Shoot him with a gun, then invite him to dinner

This was originally posted on my old blog on 3 June 2017.

When our daughter was about six years old, we always joked she was so pretty we’d already have to start saving for a shotgun for when the boys started visiting. One day, she asked me seriously what we would do if a boy showed interest in her when she’s older. I replied we’d invite him to dinner, so Dad and I would be able to assess him and get to know him before he can date our daughter. Her four-year-old brother, who’d half listened but didn’t catch all that, asked her what Mommy would do if a boy wanted to date her. She said: “She’ll shoot him with a gun, then invite him to dinner.”

This is a family classic joke, but it also shows the mindset we were in at the time. Our circumstances led us to reevaluate our life, beliefs, convictions from the foundations up, and the attitudes behind that joke are among the foundations that were rebuilt.

Believing your job is to protect your daughter is to believe she is not able to protect herself. I’m not talking physical protection, I’m talking a kind of oversight of every decision, every relationship, insisting that you have authority and the final say over her movements – as in, she has to ask your permission to go here or there. That sends the message to her that she is incapable. The sad thing about psychology is that being bombarded with the message that you’re incapable can make you incapable. When you are constantly told in myriad little ways that you can’t, you are likely to believe you can’t, therefore you can’t.

Continue reading “Shoot him with a gun, then invite him to dinner”

Let’s give more to men

This was originally posted to my old blog on 21 June 2015.

I’ve been bothered for a while with how we talk about sports. It’s rugby, and women’s rugby. Cricket, and women’s cricket. The assumption is built into this way of talking that there’s the real sport, then there’s the other version. Like the priceless oil painting, then the amateur copy.

How do we solve this, though? It’s a fact that physically, men and women are different. Even beyond gender, we have different limitations which require acknowledgement for everyone to get a chance of recognition for excellence. There need to be different categories, the broadest of these being men’s, women’s, and parallel. We can’t avoid the need for categorisation.

There’s a very simple solution: a complete embrace of those categories. Why not start referring to men’s sports the same as we do to other categories of sport? Why not call it men’s cricket, men’s rugby, men’s football, on television news and in written reporting, in announcements of upcoming games, in every official and controllable way available? There will of course be massive resistance initially, but this would be nothing new. With persistence and patience, we can reach a place in a decade or two where the name of a sport doesn’t automatically mean the men’s version.

This is one matter in which fairness and equality will be helped not by giving women equal status, but instead by giving men equal status. It’s a simple matter of changing a small issue of language, but it can bring about a huge change in how we think about sport.

With “friends” like these…

This was originally posted to my old blog on 20 June 2015.

You are Facebook friends with Jack. You’ve never met in the flesh, you connected because you had a mutual friend, or maybe you got talking in a group you both belonged to and discovered you had mutual interests. One day, you open Facebook and on your timeline it tells you Jack liked this:

I think blacks are awesome. I have one in my toolshed, next to my lawnmower.

If you’re anything like me, you would see that Jack liked a “joke” that is excruciatingly callous about the history of slavery, that expresses the view Black people are not human, that celebrates and condones racism. I understand enough about white privilege to realise joking about such issues is like Marie Antoinette criticising starving masses from the isolation of her opulence. Clearly, our hypothetical Jack is ignorant and lacks enough higher brain function to feel empathy.

So when this morning I opened Facebook and saw a “friend” had liked this:

feminist_lesbian

…I unfriended him. I didn’t unfriend him because I think he’s a misogynyst, but because he is clearly either ignorant of the extent of the suffering, persecution, bias, violence and objectification women endure around the world every single day (with gay women experiencing even more intense suffering), or he is aware but lacking in the necessary higher brain function that would enable him to empathise enough to be repelled by a “joke” like that.

And if for a second you think: “Oh, but we’re laughing at the idiot who thinks that way, who can’t make a distinction between relationships and pornography, who doesn’t have a clue,” do me a favour and THINK HARDER. When we portray haters as clowns, we portray them as harmless. There are few more dangerous, enabling things we can do.

France makes laws to push social responsibility, while US makes laws to screw the poor

This was originally posted to my old blog on 22 May 2015.

This morning I saw an article on my Facebook newsfeed:

“It is now illegal in France for supermarkets to throw away food. They can donate it all to charities, or as animal feed.”

Underneath, as usual, was a list of related articles. One of them had this headline:

“It is now illegal to distribute food to homeless people in 21 cities.”

You seldom get a complete blog post more or less written for you in two headlines, but there you go.

Control, again

This was originally posted to my old blog on 18 May 2015.

Ireland is set to vote in a referendum about same-sex marriage, and some other thing almost nobody can remember. It’s all about whether we should or shouldn’t allow people of the same gender to get married. The Yes side has dubbed it a question of marriage equality, the No side has dubbed it a question of anything but what it’s really about, screaming alarm over adoption and surrogacy, both completely irrelevant to and unaffected by the outcome of the referendum. This obfuscation manifested in both their claims of what motivates their opposition of the proposed amendment to the constitution, as well as their denial of what really motivates them.

While of course there will be exceptions, the vast, vast majority of those who are campaigning for a No vote, are motivated by a religious-based conviction that homosexuality is wrong. The Bible says it’s bad, the Church (in this country that of course always means the Roman Catholic Church) says it’s bad, therefore…

And this is where my disagreement with these views goes from “whatever, dude” to “stop, because what you’re doing is wrong”. That sentence above ends with “…I want everyone else to live according to my convictions.”

Of course, society often enforces legal prohibitions not everyone agrees with. We strive, hopefully, to limit such contested bans to activities that can clearly be shown to be harmful to the greater good if allowed to go unchecked. Murder and theft are two perfect examples of this. Someone else’s relationship with a consenting adult cannot possibly fall into this category. It’s clear the No side understand this, which is why there has been this remarkable distortion of the facts and intense effort to obfuscate the issue on hand.

But the truth is that a No vote is rooted in the very Catholic desire to not only live your life as you see fit, but to also force others to live their lives the way you see fit. This country is still steeped in that kind of approach.

On 22 May, I will be voting yes for a number of reasons relating to my conviction that deeply loving and committed couples should be able to make that relationship official, and that homosexuality is as normal a variation in the human condition as is being left-handed, though apparently slightly less common. Primarily, though, I’ll be voting yes because what consenting adults do with their lives is none of my fucking business. Society in Ireland crosses a line when it comes to control of individuals. We go way too far, still, in dictating forced organ donation onto women, in our interference with how people raise their children. A yes vote would be a step in the right direction, following a good few before it, and hopefully to be followed by many more in the future.

Bring it on.

The nightmare is over

This was originally posted on my old blog on 11 January 2015.

A headline on one of the newspapers on the stand shouted as I walked into the shop: “THE NIGHTMARE IS OVER”. A glance confirmed my suspicion that it was about the Charlie Hebdo shootings and subsequent manhunt. I went into the shop, got the bits and bobs I’d come for, walked back along the dark, quiet alley, and through my mind floated the fact that as I strode, mothers coped with indefinite life in refugee camps, shock and grief tore into those coping with the murder of an entire village, someone somewhere was without a moment’s doubt floating in a cramped ship to a hoped-for but probably impossible better life, and on and on the misery goes. But hey, the unthinkable affront of some of this spilling over into our comfortable lives in the West has been ended.

And that’s all that counts. The nightmare is over.

Parents are people, too

This was originally posted on my old blog on 29 November 2014

I am continually astonished at how, around me, I see people fail to identify children as fellow human beings. Teachers and parents routinely talk to and treat under-eighteens in a way they would never, in their wildest dreams, dare to treat people the same age as them or older. Adults approach young people from a position of “I should control you” rather than a position of respect for their self-determination as starting point, with interventions and interference a regrettable necessity (and I believe when children are not in their teens yet respectful control is neccessary – they must be secure in the knowledge that you’ve “got them” and ambiguity on your part is disastrous, but that’s another story). Societal rules made to try to avoid problems encountered in the past savage the rights of those under the age of eighteen. A child in this country can’t even seek advice or help without their parents being notified. How helpful is that, if your overwhelming problem is that you feel your parents control and monitor your every move? Surely even the act of asking for help is a private matter, can nobody understand the depth of violation it is to force people to share that?

I believe cases where teenagers are depressed, or do dangerous or reckless things, should always first be inspected for a sense of lack of control over their own lives.

I also believe that too many teenagers show the same staggering contempt for their parents, not viewing them as fellow human beings but instead thinking of them as something else, somehow. Some kind of other species. As much as your parents may have contributed to that view by casting themselves in such a role, here’s a piece of advice: overcoming that skewed view of your folks is called growing up.

If you want to be treated with respect, then treat your parents with respect. And with respect, I mean understanding that they are fellow human beings who are doing their best, who are living life to the best of their ability. Yes, people do exist who take pleasure from others’ misery, but chances are your parents are not among those twisted people, and in the rare case that they are, your understanding of the brokenness involved will be a foundation stone of the solution.

If you want your parents to realise and understand the pain or frustration they cause you with certain actions, then grow up and truly try to understand what your actions do to them. I am generally a very strong person, but let me tell you, my children are like a raw nerve connected straight to my heart. Nothing can either paralyse or move me like a threat to their wellbeing. Have you ever stood somewhere with all your weight on one foot, and someone came up and pushed behind your knee? That sudden collapse gives you some idea of what it feels like: you can have walked through fire in your life and think you can handle anything, then someone somehow reaches your children and you are nothing.

Especially if you are still living in your family home, you are like your parents’ hearts, walking around outside. Of course they’re nervous, anxious, because nothing can hurt them like seeing you get hurt. Imagine if you can let them know you understand that, as a starting point in a conversation about more freedom, more trust to be responsible out of their sight. Imagine how much more willing they may be to give you freedom if they know you understand what it costs them to do so.

If you want your parents to be kind to you, to do nice things for you, why don’t you start. Say one nice thing to your parent every day, and mean it. Think of one kind thing you can identify that you truly believe about them. And if you go: “I can’t think of a single nice thing to say about my parent”, get help.

Clickety-clack, crickety-creak

heels
deformed_feet

This was originally posted to my old blog on 6 October 2014.

The sight of high heels often sends my thoughts into unexpected territories. It blows a storm of yes-buts through the tendrils of my mind. Yes, we should all be left alone to wear what we want, but why would you want to wear high heels? Yes, you may feel sexy in them, but why? Why do you feel something which makes you less able makes you more desirable? Why do we, as a society, look on something which can permanently damage someone else, as beautiful?

I can’t help but think of a world where women are no longer considered second-class humans, possessions even, as one where high heels will be looked on with the same horror now reserved for corsets and foot-binding. I can’t help but think of a world where heels are still considered sexy, as a world with a very big problem indeed.

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Click here to see how badly your body is screwed over by high heels.

If you have a strong stomach, click here or on the photo on the right for more on deformities to feet by modern, everyday women’s shoes (right at the end of the article, which is about the now [thank gods] mostly abandoned practice of foot binding).

Bondage gear, for the office

This was originally posted on my old blog on 22 August 2014.

Picture¬†dress code for the more formal workplace, or a formal event even in an office where the dress code is quite relaxed. You’d imagine people looking more or less like this lot:

Professional-dress-code

Okay, now imagine all of them running a race.I’ll wait while you finish laughing. Even the girl wearing trousers is going to have a problem because she’s in heels.

Women are expected to wear clothes at events focused on their professional abilities which disable them, which limits their capabilities. Can it be that on some subconscious level, this contributes to the woeful state of women in work, especially management positions? Just a thought.

Ireland, land of the violated child

This was originally posted to my old blog on 18 April 2014.

Ireland’s sorry history of child abuse is no secret. Much has been done since to change things, to make life better for Ireland’s children. However, a fundamental problem in this country’s view on children has remained unchanged. It is, I believe, the foundation of two major violations.

The first I became aware of in the course of researching for a possible story (I sporadically consider returning to writing fiction. The affliction passes quickly, don’t worry). It turns out that in Ireland, if a person under the age of eighteen wants to go for counselling, they have to have the consent of a parent or guardian. If they seek the help of a school counsellor, the parent will be notified. It doesn’t take very long to figure out how that is just plain stupid. All people in Ireland have a constitutional right to privacy, except one group. If that group were black, or women, or Protestants, there would be an enormous outcry. But because that group are people below a certain age, their right to privacy is violated without anyone batting an eye.

What’s even more tragic is that when someone is suicidal or self-harms, some of the biggest problems among teens in Ireland at the moment for which they are likely to seek help, the feelings are often strongly related to a sense of not having any control. In what universe does it make sense to deprive people who already are on the brink of even this, control over who knows they asked for help?

The other area in which society misses the pot by a mile, is when it comes to religion. Again, we all have a right enshrined in the constitution to religious liberty. The farce this is when it comes to education has recently been under the spotlight, but there’s one issue which I haven’t seen highlighted. I’ve read the argument that parents who wish for their children to be given a religious education should be free to do so, ie provided with a school run by the church of their choice. I’ve read that non-religious parents should have access to secular schools. I can’t recall ever having heard anyone outline how children’s right to religious freedom is infringed even if they attend a school run by their parents’ favourite church/mosque/temple/whatever. What if they disagree with their parents’ religion? Why should a certain group of people have the right to subject another group of people to religious indoctrination? If you’re a boss in a standard workplace, you can’t force staff to pray, to attend religious services, to have every task infused with religious bias. We are even debating whether those who work for a religious organisation can be forced by their boss to practice the religion in question. It never crosses our minds that a certain group of people have their personal religious convictions flatly ignored, that they can be forced by another person to go to a place where they are subjected to and forced to participate in religious practices every day. Again, simply because that group of people is not black, women, of a certain sexual persuasion, it’s okay to deprive them of a fundamental right.

Until Ireland stops looking on children as parents’ possession, there will be a gigantic problem. We cannot treat people as lesser human beings with no voice and fewer rights than others for the first eighteen years of their lives, and expect them to emerge from that magically unscathed. Yes, I am all for discipline: when a child is young, there are some rights they cannot yet exercise without harming themselves. I’ve said it before, it is crucial for a child to feel their parent is in control, but that parent must always view control of their child’s life as a temporary necessity, handled with respect for their humanity and stepped back from as soon as possible.

Irish society violates children, rapes their sense of control of their lives especially when they are in crisis. What just puts the cherry on the cake is that they then wring their hands in despair: why oh why is there an epidemic of depression among Irish teens? Depression is strongly linked to a sense of helplessness, of not being in control of your own life. You regulate someone’s life and deprive them of rights the first two decades they’re alive, they’re going to develop problems.

For a country that is so child-safety obsessed, it continually amazes me how little Ireland thinks of children. They truly are moving from “children are ultimately the possessions of the church” to “children are ultimately the possessions of their parents”. Let’s hope some day society will cop on and discover children humans should all be the possessions of nobody but themselves.