I’m dropping offline for the obvious reasons (enforced family fun and live demonstrations of New Zealand’s binge drinking culture).
Have a happy and safe holiday season. It’s often the most stressful time of year, and every level of social pressure is on us to play nice and put up with shit, from the mildly annoying to the truly horrible, in the name of family and special occasion.
I thoroughly recommend the writings of Captain Awkward on this matter, specifically:
… but also generally. Because it was mainly through a solid diet of Captain Awkward columns that I came to some truly life-changing decisions about how I am willing to have people interact with me.
And if you are online, get your submissions in for the first Down Under Feminists’ Carnival of 2014!
Since I’ve been linked to from the Herald a few times now, I feel oddly compelled to let you know up front that this one gets sweary, people. I make no apologies.
Louisa Wall and Colin Craig appeared on Q&A to discuss the marriage equality / adoption equality issue.*
Colin Craig’s statements were, happily, entirely illustrative of his bullshit, unjustifiable stance on the topics (his refusal to answer the question “do you respect members of the gay community who want this” especially so):
SHANE Colin Craig, do you support one law for all?
MR CRAIG I support equal rights and privileges for all New Zealanders.
SHANE One law for all, though?
MR CRAIG Yeah, I don’t like that phrase, but equal rights and privileges for New Zealanders.
SHANE So why do you support one law for heterosexuals and one law for homosexuals?
MR CRAIG Well, look, I agree with civil unions. … What we’re talking about here is who has the right to use and define the word “marriage”, and I believe there’s a status quo. We’ve got generation after generation, marriage has been between and a woman, and that is what I believe the New Zealanders want. They’ve got cultural investment in this, historical investment in this, religious investment in this.
So Colin basically thinks New Zealanders should have equal rights and privileges, except for the heteros who get exclusive domain of the word “marriage”. Which is apparently simultaneously a minor, piffling matter, but also vitally important to our cultural identity. (And remember, it’s those scary queer people who want “special” rights!)
One hates to invoke anecdata, but you know? I can’t think of a single married couple I know who thought “shit yeah, getting a bit of paper that The Gays can’t get really shows how strong our relationship is!”
MR CRAIG The only difference here is the word “marriage”. I mean, we’re not talking about an issue of equality across other things.
Colin Craig, you are a fucking liar. Or a complete, ignorant numpty. Possibly both. I’m going with both.
A Civil Union is not recognised in the same way as a marriage out of New Zealand. If you wish to be legally recognised as Civil Unions partners in another country, you would have to apply in the country you wish to live in, if they have this law.
Civil Union partners do not at present have the right to adopt a child
Bonus objectifying language from Colin for the win:
There are a number of homosexuals who take a different view.
I imagine him pronouncing it the way Mr Gormsby does.
But here’s the bit I wanted to address specifically:
MR CRAIG OK, I support the existing law. … Now, I actually think – and it’s my opinion – I actually think there are difference between a man and a woman. I actually think that when we get to choose the environment in which a child grows up, to have both a male and female role model, a mum and a dad is the ideal, and therefore I do support that restriction.
And please pardon the unladylike nature of the next sentence:
FUCK YOU, COLIN CRAIG. ON BEHALF OF ALL THE MEN WHO STOOD AS MALE ROLE MODELS FOR ME IN MY CHILDHOOD, FUCK. YOU.
It’s obvious enough that Colin Craig is talking absolute shit when he equates “having a male and female role model” with “a mum and dad” – and that’s even if we pass by the wonderfully archaic gender essentialism, the indignant “well I actually think boys and girls are different” defence.
But fuck, this fucks me right off.
Y’see, folks, the man responsible for ejaculating in my mother’s vague direction at an optimal ovulation point wanted sweet fuck all to do with me (probably also the fault of gay people undermining the Sanctity Of The Family or something). So he fucked off.
Now, apparently this spells immediate Becoming Another Child Abuse / Teen Pregnancy / Drug Use Statistic for the infant Queen of Thorns – after all, no dad, no Male Role Model to keep her straight and narrow, straight being the most important bit.
(Of course, infant Queen of Thorns having been assigned gender “female” at birth probably means Male Role Models Aren’t As Important For Her or something, but bear with me.)
Patriarchal wankoffs like Colin Craig want to pretend that my upbringing, sans one out of two gamete-donors, must have been immediately disadvantaged, a permanent stain on my psyche. My mother remaining single is, after all, only marginally better than my mother taking up with another woman, which must have scarred me irreparably.
But hang on.
Who are those guys over there?
Why look, it’s my grandfather, who among other things imbued me with a love of science fiction and an allergy to terrible puns. It’s my uncle, who has exactly my sense of humour. My stepdad, whose strict regimen of Culturally Important Experiences (largely involving classic films and NZ music of the 70s) allow me to make obscure references no one else my age gets to this day. And all the other men in our extended family and community who each stood as another example of What Men Are Like and How Men May Act and who, bygiving a shit about my welfare and growth, did a fuckload more for me than Mr Sperm Donor Fuckhead did before he vanished from my life.
Basically, male role models? I had fucking plenty. And most of them were pretty kickass, and, sorry, Colin, most of them made significant contributions to the sweary, ranty, righteous, fuck-you-I-won’t-do-what-you-tell-me personality you see before you today.
The idea that my mother, in some parallel universe, hooking up with a woman at any point after my arrival (and, tragically, having some kind of deep and committed relationship!!!!) would somehow have denied me these important relationships is complete. Fucking. Bullshit.
And I love my mum, but the idea that she was somehow my Only Possible Female Role Model is likewise bullshit. (Especially given the dominance of women in New Zealand teaching and early childhood education.)
The idea that in some pseudo-1950s Golden Age, I would have automatically been better off either (a) being raised by parents forced to marry following my conception or (b) being taken from my mother and raised by a complete different grab-bag of people … is complete. Fucking. Bullshit.
And let’s be honest here, when people start talking about “traditional family values” or “returning to a better time”, that’s what they mean. Oh, they will protest, no, we just meant the good parts of a fantasy past where all marriages were completely permanently perfect and all pregnancies completely safe and wanted. But ain’t it just like fundy fuckstains to pretend that their utopia is completely unproblematic?
Children are not raised in a vacuum, in which emotional or psychological development can only be performed by Female Parental Unit A and Male Parental Unit B. And it is fucking insulting to all the people out there who do play roles in the lives of children who they don’t even own – because that’s what this is about at its core, classic, ancient, patriarchal “rraaaa! My bloodline must be propagated to prove my virility! Behold the children I claim to show the power of my wang! Rrraaa!” – to act like if you don’t get called Mummy or Daddy you may as well go home.
If I could take my childhood over again I would not change one fucking thing, Colin. Because I fail to see what Mr Deadbeat Fuckhead could have done to make me any more awesome than I am today.
In my heart of hearts, I’m deeply hoping for a “maybe he would’ve given you a damn good spanking and turned you into more of a lady!” response. Please don’t disappoint me.
[The following takes place between 12:00am and 1:00am, and also specifically focuses on individuals’ choices to be vegetarian and attend Christmas family gatherings. Obviously the principles in question are not unique to vegetarianism or Christmas; and in other situations other considerations/context may apply.]
I was at a loss for a post this evening, and went in search of any NZ media touting Christmas ZOMG OBESITYTURKEY panic. I’ve always thought it’s a cruel joke of nature, to lumber Southern Hemisphere women simultaneously with Christmas – and associated Enjoy The Season of Gluttony But Don’t Actually Enjoy It headlines – and summertime – with associated Beach Bikini Body Blubber-Blasting sidebars.
Anyway, my search went happily unrewarded as far as anything interesting, text-based and quickly snarkable went. But this popped up instead.
It’s the New Zealand Vegetarian Society’s Christmas 2010 page on dealing with your family being shits to you because you don’t eat meat.
I don’t intend to hassle the Vegetarian Society here as I think they’re offering some good, calming advice to their members. I just want to provide the more bolshy advice on stuff like this:
most people choose to graciously ignore the worst behaviour, and engage only in discussions where both parties will be listened to. If you’re challenged politely and a conversation would be productive, it’s a great opportunity to educate people. In other times, agreeing to disagree is the easiest way to extricate yourself from a confrontation.
1. You do not have to ignore bullying
Because that’s what it is, even when it’s your family and even when you’ve internalized a lot of bullshit about how your choices are “weird” or “abnormal” and how “regular people” cannot be expected to understand. Or show, you know, basic fucking manners.
Of course you can be gracious if you like, and you can make that compromise, because that’s what we all do; it’s basically impossible to live a life without ever letting a principle go or choosing your battles or whatever.
But it is bullying. And you have every right to say “Gee, Uncle Tony, that’s really rude and I’d like you to not comment on my choices.” Or, alternatively, “Gee, Uncle Tony, why don’t you just have a nice big mug of shut the fuck up?”
2. You do not have to educate anyone
Your life never has to be a teaching moment for other people. Again, if you have the energy/time/spoons and the desire, go for it. But we’re looking at this in a specific context, with family pressure and social narratives and sodding Christmas fever everywhere.
The people who will listen to you about your food choices aren’t the ones still bringing it up over the dinner table.
3. You do not have to fucking agree to disagree
These are your fucking food choices, not abstract philosophical wank. It’s your fucking mouth, not the town square. When people “disagree” with you being vegetarian, they are implicitly demanding a change in your behaviour. By “agreeing to disagree” you implicitly allow them to feel entitled to do so.
4. The Big One: Christmas is not fucking special and neither is family
When I was little I loved Christmas. I loved seeing my family. I always knew my mother didn’t feel the same way.
But over the last few years as I’ve become A Proper Adult and started to be a little … blunt about some things, I’ve stopped enjoying it so much.
Then a few months ago my mother explained that not only did she not enjoy family Christmas events when I was little, she would regularly be in tears afterwards.
I related this to my partner. Who gave me a “duh” expression and said “Hun, you always come home and cry after seeing your family for Christmas.”
I do love my family. I do enjoy catching up with them. But there is clearly something demonic about the combination of family and Christmas. The pressure to fulfil tradition, to prove to the universe we all not only love each other but really, really love each other, to make everything perfect.*
There’s so much stress that for a lot of people, clearly, Christmas doesn’t leave them feeling like they’ve caught up with their relatives and had a good time; and Boxing Day is for working off the hangover and declaring “I’m not sodding doing this again next year!” Which of course you do.
Point? If it’s not worth it, it’s not worth it. If the exhaustion isn’t the good, happy fatigue of having done something hard but fulfilling, if the hangover isn’t the good-yet-annoying hangover of staying up till 3am catching up with people whose lives you deeply care about, if the leftovers don’t taste any good because every mouthful reminds you of another dig Auntie Mary made about your weight … well, fuck tradition. Fuck sacrificing your happiness so other people can tick their My Family Is Normal box.**
It is never a good thing to come home and say “Well, I had a shit time but at least I’ve seen the family.”
Neither the Spirit of Christmas nor the demands of family are worth your happiness.***
5. The chaser: bullies do not deserve your delicious food.
The Vegetarian Society also suggests:
Providing your own beautifully presented and yummy dish is an excellent way to quell any ongoing comments.
Which could totally work. But if your family really are such fucking tools that they simply have to harass you on family occasions about your nothing-to-do-with-them food choices, they do not deserve your delicious food or the time you take to present it beautifully. They’ll probably just keep making obnoxious comments about how it could be improved with real butter or how much they just cannot believe it has no meat in it.
Make your delicious, beautiful dish. Take it to a friend’s place. Or hell, set the table nicely, take a photo for your Facebook or Flickr, and then eat that damn delicious veggie dish straight from the serving plate with a big spoon in one hand and a good book in the other. In front of a roaring fire. With some angry punk music playing. Whatever floats your boat.
ETA: Related post: It’s okay not to holiday at FWD/Forward.
*See also weddings.
**And ain’t that just problematic on so, so many levels.
***Let me get there before you, detractors: yes, this is a very selfish wee rant. I don’t fucking care. We get one life on this planet and wasting it because This Is How Things Should Be Done is a really shit idea.