Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hitting a window.

Yesterday a Kereru flew into a window. It made the most almighty crash. The poor thing hit the window, dropped to the sloped roof, and rolled down to the car park with a thud.
It was in a public building. Everyone stood by windows, staring. Most people’s initial response was “wow, that gave me a fright”.  They didn’t ask “is it ok?” in fact, they didn’t ask much to do with the bird at all. Responses varied, but it was mostly around how they felt. That’s the world though. We live in our own reality responding to the world through our own perceptions of how it makes us feel, keen to share our feelings with others.
I raced outside to see if it was ok and it sat on the ground stunned. Conscious, but seemingly unable to move.  As I crouched beside it, I reached out and gently stroked its beautiful green plumage with the back of my finger. It didn’t even try to get away, and I felt a twinge of sadness that it was too stunned to even edge away from me. That stupid bird was going to get hit by a car if it didn’t move. Die by accident, after surviving the original fall.
I called the bird rescue people and the lovely lady on the phone told me to “pop in in a box with a towel, and if it isn’t mobile in 30 minutes call the SPCA.” So I raced around trying to find a towel, getting a box the right side, and ran back outside.  As I walked towards the bird, I gently crooned about how I was going to help it. It took one look at me, shook its head, and flew for the nearest tree, crashing through the branches with a reassuring racket of a sturdy wing-flap.
I stood like an idiot in the middle of the car park, holding a box and a towel, feeling a bit grumpy that I have wasted my time when it was going to get better anyway. And as I wandered off my heart gave a twinge.

Depression is so much like hitting a glass window.
All of a sudden, all you can see is what’s right in front of you.
You don’t really care about the risks, the dangers, the things you are blindly sitting in front of, because you are too damn fuzzy to think that far out from your glass bubble. And the scary thing is that the longer you sit there, the more danger there is outside that bubble, the more you are scared to break out and look up and see, really see what’s there. There isn’t really anything out there, your own fears build up, caught in that bubble with no where to go. Whats out there? Just the good stuff you are missing while you stay still.  

The reality is that there are probably people looking at you worrying, scared to pick you up, scared you are so badly hurt, that they will damage you more if they try. Scared that you will flap your wings and hurt them, make them look a fool, make them the bad guy. Scared that you will get better while they are watching and know that they were staring. Scared to witness you getting worse, will it be their fault now they know?
All you need is a box. A safe place to just be, so that when you are ready to shake your head and try to fly again, there aren’t any real dangers outside your bubble, just your own fears, staring back at you.
Thank you to those who are my box.
Thank you to those who line it, warm it, feed me, continue to love me even though I don’t show any sign of wanting anyone to. Thanks to the people who watch, who care, even if they can’t do anything, or are scared. Thank you. It’s annoying, and frustrating, and scary, and not everyone is good at this.
But sometimes all I need is a safe place to sit, until I can see my horizon again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's PC gone mad, the feminazis are winning...

I’ve found it fascinating watching the men and women around me and on social media discussing a high profile case this week.
There has been an overwhelmingly male chorus singing from a familiar song book. I may be being unfair to men, in that in most cases they spoke over the top of, or instead of women, so the women may have shared their view – I just didn’t hear it. These voices were at work, on radio panels (I’m looking at you RNZ) and on social media. The songs were “it’s PC gone mad” and “he is a really nice guy” “He is really well respected” “he is just a touchy feely guy”.

Most people are.                

 Very few people have their friends and colleagues spouting off to the media about what an asshole they are. Most people have a place where they fit in and feel at home. Most people have mates who think they are a good bloke, a top guy, a bit of a hard case.
It doesn’t mean that for some people they aren’t a danger, an unsafe person, a creeper, that person at work that you avoid. And just because your mother/colleague/wife loves you, doesn’t mean you aren’t a total asshole to someone else.

I would really like people to remember two key things.
      1)     It’s REALLY important to remember that safe is a movable line, and it is set by the receiver of contact, not the giver.
      2 )     Creepy out of line behaviour doesn’t happen because people are always sneaky. It happens because people are entitled and the people around them let it happen.

Here is an easy example of that movable safe line…
People who catch crowded commuter trains in Japan will feel safer with someone standing close next to them on public transport than people that commute on NZ trains. Your personal bubble is what you are used to, and it is often the same among people of the same living environs/culture. But even within a one similar group, not everyone is the same, and direct physical contact beyond a basic handshake should be carefully evaluated. People who have their personal safety violated in the past will not feel safe with hugs from randoms that might be seen as totally okay by the other 60% of the workforce.

As a self-aware professional, it is part of my job to assess how I interact with my colleagues just as much as I do my clients. I can easily go a day without physical contact and come to work for the next twenty years. Missing out on physical touch is nothing compared to the feeling of someone encroaching on your personal space and feeling like you are in a constant state of defence. People need to stop seriously thinking that their right to touch others as they see “normal” is equally important as someone else’s right to NOT BE TOUCHED WITHOUT ASKING.
Any sense that your way is the best way and people should just accept your behaviour involving their space and body is a massively entitled view. This is an especially odd view when you consider that most of the men I was listening to today were deeply concerned at their rapidly vanishing super important right to act how they choose at work. So they DO UNDERSTAND THAT WE HAVE RIGHTS.
Our right to feel safe just isn’t as important as their right to do what they want.

Heads up lads. You will know when the feminazis are winning, and it won’t be because you can’t harass us at work. It will be when you are held accountable for those actions and the population stops seeing you as a nice guy for it. I'm gonna add in an extra wish that the media ceases it's witch hunts of women who dare to complain.
It doesn’t seem that extreme to me. But then, what would I know?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

National Party alleged rape culture

TW: Discussion of rape culture.

In all the anger about the revelations in Nicky Hager’s book, I’ve seen massive discussions and posts about the SIS, Judith Collins’s toxic behaviour, and the various systems of corruption visible in the transcripts.
Mainstream media has been transfixed on Cameron Slater, Kim Dotcom, and the Key personalities involved (capitalisation and pun intended). There have been angry ripples through the left wing and feminist blogosphere, but I’ve been saddened to see that neither the mainstream media nor the right wing feminists picking up on this particular piece of revoltingness.

thanks to @boganetteNZ for the image

If we cast our minds back to the roast busters case where the entire nation was in an uproar (rightly so) because of the rape culture of our young people,  Prime Minister John Key condemned the alleged actions of the Roast Busters gang as "extremely disturbing and disgusting behaviour".  
"I guess, as a parent, I find the issue very disturbing and abhorrent really.”
"I mean, you are talking about youngsters who are at a very delicate age."
"These young guys should just growup,"

Just to clarify, a grown man knows that young people are vulnerable.
A grown man wants kids to “grow up” and presumably grow out of the toxic rape culture they seem to be embracing.
And what are some of the fully grown adult male supporters of the national party doing?
Deliberately getting young women drunk and pointing out “easy targets” for other National party supporters.
National party; these are your men, your party, your culture. This is your problem.
The fact that someone allegedly sent this email means that they feel so comfortable with the idea of what they are planning to do they were happy to write it down. Comfortable with seeing women as a faceless commodity. Comfortable with the idea that they have the right to compromise the sobriety of women, and deliberately pass “references” on to a group of men.
This comfort means that the rape culture is pervasive, it is normalised, and it is persistent.
Mainstream media, PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME how all of a sudden this rape culture isn’t news worthy? Explain to me how, once the perpetrators are adults, and affiliated with our leading political party – THIS ISNT NEWS??

Young Nats, please talk to your friends. Check in, ensure they are ok.
If you think you have been a target, please consider seeking help or support around this. At the bottom of this post are some resources you can use without having to report officially, if you aren’t ready to take that step yet.
A toxic rape culture isn’t a single individual.
At no point in this scenario are the targets to blame. They are at their own party event.
They are among people they look up to and need as mentors and leaders.
The idea that they are being used by these men and treated with such disrespect makes me feel sick.


Find a sexual support centre near you at the Rape prevention education website “get help” page.

Wellington rape crisis
(04) 801 8973

Auckland Sexual Abuse Help
PO Box 10345 Dominion Road
Crisis 24 hrs: 09 623 1700
Fax: 09 623 1296

Hamilton Rape and Sexual Abuse Healing Centre
PO Box 1560, Hamilton
Phone: 07 839 4433
Fax: 07 839 4422

Whangarei Rape Crisis
72 Robert St, PO Box 913, Whangarei
Phone: 09 438 6221
Fax: 09 548 6779

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Remembering Robin Williams with Pride

Robin Williams died last night. There is nothing more final, more complete. But people around the world are sharing his stories, his jokes, and his characters. People will remember him for generations thanks to the work he chose to do, making people happy.
I want you all for a moment to step back from how he died, to how long he lived with his troubles. What those troubles are is irrelevant. We all have them, some of us are privileged enough that we don’t have them permanently. He carried that bag of troubles for his lifetime, and the fact it was a little shorter is irrelevant.
The length of that life doesn’t change the brilliance of it, or the bravery of sticking with it.
The manner in which he died should not minimise the joy that he spread all over the globe in his work.
And if we do one thing in his memory, it is to feel pride, empathy, and understanding that people who struggle with mental illness are the best and brightest this world sees. Their brains work in different ways, and their empathy is strong.

The easiest way I can describe it is that we are all light houses, alone, protecting our dangerous rocks. We shine light into each other’s lives and that is all that matters.
People with mental illness break the mold. Our mirrors are wonky, our lights are often brighter and sometimes more dull, but oh my goodness. With those wonky mirrors and sparkling lights, we can be seen for MILES.

So hold up your chins and remember Robin with a smile, because he is proof that mental illness changes nothing for the world around you, except that you shine differently. Those burdens are your own, but your friends will help you with them, just for the chance to be nearer to your light.
Rest in peace Robin, and don’t give up shining, any of you.


Places where they will help

Lifeline 0800 543 354

Depression NZ

Mental health NZ

National depression hotline 0800 111 757

Youthline 0800 376 633

Alcohol Hotline 0800 787 797

Outline 0800 802 437

Chinese Lifeline 0800 888 880

The lowdown Or text the lowdown team on 5626

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Shouting from water skis

Sometimes being a woman in a male dominated field feels a bit like trying to teach from water-skis.
No water-skis are not the best platform to teach from.
No people don’t hear you as well over the roar of engines and water.
Yes, you will probably fail more often
You lose people’s attention more when people are focused on where you are rather than what you are saying.
It’s exhausting, and even the easiest lesson is hard to do from a difficult place to stand.
But if that is the ONLY space you have to teach from, and people will watch, because of the spectacle then what are you going to do?
Quit and lose your voice and audience?
Fight for a better space and risk people refusing to tow you?
Or carry on and hope like hell eventually someone sees how stupid this is and gives you a more appropriate space to teach from in the future.
All of the above options are entirely legitimate, and I wouldn’t judge anyone who took any of those options. I also don’t blame people who don’t even go into those spaces because they aren’t well enough, fit enough, have enough time, or can deal with the stress of such an unpleasant work environment.
Refusing to work on skis isn’t unreasonable.
Refusing to provide a better space for women to work and have a platform IS.
The fact that some of our most interesting scientists in New Zealand (I can name Siouxsie Wiles, Christine Winterbourn, Heather Hendrickson, Margaret Brimble, and Judy O'Brien off the top of my head) are not seen regularly in our media is a damn waste, and frankly it’s a bit of a surprise that even Souxsie with her bright pink hair and award for science communication is mostly under the mainstream radar.
Dr Dickinson is getting there, and she is getting there on the shittiest water skis possible. BUT SHE IS GETTING THERE.
While we watch the rubbish she has to deal with, hoops she has to jump through, and unreasonableness of her environment, let’s take the focus off the stunts she has to pull, and on why that’s the ONLY SPACE SHE HAS FOUND AN AUDIANCE.
Because I’m pretty damn sure that if anyone had any kind of choice, they wouldn’t work with people who undermine them, degrade them, and bring their personal life into a professional discussion. But we do.
Because that is the only space we have.
Let’s stop pointing at the women who are the spectacle and start looking at why that’s the only space women have voices.
This post is cross-posted to The Hand Mirror

Friday, June 27, 2014

Why I think you are Creepy.

I started to write a piece on what sends out warning signs for “rapey” behaviour, and before I got too far I decided I wanted current examples from twitter discussions. Scrolling through the conversations happening under the terms rape and consent on twitter I came to a startling realisation.I had never considered why someone would argue in support of someone’s rape behaviour, and I suddenly realised that my firm belief that most people are decent humans and wouldn’t deliberately hurt someone goes completely against what I see every day – assholes gagging to argue with me about what they are “allowed” (see legal definition of rape) to do to someone else’s body.

People on what I would call “My side” of the argument (pro-consent, anti-rape-culture) were making impassioned pleas for people to stop and listen to the idea that they should wait for full consent.
-To try to understand that simply not fighting back isn’t consent

-To stop minimising how fucking traumatic date rape is just because the victim knows the rapist.

In one particularly revolting discussion they failed to make a man understand that a wife has the right to refuse sex, and ignoring that refusal IS rape.

In most of these arguments a man (I try REALLY hard not to make this a gender issue because rape affects both men and women, but I’m sorry to say the majority of rapists are cis men.) is working his little heart out to validate his point. Getting really worked up, really distressed and at times incredibly ANGRY trying to make the point that is not REALLY rape because

And I suddenly thought... why the hell they are fighting SO HARD for their rights to someone else’s body.

I could only come up with 3 possible answers

1)    They are so sheltered they genuinely have no idea of how horrific these discussions are for many people, and they are so privileged they genuinely believe it, and so arrogant they won’t consider that they might be wrong.

2)    They have acted in a manner that would fit under the heading of rape, but isn’t straightforward violent, stereotypical rape, and they only just realised that, and they are fighting for their reputation, even if it’s just to feel ok about themselves.

3)    They genuinely believe they have the right over other people’s bodies at certain times, or with certain people, or under certain circumstances.

Group one and three are easily solved with a better understanding of rape culture from the get-go, better education of men and women about consent, and a society that supports people’s right to choose. I’m going to leave them to one side except to say that if you fit in those categories sit down, shut up, and listen. JUST LISTEN. Maybe you will learn something.
I don’t think group 3 are particularly common, until you start to raise the issue of inebriation. And then the line gets really freaking blurry, and there are a scary number of “good people” who will fight a person’s right to bodily autonomy because they WANT them and the target isn’t in their right mind anymore.

And then it struck me like I had run into a wall.
All these people fighting alongside me are fighting for the right to never be touched again if that is their choice. This choice hurts no one, and changes no one else’s life. But it means the WORLD to us.
Those fighting against us are fighting for their right to someone else’s body, on their terms when they want it.  Just because they WANT IT. They don’t NEED it. It doesn’t change their world or make them a different person. They just WANT it.
You SERIOUSLY think that your right to someone else’s body is more important than anything else.
You will fight tooth and nail for that right.
What do you get if you lose that right? Nothing. You get to go home and have sex with yourself.
What do I lose if you rape me? A sense of bodily autonomy, safety, strength, health. I lose a lot for your “right” to touch me.
So you people arguing the ins and outs of ‘date rape’ or ‘is it really rape if you have had sex before’ or ‘is it rape if she is my wife’. Either you are so fucking selfish that your right to pleasure using another body is more important than my bodily autonomy…

Or you aren’t actually arguing about sex at all. The ingrained sense of entitlement to someone else’s body is so strong that you are scared that you won’t just walk away and leave the drunk girl passed out on the couch. You are frightened that your communication is so crap that you won’t see the signs that they don’t want you to keep touching them but they are too scared to speak.
And you don’t want to be charged as a criminal.
That’s why you seem creepy.

Either you are arguing THAT passionately for your right to MY body...  Or you have already decided that you want it, don’t have enough control to wait until I’m sober/conscious/in a better frame of mind, will take it, and are arguing that you shouldn’t be charged.

Creepy. Super super creepy.

Have some self-control. Yeah, maybe you will have less sex with other people, but who the hell told you that was a right, rather than something you earn IF someone cares enough about you, or finds you appealing enough to suit their tastes.
I can tell you right now that if someone left a note in my purse at a party saying “wow, you were toasted, and I really like you, call me when you are sober and we can hook up” I would probably call that person.

Consent, it’s sexy.

Silence, because not everyone feels able to speak up...

Today is the National day of silence.
This is a piece written by an ally for allys, it is very 101 level, please keep this in mind.

I often worry about feminism on NZ twitter being an echo chamber, but I haven’t seen much this week about today’s call to action, which made me think that if I’m in an echo chamber, surely this message should be coming through?
Perhaps enough people aren’t sharing the issues that rainbow youth are struggling with…
It seems counter intuitive that a day of silence should empower voices, but the aim is not simply to not speak up. It is to share the cause, using a multitude of ways.

Selfies for silence is one of those non-verbal ways; take a look at the great messages coming through.

Often those who are in a position where they feel unsafe don’t or can’t speak up to enable their cause. The people who are on the frontlines of Rainbow youth are immobilised in a variety of ways.
Of the students who had been bullied in NZ, FIVE TIMES AS MANY (33%) had been bullied because they were gay or because of perceived sexuality compared to their heterosexual peers (6%).
The Youth 12 report on transgender students shows that nearly 20% had attempted suicide in the previous year and nearly 50% had been physically abused.  I sure as hell wouldn’t feel strong enough to speak up on the little stuff in those circumstances let alone advocate vocally for the rights of my peers.

Often those who are in support are afraid to speak up because they don’t want to become targets for bullies themselves. I’ve been in that trap myself, even as an adult. There are days when I don’t have the mental capacity or I’m too afraid of repercussions to speak up on my beliefs outside of my twitter bubble.
The Day of silence is a timely reminder that there are more ways to show our friends, family and community that we are allies, and for those who don’t feel able to speak up, to be able to do it in a variety of ways.
Being the person shouting at the front line isn’t for everyone, and shouldn’t have to be.

Ways I can lift the silence.

Wear a set of 100% OK coloured bracelets. Give them away to the people in your life who also want to be allies.

Display a 100% OK sticker, rainbow sticker or other symbol prominently at your café / shop / church / marae / place of work, you might be surprised at how many people come out as an ally, or part of the rainbow community.

 Don’t let slurs or derogatory jokes slide at work or school.
“Can you use a different term to mean bad please” is all you need to say.
Or “I don’t understand the joke”. And then walk away.
You don’t owe an explanation, the expectation of not demeaning other people is entirely reasonable.

 Read, research and learn and keep lines of communication open. If you feel “attacked” for your lack of understanding, take a breath, learn some more and apologise if you realise you were wrong.

 The NZ day of Silence has made it to the mainstream media but only in small pieces, and much like all activism, it needs amplifying and sharing in order to help the message get out to a wider audience. Below are two links you could share on Facebook.

TV 3 news - Day of Silence sweeps schools