Lift Your Game DTJ

I have been a supporter of Destroy the Joint since the night it was conceived. In fact my first Destroy the Joint T shirt is wearing out!

I think you have all done some excellent work. Thank you. However lately I have been visiting the site less and less and have been becoming more and more disenchanted by some of the campaigns. Rather than becoming disinterested and faintly wishing you good will as I wave you goodbye, I thought I was honour bound to actually put in writing some of my concerns, for I still have great admiration for the overall conception.

I admit that I am a dyed in the wool feminist of many years standing. I confess I have never actually burnt a bra, but as an older woman I remember our protests, our struggles for educational and vocational opportunities and for many of the forbidden things that young women today take for granted, and faintly resent this going unrecognised in recent criticism of “old bra burning feminists”. But this does not particularly worry me. I am still capable of using both the ancient (and some more modern) techniques of expressing my views!

What do worry me are some of your recent campaigns. It was simple when you started, with all our support, recognising the injustice of the misogyny that abounded at the time, particularly in relation to our Prime Minister. I think this has made a great difference. More people now identify misogyny are now prepared to call it out.

DTJ has been a great forum for people to enunciate and discuss their views on what women should and or can expect in life. It has been well supported by some intelligent and some enlightening comments from many men and women.

But I ask the question are you now trying to cover too many areas? Some of them, perhaps because they are complex issues, cannot be simple enough to be reduced to black and white questions followed by a few comments, some informed some less informed. These issues need more than just public awareness they need knowledge and expertise.

I refer, particularly, to your current campaign against what you are naming “domestic violence” but which seems to me to be more of just a reduction to a numeration and description of what I would call “intimate partner violence” of men against their female partner. I agree that both are related issues and ones about which we should all be concerned and against which we should all speak out. They are already aired, but can always do with more airing. Much more government funding is needed. But it is not the simplistic, binary, counting, “us against them” issue which you have been describing. If it were as simple as you are presenting it would be much easier.

Personally I am a non violent person and am against any violence as a way to solve problems in any circumstances.

But, like all old feminists, I am quite outspoken and do not find it easy to understand why some people find it difficult to speak out against violence when they experience it. But I have both worked and studied in this area and know from that experience that we are dealing with very complex situations and emotions. I was a lawyer in a past life and worked for some years as a psychologist in a legal setting. It is important to change mind sets in both perpetrators and victims, particularly while problems still remain “potential” rather than actual. Some years ago I worked with a male counsellor who provided some groups for men who had been violent to their partners and I developed some surprising understanding of how they had got to where they were. (Some had been mandated to attend and others were volunteers but there was little difference between those two types.)

I have spent time with victims of violence and saw their needs and sometimes their compassion which had them remaining in situations where I would never have stayed.

I have worked with police specialising in this area and admired some of their very praiseworthy efforts to intervene in violent situations and have been witness to some of their frustrations at not always been able to follow through as they would like to, due to decisions made that they had to respect, often made by women.

I have met domestic violence workers, whom I greatly admire. But some of them, in their desire to protect former victims, have subjected those very victims to control that the victims found more abusive than that of the former partners.

During my study for a Law Masters I wrote a research project arguing quite strongly that Apprehended Violence Orders, with all the good intentions involved, sometimes play a role quite disempowering of victims in the mere exercise of this usage of “the power of law and language”.

And, as an aside, although it is unarguable that, when men and women are in physical conflict, it is usually the woman who is hurt, it cannot be denied that there are a number of women who are also prone to violent outbursts. After all we are humans too! And the term “domestic violence” also includes violence to and by children. This does not exclude women and girls.

The classic domestic violence, which so often includes on-going restriction of a partner by isolation, reducing her income, physically restraining, intimidating and ultimately injuring her is a deeply distressing situation and needs intervention in a way that will not further damage the victim. It is to be hoped we can find acceptable ways so intervention can happen early on and will provide her with physical help and information and will give her strategies and knowledge to enable her to avoid such friends or partners in the future.

It might also help women in general, as well as the ex partner himself, for him to have help, as that will also prevent violence towards anyone else. On this issue I have to cross swords with DTJ for the attitude expressed when it was suggested that disaffected men should not receive counselling and education, as all support should go to the victims. On going counselling for disaffected men is probably an essential way to protect women in general and to prevent young sons from potentially growing up to a life of violence.

It is the age old argument, drain the swamp or kill the alligators?

Please destroy the whole joint. Concentrate on the big picture, community attitudes, not on the minutiae of the more complex issues where almost all people agree on the desired outcome, both men and women. Individuals are often just struggling hard to find solutions and will sometimes get it wrong.

I’d rather do some swamp draining. I thought that was what DTJ was originally doing. Concentrate on changing the world!

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The View From a Blind Man

Recently I had some blinds made and fitted in my house. I have been slightly misleading in my title as this ultimately required the input, of not one, but three blind men or “technicians” if description applies better.

The first blind technician, a polite young man probably trainee in the art, came to measure the four windows requiring blinds. I carefully chose the fabric from his booklets and ultimately received a quote.

In quick time I received a phone call saying that a second blind man would come to install my blinds. I found him an affable middle aged gentleman who competently did his job and was dismayed, yet completely solution focussed when, on starting to affix the fourth blind, he found the measurements of that particular window had either been unsuccessfully made or wrongly transmitted to the maker. He was careful not to traduced the polite young trainee or the helpful young woman who liaised between customers and blind tradespeople.

I was very happy with the way he hung the three correctly sized blinds. He had been very conscious of my furniture arrangement when placing the cords or “chains” so that I would be able to very easily access them to open or close the blinds.

Less than a fortnight later a third blind technician arrived with the replacement blind. He seemed very distressed about, not my having to wait for the last blind, or indeed that the error had been made and I had to be available for a second call, but on how inconvenient it was for him to have to come out and hang only one blind as a consequence of someone else’s error.

As he was led to the offending window he asked to see the other blinds that had been hung. He claimed, loud and long, that they had been hung the wrong way around. Is their indeed a “wrong” was to hang a blind? I expressed my complete satisfaction with them and he hung the one remaining blind the way he wanted to and grumpily departed.

In the months since, I have pondered these disparate views about blind hanging. The first hanger had, not only positioned the cords so I could reach them easily, but had hung the blinds so the the opening of them was a more accessible task than the closing. The second hanger had done them the other way around so that the opening was the more awkward task.

Did this match their disparate views of the world?  The first man was so positive, even in a slightly difficult situation, and obviously his view was that joining the wider world at the first opportunity was an important factor in the provision of blinds. The second man, apparently disappointed at the offerings of life, finds it necessary to shut out that world as long as possible so we can, instead, admire the beauties of a shuttered environment.

Oh what we can learn from the views of blind men!

I dwell on this thought as I open the blinds at the first opportunity each morning.

Thank you first blind hanger and please go and cheer up your hanging partner.

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Reflections On A Wish

Forty two years ago tomorrow, 9th March, I gave birth to a baby boy whom we called Max. He was over eleven weeks premature.

The hospital was frank about his limited chances of survival although no reasons could be found for his prematurity. Anyway, I did not have to be told that the odds were not in his favour. He was quite big for his stage of gestation and he was a male. These were two other factors which, statistically, did not auger well. Although I am not a believer, the intensive care nurses, who were nuns, asked me if they could have him baptised as they did not think he would survive. For their sake I gave my permission as I did not want them to suffer. I know not what they did.

A drawing by Maxie's 6 year old brother.

A drawing by Maxie’s 6 year old brother.

As time passed we all grew a little more hopeful.

My dearest wish was, as does not need spelling out, that he survive.

I had undertaken a course of study the year before. I was half way through my Diploma of Education. I had made arrangements about how this could be continued and when I would require help with childcare, bearing in mind the wonderful surprise new baby to be born in June as well as our older children. But could I do this and also look after a new premature baby who would need special care? On the other hand, if he did not survive would I be better to continue with this degree for my own emotional support? I had until the 31st March to make my decision.

I decided to defer and informed the university of my decision. In no way could I run the risk that a decision to continue might imperil this heartfelt wish and that my precious baby might not live or that I could pass the care of this special baby over to any one else, even temporarily.

Early on the morning of 2nd April I heard that he had taken a turn for the worst and died during the night.

Of course life goes on. I later, with enthusiasm, finished my Diploma of Education, taught in schools, undertook further education and worked in other areas with children as I went on through life.

I took great comfort from my three wonderful older children. They were later joined by another baby brother. I was both amused and saddened by a discussion between the two older children as they watched their new baby play with his toys, a beautiful little boy and now a wonderful man with children of his own, but then only about nine months old. One said, “It is such a shame Maxie died. They would have had a lovely time playing together”. The other said, “But he would not have been born if Maxie had not died”. Another unanswerable conundrum. What would life have held if he had lived?

But every year, at this time, I remember the great depth of feeling with which I wished, forty two years ago.

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Democracy

Some years ago I received a begging letter from one of my old Alma Maters, Sydney University. As a sop I sent a small donation so I could write a letter strongly condemning this newly advertised degree which was seeking my financial support. This degree was to be directed towards the teaching of those who help to spread to other countries the ideals of “Democratisation and Human Rights”. Whilst I think there can never be too much focus on the principles of human rights, I disagreed with the automatic assumption that the two aspects to this course always go hand in hand. Unfortunately that university must have decided that it was cheaper to employ people who cannot read, as my reply consisted of a letter praising me for supporting their ideals.

How conceited have we become to think only our particular form of what could, at best, be very loosely described as “democracy” can be equated with protection of human rights?

But the conceit gets worse. Bit by bit, day by day, it gets worse.

I do not believe in killing, probably the biggest inroad into the rights of any human. Rarely should we go to war, and I assert that considered killing, based purely on ideology, automatically makes that killing less able to be excused or understood than is a killing based on a reaction when normal human emotions get out of hand. Sometimes the basis for the ideology can be a religious one. Sometimes it is based on very different ideological principles, as, for example, is the death penalty. It is appalling that Boris Nemtsov has been killed in Russia. But it is in no way made more appalling because he was a supporter of democracy. To take revenge, or think this could be a worse example of the crime of murder because it is anti-democratic rather than anti an alternative ideology, is a very limited view.

And what is a democratic ideology anyway? We do not all agree what that means. Fixed into our insular, island culture seems to be a particularly strange ideal of democracy, adopting perhaps the worst aspects from democracies around us. It results in the idea that a vote based on a two party political system, decided by an election which forces everybody to either vote or commit an illegality, is the essence of a good democratic government. Endlessly, for years, we have heard complaints that votes for a third or another small party, or any in fact any exercise of power from a minority in the house of review, are some sorts of anomalies which disrupt a “democratic process”. These can be, in fact, the epitome of a democratic process. For example while Ms Jackie Lambie and her ideas are probably as different from me and my ideas as is possible in any two women, I am proud of the fact that she is bold enough and outspoken enough to represent real democracy. That is to speak as she feels, to vote as she believes and not to feel constrained by party dictates.

Once we have parties virtually gagging the representatives that we have elected, not only true democracy but the very foundation of human rights, that is the right to speak and to hear, has gone out of the window. Even our cabinet ministers seem unable to communicate with us as they wish. Surely we are not stupid enough to think they would always be of exactly the same mind as one another? In a true democracy we, the people, should be able to hear all their arguments and differences and appreciate how they came to some compromise or consensus. But no, in our wonderful democracy, not a word must be “leaked”, especially to those who cast votes.

So we have lost what many countries believe is a right not to vote. We have lost the right, if we do vote, to have our representative speak for us in parliament and vote there as they (or even perhaps their electorates) would wish them to. Meanwhile this wonderful democracy is also ignoring conventions that we have signed with the UN to ensure human rights to others, first by not enacting some of them in parliament and, in fact, by breaching others in a way that is authorised by parliament.

And worse, even though our democracy has already eroded some of our rights, instead of working on this in an inclusive, accepting way in our own country, we seem, in the last decade or so to have become more divided and following less often the basic democratic principle of government, that is considering the minorities as well. Meanwhile we have also been mindlessly supporting carefully chosen groups in countries overseas and even waging wars on the justification that an artificial installation of a “democracy”, as we see it, supported by our troops, will automatically give democratic “freedom”, and therefore human rights, to others.

May I be so bold as to suggest that this comes perilously close to the Arabic word “jihad” or “struggle” to enforce our ideology of “democracy” upon others. And I am sure many agree that such compulsions do little for human rights.

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Domestic Violence

I am a non violent person and am very much of the opinion that we must do all we can to stop domestic violence, a violence which permeates many unfortunate families and adversely effects thousands of children over years.

However I think we should use all the means at our disposal to stop such violence.

I read Dr Tanveer Ahmed’s recent contribution to this debate with interest.

With the figures widely available to us, there is no way we should ignore his contribution as to one of the ways that this problem can be attacked. If some pattern can be established that sheds light upon why some of these men are violent, and indeed why some of these otherwise intelligent women have them back, then we are equipped with more armoury to attack this real problem in society.

From time to time in my past life (prior to retirement some time ago) I was professionally involved in, et al, one or two groups for men who have been violent. I would agree with Dr Ahmed’s view of the reasons for their violence and the frailties which they show. I bear in mind these are men who have agreed to accept help, albeit under some duress.

But it is also interesting to talk to many of the women victims. They too have seen the vulnerability in their partners. They too feel pity for that helplessness and fear. They, too, see that the self loathing and undertakings to reform are sincere at the time they are given. But that is not enough to stop it happening over and over again!

To stop this problem we must, first, help the children and women involved.

But, if we are genuine we must also help these men. And if we apply the same sort of understanding to this issue as we do to juvenile crime, we must look for means which allow us to work with young men before these attitudes and emotional difficulties become entrenched.

It is not a case of women v men. It must be a case of both genders working together to make every effort to stop violence of any sort within families.

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Why Some Women Are Against Feminism

This morning, putting on my “feminist frightbat” T shirt ready for holiday shopping, I had what I view as an epiphany about why some women are so against the very notion of “feminism”.

As a feminist of over sixty years standing I have always found this hard to understand.

I understand the women who want life to be as it was for many generations, who are frightened of making decisions and want them made on their behalf or who want to spend many years child rearing as the major parent and be financially supported by a partner who agrees that his parental job is essentially to provide. I support them in their choice and their right to take up such options.

What I have never understood is women who want half of both worlds, who reject the idea of a movement but yet seek the advantages already won for some women by the feminist movement, such as the right to select clothing and the way they dress, the right to engage in occupations that were previously not available to women, particularly married women, and the right to own their own sexual behaviour. Yet they stop short of saying they will belong to a movement which works for these and other rights to belong to all women, in all circumstances.

I understand this from the male perspective. The fear that women will make a difference to their own opportunities is a real one. If women take up half the senior roles in life that men currently take then there will be less of these roles for men and this would make them understandably anxious. For this reason I admire men who unselfishly support the feminist movement, and there are many of them. I think, in time, most men may eventually realise that they, themselves, will thereby gain in their own choices in the long term. But that the immediate prospect could fill them with fear is self evident.

But this morning I realised that female feminist-rejectors are also fearful. They are scared of leaving a majority group. If they firmly eschew the feminist mantra they can stay in an “anti- extremist” group, enjoying the privileges of the majority group with no stigma, together with advantages already won for them by previous feminists. In the same way racists who do very little of a positive nature to help minority groups can point a critical finger at a few extremists from whom they distance themselves, whilst continuing to enjoy the privilege available to them by being of the dominant race. This process is described well here.

It is a hard call to ask people to really combat the fear of loss of privilege by taking action. That can be recognised. But my message to those who overtly reject feminism is, never bad mouth those who support it. For to do so demonstrates clearly that you belong to the dominant, non accepting majority group. That is a free choice. But recognise it for what it is – privilege and the ensuing fear of being out of the “in” group.

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Invitation to the Baroness and Socrates

Baroness Susan Greenfield would have been welcome at my daughter’s house one evening about six months ago.

We had returned from seeing a lovely, local, amateur theatre offering, which included a melange of tunes from well known musicals, including Les Miserables. In a two meter square area around a table, grazing from Pizza ordered on line, gathered five adults, a fifteen year old boy and a six year old boy. Three adults and the two boys had their iPads/ iPhones in their hands. An animated discussion, if not argument, ensued about which singer, over the many years that had elapsed since Les Miserables had been first performed, had offered the best rendition of “Bring Him Home”, with each speaker supporting his or her view/s with down loaded versions. Three other children were on the move around the house putting in random appearances at the table to help themselves to pizza and to voice their opinions. This animated comparison of various musical offerings, supported by argument and learned analysis of what was being offered (including from the six year old), was impressive. A seven year old girl wheeled by from time to time when she heard something to which she wanted to add her considered opinion and to say what tickled her fancy, and an 11 year old boy sang along. The two year old was very excited.

I have seldom seen such group enthusiasm or a debate backed by such immediate hard evidence.

Even Socrates, whose opinion on the value of reading and writing much mirrored that of the Baroness on digital technology, would have been impressed. In fact he should have been there with the Baroness. I freely agree that both reading and writing and digital technology in its turn modify the brain. Isn’t that otherwise known as evolution?

A second factor which supports the value to the brain of access to digital technology is the equalising factor. (I am sure, however, neither the Baroness or Socrates would like this as it might lower their respective statuses.) On this same occasion there was a perfect example of this. The seven year old girl suggested that perhaps “The Professor” should give a definitive answer as to which version was the best. She was referring to her Uncle, one of the iPhone users, who happened to have an PhD in Music. Two of the other adults (one playing an iPhone) were musicians too. But those of us who were not musicians felt a perfect right to express our opinions. This was not merely an academic exercise. We were actually hearing the contenders, and in the kind of quick succession, with part replays, not possible in a live concert format. The six year old eloquently expressed his liking of a version he had, among other versions, previously listened to on his own initiative, and he now played it with conviction as his choice – it made him feel like crying. What better accolade than that? In the “olden days” he would have had to bow down to the professor’s opinion and his emotional reaction would not have been able to be validated, as it was, in a semi public forum.

Digital technology was thus encouraging hands on development of independent thinking in the young user.

This whole episode was interactive, it was social, it was educational.

AND IT WAS FUN.

Baroness, you are missing out! (And we know Socrates would have had a ball with reading if he had given it a go.)

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