Barbie Been Made The Enemy… Again

According to “Herald Sun” this week, Greens Senator Larissa Waters caused outrage again by suggesting that Barbie dolls were purporting gender stereotypes, and ultimately, gender – based violence. The issue was raised not that long ago.

Sooooo, what are we going to do about it? If Barbies have that much of a negative impact, why have they been so popular for over 50 years. According to the Herald Sun last year, the sale of Barbies in the US has gone down by 21% according to toy company, Mattel. In 2011, sales were said to have dropped by 10%. Reason given was, not the protest of sexism, but the rise of more dolls on the market, such as, I’m guessing, the famous Bratz dolls. But they aren’t going anywhere soon.

I used to play with barbies. I was obsessed with them. I wanted pratically every new Barbie on the market and drove my parents nuts! And I turned out OK. So has everyone else I used to play barbies with.

 

My suggestion to the likes of Waters and any other Senator worried about domestic violence, do something about THAT! Fix the A.V.O system, make more shelters more available, and whatever else needs to be done. Constant debates about things like Barbie dolls are just ridiculous and it’s just a debate that, in my opinion, ignores the real issue.

Note to Larrisa Waters: stop wasting your time having useless, meaningless discussions about Barbies and be a part of the solution in combating domestic violence.

Let’s Not Demonise Parents!

NSW Senator, David Leyonhjelm made a speech in Parliament, defending childless people and couples during discussing “No Jab, No Play” legislation to be passed, which would make children who are not fully vaccinated, ineligible to be enrolled in childcare.

While he made a few insightful points, Leyonhjelm’s speech seem to become a rant that was, in my opinion, just condescending. In part, he said:

Since it is about time we did, I arise to ask, won’t someone think of the childless? Politicians seem to be obsessed with families, so it may  surprise many that most households in Australia are childless. A quarter of all households consist of an individual. And more than a quarter of all households consist of an adult couple. There are also hundreds of thousands of households where unrelated adults live together. And childless households are on the rise. in part, because kids have grown up and moved out of their parents’ homes.

Thank you Senator Leyonhjelm, for giving us that acknowledgement. However, in my opinion, the speech took a condescending turn, attacking parents and portraying them as a burden on society and the social services system.

To the childless people of Australia, I want to say, on behalf of this Parliament, thank you for being childless. You’ve worked for more years and become more productive than the rest of Australia. You pay thousands and thousands of dollars more tax than other Australians. who get next to no welfare. Your use of public health services is minimal, but you pay when other people get pregnant. You pay when they give birth. You pay when they stay at home to look after their offspring. You pay for the child’s food, clothing and shelter. You pay when the child goes to childcare. And you pay when the child goes to primary and secondary school. And then you pay when it goes to University.

Thank you for all you do for others. I am sorry that rather than receiving thanks, you are often ignored, pitied, considered strange, or even thought of as irresponsible. For your sake, I hope the children you are forced to support don’t end up as juvenile delinquents. And I hope they get immunised so that you don’t end up getting sick, because, you’ll pay then too.

Like I noted above, as a childless woman myself, I do appreciate the acknowledgement. or mere mention. But I’m not a martyr. I’m not some superhero because I don’t have kids. To me, this is just what women who are childless have received, only in reverse. No need for it.

Most people are going to continue having children. And I would think most of them will do a good job in raising them. I’m sure that not all of them will be burdens, like Leyonhjelm has suggested here.

Likewise, adults who are childless are not automatically off the hook when it comes to welfare. What if a person is childless, but also unemployed? What about adults who look after elderly and/ or sick relatives, and because of that, can’t work full – time? Are they burdens too?

 

To me, Senator Leyonhjelm seem to make us childless people as martyrs. We’re not. Just like most parents aren’t just there to mooch of taxpayers. I’m sick to death of single vs. married, parent vs. childless, etc wars. Let’s just all accept each other please and realise that we’re all at different stages and have different needs, wants and desires. We’re just different. I’m not a martyr. I’m not a hero. It just happens that I don’t have kids. That’s it.

Should Feminism Be Taught in Schools?

TW: brief mention of domestic and sexual violence. If this is triggering for you, please proceed with caution and get the help you need. 

On Nine’s “The Verdict” last night, host Karl Stefanovic and the panel discussed whether “Feminism” should be taught in secondary schools as a subject. General consensus was that teachers are overburdened already and that it’s up to the parents to teach children to treat members of the opposite sex respectfully.

Here are my thoughts: It’s easy to say “it’s up to the parents”, and ideally that would be true. Of course it would. But for many children, respect between the sexes is not modelled. So where can they see it being discussed and modelled?

Talking about modelling, yes, teachers should model gender equality and respect in front of the students on a daily basis. I think it’s more than just modelling respect. Faulty attitudes surrounding what domestic violence is and whether it’s ever acceptable has been highlighted in the media recently. Now, there have been questions raised on the methodology of the studies that were talked about, but the fact that there are at least SOME, ANY young people who think abuse is OK is disturbing.

Another point I think should be bought up in class, as well as societal/ familial discussion is what IS domestic violence, beyond hitting and rape. Things like the role of alcohol, emotional abuse, controlling behaviour, etc need to be talked about within the dating relationship context. Knowing all the warning signs as soon as possible will hopefully, at least give teenagers the information they need to spot potentially abusive situations and how to get out safely.

Another area that feminism discussion in schools could be useful is in the realm of employment; knowing your rights at work, anti – discrimination, your rights if you’re expecting a baby, sexual harassment, etc. Again, hopefully this sort of information can give people the power to spot harassment and discrimination and have the courage to report it.

Now, other question is, should this be another subject? Actually, now when I think about what I’ve just posted above, it may not be the worst idea to have a whole subject dedicated to it. Unless you break it up and talk, for example, about sexual and domestic violence in Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) and career discrimination/ sexual harassment in Careers. Or you could have both discussed outside traditional class, like they did at the school I went to for anti – bullying. Dedicating the topics as a separate subject, though, may keep the conversation between teachers and students flowing and, being in the front of students’ minds on a regular basis may keep it in the front of everyone’s mind and continue a needed discussion on sexism and relationships between staff and students.

What do you think? How (if) should feminism be taught? Should it be a separate subject or incorporated into an existing subject?

Patriarchy, Feminism and Carole King

I read this post from blogger Jennifer Wilson about the Murpny in the eighties and nineties (never saw it, by the way). Anyway, the series outraged feminist when using the Carole King song (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman. So, I’m not talking about the series as much as somewhat defending King.

(You Make Me Feel LIke A) Natural Woman is from King’s 1971 hit album, Tapestry. It was written by Carole King and her first husband Gerry Goffin. According to lyric information database site, SongFacts:

{Ode Record owner Lou} Adler added: “Last year (2007), I spoke to Jerry Wexler at his home in Florida, and he told me the story that Gerry was coming out of a building in New York, (Goffin now remembers it as an Oyster House), and Jerry Wexler is passing in a car and yells out “Why don’t you write a song called “Natural Woman”?”.

So, anyway, apparently that’s the origin of the lyrics (King must’ve done the music). Now, to be honest, just reading the site before, I was a bit surprised that Goffin wrote the lyrics and not King, but is it anti – feminist?

King and Goffin married on the 30 August 1959. Back then, King was only 17 and Goffin would’ve been 19. I mean, young love, right? Also, 1959 was before the whole sexual revolution and second wave of feminism really flooded the West. But politics of that aside, doesn’t anyone remember their first love or how they felt when they first got married? Didn’t you feel like, I don’t know, you made a leap in your life? You’re married to the person you love more than you can say? Didn’t that love make you feel “so alive”? Now, I admit, I have never had the feeling that she was describing. I’ll admit that. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t women who have.

So, the “natural woman”, lyric, which I’m guessing that’s what the feminists had a bit of a gripe about. Well, these days, what describes a “natural woman”, is controversial to say the least. You just have to hear or read about the storm about Germaine Greeer’s comments about transgender women to see that. But again, I look at the song in context. The late 1960’s, early 1970’s was only the start of the period where gender norms were being questioned, especially in pop culture (the British Glam rock scene, for example). Stonewall had only happened two years before Tapestry came out.

My point is, I don’t condemn Carole King as being anti – feminist because of the song. I argue it was the time period. Have things changed since then? Yes, of course they have. We are in a full on discussion and debate about gender and gender roles, sexuality and marriage. I believe the song, when taken in it’s historical context, is perfectly valid. Remember, it’s over forty years old for crying out loud!

While we talk about the seventies, why not slam ABBA while we’re at it? Many of their songs, mostly penned by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson. were mostly very heteronormative, about marriage and didn’t do a lot to challenge gender norms. Should we condemn them as well? Or are they redeemed a bit because of the storyline of Mamma Mia! musical and movie (love the movie, by the way).

I get the sensitivity of gender norms, especially for people who don’t fit the sexuality/ gender majority. I do. But I think condemning pop culture, especially from the 1970’s when times were starting to change, but were still different to what they are now, just isn’t worth it, quite frankly.

What are your thoughts?