Many years ago, in the early 1970s when I was an organiser for the Australian Union of Students, I had to take a couple of Palestinian students around campuses in Western Australia to talk about the Palestinian position in the Middle East.
In one forum, a young guy yelled out that no-one would want to rape a Palestinian woman in response to a comment about rape. I walked over to him, grabbed him by both ears, yanked his head forward and said: “If you make a similar comment again, I’ll rip your fucking head off”. He shut up. I might point out that I would have had a similar reaction if such a comment had been made about a Jewish woman. I don’t like racism or anti-semitism.
The next day a group of Zionist students cornered me in my office – and I use the term “cornered” as they filled the room and blocked the exit. Their leader told me they were disgusted by my bad language (okay to talk about rape but not swear apparently which says a lot about their attitude to women) which no lady would use. I pointed out to them that I wasn’t a lady which really took the wind out of their sails, much to my surprise. One of them said: “I never though the day would come when I’d hear a woman say she wasn’t a lady” and then they all slunk out of the room.
I’m making this point because yesterday I read a comment of Paul Ryan’s that “women are to be championed and revered”. Really? What a load of old baloney. Women can stand on their own two feet, thank you very much, Paul. We don’t need to be revered. We’re quite capable of being our own champions.
We need to be regarded as equals, supported in our choices, in our dignity, in equal opportunity, in young women not having to fear sexual assault or rape and then find themselves victimised as a slut when the guys who have raped her are considered jocks who’ve got their whole future ahead of them.
Women don’t need such condescending shit from a man who still hasn’t withdrawn his support from Trump. Criticising this serial sex offender and withdrawing an invitation to this disgusting guy isn’t good enough, it’s having two bob each way. But then when you look at Ryan’s record, you find out what a hypocritical slug the man is when he talks of championing and revering women:
Putting women on a pedestal, calling them ladies is, for misogynists like Ryan, a way of controlling and infantalising women, taking away their power and spruiking their need to be dependent on men who will take care of them, as if women were pathetic little creatures unable to survive on their own. “Lady” is a control mechanism to ensure you wear the “right” clothes, don’t cuss, play little, let men think they’re wonderful when you pretend to be dim and powerless, and make you feel guilty if you cross the sacred line between “lady” and “woman”.
So Ryan can take his championship and reverence of women and stick them where the sun don’t shine. Because he’s a hypocrite, a coward too afraid to disown Trump and his sick rape culture, and an enemy of women’s rights and women’s independence. He’s a hypocritical piece of shit who deserves contempt and disdain from all women who have too much pride and self-esteem to be suckered by this moronic, misogynist creep.
When I was in my first year at university, I went out with a student from Nigeria, Debo was his name. He was a nice guy, I enjoyed his company but I was well aware that, when we had a coffee in Bradford, we were looked at askance as a white girl with a black bloke. My mum went off her rocker when she found out I was going out with a Nigerian, but my dad intervened and told me to go out with whom I liked as long as the guy was a nice person. Colour, he said, didn’t come into it and that’s been my mantra ever since. It’s not your colour, creed, sexuality, height, weight or whatever – it’s what’s in your heart that counts.
As it happened, I ditched Debo shortly afterwards, not because of his colour but because he started talking about marriage and that frightened the life out of me. I’d dumped another very nice guy just before I went to university because he too started banging on about marriage which sent me haring in the opposite direction. I regret not telling my Nigerian boyfriend why I dumped him without explanation but I was a naive kid who was a virgin, had no idea about contraception, worried about his invitation back to his flat and likely sex, so I just fled the scene, so to speak.
Knowing myself through astrology now, I realise it’s because I have a lot of Aquarian in me and I don’t like being tied down or doing conventional things. In fact, it took 27 years living with my partner before I finally felt comfortable getting to the altar!
But looking back, it’s made me very glad about the luck of the draw when I was came into this world: I was born white (conventional colour) in England (safe country) and had parents who supported me in my schooling and encouraged me to go to university. I didn’t – and don’t – face discrimination because of my colour, I don’t face persecution because of my religious choices (none, by the way, if you’re interested) and I don’t get hate mail because I’m happily heterosexually married. I don’t get the heck bombed out of my home and country because I – luckily – don’t happen to live in a Middle Eastern country with oil and other resources.
Which is a roundabout way of returning to my previous post about “Make Britain/America Great/Safe Again”. Because the unspoken call behind this phrase is also for far too many “Make Britain/America white again.” Oh, and don’t let’s forget – make it okay for us to wage more Vietnam and Iraq wars so we can live in comfort with the resources we’re ripped out of other countries and turn a blind eye to the carnage we left behind.
It’s the elephant in the room, the racism (and imperialist hankerings) which all too often is the underlying message of those who want their country to go back to times past when men were white men, women were white women, the picket fence ruled supreme, kids behaved and everything was wonderful in a past viewed with rose-coloured glasses. You didn’t have social media so you didn’t have to view the godawful scenes of bombing people overseas, seeing kids shredded, buildings flattened, lives shattered by foreign (US/British & European) invasions and interventions. I am, by the way, referring only to the US, Britain and Europe because I’m focusing on white societies hankering for the past.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a President of the US treated with us much contempt and disrespect as Barack Obama. The Republicans – who use dog-whistling on racism at the drop of a hat – made the decision to undermine Obama at every opportunity. Too many claim they don’t like the current president’s policies when the fundamental problem is racism – a black man is in the White House and we (white people) want our (White) House back.
It was actually brought home to me just how much society has changed – for my mind, for the better – when I was watching the British police series, George Gently. Set in the 1960s, it tackles the discrimination that used to exist against homosexuals, black people, single mothers and other social mores of the time. It’s always excellent but it’s a reminder that things in the past were okay if you were white, but not if you were black, Irish, Jewish, single mother, poor, unemployed and so on.
Same in the US. What is going to make America great again? Lynchings of black people? Separate facilities for black and white people? Jim Crow? Discrimination against Native Americans? Sexual harassment unchecked? No protection for rape victims? Women dying from backyard abortions due to limited abortion services? Date rape? No problems. Domestic violence? Ladies, just grin and bear it. Bashing and trying to smash unions and undermine workers’ collective solidarity? And so on and so on.
In Australia, when women married they had to quit public service jobs. The treatment of Aboriginal people was appalling (not much better now). Single mums were in deep doggy-doo. Domestic violence was a taboo subject and too many women had to grin and bear the abuse. Paedophilia in the Catholic Church (and elsewhere) was swept under the carpet. So yes, it was okay for white men and less so for white women. But definitely not too crash-hot if you were black, Asian, a new migrant, and so on and so on.
Quite frankly I get fed up with the Love the Past Tribes. Society is about change and you can’t go back, nor should we want to go back to a white-washed path. It smacks of fear and cowardice.
Cowering behind the white picket line is playing little.
Get on your feet.
Face the future with courage. Accept that the rest of the world is fed up with the interference of white Western nations. Let’s sort out our own backyards – stop wasting money on wars and armaments, feed the poor, provide decent housing, education and health, pay living wages so people can live with dignity, build good quality infrastructure, stand up for legal rights and respectful treatment of all people but particularly those facing discrimination – black, LGBT people, Jewish people, Asian people, Hispanic people, Islamic people.
Have the guts to open your heart to people who aren’t like you if you’re white and heterosexual – because mixing with people of different colour, race, sexuality or religion enriches your life, widens your horizons and opens you to the power of loving humanity as a whole not just one tiny part which happens to be white.
When David Cameron announced his cabinet reshuffle a short while ago and more women were appointed to Cabinet, the headlines talked about “girlpower” and, of course what the “girls” were wearing. No talk of “womanpower” because so often we women are described as “girls” as we are not supposed to become fully-grown, mature, strong WOMEN. (I might add I am wholly cynical about the promotion of women as I see it as a cynical attempt to garner women’s votes rather than a genuine dedication to women’s equality.)
If you have a look at the photos on the right, the top row is of girls, the bottom is of women. The images in the top row are a vision of us as girls, never growing into a womanly shape, shaving our pubic hair so we look like constant teenagers, torturing ourselves with ripping out that hair (and I can tell you, I had my pubic hair shaved once, when I had my tubes tied at 27, and the constant itching of it growing back made me swear NEVER to shave that hair again!) and keeping us confined in the straitjacket of thin as desirable and right.
In the bottom row, the images are of mature women but now, in the same vein of keeping us as eternal girls, it is not considered appropriate to talk about women as “luscious”, “juicy”, “reubenesque”, “curvy”, “succulent” – because they all imply – shock, horror” – women who aren’t thin and possibly look like (whisper) mature, adult, powerful women.
I decided to follow up my posts on women’s liberation with one about weight issues because, looking back from the time I got involved in women’s liberation in the early 1970s until now, I got to thinking that the focus on diets and thinness is an act of sabotage – it has been a misogynist weapon to dis-empower women and keep them focused on weight issues instead of on living up to their full potential. A woman focused only on her weight and shape if far less powerful than one who is at home and comfortable with herself and makes her way in society as a formidable, strong individual.
The cult of “thin is good” didn’t always exist. Because I grew up in the ’50s and 60s, I have a perspective which isn’t possible for younger people, and that is, I can remember when women were weightier than accepted cultural norms now. It was accepted that as you had children and headed to your senior years, that weight gain was a normal process of life on earth. So it seems to me that the focus on thinness (mainly for women but now affecting men too) started getting stronger around the time women’s liberation erupted and started questioning women’s status in society. But thin is “in”, so to speak, at least on the part of women’s magazines, the diet industry, the medical establishment, the fashion industry and so-called fashion mavens who we’re supposed to follow like headless chooks.
While we’re busy focused on diets, size, weight, fatness or thinness, we are diverted from standing strong in our own right – as juicy, strong, powerful women, at ease with ourselves regardless of our weight, getting to know our own bodies intimately so we know what weight is right for us, and leading full, adventurous lives . As this quote from Naomi Wolf puts it so succinctly:
Marilyn Monroe would now be considered obese – which sounds ridiculous given the sex goddess she was. Yet we are repeatedly lectured that what I see as normal women are obese/morbidly obese/likely to peg it overnight because if they’re overweight they must be harbouring god knows how many life-threatening health challenges, and so on and so on.
This of course is a godsend to the enrichment of the diet industry, Big Pharma and medicos who see what is considered a fat woman now (but wasn’t when I was young) and like Pavlov’s dogs immediately start talking about diets, losing weight, yada, yada, yada. I know when I’ve walked into so many doctor’s room, their eyes light up as they order tests for diabetes and cholesterol levels and heave out the good ol’ blood pressure apparatus. Sadly for them, and they look quite taken aback, all my health signs are, well, healthy!
And as we’re on the subject of medicos, I have to say that I personally find the term “obese” quite offensive. It’s as if doctors conjure up a word which is designed to make normal/not so fat/ and fat people seem as sub-human as possible and to cow us into submissive slaves of thin worship. I sometimes wonder if the medical industry creates such words as “obese” or “geriatric” to elevate the power of medicos and reduce us patients to obedient, malleable, cowed, uncertain, unquestioning clients. I also despise doctors who lazily judge the health of overweight women by their size rather than their uniqueness and medical history.
I can remember having a meal out with some other women, all good-looking, fairly slim, about my age when I was in my late ‘thirties and the whole damned dinner talk was about weight, thinness and diets. I mean – what a ruddy great waste of women’s lives to spend it worrying about weight and what diet you’re on and whether you’ve gained or lost a couple of pounds from one week to the next. Being frightened of food, obsessing about calories, fat levels, carbs and all the other catchphrases of the thin mafia is absolutely ridiculous.
All the research which gets pumped out about what makes you live longer,what causes cancer, how to avoid heart attacks, etc., simply doesn’t take into account that people are individual, have their own genetic heritage and shape, and need to consider what their heart and soul tells them about what is good for them, not scientists and health gurus who change their minds a few years down the track or even from year to year and, dare I say it, month to month, week to week.
And having gone through some literature on this subject, I have found out – and this will no doubt amaze you – that if you carry more weight than that which is supposed to be healthy these days and you are fit, you are far more likely to live longer than a socially acceptable thin, unfit woman. Also, wasting your life on a yo-yo of dieting, losing weight, then gaining weight again and often extra weight than before you dieted, is putting your health far more at risk than a woman who looks at herself, smiles, smacks her booty gleefully and tells herself she’s a yummy individual with far more to do with her life than waste it on worrying about what is a current societal obsession about thinness.
Plus we need to get a perspective on the health hysteria which prevails at the moment – new food fads, super-foods, how to live longer, anti-ageing tucker – and so on. You can be the healthiest, fittest person around and then drop dead of a heart attack or get a life-threatening illness for no apparent reason. And everyone says it’s unfair because someone who doesn’t exercise or is fat doesn’t die at an early age. But it’s LIFE, outrageous, unpredictable, unfair, fair, dropping surprise health bombs into our lives – our time of death is unpredictable so get the most out of each day and you’ll have a wonderful life – exciting, adventurous, questing, humorous, fun, loving, fully adult, powerful and, above all, SATISFYING.
I can pretty much guarantee that when the truth comes out about – as it will – that the current BMI holy bible is a heap of old cobblers with no scientific foundation, and thinness is recognised as a trumped-up cultural creation to control and disempower women – the pendulum will swing towards an acceptance of women as they are meant to be – short, tall, medium, thin, fat, stocky, lean, weighty, or whatever is their natural, womanly shape. And if they’re pink with purple spots, or orange with red stripes, or green with turquoise hair – so be it!
FAT HATRED, THIN WORSHIP
This week I saw that the National Health Service in the UK is to offer gastric bypass surgery to obese patients. I also saw a headline in one newspaper which read: “Drop the staple gun, Doc, and Tell Fatty to grow some willpower”. The article contained such comments as:”I have also found fat people funny”; “it is something they have imposed on themselves through a combination of gannetry, indolence and stupidity”; and “sometimes I even go to places where I know there will be lots of fat people and sit on a bench watching them clumping around, sweating and gasping, and snigger to myself.”
As you can see, it’s okay to be bigoted about weighty people because somehow, being not thin, we have ceased to be human beings and can be ridiculed, insulted, discriminated against and then be told to have surgery which can be life-threatening and possibly lead to our deaths. Doubtless if weighty people died during gastric bypass surgery the fat haters would be gleeful to have less fat people to pollute their perfect lives.
The reason why I feel infuriated by the headlines is because I have been reading a couple of books and other material which actually show that “obesity” and the much-vaunted BMI are a recent creation and a nice little money earner for the medicos and diet industry based on shonky health research. At the same time, the low-fat, high carbohydrate diet extolled to Western nations like the UK, US and Australia over the past few decades also has feet of clay, a big con trick by the food industry to protect their profits despite research showing that people following what they believe are healthy diets are actually endangering their own health.
BLAME THE VICTIM
But hey, let’s blame the victim, then you don’t have to look at the food giants, the pharmaceutical industry and the diet industry who have all colluded to squash research showing the health dangers of a high carbohydrate, high-sugar diet to protect their god-almighty profits.
And let’s not mention that people also eat for emotional reasons such as stress, long working hours, job insecurity, low wages, unemployment, social interaction, homelessness and so on, because then you have to look at the social reasons for over-eating and lack of exercise because people are knackered by the end of the day trying to cope with the pressures of life in Western society today.
This has tied in with the fact I wanted to follow up my posts on women’s liberation with some material about diets and thinness stifling women’s creativity and power, and also how eating can be emotional, as I witnessed when I got as fat as butter when my Mum was dying of lung cancer.
So what I’m intending in my next few posts are:
1) Feminism, women and weight;
2) My own weight battle;
3) Dealing with my mother’s death from lung cancer & my own (fat) emotional response;
4) The giant con trick perpetrated on Western society by the dietary, medical, pharmaceutical and food industries to protect their profits regardless of the ill-health of people following what they believe are health diets.
I have no doubt that questioning the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet and the all-powerful BMI is tackling sacred cows, but I really hate being conned and both of these are con tricks, not exposed by the industries involved, but brought out into the light of day by individuals doing independent research and publishing their findings.
Jack and I arrived in Australia in 1972 a month or so before the Whitlam government was elected. This was the government of the Australian Labor Party and its ascent to power came after the Liberal-Country Party coalition had been in office since 1949. We knew stuff-all about Australian politics but, nevertheless, when we listened to the L-CP advertisements on radio with their “reds under the beds” theme, it was like leaping back a few decades. We’d look at each other and mutter “Blimey, they’re a paranoid bunch” when these crazy-sounds ads for the L-CP came on without understanding that the L-CP had relied on the “reds under the bed” them to stay in office in the decades since 1949.
When the Whitlam government came into office, we really had no idea of the upheaval such a government would unleash. It undertook quite revolutionary action which left the conservative Establishment beside itself with rage and determined to restore what the L-CP believed was its right to rule which had, in the 1972 election, been usurped by a bunch of upstarts.
If you’re wondering why I’m commenting on this, it’s because, once we decided to stay in Australia, I got caught up in the excitement of the early Whitlam years when great social change took place, particularly to the benefit of women and Aboriginal people.
Those who may have read that the Whitlam years were ones of complete chaos may be a bit surprised to read anything good about the return of the ALP to office in Australia. But history, as they say, is written by the victors and the conservative forces in Australia have done their best to portray the years of Whitlam rule as chaotic, unhinged and run by a bunch of ignorant nutters. In the process, they’ve carefully played down the way in the conservative Establishment in Australia set out to undermine and, ultimately, knock off what seemed at the time a quite revolutionary Labor government. In this the forces of reaction were helped by the fact that the Senate was controlled by the L-CP which did its best to obstruct legislative measures by the Labor-controlled Federal Parliament and eventually refused to pass supply bills which provided for government expenditure..
To give you some idea of the upheaval in the very staid, stiff upper-lip approach of former conservative governments, here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia which shows a little of the gusto with which the new government started out in office:
“On 5 December, once Labor’s win was secure, Whitlam had the Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, swear him in as Prime Minister and Labor’s deputy leader, Lance Bernard, as deputy prime minister. The two men held 27 portfolios during the two weeks before a full cabinet could be determined.
During the two weeks the so-called “duumvirate” held office, Whitlam sought to fulfill those campaign promises that did not require legislation. Whitlam ordered negotiations to establish full relations with the People’s Republic of China, and broke those with Taiwan. Legislation allowed the Minister for Defence to grant exemptions from conscription. Barnard held this office, and exempted everyone. Seven men were at that time incarcerated for refusing conscription; Whitlam arranged for their freedom. The Whitlam government in its first days re-opened the equal pay case pending before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and appointed a woman, Elizabeth Evatt, to the commission. Whitlam and Barnard eliminated sales tax on contraceptive pills, announced major grants for the arts, and appointed an interim schools commission. The duumvirate barred racially discriminatory sport teams from Australia, and instructed the Australian delegation at the United Nations to vote in favour of sanctions on apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). It also ordered home all remaining Australian troops in Vietnam, though most (including all conscripts) had been withdrawn by McMahon.”
The Whitlam government appointed a women’s advisor, established universal health care, eliminated military conscription and criminal excusion, set up fee-free university education, implemented legal aid programmes, gave legal recognition to de facto relationships, and recognised Aboriginal land rights. Other measures were introduced but just these few gives you some idea of the sweeping changes implemented by Whitlam’s government. Those were heady days!
I have to be honest and say that in our early days in Australa a lot of this went over my head as we simply enjoyed our hedonistic holiday in Australia, with work and good pay, a fantastic climate, partying and making new friends. In 1973 we intended to book a cruise home to the UK and resume our normal lives. But in that year, as we were sorting out what cruise line to use to return home, my mother wrote and told us to stay in Australia for the time being. She said that there were strikes, a 3-day working week, power cuts and very few job vacancies. She told me years later that it was one of the hardest letters she ever wrote but, ironically, it was the decision to extend our stay which saw us loosen our ties with the UK and settle down in our new country.
In the days of the “Ten pound Poms”, people could pay £10 for travel to Australia, but they had to stay for two years. In those two years, your ties with friends back in the UK tended to die away because there was no internet, no e-mail and no Skype. You’d start making friends in the new country and get more settled. Which is exactly what happened to me and to Jack.
We got to know people, made friends and developed a social life. I enjoyed my work but, as time wore on, I became restless, particularly as we were staying longer than expected. I’ve always been the same. As soon as I’ve mastered a job, I get bored and want another challenge. I tried to move to being a storekeeper at the engineering company I worked for, but was passed over for someone who, truth be told, had more qualifications than I ever would have.
And finally I threw in the towel after a dust-up with one of the salesmen. He had written a draft letter which I automatically translated into better, grammatical language. He was beside himself at the changes and ordered me to type his original letter. I refused and told him it was load of old cobblers. Eventually, the acting boss at the time backed the salesman, although someone else did type the letter, but I knew my time there was limited. And I remember the acting boss saying to me: “You’ll leave now, won’t you?” And I nodded. He said: “I’m sorry, I had no choice, but in any case you’re too intelligent to stay here for long.”
I ended up applying for two positions, a secretarial job with a petroleum exploration company and one as an organiser for Western Australia with the Australian Union of Students. The secretarial job was the safe, predictable and conventional job. It also had higher pay. The AUS job was unconventional and meant a pay cut. Jack didn’t go too much on the pay cut but, for the first time, I struck out on my own and stood firm. My intuition was working overtime (although I didn’t know anything about intuition in those days), so I took a punt and went for the AUS job. It was a big unknown, working as the union organiser in Western Australia. I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do. All I knew was that it looked incredibly interesting and it seemed to call to me. I did actually get the secretarial job and turned it down. They begged me to take the position but I refused. It was a big risk as I hadn’t actually got the AUS job. But somehow I knew that I couldn’t take conventional work any more. The excitement and exhilaration of the Whitlam changes had infected me too and I was eager to head in new directions.
I got the job and it was a turning point for me. While I may have had illusions that I was the best candidate, I found out later that I’d been picked because the only other person in the running was a member of the Communist Party. So I was the lesser of two evils, if I can put it like that. As I said, I actually had no idea whatsoever what a union organiser was supposed to do. I faked it big-time at the interview. The final question asked by the interviewing committee was to summarise why I was the best candidate. I knew what the question was going to be because I’d eavesdropped on the previous candidate. I told them that now they’d interviewed me, they knew I was the best of the lot. It caused a laugh but actually I gave that response because I had no idea what else to say and it worked quite successfully as a diversion from my absolute ignorance about the work involved.
And so I quit my job at the engineering office and jumped feet first into my new work as the organiser in Western Australia for the Australian Union of Students. I felt like I’d come alive and I really came out of the closet once I started this work! I had somehow always felt drawn to the path of service, but not in a family setting. For me, work outside the home had always been the priority and the work with AUS was right up my alley although I had never realised it before. I loved the political atmosphere and, at the time, I felt that politics was the way to serve.