Those of you who don’t live in the UK might not have heard of Nigel Farage. Lucky you!
Farage was and maybe still is the leader of the UK Independence Party, dedicated to taking Britain back to the good old days, when men were men and women knew their place – barefoot and pregnant.
Nige is Yesterday’s Man – one who wants to turn the tide of history back to when the UK was white, racist, misogynist and homophobic. You know, like “Make America Great” again is a euphemism for a US where women knew their place, white supremacy was the rule, blacks were kept separated or lynched and homosexuals could be persecuted, beaten up or murdered with impunity.
So Little Nige, at present being a complete sycophant to and cheerleader for the serial sex criminal, Donald Trump, has popped up in Trump’s defence, after vulgar comments made by the man in 2005 surfaced publicly, to say:
“Look, this is alpha male boasting. It’s the kind of thing, if we are being honest, that men do. They sit around and have a drink and they talk like this”.
Firstly, I’ve got far more faith in most men that they’re better than Nige’s demeaning idea of what most men are like. But if these are the sort of men that Nige does associate with, it just show him up as a creep of the first water. The crap that Little Nige peddled today says more about him as a throwback to times past when men could pound their chest, women were supposed to gaze adoringly up at their heroes, domestic violence was fine, abortion was illegal, and single women were sent to Coventry if they fell pregnant or they were forced to give their kids up for adoption.
Little Nige is perpetuating the myth of the locker room, boys will be boys, lad culture and all the other euphemisms which boil down to one thing: the idolatry, justification and perpetuation of rape culture. Because “alpha male boasting” isn’t a joke: it’s about rape, sexual assault, the victimisation of women, and the reduction of women to sex objects without any rights in relation to matters of sexual assault and rape.
You can see this when frat rape surfaces in the US, the woman raped is portrayed as a slut while the media and courts worry about the future of these wonderful athletes. It can be seen when a young guy rapes a woman behind dustbins, gets caught in the act, is rich and gets six months in jail even after he’s caught lying about his history of alcohol abuse.In the UK, a woman who was raped by a footballer was vilified and victimised, while the footballer – a jock – was supported and idolised by women, for god’s sake.
And so it goes on – you could list pages of these sorts of assaults where the perpetrator is portrayed as a hero while the women raped ends up getting doubly victimised by being portrayed as the seducer and the scarlet woman.
So I’m afraid when Yesterday’s Man, Nigel Farage, starts downplaying the truly disgusting comments by Donald Trump and continues to support a serial sex offender, he disqualifies himself to be a leader of any political party and to be regarded with any kind of respect. He’s a true Yesterday’s Man: irrelevant and past his use-by date.
Many years ago, in the early 1970s when I was an organiser for the Australian Union of Students, I had to take a couple of Palestinian students around campuses in Western Australia to talk about the Palestinian position in the Middle East.
In one forum, a young guy yelled out that no-one would want to rape a Palestinian woman in response to a comment about rape. I walked over to him, grabbed him by both ears, yanked his head forward and said: “If you make a similar comment again, I’ll rip your fucking head off”. He shut up. I might point out that I would have had a similar reaction if such a comment had been made about a Jewish woman. I don’t like racism or anti-semitism.
The next day a group of Zionist students cornered me in my office – and I use the term “cornered” as they filled the room and blocked the exit. Their leader told me they were disgusted by my bad language (okay to talk about rape but not swear apparently which says a lot about their attitude to women) which no lady would use. I pointed out to them that I wasn’t a lady which really took the wind out of their sails, much to my surprise. One of them said: “I never though the day would come when I’d hear a woman say she wasn’t a lady” and then they all slunk out of the room.
I’m making this point because yesterday I read a comment of Paul Ryan’s that “women are to be championed and revered”. Really? What a load of old baloney. Women can stand on their own two feet, thank you very much, Paul. We don’t need to be revered. We’re quite capable of being our own champions.
We need to be regarded as equals, supported in our choices, in our dignity, in equal opportunity, in young women not having to fear sexual assault or rape and then find themselves victimised as a slut when the guys who have raped her are considered jocks who’ve got their whole future ahead of them.
Women don’t need such condescending shit from a man who still hasn’t withdrawn his support from Trump. Criticising this serial sex offender and withdrawing an invitation to this disgusting guy isn’t good enough, it’s having two bob each way. But then when you look at Ryan’s record, you find out what a hypocritical slug the man is when he talks of championing and revering women:
Putting women on a pedestal, calling them ladies is, for misogynists like Ryan, a way of controlling and infantalising women, taking away their power and spruiking their need to be dependent on men who will take care of them, as if women were pathetic little creatures unable to survive on their own. “Lady” is a control mechanism to ensure you wear the “right” clothes, don’t cuss, play little, let men think they’re wonderful when you pretend to be dim and powerless, and make you feel guilty if you cross the sacred line between “lady” and “woman”.
So Ryan can take his championship and reverence of women and stick them where the sun don’t shine. Because he’s a hypocrite, a coward too afraid to disown Trump and his sick rape culture, and an enemy of women’s rights and women’s independence. He’s a hypocritical piece of shit who deserves contempt and disdain from all women who have too much pride and self-esteem to be suckered by this moronic, misogynist creep.
In the furore about the vulgar, crude comments by Donald Trump in 2005 about sexual assault of women whenever he feels like it (and sexual assault is the correct name for his godawful conduct), comments which were made just after Trump married for the second time, having divorced his first wife after having an affair with his now new wife (and later dumping her for another trophy wife, Melania Trump, I have to ask – why are people so surprised?
This disgusting behaviour matches his record of misogyny and serial philandering let alone all the other dreadful, insulting comments he’s made about black people, Mexicans, Muslim people, prisoners of war, immigrants, veterans suffering from PTSD, a Gold Star family daring to criticise him, dithering over the use of nuclear weapons and so much more.
But let’s be honest – he’s not alone in his demeaning and disgusting attitude towards women. He’s the end result of Republican male office-bearers repeatedly behaving like complete shits towards women – legitimising rape; legitimising pregnancy through rape by refusing abortions; introducing or trying to introduce legislation to control women’s reproductive rights; treating women like mindless bimbos.
Trump is the spawn of the underlying racist undermining of the first black president, Barack Obama, since he was first elected to office. Republicans Federally and at State level have treated the president with a contempt which is unprecedented, fanning the flames of bigotry and racism which Trump is simply echoing. None of them stood up to Trump with his birthing crap, simply endorsed it by not saying anything. The Republicans have well and truly shot themselves in the foot – a bunch of selfish, Establishment-serving losers.
And so many of those Republican gutless cowards criticise Trump’s comments but don’t have the moral strength to withdraw their endorsement of him. Thank god some Republican leaders believe he’s crossed a bridge too far and refuse to align themselves with this sorry excuse of a human being.
But also I’ve been reading responses by women which brush aside his misogyny, make the argument that it was so long ago and can’t the media find anything else to say about him.
I do have to say that I find it unfuckingbelievable that any woman worth her salt would demean herself by still aligning with someone who isn’t a joke, he’s an absolutely monstrous, excuse for a human being – a greedy, rapacious, sexist, vapid, cruel, horrible, stupid bully and thug.
I’m simply no longer staying quiet because, while I believe in the strength of the sisterhood, I’m going to call out women who sell themselves right down the drain when they back a woman-hating thug like Trump because they sell out the cause of all women when they choose to belittle themselves before such a disgusting woman-hating man.
Trumpettes, the rapaious right-wing harpy Ann Coulter and other women still slobbering over Trump:
- Where the hell is your pride?
- Where’s your self-esteem?
- Where’s your self-respect?
- Where did the wild you were born with go?
- How did your wild get so hopelessly lost?
- How did you get domesticated and so tamed that you’d vote for a woman-hating thug?
- Where’s your inner strong-armed woman?
- WHERE’S YOUR FIRE, FOR GOD’S SAKE?
When I was in my first year at university, I went out with a student from Nigeria, Debo was his name. He was a nice guy, I enjoyed his company but I was well aware that, when we had a coffee in Bradford, we were looked at askance as a white girl with a black bloke. My mum went off her rocker when she found out I was going out with a Nigerian, but my dad intervened and told me to go out with whom I liked as long as the guy was a nice person. Colour, he said, didn’t come into it and that’s been my mantra ever since. It’s not your colour, creed, sexuality, height, weight or whatever – it’s what’s in your heart that counts.
As it happened, I ditched Debo shortly afterwards, not because of his colour but because he started talking about marriage and that frightened the life out of me. I’d dumped another very nice guy just before I went to university because he too started banging on about marriage which sent me haring in the opposite direction. I regret not telling my Nigerian boyfriend why I dumped him without explanation but I was a naive kid who was a virgin, had no idea about contraception, worried about his invitation back to his flat and likely sex, so I just fled the scene, so to speak.
Knowing myself through astrology now, I realise it’s because I have a lot of Aquarian in me and I don’t like being tied down or doing conventional things. In fact, it took 27 years living with my partner before I finally felt comfortable getting to the altar!
But looking back, it’s made me very glad about the luck of the draw when I was came into this world: I was born white (conventional colour) in England (safe country) and had parents who supported me in my schooling and encouraged me to go to university. I didn’t – and don’t – face discrimination because of my colour, I don’t face persecution because of my religious choices (none, by the way, if you’re interested) and I don’t get hate mail because I’m happily heterosexually married. I don’t get the heck bombed out of my home and country because I – luckily – don’t happen to live in a Middle Eastern country with oil and other resources.
Which is a roundabout way of returning to my previous post about “Make Britain/America Great/Safe Again”. Because the unspoken call behind this phrase is also for far too many “Make Britain/America white again.” Oh, and don’t let’s forget – make it okay for us to wage more Vietnam and Iraq wars so we can live in comfort with the resources we’re ripped out of other countries and turn a blind eye to the carnage we left behind.
It’s the elephant in the room, the racism (and imperialist hankerings) which all too often is the underlying message of those who want their country to go back to times past when men were white men, women were white women, the picket fence ruled supreme, kids behaved and everything was wonderful in a past viewed with rose-coloured glasses. You didn’t have social media so you didn’t have to view the godawful scenes of bombing people overseas, seeing kids shredded, buildings flattened, lives shattered by foreign (US/British & European) invasions and interventions. I am, by the way, referring only to the US, Britain and Europe because I’m focusing on white societies hankering for the past.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a President of the US treated with us much contempt and disrespect as Barack Obama. The Republicans – who use dog-whistling on racism at the drop of a hat – made the decision to undermine Obama at every opportunity. Too many claim they don’t like the current president’s policies when the fundamental problem is racism – a black man is in the White House and we (white people) want our (White) House back.
It was actually brought home to me just how much society has changed – for my mind, for the better – when I was watching the British police series, George Gently. Set in the 1960s, it tackles the discrimination that used to exist against homosexuals, black people, single mothers and other social mores of the time. It’s always excellent but it’s a reminder that things in the past were okay if you were white, but not if you were black, Irish, Jewish, single mother, poor, unemployed and so on.
Same in the US. What is going to make America great again? Lynchings of black people? Separate facilities for black and white people? Jim Crow? Discrimination against Native Americans? Sexual harassment unchecked? No protection for rape victims? Women dying from backyard abortions due to limited abortion services? Date rape? No problems. Domestic violence? Ladies, just grin and bear it. Bashing and trying to smash unions and undermine workers’ collective solidarity? And so on and so on.
In Australia, when women married they had to quit public service jobs. The treatment of Aboriginal people was appalling (not much better now). Single mums were in deep doggy-doo. Domestic violence was a taboo subject and too many women had to grin and bear the abuse. Paedophilia in the Catholic Church (and elsewhere) was swept under the carpet. So yes, it was okay for white men and less so for white women. But definitely not too crash-hot if you were black, Asian, a new migrant, and so on and so on.
Quite frankly I get fed up with the Love the Past Tribes. Society is about change and you can’t go back, nor should we want to go back to a white-washed path. It smacks of fear and cowardice.
Cowering behind the white picket line is playing little.
Get on your feet.
Face the future with courage. Accept that the rest of the world is fed up with the interference of white Western nations. Let’s sort out our own backyards – stop wasting money on wars and armaments, feed the poor, provide decent housing, education and health, pay living wages so people can live with dignity, build good quality infrastructure, stand up for legal rights and respectful treatment of all people but particularly those facing discrimination – black, LGBT people, Jewish people, Asian people, Hispanic people, Islamic people.
Have the guts to open your heart to people who aren’t like you if you’re white and heterosexual – because mixing with people of different colour, race, sexuality or religion enriches your life, widens your horizons and opens you to the power of loving humanity as a whole not just one tiny part which happens to be white.
As you can see, I’ve been fiddling with the site name again, basically because the one I used previously was really long and over the top. I decided to shorten it to “Warrior Woman” because someone commented on a post in Facebook and said they didn’t know my politics but liked my descriptive passion. This is what I said:
“Having seen the new ad by Nigel Farage, all I can say is that the man is a disgusting racist, using fear to promote his Brexit campaign, amid echos of Nazi propaganda about Jews, gypsies, the handicapped, trade union leaders. Farage is unfit for purpose and time those who oppose his disgusting policies stood up to oppose this smirking ratbag. Having seen those lined up for Brexit, I’m for Europe and staying in the EU. Playing little is no solution to problems with the EU, staying in, uniting with Greece, Portugal and Ireland to fight class war is far better than living on our knees under the disgraceful Farage and his cohorts.”
I sometimes dither about what I write but now I’ve decided I have to be and if I do rant on or preach, well, that’s who I am. I can’t be different to fit into someone’s mould of what a woman should be or write about or act. So I did decide, after reading the comment, that I like the idea of Warrior Woman, because I am passionate and militant and I don’t want to be associated with “ism’s” because they’re so limiting. And “politics” is just so divisive and creaking of old age. Surely we can do better!
Just to divert slightly, on July 2nd it will be the 20th anniversary since I broke my leg and ankle when I was living halfway up a mountain in south-east Queensland. I know the date as it was my father’s birthday. That date marked a complete break with my previous life where I’d been a member of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) for 18 years as well as being Vice-Chair for quite a few years. I was immobilised and I knew I could no longer look backwards, I had to look forward to a completely new approach to how I live. Now more than half my life has been spent as an artist, crystal worker, Tarot reader, lover of nature and photographer. Quite a turn around, which is probably a bit of an understatement!
Since then I’ve been involved in metaphysical areas because, over the years, I’ve had more examples of life after death than you can poke a stick at and there’s no way I could ever be an atheist. Nor, to return to the “ism” comment, do I ever want to be tied down again to a particular ideology which labels me as being of a particular political persuasion, bowing to majority opinion, because political structures these days are a hangover of patriarchal society. Politics seems to depend on who can debate best, who’s got the best charisma, who shouts loudest, how much money can be raised to buy elections, and how do you lie most efficiently to win an election which changes sod all basically.Oh, and don’t forget flogging armaments left, right and centre around the world regardless of the poor buggers getting blown to bits by those armaments.
But in this day and age, I don’t deny either that class war still exists – foisting the economic crisis of 2008 onto the backs of ordinary people under the guise of “austerity” while the billionaire bludgers get even more obscenely wealthy and the banks behind the crisis got off scot-free PLUS they were handed out billions in so-called “rescue” money.
We need to think of ways to organise against this horrible, horrible turning of the screws on so many sections of society to undermine the Establishment and set up alternative ways of running a compassionate, not a dog-eat-dog, society.
So I choose to be a freewheeling, feminist, independent, bugger-toeing-the-line warrior woman. My vision happens to be that I’m passionate about social justice and putting people before profits, building a society which is creative, encourages innovation, looks after people’s health and offers an education which encourages young people to be visionaries thinking outside the square.
That doesn’t mean I hate profits – it simply means that I happen to believe that people count and I think it’s bloody awful when shares go up after hundreds or thousands of people are sacked because the less money spent on providing people with a decent, living wage the more profits are made.
But I also happen to think that being in the Communist Party has some meaning in my life. Why was I there? What did I learn? How does it colour what I am today? Coupled with this is an involvement in the New Age movement, in fighting for peace, so how do the two mesh? Because I happen to believe they do mesh. Everything we do in life has some meaning and it’s up to us to sort it out and learn lessons from our experiences.
I don’t want to continue banging on today in this post, I’ll explain in more detail in my next post. But I do want to say that, coming to live in North Cyprus, where armed conflict waged until 1974, I’ve been forced to consider what peace, conflict and self-defence actually mean in practice, not just on paper And that’s it until my next post!
much of it wasted on wrong turns,
back roads riddled by ruts.
I had adventures
I never would have known
if I proceeded as the crow flies.
Super highways are so sure
of where they are going:
they arrive too soon. A straight line isn’t always
the shortest distance
between two people.
Sometimes I act as though
I’m heading somewhere else
I narrow the gap between you and me.
I’m not sure I’ll ever
know the right way, but I don’t mind
getting lost now and then.
Maps don’t know everything.
COCKROACH IN SCALES
The other morning
There was a cockroach,
A big black shiny one,
trapped in the face of
As it waved its feelers back
at my looming face
trying to see if I was
(but never just right),
I thought it made a lot
For I’m a lousy housewife:
dusting, sweeping, what a waste of
And I’m a hopeless dieter,
fat and thin by turns.
So the cockroach in my scales
reflected both failures
What a way to start the day!
Over the years my weight has fluctuated wildly from slim to fat, so much so that I’ve felt like a human accordion at times, going in and out at the speed of light. I can’t say I’ve been conscious of whether I’ve been slim or fat because, regardless of my size, I was never aware of gaining or losing weight (apart from buying different dress sizes!).
I know many of my weight issues have been emotional, but also I’ve done a lot of reading about diets, weight, BMI, etc., because when I was young the hysteria around obesity and low-fat diets just didn’t exist. I do know that my weight has exercised the minds of far more people than it has mine. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve heard people say: “But you don’t eat a lot” and realised they’ve been scrutinising what I eat which gets right up my nose. It’s no-one’s business but mine what I eat, keep your nose out of my plate! As I said in my previous post, I’m also aware that when I walk into a doctor’s surgery their eyes light up as they order tests for diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol and then look somewhat taken aback by results well in the healthy range.
I was also, decades ago, stupid enough to agree to go to a fat farm to lose weight when it was suggested by the organisation I worked for,and I really regret it. I lost 14 lbs in one week, with a mainly fruit juice diet, but of course, when I got back to the real world, the weight boomeranged back and then some. And it started me on a bit of a habit of fasting, then eating, and so on, which really has stuffed my body’s metabolism. I should have had the guts to tell them to poke their fat farm where the sun don’t shine, and that’s precisely what I would do today.
The day after I started working on this post – about weight and my mother’s death – I woke with excruciating sciatic pain in my hip and leg. It took until the next evening to realise that this was my physical response to approaching these subjects – matters of life and death which obviously have a great emotional and physical impact on me.
As soon as I twigged why the pain had exploded in my hip, it abated considerably. But I have been doing all sorts of odd jobs since then to avoid getting on with this post. So I have finally glued myself to my seat and here goes!
I weighed myself the night before I had the cast removed when I broke my leg and ankle in 1996 and then when I got home – 6lbs disappeared overnight, yeay! In the six weeks I’d been immobile, unbelievably I’d lost 14lbs, much to my surprise. It was as if the shock of the fall galvanised my body into detoxing all of its own accord.
From these comments and the intro you’ll probably guess that I have had some challenges with weight. And I’d probably be a weird woman if I hadn’t, given the obsession with thinness and fatness in today’s Western society.
In my childhood I was what you then called “chubby” but no-one banged on about weight and obesity as they do nowadays. In those days it was accepted that kids could be chubby but they’d lose this puppy fat once they hit puberty and started growing into adulthood.
The first time I became aware of perhaps being a bit weighty was when I stayed with my German penfriend in 1965. She was absolutely gorgeous and had a terrific, slim figure. Beside her I felt large and clumsy and I remember we each weighed ourselves but, as it was in kilograms, I had no idea what it meant. I do know that she and her mother exclaimed at my weight. When my cousin and his male friend visited us while they were in holiday in Germany, they only had eyes for my pen-friend and I felt fat, awkward and lonely. For the first time I became self-conscious about my figure.
I do know now that I ate because it was comfort food in a family where I felt on the outer. I closely associated food with being loved by my parents, particularly if my mum and I shared special food which Dad didn’t like, and we’d have this when he was doing overtime – mushrooms on toast (mushrooms were a luxury when I was a kid) and soft cod’s roe on toast (another luxury). I can also look back now and see that carrying extra weight was protective for me. My father was a bully, a control freak and he used to browbeat me if I voiced my own opinions. We’d go at it hammer and tongs until my mother would intervene to try to calm things down as she hated the discord.
At University I guess I remained somewhat podgy in my first year. I was in student accommodation and I used to drink a very hot cup of black coffee prior to meals in the refectory. The idea was to dampen my appetite but it wasn’t particularly successful, particularly if they dished up Queen of Puddings for dessert. It was my favourite and I’d eat my own portion as well as the portions of anyone who didn’t want their serving! I guess I really wasn’t overly bothered about my weight, just felt a sense of dissatisfaction which I never really pinned down.
The first time I really lost weight and became very slim was when I was working abroad during my third year at University. I was living in Stuttgart and started work at 7.30. We had a break around 8.30 and I’d get a roll with cold meat for breakfast. At lunchtime, we had a subsidised meal in the staff canteen but as very little of the food appealed to me, I had very small lunches. And in the evening, when I cooked for myself, I also didn’t eat much as it’s not much fun eating on your own.
I was, however, very happy at work as I made friends with a lovely Hungarian lady, Frau Kiss, a Hungarian refugee who’d settled in Stuttgart. She helped me in lots of little ways which made life more pleasant. Eventually I also met some really nice girls in the women’s hostel where I was living. When I first arrived in Stuttgart I lived in my own unit on the ground floor and it was quite lonely. Then I was moved to the basement area where I shared a room with a Finnish lass. She was a real raver and was always out in the evenings so I started leaving the light on in the small sink area in our room. She was quite taken aback at this as apparently the previous German girl had left the room pitch black and then complained when Marjia-Liisa made a noise trying to get ready for bed in the dark. But my little act of helpfulness broke the ice between us and from then on we got on like a house on fire.
Then a couple of English girls arrived from universities in the UK, they got stuck in the basement area like me, so we all got together. We were finally joined by Barbara, a German girl, who had a great sense of humour and adventure. And we certainly got up to all sorts of adventures between us, quite innocent now when I look back. But we were always laughing and having a good time together.
We went to the Christkindlmarkt in Stuttgart which was wonderful although bitterly cold. We visited the cinema at the American base nearby where we parked Barbara’s car and found it dwarfed by the huge American yank-tanks lined up in front of the cinema. We drove to Ulm to climb the steeple of the Ulm Minster, the tallest church in the world with 768 steps. It’s often called Ulm Cathedral but is actually a Minster as it has never been the seat of a bishop. We climbed up to the top where we found beautiful views over Ulm and the surrounding countryside, climbed down okay but when we got outside, our legs were like jelly and we ended up flopping on the floor laughing our heads off. I stayed at Barbara’s parent’s house one weekend, her folks were incredibly hospitable, and we also visited Rothenburg-ob-der-Taube which is a wonderful, medieval town.
We girls had boozy sessions in our rooms, confident we’d hidden all signs of the mayhem until we’d get home and realise our rooms smelled like pub bars, an empty wine glass or two stood on the mantelpiece and the sour-faced women running the hostel would greet us with icy faces!
One night Barbara introduced us to Schnapps, I think it might have been Goldwasser, which we English girls imbibed with gusto. She told us to skol it down it which we did and all promptly got drunk as skunks as none of us drank much at all. We were staggering everywhere, and I remember waking up with an appalling hangover. Barbara thought it was hilarious as we British girls sat there, head in hands, moaning, until she frogmarched us one by one to the restroom and stuck us in a cold shower!
I didn’t realise that, in this new lifestyle in Germany, I’d lost so much weight until I returned home for the Christmas holidays. My parents both commented on how much slimmer I was, and so did my boyfriend, but I didn’t see it in myself at all. I do know that when I returned to university in the fourth year, after my third year abroad, many people commented on the remarkable change in my appearance although, once again, I hadn’t realised how much weight I’d lost, it just sort of happened.
Much the same sort of weight loss happened when I worked on a kibbutz in Israel in March 1972, prior to travelling to Australia. I did physical work on my feet all the time, and the weight dropped off. I do know that unless I’m really active, it’s hard for me to lose weight, even more so now I have mobility challenges.
I realised much later down the track that my time overseas in my third year at university was really the first time I was away from anyone’s influence. I was pretty much on my own, and I lost weight because I didn’t need it to protect myself from my father’s bullying ways and the fact that I extended that to being subconsciously fearful of any relationships I had with the opposite sex. I loved being independent both at university and in Germany and France where I also spent six months.
Because I have so many air signs, nine in astrology, I have always been in my head and thinking, thinking, thinking. My conversations start: “I think…..” or “I’ve been thinking…..” (and generally my husband looks nervous because he says this usually means hammers and nails somewhere in the house), or I say, if people do rash things: “Why don’t people THINK”. Occasionally I look down and remember I’ve got a body attached to my head and say in surprise: “Oh, hello, body, still hanging around are you, thanks very much, I appreciate it.”
I started getting some idea of why I used food as a substitute for love and weight as protection when I saw a psychologist after Mum died. The thinner my mother got as the cancer spread, the fatter I got as if in some way I could protect myself, I think, on two fronts: from the fear of death myself if I got fat and from the grief I was experiencing as Mum came closer and closer to death. Seeing the psychologist after mum died, to get help from the loneliness and grief I felt, also opened a can of worms – mum no longer stood between me and my father as the peace-maker, we had to face each other, and our relationship got rocky to say the least!
When David Cameron announced his cabinet reshuffle a short while ago and more women were appointed to Cabinet, the headlines talked about “girlpower” and, of course what the “girls” were wearing. No talk of “womanpower” because so often we women are described as “girls” as we are not supposed to become fully-grown, mature, strong WOMEN. (I might add I am wholly cynical about the promotion of women as I see it as a cynical attempt to garner women’s votes rather than a genuine dedication to women’s equality.)
If you have a look at the photos on the right, the top row is of girls, the bottom is of women. The images in the top row are a vision of us as girls, never growing into a womanly shape, shaving our pubic hair so we look like constant teenagers, torturing ourselves with ripping out that hair (and I can tell you, I had my pubic hair shaved once, when I had my tubes tied at 27, and the constant itching of it growing back made me swear NEVER to shave that hair again!) and keeping us confined in the straitjacket of thin as desirable and right.
In the bottom row, the images are of mature women but now, in the same vein of keeping us as eternal girls, it is not considered appropriate to talk about women as “luscious”, “juicy”, “reubenesque”, “curvy”, “succulent” – because they all imply – shock, horror” – women who aren’t thin and possibly look like (whisper) mature, adult, powerful women.
I decided to follow up my posts on women’s liberation with one about weight issues because, looking back from the time I got involved in women’s liberation in the early 1970s until now, I got to thinking that the focus on diets and thinness is an act of sabotage – it has been a misogynist weapon to dis-empower women and keep them focused on weight issues instead of on living up to their full potential. A woman focused only on her weight and shape if far less powerful than one who is at home and comfortable with herself and makes her way in society as a formidable, strong individual.
The cult of “thin is good” didn’t always exist. Because I grew up in the ’50s and 60s, I have a perspective which isn’t possible for younger people, and that is, I can remember when women were weightier than accepted cultural norms now. It was accepted that as you had children and headed to your senior years, that weight gain was a normal process of life on earth. So it seems to me that the focus on thinness (mainly for women but now affecting men too) started getting stronger around the time women’s liberation erupted and started questioning women’s status in society. But thin is “in”, so to speak, at least on the part of women’s magazines, the diet industry, the medical establishment, the fashion industry and so-called fashion mavens who we’re supposed to follow like headless chooks.
While we’re busy focused on diets, size, weight, fatness or thinness, we are diverted from standing strong in our own right – as juicy, strong, powerful women, at ease with ourselves regardless of our weight, getting to know our own bodies intimately so we know what weight is right for us, and leading full, adventurous lives . As this quote from Naomi Wolf puts it so succinctly:
Marilyn Monroe would now be considered obese – which sounds ridiculous given the sex goddess she was. Yet we are repeatedly lectured that what I see as normal women are obese/morbidly obese/likely to peg it overnight because if they’re overweight they must be harbouring god knows how many life-threatening health challenges, and so on and so on.
This of course is a godsend to the enrichment of the diet industry, Big Pharma and medicos who see what is considered a fat woman now (but wasn’t when I was young) and like Pavlov’s dogs immediately start talking about diets, losing weight, yada, yada, yada. I know when I’ve walked into so many doctor’s room, their eyes light up as they order tests for diabetes and cholesterol levels and heave out the good ol’ blood pressure apparatus. Sadly for them, and they look quite taken aback, all my health signs are, well, healthy!
And as we’re on the subject of medicos, I have to say that I personally find the term “obese” quite offensive. It’s as if doctors conjure up a word which is designed to make normal/not so fat/ and fat people seem as sub-human as possible and to cow us into submissive slaves of thin worship. I sometimes wonder if the medical industry creates such words as “obese” or “geriatric” to elevate the power of medicos and reduce us patients to obedient, malleable, cowed, uncertain, unquestioning clients. I also despise doctors who lazily judge the health of overweight women by their size rather than their uniqueness and medical history.
I can remember having a meal out with some other women, all good-looking, fairly slim, about my age when I was in my late ‘thirties and the whole damned dinner talk was about weight, thinness and diets. I mean – what a ruddy great waste of women’s lives to spend it worrying about weight and what diet you’re on and whether you’ve gained or lost a couple of pounds from one week to the next. Being frightened of food, obsessing about calories, fat levels, carbs and all the other catchphrases of the thin mafia is absolutely ridiculous.
All the research which gets pumped out about what makes you live longer,what causes cancer, how to avoid heart attacks, etc., simply doesn’t take into account that people are individual, have their own genetic heritage and shape, and need to consider what their heart and soul tells them about what is good for them, not scientists and health gurus who change their minds a few years down the track or even from year to year and, dare I say it, month to month, week to week.
And having gone through some literature on this subject, I have found out – and this will no doubt amaze you – that if you carry more weight than that which is supposed to be healthy these days and you are fit, you are far more likely to live longer than a socially acceptable thin, unfit woman. Also, wasting your life on a yo-yo of dieting, losing weight, then gaining weight again and often extra weight than before you dieted, is putting your health far more at risk than a woman who looks at herself, smiles, smacks her booty gleefully and tells herself she’s a yummy individual with far more to do with her life than waste it on worrying about what is a current societal obsession about thinness.
Plus we need to get a perspective on the health hysteria which prevails at the moment – new food fads, super-foods, how to live longer, anti-ageing tucker – and so on. You can be the healthiest, fittest person around and then drop dead of a heart attack or get a life-threatening illness for no apparent reason. And everyone says it’s unfair because someone who doesn’t exercise or is fat doesn’t die at an early age. But it’s LIFE, outrageous, unpredictable, unfair, fair, dropping surprise health bombs into our lives – our time of death is unpredictable so get the most out of each day and you’ll have a wonderful life – exciting, adventurous, questing, humorous, fun, loving, fully adult, powerful and, above all, SATISFYING.
I can pretty much guarantee that when the truth comes out about – as it will – that the current BMI holy bible is a heap of old cobblers with no scientific foundation, and thinness is recognised as a trumped-up cultural creation to control and disempower women – the pendulum will swing towards an acceptance of women as they are meant to be – short, tall, medium, thin, fat, stocky, lean, weighty, or whatever is their natural, womanly shape. And if they’re pink with purple spots, or orange with red stripes, or green with turquoise hair – so be it!
FAT HATRED, THIN WORSHIP
This week I saw that the National Health Service in the UK is to offer gastric bypass surgery to obese patients. I also saw a headline in one newspaper which read: “Drop the staple gun, Doc, and Tell Fatty to grow some willpower”. The article contained such comments as:”I have also found fat people funny”; “it is something they have imposed on themselves through a combination of gannetry, indolence and stupidity”; and “sometimes I even go to places where I know there will be lots of fat people and sit on a bench watching them clumping around, sweating and gasping, and snigger to myself.”
As you can see, it’s okay to be bigoted about weighty people because somehow, being not thin, we have ceased to be human beings and can be ridiculed, insulted, discriminated against and then be told to have surgery which can be life-threatening and possibly lead to our deaths. Doubtless if weighty people died during gastric bypass surgery the fat haters would be gleeful to have less fat people to pollute their perfect lives.
The reason why I feel infuriated by the headlines is because I have been reading a couple of books and other material which actually show that “obesity” and the much-vaunted BMI are a recent creation and a nice little money earner for the medicos and diet industry based on shonky health research. At the same time, the low-fat, high carbohydrate diet extolled to Western nations like the UK, US and Australia over the past few decades also has feet of clay, a big con trick by the food industry to protect their profits despite research showing that people following what they believe are healthy diets are actually endangering their own health.
BLAME THE VICTIM
But hey, let’s blame the victim, then you don’t have to look at the food giants, the pharmaceutical industry and the diet industry who have all colluded to squash research showing the health dangers of a high carbohydrate, high-sugar diet to protect their god-almighty profits.
And let’s not mention that people also eat for emotional reasons such as stress, long working hours, job insecurity, low wages, unemployment, social interaction, homelessness and so on, because then you have to look at the social reasons for over-eating and lack of exercise because people are knackered by the end of the day trying to cope with the pressures of life in Western society today.
This has tied in with the fact I wanted to follow up my posts on women’s liberation with some material about diets and thinness stifling women’s creativity and power, and also how eating can be emotional, as I witnessed when I got as fat as butter when my Mum was dying of lung cancer.
So what I’m intending in my next few posts are:
1) Feminism, women and weight;
2) My own weight battle;
3) Dealing with my mother’s death from lung cancer & my own (fat) emotional response;
4) The giant con trick perpetrated on Western society by the dietary, medical, pharmaceutical and food industries to protect their profits regardless of the ill-health of people following what they believe are health diets.
I have no doubt that questioning the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet and the all-powerful BMI is tackling sacred cows, but I really hate being conned and both of these are con tricks, not exposed by the industries involved, but brought out into the light of day by individuals doing independent research and publishing their findings.
As I said in a previous post, I finally managed to track down the Women’s Liberation group In Western Australia when I started working as the organiser for the Australian Union of Students in 1974 in that State. I have to admit that I jumped in the deep end and was pretty fanatical. I stopped wearing make-up and gave my poor old Mum a hard time with my liberationist views when my parents came for a holiday in 1975.
We were not, however, the hairy-legged, bra-burning, men-hating, humourless, ball-breaking Amazons depicted in the media. Yes, we were a varied lot, just as any movement was. But we wanted to improve women’s lot in society and address the very fundamental question of what it means to honour women’s qualities as terrific in themselves, not to compete to become sort of honorary man. Yes, women ARE different to men, but we need to celebrate those differences and honour them, not put down the qualities of either sex. Women’s strengths are often expressed through consensus, emotions, intuition, and co-operation. But feminine attributes aren’t as respected or accepted, not then and not now.
Why not? Bringing up children is a demanding, responsible position yet, because it’s not in the paid workforce, it’s not considered work. Yes, it’s great to see women in the top jobs like Hilary Clinton or Australia’s Julia Gillard, but they still operate on the old, male rules of combat and within the same paradigm. How different were Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Condoleeza Rice, Golda Meir? They play the hardball politics of a patriarchal society with its winner-take-all, back-stabbing, game-playing philosophy. They wage war not peace, just as male leaders do. Consider what would be the reaction if a woman in a leadership position started approaching political work and conflict through peaceful methods instead of beating the war drums? We all know they’d be criticized, denigrated and viciously attacked. You’ve only got to see the demeaning, sexist, derogatory treatment of Australia’s first women Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to see that women have a long way to go.
Back in the early ’70s we pored over the magazines Spare Rib (UK) and Ms (US), absorbing the contents like sponges. We inhaled the contents of books by Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Kate Millet, Susie Orbach, Germaine Greer, Shulamith Firestone, Betty Friedan and many others. We started consciousness-raising groups to learn to support each other instead of compete, and to understand how we were oppressed as women. These groups were treated with great derision by the generally hostile media and by many men, but they were great because we operated on a non-hierarchical basis as much as possible. We wanted to democratize discussion. We empowered and supported each other instead of competing. The movement started to set up women’s refuges; women’s health centres; rape crisis centres; support for women to enter parliament; access to free, safe abortion; equal pay; good, affordable childcare; provision of family planning so that abortions were minimised. We lobbied the media to stop trivializing women in sexist advertising. And much, much more, often unseen, unremarked and unreported.
Patricia Giles, who was a health union organiser, activist in women’s affairs, and helped found the Women’s Electoral Lobby, attended the first United Nations World Conference on Women in Mexico in 1975. The three main aims were:
• Full gender equality and the elimination of gender discrimination;
• The integration and full participation of women in development;
• An increased contribution by women towards strengthening world peace.
And at a Federal political level, the election of the Whitlam Labor government saw the appointment of a Women’s Advisor, Elizabeth Reid, to give impetus towards women’s equality in Australia. In 1975 a Women in Politics conference was organised in Canberra and I was lucky enough to attend.One of the prime movers for this conference in the WA region was, as well as Pat Giles, Irene Greenwood, a really remarkable worker for women’s rights. When I knew her she was in her senior years but she had an enthusiasm for women’s rights and an infectious passion which was truly brilliant.
It was inspirational to meet so many women activists in Australia at the conference in Canberra. We came into contact with truly brilliant women activists from overseas who had some wonderful ideas which we absorbed like women who’d just crawled through a desert to the edge of a pool in an oasis.
The attitude towards women in those days was pretty awful. The Canberra Times rubbished the conference. The idea of women’s liberation was treated with contempt. The Abortion Law Reform Association in Western Australia, led by Denise White, fought an uphill battle for a woman’s right to choose whether she had a child or not, and for abortion reform.
I know I was incensed when I’d been at one demonstration for civil liberties and found that, in the front bar of a city hotel, I wasn’t allowed to buy myself or others a drink, particularly as drinks in that front bar were much cheaper than the lounge areas and women generally earned less money than their male counterparts. Only men could buy drinks in the front bar. We organised sit-ins, got publicity and eventually the laws were changed to remove discrimination.
I could go on and on about what women faced in those days and the challenges of working for change. But it was our collective, not individual, stand that made the difference. I’ve seen women say: “Change your thoughts, and you change your reality. You don’t need feminism or women’s liberation.” All I can say to that is: “Bollocks, sister”. Because women on their own, divided from other sisters and played off against one another, got nowhere. It’s unity that’s counted in advancing women’s rights.
I said at the beginning, and it remains true, that nothing was ever handed to us women on a plate. And it’s never remained with us as a right, we’ve had to hang on grimly with our fingertips.
So now we still see the same old, same old: violence against women in India, Pakistan, Africa, Western nations; rape as a weapon of war; attacks on women’s right to abortion and free, safe contraception; calls for abortion providers to be murdered; undermining of equal pay; women activists getting abusive, trolling, threatening comments and tweets; women still being called “chicks”, “girls”, “ho’s”, when we are WOMEN; women being conned that it’s okay to join the guys in watching women being exploited as strippers or pole dancers or lap dancers; young girls still decked out in pink and expected to play with dolls or fake kitchen equipment; women terrorized into the “thin” straitjacket if they look womanly in any way; very young girls exploited in beauty pageants; perky cheerleaders in skimpy gear; women being conned that sexual freedom means it’s okay to have free sex when the guys still regard you as the town bike; talented women singers believing they have to show up in skimpy, tarty, demeaning gear; pornography stealthily being legitimized when it’s main function is the exploitation and denigration of women.
The Republican leader, John Boehner gets teary when he becomes House leader (you’ll pardon my cynicism if I say it’s my belief it’s tears of gratitude because he’s got his greedy paws on the spoils of office) and that’s considered okay and normal. Hillary Clinton gets teary during the Presidential campaign and she’s a wet/manipulative/cynical/typical female, and so on. Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard chokes up over the human losses in the Queensland floods of 2010-11 and analysis focuses on whether she’s real/cynical/manipulative (common for all women in office, obviously). And because she hasn’t had children, Ms Gillard gets assailed for being unfeminine, barren, unable to understand the needs of “real families”. And please, don’t get me started on the public , venal chatter about the dress sense of women leaders and politicians. Appalling stuff.
Nowadays there’s discussion about feminism – whether it’s okay to be a feminist, or is this a phrase with a use-by date. But here’s something which occurs to me whenever I see that phrase: “feminism”. I hate women’s liberation being nice-ified into “feminism”. How did the bright, sparkling rocket take-off of Women’s Liberation in the ‘sixties somehow morph back to earth as a damp squib? Heck – where’s the passion in this sanitized version of Women’s Liberation? It’s unchallenging, safe, respectable, accepted by the system because it’s non-threatening. And looking back, I somehow see the vitality of the ‘sixties and ‘seventies and our history is gradually being airbrushed out of existence and gentrified.
So that’s why I remain a Women’s Libber. I refuse to get co-opted into that nice, safe word “feminism” because I don’t want to be seen as nice or safe. I am in my crone years and enjoying – finally – being a misfit, a rebel, a revolutionista, a purple-wearing arty-farty drama queen, and a sacred warrior for fearlessness, feistiness and mad, mighty mojo. I remain passionate about true women’s liberation – freedom for every woman to be who she is without being stuffed into some prototypical image of what a woman should be.
Just to explain a bit further, I recently saw an article about how four ordinary-looking women could look great if they had more money to beautify themselves. For my part, the four women looked pretty terrific, and the end product was awful and depressing. All the women looked like clones – long blonde hair with extensions; similar make-up; squeezed into similar dresses. God help us, a prime example of The Stepford Wives, and what was frightening was that the producers thought they were doing the women a favour instead of working with their real, inner beauty and individual looks.
I sincerely hope young women also choose to be passionate, step outside the Good Girl cage and punch the air as they enjoy the freedom to be whoever they are, whatever they choose to do, listen to their heart and souls, and stay true to themselves in all their glory. Me? I remain an unreconstructed Women’s Libber!