Monthly Archives: July 2007

Driftnetting is best

According to some parts of the NZ blogosphere (in the comments here), asking all women who are admitted to hospitals questions about domestic violence implies that all men are abusers. The simple act of asking a woman these questions says that the person who asks the question, or the person who causes them to be asked, thinks that the woman’s partner is abusive.

I think there’s a much more positive way to look at it.

At my local supermarket, everytime I go to the checkout with a bottle of wine, the checkout operator is required to summon the supervisor, who makes the decision about whether or not I look old enough to be legally allowed to buy alcohol. As it turns out, even a schoolkid on minimum wages who can barely string together a coherent sentence would only need to glance at me to see that I am well over the age of 18, and for that matter, well over the age of 25 (the ‘safety’ age that most supermarkets use – if you look younger than 25 you will be asked to produce ID). I have greying hair, which I don’t colour (a form of vanity in itself), a figure that shows some evidence that I have had three children, and my clothing is fairly conservative – no crop tops for me! But insisting that the checkout operator calls the supervisor means that there is no room for capricious judgement. I don’t feel insulted – it’s just the system, and an utterly impersonal one at that. And it’s a good one. It means that I can’t stand over the checkout operators and put pressure on them. Not so important in my case, given that I am legally allowed to buy alcohol anyway, but there are three secondary schools within walking distance of the supermarket, so there are plenty of kids around who might like to be able to buy alcohol. Plus no one is making personal judgements about me: they are just working within the rules that have been set up by that supermarket.

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Arresting abuse

I have been sickened by the stories of child abuse that have hit our newspapers in the last few days. At first, I could hardly bear to read them, and even after I did read them, the only way I could console myself was to hug our own little princesses, and reassure myself that they would never, ever, be treated in that fashion.

Yet they might be. Not now, while they are children, in their father’s and my care, but in the future, at the hands of their partners or the people they date.

That’s why I’m glad about the initiative to ask all women who present at hospital three questions:

* Has anybody hurt or threatened you?
* Have you ever felt controlled or always criticised?
* Have you been asked to do anything sexual that you didn’t want to do?

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Getting too comfortable

Al Gore thinks the internet can save us. I think he may be right, but only if we are at least somewhat proactive about searching out contrary views.

There’s an interesting article in New Scientist about Gore’s latest book, The Assault on Reason (Chris Mooney, “Critical times need critical minds”, New Scientist 195: 2613, 21 July 2007, pp. 46 – 47). It’s here but you need to be a subscriber to access it.

Chris Mooney, the writer of the article, describes how Gore argues that we need a “well-informed citizenry”. We can and should do far better in becoming informed, so that we can genuinely debate complex issues. According to Mooney, Gore’s hope is that the internet can save us. But…

The internet is much like television in that it overwhelms audiences with choices and leads to an inevitable kind of self-selection. Many web surfers opt out of serious information entirely, or choose groups of like-minded individuals who rarely encounter contrary perspectives. This concern – voiced in Cass Sunstein’s book – is never grappled with by Gore. The blogosphere, for all its virtues, too often mirrors Sunstein’s image of large groups of people engaging in mutual intellectual back-scratching, rather than challenging their own convictons. “Reason”, if it means anything, must include sustained engagement with opposing viewpoints.

Good point. And one which was made, prophetically, way back in 1990 by David Brin, in his novel Earth. …

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Friday Feminist – Harper Lee

A day late, but I’m using travelling home from Noosa as an excuse. It was 24 degrees there yesterday…. and we came home to 14 degrees in Wellington today.

I’m not sure that Harper Lee would have identified as a feminist, but this passage in To Kill a Mockingbird grabbed me the first time I read it, back when I was about 13 years old.

“Jem, please-”
“Scout, I’m tellin’ you for the last time, shut your trap or go home – I declare to the Lord your’ gettin’ more like a girl every day!”
With that, I had no option but to join them.

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960

For those who haven’t read it (yet!), Scout, the narrator of the novel, is a girl, and Jem is her big brother.

Raed ho

Just along from where we are staying in Noosa, there is a house that’s wittily named, “Emoh ruo.”

Living with the in-laws

We are on holiday this week, in Noosa, with all the in-laws. By ‘all the in-laws’, I mean my husband’s family. About 42 of us have gathered, some from the US, some from Australia, and some from New Zealand. Of the 42 people here, 8 of us are not blood relations.

It’s an odd sensation, being part of a group to which I don’t really belong, except through a relationship I chose nearly 20 years ago now. I am a little on edge all the time, not quite understanding the family connections and nuances, not quite sure what the expected behaviour is, not quite able to work out how to fit in. And given that I self-identify as an introvert, spending hours and hours with other people is wearying in any case. The only time I really relax is in our own unit, with just my own immediate family there. And my husband’s brother, who is a good friend as well as an in-law.

I wonder if this experience is a little bit like being an immigrant. Always a little on edge, never quite understanding what the expected behaviour is (“Ladies a plate”, anyone?), not quite able to just fit in.

This experience is good for me.

Coffee, but not as we know it

We flew on Air New Zealand yesterday, on the 7am flight from Wellington to Auckland. The inflight service is practically non-existent these days, but they do serve coffee and tea.

I have a well-developed coffee habit, and my day is not right until I have had a cup or two. I’m happy enough with plunger, especially if it’s freshly ground, but a pinch, brewed will do. In some cafes, given the age of the equipment, and the apparent skill of the staff, brewed is a better bet than espresso. At least it isn’t pretending to be something that it isn’t.

I needed my cup of coffee to start the day. But, Air New Zealand served INSTANT coffee hot brown coloured stuff. Or if it wasn’t instant, then it was the worst brewed abomination I had ever tasted.

Don’t drink the not-coffee on Air New Zealand.