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.

Boys will be boys!

“Boys will be boys.” Have you ever said this? I know I have.

sexism

And have you ever realised how degrading it is to say that?

Look, I hate it when someone calls me a “girl”. I’m a woman. I’ve had a woman’s life for the last thirty years, I’ve two kids, I’ve been married. I’m emphatically not a “girl”.

Worse still, a “good girl”. Call me a “good girl” and it’ll really annoy me!

pow

So how can it ever be okay to call a grown man a “boy” and belittle his achievements in the same way?

Our world needs women. And men. Not boys. I’m not saying that we can’t be childlike at times, or playful. I’m not saying we can’t have our toys, or be fun. But I am saying that we need our adults, with our adult viewpoints and experience and responsibilities, more than ever.

The pic at the top of this article is degrading to both men and women. On the one hand, it supports the myth that only women can manage home duties. On the other, it degrades the ability of men to care for a home and family. Neither is true.

I know incredible single dads as well as amazing dads who are married. My own ex-husband is a wonderful parent, and I’d have no doubt at all in his ability to care for our kids on his own for an extended period should he have to.

Men from all walks of life can do these things. These are adult responsibilities for an adult to do, not a child.

Likewise, women are equally capable of holding down a part-time job or a high-powered career, whichever we choose. These abilities are not tied to which genitals we possess.

It’s not the least bit empowering to women to suggest that men cannot do tasks traditionally seen as “womens”, therefore women must do them. Instead, it’s actually a sneaky undermining of the equality that we seek, to the disadvantage of everyone.

Cinderella shoes: Why I, in my oversized body, said FUCK IT to the world

I’m a big woman. Not fat, not wobbly (which would be an entirely different sin of its own).

Just big.

I’m nearly six feet tall. I’m broad-shouldered, big-boned, and long-limbed.

There was absolutely no point in my life that I was not going to be large. Genetics decided that for me.

I take up space, which apparently in our society is a crime worthy of punishment if you’re a woman.

Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, we women are supposed to be small. Underweight, taking up no space, not making any noise or having any opinions. We’re supposed to be pretty, according to a very narrow definition of pretty.

Women are not supposed to eat.
Women are not supposed to eat.

The first time I was told I was too tall I was about 12. A guy I liked said I would be pretty if I wasn’t so huge. I was about an inch taller than him. We got on well as friends but he told me he couldn’t be seen with a girl who was taller than him.

Two years later my father started calling me “buffalo butt” and laughing at the “joke” because he thought he was a wit. I was medically underweight at the time. I started my first diet about then.

When you’re meant to be big, and your frame and your bones are big, and your feet are fast getting up to size 11, there is no diet in the world that will make you smaller.

My best friend said she was embarrassed when we went shoe shopping and the shop had nothing to fit me. My mother kept saying I should be more ladylike – whatever that meant.

I think it meant “less like me”. I think it meant less everything to do with me. Less of me.

I started to realise that’s what the world wants. It wasn’t just me either, with all my size. It wasn’t personal, even though it hurt like hell.

Women were supposed to be less than men. Not just less in our achievements and our abilities, but in our size, our space that we control, our earnings, our ideas, our voices. Everything.

We were supposed to be “assistants”, not the person being assisted.
We were nurses, not doctors.
We were teachers, not Principals – unless of a primary school or kindergarten.
We were secretaries, not the boss.
We were the scenery – the eye candy – in the movies.

Not the hero.

Nothing seems to have changed. We're still the "eye candy" and the "romatic interest".
Nothing seems to have changed. We’re still the “eye candy” and the “romatic interest”.

At school I remember asking about being an engineer, and being told, “Oh, you don’t want to do that! and being steered towards a career as a nurse or a teacher. I didn’t fancy cleaning, so I opted for teaching.

There weren’t many “acceptable” options for girls to choose from, after all.

Women live in a smaller world, and we’re supposed to be smaller to fit into it. But as I grew older, something clicked. I guess I started wondering what happens when a person demands a bigger world? What happens when we’re too big for the boundaries others set for us?

I sometimes wonder if I would be the same person today if I hadn’t been born too big to fit the role society wanted me to fit?

If I’d been born the “right” size, looked the “right” way, would I have challenged the role that I couldn’t fill?

Those Cinderella shoes were never going to fit me. So I created a new fairytale with myself as its champion. Would I have done so had the glass slipper fit?

cinderella

I don’t know. I don’t have answers. But I know one thing: I, in my oversized body, said Fuck It to the world.

The world as it was didn’t fit me, so I created a new world that suits me better. That I liked better.

And, as I look around, the Ugly Sisters – all of us who never, ever could fit the shoes we were told to wear – we are all creating our own worlds, side by side.

    They told me I was too big, so I used my height and strength as an asset and began to think of myself as an amazon, proud and strong, with a heritage that goes back thousands of years.

    They told me boys were smarter than girls, so I got myself a few degrees at University.

    They told me computers were for boys (I wasn’t allowed to touch my brother’s computer when it was bought for him, in case I – less than two years his junior and a teen at the time – “broke it”). So I created the largest online community for Pagans in Australia at the time of its creation, became a WebMistress, ran webpages and online forums, and learned my way around the internet, before taking on a Software Engineering degree.

    They told me I couldn’t fight because I was a girl, so I joined the Army.

    They told me sport was for boys and that I sucked at it, so I went to the State Championships in rowing.

    They told me girls were weak, so I became a bodybuilder and weightlifter.

    They told me girls couldn’t be Leaders, so I became a Leader of several communities, transforming them and removing previous corrupt leaderships.

    They told me I couldn’t write music, so I became a choral composer whose works have been performed worldwide.

    They told me girls couldn’t change the world, so I wrote stories with new worlds in them.

Be the change you want to see in the world

I’m just an ordinary woman, with no special abilities. Except I don’t believe in boundaries and rules, and I don’t believe in Impossible.

Maybe that’s what has made my world so amazing? Because only by believing in the impossible can we make it happen.

Women can do anything.
Too long we’ve been told to keep our horizons near, and our world small.
Too often we’ve believed it when we’ve been told what we supposedly can’t do.
The combination of being told to keep ourselves small and being told to appease others is deadly.

It’s time we all said Fuck It to the world, and made some noise. Because, by doing so, we might just discover who we truly are.

Does God care about gender? Transgender people and the Divine

Everyone is talking about Bruce Jenner at the moment. So here’s an interesting thought: does God – or do the Gods – care about gender?

Do our souls – if we have them – have genders?

You know, this never really occurred to me until recently. I remember reading somewhere that hardly anyone has a transgendered friend, and it’s something that few people connect with.

I must be different, because I can’t count the number of transgendered friends I have on one hand – I think I have eight or nine, last time I stopped to think about it.

The thing that strikes me most about people who transition is how little it affects who they are, to we people on the outside. To me, perhaps the most amazing feature of the whole process is how much they remain the same. They’re still the same people.

I remember being worried, when my friends have transitioned, that I’d lose my friends. But my friends have remained the same people inside. Their souls, if that’s the right word for it, have remained the same.

I suppose it’s naive to expect that gender should make such a huge difference, but before I knew people who had become male when they’d been female before, or female when they’d become male, I guess I’d expected their innate personality – the person they are inside – to change dramatically. It didn’t; it hasn’t.

So if it doesn’t matter to me, does it matter to the Gods?

A Goddess for everyone across the spectrum of gender

My patron Goddess is Aphrodite. Of all Goddesses she’s one to have a little fun with gender. She’s the Goddess of switching forms, of hermaphrodites and androgyny, and of playing games with gender roles.

A lot of people, when they think of Aphrodite, imagine this very, very feminine Goddess. But they forget that Aphrodite is also the Goddess who was spawned, so the legend goes, from the sea foam created by the castrated genitalia of Uranus, and her children include Hermaphroditus. She governs gender fluidity and transition, and is accepting of transition and non-traditional gender roles. The Gods aren’t necessarily easy to categorize.

Looks can be deceiving

Nor are people easy to categorize. Bruce Jenner, of all people, was portrayed as the stereotypical All-American male – the perfect athlete, the good-looking man who every man wanted as his friend and for his daughter as a partner. He was incredibly desirable and high-profile. Could anyone have seen this coming?

According to Jenner, it’s been here inside him all his life – inside him, waiting to come out. He started taking female hormones in the 1980s, 30 years ago. This isn’t a new thing for him.

That’s something you hear, again and again, from people who transition. The pressures to remain the gender they were born into are incredibly strong, and it is only once the pain of remaining who they are becomes too intense that they break the chains and push for the freedom to become themselves. Transitioning isn’t a kick, or a fad: it’s something they must do, and have needed to do for many years. It’s only society that has held them back.

We are all in transition

It’s both an indictment and praise to our societies that people feel such pressure to remain hidden for so long, yet are finally able to become who they feel they are meant to be. I think we’re societies in transition too, perhaps. But the signs are good that we’re becoming more tolerant, more accepting, and more positive for transgendered people.

We are transitioning too: we are learning, as a society, to be kind, open-minded, and to love unconditionally.

Do the Gods care? Personal perspectives

So – do our souls have gender? Do the Gods care? Will the transgendered be judged? Does any of it matter, apart from the happiness of the individual?

Or are the Gods, as the ancient Greeks might imagine, just playing games with us all, throwing the dice, making life more difficult for some than for others?

As a woman who, I suppose, is very gender-neutral, I’ve never felt the need to be a man. I can’t imagine what it is like. Yet I certainly fit more of a male stereotype than a female. I don’t own any skirts or dresses – at all. I wear a lot of men’s clothes. I’m a bodybuilder and weightlifter, spent time in the army, own a farm, castrate sheep and do most of the yard work around the property, work in tech, have tertiary experience in software engineering…the list goes on.

I can’t think of anything worse than knitting or sewing or quilting or wearing frilly clothes. But do I want to be a man? No. I’m just me. Somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum, I guess. I don’t feel confined by any roles. Why should I be? But my experiences are different to those of others. I have no right to judge. My right is that of support, and of friend.

If I have a soul, it’s not pink or blue. It’s probably orange, or yellow, or maybe lime green. I’m not really into the concept of souls anyway, but if the Gods care about gender, then I believe it’s a very small part of what makes a person worthwhile.

So my view is, if a person needs to transition to be complete and whole and happy, then let them. Support them. They’ll still be the same person inside. Because they always were that same person inside.

We just couldn’t see it.

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.

Child poverty, contraceptives and abortion: Hobby Lobby hypocrisy

Have you ever noticed how the people who are most vocally anti-abortion also seem to be the least likely to care about child poverty in their communities?

Sure, they’ll rant and rage over a bunch of cells when they’re inside a woman, and talk about the rights of the foetus, and do everything they can to destroy a woman’s rights. But what about those babies who are born, and living in poverty, and whose parents are struggling to feed them, clothe them, educate them?

Child-Poverty-Rates

Ah, well, they seem to be a different story.

I don’t take well to hypocrites. I also happen to be very strongly in favour of women’s rights, and in favour of bodily autonomy. Perhaps this post says it better than I can here:

abortion

But the hypocrisy is getting my goat right now. Take the Hobby Lobby, for instance. On the one hand, obstructing women’s access to contraceptives while on the other supporting, with practically every dollar they make, sweatshop practices that seem to be brutally at odds with the welfare of any children. Or adults.

Then there’s this:

HLmeme

I’m glad I live in New Zealand, where contraceptives are easily, cheaply available and no-one questions it. Where abortions are readily available and they’re nobody’s business but the woman’s and her doctor’s.

All women deserve these rights. We need to stand up against the hypocrites who think they have any sort of automatic access to our bodies and what we do with them, and tell that it’s not okay to tell us what to do. It’s never okay.

And, while we’re at it, how’s about those pesky hypocrites start paying attention to the children in poverty who really need their attention instead!

pleasehelp

Rant over.

Aphrodite: the Goddess of sluts and whores

There’s been a lot of name calling going on in politics at the moment.

prudewhore

Apparently, women who have sex are sluts. Especially if we have sex outside of marriage. Even if we have sex inside of marriage sometimes.

But I want to ask – why? Why the emphasis on women? And if women who have sex are sluts and whores, surely men are too?

I guess that means that our mothers are sluts. And our grandmothers. And the Queen is a slut. And pretty much any women who didn’t remain a nun.

Name calling in the playground!

When I think back on primary school, I remember that kids used to call each other names a lot. And it was all about pecking order, and putting people into their social rank.

Names were used to make people feel bad about themselves. Names were used to put people down. Names were especially used by people in power to keep those who didn’t have the power from having any.

So you’d get the bullies name-calling the loser kids. And the jocks name-calling the nerds. And the popular kids name-calling the unpopular kids. Never the other way around.

So we had a nerdy kid who people labelled “Eugene” and gave him a hard time. And a girl we called “craterface” because she had bad skin. And a friend of mine used to get called “red pubes” by a group of guys because she had red hair and, well, they liked to make her feel uncomfortable.

Pleasant stuff. Real intelligent too. But it did it’s job: it made those without power feel worse, and those with power feel even more powerful. It kept those lower down the power hierarchy in their place.

And now we have grown up men calling women who have sex – and, let’s face it, the vast majority of women do have sex, so they’re by association name-calling all of ussluts and whores.

Then they act all surprised when this is the result:

slutwalk1

And this:

slutwalk2

And this:

SlutWalk March In London

I love sex! OMG I’m a slut! And a whore!

I love sex. I really enjoy it, and yes, I’ve had sex with a lot of men in some people’s estimation. And a fair number of women.

I’m a slut! OMG! Kill me now! LOL.

I suppose, if you stretch things a little, I might even technically be a whore, because some of the guys bought me dinner beforehand. So I was PAID (in food) for sex, if you want to get nitpicky.

OMG OMG!

I have no regrets (well, there was this one guy who was pretty awful and had no clue…lol), and am proud of everything I did. It was consenting, and fun, and I enjoyed most of it.

I’m an adult, and I have the right to do what I want with my body. I believe that others have the right to do what they want with their bodies too.

If Aphrodite is the Goddess of beauty and love, then She is also the Goddess of sluts and whores. Which in some peoples eyes is all women.

I don’t understand why or how some people can hate women that much. I suspect it’s a combination of bad sex and too little of it, or maybe just lots of rejection by women in their lives. I feel sorry for them for that, but they’re not going to improve matters by hating women for their miserable sex lives.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to stand proud, as a slut and a whore, along with all my friends who are also sluts and whores, and continue to fight for our rights to do with our own bodies as we wish.

Madonnas and whores, and that awesome double standard

Are you a Madonna? Or a whore?

For a long time the whole Madonna-Whore Complex gave women two roles – we could be “pure” as wives, mothers and virgins. Or we were “dirty” as whores – women who enjoyed and appreciated sexual fulfilment.

prudewhore

Madonnas and whores – the two categories for women.

Nothing in between. The thought that sex could be a normal healthy part of a person’s (particularly a woman’s) life was, and is still, problematic for people who see women as either madonnas or whores, as pure or impure.

Because sex is such a massive stepping stone in the madonna-whore world, such a huge item of goods to be traded and sold by a woman’s father on her wedding day to the prospective husband, it can never be seen as a normal healthy thing that humans simply do because its enjoyable and natural.

In the Madonna-Whore world, virginity is of incredible importance. Without her virginity, a woman is worthless. Soiled. Trash.

And a man who has had sex with many women? Well…

fortunes-men

Have you ever noticed how there are so many words for a woman who has had sex (or a woman who people think has had sex) but there are very few for men?

slut

madonna-whore.xxlarge

The outcome of “sluts versus studs”

So we get the politicalisation of contraception – because only a whore would need it. Once a woman is married, her role becomes simply that of “Mother” or “Prospective Mother” and contraception is an unmentionable. Although almost all couples use contraception in modern society, it’s an unmentionable topic. People pretend it doesn’t happen.

And we get the politicalisation of abortion. Only a whore would abort. A “nice” pure girl doesn’t get pregnant in the first place (because she’s “abstinant”). And if she does (whoops!), she’ll marry the father and have her Happily Ever After.

Except life doesn’t always work out that way. And atheists have a lower divorce rate than religious couples. Hmmm…something seems to be going a bit wrong.

This very narrow view of women – as pure or impure, madonna or whore – stems from patriarchal religions, is tied up with the old worldview of women as chattel and property, and is directly at odds with the direction society is headed in. Hence the clash between the patriarchal churches and society at large.

And the churches are losing. You can see this very clearly in the political landscape in the United States at the moment, the likely collapse and fragmentation of the Republican party – it has aligned itself with the old, white, extreme right religious sects of society, and is finding it simply doesn’t have the numbers. Those numbers are reducing at a very rapid rate, reflecting the way society is changing.

So what’s happening?

Sex is coming out of the closet. That’s what’s happening.

Women are starting to talk about sex, we’re starting to proclaim loudly that it is natural to enjoy sex – with however many partners of whatever gender we wish – and that whatever sex we happen to enjoy does not value or devalue us as individuals. It is simply something we, as human beings, do.

The changes we’re seeing in society, and the death of the madonna-whore complex, are part of women’s movement towards full equality as human beings. That’s all it is.

A group of people cannot be equal as long as they continue to be put into boxes for their behaviour and stereotyped. The “purity” concept needs to die – and the sooner the better. Purity is a concept that should be attached to clean water, or safe food. Not to women and girls. Not to people. We’re not a commodity. We’re human beings.

Aphrodite is a Goddess who represents the sexuality and power of women. She is strong, and fearless – and yes, she is sexual, and sensual, and beautiful. That is why she is intensely uncomfortable for people who have traces of the Madonna-Whore complex instilled in them. Because we’ve been taught that sexuality should be secretive, that is doesn’t give us strength and power. Yet it does.

This is why I think women need to embrace Aphrodite and what she represents. Make peace with our beauty, our sexuality, our sensuality. Be proud to say we enjoy sex. With whomever we choose. In whatever way we wish. Our bodies are our own to use as we desire.

That is why we do the Slut Walks, and why we support the womens shelters. That is why we do NOT bitch against other women, or criticise them for their sexual choices. That is why we support the right to choose, and the right to have safe, freely accessible contraception. Because all of these things are about the right to control our own bodies.

I’m no Madonna. I’m no whore. I’m a human being. And so is every other woman on this planet. It’s time to throw the boxes out the window. None of us is pure, or impure. There is no such thing as virginity – I’m tossing that out too.

We’re all just women. And we’re amazing.

Not enough workers!

I was at a local superket the other day.

I don’t know if your local shops are the same as mine, but around here we’re getting more and more do-it-yourself checkouts (where the customer does the scanning and paying themselves). More and more we’re seeing fewer and fewer actual workers on the checkouts, and more and more “closed” signs on the full checkouts of the supermarkets.

We’re experiencing what that means. It means we get days like the instance I’m about to relate to you, where there were lines of six to eight people with HUGE trolleys full, lined up at only two checkouts open in a supermarket. Everyone else had to either line up behind them, or self-serve it.

So there was me, with about 40 items in my baskets – plus a six year old to manage – scanning everything and piling bags up all across the DIY floor, blocking everyone’s way with scanned, bagged shopping that wouldn’t fit on trays that are designed to hold much less scanned shopping.

And a woman opposite me, in exactly the same predicament.
And a man next to me. Same situation for him.
And all of us NOT HAPPY about it.

Most stressed of all was the single check out attendant scurrying madly about, trying to help all of us every time something didn’t scan, or a machine demanded a salesperson to confirm something.

What has this to do with Aphrodite and women?

Quite a lot, actually.

Mostly it is women who work these low-paid jobs in supermarkets around the world. They’re overworked more and more as more women are laid off in favour of the self-serve machines, which are a cost-cutting (profit-making) exercise for the huge supermarket chains.

I’m not noticing any savings being passed on to us, the consumers. Are you?

Because of the lay-offs, there are also fewer and fewer of these unskilled jobs available to the women who may not have had the chance at an education, and who sorely need them. Or who need a few extra dollars to support their families. Or who are putting themselves through education. Or whatever.

It’s not just women of course, but the majority are women.

I’m sure by now some readers are calling me a “Commie” and signing off, figuring it has nothing to do with them in their own cushy life.

Good for you. Have a nice day feeling superior.

But these jobs are HARD. In a civilised world we should be doing what we can to ensure that jobs are fair and reasonable to work in. The woman who was doing the job of two that day on the self-serve line because the staffed check-out lines were closed wasn’t getting a fair deal. She was getting shafted.

I, as a consumer and user of the supermarket, was getting shafted too. I had to deal with my shopping all over the floor. I had to pick it up off the floor. Someone could have tripped over it and hurt themselves.

How would an elderly person – or a person with a back problem – have dealt with this situation?

The woman across the aisle dealing with the same problem, and the man next to me? They were getting shafted too.

The whole thing sucked. Maybe the shareholders are making a few more cents a year at all our expense, but I think they can go screw themselves.

What I did – the power and value of freedom

I complained. The overworked woman took more of her time, overworked as she was, to find a complaints line phone number for me. I thanked her and assured her it was nothing personal at all – I was angry at the supermarket manager.

I got the impression she really, thoroughly understood!

Then I went home, put my shopping away, and rang the complaints line. I asked for a job number, and have put it in my diary to follow up in a month.

Share our opinions

Another thing I’m doing is writing this blog post.

We consumers do have power. But if nobody complains about people being shafted, nothing will change.

Think you’re getting a better deal when a burger chain pays their workers less? Think again. They’re going to be overworked and tired and possibly make mistakes that could cost you your health. Or theirs.

Shafting people and not giving them a fair deal doesn’t benefit you. Not by a long shot. And do you really want to be a scumbag to save a few cents, making someone’s life a misery? If so, what sort of person are you?

The issues of decent working conditions and decent pay are women’s issues. They’re at the core of Aphrodite. If women are shafted at work, how can we be happy, healthy, functioning beings? And how can anyone we share our lives with?

Everything is connected.

So next time you go to a supermarket, or a burger joint, or anywhere you see there aren’t enough workers, take some time. Ask for the complaints number. Or to see the manager. Make a point of it.

Be the decent human being you were meant to be.

Awkward Aphrodite: Stripping beauty bare

I came across a presentation on TedX the other day, where Australian Journalist Tracey Spicer stripped off her makeup, frizzed up her meticulously coiffed hair, and took off her sleek blue dress in front of a live audience.

She did all this – and I admire her courage – to discuss the huge amount of daily effort we women undertake (27 minutes every day it is estimated) to get ready to face the world.

It was a striking way to make a point.

I’m surprised it’s not longer than 27 minutes a day. I know that my “regime” is pretty convoluted, especially on days when I wash and then have to straighten my hair. My “beauty bag” when I travel literally takes up half my suitcase. I’m not kidding. I try to pack light, and fit everything into a carry-on sized case (which I do), but half the space is cosmetics and toiletries.

My travel list of cosmetics and toiletries and medicines includes:

toothbrush, toothpaste,
hairbrush, shampoo, conditioner, hair styling treatment, hair straightening tongs,
contact lenses, contact lens case, contact lens fluid, spare contact lenses, glasses,
disposable razors, tweezers, mirror,
face cleansing wipes, AHA 7% lotion, retinol treatment, sunblock-moisturiser, body moisturiser, tinted face moisturiser,
eyeliner, eyeshadow, mascara, blusher, lipstick, lipbalm, eye drops,
body wash, body washing mitt
cortisone cream, anticonvulsant medication (I have epilepsy), antihistamines (I have hayfever), tampons

And I don’t consider myself to be a “high maintenance” kind of woman. LOL.

What my husband takes, for comparison?

toothbrush, toothpaste,
shampoo,
glasses,
razor,
body wash,
antihistamines (he gets hayfever)

The difference in lengths between the lists is a stark reminder of the inequality of the sexes.

Putting on my “armour”

Ironically, I don’t actually mind some of it. I consider the sunblock part of my health care against cancer, for example, and think my husband should put it on too (he doesn’t and won’t). But I hate having to straighten my hair. I hate the whole makeup thing.

Yes, I could stop doing all of it. But what would it cost me? I’m going back to work this year, and I want to present a professional image.

For women, that means a certain “uniform”, and that uniform includes makeup, a certain dress level, a certain fat level (yes, it’s true – fat women are discriminated against, didn’t you know?), and makeup and hair done a certain way.

Women without makeup and hair styled are less employable, and earn lower wages. I’m a professional woman – or I was before I took time off to have kids – and I want to regain that and earn well.

Hence, I’ll be wearing what Tracey Spicer, in the video above, aptly calls the armour.

Daily life

Some women argue that we don’t have to wear the armour in our daily, non-working life.

Yes, that’s true – but have you noticed how differently you’re treated when you’re dressed up as opposed to when you’re not?

I first noticed it when I was a lowly secretary. I had to wear a suit (skirt and jacket) and look very flash because I worked in the legal field. But even though I was earning a crappy salary and had no power at all, every single time I walked through a department store in town the sales assistants would fawn over me.

Did madam want to try some perfume? Did madam want to try this makeup? Did madam need some assistance?

“Madam” was earning a basic wage at the time and couldn’t afford any of it, but she learned a really important lesson.

Clothes really do make the man – or the woman. If you want to shop without being bothered, wear jeans. If you want to be assisted every step of the way, dress up. I don’t like it, but it’s a system and if you want to work the system, be smart about it, know it, and use it.

There are very very few people who can remove the status clothes of society and make a point doing so – Gandhi springs to mind here as an immediate example, but these people tend to be so instantly recognisable that their face is a thing of power. They have built so much personal power that the rules no longer apply.

Lord_Pethic-Lawrence_and_Gandhi

People judge the rest of us on what we wear, and that includes makeup and hair and weight. It’s not a fair system, and it’s not the least bit sensible, but it’s the way things are.

Beauty is a system. Beauty isn’t what we’re born with. It’s a look. It’s a style of presentation. Ever seen Tori Spelling? She’s naturally very plain, but she’s styled correctly. She has her armour on.

An armoured woman.
An armoured woman.

Isn’t refusing makeup a feminist act?

Theoretically, refusing to wear makeup is a feminist act. It’s refusing to play by the rules. But armour – and makeup is armour – can give you strength. I think makeup-refusing feminists forget that. Good looks – even society-sanctioned good looks – provide a person with power. And as women, we need all the power we can get.

So I think the sensible approach is to take that power and fight the system from the inside. Become powerful, and pull the patriarchy apart from within.

Yes, makeup is a drag. Doing our hair is a drag. But when there are issues such as abortion and rape and pay equality to be dealt with, and young girls are still being pushed into lower paying careers and encouraged to be Disney princesses waiting for their princes to save them, I think there are more important fights to fight.

Let’s fight them first, and win them.

cinderella

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DisneySexistStories