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papabayj

be good to yourself.

Month

January 2016

I said a bad word.

So this time last week I was in trouble on social media for using the c word. Simultaneously, an article I wrote about the impotence of domestic violence campaigns was reposted by a very prolific current affairs website. They printed the word ‘cunt’ in full, no asterisks, and although they’ve now replaced it with ‘imbecile’ and taken it off facebook, I was galvanised by their inclusion. All the people who called me misogynistic, hypocritical and the many more who just told anyone who’d read it how abominable the use of the word was didn’t seem to understand (or care to) as to why I used it. I’m going to do my best to explain.

Before I begin, I’d like to point out how disappointing it was to see people take one word out of an article and brandish it around in turn as a weapon against taking any responsibility for what the article was really about. You know what’s worse than the c word? People who beat their partners.

I had never thought critically about the word ‘cunt’ until I heard it being reclaimed in Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’. It was one of MANY things I learned in that show about women and vaginas, and I wholeheartedly agreed that we should use the word with more reverence and celebration. Pity of it is, I seemed to be the only one who ever carried through on my oath, and this is when I discovered something fantastic:

‘Cunt’ is the most powerful word in the English language.

Am I wrong? Can you think of any word that sparks more controversy and passion? I genuinely believe that regardless of its origins, ‘cunt’ is still a word that in spite of being reclaimed by many a staunch feminist, is still regarded with hush and uncertainty. When I wrote an article about how important it was to take any steps necessary to end domestic violence by disrupting abusers, I could think of no better tool to disrupt than the word ‘cunt’. And I was 100% right. The article has now been shared 742 times, and commented on over 100 times which is pretty impressive for a first-time-not-about-Amy-Schumer writer.

Addressing the word’s origins, legitimate are concerns that we would give negative connotations to female genitalia to abuse some of the lowest forms of human. I do concede that had I chosen a different word, perhaps the point would have had a better chance to marinate, which was my hope for the piece.

To be honest, I couldn’t think of much to be more empowering than discursively-weaponising women in this manner, by the word ‘cunt’ activating its power to defend itself against this dreadful state of affairs. I offered several alternatives to people wanting to share it or quote it, but in the end all of them stuck with ‘cunt’, no asterisks. There is no way advertisers or organisations would use the c word in their campaigns, but by reading it in my article they might think twice about just how hard they’re pushing the boundaries and holding abusers accountable. That was the point.

I am ever reminded how powerful language is, and thankful to those who could see past language and indignation to the actual purpose of the piece. I’m amazed by what lengths people will go to avoid taking action, and continue to write in hopes that I will someday disrupt even them to step away from their screens and start making history.

 

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Crossdressing isn’t compassion.Stop thinking it is.

This has started doing the rounds on social media.

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Get it? ‘Cos misogyny and Share if you think it’s bad which is a super effective strategy? Also let’s keep the body dimensions in line with traditional gender stereotyping, ‘cos those standards need to be kept.

I’m going to beg you stay with me on this, because I rode in on my high horse for this one.

Wearing clothing designed for traditionally women’s figures, or doing things that society ascribed as feminine does not qualify you as compassionate or empathetic to women or their rights to safety, respect and equality of all kinds.

Now I understand women’s pain! Men teeter in stilettos to raise awareness for domestic violence (Daily Mail)

I make every effort I can to err on the side of caution when it comes to distributing my opinion in the feminist or gender equality discourse because I’m a man and the whole point is that I shut up and actually listen to the person living it. I err on the side of “absorb this, put your stuff in the blog”. Obviously.

There are many people who think that stuffing men into high heels somehow qualifies them as sensitive to the cause. They very well may be, but not because they put high heels on, because they took the time to read about the parameters of inequality, to ask women about their stories and actually listen to them, to take a hard look at how they behave with their sisters, and daughters, partners and mothers and reflect on how that behaviour impacts their female coworkers, transgender neighbours, gay activists.

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This point harks back to how I feel about the Polished Man campaign as well. Although opening up the binaries and boundaries of masculinity to disintegrate tension between all the expressions of the sexes is a crucial concept to reducing violence and prejudice (kudos Jaden Smith and Louis Vuitton), this can’t be tokenistic. Without a real platform and community rising to adopt and adapt, then these token uses of female identifiers to pardon men is doing nothing more than preaching to the converted.

I appreciate that a little humour didn’t hurt the cause, and polished men standing up for women’s rights is better than no men. But let’s just put this idea to bed. Because in spite of all this, for the women who die each day at the hands of an unstable partner, ex-partner, family member or garden-variety asshole or psychopath, it’s super not a joke, hey.

Anti-domestic abuse campaigns aren’t working. It’s probably because they’re crap.

Sorry. But Australian campaigns to stop domestic violence are ineffective, pussyfooting, and some I’d say are even misogynistic. I’m a man, converted to the cause, haven’t touched anyone in anger ever except my brother and sister when we were kids, and sometimes when they take the last Tim Tam. I see these attempts we’re making to stem the entrenched inequality experienced by women in our society, and I think they’re all but useless. They’re not good enough.

Case in point: what family-abusing man is put off his anger issues and routine beatings by nail polish? What does this even mean? I presume the idea is to create an identifiable community of men to activate some sort of peer pressure to not hit women or children.

Here’s an idea: keep the photo of Matt Cooper or Jarryd Hayne, but instead of the manicure, perhaps offer the phrase “If you beat your child you’re a cunt of a human/imbecile/wantwit and don’t come to my games”? Feature Malcolm Turnbull in there with a “If you hit your wife you’re a cunt of a human/piece of shit/danger to society and if you’re found guilty in court we’re suspending your right to vote”? Chuck the Australian Federal Police Commissioner in there for good measure with the quote “If you murder your ex-partner in breach of a restraining order you’re a cunt of a human/asshat/waste of skin and you’re going to prison, and then you won’t come out again”. Who are we protecting here?

Another case for your submission: definitely more on track, and yet still far more focused on how terrible a boy’s going to feel if he starts his reign of terror over his relationships early. No point showing how things turn out for the victims of domestic violence: the likelihood of unstable employability, serious psychological problems, perpetuation of violent behaviour in children, and the list goes on.

How about you show clips of a kid in juvenile detention, and how seriously uncool life is in there. Show more clips of disappointed family coming to visit. Show uncomfortable situations with future girlfriends having the talk with your concerned mates? Maybe a quick grab of a high security prison, because re-offending is REALLY a thing.

Bizarrely enough, the best advertisement against domestic violence I’ve seen is, is a commercial for better conditions for battery hens. How obscenely ironic.

If you’re looking for satire in my point, you’ll have to look awful hard, because although the tone of this blog is sardonic, I am deadly serious. Get it together. We all need to fight back against the offenders, their friends, the environments in which their prejudice is bred, and any party neutralising the cause with their “PR”. When the blood of women drenches our lives and stains our newspapers, there’s no applause for participation.

For those of you thinking my ideas are a molotov cocktail that might spark more problems, or they haven’t shown enough compassion for what men go through before they become violent, or any other #notallmen-esque evasive maneuver you’ve come up with, at least I thought of some kind of solution. How about you human up?

If you do know of a group spreading positive, proactive and effective messages, PLEASE put their name, hyperlink, initiative below. We need to know where they are.

 Author’s note: this article has been edited to include alternatives to ‘the c word’ at the polite request of some women and women’s support groups, the opinions of which I respected and were affirmed by in my choice to include not replace.

Joy. The oldest trick in the book.

I love film. Let me start there. I’ll continue with the caveat that this review is colored by my most recent film excursions, including the story of a woman overcoming tragedy and defamation to bring retribution on an Australian country town, and the story of a woman who loses house, home, income and reputation to bring about votes for women in the early 1900s. Joy is about a woman who must stand up to her family’s expectations (or lack thereof) and invent a mop. I left disheartened by these producers who promised me an uplifting, relatable tale of feminine strength and success, and did not deliver.

I can pinpoint three things about this film I thought did more damage than good for the causes its advertising proclaims to endorse.

  1. Every female character in this film is depicted as either weak-willed and self-doubting, or a manipulative, self-serving bastard. And what little bit of that felt like satire was patronising to the audience in its Luhrmann-esque opulence.  For all that Joy is a woman we can relate to: a goodhearted, hardworking mother with twentieth-century-disease. Flung along the milestones of marriage, mortgage and motherhood, her story is all too familiar; perhaps this is what the opening notes about how the story is inspired by countless women who have triumphed over adversity meant. But I call foul, and maybe I am wrong, because for all the obstacles, she did smarten up, she did stop presuming advice from those around her was good, she did end up in he big house with the kids who loved her and there was no love story. But I call foul: Joy is not the only woman in this film, and her story is one where her success is impeded by bitter people around her who never change, or feel like they should change and in real life, it shouldn’t be like that. Joy’s entrepreneurial spirit is the only good thing about this movie (aside from the nod to Joan Rivers) and it is continually drowned out by dream sequence and sickening scapegoating by the other characters. Which brings me around to…
  2. Some have said that Joy‘s intrigue and modernity are based around a lack of resolution in the film, it’s a real “real-life” picture. I call foul again because nowhere in the content do we find remorse or victory over the agonising-to-watch mistreatment of parent upon child in the film. Optimists like me in the audience will see that the fact Joy never cast out or reprimanded her father for his remarks on how worthless she was, nor her underhanded sister, nor her victim mother, is an indication that true resolution comes from abject forgiveness. Optimists like me will recognise that although Joy directly and violently cast the same cynicism and shutdown of self-esteem inflicted upon her to her daughter, the fact that they’re still the image of loving at the end of the film probably means she turned out OK too. But it matters what we say to our children, it matters what sense of hope or importance we foster in them – that is apparently the message of the film but the titular character continues the vicious cycle in the scene and this is never resolved or commented on.
  3. The grandmother narrator character was poorly constructed and poorly written. The cool speech from the trailer isn’t even in the film (fair because the film’s structure makes that speech redundant).

This film is a remark upon what must be overcome by women to achieve success, what expectations and crises of faith in oneself. And then it isn’t. See it for yourself, because I think films like this should be seen. And be entertained by it, for it is entertaining enough. But I believe we still have a responsibility to respect our audiences when we make abundantly clear the value of women in home, workplace, education centre and political stream. I fear this offering to the film industry’s representation of women is tokenistic, lazy and misguided. Joy is better than no joy. But Joy‘s lesson is hard to make out, and talking about things it only thinks it knows. Erin Brockovich would be rolling in its grave if it were anything close to dead. Now there’s a movie.

The cinema played this advertisement before the film about how terrible an adolescent boy felt after he hit his girlfriend as a deterrent to abuse. The whole ad was about how bad he felt. Think about that.

 

If you’re a woman who wants to do something great, check out these places:
http://www.goldmansachs.com/citizenship/10000women/about-the-program/index.html
http://thestoryexchange.org/
https://businessfamilies.org/en/education/?l=en&co=bff-prepare-propel-your-venture

If you’re the victim of domestic violence then you can speak to someone. It doesn’t to be physical violence to make an impact on your life. That is one thing to film makes clear:
http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/finding-help
http://au.reachout.com/tough-times/bullying-abuse-and-violence/abusive-relationships
http://www.amnesty.org.au/svaw/comments/2239/

An open letter to every guy I just unfollowed on instagram. All 541 of you.

Dearest,

By the time you’re reading this letter, you may have noticed that I have unfollowed you. Trawl though you might through the countless thousands of people who have hitched their wagon to your sexually-charged star, you will find my name is missing. I only hope you know that my leaving you does not in any way diminish the special nature of our former relationship, nor how much I value our time together. It’s just that I’ve become a different person, and it is time we went our separate ways. I hope this letter gives you some clarity as to why I’ve made this hard decision, and if you still can’t bring yourself to move on, then please snap out of it because you have thousands of other people eating your shit up with a spoon, and thousands more on the way I’ve no doubt.

It occurred to me recently as you flashed by on my phone screen, that the standards for male aesthetics are still very high – much as they are for women – and when it comes to the sexually diverse community, the permission we’re giving you to direct our consciousness by sole virtue of the fact that you’re fine as heck to look at is more than substantial. Men are feeling more and more incompetent, incapable, and unimpressive because of these standards. Further, our society is worshipping the standard more than I believe we ever used to.

The former standards for men’s beauty was shaped by physical labour, which gender equality has somewhat distributed across the sexes more. Now, instead of allowing male beauty to change to reflect the new structure of life for men, we made gyms and kept the old constriction held as idol.

Anyway, I worked out that I’m part of the problem. Our relationship is fuelling this cycle, with you as the Adonis-influence, and me as the lowest-common-denominator-consumer. I can’t be this to you any longer. Your “fitspiration” didn’t get me into a gym, or out for a walk at all. Truth be known, our relationship is purely sexual, stimulative. And you deserve more, for all you may not want more. I definitely deserve more.

Let our breakup not take away from the work you do – it is hard, unrelenting work in a highly competitive industry of social media engagement. I admire what you do, there’s no way I could do it. The fact is though, that in spite of the inspiring quote in your bio, your content is focused almost exclusively on you naked, or at the gym, or naked at the gym. Intermittent depictions of the meals you make, clothes you buy, brands you sell with sex appeal appear as diamonds in the rough.

Somewhere along the way, your particular shape attracted hordes of thumbs double-tapping and following your progress, compelled as I was once by mild arousal, perhaps envy, perhaps encouragement. That number that reigns and ranks you at the top of your profile has got the attention of agencies, product companies etc who then pay you money, ask for your endorsement, and encourage you to increase your activity. In turn, you feel rewarded for your work, and some of those followers will feel the need to push their own physical forms to also become an “opinion leader” as you are.

By this new order, the development of your mind, networking of your thoughts and investment in your sense of self all come secondary to what will place you on a platform to distribute your influence upon the world. Your six-pack makes you credible, which I find incredible. So I set about to end our relationship.

I suppose it’s fair I tell you, ours isn’t the only tryst that I have called time on. I looked over everything you have contributed to our connection, and having discovered that nothing really inspired me creatively, I had to end it. Don’t be mad or jealous if you discover other men that you think deserved the same treatment are still carrying on with me. The truth is that somewhere those men still made me laugh, or made me think, or just interspersed their naked ambition with something, ANYTHING, else. I don’t feel like I asked a lot, and I would’ve appreciated more effort on your part in the past; it became very apparent you took advantage of how unlikely I was to spend the time and battery and brain to check up on you and really evaluate who we are as people, and what impact we make on the collective consciousness. In truth, I feel quite betrayed.

You know, it wouldn’t have been hard to keep your promise to inspire me by throwing in something intellectually, artistically, politically, spiritually interesting. It’s like you don’t even know me, like you couldn’t even take a couple of minutes to give me some credit and try to spice things up. But no, you just kept calling yourself an actor when you’ve shown no interest in the profession, or saying you’re an artist or fashion photographer or beauty blogger when really you just do nude portraiture. That’s OK, just be honest! Worst of all is when you say “welcome to my life” but all I see is the parts of your life when you’re kissing someone else! At least the other guys make the effort to pretend they’re being random!

I’m sorry. You should know this was hard for me. To look over all our delicious moments together and walk away. I even got rid of the one Kardashian I follow because she was guilty of the same crimes you are. Please understand, I had to do this. I need to be needed, and there are smart, creative geniuses, political brains and sustainability causes that need my thumb-work. I’d like to think that I’ll come across you in my Discover feed someday and see you’ve changed, and if you haven’t tagged twenty other aggregate accounts, of course I’ll reconsider our relationship. Until then, go with my blessing, and I wish you all the best.

Before I go, I will say this. For all that I want you to succeed, I hope that you will take my advice. Take responsibility for the unbelievable volume of people willing to be influenced by you, don’t mistreat them as you did me, give them something to be activated by, show them a way forward not just physically but also for the benefit of our communities, our countries, our planet. Sure it may not get as many Likes, but when this whole celebrity-for-no-reason thing comes to an end, you’ll feel like a better person – for all that you’ll likely have retired by then.

Yours no longer,
Brodie

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