Tag Archives: Men

Father’s day (bltn*)

We don’t “do” Father’s Day or Mother’s Day around here. At least, not in the rather nasty commercial sense. The girls make cards, and the parent of the day gets breakfast in bed, or just coffee, if that’s what she or he prefers.

Last year on Father’s Day, breakfast in bed for the father in this house was made by the other parent in this house, our daughters being just a bit too young to be let loose in the kitchen. But times have changed…

Our younger daughters made a bowl of fruit salad, under supervision, although they did all the chopping themselves. Mr Strange Land made a valiant effort at getting through the entire bowl, but didn’t quite make it.

After a suitable pause – long enough for a cup of coffee – Miss Nine made scrambled eggs, all by herself. To be precise, she made the eggs, while I helped with the toast. She makes a fine batch of scrambled eggs, but she still has co-ordination problems when it comes to assembling the whole serving.

All made with love, for their daddy.

As for my own father, I couldn’t be there to make breakfast in bed for him. But as I have said before, he is a man of many parts. He is highly successful, and recognised, in his profession, to the extent that people in the field, and people in the province where he lives, when hearing my family name, say, “Hmmm….. not [so and so's daughter], are you?” He came out of a farming background, but as a 16 year old lad, away at a single sex boarding school, in a small, conservative, rural town, found Jane Austen’s novels in the school library, and fell in love with them. He is adept at seemingly any physical task he turns his hand to (carpentry, gardening, wood turning, shoeing horses, cutting hair, whatever) and yet he is a very intellectual man. Given his success, and my mother’s success in her field, he has the ‘things’ he wants, and giving him more only clutters up their home. So it is always a challenge finding something for him. But this year, I found something that I knew he would never get for himself, simply because he doesn’t even look at magazine racks. I sent him a BBC History magazine, full of racy and compelling stories from the 11th century. I even resisted reading it myself first.

I can’t however, vouch for my daughters not having sampled their father’s breakfast before taking it in to him.

*bltn = better late than never

Dinosaur sighted in Australia

So nice to know that dinosaurs live here in Australia too, as well as back in New Zealand, ‘though I always suspected that would be the case. It’s when they get a public platform to spread the dinosaur word that I feel a little dismayed.

Today’s dinosaur offering? A retiring family court judge opining that in some cases, where one partner has made a special contribution (read: made lots of money) to a marriage, then if the marriage ends in divorce, the person who made the special contribution lots of money should get a greater share than the support partner.

THE legal notion that sports stars, artists and professionals with exceptional talent deserve better than a 50-50 split in divorce settlements is being watered down under pressure from the equal rights lobby, a top judge has warned.

Speaking before his retirement yesterday from the Family Court, judge Paul Guest said failing to take into account a husband or wife’s exceptional talent or skills in divorce settlements risked the “dumbing down of family law”.

Nice that he gives us the equal opportunity line, implying that it’s just as likely that it will be the wife who has the exceptional talent, but really, we all know just how gender differentiated the rewards for exceptional talent are likely to be.

Despite trying the “equal opportunity to be exceptionally rewarded for being born lucky” line, the two examples Justice Guest gives us are both male. (Do you think there might be something in that, m’lud.)

The tennis player:

But there comes a time when you have to look at other areas. If say, Pete Sampras’s divorce was coming through, is his wife entitled to half or did he make a special contribution?

And the geologist:

In that judgment, Justice Guest and another judge replaced the 65:35 division of a $36.7million asset pool with a decision to award 72.5:27.5 in favour of the husband, a geologist, who amassed considerable wealth through a series of business transactions.

The wife sought leave to appeal to the High Court, but her bid was dismissed.

Justice Guest told The Weekend Australian this week the husband “found a goldmine with his brains, his geological genius. He found the site. He put together the venture despite knockbacks. He got the finance. And he made a mine”.

“You’ve got to stand up for the doer, the one who tries, the person in the arena,” he said.

Well, gee, Mr Judge – did it ever occur to you that Pete Sampras’ chosen career, or indeed any sportsman’s chosen career, positively precludes his partner from doing anything other than tagging along behind. To be sure Mr Sampras has worked hard, trained daily, overcome the fear of failure, on a international stage, to become a top entertainer ( or sportsman, if you like, but really, they are just modern day gladiators, there to thrill the crowd). He was born with real talent, and he has applied the incredible effort needed to parlay that talent into a successful career. But the very nature of his job means that he must require any partner to allow his career to be the priority. His life-partner becomes very much the equal partner in his career, putting his career and his ambitions before her own, and as such, she should be entitled to an equal share of the rewards. That’s what partnership means.

As for the geologist, perhaps said geologist might never have been able to create the goldmine if he had not been able to rely on his wife to run the house, look after the children, do the washing, pay the bills, tuck the children into bed at night and reassure them that daddy really does love them but he just has to work late tonight / go on a business trip / make some important phonecalls / whatever and generally keep everything hanging together so that the geologist actually had the opportunity to make the mine. Moreover it’s certain that the wife would have shared in the financial disaster had the mine not eventuated; why then should she not share in the gains that came about through financial success.

Judge Guest takes refuge in the law. The 1975 Family Law Act (in Australia) says that:

In considering what order (if any) should be made under this section in property settlement proceedings, the court shall take into account:

(a) the financial contribution made directly or indirectly by or on behalf of a party to the marriage or a child of the marriage to the acquisition, conservation or improvement of any of the property of the parties to the marriage or either of them, or otherwise in relation to any of that last‑mentioned property, whether or not that last‑mentioned property has, since the making of the contribution, ceased to be the property of the parties to the marriage or either of them; and

(b) the contribution (other than a financial contribution) made directly or indirectly by or on behalf of a party to the marriage or a child of the marriage to the acquisition, conservation or improvement of any of the property of the parties to the marriage or either of them, or otherwise in relation to any of that last‑mentioned property, whether or not that last‑mentioned property has, since the making of the contribution, ceased to be the property of the parties to the marriage or either of them; and

(c) the contribution made by a party to the marriage to the welfare of the family constituted by the parties to the marriage and any children of the marriage, including any contribution made in the capacity of homemaker or parent; and

(d) the effect of any proposed order upon the earning capacity of either party to the marriage; and [some other stuff]

In English, what that means is that financial and non-financial contributions to a marriage shall be considered on their merits, whatever those are. And for Judge Guest, that means ‘special talent’. It turns out that he has published a paper arguing that where one person has more natural talent than the other, then that person should get more on divorce. (PDF downloadable here – 56k) Mere money doesn’t amount to anything special, but natural skills and talent do. So on divorce, those born lucky get to stay lucky, while those who worked hard, in the background, to ensure that the lucky could develop their talent, don’t.

I suppose that it’s reasonable to point out that Judge Guest is, properly, reading and applying the law. That’s what judges are supposed to do, ‘though infamously, judges can make the law work to reflect their own views. However, by and large, if we want judges to start making different sorts of judgements, then we need to change the law. It seems to me that there is a case here for changing the law. When you invite someone to share your life, you invite them warts and all, and more importantly, you offer yourself, special talents and all. If it so happens that you earn a whacking great amount of money through your special talents, then that is part of what you bring to the marriage. And upon its dissolution, that’s what gets shared out. Of course, you get to keep your special talent – no one can take that off you. But in the period of your life when you were in a marriage, then whatever you earned through that special talent is part of the marriage. All the more so, if you could only deploy that special talent because your spouse supported you.

Of course! It’s teh girleez’ fault!

I’ve been muttering about this to myself for days, wondering would I / wouldn’t I write about it. After all, the person I am about to criticise is someone I respect, and whose work I enjoy. But really, Poneke? Is it all teh girleez fault?

A few years back, Poneke delivered an address to the Sceptics Society conference, which is now posted on his blog. It’s a fascinating piece, showing that our mainstream media is far more sceptical about Western medicine and medical science than it is about new age nonsense, like homeopathy and iridology and feng shui. I find that a worrying trend too – why on earth is all this non-scientific crap getting a free pass? So I agree with the basic concerns raised by Poneke in his post. Moreover, I choose Western medicine over acupuncture, herbalism and prayer, every time. As for psychics and astrologers and other such charlatans who prey on other people’s tragedies, don’t get me started.

It’s when Ponoke stops reporting and analysing, and starts blaming, that I get upset. Why, he says, does the MSM give this kind of nonsense a free pass?

His answer – it’s all because there’s more girlies writing these days. He starts with the women’s mags, pointing out that they are full of stories about the alleged efficacy of the various alternative charms and spells. From there, he deduces that women are taken in by this stuff, and they like it. And that leads to saying that women journalists must believe in it. On top of that, it turns out that journalism is being feminised, even in the big newspapers. So the poor silly chookies have taken their uncritical belief in witchcraft and spread it right through the media.

The trouble is, Poneke’s analysis is based on what was published between September 2003 and August 2004 in 13 daily and weekly newspapers, including all the ‘big’ newspapers in New Zealand. Whatever the gender makeup of the newsrooms, aren’t most newspaper editors men? I know that the Sunday Star Times is edited by a woman, but as far as I can recall, during the time that Poneke used for his analysis, most of the other big newspapers were, and indeed still are, edited by men. So there must be a whole lot of mennies who have been brainwashed by the women’s mags too.

Of course, there is a much simpler explanation as to why the new age stuff gets this non-critical acceptance, even in the MSM. It sells. Rather than blaming the women writers for these pieces, it might simply be better to follow the money. Who would bother publishing a piece on feng shui if you couldn’t also sell the eyeballs to the advertisers?

That of course begs the question – why does this stuff sell? There must be an audience for it, or the women’s mags wouldn’t be full of it, and neither would the pieces in the MSM be so silly.

Poneke gives one highly plausible reason; following the cervical cancer debacle at National Women’s Hospital, many women, and presumably many men too, became deeply sceptical about doctors’ “authority”. But I think he misses another plausible explanation, to do with the way that women acquire and pass on information. And it’s not by listening to words of wisdom delivered from on high by people who can’t be bothered treating you with respect. Blue Milk has some words of advice for medical specialists, enthusiastically endorsed and added to by her commenters. Here’s the thing; if doctors treat you with contempt, brush aside your questions, tell you to just believe in them and trust them, and all the while, you know of far too many cases where trust in doctors has been rewarded with on-going contempt, then just how likely are you to go to them for further information, to feel that if you ask a question, it will be answered in a way that you can understand, without at the same time making you feel that you are stupid and small. In recent years, there’s been plenty of noise about the need to get men to see their doctors more often. I’m guessing that one of the reasons that men don’t like seeing doctors is not just that they don’t like admitting to ill health, but also that they don’t like being talked down to, and patronised. Their response? Avoid doctors. But what do women do in the same situation? Talk to each other. Gossip – pass on information and ideas. And that’s exactly the function that women’s magazines serve. Women connect with each other through them, get and pass on information, in an environment of equals.

So I think we can look deeper than the silly girlies when it comes to trying to explain why the MSM is so accepting to alternative medicines. I think that the explanations lie in the money trail, and in the failure of doctors and health professionals to treat women with respect, instead of treating them as a problem to be solved.

(As an aside, I’m not even so sure that the women’s mags are full of it. Last time I read one of them, at the hairdressers’, I found it was full of diet and weight pieces. Every celeb story commented on whether the person was looking too fat or too thin. And guess what? According to the mag, not a single person was looking good. I felt quite ill reading it.)

I see misogyny lurking in Poneke’s causal analysis. I wish he had dug a little further, thought a little harder about what might underpin the women’s mags, taken the time to look at the gender of people editing papers, not just writing them, and followed the money, rather than just blaming women. Of course I will continue to read and recommend Poneke to other people; I wouldn’t bother with this sort of analysis of some of the material presented on some of the other blogs around town. And no doubt he has plenty of issues with stuff that I write. In this case, however, I think he has just gotten it wrong.

So what finally pushed me to post on this? This charming bit of misogyny from Tumeke, where a woman is reviled for daring to have a baby. No mention of the baby’s father, who might just be held responsible too. No attempt to understand just how extraordinarily difficult it might be to care for a child in this woman’s circumstances. No idea that the woman might have had the baby because you know, that’s what people do. No – she is immediately dumped on for what the writer assumes to be her motives. What a great strategy – assign a motive to someone, then attack them for having that motivation. Fantastic. And there seems to be a nasty intersection of racism and sexism here too – would the writer have had a go at a white woman in quite the same way? I find it very odd, not least because the writers on Tumeke are often outspoken about racism, and the extent to which issues aren’t issues that the world should be concerned about if they only affect brown people.

Then there’s this bit of misogyny from The New Republic, analysed on Shakesville, and elsewhere in the feminist blogosphere.

And from Poneke himself, a nasty little jab at women. Not something he said himself, but did he really need to report this tired old sexism?

On top of that, Lyn wrote a nice piece about the web as menz space. Time to claim our space in it, she says.

So all my buttons have been pushed. And indeed, the fact that I sat on it for a few days, hesitating about whether or not to comment on it says something apropos of Lyn’s piece, all by itself.

Letting the dinosaurs out to play

eatingkiwimen.jpgThe Sunday Star Times is running a survey about the state of New Zealand blokedom. The on-line article is fairly innocuous, but the Star Times has gone to town in the print edition. The teaser headline on the front page starts with the claim that something’s wrong. The headline? “What’s eating men?” So right from the start the state of NZ men is framed as being wrong.

Then on the inside, the framing gets even better. Survey figurehead Simon Barnett opines that:

while feminism had been good for men and women, women still preferred men to be chivalrous. “There is confusion among men now as to whether we are to be income earners or caregivers, sensitive or manly, smooth or rugged, to protect our skin or not be such a nancy boy, pluck or weed whack, was or grow. Women are better at expressing themselves, they seem more comfortable with who they are and the talk! Communication over emotional issues is a tough ask for men.”

Wow. What a fabulous string of cliches and pre-suppositions, with a little bit of homophobia thrown in for good measure. Just how does he know what women still prefer men to be chivalrous, given that the survey hasn’t even been done yet?

Michael King is much more SNAG in his approach, but just to make sure we don’t get too sucked in, the dinosaurs are wheeled out for their comments. Coast to Coast organiser Robin Judkins thinks that women have too much power in politics, that feminism hasn’t been good for Kiwi men, and it was a woman’s job to be the primary caregiver to children.

But best, or worst, of all, Leighton Smith thinks that feminism hasn’t been good for New Zealand men, or for New Zealand women.

That’s right! Things were just so much better when women weren’t allowed to vote, got paid 2/3 of man’s wage despite doing exactly the same job, and weren’t allowed to do some jobs at all, even if they were perfectly capable of doing them. And of course, it was much better not to worry married women with ideas of consent – it was silly even to think there could be rape within marriage. As for a bit of biffo around the house, well, it was just a domestic. It’s just so obvious that feminism has been bad for women.

Then there’s more, an editorial piece, and a look at the questions.

It turns out that only men are allowed to answer the questions. I had assumed women could answer if they wanted to, but:

Please answer this questionnaire if you are a male aged 16 years of age or older. Only men aged 16 or over are eligible to win the draw.

The draw is for one of 50 subscriptions to fab magazines like Autocar, Boating NZ, Fishing News or Truck and Machinery Trader.

Now I’m happy to admit that I have no interest whatsoever in any of these magazines. Give me Cuisine any day. But I don’t like my voice being excluded, especially when it turns out that the purpose of the survey is about starting a national conversation. In the opinion puff piece, all the framing is put to one side. The purpose of this survey is not to lament the state of New Zealand men, not to lambast feminism, but “to spark a national conversation.” No matter the survey only wants male opinions. Evidently women aren’t really part of the national conversation.

On top of all that, it’s not even a survey. It’s an internet poll – lots of fun, but no way to get an accurate account of what New Zealand men really think.

Of course, it’s not really about having a national conversation at all. It’s really about selling newspapers, and it seems that framing a survey so that women can be blamed for men’s woes must guarantee sales.

Gentle reader, don’t fall for their silly little internet poll. Just ignore it, and don’t buy the newspaper.

Father’s Day Food

We don’t care for Father’s Day, or Mother’s Day, for that matter, in our family. Or to be precise, we don’t care for the crass commercialism that surrounds them. So as a matter of policy, we have tried to develop a Father’s Day and Mother’s Day tradition of coffee and breakfast in bed, and home made cards from the girls. And that’s it.

So, I made breakfast in bed for the daddy in our house today, and our girls made him cards, saying sweet things like, “I love you, Daddy” and “You are the best daddy ever”, which is a reasonable approximation of the truth, so far as I can tell.

And just as we have an ersatz Father’s Day, I made ersatz Eggs Montreal (scroll down to the variations on Eggs Benedict) for breakfast.

Instead of English muffins, I used toasted Vogels bread. I buttered it, or more accurately, put some olive oil spread on it, and then laid slices of smoked salmon – yum yum – on top and squeezed a little lemon juice over them. I poached two free range eggs, and topped the salmon with them. Instead of using hollandaise (all that cholesterol – ouch!), I put some curls of butter over the top of the eggs to melt and added a squeeze more lemon. Then a good grind of black pepper, some parsley fresh from the garden for a garnish, and voila – Eggs Montreal a la Karori.