should trust their gut, that if they speak up, they’ll be believed. In short, that they, their privacy and their feelings matter.
She continued to feel unnerved and wanted to sleep with us that night instead of her own room. We supported her need for security and now the incident seems to be forgotten.
While it wasn’t nice that our daughter felt uncomfortable, we couldn’t have been happier with the way the restaurant manger reacted.
June 28, 2014
Sometime ago we bought our kid a toy cat. From the tip shop.
It was in perfect condition and ‘Kitty’ soon became her most favourite toy. A frequently chosen item to bring to school.
And then she disappeared…..
You know how it is, it takes a day or two to notice, then you look in all the usual places, to no avail.
Kadie would cry, often at bedtime. Once I suggested that Kitty might be having adventures, Kadie reminded me that she was only a toy and couldn’t move.
I wasn’t planning on making a replacement, but then I saw some leftover pieces of faux black fur at the local fabric shop. For just six bucks! So no harm in trying I thought.
I jumped on Pinterest and found a suitable tutorial. Here is a link. (Have I mentioned how much I love the internet?)
So I waited for Kadie to be in bed and started. It took me roughly four hours. (A great opportunity to listen to my current audiobook). The kitchen floor slowly became covered in soft fluff. The head was the hardest part, it’s shape wasn’t very well defined, but you can form it a bit with some strategic stitching.
Overall I was pretty please with the outcome. It’s not floppy the way I thought it would be, but that’s probably a function of how thick the fur is and how full you stuff it.
Kadie just loves it.
Totally worth it.
June 18, 2014
I attended the celebration of Pat Rosier’s life today.
I wish I had known her better. My kids asked me why I went if I didn’t know her very well. And this blog is inspired by my response to them.
I went because I wanted to show my respect for Pat and for her partner Prue Hyman. Both woman I owe my thanks to for influencing my development as a feminist and for introducing me to many more wonderful women. I went because I wanted to show support, to put my arms around the people I knew who would be hurting. To show up. To connect.
Pat was a long-term editor of Broadsheet, which inspired Muse Feminist Magazine which was an important part of my life for five years. Prue ably provided leadership to the Women’s Studies Association (WSA) of which I was a member for several years and where I gave my first proper conference presentation.
Through Muse and the WSA I met many of the people I still hold dear and who ultimately linked me to the Wellington Rape Crisis Governance Group, where I have served for the last number of years. Pat’s book Workwise: a guide to managing workplace relationships (2001) was also formative reading.
The celebration was amazing. So many amazing people paid such incredibly eloquent tributes. I spent a lot of the time looking around the room, absorbing the vibe of the many strong personalities and presences. I reconnected with some people I hadn’t seen in ages, and others I had seen recently but never knew I had this connection with.
Prue amazed us all, a mighty force of strength intertwined with such honest vulnerability, recounting stories galore and heart-felt messages that arrived from all around the world. Anyone who didn’t know Pat well would have left feeling like our knowledge of her had expanded tremendously and those who did know Pat well would likely have left feeling full to the brim of love for her and the community who had gathered.
Pat’s influence as a staunch, yet kind feminist and lesbian will live on. Looking around the room I was so very very conscious of the battles so many of the women there had fought for rights which people like me take for granted. The feminist and lesbian movement in Aotearoa was strongly influenced and shaped by the actions and fights of many of the women in that room.
As women we are born to be warriors, and feminism is the flaming baton that is handed from one woman to another. That baton becomes a means of protection and of source of light, when the world seems dark and frightening.
While Pat’s light is no more, today’s gathering was evidence that she has passed a flame on to so many people. There were candles being lit all around the world in Pat’s memory, so many lights around the world, coalescing to honor her and which will continue to light our way, and the way of generations of women to come.
You can read Pat’s blog here.
June 15, 2014
Today I was having a mid-afternoon snuggle with my wide-eyed, smiling 6-year old and she gazed and me and said: “Mummy, sometimes I think I was supposed to be born to you.”
“Yes, darling,” I said. “I think that is what love feels like”
June 9, 2014
June 8, 2014
Sewing (with fabric) is a hobby, yes indeed. But it’s an accepted fact that collecting fabric, is a whole other hobby. They are mildly related, but not completely.
I’ve got a mound of fabric which I’m determined to make smaller.
Some of it is large useable pieces, but some of it is just leftovers.
So I made a couple of things and I will keep making things until I wrestle that pile into submission!
This item was inspired by this.
I say inspired because I’ve yet to meet a furry octopus! I made for a friend who reads a very much a lot.
This scarf was based on this tutorial. I just love this eastern fabric with it’s lavish reds and golds.
Next time I’ll follow her suggestion of tapering the ends and I think I’ll stretch the fleece a little less. But I think I’ll try this one a few more times.
It’s a fun way to make a functional accessory in a variety of colours. Plus I’m sure they’ll go down well as Xmas presents in the northern hemisphere!
June 8, 2014
I’ve had so many thoughts and emotions about the recent shooting by Elliot Rodger.
I feel really really emotional about this rampage (teary even now). I just feel so beaten down by the constant onslaught of the violence against women. There is a voice in the back of my head that keeps thinking; that could have been me.
I’ve had to turn a man’s advances down numerous times because he couldn’t take no for an answer and I was worried. I’ve had men I’ve turned down become mean and aggressive. I, and many people, have experienced fear due to the actions of a man.
Yes, I’ve felt fear. And today I am feeling very lucky that none of those situations escalated like so many have.
I’m so tired of the media portraying women as trophies, wallpaper, servants, eye-candy, trash.
I’m tired of men treating us like we OWE them something or even like they OWN us.
We are not objects.
We are people who have the same rights to careers, to family, to choice, to bodily autonomy, to safety, to play, to sex, to pursue our dreams and live without the fear that pursuing our chosen pursuits will endanger us.
And the sadness is made worse by the death of Maya Angelou. Her proud and strong feminist voice will be missed.
May 8, 2014
The dangers of metaphor
(I wrote this ages ago for Muse Feminist Magazine that has sadly come to an end, so I thought I would publish it here)
You’ve probably heard this phrase before; ‘love will conquer all’. How about this one; ‘love will set you free’? Ever heard these; ‘The power of love’, ‘All you need is love’, ‘How deep is your love’, ‘I believe in a thing called love’ or ‘is your love strong enough’? We frequently hear these messages of how powerful love is, how it can move mountains, save people and that, basically, it’s what the world needs now., NOW.
Love, we are led to believe is all you need in a relationship. Love is often prioritized over loyalty, reason, financial security and friendship. Movies taught us that. But not any love will do. It has to mad, deep, crazy, careless love. Love so strong we just can’t help ourselves, we have to follow our hearts and forsake logic and law in its pursuit. Or so Hollywood would have us believe.
We’ve become so enamored in these unrealistic stories of love and the apparent miracles that it can perform, that we are in danger of confusing Hollywood for real life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who subconsciously comparing my life to Hollywood to the point where I wonder what my soundtrack would be. (Like right now, sitting here, perhaps some Lily Allen?) Books and films lean heavily on metaphors to tell stories, which are entertaining sure, but also unrealistic and unachievable. Now I like to be entertained like most of you probably do as well. I enjoy suspending my belief in reality on a regular basis. Good old escapism, right?
I believe that we are being fed a huge amount of metaphor which dangerously links abusive behaviour to psychological ‘hurdles’, which are to be ‘overcome’ by love. I’ll illustrate with the following example.
I recently dug out my old copy of Phantom of the Opera (1986) and started listening to it again. It brought back many memories of being a kid, listening to my parent’s tapes and reading the full lyrics of the show. When I was 17, I was lucky enough to see the production on Broadway. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. But as I was re-listening to it recently with my own kids, a sense of discomfort settled in my belly. I heard it through different ears. This classic tale, full of metaphor, revealed itself for what it really is; a sinister tale of control and abuse.*
The story is based on the idea that the Phantom has multiple layers to his personality. First, his mask functions as his public face representing the creative genius with a debonair personality. The second layer is his private face, a monster symbolised by his disfiguration, who is capable of horrific acts. The third layer is the internal face, the young boy, the vulnerable child who is lost and alone.
In the story, Christine removes the mask to reveal the ‘monster’ and later she kisses him, symbolically accepting him, despite all the horror, recognising the vulnerable boy underneath the scarred face. The phantom is moved and releases her. Despite the fact that the phantom is a murderer, abusive, controlling, jealous and violent, she ‘accepts him’ which then ultimately ‘saves’ him.
I recall one of my own experiences, a very jealous boyfriend, who got so very angry when I, wait for it, sat next to other boys. He would drive dangerously, putting himself at risk to frighten me. He would take back and destroy gifts he had given me. And I thought this was just because he loved me so much. And I would feel guilty, that it was my fault for him losing his control. Maybe if I accepted this ‘monster’ the vulnerable boy underneath would feel loved and safe and would prevail.
So you seek folks, as long as we love our monsters enough, we can set them free. But this creepy outcome is not how things go in real life. In real life, when women try to leave their abusers, they are more at risk. In real life, when men exhibit such controlling behaviour no amount of ‘accepting them’ and ‘loving them’ will change things.
My experiences were very mild compared to some. I’m still here to tell the tale.
Unfortunately, so very many women are not.
* I’m sure this comes as no surprise to most of you but (surprisingly) it surprised me. I had just absorbed this story and it had become ‘background’. Suddenly listening to it fresh was actually quite chilling.