May 12, 2013
A stirring day, Mothers’ Day.
From what I read, see and feel – it is a day where mothers around the world are held in the highest esteem.
All these beautiful, soulful and necessary traits that humankind relies on – and they’re attached to us. Women.
The role of nurturer is entrenched into the fabric of our existence and that responsibility largely tips toward us; falling into our arms.
Why trust women with this tremendous role?
I believe it’s because we are needed for this. For balance.
It’s a momentous, paramount and brilliant thing.
It also benefits everyone.
Unfortunately, this is where I feel we hit the snag:
Question #158: If mothers are so revered, then why is there so much violence and persecution against them – all around the world – in endlessly different ways?
Just something to ponder.
We must evolve and save Mother.
So today, I salute you ALL – mothers, women and girls!
Last year, my first Mothers’ Day post was a little self-centred in that I was only looking at the life of a mother and woman from my western armchair – but today, I want to recognise the great rainbow of mothers, including those who are forgotten, or worse, ignored.
You’re all heroes of strength and the pillars of this world.
To single mothers (extra big hug to you) – I can’t imagine what it must feel like to do this alone and sometimes with little help – whether monetary, emotionally or both.
To those mums, like me, who work and juggle mum duties – I know how hard it can be sometimes.
To mums who don’t work and juggle mum duties – I know how hard it can be sometimes.
To those who have lost their sweet babes – whether a lost pregnancy or child.
Unimaginable. Much love to you.
To those who have lost their own mothers – xxx
Finally, to the heart-sinking number of women around the world:
- who are looking for food for their child to eat
- who are protecting their children from bullets and bombs
- who have been trafficked
- who suffer from physical violence on a daily basis
- who are risking everything to have a life lived without fear and come by boat:
I think of you every day. Not just today.
Today my husband told me to go to my laptop and see what my present is. I didn’t ask him for anything, so I excitedly wondered. This is what I saw:
It was the most perfect gift.
So Happy Mothers’ Day!
Much love to you all – especially you, mamá – you’re all remarkable.
x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
May 9, 2013
Dedicated to Nia Thomas
Punters feel and know that they have almost complete freedom to send the prostituted class into hell.
This is because far too people make the choice to ignore, say it is not important compare to real violence happening to real women, or shut their minds to how punters constantly treat the prostituted.
One way to make the punters invisible and of little importance, is to re-brand prostitution as sex work.
May 4, 2013
I will be short. But it will not be sweet.
On Wednesday night, I went to a screening of a film called The Trade of Innocents.
It stars Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino and seasoned actor Dermot Mulroney.
Inspired by real events, it explores the gargantuan problem of trafficking girls – in this case, in Cambodia.
Yes, it’s a Hollywood movie but no, it was not picked up by the mainstream cinemas.
*Small rant moment. At a recent outing to the cinema (after a very long absence) the movie trailers on offer were for:
Iron Man #3 – Gi Joe – Star Trek #2 – Die Hard #278 – Man of Steel.
Lots of larger-than-life, über men, being heroes, surrounded by the same super-dooper special effects and gratuitous shots of women in little clothing.* Rant over.
I understand that a movie like the Trade of Innocents is not a big hit with people wanting to escape – but aren’t we endangering our ability to see past the whopping pile of stinking special effects?
Our world is in trouble.
So I went along to this screening, thanks to Liz and Mike Newton-Brown, a married couple who started The Freedom Project a few years ago, and help trafficked children. Actually help.
I met them at the screening of it’s a girl last year and they are truly inspirational.
After the film ended, we were shrouded in dread.
It was sombre in there; silent except for the sound of some sniffling noses being quietly cleared, from crying.
I can’t get out of my head the scene where a sweaty and pasty American tourist says he wants a guaranteed virgin – that he is willing to go as low as a 5 or 6 year old, but that his preference is a 7 year old, “For a month’s use.”
I felt sick as I saw girls, the same age as my daughters, being sold for sex – girls who, in the scheme of things, were just unlucky enough to have been born over there, instead of over here…even though it happens here too – albeit on a smaller scale.
Mike and Liz then spoke some facts with us.
A Hollywood movie is one thing…but the following just drove it all home:
800,000 – 4 million men, women and children are trafficked each year.
They don’t really know the exact figures.
- 80% are women
- 50% are children
- The average age of girls trafficked, is 11; the average age of boys, is 12.
- 75% of people sold into slavery, are sold for sex.
A child is sold into slavery every 30 seconds. Every. Thirty. Seconds.
It’s the fastest growing crime in the world.
With the first two, once you shoot a bullet you’ve paid for, or taken the drug – it’s done.
But a human being can cost as little as $40 and once owned, is used over…and over…and over…
The three areas of trafficking are:
2. Slave Labour
3. Forced to kill – like child soldiers. These are the hardest to get to and is the worst, as it can include all three unimaginable horrors.
I don’t know what those statistics do to you, but this has profoundly affected me.
The gravity. The insurmountable size of it.
As I walked to my car that night, I cried.
Question #157: What can be done?
Well, The Freedom Project is doing something. It’s big and they need help.
They’re working in two areas at the moment.
1. Burma – a drug ravaged and fuelled area using child soldiers.
They recently smuggled 10 children into China – out of slavery.
They have saved and are currently looking after 150 children – providing housing, food and education. On their Facebook Page they posted the following image with this caption:
‘Seriously, this little guy’s smile is SO heartwarming! A precious soul we are caring for – now in a life of FREEDOM.’
Look at his face.
2. Philippines – An area in the south which wants to be an independent Islamic state, also using child soldiers to fight this battle.
The Freedom Project wants to build 50 schools. They’ve built 2 so far.
The fil had a quote that said: “They have a massive network – we need a bigger one.”
So that night I decided to join the network:
- I bought a t-shirt
- I will be donating to help them
- And I have spread some awareness through this post – even if only to a few.
And it doesn’t matter what you do – or what channels you do it through – every tiny bit helps; whether it’s to save one child or a thousand…or dare we dream more?
I leave you with this trailer for a documentary that we were shown before the screening of Trade of Innocents.
It’s called Nefarious: Merchant of Souls - and it focuses on the selling of women.
It has won over 24 Film Festival Honours and can be bought on DVD on their page, HERE.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have entered the Australian Writers’ Centre, Best Australian Blogs 2013 Competition.
As with last year, there’s a People’s Choice round.
The voting for that ends tomorrow – April 30th.
I’d love your vote in this category…if you feel I provide worthy commentary on issues concerning our planet’s current lack of balance – socially, economically and environmentally – all knitting themselves together and into a bad knot.
The equal value of women is on top of my list – not to be like men (because that doesn’t even make sense) – but to be an equally respected and important half of every society; just like the nature that surrounds us.
I also want to add that the wonderful and extraordinary women I’ve met during this journey with the blog thus far, has been a blessing. x
Anyhoo…it would be awesome to receive your support.
April 26, 2013
I stumbled upon this video. A girl auditioning on one of the X Factor shows late last year.
In light of what I discussed in my previous post, I thought I’d share it.
I feel that the girl in this clip does not show respect for the male judges or male audience members, least of all for herself.
This girl – and many like her – never deserve to be attacked, raped or anything of the such. Absolutely not. Ever.
Let’s say she were raped after this performance (due to the outfit / blonde hair/ fake tan / is a woman / WHATEVER!), I would be the person shouting loudest, that what she suffered was a crime and a violation of her personal rights.
I need to make that point perfectly clear.
But when looking at the issue of respect, isn’t she disrespecting men by treating them as the mindless creatures I described in my previous post?
“The men will vote for me, because I’ll give them what they want.”
On the same note, she is also disrespecting women, by demonstrating the notion that there is no way to succeed without hyper-sexualising oneself.
What say you?
April 26, 2013
My previous post breathed some air into this ol’ blog.
It was an electric 24 hours after it went up, with moments of unexpected grinning.
There were lots of queries from fellow teachers of all kinds, wanting to know more about programs, like the one we did with our students, that discuss this growing emergency in our developing youths’ lives.
Well, me included.
I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I’m craving some civil, intelligent and passionate discussion – without insult – to find solutions.
Let’s please talk.
Whether young or old, single or married, stay-at-home mum or corporate high-flyer…you get the idea.
I said to the girls, before the school workshop began, that it was up to them as to the type of experience they wanted to have. If they chose to sit there quietly, they knew I could talk all day.
The fact of the matter was that I was dearly hoping they would contribute; to hear their perspectives. I’m a month shy of 43 and grew up in a different time.
The core ingredients of our nature as women – the similarities between the girls and me – are there, but their journey is now going on a deeply concerning tangent.
I also reassured the girls that it would be safe for them to share their thoughts – that there would be no judgement. Thankfully they engaged; participating with zeal in our workshops.
The most important part is that I learned from them as much as they, hopefully, learned from me.
I want to learn here too.
I’m offering the same. A safe place to converse and debate.
Yes, I will question and challenge; possibly take people out of comfort zones – but please know that I do not hate. I have never seen the point or benefit.
But that most certainly does not make me any less passionate and steadfast.
Shall we begin?
Throughout my shortish journey with this blog, I’ve noticed comments and conversed with a few women with many opposing beliefs about feminism and where we fit in the patriarchy.
There is a common thread, however, which eludes heavily toward the notion, that it’s pretty much all up to the men to create change.
I don’t believe this is entirely true.
It can’t be, if equality and respect for all is the ultimate goal.
You know I believe that men have a MASSIVE (and I mean massive) contribution to make toward shifting their sometimes toxic perspectives (and actions) toward women. Many of my posts discuss how men disrespect women. No contest.
But I also believe it’s equally important to recognise what contributions women make to this paradigm.
In my ever-enduring search for balance, I think we have to ask this question about ourselves; hence my request in the title, that it’s the women who need to answer this one.
When we ran the workshop for the girls at school, our visiting presenter, Collett Smart, said something right at the end of the day, which resonated with me.
It pertained to mutual respect.
In my last post I wrote about what Collett said:
There seems to be a huge portion of the responsibility laid on boys and men to respect women, but women and girls also need to respect men.
This lead me to my following understanding:
Both genders play a role in perpetuating a state of existence.
Both men and women. Boys and girls.
This is a crunch issue.
Even as I write this, I find it challenging to get my own head around how to explain this without confusion; because the question has to be asked:
How do women contribute to this current (porn) culture?
How do they disrespect men?
I have one example, a clip, which I showed the girls on our workshop day to demonstrate something entirely different – how it misrepresents our girls and teaches a false sense of empowerment.
It was not used to discuss respect.
I briefly discussed this clip about a year ago in the post, A (moving) picture paints a thousand words. It is a routine that appeared on the show Glee.
The worst part is that I only saw it because they were playing it – in its entirety – as an ad on TV at around 7pm – when most kids (who are absorbing everything around them like sponges) are up and watching.
In my eyes, this clip deals with what I’m grappling with, in terms of mutual respect.
1. What we discussed with my students, is that the song is one that is supposed to be empowering for women. “Who’ll run the world? Girls!”
But it is ALL null and void because the main girl is in suspender belts, teeny leather skirt and over the knee black boots. A porn image…in a school.
The lesson? That the only way women can feel empowered, is through sex.
No respect for women.
2. The girls dance into the classroom and we see the ‘oooh’ and ‘corrrr’ looks on the guys’ faces as the girls sexually dance and sizzle in front of them.
The lesson? All men turn into moronic, dribbling, wastes-of-space, when sex is on their mind.
No respect for men.
Unfortunately, statistically, the greater victims of the real-life, playing out of porn culture scenarios, are women – hence the very serious pressure on men to pull back on the reins.
But if a girl – knowing a boy’s nature – is purposefully sticking and jiggling her revealing cleavage in a boy’s face (for example) or is dancing with moves including grinding and bending over in front of him (another example) etc. – is she respecting him?
What do you think?
April 18, 2013
On Friday, the last day of term, my colleague and I ran a workshop with our Yr 10 and 11 girl students (aged 15-17 yrs old). We looked at the objectification of girls and women through the media and ran lots of workshops to help them navigate through the tripe they’re being fed, looked at what is beautiful (them – exactly as they are) and how to be a voice in this saturating, hyper-sexualised society.
The boys, of the same year groups, were in a separate location, journeying through the harms of pornography and participating in workshops to help them with all the issues they face as young men. They are also being fed false ideals about what it’s like to be a ‘real man’ and are also in strife. The wonderful feedback I got from this workshop is that the boys drew up a contract, their words, as to how they were going to treat women and they all signed it.
The dynamic psychologist and teacher, Collett Smart of FamilySmart (and who was one of the original board members of Collective Shout) came to talk to both the boys and the girls together. She reinforced a lot of what we had covered up until lunch…and more.
It was such an inspiring day, that I’m still a little giddy from how good it felt to run a part of it.
I was up first and for an hour or so I covered what the girls are being sold by the media – more importantly, how they’re being represented and whether they were happy with it. My aim was to incite discussion and reinforce some Media Literacy with them.
To start off with, I asked them what characteristics we had that made us women. Two interesting things came out of this.
1. The first few characteristics were physical – boobs, curvy, vagina.
2. When I steered them towards non-physical, they came up with some beautiful ones, like compassionate and strong – but I was the one who wrote up intelligent (with lots of arrows pointing towards it).
From this point I launched in to a visual smorgasbord of examples of how women are represented in the media today. Basically one way – hyper-sexualised and objectified.
But it’s not just about ads, shows, movies etc – it’s also important to discuss the effect and consequences of a saturated paradigm, like our current one.
Objectification is the issue. What the girls needed to understand is that once you are seen as an object, anything can be done to you without remorse.
It’s a complete disconnect and is why the argument, “That could have been your sister” (for example) doesn’t work. Their sister is their sister, whom they love. An object is an object.
As Collett later told them (and the boys) - the Porn Industry now has to compete with the Porn Culture of our media. The images looked at in the dirty magazines of yesteryear, are now on billboards selling sunglasses/jeans etc.
So in order to keep their addicted masses, mainstream porn has to be bigger and far more violent. Women’s bodies are the commodity; bodies which only last between three to six months, before they’re tossed aside. Broken.
I showed the girls the following clip from Canada which covers a lot of what I wanted to discuss:
Notice how ludicrous it is to have the men portrayed that way?
We can’t do anything else but laugh about it because it’s not a reality for them – although they do have their own fair share of issues.
We watched the following Lynx ad by Unilever, being discussed in the States. The reason I showed this clip is because there is one female panelist in a studio full of men. Watch their reactions (nothing surprising).
What’s interesting here is mainly the woman’s take on it. It seems like everyone agrees – if it makes money it’s OK.
And the men’s reactions? Well, nothing out of the ordinary. Does that mean that we are also desensitised – seeing ‘boys just being boys’?
This led me to discuss the Porn Culture which surrounds us and how that’s become the ‘fashion’ now. I showed them more clips and what it means to them. I discussed this concept in my penultimate post: The fine line. A chat with teens.
I could have talked about this FOREVER, but time was short. I finished with the trailer for Missrepresentation – the wonderful documentary I hosted a screening of last year – which perfectly encapsulates the serious issue of our gender’s representation in the media.
My colleague then tackled, What is Beautiful?
We looked at photoshopped images and got the girls to do an activity, where they put stickers on each others’ backs with positive phrases about their characteristics.
They loved it.
We talked in groups about some possible party scenarios, looked at sexuality and relationships and finally encouraged them to be a voice – to call out injustices and be a sisterhood to each other.
After lunch the boys and girls came together to listen to Collett Smart.
She discussed issues such as the truly damaging effects of child pageants on young girls (affirming from a very tender age that the only validation a girl can have is through her looks) through to hearing the tragic story of a teen girl who survived a rape.
She reaffirmed many of the issues we had discussed with the girls earlier in the day, which gave those messages more strength – Yay!
But there was one important point that Collett made, that stayed with me – it resonated:
She said the path toward a better social existence between girls and boys; women and men – is mutual respect. There seems to be a huge portion of the responsibility laid on boys and men to respect women, but women and girls also need to respect men.
Question #155: Are women truly respecting men in this hyper-sexualised, porn culture?
It’s a tough question, but we need to step back and look at this through a balanced perspective.
Both genders play a role in perpetuating a state of existence.
Both men and women. Boys and girls.
Something to ponder.
At the end of this day, I hoped our girls left feeling a little more empowered about their whole selves – not just what they look like – and will become more united as women to cultivate that word – RESPECT – in themselves and those around them.
So it was no surprise that I actually cried a little when I saw the following messages from some of the girls, on my Questions for Women Facebook Page:
I just want to thank you and Miss Fitzgerald for your talk today. I honestly feel so empowered to change the society we live in. I feel so much better about myself and I really want to make a difference in the world. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the world we live in. Hearing what people had to say about me in the sticker activity made me feel so good about myself. To know that people like me for something more than my looks is amazing. You are an inspiration to me and so many others. xx”
“Thanks so much ms. You really are an inspiration xxx”
“MISS ! thank you so much for today ! It really made me think twice about what i do now and the way i see my self. you are a true inspiration and we’re all so lucky and grateful to have you at our school.”
“Thanks so much for today miss! It gave us such a great message in a very fun way. It was really eye opening to many of the girls and it was really good to realise we all empowered each other as women. We love you miss!”
“We’re so lucky to be surrounded by such empowering women!”
My message to these girls was:
“May your love, intelligence, strength and compassion be what shines through and gives you true validation. That’s what makes you beautiful.
You’re all necessary and needed just the way you are. xxx”
I wish I could do this every day. My soul feels full and alive.
April 6, 2013
“When women participate in the economy, in peace-making and peace-keeping, we all benefit. Giving women and girls a fighting chance isn’t a nice thing to do, it’s a core imperative for every society…This truly is the unfinished business of the 21st century, and it is the work we are called to do.” – Hillary Clinton at the Women in the World Summit.
It’s not about being nice.
Who made men the boss of us all?
We’re two halves…why is that so hard to fathom?
It’s for EQUALITY for our gender – the other half.
And to be equal exactly as we are – not equal due to being more masculine.
We can’t be more like men, we have to balance out the male characteristics and qualities.
That’s why we’re here. Otherwise it would just be all men.
Who made physical strength THE only trait to be valued as the best?
Because one can physically bully for how they desire things to be?
A woman’s strength is impenetrable.
Just look at what we do and/or survive daily; globally.
Why we don’t use this different type of strength to our advantage, just leaves me gobsmacked. It stamps the stupidity of our species more deeply into our psyche.
We’re in this inequality together, in some form or another.
And regardless of gender, it will most definitely affect someone you love.
It’s moral and ethical cancer – and yet, here we are.
The fight for the right to be richer and more controlling than others, is louder than all of us getting a slice of an equal existence.
I have to believe (and do) that there are more good people out there, than not.
Question #154: So why the fight against this?
Deep, bloody breath.
April 2, 2013
In my Drama class recently – boys and girls aged approx. 16 – we were discussing Absurd Theatre.
This type of theatre looks at the existentialist view that we are born from nothing; live a fairly meaningless life, in the big scheme of things; attach importance to pockets of our lives (as we are ‘educated’ to by our surroundings) and then die – back to nothingness.
The world keeps turning. You made no real difference. It’s all quite absurd.
This is not to say that it is a life devoid of faith because with this type of theatre expression, there is also a sense of hope.
So my students and I began to discuss issues and topics that encompass our world today.
I also ask them to metaphorically take a giant step out of our existence and then look through the eyes of, let’s say, aliens studying human behaviour:
What would we see?
To use the practice of another playwright we study in Drama, Bertolt Brecht – I wanted the students to think rationally and not emotionally.
The issue of female representation came up and as the discussion unfolded, one girl asked what was so wrong with girls wanting to feel good through the attention they receive.
I replied, “Nothing….but…”
This is the point it always gets tricky for me because what I feel at the moment tears me in two opposing directions – and if it pulls me, a 42 year old woman, this way – how in hell are these young, developing minds supposed to make heads or tails of it?
1. I believe women should wear what they want.
I was raised to believe that it’s good to show off your best assets. I have pretty good legs, for example, and I used to wear shortish skirts.
I still wear skinny-type pants because they work best for my body shape. Of course, I wear pants of varying widths too – as well as skirts of different lengths.
The point is that there was a certain amount of time dedicated to creating a look which made you feel good about yourself. Maybe it made a statement or it was simply following the fashion; no different to today, I suppose…
2. BUT when what is fashionable, emulates porn culture – we have a completely different kettle of fish.
Growing up in the 80s meant there were various fads throughout the decade. I remember there was a pastel stage; a flouro one; studded belts, as well as ones that wrapped around the waist twice over; hair of different lengths and cuts; tube skirts; shoulder pads; goths; mods; punks…and the list goes on.
Even in the 90s, there was grunge to add to the mix.
This is me at a dance – with boys! – aged 14.
When your stunned expression lapses as to how much of a dag I was, check out the background – pinafore dresses and a boy straight off the set of Miami Vice!
We were all daggy – pretty much. Of course there were exceptions – as always.
Today, however, there is only one fad: Hot ‘n Sexy and no age seems out of reach.
A big difference today, is the hypersexualised pre-teen that’s starting to flood the ‘market’ .
Sadly, one of the most (if not the most) used search engine terms that gets people to my blog is, “12 year old slut memes.”
Young girls are in high demand these days.
The following image is also a 14 year old – except 29 years later.
Interestingly enough, this image was taken from an article written by this girl’s mother – discussing her take on the fact that this is what her daughter wore to her 14th birthday party and the ‘slut-shaming’ she got online for it.
Her mother puts across valid points and she sounds quite like-minded.
Is this my future? …with my daughter?
Now, back to my Drama lesson…
I discussed this issue with the students to see if they could discern the fine line – that it’s virtually a ‘Catch-22′ situation. If, on one hand, girls wear hypersexualised outfits and allude to also behave in said manner as well, they are participating in the spread of porn culture – a culture created, predominantly, for men.
BUT at the same time, if we go around preaching to women about what they should and shouldn’t wear, it reeks of control and takes away a woman’s agency to do as she pleases – the same way a man does. In other words, inequality.
This is crippling. Women – and girls – are being driven crazy with this and yet I can see that this paradigm, that is so obsessed with sex and making money from it, is winning.
To wear, or not to wear – that is the question.
Question #153: Isn’t that absurd?