When girls are too strong

I left my home town when I was in my early 20s. I’m surprised it took me that long to leave.

Since then, I’ve lived in a different city in the same country, and in two other cities in other countries. But the crux of it all is I couldn’t stay in my home town. I was the cuckoo that had to leave the nest.

Our parents expectations of who we are and who we will be don’t stop when we become adults.

My parents wanted a daughter who would be pretty, feminine, traditional – and go on in life to do pretty, feminine, traditional things.

I was the exact opposite.

Born that way…

When a child arrives and they’re not who – and what – we expect and desperately want them to be, things get difficult. Especially for the child, if the parents insist on trying to mould them into becoming something they can never be.

There’s a reason why so many gay kids leave their home town, moving far away. I’m not gay, but in the same way as gay kids often do in traditional families, I didn’t meet expectations.

I was too strong to change who I was. The only way I could be true to who I am was to leave.

When a home is not a home

The best thing I ever did was leaving home. Looking back, I only wish I could have left before I even became an adult, had that been possible. My parents are good people, but my home was fiercely patriarchal.

Even now, when I go home to visit, I’m very much at the bottom of the pecking order. It’s expected that I’ll help with the household chores (together with my mother and brother’s wife), while my father and brother sit and drink whisky.

This isn’t a home in which I feel wanted, welcome or equal. I don’t feel loved there, or accepted for who and what I am. I feel like my parents try really hard, but that’s it – they’re just trying to love me.

My failure to accept my patriarchal roots was an expression of my own inner strength and who I truly am, which was only given a chance to develop once I left home and was no longer stifled.

Once I left home, I went on to become a community leader, a mentor to other women, an internationally-performed composer, a competitive athlete. A woman of strength. A person with purpose.

Why women are not equal yet

Again and again, I see articles in the media querying why women haven’t risen to equality across the board in society. After all, the articles argue, we achieved theoretical equality in the 1970s – surely it has been long enough since then?

Surely one generation should easily be able to erase the inequality of thousands of years of entrenched abuse and inequality? That’s not much! It can’t be that hard!

I know the answer: we’re still dealing with the legacy of inequality. We’re still unequal. We’re teaching what we knew ourselves to our daughters and sons.

I see it in the women who are spoken over in conversation, I see it in the absence of movies and media about women, I see it even in the programming club where I volunteer, and among the 9-12 year olds I teach only 1 of 15 is a girl, because it doesn’t occur to local parents that their daughters might like to learn how to program. Or be good at it.

We’re passing on a legacy of misogyny. It cuts to the core.

Strong-Woman-quote.-4jpg-300x300

Why strong girls leave home

Girls leave home when it ceases to support them. They don’t come back because there’s nothing to come back for. I moved cities because, away from home, I could finally be myself without my parents criticising everything I did. It felt like a breath of fresh air.

When I return home for visits, every two years or so, yet again I feel that stifling, patriarchal, controlling weight holding me down and crushing my spirit.

Family dynamics can be difficult, especially when you don’t fit in with your family’s expectations. In anyone else’s world I’d be a success: I’m a professional woman, I’ve achieved in my career and in my hobbies, I’ve made a positive difference for so many people.

But what I wanted to do and be just didn’t fit in with what my family wanted. I was never going to be subservient and feminine. I was never going to be the pretty girl. I was never going to be the perfect daughter – an exact copy of my mother, minus all her mistakes. I was always going to be my own person. I think that came as a shock.

Raising girls is just raising little humans

Our society has a real problem in raising girls, especially non-traditional girls. We’re fine with girls who want to follow traditional paths, and who are beautiful in traditional ways, but we struggle with women who want to be soldiers, or bodybuilders, or engineers, or programmers.

Or even with women who just want to speak their minds.

We do our best to push and shove our girls into a tiny box labelled “acceptable” and anything else we don’t know what to do with. It’s time we started accepting our daughters – especially our strong, unique, powerful daughters – as amazing human beings in their own right.

It’s time we honoured their strength.

It’s time we welcomed them home.

Redefining marriage: Eternity or happiness?

Sometimes divorce is a good thing. And sometimes it doesn’t happen like you see in the movies.

My husband of 17 years and I are divorcing. There are no plates being hurled at each other, no tantrums, and very few harsh words. We’re not bitter, we’ve worked through the anger and the grief, and it is time to move on.

We’ve done over two years of counselling, and we’ve told our parents, our children and a few close friends. Gradually the word will get out.

It feels odd. I feel almost dreamlike at times. Marriage for us had become a habit.

When I married him, I honestly believed it would be until death. I also believed that any marriage that wasn’t forever was a failure. I know differently now.

I now view our marriage, even though it has ended, as a successful marriage.

We were happy through most of it.
We have two amazing kids.
We were good partners for each other.
We supported each other.
And we’re now going our own ways amicably.
This is joint decision.
It is what is best for both of us.
We are in agreement.
We will continue to co-parent, even though we’re separating.
I trust that he has the best interests of our kids at heart.
I trust him to be fair and honest with me in his dealings.
He trusts me to be fair and honest in my dealings with him.
We are good friends.

Redefining marriage

So what makes a marriage successful? Is it just the “till death do us part” bit? Or is it something else?

I think we need to re-assess what it means for a marriage to be successful. We must redefine it, because our current definitions, quite frankly, are making people miserable. They don’t work for a lot of people, they place unrealistic expectations on couples, and they encourage couples to stay together in situations where they would very much be better off apart.

The fact is, sometimes sticking together no matter what isn’t always the best decision.

Think about it:

  • Is a marriage successful if two people stick it out in absolute misery until death, simply because society tells them they must?
  • Is a marriage successful if a couple despise each other but stay together in a sham relationship “for the kids” when everyone around them knows the whole thing is a fake?
  • Is a marriage successful if two people stay together for no other reason than habit?
  • Is a marriage successful if two people stay together simply because they are afraid to leave? Afraid of the unknown? Of the “what if…”? Is fear a good or healthy reason for a couple to be together?
  • Is a marriage successful if it lasts a lifetime but one or both members physically or emotionally abuse each other?
  • Is a marriage successful if one or both members are cheating on the other, sleeping around, lying to their partner, yet remaining married?


I’d argue that none of the above constitute success.

If that’s how we measure “success” in our society, then society has it wrong.
If that’s the best society can do, then it’s not good enough for us.

I believe my marriage was successful because we were both strong enough and brave enough to say “Now is the time for us to end this.”
We were willing to be honest with each other.
We didn’t cheat, we didn’t lie, we didn’t sleep around behind the other’s back while pretending everything was rosy.

Instead, we saw that what we had wasn’t working, and we tried to fix it. And when we realised it couldn’t be fixed, we had the strength and honesty to say, let it go.

This is a frightening time for me. It probably is for him too. I don’t know what my life will be in a year from now, in ten years from now. Separating takes away all certainty. The thought of being a single mother in her forties is scary.

I’m scared but I will face the future with what strength I have.

strength

Why are we moving on? I can only speak for myself. I’m moving on because I have to believe that I can bring joy into someone’s life, and that someone can bring joy into mine. Life is too short to merely exist. I want my life to be rich, and full of purpose and deep satisfaction.

Maybe I’ll fail to achieve what I want, but at the end of my life if I have failed to fly, I don’t want to have failed because I was afraid to spread my wings.

bird

Strange weather…and a worried Priestess…

I’m going to talk about climate change. I guess if you’re one of those who thinks climate change is a phony stunt put on by scientists for a reason nobody can quite explain, then this post isn’t for you.


I’ve been worried about the weather.

This year is the same as last year. We had a very early warm Spring. The bulbs were up and out ridiculously early – almost a month and a half ahead of time – and apparently birds were about that much ahead of time in their nesting behaviour.

It’s not just here in New Zealand that this strange stuff was going on. Over in England, on the other side of the world from us, frogs have been spawning months ahead of time, and garden plants are budding, tricked by the unseasonal weather into thinking Spring is here.

But it isn’t. Over there it’s autumn right now.

Frogs are spawning in the UK's late autumn. Photo from the Daily Mail.
Frogs are spawning in the UK’s late autumn. Photo from the Daily Mail.

What happened next after our incredibly warm early Spring, in which we were wearing t-shirts and shorts and everything began blooming, was even stranger. The weather turned bad abruptly. For the last two months we’ve been back in very cold weather again, with fierce storms, virtually non-stop rain, and hail storms on more days than I care to count (every day this week except Tuesday, and most days last week).

The storms have blown the blossom off the trees, and the young leaves are struggling to gain a hold. We’ve lost trees, and power lines have gone down all around.

Farmers are at their wits end, wondering when to cut hay for the winter – with so much rain practically every day, the grass is too wet, and if it is cut and bailed up it will rot. So it continues to grow.

Things may be very difficult next winter if the grass isn’t dry enough to cut. The animals rely on it to get through winter when nothing grows. If there isn’t enough food in storage, they’ll starve or have to be culled.

Seeing the visible effects of climate uncertainty

As someone who lives on a farm, and as a Pagan, I feel very connected to all this.

When I see the daffodil bulbs coming up before midwinter, I don’t have to guess that something is wrong: I can see it is.

I live in Dunedin, in the south island of New Zealand, where it is cold. Some people here laugh and say if it is going to get warmer, well, bring it on!

But what is happening is chaotic; unpredictable. We get ridiculously warm early Springs and late Autumns that convince the animals and plants it’s time to breed and grow. Then things turn back to ice and hail, and everything dies in the frost.

This isn’t healthy warmth. This is a challenge that nature is not equipped to deal with, brought on by us.

I know I can’t do anything significant about all of this, and you might say if one person can’t make a difference what’s the point of worrying? But what I can do is talk about the changes I’m seeing, and express the genuine fear I’m feeling inside.

This isn’t something that we should be debating and laughing about. This is something real, and we need to make widespread changes to the way we all live in order to deal with it. Changing a light globe or two won’t cut it. I’m convinced that downsizing and simplifying our lives, and moving altogether away from consumer culture is the only way forward.

To what? Something better, I think. Because – let’s face it – consumer culture, working 50 hours a week, being in lifelong debt, buying cheap plastic crap made by people in slave conditions and envying the Joneses aren’t all great cultural wonders I particularly want to keep for eternity anyway. Do you?

Thanks for reading and, if you can, spare a thought for those poor little English frogs. I think they’ll be in for a rough time when the weather turns.

2_6_2010_frozenrose

I’m not a partial human! Sidelined and disappeared…

I’ve always felt like a complete human. No matter whether you’re male or female, or what race or culture you’re from, I’m guessing you have too. Not a partial human.

So today I want to talk about this.

I'm sure there was *ANOTHER* Avenger...
I’m sure there was *ANOTHER* Avenger…

And this.

I seem to recall there being *FIVE* "Guardians"...
I seem to recall there being *FIVE* “Guardians”…

And this.

Something strange is going on here...ummm...do I remember an Avender in a black outfit called "Black" something...Black, black..it's clearly slipped everyone's mind...
Something strange is going on here…ummm…do I remember an Avenger in a black outfit called “Black” something…Black, black..it’s clearly slipped everyone’s mind…

And this.

Here's what to do. If you need to sideline or "disappear" a character, simply double over with more socially palatable characters.
Here’s what to do. If you need to sideline or “disappear” a character, simply double over with another white male character.

And this.

Looks like a bizarre racoon creature is more palatable than some genders of human...
Looks like a bizarre racoon creature is more palatable than some genders of human…

And I won’t even comment on this, which is so awful it just makes me furious.

The t-shirt in Disney girlswear on the left, and boyswear on the right.
The t-shirt in girlswear on the left, and boyswear on the right. This sucks.

Very occasionally, we won’t be “disappeared” but we’ll very definitely be sidelined…

Who is that character with the red hair in the far right? They couldn't possibly be a REAL Avenger! It's clear from their lack of space in the pic that they're a "helper", and "assistant" character, possibly only "eye candy" for the real stars, the males...
Who is that character with the red hair in the far right? They couldn’t possibly be a REAL Avenger! It’s clear from their lack of space in the pic that they’re a “helper”, and “assistant” character, possibly only “eye candy” for the real stars, the white males…(notice the other sidelined character on the extreme left)

Sidelined and disappeared…

I want to point out a few facts now.

We’re nearly 50% of the tickets. Women make up nearly 50% of movie sales at comic book movies (one recent survey suggested the figure of 44%). We’re a BIG market, not a tiny percentage of viewers and attendees and fans.

Women are attending ComicCons in large numbers. This year’s San Diego Comic-Con had 40% female attendance. These events aren’t all white male antisocial geeks from basements. The crowds have changed, if they ever were that stereotype to start with.

Women buy stuff. We want to buy merchandise, and we want that merchandise to feature our favourite characters. Not some of them. ALL of them.

We want fairness. Women are increasingly pissed at the way we’re being sidelined in comics. We want our female characters, and we’re pissed that they’re not appearing as the STARS of movies.

We want to be seen as real people. Women are also pissed at the way we’re being overly sexualized in comics and the movies that spring from them. We want accurate, diverse representation. We want to be seen as real, whole people, with real strengths and weaknesses, and real stories to tell. Because that is what we are.

Most of all, we don’t want to be seen as things. We want to be seen as people.

Speaking for myself and my daughter…and my daughter’s generation

It’s not hard to write real, strong women. Just write us as people, because that’s what we are. We screw up, we have frailties. We’re not governed by our relationships all the time. We are goal driven a lot of the time, especially if you’re writing a hero character.

Women can be heroes. Often we are.
Women can be leaders of men. Often we are.
Women can be strong, yet still completely feminine and powerful and amazing and uniquely beautiful. Often we are.

Even in real life, when I look at some of the strongest people I know, my mind often travels to the women I know rather than the men. We don’t typically hold higher career positions, because of the boundaries and limits that society has set us, but heck, we can be powerful.

So don’t sideline us. Don’t “disappear” us. It’s offensive and nasty and cheap and hurtful. It’s degrading and demeaning to some of the most incredible people I know.

Sure, these are superheroes I’m giving as examples, and you could claim it doesn’t matter. But it does. We all need our role models. We all need to believe we could be that hero on the screen. We all need to believe that we too can be the “chosen one”, the hero with a destiny greater than we thought possible.

We all need to dare to dream. Give us our dreams. We deserve them.

Autumn…

It’s starting to really feel like autumn here in southern New Zealand.

12_5_10_autumncolour

Yesterday morning we had the first frost of the year – not a bad one, but enough to remind me that winter is on its way. The heater has been on more and more. We’ve had two weeks of pretty much nonstop rain, and everything is sodden, including several bad storms that have felled several established trees in the district – things look stark and bare without them.

hazelnuts2

Autumn always makes me become contemplative – I think back on the year that has passed, and plan for the year to come.

This year, most of my free time has been taken up with various renovations we’ve been doing – we had nightmare builder who literally made everything worse that they touched, and now we’re still dealing with the fallout from the “work” they did.

Not happy – and I’m probably going to have to call them back, to fix more of the problems they’ve caused. I won’t be keen to ever call in a builder to my house ever again!

autumnleaves1

It has all been emotionally draining and financially devastating.

Regardless, things are ticking over and moving along, albeit slowly. I’ll be glad when everything is done.

This year has been one of great change for me, for the better. I’ve reached some big decisions that were hard to make, and feel like life has rounded a corner. Sometimes the hardest decisions are the best ones for us, but they hurt at the time.

In my case, I was stewing over a number of difficult choices I knew I had to make, but was avoiding making those choices for fear of hurting people I cared about.

Now I’ve taken the steps I needed to take I feel better – I’m still in limbo, before everything is done, but I know there is light ahead.

22_3_2010_hazelnuts

Kind of like autumn really. You know you have to pass through winter, and the cold and the dark, but there is promise of spring ahead.

autumnberries

50 Shades of DAFUQ?

I’ve been re-reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

50-shades-of-grey-cover_300x400

Before you go cringing at me reading it let alone re-reading it, let me explain.

I first read the book about a year and a half ago. I have a background in literature, and I generally try to keep up with what’s it the bestseller lists. Especially when a novel comes out of nowhere, the author is unheard of, and suddenly everyone is talking about the book.

Fifty Shades (soon to be a major motion picture – ohhh, aren’t we lucky!) matched all of the above criteria. Plus it was rumoured to be about BDSM, a topic of personal interest (to put it politely), so it piqued my curiosity.

I grabbed an e-copy, and started reading. And was appalled.

Fifty Shades of Stalking! Fifty Shades of Creepy! Fifty Shades of I’d Call The Cops!

The first thing that struck me was that the love interest, Christian Grey, was more of a stalker than a Dom.

What Christian Grey REALLY looks like!
What Christian Grey REALLY looks like!

He was downright creepy, and I’d have been more inclined to call the cops on him than take a roll in his “Red Room Of Pain” (major LOLs at that!).

But also, the whole thing was just wrong. It got everything wrong. (Except for the playing to Spem In Alium thing – that was kinda cool actually…)

Fifty Shades of So What Was Wrong With It?

It made kink out to be some sort of mental illness. Like people who do this sort of play have something wrong with us, and it takes a good vanilla girl to set things right. It supported the old, and completely wrong, assumption that kinky people have all been molested as children and suffer from mental illness.

Apparently in Books 2 and 3 of the series, Ana (the protagonist) “heals” Christian Grey from his kinky habits and they go on to live happy, vanilla lives. Presumably with 2.3 kids, a white picket fence, and a BMW in the driveway.

Major vom voms.

Kinky people are normal. Just kinky

I look at myself and my play partner, and we grew up in very typical, normal, healthy families. No broken homes. Not molested as children. Or ever. No horrible “Uncle Fester” types grabbing a grope the moment our parents’ backs were turned.

We’re just kinky because we like to play that way, just like people who are gay are born that way too. Or people who are straight are born that way too.

From my observation, we’re no more likely to have mental illness than the rest of the population, although there does seem to be a higher percentage of geeky / nerdy types among the kinky set than the general population.

Fifty Shades of She Didn’t Do Her Due Diligence!

How the author of Fifty Shades could have got it so completely wrong is beyond me. All I can think is that she’s not the slightest bit kinky herself, and did a minimum amount of research with Mr Google before deciding to write the novel.

fifty-shades-of-fucked-up

It’s a shame too, because had just a few things been changed (okay, well, quite a few things!) she could have used the novel to educate instead of denigrate.

Fifty Shades of OMG it’s a WHIP!! Run!!! Run for your life!!!

BDSM can look scary to the untrained eye. Yes, we do play with people’s comfort zones and boundaries. It’s a way of living life on the edge. Living a little bigger and brighter and darker. Seeing the world in all shades of the spectrum – not just shades of grey, you might say.

It’s not for everyone. Most people are happier without kink. It doesn’t suit them. That’s fine.

A lot of things that people do can look scary, or even crazy, to the untrained eye. Strapping a pair of planks to your feet and shooting fast down a snowy mountain (skiing), or taking a running jump off a cliff with only a few nylon pieces of fabric to hold you up (paragliding), or sitting in a metal tube thousands of feet above the earth with nothing but air between you and the ground (flying in a jet aircraft) – all these seem foolhardy to the uninitiated.

Some people like to live life safely while others like to experience everything life can offer. We all live life along a spectrum of what we want to experience or are willing to experience.

The choices are ours alone – it’s only when those choices are taken away from us, as portrayed in the Fifty Shades book, that experiences move from being consentual to being abusive. Ana is in an abusive relationship with Christian, not a healthy kinky one.

Fifty Shades of A Complete Disgrace

So what has all this to do with Aphrodite? Quite a bit actually. As you might remember from the Charge of the Goddess,

All acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals

Yet this book twisted something that is usually about pleasure, and often about love, into something that was more about mental illness and stalking and insecurity.

Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t portray a loving, kinky relationship. I should know – I’m in one. It portrays a relationship of mental abuse and stalking, of complete mental manipulation where the recipient is NOT consenting or enjoying what she is receiving. It’s abusive, plain and simple. Everyone I know in the kinky community would advise Ana to get the hell out! I sure would.

Kink is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be pleasurable – otherwise we wouldn’t do it. It’s supposed to be cathartic, and a way of finding release, and experiencing sensation, and moving towards a deeper experience of reality.

It is often about Dominance, but not in a petty, stalking sort of way. Fifty Shades might have done the world a service in the end, by encouraging lots of newbies to experiment. But I can’t help thinking the overall result will be negative, because the vanilla, majority world will believe that the kinky world is one of stalkers, abusers, and the mentally ill.

In closing, if you’re intrigued by BDSM, don’t believe a shred of what you read in Fifty Shades. Instead, go find your local kinky community leaders, and join a local group. You’ll find they’re a lot more normal than Christian Grey. Or join an online community like Fetlife if you find face-to-face too intimidating at first. Above all, though, go with your gut.

Play safe. And have fun. That’s what it’s all about 🙂

Entering the darkness…

Now that Samhain is passing, we’re entering a darker part of the Wheel. Not quite the darkest hours yet – the coldest and darkest hours are reserved for the days between Yule and Imbolc – but dark and cold and deep enough for a change in my psyche and my emotional state.

Down here in the south of New Zealand, Yule can really can be bleak. The cold seems endless, the days are so short, and there can be a chill in the air that goes right through you. You don’t have to live here long before you recognise the bite in the air that is associated with snowfall.

Here on the Taieri, where I live, when the wind swings around to the south I know it is time to close the far paddocks of the farm, check that the farm gates are all closed, and ensure that the old barn is open so the sheep can shelter safely inside through the worst of the winter weather.

The bonfire paddock in winter. Soon the first snow will fall, and winter will truly be here.
The bonfire paddock in winter. Soon the first snow will fall, and winter will truly be here.

It’s then we turn to roasts and stews and all sorts of hot foods to keep us going.

To my way of thinking, there’s not too much better than sitting by the fire in a toasty pub with friends, knocking back a local pint. Or two. My town has some great spots for sitting and sinking a quiet beer or two. It’s such a winter thing to do, it almost feels ritualistic. In some ways, it is.

And Dunedin has, over the past few years, created another way of celebrating Midwinter besides food and drink and hours with friends. We have a Midwinter Lantern Festival, and it is beautiful. I’ve participated for a few years now, making lanterns for my kids, and doing the circuit of the Octagon, watching the hundreds of lanterns set the world aglow. It’s an incredible sight, stunningly beautiful, and if you’re ever in Dunedin at Midwinter it’s an event you really should try to catch.

Dunedin's Midwinter Carnival
Dunedin’s Midwinter Carnival

Totally Pagan, of course! We even circuit the Octagon deosil (anticlockwise in the southern hemisphere). Someone got it right when planning the festival.

For me, though, this time of year, when nature closes up a little and goes to sleep, is a time of meditation.

I take as much time as I can to be out in nature – out in the wild, if I can help it – and I spend time in meditation, doing trancework, working the hard yards on all the inner messiness that goes with trying to remain a sane human being in today’s screwed up world. It’s challenging stuff, not easy, and tiring.

Oddly enough, I find that the time between Samhain and Yule is when I am most creative. Go figure. Maybe it’s got something to do with the reproductive energy that is in the air around now – after all, it is now that the rams are being put to the ewes, and a whole lot of sexy / creative energy is going on around the place. Who knows? But I do know that I do my best writing and my best musicianship in this part of the year. Other musicians and writers tell me I’m not alone in this experience.

One thing is certain about this time of year – it’s a time when we learn more about our inner darkness, if we choose to. There can’t be light and warmth without cold and dark – this time of darkness creates balance and energy and flow around the Wheel. By choosing to acknowledge and learn from its power, we increase our own strength and wellbeing.

nebulae