Monthly Archives: January 2009

Friday Feminist – Margaret Sanger (2)

Cross posted

Given the discussion at The Hand Mirror last week, I thought it would be interesting to have another piece from Margaret Sanger.

… In an ideal society, no doubt, birth control would become the concern of the man as well as the woman. The hard, inescapable fact which we encounter today is that man has not only refused any such responsibility, but has individually and collectively sought to prevent woman from obtaining knowledge by which she could assume this responsibility for herself. She is still in the position of a dependent today because her mate has refused to consider her as an individual apart from his needs. She is still bound because she has in the past left the solution of the problem to him. Having left it to him, she finds that instead of rights, she has only such privileges as she has gained by petitioning, coaxing and cozening. Having left it to him, she is exploited, driven and enslaved to his desires.

While it is true that he suffers many evils as the consequence of this situation, she suffers vastly more. While it is true that he should be awakened to the cause of these evils, we know that they come home to her with crushing force every day. It is she who has the long burden of carrying, bearing and rearing the unwanted children… It is her heart that the sight of the deformed, the subnormal, the undernourished, the overworked child smites first and oftenest and hardest. It is her love life that dies first in the fear of undesired pregnancy. It is her opportunity for self-expression that perishes first and most hopelessly because of it.

Margaret Sanger, Women and the New Race, 1920

Crispy rose


This is what a crispy rose looks like. Not wilted. Crispy. It turns out that roses don’t like day after day of temperatures in the forties, and nights in the thirties.

There will be some minimal relief for the next few nights, with overnight lows in the low twenties. But the daily maximums will be 38 or 39 or more.

Very soon I will become far too crispy myself.

You wanna buy some heat?

We got plenty, going cheap!

Adelaide hit 45.7 degrees (Celcius) today. That’s about 114 Fahrenheit for people who still use the old money.


The temperature will plummet overnight to a tropical low of about 32 degrees, before we head into another 44 degree day tomorrow, followed by 41, 40, 40, 39, 38 and 38 through to next Wednesday. This heat wave started on Monday 26 January, Australia Day, and looks like it will last for about 10 or maybe 11 days. Not as long as last year’s 15 day record breaker, but hotter. Last year’s fortnight of days that were 35 degrees or more fell in March, but this time round, it’s happening in January. The days are longer in January, giving the sun more time to heat the already hot air. When you step outside, it’s like facing into a warm oven, being enveloped with heat. When I do go outside, I walk in very slow and stately fashion, which I find quite trying. I am not given to living at a slow pace. The sun makes my skin feel as though it’s pinking up straight away, even though I spend as little time outside as possible. The hot air is heating up the water in the pipes, so that our “cold” water is almost warm enough to shower in. Some of the plants in the garden have gone crispy, although my roses are surviving, so far. They are incredibly hardy.

So how do we cope? Mostly by drinking lots of chilled water, and staying inside, with air-conditioning. We are eating lots of salad, and keeping cooking to a minimum – there’s no sense in adding extra heat to the house.

I fill the strangelings’ water bottles about two-thirds full and freeze them overnight, topping them up with water in the morning, so they have chilled water at school. And I drive them to and from school; I don’t want them walking home in 45 degrees. Or even 38 for that matter. The school is air-conditioned, so it’s just a matter of getting them from one cool building to another. But that can still take 15 or 20 minutes at the end of the school day, so they have iceblocks as soon as we get home.

We keep the house shut up, keeping the cool air in, and the hot air out. We are running two sets of air conditioners, and sometimes three. Our reverse-cycle appliances are working well, but the evaporative air-conditioner works by cooling the air with water, to about 12 degrees less than the outside temperature. That’s fine when it’s say, 35 degrees outside, but when it’s 45? Pumping still-hot air into your house just doesn’t work. So the evaporative air-conditioner goes on for a while in the morning, but that’s it. We are working hard on keeping the house cool. If it heats up, we have no way of getting it cool again, because the overnight lows just aren’t low enough to cool anything.

This is weather to be endured, very much like the endless gales in Wellington’s winter. There will be a few days respite after this heat wave, but then we will be into our next spell of living indoors, keeping the house shut up, and spending the least time possible outside. I’m worried about February, and hoping that we will get some cooler days, and hopefully cooler nights as well.

I recommend the Bureau of Meteorology site for anyone who wants to follow our daily torment. Click through the link under “Latest Weather” to see the highest and lowest temperatures in each 24 hour period (midnight to midnight, I think – it’s hard to tell 9am to 9am) and the link under “Forecast” to see what is in store for us.

PMT with a vengeance?

There’s a new version of the pill being trialled, ‘though I’ve found it a little hard to piece the details together from the Adelaide Advertiser (which some people call the Traumatiser, and I can see why).

One story, on-line in the ’tiser, has it that the pill reduces the “seven days off” stage of the month, and the hope is that this will reduce pain and and discomfort for (some) women who find that the withdrawal of hormones (in the active pills), can result in “pelvic pain, headaches, mood swings and breast soreness.” That particular story was written by Kate Sikoura, in Sydney, and picked up through the stories shared between the News Limited papers.

Then there’s another on-line story in the Advertiser, written by local man, Tony Shepherd – Health Reporter. Shepherd adds a wee wrinkle. It turns out that there is a second trial, of the same pill. Now it’s not just about helping to reduce physical pain and discomfort. It turns out that a big advantage of the new pill is to “increase the female sex drive.”

Nice. WTF is it with the obsession with women’s libido? (For more on this, check out Lauredhel’s fabulous post about the problem of problematizing women’s desire.)

But that’s not all. The print version of the story is different again, this time with no by-line. And this time, the reason given for the trial is:

… the new pill “ameliorates the extreme temperament experienced by all women at certain times of the month. Therefore it is much more beneficial to relationships, and indeed society as a whole, for women to continue taking the pill.”

Being the Advertiser, they have a couple of quotes from punters. Bloke of Adelaide says:

This new pill will make it easier for their poor husbands, boyfriends, brothers, fathers and males in general, I’m all for it.

But Lippy Lou of Wa Way has clearly been reading Lauredhel’s fine words, because she says:

Drug companies, never actually seem to cure anything, just get you into their usage cycle, then when you have a reaction, guess what? They have another pill to help you. A fat leech on the backside of humanity.

The real kicker? The man who wants to ameliorate the extreme temperament of women, who thinks that this pill will be beneficial to society? His name is given as Maurice Chauvan, of Istanbul. And he doesn’t seem to exist, according to Google, that is.

So just what is the Advertiser playing at?

For the record, the researcher, Rob Norman, and the research institute he heads up, the Robinson Institute, are genuine. All of which makes me wonder whether the reporters and subbies who put together the print version of the story are just a little tired of women’s libido, or lack of it, or excess of it, being regarded as problems to be treated. Or PMT, for that matter.

In any case, when it comes to PMT, let me direct you (again) to Melissa McEwan’s superb take on the subject:

Let’s put this shit to bed right now: Women don’t lose their minds when they have period-related irritability. It doesn’t lower their ability to reason; it lowers their patience and, hence, tolerance for bullshit. If an issue comes up a lot during “that time of the month,” that doesn’t mean she only cares about it once a month; it means she’s bothered by it all the time and lacks the capacity, once a month, to shove it down and bury it beneath six gulps of willful silence.

Friday Feminist – Margaret Sanger

Cross posted

The problem of birth control has arisen directly from the effort of the feminine spirit to free itself from bondage. Woman herself has wrought that bondage through her reproductive powers and while enslaving herself has enslaved the world. The physical suffering to be relieved is chiefly woman’s. Hers, too, is the love life that dies first under the blight of too prolific breeding. Within her is wrapped up the future of the race–it is hers to make or mar. All of these considerations point unmistakably to one fact–it is woman’s duty as well as her privilege to lay hold of the means of freedom. Whatever men may do, she cannot escape the responsibility. For ages she has been deprived of the opportunity to meet this obligation. She is now emerging from her helplessness. Even as no one can share the suffering of the overburdened mother, so no one can do this work for her. Others may help, but she and she alone can free herself.

The basic freedom of the world is woman’s freedom. A free race cannot be born of slave mothers. A woman enchained cannot choose but give a measure of that bondage to her sons and daughters. No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.

It does not greatly alter the case that some women call themselves free because they earn their own livings, while others profess freedom because they defy the conventions of sex relationship. She who earns her own living gains a sort of freedom that is not to be undervalued, but in quality and in quantity it is of little account beside the untrammeled choice of mating or not mating, of being a mother or not being a mother. She gains food and clothing and shelter, at least, without submitting to the charity of her companion, but the earning of her own living does not give her the development of her inner sex urge, far deeper and more powerful in its outworkings than any of these externals. In order to have that development, she must still meet and solve the problem of motherhood.

Margaret Sanger, Women and the New Race, 1920

Holiday snippets

Mostly from Taranaki, because that was the only time that we sat and just… relaxed. And mostly from my parents’ country estate, otherwise known as a block of dissected hill country, unfarmable, but covered in native bush, which is protected by a Queen Elizabeth II covenant. There is some grazing land, a bach (shack, holiday house, crib, whatever) with running water but no electricity, and masses and masses of peace and quiet and native bush growing and native birds singing.


The bach. Not so posh. But just right.



There is a long line of poplars planted across the valley from the bach, with a gap that was occupied by a horrible old macrocarpa of no redeeming value. So Granddad Strange Land chopped it down, then chopped it up for firewood, burned the remnants in a huge bonfire watched by fascinated granddaughters, and replaced it with a 5m tall poplar stick, which has since taken root, sprouted leaves and started to grow.


Granddad Strange Land calls the little poplar “Woebegone” and he gives it a wee hug each time he goes to the farm. I sang to it. “Ombrai mai fu” of course.


When faced with this sort of stove for cooking…


… I decided that I must surely be required to prove that I could cook bread, anywhere, anytime, in any sort of stove. So I did.

breadinstove slicedbread

Recipe here, but you will have to provide your own woodsmoked flavour, and accompanying overtones of virtue and self-satisfaction.


Because he is a primary sector accountant, Granddad Strange Land has for many years had a farm bike, no doubt to build rapport with his clients. The bike has been put to good use in the last couple of years, ferrying assorted grandchildren around the farm. Granny Strange Land usually goes along for the ride, or drives the bike herself. You will note her excellent side saddle technique, usually reserved for driving the bike through gates which Granddad Strange Land is opening.

kidsonbike gslonbike


There is a track along the ridges of the valley, up in the bush. On our last day there, Mr Strange Land and I walked along it. At the very end of the track, just before we climbed down along a fence line back to the valley floor, we could look in one direction and see Mt Taranaki


… and turn about 180 degrees in the other direction and see Mt Ruapehu, far off in the distance (about 130km away, I think).




We saw friends and family in Auckland, saw family and friends in Taranaki, and more family and friends in Wellington (including the Chef de Plunge, who is a beautiful wee lad). And of course, there was one person I didn’t really want to see in Wellington, but to my embarrassment we bumped into her at Te Papa. Damn.

We gorged ourselves on kumara, which has a different texture from sweet potato, and so is not replaceable by ordinary old sweet potatoes, and is not available in Australia because the quarantine regulations are outrageously strict (a non-tariff trade barrier, I think – apples, anyone?). And we gorged some more on manuka honey – just the ordinary old eating kind, but it is so delicious, and also, not available in Australia.

By the time we had driven back up to Taranaki, to return my dad’s car to him, and then driven on to Auckland to catch a flight to Adelaide, we were ready to come home to our own space. But New Zealand is still calling to us. On that last long drive, we stopped at the top of Mt Messenger for a break, and saw this beautiful tui, who drank from the flax flowers, and chortled.



More holiday reports to come, especially about a fabulous exhibition in Puke Ariki.

Friday Feminist – Christine Delphy

Cross posted

My proposition is that marriage is the institution by which unpaid work is extorted from a particular category of the population, women-wives. This work is unpaid for it does not give rise to a wage but simply to upkeep. These very peculiar relations of production in a society that is defined by the sale of work (wage-labour) and products, are not determined by the type of work accomplished. Indeed they are not even limited to the production of household work and raising children, but extend to include all the things women (and also children) produce within the home, and in small-scale manufacturing, shopkeeping or farming, if the husband is a craftsman, tradesman or farmer, or various professional services if the husband is a doctor or lawyer, etc. The fact that domestic work is unpaid is not inherent to the particular type of work done, since when the same tasks are done outside the family they are paid for. The work acquires value – is remunerated – as long as the woman furnishes it to people to whom she is not related or married.

The valuelessness of domestic work performed by married women derives institutionally from the marriage contract, which is in fact a work contract. To be more precise, it is a contract by which the head of the family – the husband – appropriates all the work done in the family by his children, his younger siblings and especially by his wife, since he can sell it on the market as his own if he is, for example, a crafstmand or farmer or doctor. Conversely, the wife’s labour has no value because it cannot be put on the market, and it cannot be put on the market because of the contract by which her labour power is appropriated by her husband. Since the production intended for exchange – on the market – is accomplished outside the family in the wage-earning system, and since a married man sells his work and not a product in the system, the unpaid work of women cannot be incorporated in the production intended for exchange. It has therefore become limited to producing things which are intended for the family’s internal use: domestic services and the raising of children.

Christine Delphy, Close to Home, 1976