From time to time, I operate a photo-booth. I cover weddings, birthdays, school events – things like that. Recently, I attended a semi-formal event for a relatively prestigious girls’ school. These girls were around 16 years old, and many had bought a male companion as their date.
In conversations with close allies, we sometimes comment on what seems to be the oppressive nature of some people groups towards some women. For example, we note in this hot Brisbane weather, the men of a particular group are free to wear what they like, where their wives and daughters are usually draped from head to toe, covered, as it was, for modesty.
At this particular semi-formal event, I was struck by the gowns and dresses these girls were wearing. What struck me was the almost overwhelming majority of semi formal outfits that to me, a conservative dad, were almost completely inappropriate clothing these girls were wearing. It was almost like it was a race for many of these girls to see who could wear the least amount of clothing. It was evidently clear by the way these girls held themselves, constantly adjusted, wriggled, moved, pushed down, pushed up and pushed their gowns that they were not comfortable in their chosen outfits. Without a word of a lie, a majority of these girls spent their evening making sure their dresses sat as they were meant to. It was painfully noticeable that the minority of girls with elegant, modest (if I dare say) gowns seemed to travel through the night without any major or regular readjustments . Interestingly, it was the boys at this event who were overdressed for a semi-formal. Yes, these gangly, pimply 16 year old boys were all in suits, had cuffs with matching tie-pins, watches and spit-shiny shoes!
I want to stress at this point that this post isn’t about body-shaming, slut-shaming, blaming the victim, being a male pig or anything like that. My libertarian leanings compel me to allow individuals to wear, do, say, act however they choose. This blog isn’t about getting anyone to dress, or not dress in a certain way. What this blog is about, being the dad of a seven year old girl and five year old son, is wondering ‘why do we keep hurting our girls’?
Why, in 2016 Australia, our girls seem to be racing to almost objectify themselves at such a young age. Why 16 year old girls feel the need to compete with each other for who can wear the least, not who can achieve the most with their brains or character. Why sixteen year old girls feel the need to dress in a way that shows gratuitous cleavage, leg and mid-drift.
Have we created an environment where dressing elegantly for an evening event is no longer in vogue? Has our society become that ‘pornified’ that 16 year old girls feel they need to show all their assets to be noticed by others, to remain in the ‘in’ group or to be accepted?
I’ve never been a 16 year old girl. I’ve never known the pressures these precious girls face.
I mentioned in the second paragraph my musings about a certain group of people and my thoughts on what seems to be oppressive attitudes and behaviors to women. It seems to me that almost wherever this group is found, the status of women is greatly diminished. Men of this particular group are permitted to have more than one wife, women have reduced voting rights (if any), baby girls routinely have their genitals mutilated, girls have access to education restricted, and the list goes on. I wanted to compare that to ‘our’ girls (if I can say that) who are entering university at higher rates, have equal voting rights, can choose to marry or divorce, have an equal voice in a court, have legal protections against discrimination. I wanted then to maybe muse that why, in 2016, these precious girls would even have to consider showing that much skin at that young age at an event that otherwise should elevate girls to the highest standard.
Again, I don’t want this to sound like I’m judging girls or women for what they wear. This isn’t about saying girls or women should cover up. What I’m musing is why, in 2016, we have created an environment where girls would choose to dress in a way that is unedifying to themselves. Why in 2016 our girls feel they still need to display more than enough skin to get noticed. Why, in 2016, we are subjecting our girls to what seems to be an absolute pornification of dress. Why, in 2016, have we sold our girls short, creating an environment where their talents, achievements, hopes and dreams are hidden behind a very short dress?
Image from http://houseofretro.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/281.png
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.
There was a lot of hoo-haa last week after Julie Bishop’s Press Club address where she declared that she wasn’t a feminist. A (predictable) chorus of feminist voices went on the attack against Bishop, venting their anger that she was a feminist, she wasn’t a feminist, she isn’t a real woman, she only got where she is because she does not have kids blah blah blah.
A similar voice has been heard recently in America with the mid-term elections, where at least two (that I know of) black Republican senators were voted into power in traditionally ‘white’ or ‘Southern’ electorates. When quizzed about how they felt about being voted in as ‘black’ senators, they both responded that their electorates did not vote them in because of their colour. They were voted in because of policy, hard work and pragmatism. I’m sure pundits could argue both ways on those claims – the interesting thing is how both these candidates focused on a Martin Luther approach, rather than the vouge affirmative action approach.
Julie Bishop, Mia Love and Tim Scott (the latter two were the abovementioned senators) all have detractors seeming to sing from the same songbook. Whilst Bishop does not sing from the Feminist songbook, or Love and Scott aren’t promoting the politics of race, their detractors argue that they are still feminist and benefiting from affirmative action, because of all the hard work that feminists and race politics have done before them.
I don’t want to detract from the inarguable fact that, and quoting Luther King, all men (and women!) are created equal. I’m not hear to argue that men or women or blacks or Asians or Arabs or Jews or Aussies or anyone can or can’t do a particular job, follow a particular role or identify how they wish. Hard work, discipline and nous is the key to success.
What I am saying is we have all benefited from the hard work the suffragettes did. Why women didn’t have the vote earlier is anyone’s guess. We are all better off from early Australian migration (and the abolition of the White Australia Policy), which saw an influx of New Australians, eager build this great nation of ours. Does it mean I identify as a feminist, because I have benefitted from early feminist victories?
If we follow this logic, as applied by these critics of Bishop, we should all be Christians. And Socialists. And Capitalists. And Constitutional Monarchists. I could go on. Why? I have benefitted from subsidised health care and education, but I’m not a socialist. We have benefited from the Westminster system, even if you loathe the British monarchy. We have benefitted from a Judeo-Christian heritage (despite many rumblings), even though many do not identify as a Christian.
We’ve all benefitted from something in our past that we really have no control over – wealthy parents, where we were born, the country we live in, a stable democracy. We have also been disadvantaged buy things out of our control – war, monetary policy, natural disasters. We don’t go around calling ourselves a GFC or a flood, even though we’ve been affected by it.
Like I said above, I’m no feminist, even though I’ve benefitted from some of the early wins feminists have fought for. Guess what women – working a full week can be pretty crapola, right? But you wanted it and you’ve got it.
So if someone does not want to identify according to your pre-set mould of them, leave them alone. No one likes being put into a box or defined by a set of rules. As Luther King so amazingly said “Let us not be defined by the colour of our skin, but by the content of our character”.
Surely that trumps any ‘ism’ any day.
So your wife suggests you take the family to a Gold Coast theme park while you’re on holiday. You get your discount tickets from the NRMA and make plans to incorporate a day out at Movie World.
Well your first mistake is telling the kids before the holiday that you are going to Movie World. In fact, you tell them a month before you go on holidays to the Gold Coast that you’re going to Movie World. Thanks to modern technology, the kids have googled, twittered and facebooked all their friends and family about everything they can do at Movie World. All you hear in the morning when you wake up is what you can do at Movie World. All you hear at the dinner table is what you are going to do at Movie World. The Youtube videos of the Green Lantern, Arkham Asylum and the Superman Ride have been etched into your memory.
The holiday comes and the Tiger Airways flight direct from Melbourne to the Gold Coast could best be described as a bus with wings. You arrive and your bags to a day or two later. It’s ok because you have Movie World to look forward too. The weather is lovely and the view from your Surfers Paradise apartment is panoramic. It’s so lovely and sunny. Thankfully it was your bag that went missing and not your kids. They could enjoy swimming in the pool or the beach, but they’d rather utilise the free Wi-Fi in the hotel or at the Maccas on Cavil Ave, taking selfies of themselves looking bored on holidays. You quickly realise that every shop in Surfers is three times the price as your local shopping centre in Melbourne AND Woolworths closes at 9pm, so there’s no chance of buying a cheap pair of togs & boardies to get you through until Tiger finds your bags.
As expected, the kids just seem to be waiting around for the third day, the day where you plan on going to Movie World.
Day three arrives and so does dark grey clouds. The kids aren’t perturbed, they’ve checked and most of the rides are still ride-able in the rain. You secretly hope the rain keeps everyone else from Melbourne away. You find out that everyone from Melbourne is used to the rain and they aren’t going to let it get in the way of going to Movie World
The kids have woken, over-excited at around 5. They’ve made themselves breakfast and you rise to find only a handful of ricebubbles mushed into the hotel carpet.
You board the overpriced shuttle direct from your hotel door, stopping only at 23 other hotels along the way, through peak hour Gold Coast traffic (and you remember that people actually work on the Gold Coast!). Thankfully you get the early shuttle, so you arrive at Movie World about an hour after the doors open. The rain, however, isn’t late. It’s 10am, you are noticing your children are starting to get a little, well, agitated. They’ve been up since 5!
The bogan family from Western Sydney push ahead of you in the turnstiles, causing your half-open bag full of pre-prepared sandwiches and snacks in zip-lock bags to fall out. Thankfully, it was only your egg-and-lettuce sandwich that was squashed by the imposing Islander guy and you decide that it’s probably not worth making any type of scene about it.
The rain starts a little heavier and your wife wonders aloud if they brought the Melbourne weather up with them. You’ve forgotten your brolly but thankfully you can buy one-size-fits-all (except you) ponchos for only $5 each or four for $17. Wrapped in a sweaty plastic bag your excited kids pull and tug at you, managing to rip your plastic poncho right down the back.
Well in the rush to get through the turnstiles and the thing with the bogan family and your bag being knocked over, you don’t realise that the lid on your coffee thermos was not as tight as it should be, so now you have a hot, brown mark all down the backside of your pink Gazman polo-shirt and white shorts. You realise you look ridiculous walking like you’ve crapped yourself with a brown mark down your pants.
You wait 45 minutes in line for the Green Lantern, in the rain. You can’t help but notice a worried maintenance man continually look into the sky and talk into his walky-talky. Hopefully it will be ok. You get to the front of the line. Thankfully this part is in the ‘shade’. The maintenance man in the walky-talky starts chatting more frequently. You realise you need to go to the toilet. Your kids have started the pre-lunch whine. You finally get to board the ride, until the attendant comes up to your youngest. His measuring stick goes right over the top of her head. You don’t know if its her wet hair or a tear, but her face is visibly upset – she’s too short for the ride! Your wife and the older two continue on, you carry your plastic-clad daughter down the cold metal steps. You can sense people staring at the rip in your poncho and your brown stained shorts.
You are excited that your wife and two oldest LOVED the Green Lantern. You line up for only 30 minutes for the Justice League ride. Your daughter is thankfully allowed on! You sit down on the ride, hold onto the rail and realise the last occupants thought you’d appreciate their chewing gum! Thankfully you’ve got the Dettol hand-sanitiser in your bag. You call out to your wife for the bag. She tells you that you had it. You bicker in front of the kids about who had the bag. The ride shuffles through the dark with holographic aliens hovering around, your kids enjoy blasting them as you and your wife disagree on who had the bag. You agree that neither of you have it. You realise that in the confusion of your youngest not being allowed on the ride, you left the bag at the Green Lantern.
After the Justice League, you race back to the Green Lantern. Thankfully, your bag is still there. Sadly, you left it in the rain. The camera is wet, the plastic-wrapped sandwiches have come unravelled. Your coffee has leaked through the bag. Your wife tries to comfort you but you can tell she’s annoyed too that all the sandwiches – the sandwiches you prepared to save a few dollars – have turned to a coffee-infused mush!
The kids enjoy hot chips in Ricks Diner. You agree that it was a waste of time making sandwiches and enjoy being out of the rain. Your pants have dried now, the brown mark certainly hasn’t faded. Your wife confirms it will come out with a bit of nappy-san.
The Scooby-Doo ride is in the shade. Thankfully, the rain actually has kept a few people away and you only have to wait 40 minutes in the rain for your turn! The ride went super well until your middle child felt a bit green. Thankfully, the vomit came off the plastic poncho really easily and it was just his shoes that got a bit of half-digested hot chips on them!
The rain prevented any of the characters coming out, much to your children’s disappointment. Not that you could take photos anyway – your camera was soaked through and won’t be taking any more pictures. You just hope the memory card is in tact.
You take your oldest on the Arkham Asylum – by far the highlight of the day! You meet your wife and others in line for the Wild Wild West ride. You’re wet anyway, why not go on a ride that makes you wetter?
Well you got a lot wetter than expected on the Wild West ride. Actually, you seemed to take the blow for the family – they seemed to come out of the ride drier than when they came onto it!
You agree to take your youngest to Looney Tunes world while your wife takes the oldest two on the Superman Ride. You wait in line for the merry-go-round, the up-and-down ride, the kids dodgems, the tweety bird ride, the train ride and, in a spell of good luck, your daughter gets a photo with Bugs Bunny! You take a ticket to collect the photo when you leave.
Meeting up with your family at the 3D cinema for the last ride, your wife and children actually enjoyed two turns on the Superman ride! The line-up was unusually short and they ‘made hay while the sun shone’!
The 3D cinema was freezing. Three wet children in an uber-air conditioned cinema for 30 mins. You were thinking it. Your wife was thinking it. Your youngest started to sniffle first. The bogan family from Western Sydney seem to have sat in front of you. Their cold, wet and agitated youngsters seem to scream through the screening of the dinosaur film, really ruining the experience for you!
You collect the photo of your youngest and Bugs Bunny as you leave through the trade mark Warner Brothers Movie World arch. The shuttle back to the hotel is delayed about 30 minutes due to an earlier accident on the freeway. You finally board, with the bogan family from Western Sydney. Cold, wet, snotty noses, tired, irritable. You sit in silence on the bus. Your youngest rests her head on your chest.
The shuttle driver manages to miss the turn off and you take a 20 minute detour through Surfers getting back to your hotel.
Your children have hot showers.
Your wife makes lovely baked beans on toast.
Rain patters down on your 20th story windows and you overlook the stormy Pacific.
You sit down around the table with your wife and kids, all warm, all in lovely flannelette pj’s, all exhausted.
You smile as you hear them chatter about their ‘best day on holidays EVER!’, talking about the rides, the fun, the memories they’d all had. You’re day was meh. They didn’t see the rain, the lines, the wet sandwiches, the bogan family from Western Sydney, your broken camera, the detour, the sweaty plastic poncho. They saw a wonderful family day at Movie World!
“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!