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Adolescence

“Don’t wait ’til I put up a fight”-you can make Safe Schools

There is nothing harder than watching your community let hope slip through their fingers, the people who you share a common thread with, hearing their resolve unravel. Not even strangers fighting against your right to safety and winning is harder than your friends feeling barren of bravery in the streets and the schools to stand up for themselves. Today, we woke up to an Indian-giving government (much as I hate that phrase), who after stepping leagues forward in addressing struggles young people face in terms of identity, community, sexuality, gender and health, hit us square in the face with a 180-degree decision. To hack funding, squirrel away resources and place the weight on children to approach adults and ask for equality, effectively exposing themselves and gambling what social stability and trust in the mentor-figures they have. The whole thing is a crushing disappointment, a systemic betrayal and an anxious revelation for our entire population. But by no margin is it over.

The advantage conservatism has is that they’re community active where progressives are more individualistic, and so do not invest or provide as much content to the systems, political, educational or spiritual. At the end of the day, it is a blatant hypocrisy for communities that go door-to-door on the premise of educating and providing entry into a dogma to accuse a program of having an agenda, but no excuse or claim of “it’s unfair” will enact the change we need. What’ll do it, is you taking time off Facebook, not rocking up to Friday night drinks on time, skipping your spin class, or whatever it takes to repurpose your time and energy into solutions. Like it or not, Safe Schools is a wonderful program because it does the hard work for us so we can get back to living lives where the worst homophobia we experience is from a passing car.

So for those of us who still have the energy, for those of us who are galvanised not disheartened by this setback, for those of us who knew from the beginning this backlash would come and thickened our skin up, here’s a couple thoughts:

  • Forget shaming, name and acclaim your school if you made it out alive, and remind them how proud a student you are for what they did at the time, and what they can do now. Maybe write them a letter?
  • Tell your local school about the program, and ask them if they provide it. If not, ask why they don’t, and what alternative they suggest to people wanting to equip their kids with the skills for not being homophobes or bigots.
  • Parents ask the school you send your kids to whether it’s a Safe School and if it isn’t, ask them how they intend to support at-home messages of equality, compassion and understanding in a broader social context.
  • Potential parents let your catchment schools know you’re looking around and only want to send your kid to a Safe School if possible.
  • Provide pamphlets to your council, make sure libraries have a stock, throw them up on your neighbourhood noticeboard.
  • Daniel Andrews made a state-level commitment to fund the program independently of the Australian government. Write your local MP, or your Premier and demand the same. Get your mum, your Beyoncé-dance class, your gym, your boss to do the same. Better yet, write it for them and ask that they simply sign it if they won’t do it themselves.
  • Contact Safe Schools Coalition and volunteer to do their local admin. Funding isn’t required if the thing can run for free. I’m not saying that’s the answer but an interim measure? Yeah!
  • Get better at voting. Actually take your privilege seriously. Remember your elected officials make the systems, not the change. That’s our bit.
  • MOST IMPORTANT! If you’re a kid in question, know you’re not alone, we’ve got your back, and you have more power than you think. Just ask these peeps, or these ones, or these.

Stop taking no for an answer to a question you actually never asked. Stop arguing a case without knowing the opposing points. Be more critical, and get more involved than retweeting. Safe Schools is a boon to our community given by the people with the skills, know-how and drive to make it happen. I was there when it was made, I sat in meetings helping it’s branding. While those who can get behind it get behind it, do your part as a community, as allies to prepare your schools to receive it, prepare your local businesses to be chill, prepare your neighbourhood to understand it. While we sit on our laptops and use Caps Lock in forums and sign petitions, those who would see it all CTRL+Z are putting it in people’s faces, finding the latent people who don’t have an opinion and providing them one. Don’t declare war and leave the skirmish unattended.

I heard this song on my shuffle today and it occurred to me that before Safe Schools, we made safety our business. We used to have Safe Houses signposted, we used to hold meetings, and rallies and readings. If you can make Safe Schools happen without the program, then when it’s back on its feet it’ll truly be there for good. Don’t stop there. Interrogate your work to be Safe, speak to your uni about how Safe it is, is your favourite coffee shop Safe? Oh friend indeed, come build me up…

 

 

 

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10 Things that ’10 Things I Hate About You’ taught me about Growing Up

NB: There are a stack of wicked and funny 10 Things Life Lessons posts. Check them out. There are no crossovers, and this one’s a little deeper. You’re welcome.

Knowing how to be self-aware is a lesson some people take until their forties and beyond to learn. Spending the formative part of our lives making every effort to suit to perceived expectations of those around us puts many in a hard place leaving teenage years behind (though not necessarily adolescence). In the interest of improving our growth as humans in the coming year, maybe consider how you’ve gone through the following and how are you making peace with it now? Time for changes?

So here’s a quick guide, delivered in a language any 1999 teenager can understand. Definitely a movie worth checking out:

1. Romance really trumps profit.

romance

Sometimes one of the most confusing things about being a teenager is how every “know better” figure in our lives is quite emphatic about the fact that we should be focusing on our futures, on prematurely delineating an entire career and professional goal pathway for ourselves. The benefits of this prioritising are evident in mid-life crises, quickie marriages and quickie divorces and lengthy divorce settlements, abrupt career changes, stockbroker suicides and Japanese men who leave for work but sit in park all day ‘cos they’d rather do that than admit being made redundant. To boot, entering teen years guarantees a complete download of sexual drivers and the shocking awareness of the sex we’re attracted to. And at the end of the day, we come across an individual who we let vomit all over our shoes, not because we’re getting money out of it, but because it’s freaken’ endearing!

2. Hurting someone once is more than enough. Second chances are for masochists.

hurt

Now I completely endorse separating behaviour from person in the arena of child-rearing (calling your daughter a “bitch” because she broke something is not going to aid her developing self-worth, nor her decorum). However, when it comes to adults, who have all decision-making faculties at either their disposal or acquisition through education, I don’t believe hurtful behaviour should be allowed to continue if it cannot be understood or physically empathised with. Now sure she got back with the lying guy who was so-not-who-she-thought-he-was when he bought her a really extravagant gift (not sure what message THAT sends!), but I was happy that she maintained right to the very end that she wouldn’t be walked over or mistreated. It is the opinion of this blog that it is far better to be single and true to yourself, than married and destroyed. Don’t let it happen. Don’t let your friends do it. Tell your parents if you think it’s happening. Don’t do it to others. Just don’t.

3. Anger NEVER works alone.

anger

What I always loved about this film is how the vitriolic sidekick was actually a sweetheart and it was the combined angst that brought out the worst in these two friends. I mean it doesn’t take much to see how much more dangerous the gang is made by sheer numbers, we know when we cross the street to avoid the group of four or more youths, we know when we hush our voices talking about that particular high school clique. But remember that within the individual is always an angry voice taking over control from the past or the potential tense. If faced with anger, it’s usually unlikely it has anything whatsoever to do with you, and all to do with that inner voice of fear, retribution, confusion in the assailant. There’s a reason why in the face of trauma, the victims show far more compassion than the armchair activists. Because they’ve seen the real cause in the villain’s eyes. There’s no excuse for violence, but there’s none for withholding forgiveness either.

4. Parties are great if you don’t have an agenda.

parties

I shudder to think what would happen if there was a support group for people who’ve experience Blue Light Disco Crises. The teenage party is always the setting for serious drama to unfold, most people even anticipating that by waiting until a party to have a tender conversation or amping up to something drastic where the excuses of underage alcohol consumption or peer pressure serve to back us up. So go to the party, ask your parents permission so they can pick you up when ish goes down, wear the dress, but avoid expectations. Expectation breeds regret, Enjoyment breeds Memories.

5. People lie. Like sometimes even a lot.

hurtonce

There’s not really much to elaborate on here. The beauty of high school is that within such an enclosed, developing community there is as much hegemony, civil conflict, corruption of authority and isolation from the outside world as we see in the more macroscopic developing communities worldwide. Except, you know, there’s no aid organisations to improve your corner of the education nation. You just get to suffer and hope your domestic life isn’t riddled with manipulation and omission of information, restrictions on your liberties, infighting, micromanagement and entirely conditional support of ventures. Oh wait…

6. It’s not innocence they’re being overprotective about, it’s the transformation of innocence to naivete.

chastity

So this picture perfectly explains how I feel about being abandoned by my virginity. As per point 4, the most cruel dichotomy of being a teenager is the slut-prude binary system.

For men, this manifests as the pressure to know what you’re doing by having sex as prematurely as possible (made all the easier by mobile-phone-access to pornography), but not being a wanker so you will have no idea what your body is doing the first time you orgasm-here’s a tip, it’s getting someone pregnant or afraid of sitting down. Thankfully, almost all men ignore the peer pressure and masturbate quite freely and frequently, so all they have to fear is the illegitimate and pervading size-based ridicule.

For women, this binary hits them harder because preservation of virginity is pressed on them more harshly than men so they’re afraid to express their burgeoning sexuality with their increasingly-frustrated contemporaries (ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the cougar’s opportunity). For those of you long enough into adulthood to have forgotten, there are NO cues in high school society to inform a young woman if the decision she makes when propositioned for sex, or if she’s gutsy enough to approach an appealing male, whether she will fall on the side of the slut-prude divide that won’t denigrate her. A tragic some-of-the-time she’ll just say yes so she won’t have said no and risk being labelled a prude, or being raped. She’s probably caught on that even if she does say no, her accomplice will say she did it anyway for their own posterity.

For transsexual teenagers, homo- or multi-sexual teenagers, older than average students or exchange students from European cultures? You don’t actually get to choose, you’ll be viewed through the lens of your sexual activity and labelled a slut from the get-go. But it’s probably for the best, you’ll need to get used to it because adult society hasn’t worked this one out yet either.

7. Teachers are people. Students are people. These people treat one another like crap a lot. That should stop, and stuff.

teachers

Like is there any way to secure secondary schools against being the most mentally unsafe places to be? How do we discourage students from ostracising, victimising, assaulting and vandalising each other when it’s so apparent that teachers are a huge part of the process. I went to a school were teachers physically abused students, and each other. Upper management at the school emotionally and mentally abused teachers in front of students and students themselves. Students certainly aren’t unlikely to have started it. I was socially abused by a teacher in primary school because I deprecated a joke he told in class. Now sure, adults should know better not to use adult tactics or nuances to hurt children. But just in general, all of these people in a school setting need to be continually, systemically educated in garden-variety kindness, value of community and given practical skills in mental health aid. Including the parents, oh god when parents put their hand in the pie, everything goes to crap. This is why your kids don’t want you to drop them off, not because they’re embarrassed by you, but because they’re genuinely concerned for what damage you can do to the citizens and culture of the school culture, being an ignorant, unwitting tourist who “means well”.

8. Literacy is sexy. Also, someone’s intellectual appeal will always win out over their looks, good or bad.

literature3

I’ve always understood “cool” to mean “adj. acting in disregard or disinterest of other individual’s thoughts, real or perceived”. People get ugly, but there’s nothing uglier than fearing ugliness. You can never keep up with trends, and those who do find it very exhausting and distressing. If teenagers who go onto being successful early-adults seem to demonstrate anything, it’s usually that they’ve managed to detach their egos well enough to be themselves. It’s a far less taxing process to curate our actual self when operating in the big wide world, than spending our twenties making all the unproductive mistakes just so we can establish enough evidence for a regression into our authentic characters to look like a “I love being thirty, you can just forget all the bullshit” stage of growth. You can forget all the bullshit before you’re 21 if you have the grace, gall, guts, and some god-forsaken self-awareness. Here’s to no more midlife crises, just be your damn self! Unless you’ve coded up an entirely new person by the time you graduate, in which case, here’s to therapists become the fastest-growing profession worldwide.

9. Eroticism shouldn’t be suppressed. Responsibility and Health come from honest, even frank, education.

eroticism

I wonder if 50 Shades of Grey would have sold so well if we’d actually bothered to tell kids and teenagers what sex even was. Legit, what kind of farce is sexual education. I don’t have enough space to express my diatribe, nor to refer to other bang-on diatribes out there, nor services working their liberal butts off to fix the cause of these diatribes. So I’ll make it quick: TELL KIDS WHAT SEX IS SO THEY DO IT WITHOUT HURTING EACH OTHER.

Segregating boys from girls for sex education is not only counterproductive, counter-intuitive and counteractive, it’s godawful stupid, especially when we give them access to pornography on a daily basis (yes I think music videos and NSFW buzzfeed articles count). Also, there is a lot more to sex than reproductivity; teaching us what our reproductive systems look like and what they do in the event of a heterosexual emergency is super-valid but completely useless information in lieu of any context. Putting condoms on bananas has no transferable skills for students to learn how to help each other with female condoms. By the time they sent a timid, tight-collared educator to tell my student class what lubricant was, half of us already knew and used through trial and error! Oh and making us do a project on a particular STI didn’t serve as deterrent either, but seemed to increase the instances of anal sex-yet another thing no-one was prepared to engage in (see earlier point on use of lubricant). Anyway, my high horse needs some water. Taking a break.

10. The sacrifice of your pride is the first step to EVERYTHING.

No need to elaborate. See the movie. Work it out.

pride

Oh and also. If I can throw an eleventh in at the last minute? It’s never Nigel with the brie. Ever.

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