Monthly Archives: November 2010

News flash. One is entitled to walk on city streets without being assaulted

Pop on over to Dr Cat’s blog to read her excellent analysis of this claim.

Ministers arriving for cabinet yesterday said Mr Foley was entitled to walk on a city street at any hour without being assaulted.

Now you know how it feels to be a woman, Kevin (SA edition)

It seems I am a coarse, uncaring beast

Cardinal George Pell, who is Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, has opined that people without faith are bad people. If Australia ceases to be guided by Christian principles, then “Australian society will become increasingly coarse and uncaring.”

Faithless are coarse, uncaring and without purpose, says Cardinal Pell

Let me tell you a story about the good Christian mothers and fathers at the school my children attend. At least, I assume that they are Christian, because they send their children along to the inter-denominational services, and many of them are sending their children off to private church-run schools when they go to secondary school.

Last year, one of the mums at school had twins. She already had four children, ranging in age from 10 down to 5. Her partner left her during her pregnancy, so she was trying to manage on her own. Things weren’t too bad, except that she had a c-section, which meant that she couldn’t drive her car for six weeks. So each morning, she was getting up, feeding and tending the babies, getting the other kids organised, and then putting the babies in the pram, and walking the children to school. Another mum saw all this happening one day, and was appalled. So with the consent of the new mother, and with the assistance of classroom teachers, she sent out an e-mail, asking people to volunteer to help with getting the two younger children to and from school each day. The two older children could get themselves to school along quiet streets on their bikes.

I read the e-mail, held my head in my hands for a few moments, because I already had a fair amount on, and then e-mailed back. Of course I could find a few minutes in the morning to help, especially when I was already out and about getting my own children to school.

The next day, the mum who organised the e-mail told me that I was the only person who had replied to her. It seemed that there was some gossip going around about the new mum, so plenty of the other parents at the school didn’t think she was worthy of help.

I think that could fairly be described as uncaring, and coarse.

Over the next day or two, a few more parents stepped up, and a roster was organised, and family friends stepped in, and one way and another, the new mum was able to get through those first few weeks. But the original response was uncaring, and unkind, and insensitive, and crass.

I have been angry about the whole incident ever since, and I am made even more angry when I read comments like George Pell’s. As far as I know, we are the only avowed atheists in the school. Everyone else goes along with the regulation Christianity, bar a few children who come from families with other faiths. But ours was not the uncaring and coarse response.

George Pell didn’t stop with the nasty comments about non-Christians. He also thinks that people without faith lead meaningless lives. “… without God the universe has no objective purpose or meaning. Nothing beyond the constructs they confect to cover the abyss.”

Hmmm…. I see that exactly the other way round. I look into the abyss, into the wonder of the universe, into the utter inconsequence of the speck of existence that is me within this universe, and the abyss looks back it me. I can stand tall, knowing that I am responsible for me, that the universe really does not care about my existence, that there is no vengeful or beneficent being keeping tabs on my life, and rewarding or punishing me as she sees fit. This has created the greatest sense of freedom I have had, and the greatest sense of responsibility. And this is what gives my life meaning. Not some external story that I tell myself, some construct I confect to shield myself from the horrors of the night, but meaning generated from within, from trying to understand myself, and the society within which I live.

Take your fairy tales, and your nasty epithets, George Pell, and stuff them where the sun don’t shine.

Update: You should also read tigtog’s brilliant post at Hoyden about Town, where she shreds this claim that Pell made.

Cardinal Pell said education was not enough to create a civilised society, that faith was necessary too. He cited the example of 20th century Germany, which he said was the best educated society in the world when Hitler became leader.


1. Don’t blare your horn at me because you are behind me and you’re having to wait for a few seconds until I judge that it is safe for me to turn right across two lanes of traffic. You may be able to zip across a line of traffic in your nippy little car and rush over a pavement with impunity, but I am driving a family sedan, which takes a little more time to move. Risk your own life, not mine, if 20 seconds is such a big deal.

2. Don’t patronise me because you are a young male sales clerk in an electronics shop and I am a middle-aged woman. I may not have your technical expertise, but I still have money to spend.

3. Don’t reach over to grab more groceries to stuff into a shopping bag when I have carefully lined up my groceries and shopping bags in such a way as to indicate which items should go into which bag (per Dr Cat’s helpful hint). You may be able to lift a shopping bag stuffed to the hilt, but I can’t. You may be happy to mix up fruit and cleaning products, but I am not. You might even like putting heavy containers of milk in the same bag as soft, ripe mangoes, but I do not. And don’t cap it all off by glaring at me when I ask you to stack the items in the bags in the order in which they are presented. There are plenty of other supermarkets nearby, and I am quite happy to take my annual supermarket bill of about $20,000 elsewhere.

Grump. Grump. Grump.

And while I am grumping, a local supermarket categorises its magazines into Men’s Interest, House and Garden, Food and Wine, and Women’s Interest. Guess where I found New Scientist. And the news magazines.

On seconds thoughts, perhaps I shouldn’t be troubling my feeble lady-brane with that.

Friday Feminist – Elaine Morgan

Cross posted

According to the Book of Genesis, God first created man. Woman was not only an afterthought, but an amenity. For close on two thousand years this holy scripture was believed to justify her subordination and explain her inferiority; for even as a copy she was not a very good copy. There were differences. She was not one of His best efforts.

There is a line in an old folk song that runs: ‘I called my donkey a horse gone wonky.’ Throughout most of the literature dealing with the differences between the sexes there runs a subtle underlying assumption that woman is a man gone wonky; that woman is a distorted version of the original blueprint; that they are the norm and we are the deviation.

It might have been expected that when Darwin came along and wrote an entirely different account of the Descent of Man, this assumption would have been eradicated, for Darwin didn’t believe she was an afterthought: he believed her origin was at least contemporaneous with man’s. It should have led to some kind of breakthrough in the relationship between the sexes. But it didn’t.

Almost at once men set about the congenial and fascinating task of working out an entirely new set of reasons why woman was manifestly inferior and irreversibly subordinate, and they have been happily engaged on this ever since. Instead of theology they use biology, and ethology, and primatology, but they use it to reach the same conclusions.

Elaine Morgan, The Descent of Woman, 1972


For reasons, I have been given a fabulous briefcase.

Orange bag

The colour is fabulous, even more orange than it appears in the photo. It has strong handles, a detachable shoulder strap, several compartments inside, including one for a laptop, a front pocket with a mobile phone pouch. So it is very practical, as well as being very beautiful.

It passes the “What would Megan say?” test. In spades. And then some.

Best of all, it was given to me by someone I like and admire very much. I shall think of her every time I use it, and regret the loss of the friendship that was growing between us. Of course we will stay in contact, but it won’t be the same.

Christopher Pearson writes parody!

The Australian fancies itself as a serious newspaper, full of weighty opinion and analysis, as befits an organ that aspires to be the paper of record. But clearly they’re rethinking that policy, because they’ve allowed the usually sententious and portentous Christopher Pearson write a parody piece in lieu of his normal column. At least, I think it must be parody, because I can not see how anyone would ever offer this as a serious argument against gay marriage.

Among the reasons the Greens are so keen on same-sex marriage is that they want to reduce the population and drive down national fertility. Their refusal to discriminate positively in favour of heterosexuality and uphold the distinctive value of normal marriage shows their political project yet again for what it is: a dead end.

That faint rumbling and rattling you can hear is the entire nation rolling around on the floor and laughing. At Pearson, not with him.

Umm…. how about the idea that the Greens might support gay marriage as a matter of justice, and a commitment to equality for all citizens.

It’s not the only bizarre argument Pearson comes up with. He’s got a little bit of dubious evolutionary sociology, in the tired old story about monogamy being something women want but not men, so men need to be forced into it.

Men and women tend to have different needs and priorities when they enter a mature sexual relationship.

Most men are not naturally disposed to be monogamous, for example. One of the purposes of marriage is to bind them to their spouses and children for the long haul and to give the state’s approval to those who enter such a contract and abide by its terms.

Clearly, all those gay men who aren’t allowed to get married will race out and form heterosexual unions instead.

There’s this little beauty.

Another of the purposes of marriage is to affirm that parenthood is a big, and in most cases the primary, contribution a couple can make, both to their own fulfilment and the public good.

It’s your duty to get married, for the public good, you understand. Pearson doesn’t say why it’s okay to require this duty on the one hand, but prevent some people from fulfilling it on the other. For the life of me, I can’t reconcile the two imperatives.

And he’s got some complete non sequiturs.

They are often unapologetically tribal in outlook and their best hopes are often invested in their children.

Most parents on low wages routinely make sacrifices on their kids’ behalf in ways middle-class couples seldom do these days. There is also still something self-sacrificial among many of them on marriage: the notion that it’s hard work much of the time but worth the effort.

That’s right. All you middle class parents are just faffing your way through marriage and parenting, and you have no idea, NO IDEA, I tell you, of the proper way to parent, because if only you did, then you too would oppose gay marriage.


Along the way he gets in some digs about contraception and abortion, and quotes American bishops (presumably Catholic) as an authority. Frankly, I don’t see how American bishops can be an authority about anything whatsoever to do with sexual morality, and relationships, until they stop protecting the pedophiles in their midst, and the fact that Pearson cites them shows only the bankruptcy of his thinking.

About the only solid point that Pearson makes is that many traditional voters in Labor-held marginal seats don’t like gay marriage, and he applauds Julia Gillard for recognising this. What he has missed however is something reported in his own newspaper. Even though more traditional and working class voters might not support gay marriage, it’s not a vote changer. But that was reported yesterday… perhaps Pearson simply couldn’t keep the thought in his head for long enough.

Click through to read the entire piece, which is amusingly titled: gay marriage demands should be left on shelf

Geddit? Geddit?

Friday Womanist – bell hooks (4)

Cross posted

A central tenet of modern feminist thought has been the assertion that “all women are oppressed.” This assertion implies that women share a common lot, that factors like class, race, religion, sexual preference, etc. do not create a diversity of experience that determines the extent to which sexism will be an oppressive force in the lives of individual women. Sexism as a system of domination is institutionalized but it has never determined in an absolute way the fate of all women in this society. Being oppressed means the absence of choices. It is the primary point of contact between the oppressed and the oppressor. Many women in this society do have choices, (as inadequate as they are) therefore exploitation and discrimination are words that more accurately describe the lot of women collectively in the United States. Many women do not join organized resistance against sexism precisely because sexism has not meant an absolute lack of choices. They may know they are discriminated against on the basis of sex, but they do not equate this with oppression. Under capitalism, patriarchy is structured so that sexism restricts women’s behavior in some realms even as freedom from limitations is allowed in other spheres. The absence of extreme restrictions leads many women to ignore the areas in which they are exploited or discriminated against; it may even lead them to imagine that no women are oppressed.

bell hooks, “Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory”, 1984