Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Our first Ballroom class

I decided to blog about starting ballroom dancing. Maybe I can encourage others to join us. We decided to take ballroom classes for a variety of reasons, I can’t speak for J, but for myself the idea of being able to dance with my boyfriend and know a set of rules that would mean we had legitimacy on a dance floor was pretty appealing.  I used to dance, a lot, shamelessly, and with joy. I did jazz, and ballroom, and ceroc, and musical theatre. I wasn’t wonderful at any of them, but I was ok, and entirely brazen. And then I had an injury and got fat and my world changed. Doing hilarious dance moves badly seemed to have a different response from the world around me. It wasn’t socially acceptable anymore, it was sad clowning. People described my ceroc as “brave” and I got sick of it and left.
movies dance dancing happy charlies angels
My partner is also big, and the two of us have our own issues about our visibility in the world. We don’t talk about the negative stuff, just the positive, keep our attitudes good, and support each other to be ourselves. But the insecurities show in the cracks.  My theory was that if we follow the rules and do the moves well, we DESERVE the dance floor. We will be allowed to take up space. It’s the stupidest thing I have ever typed, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the negative thoughts that occur even from someone actively promoting HAES and body positivity. And it makes me sad. So when I do get out there I am going to do it with flair, I’m going to stay and do some stupid moves. I’m gonna own that space once I get it back.
Because I never should have given it up in the first place.

Our first class was SCARY. I knew the moves, but my body doesn’t move like it used to, and due to med side effects spinning makes me terribly dizzy. J looked a little like I had just put him on a plane to skydive without his permission. Taking the leap to try something new is scary enough, but to try it when you aren’t even sure you will be able to do it is a whole other level of bravery. I am in awe of him. And if you want to check that you are in a loving supportive trusting relationship; go to a dance class together. You both feel so vulnerable it’s a great time to let each other down, or lash out. And when you don’t? Well that’s pretty damn cool.
As for the class, the teachers were FAB. Jeremy would quietly eye up the dancers when he wasn’t showing us the moves, and in the next segment he would highlight a new tip to fix an issue he had noted, and one more person would get it. And he just kept going. No frustration, no focus on any particular person, just patient examples and exercises to help us correct our own mistakes.  “Stomp this footwork this time; that way you will absolutely feel those correct weight changes of your feet… LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT STOMP STOMP STOMP.” It was ridiculous and fun, and the room full of flustered adults laughed at themselves and godzilla’d their way through the fox trot routine.

Not surprisingly we were awkward and wrong footed, and I kept getting distracted with whether J was ok, and missing my own instructions. And then with a bit of practice and someone literally yelling LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT at us, there was a click and we were DANCING. TOGETHER. I knew it would be tricky, but I hadn’t realised the excitement that would flood across me, appreciating that we were actually doing it, within 30 minutes of our first class. I just kept grinning at him “We are DANCING”.
It all seemed worth it, once that click happened.

For those of you who have come to this page because you have googled “WTF do I do at my first dance class”… here are some first week lessons I have learnt.
Tips from a person who has been to ONE class.

It doesn’t seem to matter what you wear at first, so wear what you feel comfy in. I wore jeans that I could move easily in, and a shirt long enough that my tummy doesn’t show if I raise my hands up. My shoes were a pair of comfy boots with a low heel and smoothish sole. At a beginner level your shoes will make bugger all difference, but wear something supportive and comfy, and perhaps with a bit of protection for your feet?

Deodorize, I mean, REALLY. Imagine you are going to work out at the gym and then have to hug all the people there. Take deodorant with you. Take a towel. Take a spare shirt if you like. I got super sweaty.  

Take a water bottle. I got so hot and anxious that my throat felt dry and I was really glad to have water right there. Also, the combo of anxiety sweat and actual heat will mean you will need to rehydrate.

Do what you can to not be smelly – brush your teeth, take mints. …and fart beforehand. The last piece of advice is from J who charmingly informed me he had taken that into account. Cheers buddy, way to make it romantic.

If you have long hair, pull it back. Your hands are both in use dancing. If you are constantly letting go to push hair out of your eyes it will be a pain for you, and terribly distracting for the poor schmuck dancing with you. Remember in a beginner class BOTH people are beginners, and you don’t want to put your partner off.

Don’t wear a sleeveless/backless top/dress. No one wants to touch your sweaty shoulder or back. At least not until class is over. Bare skin is cool for when you are dancing for fun, or with someone who knows you, not when you are rotating through a room full of hot anxious strangers who all have to touch you. I have weird things about touching strangers, and it might just be me, but keep it in mind anyway.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The chubby canary in a feminist mine

Most people have heard the ‘canary in the mine” thing, but I’m just going to quickly explain.  Back in the days before electronic testing, miners would carry a caged canary in the mine with them. If carbon monoxide built up then the canary would die before the man, and give him a heads up to get out of there a.s.a.p. So yeah, the canary was handy, but it got the rough end of the deal.
With all of this discussion of safe and unsafe male allies of feminism (or self-proclaimed feminists), I was interested to notice that several key figures were already not followed by myself and some friends. The news that someone had said something silly was met with “of course” eye rolls. Most of us had un-followed well before any safety issues, or arguments, simply because we hadn’t liked something they tweeted.
None of us could remember why we had un-followed, it was no major issue or insult, and none of us had interacted, we had simply quietly lost them off our feed.
Interestingly we are all body positive, larger sized women, older women, or trans.
I suspect that if you want to know who the effective allies are, look around you at the feminists on your feed that don’t fit the young, slim and cis bill, check who THEY are still following. I get the sinking feeling we may be the chubby canaries of feminism.
We might have a limit for what we won’t cope with that doesn’t bother other people  in the slightest.
But fat shaming isn’t actually that far from victim blaming. Feminism that doesn’t include trans women is a good marker of feminists or allies that don’t try to learn about issues that don’t directly affect them. Ignoring the voices of older feminists or those you find less attractive, is a pretty good indicator that you have unrecognized biases that need to be examined.
In short, it’s an easy fight saying that hitting women is bad, and women should be treated like human beings. As long as you stick to that line, only real jerks would openly debate, and they are fun to kick. It’s not exactly a high bar. I know this because I do it myself, and it’s the easiest part of being a feminist.
And when it comes to pointing this out, most canaries frankly, can’t be bothered. Let the young, pretty, healthy, cisgender, energetic feminists negotiate with the media savvy likable allies who think we are gagging for their help. I can’t be bothered. I have enough battles with people who are overtly unsafe to bother taking on someone who half the feminist community will back up.
It’s not worth the effort, the exclusion and the stress.
Because when you are a “good guy” you can go a long way towards behaving like a crap one, before anyone gets any support to call you out.
Most people are LOVELY people. Most people are loved. Most people in feminism do active work in an important area to help. This isn’t SPECIAL. This isn’t unique. And it isn’t an excuse for degrading women who don’t fit your rules or specifications to be valued or using slurs against women.
So if someone you love is awesome and working hard, and doing good work, and they screw up. Have a quiet word, remind them that we are only as good as our last action, and for gods sakes, resist the urge to shit on the person brave enough to call them out.
Ignoring the canary doesn’t end well for anyone.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Unsuccessful IRL…

Keyboard warriors… people with nothing better to do… SJWs, unsuccessful IRL… not helping in the REAL world…
I quit one of my volunteer roles last week and cried hard about it. I will miss the people I work with, the fun we have, and the identity I held as a volunteer for that organisation. But one of the strangest reasons my volunteer work is important to me, is that as a feminist online the above phrases are used to undermine my comments. I am particularly sensitive to the idea of “simply bickering online” rather than getting out there and “really making a difference”. Frankly, it gets to me.
This is bizarre, because during the day I literally save lives, and since I was 16, I have always had a volunteer job as well as my paid role. I have no reason to feel vulnerable to any accusation of lack of action, and yet it gets to me.  Congrats Jerks.
In the future I may not always be well enough to do a paid job, let alone additional work on top of that. My wellness may deteriorate and I may be stuck at home, “just” online.
And to that I say THAT IS GOOD ENOUGH.
In fact, it’s not only good enough, the communication of equality, equity, fairness, and justice to your community is PIVOTAL. Without good marketing, the best brands fail, and we need a good comms team for the decency of humanity. The other side may not have particularly good communication, but they make up for it in the sheer amount of filth they spew onto the net each day.
When we look at the Violence pyramid above, far fewer people are actually assaulting and physical hurting people than there are making horrible jokes, degrading other people and using problematic language to perpetuate issues. So for every person out there literally saving lives, we need 100 at home explaining to Uncle Jack that his emails are gross and offensive and no one wants them. 50 people need to be online showing their friends that they CAN speak up to racist FB posts. 20 people should be on twitter, expecting more of allies, and speaking up for people being harassed and abused. 5 need to be brave enough at work to ask a colleague to explain how that offensive joke was funny.
The people working at the public face of activism are pivotal, they are important, and even if that IS all they do, it is of value.
To expect more of anyone is rude. It is ableist and objectionable. Most people have lives, families, jobs and health to take care of. The fact any of us have time for this, which we can do from bed, is an unpaid miracle and yes, we have things we would rather be doing!
So next time someone uses “they have nothing else in their lives” or “not really helping” as a critique –think twice about supporting them.

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