Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sex does NOT sell - Enough alright already

Enough! I have truly had enough!

I am sick and tired. Sick and tired of being presented with soft porn or even main stream every time I turned a corner on the road, visit a shopping centre or even chose to rally for a cause I feel passionately about – animal rights.

Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are about to launch a xxx website to draw attention to animal cruelty (http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/8304493/peta-switches-to-porn-for-animal-rights). As a long time proponent of animals rights and a vegetarian for much of it (until I became pregnant and craved KFC – but let’s not go there), I am at a loss as to how the debasement and exploitation of women can in any way improve the plight of animals. I hope you are having a ‘huh?’ moment as much as I am.
Peta have long been known to use shock tactics in the form of pornography to drive its message (http://www.rachelstavern.com/uncategorized/peta-sexism-and-racism.html). In doing so, has appealed to a demographic I would hardly consider at the tipping point of progressive activism – Neanderthal males without a clue.

Peta have not even generated positive controversy as it is the want of many sagacious advertising agencies (for example, the Pure Blonde ad). All sex sells is....sex. Research suggest that sex-based advertising get in the way of the consumer remembering the brand or the product ((http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/mark-dziersk/design-finds-you/myth-rational-buyer-how-too-much-thinking-can-hurt-your-brand).

Really using sex to sell is the hallmark of sloppy, uncreative marketing wedded to the concept of shock tactics (though sex has now ceased to shock due to overexposure!).

And the mainstreaming of pornography has a host of other social ramifications – none of them associated with animal cruelty – including:
a)      Increase in child on child sexual abuse
b)      Pervasive increase in STDs
c)       Poor self image for young people (and now older!)
d)      Depression

And the list goes on – trust me.

And gone are the days parents could sit and watch TV with their child. Honestly, I hardly know how some of the music video clips shown on Rage of a Saturday morning get past to be shown in the morning time slot!

The debasement of human intimacy as a poorly scripted, exploitative performance art is in process of debasing ourselves. As a mother, this concerns me greatly as I do not want my child growing up thinking that what is shown in porn is intimacy. It is not. I do not want my son to think of women objects to be used for his gratification.

Please, please join me at Collective Shout – and organisation devoted to working against the objectification and sexualisation of women and children in popular culture (http://collectiveshout.org/).

Enough is truly enough.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tough Love - the parenting oxymoron

           I do not believe in tough love. I do not believe that controlled crying has any place in the parenting vocabulary. So, I take with a fist full of salt the works by baby experts such as Gina Ford and Tizzie Hall who advocate harsh approaches to parenting (and I include sleep training in this). So, it is with a great deal of alarm that I read about mums on this forum worried about their 2, 3, 6 or even 12 month old babies not sleeping through the night.

Here’s an interesting statistic for you – 80% of children do not sleep through the night until they are toddlers.

                Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t start out planning on being an attachment parent. To be honest, when we decided to become parents, I didn’t think much beyond the pregnancy and delivery. So, when I brought home a child who appeared to be a reincarnated banshee, screaming from  the early part of a evening to midnight or even the next morning, rarely settling for more than twenty minutes at a time – I threw my door open to all and any advice on settling my child.

                I got the ‘ignore him’, ‘he’s just trying to control you’ to  ‘show him who is boss and leave him outside in a pram’. By the time he was three months old, I was so exhausted from sleepless nights, we booked ourselves into a sleep school masquerading as a mother-baby unit.

                The first inkling that ‘mother baby unit’ experience was going to go horribly wrong was when they told me that they were going to take my 12 week old baby to sleep in another room. I should have listened to my instincts and walked out then. The second night we were there, my darling son cried so much that he threw up in his cot and they left him in there in his vomit. I should have slapped the head nurse and walked out. By the time we left the stupid place, my son started breast refusal because he was so traumatised by the experience.

                He was back sleeping in out room in his hammock three days after we got out of sleep school jail.

                Anecdotally, most children who visit mother baby units  lose weight and show signs of psychological distress. And sleep schools, which advocate the tough love approach to parenting, rarely look at the root cause of the problem.

                It took another six months of persistence on my part (and the firing of two paediatricians) for us to get to the bottom of why our son was so unsettled. He had chronic reflux exacerbated by multiple food intolerances. He was not crying to control me, he was crying because he was in pain. And leaving him that stupid cot while he cried was tantamount to me (the person who is supposed to love him the most in this universe) ignoring him in direst moment of need. And yes, I still feel so guilty about this.

                Don’t get me wrong, children cry, misbehave and carry on like pork chops – but it is for a finite time. They can’t control you if you don’t let them. Sure, we went through a period when our little boy insisted on wearing the same yellow skivvy for six months straight. I used to have to take if off him when he slept, washed it and dried it and had it ready for him the next morning – but it’s stopped now. Like all thing, it too passed.

                I am all for cuddling my child, co-sleeping and allowing them to play games. Don’t get me wrong, he has boundaries and we reinforce them firmly but gently. I am enjoying our mid-night cuddles and nose rubs now because I know in a few short years, he’ll be embarrassed to be seen with his mum and will not like to remember when cuddling up with his mummy in the nuddie was the best thing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Do as I 'say' not as I..ahem..err..'say'

Ok, I confess. I have a potty-mouth. I should have my mouth washed out with dish washing liquid; but I do swear. And swear a lot.

I never used to swear. Educated in a Catholic convent, a dropping the word ‘damn’ earned you a double detention in the hot tropical sun with a the placard around your neck saying; ‘I will not take the Lord’s name in vain’.

I didn’t even swear much in high school. I was in too much culture shock from having moved from my convent in to state run, rough and tumble school in the outer suburbs of Melbourne to say much really. I used to hide in the library and wished I could disappear.

But something happened in University. I hooked up a with bunch of country girls (love my peeps!) who could swill beer faster than they could set a sailor to blush with their vocabulary. And somewhere between attending B&S balls with these girls and earning my undergraduate degree, I learned how to swear.

Not that things got much better when I got into my professional career. Working in a technical environment, I had to learn to “keep up” with the lads and swear. They didn’t take me seriously if I could not. And, then I went onto work in multimedia – holy moly – that was when the fun really started!

So, when our son was born – my husband and I made a concerted effort to curb the excesses of our language. The odd f-bomb and sh*t would be dropped when he was an infant, and then  after a while we got lax and just went back to our potty mouth ways.

Until the f-bomb fell out the petal soft lips of our boy. My husband and I stood there in awe as he said, ‘Mummy, the f***ing phone won’t work.  Do you think we should call the d*ckheads at T**tra?’

And so, began the long process of deprogramming my son’s language. The F-bomb became a fart and so on. At the rate he was going, my son was facing expulsion from Kindy!

Anyway after months of “de-programming”, I put my son to bed last night and wondered into the kitchen to make myself dinner. As I was riffling through the contents of my pantry looking for the salsa (and why does it always disappear?) a can of tuna fell on my barefoot from a considerable height.

Confident my son was sound asleep, I hopped around the kitchen with my eyes squeezed shut holding my foot in pain saying words that would make a Hell’s Angel squirm. I finally leaned against the walls and opened my eyes. And there was my son, looking at me, gobsmacked.

“Did you hear all that?” I asked him innocently.

“Yup”, my son said from around the dummy he sucks on much like a cigarette. He is able to speak without the plastic plug falling out. He's even able to shout!

“You know that is naughty to say those words, right?”


“Good, so you won’t say them?”

“You're shittin' me right?" he asked, a perfect imitation of me.

Guess, it's back to the de-programming again. Sigh.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Boys vs. Girls

I always wanted a little girl. A little girl I could dress in overalls, teach how to climb trees, roll in mud and kick a football.  So, when I found out at my twelve week scan that I was definitely having a son, I must confess to feeling a teeny tiny bit disappointed. That feeling was soon replaced by embarrassment at the sight of my husband punching the air in the radiographers room.

      Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my son. Yes, I dress him in overalls, teach him to climb trees, encourage him to roll in mud and he teaches me how to kick a football (it’s usually him screaming ‘MUMMY I DOO!’)

      But a tiny part of me still yearns for a girl – fingers crossed for number 2 – to right the wrongs of my own childhood.  See, being a girl in my very traditional South Asian household, was like being a second class citizen.

      Who had to wash the dishes never mind the fact that my brother used them? Me. Who had to sweep the house and tidy up never mind the fact that my brother had created the mess? Me. Was I allowed out after sunset? No. Why? Because I was a girl. I was forced to capitulate on any argument with my brother brought in front of my mother for adjudication. Why? Because I was a friggin girl and ‘women must learn to compromise’. But why? Just because. Who was fawned on he got great results in Year 12? My brother. And when I kicked his butt a few years later with better Year 12 results, I had no accolades. Why? Because you’re a girl, it doesn’t matter what you do because you’ll get married anyway!

      It’s enough to start hating your own femineity.

      Over the years, I have been able to rationalise my childhood as the by-product of a misogynist South Asian culture still wedded to the concept of female infanticide. So imagine my surprise, reading research that suggest that the same may be case in the enlightened West. According to recent Gallup poll , 40% of Americans prefer to have son’s over daughters when asked if they could have only one child, which would they prefer. The rate of female infanticide in China does not seem so ludicrous now.

                What? Huh? What is the attraction of boys (from a parental sense that is – I am a heterosexual woman and I like men)? If you could have only one child, which gender would you pick? Would you pick at all?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Raising Resilient Children

FACT: The world is full of nasty people.

This was really brought home to me when I was about seven months pregnant with my son and on my daily walk around the block. I was enjoying the later summer sun on my back and the serenity of the Bell birds chirping in the trees overhead when a charming young man drove by in a ute, complete with the a Eureka Stockade bumper sticker, yelling: ‘Go back home you black *****! And take your effing baby with yah!’

And to make sure, I got the message, he pelted me with the core of an eaten apple. And since he was drunk, his aim was pretty poor and the apple core landed in someone’s garden.

Delightful, really.

Just to be clear on this. I am brown. More of a latte colour than black.  He should be sent to back of the class for the lack of originality! If you want me to take you seriously as a racist bigot, come up with something more original rather than ‘black *****’ or ‘go back home’. If I had a dollar for every time I have been called that over last twenty-five years, I’d be able to pay my gas bill for this awfully cold Melbourne winter.

Racists don’t bother me. They really don’t. Neither do bullies, rude people or Machiavellian bosses. After thirty-something years, I have built a defence system. It is based on the understanding that people who belittle, bully or harass someone else are fundamentally unhappy themselves. Nobody who is happy can spread such unhappiness.

But I worry. I worry about my child, and not just from the racists. But the bullies and the nasties out there. A part of me desperately wants to jump in and protect him,  then another part of me wants to raise him so that the nasties won’t bother him. Besides, there is a bucket load of evidence that shows that victims of bullying are on a pathway to poor mental health. Having suffered depression, I’d like to spare my child such torture. So, I have been reading ‘Tough Times’ and ‘Raising Resilient Kids’ by Drs. Brooks and Goldstein.

Central to raising a resilient child, according the good doctors, is ensuring that they have high sense of self-esteem, are confident and have a wide social network. But how do you build the self-esteem of a three-year old? How do you teach a three year old confidence?

So we’ve been doing dramatherapy at home. Working on little skits on how to handle nasty people and how to walk away. We take turns at ‘playing’ nasty and learning how to walk away. And I keep telling him that his father and I love him very much.

How are you ‘bully proofing’ your kids? How have you dealt with the nasties in your life and your children’s life?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Human Canon Ball - a game with No Winners

So, today I turn thirty-seven! Whoo hoo! Anyhoo - upon reaching this momentous milestone, I have been forced me to reflect on my life and share with you some precious nuggets of wisdom I have learnt so far. Sure the list of things I’ve learnt is long Harry Potter-style-six-volume grocery I take down to Woolies before Christmas, but I have narrowed it down to five top, and here goes:
1)      Never mix alcohol with antibiotics – you’re feeling crap anyways if you’re using antibiotics and it is perfectly possible to feel worse.
2)   The Poodle perm was not attractive in the 1980s, 1990s and never mind what that ultra-cool hairdresser says – it is still not attractive. Nobody except 1980s Kylie as Charlene can pull it off.
3)   Date nerds; they end up being the bosses of the jocks and earn more.
4)   A girl with E-cup boobs can never wear a strapless  dress without the whole thing ending in tears. Accept it. Move on.
5)   NEVER EVER PLAY HUMAN CANNON BALL. If a god meant us to fly – he’d have given us wings goddamit!
I really wish I had listened to No. 5. I really do. I really wish I could get into a Delorean-style time machine and zap myself back in time to the morning of my seventh birthday.

See, a the day before my before, my brother and I had watched American’s Greatest Hero. This superhero was the least likely of superheros as he was completely gauche and not very smart. And he was forever flying into things and had the best misadventures. My brother and I loved him of course!

My brother, was also bit on the nerdy side complete with horn-rimmed glassed and a wheezy laugh, was desperate to re-enact the whole flying thingy. And I was more than happy to humour him. After all he’d bought me a plastic cooking set for my birthday with his allowance and he’d convinced me I owed him.

So while our mother was busy preparing for my birthday bash, my brother and I sneaked off into the guest room  and set the mattresses up for this feat of flying. First we jumped off the bed for a good ten minutes and that started to pale. Then we jumped off the dresser. We just weren’t getting the height. We were convinced we could fly if we could just get up in the air enough.

Come in Human Canon Ball  - my brother convinced me to stand on the soles of his feet while he was lying on the ground with his legs bent up in the air. The plan was that he’d propel me up in the air with the action of his legs and I would fly into the sky through the open window.

Needless to say, I didn’t fly out the window – thank god cause we lived on the tenth floor of our apartment block – but I did fall badly, cracking my head and nose on the reinforced concrete walls. But worst of all, or so we thought at the time, I’d landed on my brother’s glasses breaking the horn-rimmed frame to good effect.

Mum was too busy to give us a good tongue lashing that day, but she certainly didn’t spare us the next. She was so mad at us that I didn’t have the guts to tell her that my nose hurt like hell and that it had bled for a good ten minutes. A fact we’d managed to keep from her by hiding in the bathroom.

By the time I was fourteen, it was blatantly clear that  my nose was hooked and bent out of shape. In teenage angst and lack of funds, there was no option to have it fixed. Until earlier this year when a visit to the GP identified that my previously broken nose was probably the source of migraines I suffer on a regular basis.

Sure I don’t need the surgery, and a part of me is totally embarrassed about having a nose job done at thirty-seven. I mean, surely it’s the height of vanity. I have lived with my crooked nose for thirty-years already, another forty or fifty won’t kill me.  Yes, it’s for medical reasons but I must confess feeling a little joyous at the thought of not having a hooked nose any more. So, for my thirty-seventh birthday – my gift to myself is rhinoplasty.

Am I being vain? Have you had any plastic surgery? And how have your siblings scared you for life?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Where have all the kick-arse chicks gone?

The other day, I ducked into the Boutique de Circle Rouge (Target) for my month for my monthly toy top-up. You know what I mean; the harried whip around the  brightly lit toy section of the department store; looking for presents for the birthdays, christenings, thank-you for coming to play, sorry you couldn’t come to play and bribes- for-good behaviour for the upcoming month.

If motherhood has taught me anything, it is never to bring my child along to these excursions lest we all end up in tears. So I was spending forty-five minutes of peace ambling up and down the toy aisles looking, in relative peace; comparing the relative merits of one toy against the other, marking off the list of children for whom I had to buy for.

And toy shopping is not child’s play either; a subtle code of etiquette governs the fine art of procuring gifts for children. Firstly, is the family pro- or anti- plastic? If they are anti-plastic, the gift will be proportionately smaller as the cost of purchase is significantly higher. Then are they a TV or no-TV family? Allergies?  Age appropriate? Toys of violence (and one strange mum classified little plastic dinosaurs as toys of violence!!)?  Trust me the list goes on!

So I was ambling up and down the aisles, looking at the latest offerings from Mattel, Vtech and the like, making my way down my list when I came of short. What? A girl on my list? How did that happen?

For the record, I have a son. And his friends, by and large, are boys. And a large number of my friends have sons too. By default, my toy shopping has restricted to automobiles, blocks and sporting equipment. I occasionally try and mix things up with a bit and buy cooking sets (Junior MasterChef anyone?); but my default position is automobiles, blocks and sporting equipment. However, as of late, a few girls have started appearing in our Tonka-toy, testosterone filled midst, so girl-toys it had to be.

With a jaunty little spring to my step, I skipped over the girl’s section and started hunting. I must confess to feeling an unmentionable sense of glee; after all I do love my son and his mates, even if I do have to live through the pirate wars every weekend – but I was dying to buy a girl’s toy after many years.

I steeled my eyes against the garish candyfloss pink and went into the fray. I immediately dismissed all the twee pink and purple unicorns, baby dolls and freakishly misshapen Bratz dolls. I also then dismissed Barbie and her colleagues, although it took me a while to figure out what I was looking for.

I was looking for the Thomas The Tank Engine equivalent; but for girls. I hunted high, I hunted low, and all I came up with was -Dora the Explorer.

Really? I mean there are some great boy-toy heroes. Thomas the Tank Engine is one. Chuggington (again a boy), the Wiggles (boys..ahem..men..ok..boys..whatever), Charlie Bear (boy), Giggle and Hoot (both boys), Waybuloos (who knows what they are?), Elmo (boy) and all girls have is Dora the Explorer?

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the pint-sized Latina explorer who never uses violence, but is that the only female hero in little girl land?

I drove home with a distinctive sense of unease that afternoon. When I cast my mind back to my girlhood (ok – no need to point out that it was looong time ago), my little girl land was filled with a bunch of amazing kick-arse female characters.

For crying out loud, I gave myself a nosebleed by spinning around and around to be like Wonderwoman. I even convinced my dad to buy me a tiara with a star on it for my fourth birthday. My brother and I spent endless hours trying to come up with the faux-metallic sound of Bionic Woman while trying to jump off the couch in slow motion.

And as I grew up, the great female characters in TV programming kept coming. There was Murphy Brown who appealed to the tween feminist in me, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (need I say more?), Agent Dana Scully from the X-files, Xena the Warrior Princess and even the three witches from Charmed. These women taught me that I could do anything, aspire to anything, challenge anything – and that woman could be a superhero too.

These women, characters in sitcoms I grant you, represented more though. The embodied the female archetype of Diana, the powerful huntress and protector. Brought to mind characters rarely talked about today – women like Bodicea, Joan of Arc and Marie Curie – who are women who are powerful in their femininity.

And in an age where TV and mass media is almost the only purveyor of information, I cringe at the lack of strong female archetypes. And I think these archetypes are important; so that little girls have role model and characters they can draw on for inspiration and strength.

There are those who will argue that we have some great female role models here in Australia; our PM is female as is our Governor-general. However, most media discussion about the former is currently so derogatory and when it is halfway complimentary, it is purely about her clothes and hairstyle! Huh?

What characters are there for little girls to aspire to today? Am I missing something?