Tagged: men

The Minister for Women is an insult to women. Here’s why.

Minister for Women, Tony Abbott

Minister for Women, Tony Abbott

A good associate recently shared a picture on Facebook explaining that out Australia’s ASX200 companies, only 23 ‘head honchos’ were women. Funnily enough, 26 are men called Peter. Thankfully, I’m not any of them, because I have trouble organising even myself, let alone an ASX200 company.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has self declared himself as the ‘Minister for Women’. Predictably, feminist groups have scoffed (for want of a better word!) at his self-title and have been able to find multiple examples of how Abbot and the Liberal Party have missed the mark when it comes to women’s issues. A recent example of this is in Queensland, where the LNP Women held their annual International Womens Day conference at the Tattersails Club, which, to the un-initiated, has a strict men-only membership policy.

Nice own goal, conservatives!

In Australia, it is illegal to discriminate against a women in hiring, promotion, healthcare, education, access to bank loans and credit, driving, voting, working, not working, having children, not having children – the list goes on, yet, we have a self proclaimed ‘Minister for Woman’.

I want to stop at this point and address a possible objection. How can I, a married, white, employed, hetrosexual man presume to know what it’s like to be a woman, or understand the problems women face. To all those who might want to drop the ‘privilege’ bomb – I’ll never know what it’s like to be a woman, but I’m still entitled to an opinion. So don’t go yelling down on me (just yet!).

We have Ministers for Defence. Education. Health. Transportation. Science (again!). Social services. The list goes on. Things that the State need to be involved in. Then we have a ‘Minister for Woman’.

To me, the fact that we have a self-described ‘Minister for Woman’ is an insult to women. I’d say this regardless of who this person was – I’d say it if it was Bill Shorten or Christine Milne or any other Australian Federal or State politician saying it. To me it infantises women and takes agency out of the choices they already have. We have a minister for defence to organise our defence forces. We have a minister for social services to organise our welfare services. We have a minister for transport. We have a minister for the environment, who, I’m sure does something really important too. We have ministers to organise, direct, manage, develop policies and deliver outcomes for those they are responsible for.

The title ‘Minister for Women’ suggests to me that women can’t organise themselves. It suggests that they have little agency over their life, a lack of choices and huge barriers to overcome. It tells me that they need someone to direct their lives.

I think we can ALL agree that in most things, women can go pound for pound with men. I think we can agree, fairly pragmatically, that men are better than women at some things – men have a physique more suited to heavier work and roles that require physical dexterity. Similarly, there are jobs that women excel over men and seem to choose over other roles. Can both men and women do the same jobs? For the most part, OF COURSE! Can women make EXCELLENT CEO’s – you betcha! Can men make great nurses? Yup! Can women hold their own in the police? I’ve got no doubts about it.

It is my firm belief that women have agency, choice and the capability to make choices for themselves. Are there some difficulties that women still need to hurdle? Without a doubt. Is it the government’s responsibility to get involved in a private organisation on what they can and can’t do? I don’t think so.

If the government HAD to have a Minister for Women, here’s what I’d probably suggest:

– Targeting new arrivals in Australia that women have the right to a full education, to marry (or not marry) who they choose, to not have their genitals mutilated, to choose a career that they want. At the risk of sounding terrible, there are some cultures that do not hold the same egalitarian values as mainstream Australia. I think education changes lives.

– Women, especially teenagers, who find themselves pregnant (hint teenagers: best way to avoid this is keep it in your pants) are supported to continue their education, gain a qualification and find work without discrimination. A life on parenting payment is no life for yourself, or your children. Whilst we have a Child Support system in place, it’s far from perfect (take it from me). The barriers for women training for employment, entering employment and being able to have a family friendly workplace is an issue for many women.

– Making sure there are no legislative barriers to prevent women working, having pay equality based on skills and not gender, accessing healthcare, credit, or anything else that a man has

– The government staying out of peoples lives and letting them make the decisions they want to make, not the decisions the government wants to make.

I think the Government (and the self declared Minister for Women) needs to remove barriers for women, not create more. I think legislatively (and please, correct me if I’m wrong), women have all the rights men do. Some private organisations, religious groups and cultural organisations are still very ‘man heavy’. There’s still a stack of groups, organisations, even professions that are women heavy (think teaching, nursing and the blessed C.W.A.). Is it the Government’s role to legislate what a group of private individuals do? If the organisation isn’t receiving government funding, I think they have every right to say what happens in their private group. There’s nothing stopping men, or women from starting their own sister (brother!) organisation of like-minded individuals.

Finally, it’s an insult to men if women have their own minister. The immediate argument against this is that the vast majority of ministers in Australian Federal and State governments are men. I’m not buying this argument. Men are over-represented in senior roles within government and business. They are also over-represented in gaols, poor mental health outcomes and very sadly, suicide. Where’s the minister for men in these situations?

I’m a firm believer in making your own choices. You make the best decision you can for yourself and your family (if you’ve got one). We need to remove barriers to inclusion, participation, employment, promotion and study, not put in place targets, quotas and requirements for one group over another.

Women and men are equal. Each gender faces their own issues. Each has their own positives, negatives, biases and predjudices. You can’t legislate against that. It’s time we worked together for the best outcome, not the token outcome.

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Blogs not written by Vidins (but I probably could write)

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Checking in before you check out. A guide to retirement villages.

Harvey Bay. Heaven’s Waiting Room.

Last call for drinks – a hospital food service attendant tells all

1950’s. When ‘Darkie’ was an observation, not a criticism.

Open hand or wooden spoon? Your guide to modern parenting.

Spoonning. What do you do with that awkward boner?

Twitter, because there’s bound to be someone out there who’s interested in your inane, boring thoughts.

‘Cool post’ and other lies you write on Facebook

‘Hide relationship status’ – Zukerberg’s gift to cheaters.

You look 34 seconds older in this selfie, compared to the last selfie

I’m interested in all the blogs that you haven’t written, but really want to.

Pic from http://writingcenterunderground.wordpress.com/tag/typewriter/

When Ritual and Intimacy Collide

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Rituals. We all have them. Sport-stars have pre-game rituals. Lovers have intimate rituals. Families have rituals. Cultures, societies and religions all have their own rituals.

So often when we think of rituals, we think of old-fashioned, staunch practices. A boring church service at Christmas. The pomp of a military parade. The inflexible practices of yore.

Why do we have rituals? Do we have them to celebrate the past, or protect the future? Could it be both? Why do we brush our teeth? Is it so we remember our baby teeth, lost many years ago or to protect our mouths for many years to come? Certainly brushing teeth is an important, yet informal ritual. What about having dinner together as a family? The benefits of eating regular meals together are immeasurable. Do we eat meals together to remember times of old, or to set practices to keep the family together in the future?

There are some rituals that don’t seem like rituals at all. Going to your parents for dinner on a Sunday. Watching a game of football every Friday night with friends. Regular church attendance. Some rituals aren’t that exciting, some actually do seem boring and mundane. Some argue that rituals have no use – that we should be free to do what we want, when we want with scant regard to culture, religion or society.

I’d argue that a healthy ritual (and that does not always mean exciting or fun), keeps an individual strong. A strong individual will have strong relationships – strong individuals have strong family and friendship networks. He feels connected, depended upon and supported. He is a contributor for his family, a good employee or boss. Strong families mean a strong community. A strong community means it’s members contribute, understand their role and their place. A strong community keeps a country strong. Strength comes with strong rituals, from the ground up and the top down.

If rituals are the machinery that builds up, intimacy is the oil that keeps the parts moving.

Most defiantly, some rituals do feel clunky and dry. Rituals however build a framework. A framework that protects when many other things fall down. There is a security in a ritual. Something to turn to, to keep you going when everything seems to be falling apart.

What brings a ritual to life? It’s the people. The connections. The ritual is the framework. The structure. The people fill up the structure and bring it to life. The structure supports the intimacy.

I think of my family ritual of reading Bible scriptures at dinner. The ritual is the reading, the intimacy is the children choosing the story, of learning about what the Lord has done.

I think of the ritual of shaving. The ritual is a boy taking pride in his appearance. The intimacy is his father teaching him the ways of a razor.

I think of the ritual of having a coffee in the morning. The intimacy is me being able to talk to my family again after I’ve enjoyed my daily brew!

Intimacy does not have to be structured. Some of the most special times anyone can have are the unstructured times, the times that catch you by surprise. I was packing some boxes the other day when I came across a harmonica that belonged to my late Grandfather. My children were amazed at this palm-shaped musical instrument that played a strange tune. In that short time, I was able to share with my children about their great-grandfather. An everyday moment, turned special.

You can’t have stability just with intimacy. If you chase pure intimacy, at the risk of neglecting ritual, you’ll end up chasing a fleeting feeling. This is true in families, in marriages, in work, in study, on the sports field, in your faith. Feelings come and go. Many times, it’s the ritual, the practice that will keep you going. Can you imagine a sports team who chases the winning feeling, instead of practicing the rituals of fitness, teamwork and discipline? The team will surely fall apart. Can you imagine a marriage where the partners chase a feeling of closeness, rather than practice the rituals of giving, patience and gratitude? Surely the marriage will be lost in a sea of instability.

Rituals aren’t the most sexy thing to talk about. Some are doggone boring. Find healthy rituals to engage in – for yourself, your family, your faith, your relationships. Doing will often bring about ‘feeling’. When you’re doing, enjoy the closeness that comes from doing it together. The laughs that come from ‘doing’ ritual wrong. The closeness of doing something together. The strength that comes from the ritual and the closeness you find when engaging those you love in them will surely help when times of trouble come.

Picture lifted from: http://www.helenahistory.org/frontier_town.htm

The Domesticated Man

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“We’ve managed to intergrate women into the workforce but not men into domestic life”

The above quote comes from a recent article in the Atlantic, entitled ‘Why Dads Matter’.

Without a doubt, we’ve come a long way in family and gender roles in the last 60 years. Women can enjoy climbing a career ladder, should she chose. Men can enjoy showing open affection and love to his children. Partners of both genders aren’t scared to participate in domestic chores.

From the get-go, this post isn’t about women. We can all agree that women do an amazing job, that a women’s place is NOT in the home (whilst many families do chose for a mum to be a stay-at-home-mum or only work part time) and that being a stay at home parent is hark yakka. I don’t want to detract from the amazing, dedicated work that ladies do for their families, often at the expense of their own happiness. Sorry ladies, this post isn’t for you. This post is about men.

It seems that much argument in modern literature on marital relations seems to be the division of household labour. It seems to have reduced marriage to ‘doing what’s fair’ in a relationship, certainly in and around the home.

The modern man finds himself torn between his responsibilities of working and providing, yet being the ‘hands-on’ father and husband so often expected by todays ladies.

I want to put this delicately. There’s no doubt that men need to have a level of domestication. It’s important to know how to use appliances, cook a few meals, be a hands on dad. What we don’t need is an extra mother and wife in the house. A man should be free (as should a woman) to express his manliness in his home, with his wife, with is children. I’ve seen many instances where a man has been chastised for being too rough, for not doing washing in the ‘correct’ way, for not cooking the healthiest meals.

I’ve written before on the importance of a man being able to have time off. I guess this is a follow on from that. I want to encourage men that they don’t need to parent the same as their wives. Most certainly, both parents need to be on the same page in relation to parenting – discipline, standards, ethics, beliefs etc. But the way this is exhibited between the sexes is very different.

The industrial revolution saw men being removed from their houses, their wives and their children. Cities saw men commute to work, to not having an ongoing, daily influence in their children’s lives. No longer did the son work the fields with dad, or spend time learning tools, hunting or appropriate gender roles. The dad was separated from his son, the son his father. Dad’s influence was reduced to a short period of time during dinner, before bed and on the weekend. Formalised education saw boyhood exploration diverted to rote learning. I’m not suggesting for one second we do away with formalised education – this is and will be an important for all humanity.

Men, it’s not the level or amount of domestic chores you do that will teach your children life lessons. Doing and being a part of domestic life is important, yes, but it’s not the be-all and end-all for fatherhood. Your children will need learn appropriate domestic responsibilities, yes. It’s not, however, the mark of a man. It’s the quality of relationship you have with your wife and your children that will leave its mark. It’s how you love and respect your wife that will make the most impact on your children, not the amount of ironing you do. Sometimes that will involve being very involved with domestic chores, yes.

Men, you can teach your children by involving them in your pursuits, your goals, your passions and being involved in your children’s goals, passions and pursuits. You can teach them the value of a days labour. Of having a goal, setting goals and getting results. You can teach them about how to respect the environment while in the great outdoors. You can teach them about spirituality while fishing. You can teach them about respect for themselves and family as you show them how to tend a yard, build a garden or help a neighbour.

The above quote talks about men being ‘integrated’ into domestic life. I don’t like that saying. I’d rather men compliment domestic life. For me, the term ‘integrate’ just seems to devalue the unique perspectives and approach men have to family life. Men, listen to and love your wives. Support them in all the choices you make together, whether she be at home full time,, working or a mixture of both. A home is where everyone can express their thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears – without fear.

I’m not talking about us men ruling the roost with an iron fist – not one iota. I’m saying that it’s appropriate to be a man in your house. Don’t be awkward about your masculinity. Embrace it. Love your children, love your wife. Be a man and don’t try to copy your wife in all she does around the home. You’ll end up treading on her toes and annoying her!

Men, enjoy your masculinity. We weren’t created the same as women – we’re different. Don’t try to be the same. Compliment your wife in all she does, don’t copy what she does.

Different thinking? Yes. I think different thinking is good, just like men and women are different!

Above photo is of Robert F. Kennedy, sourced from mediagallery.usatoday.com

Vidins’ Guide to Chivalry

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“You don’t have to open the door for me because I’m a lady, you know” the bossy woman said indignantly

“I didn’t open it for you because you are a lady. I opened it because I’m a gentleman” the man politely smiled

You’ve probably heard this meme before, both being praised and refuted by many.

I was having a chat to my bartender therapist about it the other day. In our usual ‘what is it with women’ conversations, we started discussing chivalry. Not too long ago, Boag’s ‘St George’ Beer ran a series of advertisements stating that ‘Chivalry isn’t dead’, and had a competition for men to send in their best examples of chivalrous behaviour.

There seem to be many arguments about chivalry. Check out the tag ‘dating’ on WordPress and you’ll see a range of attitudes from women about chivalry. Some dream of dating (and marrying) a true gentleman, who’ll open doors and pay for meals and be kind and polite. Others proclaim the ‘you go girl’ attitude and encourage the sisterhood to go out and get everything on their own. Many feminist writers aggressively proclaim that chivalry is the domain of the patriarchy and should be smashed and is demeaning to women and blah-de-blah-de-blah angry feminists.

We all know what chivalry shouldn’t be. It’s not a man falling over himself to open a door for a women, then giving her ‘the eye’ as she awkwardly walks by. It’s not a man inappropriately ‘complimenting’ a woman. It’s not buying a gal a drink with expectations attached to it.

What is chivalry to me?

It’s the simple notion of acknowledging others and simply putting that person first in an everyday occurrence. I love watching programs of yore where, when a lady walks into a room, or comes and goes to a table, the men stand up and acknowledge the lady. It’s being, where practicable, opening the door for anyone – being polite, paying respect to seniority. It’s going out of your way for a social nicety, without expectation.

Chivalry is graciously accepting manners, too. We so often hear of stories where anyone (usually a man) has extended a social grace to a lady, only to be shut down and insinuations to him that he is acting out of some 1950’s playbook of social expectations. As easy as it is for someone to show chivalry, it is just as easy to accept chivalry, for no other reason than you acknowledge the ‘givers’ desire to employ a social grace.

In many respects, it’s nice not to be bound by ridged social rules of yore. If I was a lady, I think that it’s grand that I don’t have to wear a hat, gloves and a layer upon layer of hot clothing. As a man, I appreciate not having to wear a three-piece suit or dress up for dinner. In some ways, however, we have lost our way.

So at the risk of offending both sexes, here’s the Vidins’ Guide to Chivalry:

For the Men:
The general question I ask myself before acting chivalrous is ‘would my mum or sister appreciate this’. This works in so many ways. Would my mum appreciate me opening the door for her? Would my sister appreciate me helping her with heavy luggage on an aeroplane? Would my mother be comfortable if I complimented her on a nice perfume or dress? If you think your mum, your sister or your wife would appreciate a random stranger acting this way, it’s generally safe to do it.
-Would your mum, sister or wife appreciate an open door and a ogle at her bottom? No? Then that’s not chivalrous. Would your mum, sister or wife appreciate a man pulling the chair for her at the table and a perv at her breasts as she seats? No? Of course, that’s not chivalrous!
-Men, displaying chivalry involves looking after yourself. I’ve written before about men’s grooming and dressing for office. Essentially, dress up to the occasion, not down to the occasion. Invest in a handsome cologne and be proud of smelling nice. Keep your hair well-coiffed and your breath fresh.
-Acknowledge when someone enters the room. If you are sitting, stand. If someone leaves the table, stand. Regardless if it’s a man or women entering or leaving. Confidently and appropriately shake hands, especially in a professional setting. Both men and women appreciate the integrity of a confident handshake.
-Don’t fall over yourself to be chivalrous. Don’t barge through to be the first to open a door, don’t bumble around trying to assist someone with heavy luggage. There is nothing more undignifying than a man who tries too hard.
-When your chivalrous actions fail, don’t blame the ungrateful recipient. Remember men, many women have been told they can do it all (and lets not beat around the bush – women do have the skills, capability and nous to achieve it all) and don’t appreciate social graces extended towards them. In these cases, don’t blame her or call her a feminist, but extend her the courtesy that she can, in fact, do it all herself. In time, she will find that she will be doing it all herself. No one likes to help the ungrateful.

And for the ladies:
-Never accept a ‘kind’ act that comes with an ‘expectation’. A man’s kindness should not come with an expectation that you will provide him with your telephone number! Men that hide behind faux-chivalry are mere playboys with outward manners.
-When a man opens the door, a simple smile or ‘thank you’ is all that is needed. It has cost him nothing to open the door for you, surely it costs nothing to extend a nicety back in thanking him. Despite what you may have been led to believe, not every guy wants to get into your pants. Believe it or not, most men simply act this way out of respect. He does not think that you are incapable or in any way needy of a man’s assistance. He is simply being nice, with no expectations attached.
-An un-required offer for assistance can also be handled with poise. Should a man offer you assistance with heavy luggage, or putting an awkward IKEA box in your car and you don’t require his assistance, a simple ‘thank you for your kind offer, I can manage myself’ is all that is needed. Don’t huff about him thinking less of you. Don’t slap back his offer with shrieks of the imposition of 1950’s values. Thank him and move on.

You may think of this as me trying to convince women that men’s egos are fragile, and it is the role of womenfolk to pander to that. To the contrary. It takes a strong man to confidently offer a social kindness to another (man or woman). A truly chivalrous man does not need a quick ego-boost from faux-altruism! He is simply seeing what he perceives as an opportunity to extend a social grace and has the confidence to extend himself in that situation.

There’s no doubt that expectations for manners have shifted greatly over time. Roles for men and women have equally changed – certainly for the better!

I’m interested in your thoughts on chivalry – the good, the bad, the ugly!

Stop listening to your wife!

Stop listening to your wife!

Yes, you read correctly. Stop listening to your wife.

“But Vidins, I thought you were all about healthy, happy marriages?”

You know what? I am.

Who has come across the doting husband and dedicated father? The one that totally loves his family? How wonderful are these men? They are home for dinner every night. They read to their children and tuck them in bed at night. They listen to their wives and are kind to them. They do all the things on the ‘chores list’ (and every family has one!) without fuss. This man delights in being there for his wife and children. He’s a great man. He’s funny and hardworking. He constantly ‘dies to self’, putting the needs of his family above his own, ensuring they don’t go without.

He’s also incredibly boring.

In an unguarded moment, he finds himself thinking about the ‘old days’. Parties. Concerts. Sports. Wasting money. The thrill of the chase. The days before responsibility and sensibility ruled his world.

So what is he to do?

Stop listening to his wife.

You see, part of marriage is growing up and growing together. It’s about learning, developing, nurturing. It’s not about losing yourself in your partner, or finding yourself in your partner. It’s about you both growing. Growing together.

I’ve always believed that being ‘too good’ is akin to being boring. Where would the highs be if it was not for the lows? The excitement if it was not for the routine? The sadness if it wasn’t for the joy? Having a ‘bit of different’ keeps things fresh.

So for once, great husbands and dads, stop listening to your wife. Just for a bit. Take a night out with the boys. Go to the game. Camp in the wild. Take a risk. Go to a quiet spot and read. Write. Think. Fish. Run. Swim. Hike. Observe. Get away and stop listening. Grow yourself. Find yourself again.

Give yourself a chance to miss her. The house won’t fall apart if you aren’t there for a short time. Your wife is a confident and competent lady, she’ll be fine without you for a bit. When you return, you will return refreshed. You’ll both have more things to talk about. More things to find out about each other. More things to wonder at, enjoy, feel, experience. You’ll have grown that bit more. You’ll want to listen to her more. You will listen to her more.

And wives, before you get all up in arms, your husband wants you to stop listening to him, too! He wants you to stop listening to the kids, the school teacher, the housework, the job. He wants you to go out, grow yourself, find yourself again and miss him! He wants you to go out, be recharged, remember yourself again and come back with fresh energy, wanting to communicate again in every way

Gendered toys, boys and dads

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My wife tagged me in a post of the above picture on Facebook the other day. It was posted by the White Ribbon foundation, a non-profit group lead by males against violence against women. It’s certainly hard to disagree with such a group.

I found it interesting that this group would post something like this. The group asked people what they thought about the abovementioned picture. At the time of writing, the picture had 7790 likes, 1667 shares and 312 comments. Of those comments, about 50 were from ‘males’, the rest women.

To me, this post I think was designed to inspire conversation, perhaps even mild controversy. A majority of the comments were from mums stating that their sons played with dolls and they grew up just fine.

The picture is trying to link three things that really don’t mesh. To me (and I’m happy to be challenged) it says:

– People who believe in ‘gender roles’ are bigots

– People who put their ‘gender ideals’ on children are bigots

– Boys who don’t play with dolls won’t become good dads

It implies that boys need to play with dolls to be, well, women, who, inturn, make good dads.

I’m also unsure why the White Ribbon foundation, a foundation set up by ‘males’ (note, not men, males) against violence against women (not females, if you are getting pedantic about words) is now wanting to discuss parenting.

Let’s not beat around the bush. A boy playing with dolls will not make him gay. There. I’ve said it.

Sometimes I cop some flack when my boy wears his blue tutu and fairy wings. You know what – I don’t like it, but I’m not going to stop him. He’s having fun, it’s certainly not against any deep seeded values or really challenges me. I just don’t like my boy wearing a fairy outfit. Here’s the rub. I hate being referred to as a homophobe when I express my desire for him not to wear that get up. I have a daughter who’s two years older than my boy. She plays with dolls. He plays with her dolls. Do I care? Not in the slightest.

Just because a dad does not want his son to play with a doll, it does not mean that the dad is a homophobe. It does not mean that the dad is worried about his son becoming gay. It does not mean that the son’s creativity, individualism or whatever is being ‘crushed’ as some commenters of that post would suppose. All it means is that a dad does not want his son to play with those types of toys. And what’s wrong with a dad expressing his wishes on his son, under his roof?

In the end, a boy is going to play with anything he wants. My son loves playing cafes. He’ll do baking and painting. He dresses up in a blue tutu and does performances. He builds train sets and sets up soldiers. He plays lego sets, kicks a soccer ball and wrestles with the best of them.

Just don’t vilify a dad for expressing his wishes. Don’t call him a homophobe. Don’t label him as living in the 50’s. The last thing you want to do is disengage a man from being a father, stating that his dreams and desires for his boy are wrong. Let a dad be a dad. Let a son be a son. Let them grow in their roles, their love, their mateship, their relationship, their dependence and independence of each other in their own place.

I know this post has been a bit ranty and no, I’m not apologising for that.