Breast is best

Like most things in life these days feeding a baby has become very complicated and no doubt really expensive. I took a look at some of these infant formula websites and found that babies are not just being fed infant formula for the first few months of life but they can also have a follow on formula when they are  6-12 months old. Even toddlers who are 1-3 years are being catered for with a new product called toddler milk drink. (more…)

‘Bande de Filles’- Girlhood

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If you think your life is difficult, or that your future lacks promise, well check out Girlhood, a film by Celine Sciamma, released in France as Bande de filles, or Girl Gang.

Many reviewers have written that this film was about female empowerment but I fail to see how they have come to this conclusion. Instead, I think that Girlhood is a stark reminder of the struggle which continues for the needs and rights of women to education and a decent livelihood.

Protagonist Mariame lives in the poor suburbs of Paris in a high-rise apartment with her mother who we rarely see for she is the sole bread-winner; her abusive brother; and her two sisters for whom Mariame provides daily care. Girlhood shows us a view of Paris that we don’t usually see. Life is tough; there are street gangs and drug deals and for Mariame the chance of a better life seems unlikely for at sixteen she is unable to continue with high school due to her low grades. She leaves home knowing that if she stays she faces a life such as the one led by her mother who cleans hotel rooms for a living or married to her boyfriend and bearing his babies. Marianne knows this is not the life she wants.

But there are dangers in the real world and for a time Mariame teams up with a desperate girl gang even stealing for them and funding their entertainment, their drinking and drug taking. And the bleak realities of her life continue to surface as Mariame now known as ‘Vic’ starts selling drugs. Dressed in her small red dress, her short blonde wig and balancing awkwardly on her stillettos, the teenager from the African diaspora is most uncomfortable and at the end of the deals quickly retreats from her sexualised appearance to baggy jeans and sweatshirt – her hair cut short and her breasts bound tight.

Finding a way out of her dilemma is difficult. She has left the employ of the drug dealer and has nowhere left to go. We witness the young teenager seeking solace with her boyfriend but the wise young woman knows this will not work in the long-term. She hesitatingly knocks on the door of her family home but doesn’t go in. This is no solution. At the final scene we see her standing on a balcony contemplating her next move. There is silence, we wonder, and then she struts across the screen. There is some lightness in her final steps and we are left to hope.

Screen shot 2015-09-06 at 2.16.11 PMBefore the screening of Girlhood at the Nova Cinema last week we were shown a preview of a forthcoming film He named me Malala which Chronicles the amazing life thus far of the globally beloved education and children’s rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai. At the age of 15, Malala was famous only in her home region of Swat Valley in Pakistan, where she was an outspoken advocate of education for girls. This all changed when she was attacked by Taliban gunmen, who shot the teenager in the head. Miraculously she survived, and her story reverberated around the world in shock, outrage, and awed wonder at her bravery. Her passion for the rights of girls to education continues and as we saw so clearly evident in Girlhood in the plight of Mariame and her gang, for the young women who don’t have an education and a chance at a decent job, the road ahead and away from poverty and abuse is a really tough one.

 

Our dangerous culture

Screen shot 2015-07-22 at 2.56.35 PMIn  A coach, his killing and our dangerous culture, long-time anti-violence campaigner, Phil Cleary writes that unlike mainstream Australia, he didn’t respond with disbelief when he heard the news that Adelaide coach Phil Walsh had been killed, allegedly by his own son, for since the murder of his sister at the hands of an ex-boyfriend nearly 28 years ago, Cleary has long ceased being shocked by “domestic murders”. He reminds us that in Australia each year around 60 women are murdered by partners or ex-partners.

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Why stop at poppies!

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It was common at the start of the 20th century to speak of ‘ Australian Ideals’. What are our values and ideals today? Perhaps those who so generously supported the 5000 Poppy campaign could use their goodwill to help Australia progress rather than feed its militaristic tendencies. And rather than answer the call to knit or crochet a poppy perhaps these resources could be spent on the many social problems of our time. Why stop at poppies! (more…)

So much more than good cooks!

This week, The Australian published an obituary for beloved and best-selling Australian author, Colleen McCullough. Her obituary opened with:

Screen shot 2015-01-31 at 1.37.42 PMCOLLEEN McCullough, Australia’s best-selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: “I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.”

Readers responded angrily to McCullough’s obituary, labelling it sexist. McCullough, who died on Thursday at the age of 77, worked as a neuroscientist in the United States before turning to writing full-time and yet her obituary began by describing her as “plain of feature” and “overweight”.  ABC journalist Joanna McCarthy tweeted the article along with the words: “Award for worst opening lines of an obituary goes to …#everydaysexism.

But sadly it’s not unusual for women to spoken about in terms of beauty and sex appeal, rather than with respect for intelligence and a lifetime of achievement. Effie Mann writing in The Age recalls The New York Times’ obituary for rocket scientist Yvonne Brill, whose professional achievements were listed below her cooking prowess  and success as a dedicated wife and mother. The first paragraph of her obit described her as a woman who “made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. 

I recall being at my mother’s funeral where I overheard a remark made by one of her former acquaintances who’d been surprised by the stories she’d heard of the richness of our mother’s life before she became ill. ‘I didn’t know Marion did all that,’ she said quietly to her companion. What this person didn’t know was that mum was very talented in dressmaking, gardening and crafts. She had left school early to care for her large family after her mother had died at the age of 47 years, so although she hadn’t had the career chances that her daughters have had, she made the very best of her situation.

Many of those attending her funeral service only knew Marion as our father’s wife and our mother. Father was the successful Managing Director and the local church elder. He sang in the church choir and helped elderly ladies with their finances. It was mostly all about Morrie.

So when friends and relations listened to the many splendid speeches devoted to Marion they heard about a woman in her own right: Talented in crafts, always quick to knit or sew or bake what was required for the village fete. She was a keen and skilful gardener, devoted to her beautiful garden, loved playing lawn bowls, and she enjoyed the company of her many women friends. This personal testimony to our mother preceded any mention of her role as a dutiful wife and mother.

Whereas my mother’s singular life was respected, the same cannot be said of the funerals of my aunts. Sadly, I can only recall the lives of these women being remembered in terms of how well they cooked. Speech after speech spoken by loving daughters, sons and grandchildren remembered my aunts, Jean, Marge and Betty as great cooks, willing babysitters and little else. I’m so glad that Marion was remembered as a woman who was very talented in the crafts, was great at sport and a keen and fruitful gardener. Mum and her sisters weren’t career women – their lives were largely spent caring for us and supporting their men. But mum sought an outlet in her very many interests even so.

I understand why our mother was remembered as a woman first and mother and wife second. My sisters and I had grown up in the 1950s with a very controlling father. We had married early but divorced and were at the time living as single mothers. My sister’s speech and respect for our mother emanated from the changes in society wrought by feminists.

But as Colleen McCullough’s sexist obituary revealed this week we still have a long way to go yet before due respect is shown for the complexity of the lives women lead.

 

 

 

 

 

What price marriage?

Screen shot 2014-12-08 at 10.45.57 AMMy sister and her partner are going to marry. Both had long previous marriages which they were happy to leave. They had brought up their children and once they were gone found the marriages over, pointless, empty and left.

My best friend left me and married again. Thanks Loretta for telling me that you married your best friend – formally my best friend. I would never have imagined him remarrying nor did I think my sister would be taking matrimonial vows again.

My sister, four years my senior was an early devotee of feminism. While married and with young children she studied women’s studies at university in the 1980s. Her liberation ensued; she began to smoke and had her own ‘room’ . Her husband seemed supportive of her new-found freedom and their fragile marriage limped on for a few more years.

I never imagined my former best friend would marry again and yet he did. He didn’t agree with monogamy, said if anything he preferred an open marriage – having the occasional extramarital affair but remaining married. Having it all ways really.

And several years ago my former husband remarried. I wasn’t surprised at his decision to marry for he never wanted to divorce and needed a woman to own. But all has not gone smoothly for this marriage which recently experienced a messy breakup, followed by a mutual reconciliation and at present the rocky relationship continues.

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And as I write this blog my daughter is tying the knot on a romantic holiday in Thailand. This is the first time for her and the second try for her husband to be – I wish them the best of luck!

Seems everyone wants to be married-I wonder why. I couldn’t wait to be out of my 17 years of marriage. In the late 1960s and early 70s it was still uncommon to leave your family and live with a partner. To do this you had to be married so most people did. I think that my marriage survived as long as it did due to the flurry of activity that was involved having children and rearing them. One just got on with it. There was not a lot of time to think things through and although the disagreements and fights were common the union continued until a certain point when it became impossible. It was then that I had to make the big break and have the marriage dissolved.

There was no freedom to be my self within my marriage. When I returned to study and became pleasantly absorbed in student life, I knew that it was time to leave my marriage. My husband could not stand my new love of learning for I was less available to him. This freedom to learn and change is difficult to do in the traditional marriage. Marriage is, after all a patriarchal institution. Even though the intent of the modern marriage and hopefully the practice has changed it still has at its roots the ownership of women and children by men – its establishment and its continuance being heavily supported by the state and the church.

Screen shot 2014-12-21 at 11.56.43 AMAnd so I have to wonder why being single isn’t given the same recognition and support. To be able to function, earn a living, contribute to society as a single woman should be seen as a worthy way to live. I have time to think, learn and write – these are really valuable components of a rich life, well lived. Of course there are many downsides. I have just returned from a visit to a neighbour who is unable to walk due to a foot operation that will put her out of action for six weeks. She tells me that her husband is doing the house work and caring for her daily needs. I would not have this help and must maintain my independence by looking after my health and fitness. But I believe this is a small price to pay for having an authentic life.

In search of cerebral content

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What happened to the opinion page? Remember The Age  when it was a broadsheet and there were three or more opinion pieces in the middle pages that bordered the letters to the editor. These were lengthy pieces of analysis  on topics relating to current public debate. Usually 800-1000 words of worthy content  engaging the reader and leading to enjoyable swapping of ideas and information among family and friends later in the day. Of course there are still opinion pieces  in The Age but these are poor replacements, and badly positioned so as not to be  easily seen and rarely read.

And as for ABC radio: Jonathan Holmes former host on ABC TV’s ‘Media Watch’ and now a columnist at The Age recently wrote about content in this digital era lamenting the fact that on Radio National, long-form, specialist journalism is being down-sized in favour of the radio equivalent of fast food. This is sad for those of us who like to read and listen to programs that make us think and not just designed to dumb us down.

Article%20Lead%20-%20narrow6376523111ysdvimage_related_articleLeadNarrow_353x0_11ypkf_png1417557002488_jpg-300x0And it’s not just radio, TV and newsprint that are changing for the worse, it’s the cinema too. Reflecting on her 28 years presenting ‘The Movie Show’, retiring presenter Margaret Pomeranz says: the big change has been how much money has come to dominate the industry, with studios bankrolling sequels but not taking risks on smaller films.

And then there’s the publishing industry – same problem, different product. This time it’s books and the wonderful ideas within that are at risk from technology giants such as Google, Amazon and Apple .

The blurb for  Bibliodiversity: A Manifesto for Independent Publishing written by Susan Hawthorne reads:  In a globalised world, megacorp publishing is all about numbers, about sameness, about following a formula based on the latest megasuccess. Each book is expected to pay for itself and all the externalities of publishing such as offices and CEO salaries. It means that books which take off slowly but have long lives, the books that change social 269norms, are less likely to be published.

Independent publishers such as Susan Hawthorne of Spinifex Press are seeking another way. A way of engagement with society and methods that reflect something important about the locale or the niche they inhabit. In  Bibliodiversity Hawthorne writes that Independent and small publishers are like rare plants that pop up among the larger growth but add something different, perhaps they feed the soil, bring colour or scent into the world.

We need to cherish our remaining newspapers, our beleaguered ABC , and nurture our book and movie industries from which we gain so much.  And in the words of author P.D James who died last week: Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.

And hang on to the dwindling hope that good content sees the light of day in a world where money, not thought, rules.

Write what you need to write!

P.D. James on writing:
Screen shot 2014-11-28 at 4.39.11 PM“Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.” (more…)

Surrogacy-male violence against poor women

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On ABC TV’s ‘Foreign Correspondent’ program July 8, reporter Jane Cowan took a critical look at commercial surrogacy. The Last Resort was filmed in Cancun, Mexico where poor women, often from rural villages come to the popular tourist city hoping to become surrogate mothers. In Mexico successful surrogates are paid up to $13,000 for the delivery of a child to desperate infertile western couples.

The business of surrogacy takes place at Planet Hospital, run by ‘rogue operator’ Rudi Ruprak, a former software developer. Now I would have thought that anyone running a surrogacy business would have to be medically trained but this is not how it happens at least here in Mexico, and in India and Panama where Ruprak has operated and left failed surrogacy ventures.

A former employee-turned patient claimed that Ruprak targets gay couples and single people who due to India’s new surrogacy laws find it difficult to access surrogacy there. In Cancun, Planet Hospital draws its surrogates from poor women, often those escaping male violence, women essentially alone and vulnerable. One of the women featured on the program dreamt of becoming a surrogate so as to earn enough to set up a business enabling her to support her extended family. Sadly her hopes were never realised. When she miscarried at four months, Planet Hospital had already closed its doors leaving the former surrogate penniless and alone in Mexico. She mourns the loss of the child saying :’We also have feelings’. And the gay man who spent $22,500 on embryos could not even access them because as the business went belly-up his embryos were locked away and only accessible should he agree to pay off some of the failed companies’ debts.

I think that this was a powerful program and one that concentrated on the lack of regulations that exist in the industry. There was not a lot of emphasis on the abuses that the women are subjected to, such as the physical effects of the surrogacy and its accompanying treatments, the deprivation of a normal life for the nine months when the women are essentially locked up and kept apart from family and friends. And then if they make it to the end of the pregnancy, once they give birth, they are separated forever from the child. This is abuse and exploitation of women and especially of the poorest, most vulnerable of women who have little job prospects and need this money to improve their families’ lives.

This program makes us think: Does everyone have to have a child? Because this is an industry that only exists because increasingly society seems to believe that everyone is  owed a child while in reality there are plenty of unfortunate children who need the love and attention of rich, childless people.


Screen shot 2014-07-12 at 5.49.51 PMKajsa Ekis Ekman, author of ‘Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self’ claims that surrogacy is ‘child trafficking’. She refers to the industry as a ‘capitalist creation story’ where the parent is the one who pays and the product is a baby. Ekman is to speak at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House in August. The organisers of the festival have labelled her talk with the provocative title: Surrogacy is child trafficking. Kajsa’s presentation is sure to get the attention it deserves!

 

More bad news for women with breast implants

Screen shot 2014-04-01 at 7.03.00 PM There’s more bad news for women with breast implants. Two years ago, women worldwide had their faulty breast implants removed following reports of implant ruptures, and the revelation that the manufacturer, Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) had used industrial-grade silicone.

Consequently many Australian women needed to have their PIP implants replaced with another brand called Cereform which has also been recalled due to problems with sterilisation.

There have been about 4,800 Cereform implants sold in Australia since 2009. Incredibly these Cereform implants come from the same distributor as the faulty PIP implants. How has this been allowed to happen?

Authorities expect that many Australian women will run the risk of infection arising from their Cereform implants.

One of these unfortunate women, Christine Stephen told the ABC Health reporter Sophie Scott she had not been told that her Cereform implants came from the same distributor as PIP. The Cairns woman had her PIP implants removed after one ruptured. Her troubles did not end there for she went on to develop a severe infection around her replacement Cereform implants and has had to spend $25,000 on surgeries so far.

Why do women submit themselves to this risky and often unnecessary surgery?

To ask such a question is to risk the ire of many who would reply that it is a woman’s right to choose to do this. But is it as simple as that?

Surely this lifestyle choice makes it all the more difficult for other women to be happy with their bodies, in this case with their breasts. The media, awash with images of bigger, rounder and neater breasts, feeds our insecurities continually as does the lucrative breast implant industry.

We really need to change this destructive attitude. Imagine spending around $5000 for implants!  Particularly when you consider the likelihood of infection, added surgery, ruptures, connective tissue disease – just to name a few of the possible complications.

Safer to stay with the real ones.

 

 

 

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