It’s a sad, oft-repeated story: breastfeeding parent goes to family-centred community space, baby gets hungry, parent feeds baby. Using breasts.
Then some sanctimonious asshat complains about it because they can’t (a) avert their own fucking eyes or (b) mind their own fucking business or (c) reconcile their own juvenile fascination with BOOBIES with the tragic reality that sometimes breasts aren’t for you …
And instead of reminding that busybodied douche to avert their eyes, mind their own business, get over their issues and oh, also there’s a law which protects breastfeeding parents from discrimination …
The facility decides to throw the breastfeeding parent and their children out, and not even give them a refund.
And then, once they get snapped for breaking the fucking law, the local government body which operates the facility pretends that the breastfeeding parent was just confused, or made a mistake, or maybe even lied for attention, because honestly as far as they’re concerned:
“The staff member was concerned about the comfort of the breastfeeding mum and offered her access to the centre’s mothers’ room or alternatively a chair for the convenience of both mum and baby,” the council statement says.
Yes, Moreton Bay Regional Council, that’s exactly what happened. I’m sure your staff member was just looking out for the parent, just offered her a chair, and then like a total bitch she chose to take offence and create a scene, probably for the sweet sweet newspaper dollars.
An Air NZ employee has been dismissed after trying to bully her way on to another airline’s property while cracking truly hilarious jokes about dumb brown people’s inability to speak English.
And apparently she doesn’t really understand why that was wrong:
Helen Watson, a flight services manager with 26 years experience, was dismissed in August last year after attempting to board an Emirates aircraft at Auckland International Airport without permission.
When approached a short while later by an Emirates representative who asked why she had attempted to go on the plane, Watson replied: ”Curiosity, do you know how to spell it?”
In her defence, Watson said she had been in a “playful mood” when she arrived at work and was embarrassed about her actions.
She said she hadn’t spoken sarcastically, but had offered to help with spelling because she thought English was the second language of the Emirates crew member. She did not deny making the comments about stoning.
The Stuff article notes that Watson has 26 years’ experience in the flight industry. I can only paraphrase Terry Pratchett on this one: “No, that was 26 years’ Not Found Out.”
This is racism, folks. Plain, simple, and obvious, but I would bet you any sum of money you care to name that Helen Watson would be incensed to be called racist. Why, I bet you she has friends who aren’t white, and they speak perfect English!
We’ve managed to make “racist” a thing which people know it’s terrible to be [called]. Unfortunately we’ve made it a more terrible thing than people’s actual racism.
Racism doesn’t have to involve physical violence, it doesn’t have to be explicit laws against your language or culture, it doesn’t have to be literally sitting at the back of the bus.
It can just be making one Emirates employee’s day that little bit worse by being one more smug white dipshit giving them crap.
And yes, Helen Watson, it means you’re racist.
Per my last post on the topic, the palliative care lobby seriously need to take care that they don’t sound like a bunch of smarmy, controlling, judgey know-it-alls who get off on being such Angels of Mercy to their tragic, faceless-yet-persevering patients.
Step one would involve not issuing media release like this one, in which the Australia and NZ Society for Palliative Medicine pat themselves on the back for ignoring patients’ wishes and deciding they can judge the value, dignity and joy of a person’s life better than that person can.
ANZSPM recommends that a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide be acknowledged with respect and be extensively explored in order to understand, appropriately address and if possible remedy the underlying difficulties that gave rise to the request. Appropriate ongoing care consistent with the goals of Palliative Medicine should continue to be offered. ANZSPM recommends that when requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide arise, particular attention be given to gaining good symptom control, utilising the skills of a multidisciplinary team.
Shorter ANZSPM: Patients don’t know what’s best for them, we do. Patients can’t make choices about whether their symptoms are unbearable, we can (and symptoms are never actually unbearable). Favourite bit: “appropriately address and if possible remedy the underlying difficulties that gave rise to the request”.
Because you know, doctors in the palliative medicine arena frequently don’t actually provide the best treatment possible upfront – they need a patient to express a clear wish to die before they’ll actually “remedy” the “underlying difficulties” of dying slowly and painfully in a state which offers no comfort or dignity.
I mean, that’s the only logical interpretation of that statement, since acknowledging that sometimes some situations are so goddamn hard that you cannot fix them would be anathema to these loving, compassionate people.
And let’s not forget the pointless circular logic of the first paragraph:
the patients we care for with multiple sclerosis do not have their lives ended prematurely and do not request this.
Yes, because when your physician is a rabid “you’ll have a poignant long-suffering death and you’ll like it, peon” zealot, I’m sure they’re the one you’d turn to for help. When they believe that the time you choose to die is by definition “premature” you’re totally going to make your life even worse by inciting a badgering, bullying lecture about how you need to harden up (oh, sorry, an
interrogation extensive exploration of why you want to die, because as your doctor they can’t be expected to have a clue how you’re doing.)
As I said previously, if palliative care is the choice you make when dealing with illness, good for you. We should have doctors who are willing to work in what is undoubtedly a stressful and emotionally draining environment to provide the best possible care to people.
We shouldn’t have doctors who are so up themselves that they think it’s morally okay to force someone to undergo suffering against their will – all because Doctor Knows Best.
I really do want to thank Colin Craig and Bob McCoskrie for this much: they may have done far more work than we filthy smut-peddling liberals could ever have done to make people realise how utterly repellent the “religious right” / “moral majority” is.
I keep seeing comments on Facebook where, for example, Colin and Bob’s Australian counterparts have declared smoking is better for your health than letting same-sex couples marry. Good, ordinary, decent New Zealanders who aren’t particularly political, aren’t raving feminists like myself, are sitting back and thinking/typing, “Why the hell would they say that?”
And there, a lovely window of opportunity opens. An opportunity to say, “Well. You know how Bob and Colin and their friends keep talking about the specialness of marriage and respecting other people? When they say things like that, they’re basically saying that gay men (because it’s always gay men for Bob and Colin) are promiscuous and unsafe and all have AIDS. They’re repeating propaganda from the 80s. And you know what? They think you will agree with them.”
Watch, as the common or garden variety Kiwi recoils in horror. “But – but I just thought marriage was neat! I thought civil unions meant the same thing! I don’t hate gay people!”
“I’m sorry, dear Ordinary New Zealander,” we get to say. “But the people who keep talking about marriage being special are really just a bunch of gay-bashers who do hate gay people.”
So thanks, Colin and Bob and your many and varied companion-bigots. You’re converting far more people to our side than we could ever have managed.
There’s been a flurry of articles recently about the extreme or bullying lengths some health professionals are apparently going to in order to make parents breastfeed rather than formula feed.
I am absolutely sure that some people are dickheads about this – every “health” cause has its unwavering zealots who refuse to understand that not everyone can be crowbarred into their worldview.
But as someone noted on Twitter some days ago, whenever an issue like breast vs formula suddenly becomes THE HUGE ISSUE OF THE DAY you may find yourself wondering where these stories are suddenly coming from. And what clever person at which PR firm coined the term “Breastapo“.
It’s definitely not okay for anyone to feel bullied – and especially triply not okay for infants to go hungry – over this issue.
But it’s definitely interesting how not a single story on the matter has even hinted at why we have placed emphasis and resource into encouraging breastfeeding.
Not a single story has covered the fairly shitty history of the formula industry. None have mentioned the ongoing Nestle boycott, for example. None have so much as said, “These policies have come out of the fact that a lot of people who could breastfeed their babies were pressured not to, even to the extent of formula companies giving them free samples which leave them dependent on formula once their milk dries up.”
We do have words for people who get you hooked with free samples of their product, after all.
But no. Every story, every reporter, has just acted like out of nowhere, the Ministry of Health and nurses and midwives all got together one dark Sabbat night and said “let’s shit on new parents! Let’s make their lives harder! Fuck yeah, they’ll do what’s good for them and they’ll like it!”
Like I’ve said, I have absolutely no doubt that there are bullies and zealots and people who are fucked-up enough to harass new parents.
All I want to know is why this just now became the big issue. And why none of our so-called “journalists” seem to have asked any actual questions about it, or put it in any kind of context, or given their readers and viewers any kind of background.
Besides the obvious “because they just copypasted a PR release from a formula company”.*
Meanwhile, the formula industry’s stellar ethics are on display (not that anyone held a gun to our PM’s head and made him sign a can of formula and pose with it for the cameras).
*After all, that privilege only gets extended to Bendon.
So the next theatre of the war against pregnant people is going to be our terrible binge-drinking ways, apparently.
You can always spot these Issue Of The Day Which Is Actually Not An Issue stories by the way they go on and on and on about “evidence” yet produce none (see also: rainbow parties, gay marriage destroying society, obesity epidemic).
This story from Radio NZ is a wonderful illustration of this point:
The National Addiction Centre says there may be as many as 3000 children born in New Zealand each year with the syndrome.
Actual numbers of children identified with said syndrome? Sadly not provided.
Director Doug Sellman says evidence shows the situation is far worse in New Zealand than in other countries, due to the binge drinking culture here.
Actual statistics comparing us to other nations, especially other nations known for getting pissed up large? Sadly not provided.
Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills says there has been an explosion in the number of children with foetal alcohol syndrome.
Children’s Commissioner’s actual facts and figures about the number of children with FAS? Sadly not provided.
A Northland school principal says he sees about three children a year with foetal alcohol syndrome and their lives are ruined by it. …
Actual statistics for the Northland region? Sadly not provided. Roll size of the school in question and comparison to nationwide rates of FAS? Sadly not provided. Principal’s medical degree which qualifies him to diagnose FAS? Sadly not provided.
Identification of Northland as a poorer region more likely to have higher rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, and lower rates of preventative healthcare, to name just a few possible contributing factors? Sadly not provided.
Disclaimer that the “journalist” in question didn’t just shop around schools until a convenient horror story came along? Sadly not provided.
The actual point of the entire article?
Mr Newman says the mothers of foetal alcohol syndrome children are often very young, and it is heart-breaking to see the damage they have inflicted on their children by drinking while pregnant.
He says drinking in pregnancy is a form of child abuse and should be a criminal offence.
There we go. Let’s pass laws to control the irresponsible wimminz who are ruining precious babies’ lives.
Other things sadly not provided in this 478-word story?
- Any kind of analysis of the level of support young pregnant people get
- Any kind of addressing the fact that “yoof binge drinking” doesn’t just spring up out of nowhere and maybe when young people’s parents stop having shitfights over which city gets to host
an excuse for drinkingThe Sevens or another excuse for drinkingThe Sacred V8s, or when our Parliament doesn’t clutch its collective pearls at the notion of Denying The Elderly Their Sherry, They Fought For Our Freedoms, then we can point accusing fingers at those teenagers who just magically decided getting off their face was funny
- Any discussion of what constitutes “binge” or “excessive” drinking, and what level of drinking is actually connected with FAS. I mean, it’s not like this shit isn’t on Wikipedia, for a start.
Before anyone wants to jump in and say “YOU JUST HATE BABIES AND THINK WOMEN SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO ANYTHING THEY WANT”, here’s the thing: when people have dependency problems, prohibition has historically achieved fuck all. When people are, say, poor, pregnant, unemployed and living in fucking Northland, they may have a hell of a lot more crap on their plate to worry about than being perfect incubators. When the prospect of being pregnant (and probably unable to access abortion services because it makes influential old dudes cry) is actually a really fucking terrible one, some people may well hit the bottle hard.
Hating on pregnant people, banning The Demon Drink, sure, all that is going to make smug wankers feel totally awesome. It isn’t going to fix the problem, it isn’t going to improve the lives of the people affected by this problem, but that’s never really the point, is it?
ETA: But wait, there’s more! What’s wrong with this statement?
He told Radio New Zealand on Friday that the source of the problem was that women were drinking during pregnancy.
He said 40 percent of pregnancies were unplanned.
Gee, maybe some comprehensive sex education, better access and information about contraception, and generally giving people the ability and autonomy to plan their own reproduction could help with that! Wait, no, BAN DRINKING. Next up: seafood, oranges, good cheese.
Part 1 of this post was published yesterday. Check it out, ’cause it’ll probably make this post make more sense.
3. A life lived in stress is a life half-lived
Let’s assume, for this section, that one completely rejects the notion of “reclaiming” or “subverting” patriarchal norms, that all sexiness is collaboration and all nail polish is Giving Aid And Comfort To The Enemy.
It is pretty fucking difficult spending all one’s time enraged at the strictures and oppressiveness of kyriarchy. It is pretty fucking stressful, at least for me and I have no doubt for others as well, to be constantly analysing my every thought and preference and decision against the context of social narratives.
Do I like these shoes just because patriarchy says I have to look pretty for men? Do I enjoy Game of Thrones just because I’m presented with no other options in terms of racist, sexist medieval fantasy tropes? (I’m going to come back to this shortly …) And let’s not even start on my sexual preferences.
I like a lot of things that are problematic. I dress in a way which is very patriarchy-approved, albeit in a fat body so I can’t really win there (I’m either wrong for daring to look conventionally-sexy while fat, or I’m wrong if I stop trying to l0ok conventionally sexy despite being fat). I enjoy medieval fantasy, the Saw films, corsetry, etc etc. I know these things are problematic, and I know that a lot of the reason I like these things is due to being raised in a white, Western, patriarchal society.
(There’s a hell of a lot of other contributing factors, but let’s not let the complexity of human existence get in the way of judging people now.)
But, and here’s where y’all can start selectively clipping quotes to back up your stereotypes of a “choice feminist”, I still like those things.
I still like those things despite being aware they’re problematic, despite knowing that a lot of my choice is not fully of my own free will. Because none of us are making choices of our own free will.
Put it this way: if you’re a radical feminist who hates society’s treatment of women as a sex class and never wears high heels? In a world where patriarchy completely desexualised women and demanded they be entirely unnoticeable, $5 says you’d be breaking out the mascara and fishnets.
Mascara is not, in of itself, patriarchal. Our ingrained responses to it are.
Here’s my main point: I choose to not fight against every single patriarchy-approved preference in my head. I choose to prioritise other things to spend my mental energy on.
I understand how my conforming choices can benefit me, can make my life easier, can allow me to pass under the radar in some aspects of my life.
I acknowledge that it’s utterly shitty that our society demands such choices of us and rewards us for going along.
But my mental energy is my own to spend. My stress is my own to decrease or increase. And if I choose a type of activism which isn’t about standing as a personal refutation of patriarchy, if I choose to balance up the number of areas where I will challenge my programming and decide that I can’t live a full and happy life worrying about every last little thing I do … that’s how I will survive. That’s how I will make the best fight I can of this, and achieve a hell of a lot more than if I worry myself into a death-spiral of self-criticism.
And you can fuck right off judging me for that. You can fuck right off dictating that I put stress and pressure on myself to conform to Real Feminist Approved non-conformity. It’s simultaneously tragic and fucking hilarious.
4. Guess what, conforming doesn’t make life easier
Because, and this might be a slightly off-the-wall idea, we live in a patriarchy. So as women, we’re already the lesser, the other, the object. (Extend to kyriarchy and other oppressed identities as necessary.)
So even if we pucker up and make up and dress up, we’ll still be at the bottom. Even if we’re given a modicum of influence/status (see every painfully poorly written article of the past year entitled something like Why I’m A Smart Enough Girl To Reject Silly Feminism And Love Men), there’s still no getting around the fact that we only hold influence/status by the grace of The Man. And that can be taken away with the merest flick of a Leaked Nude Photos magic wand.
Conforming does grease the rails. And for those of us who can conform (remember, the majority of women are never going to be equally considered sexy or attractive or permitted a little autonomy as the most privileged, white/cis/hetero class) things get a lot less stressful. Bully for us. It’s still patriarchy, it still dumps on all of us (though, yes, less so on some than others.)
Sure, choices aren’t feminist just because a woman chooses them. The act of choosing isn’t inherently feminist and isn’t distinct and exclusive of kyriarchal programming.
But. Hate the game, not the player. Kyriarchy/patriarchy puts us in these positions and gives us these non-choices and labels all our actions in line with its own priorities. And it’s pretty much just massively uncool to take a superior attitude and judge individual women who for all you know are navigating life as best they can in the face of massive pressures to conform.
Even when – no, especially when these “choices” aren’t just about lipstick and heels, when we’re talking about sex-selective abortion or surname-changing or participating in sex work, how fucking cruel do you have to be to tell a person, “you have to suck it up and take whatever violence or deprivation is going to be thrown at you, it’s your job to represent our entire struggle against [insert problem here] because choosing anything else is UnFeminist”?
Fight sexism. Fight discrimination. Fight the norms and standards and assumptions. Don’t fight the people who you’re presuming to defend, and try not to act too fucking smug about how much better you are than the rest of us.
Related reading: amandaw at FWD/Forward.
This post got a little long, so tune in tomorrow for part 2, in which I reserve the right to manage my own spoons, we note that a life conforming ain’t perfect either, and I get to the point. Kinda.
I always end up describing the concept of “choice feminism” to other people in two ways: if someone’s using it as a serious term they probably mean some variation on “people who pretend every choice they make is feminist because they make it.” If it’s me arguing against that idea, it’s “let’s stop shitting on other women from orbit just so we can prove that not shaving our legs makes us Superior Patriarchy-Fighting Machines.”
Because no choice is perfect in a society which narrates and interprets our actions against an evil spirit level of power dynamics and biological essentialism. We can never win; all our choices are, on some level, wrong because we are women making them in a patriarchal society.
Wearing high heels? You’re just superficial and obsessed with shoes, like a woman (and sucking up to the patriarchy to boot) (and are probably stupid because omg who would ever like shoes which hurt your feet unless they were brainwashed???) Wearing “sensible” shoes? Prepare to be marked down as a dyke, as a square, as “not well-presented”, and all the attendant harassment and employment discrimination that comes along with it.
And that’s one of the most trivial examples (albeit one which I, as a very-privileged heel-wearer, take a little to heart).
What the anti-“choice feminist” people want to say, though, is that my wearing of high heels might be fine and dandy, oh, they might be magnanimous enough to tolerate my collaborator’s footwear, but don’t I dare claim that wearing high heels is a feminist action.
Because you know, I do that all the time.
And of course I’d better be okay with being called “stupid”, and I’d better be okay with people questioning my feminist credentials because I’m obviously too selfish/superficial to understand that High Heels Are Tools Of The Man.
To me, this is not only demeaning, and a tad misogynist, it’s also a refusal to even consider that the spectrum of our actions and choices is a bit more extensive than (a) Conforms to patriarchal standards ergo Is Bad vs (b) Doesn’t conform to mainstream patriarchal standards ergo Is Good.
So, a couple of points about why I’m frankly just fine with the label “choice feminist”.
1. Patriarchal standards aren’t uniform.
Sure, high heels are a great go-to for Things Approved Of By Patriarchy. If the only role women were ever forced into was that of “sex kitten”.
But there’s also “mother” or “teacher” or “nurse” – the unsexy woman held up for her Nurturing Qualities, her understanding of Her Place, her utter lack of autonomy and an identity focused entirely on being a helpmeet to others.
Betcha she wears “sensible shoes”.
This is one of the ways patriarchy gets us coming and going (well, not usually coming, boom boom!). There isn’t a perfect choice, even if your one goal in life is to conform (a goal which, I’m going to address later, does not actually make you an evil person.)
2. That whole “reclaiming” thing
People can, and do, do things which are surface-level conforming, yet present a challenge to kyriarchy/patriarchy.
It is a challenge to conventional beauty standards when a fat person dares to dress, and act, like a sexually-aware being. It is a challenge to people’s assumptions when a woman changes her name after marriage – and lets them know it’s only because she has no emotional connection to her “maiden” name. It is a challenge if a sex worker chooses to call herself a whore.
A lot of people take issue with the notion of reclaiming. I simply submit that shaking up the assumptions of others and causing them to rethink their immediate impressions of things is a form of activism in itself.
Part 2’s up tomorrow. Tune in then, or comment now, as you like.
A few people pointed me at this wonderfully abysmal “comment” on the Hunger Games books, which I have not read myself but have on the book-buying list.
The author gets fairly preachy about the terrible violence being done and how there should be another way and, despite allegedly being an editor of a reading-related website, doesn’t understand the entire point of dystopic fiction.
Where it gets interesting is where Bob McCoskrie reposts the article, without comment, on the Patriarchy First website. One can only assume from this that Bob agrees with the arguments of the author, those arguments roughly being:
- Who cares about the stated facts of the setting, Violence Should Never Be The Answer
- Who cares about the stated facts of the setting, Killing Is Always Wrong
- Who cares about the stated facts of the setting, What About The Children
- Who cares about the stated facts of the setting, The Protagonist Is Just Making Excuses
- Who cares about the usefulness of dramatic graphic description in conveying emotion and tension and conflict, Blood Is Icky
And you know what, I can slightly sympathize. Well, no, not really. But as an avowed fan of gratuitous gore and bleak futuristic settings, I totally understand there are people out there who just don’t like violence in their media, don’t like dark character development, etc etc.
Those people probably shouldn’t be reading The Hunger Games.
But we’re not talking about a review saying “Wasn’t my cup of tea, will appeal more to people who like X Y and Z”. The reviewer herself claims she’s not against violence or moral ambivalence.
But I sadly do not believe her.
Because what we have is a sanctimonious whinge by someone whose chief displeasure is that a dystopic novel about children killing each other for food contained, you know .. bad stuff. Contained conflict. Contained a main character forced into a shitty situation, submitting herself to humiliation and danger for the good of her whole society, and yeah, above all, justifying it to herself instead of, presumably, the preferable option of an eternity of self-flagellation over acts necessary to her survival. (And it was all so well-written and compelling that, you know, she enjoyed reading it.)
Oh shit. There it is.
Modern Christian fundamentalism in a nutshell. Judge other people according to an absolutely rigid, unforgiving (irony!) “morality” which allows no room for the basic facts of human existence, for individual circumstances; and refuse to acknowledge that when all your options are shit, and you pick the least stinky one, you’ve got every fucking right to come to terms with that instead of beating yourself up over some mythical Perfect Option.
And when they do allow that you might pick something non-perfect, you better not feel okay about it. You better not acknowledge your situation and accept you had no better alternative. You better sit the fuck down and hate yourself for not being Gandhi. Apparently.
And it all makes perfect sense to me. Because that’s exactly how fundies act about issues like abortion (bit of a swerve there, sorry). They firstly lack the ability to understand that people can get into shitty situations, that people’s circumstances can be so severe that none of their choices are good, that they can only do the best they can given a crap set of options.
They secondly lack the basic empathy for other human beings to let someone who has made a shitty choice come to terms with it.
They basically refuse to put themselves into another person’s shoes and go, “Well shit. I’m Katniss Everdeen and my options are (a) let my people starve horribly or (b) do my best to help them, even though I know the people I’m going to kill are in exactly the same spot as me, because if I refuse to go along with the regime I’ll be dead AND my people will starve horribly. That’s crap, but I’m not going to add to my distress and trauma by hating myself for things outside my control.”
Gods forbid that a person in that situation make a decision, acknowledge it’s not perfect, and live with it.
Christianity: it’s the forgiving religion. Unless you’re a controlling fundy wanker, then that becomes a little inconvenient.