Religion

I’ll start this post by detailing my beliefs. I was raised as Catholic, and stopped going to church because of the way the church is run pisses me off, and because I disagree with a substantial amount of doctrine.

I am not convinced on the existence or not of a God/ess and am hedging my bets at this stage. I’m not entirely convinced that Christianity has it right, or any religion on this planet actually… I’m a middle class, white, feminist… who is poly, kinky and bisexual… so that should give you enough background to understand where I’m coming from in this rant.

I will focus mainly on Christianity, because I feel more qualified to comment on that having grown up with and studied Christianity, but there will be bits when I take broad brush strokes at religion and faith in general – regardless of the actual make up of that faith.

This is going to get a little long, and has many links that back up my argument, so I want you to click on those and read them or view them in conjunction with this essay.

Faith and the state of mind

Those who believe in a god, who are religious and devoutly so, seem to suffer less stress and anxiety according to Science Daily. Unfortunately, this can mean that they don’t stress or angst over errors they have made, including driving errors, political errors or other errors which may place peoples’ lives at risk. Sure its positive that religion can make you less stressed, but when you’re a political leader suggesting war or questionable interrogation methods against foreign combatants, I’d personally prefer you to stress about making an error and be 100% sure that you have made the right decision. If you believe that a god will look after you when you are behind the wheel of a car, surely actually driving well and according to road rules will make the road a safer place for you and your family and everyone else. Trust that you know how to drive, not that a deity will look after you.

As Inzlicht (from the above study) states:

“Obviously, anxiety can be negative because if you have too much, you’re paralyzed with fear,” he says. “However, it also serves a very useful function in that it alerts us when we’re making mistakes. If you don’t experience anxiety when you make an error, what impetus do you have to change or improve your behaviour so you don’t make the same mistakes again and again?”

Studies have found that prayer actually physically changes your brain… well prayer/meditation…. so not just a quick prayer before bed, but deep involved prayer or meditation… seeking the divine. NPR reported on the changes that fixating on something can cause and a new field of neurology of “neurotheology”.

Andrew Newberg, as reported in the NPR report, states:

“The more you focus on something — whether that’s math or auto racing or football or God — the more that becomes your reality, the more it becomes written into the neural connections of your brain.”

Newberg scanned several devout religious people, Buddhists, Franciscan Nuns and Sikhs, and looked at how their brains reacted when they meditated/prayed/chanted. He found that in relation to brain reaction, “There is no Christian, there is no Jewish, there is no Muslim, it’s just all one.”

Basically, religion, or any other focused activity, can sculpt your brain, and doing so can be a conscious choice, just as choosing to trust entirely in a deity and not questioning whether you have made mistakes or not is a semi-conscious choice. Personally I think that actually thinking about your actions would be lovely and if you want to sculpt your brain, please do it under guidance from a trained professional.

Blind faith

Blind faith annoys me. Blindly accepting what someone tells you without critically examining it, without thinking about whether or not what you are told is true, whether it matches with the reality that you are living within or even investigating it simply is lazy and sadly, all too frequent.

Many religions are accused of enforcing blind faith amongst their flock, with charismatic leaders not encouraging questioning, outside influence and basically inducing fear that the “other” is evil and Satan influenced.

Thanks to blind face we have “churches” like the Westboro Baptist Church and so called “Christian” pastors like Tom Estes. Neither which, if you look at what they preach and practice seem very Christian from what I was taught be a Christian.

The Friendly Atheist website has an interesting blog post commenting on a post from the naked pastor about those who return to church after a long absence/s. Stuff like:

One discovers almost immediately what the belief system to be embraced is. Critical and inquisitive thinking is generally not welcomed.

The lack of critical and inquisitive thinking causes problems in all sorts of areas, it can lead to suicide bombers (and did you know that the Tamil Tigers (a political organisation) were the first organisation to implement suicide bombing?), it can lead to violence and/or distrust of others who do not share your beliefs, it can lead to groups like the Westboro Baptist Church (for an interesting read on the Westboro Baptist Church, here is a blog written by someone who left) and basically isn’t good for you or society in the long run.

Blind faith can lead to you accepting that shit happens in the world and not questioning why. In March 2009, a gunman wandered into an Illinois church and killed the pastor before stabbing himself and two others. Comment was made as follows:

“Our great God is not surprised by this, or anything,” Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, said in a statement. “That he allows evil and free will to have their way in tragedies like this is a mystery in many ways. But we know we can trust him no matter what, and draw close to him in any circumstances.” (The Age)

I have a big problem with this. This entire statement suggests pre-determinism and an omniscient deity. It also suggests that again putting all your faith in a god, will allow you to shrug off trauma and keep on moving. To suggest that perhaps god planned for a horribly traumatic thing to happen, is rather horrible.

I know that the question of, “if god exists, why is there suffering/evil in the world” troubles a lot of people, but to suggest that your god might have been aware of such evil and suffering about to happen and let it happen anyway, that kind of blind faith is unpalatable. It suggests to me that there is an element of “oh well, they deserved it/they must have done something wrong” which I think sucks. The world is indeed unfair, but the misfortunes of others are not deserved.

Hypocrisy

One thing many religions are very good at is hypocrisy. We can start with evangelical Christian pastors in the US condemning homosexuality and yet practising it, or being caught practising it. Because nothing spells condemning something you think is wrong like practising it. Here are some amusing blog posts about such things:

Unfortunately I can’t find the amazing post I read a few years ago on a Unitarian Universalist website, or affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist church somehow… anyway. The author of this paper (and if someone has a link to it, that’d be lovely) states that the bible talks a whole lot more about looking after the poor than it does condemning homosexuals and that to focus on one act in the bible that is condemned when there are a multitude more passages about caring for the poor than there has been about condemning homosexuality.

Surely the Christian churches should be far more willing to care for poor people and deal with those less fortunate than themselves than to crusade on who has sex with who. Seriously, why is religion even in my bedroom?

People may remember the Leviticus challenge, as reported here, as a good suggestion as to why Leviticus is no longer relevant, and that quoting it to justify any form of homophobia is just silly.

Though apparently there are some churches suggesting that Jesus was actually pro-gay. Given the time in which Jesus lived (the Roman occupation of Israel), it is entirely possible that the Roman authorities he dealt with were homosexual or bisexual. As far as I am aware, Jesus made no comments on homosexuality at all (and yes I have read all the gospels).

A survey conducted by the “Pew Research Centre” and commented on in a CNN report in April 2009, suggested that the more often “Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists”, this applied mostly to evangelical protestants. Doesn’t that seem wrong to you, the sentiment, not the religious affiliation? Far too often I find that those who claim to be good Christians forget Matthew 7:1-5:

1″Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3″Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Patriarchal institutions

Penn and Teller recently focused on the Catholic Church as part of their Bullshit series. Regardless of what religious affiliation you are, especially if you are Catholic, I suggest you watch this and look at the problems therein. If you aren’t Catholic, and are Christian I suggest you watch this and see if any of it applies to your church/faith.

Many Christian denominations and many world religious are incredibly patriarchal and often abuse their power over women. Most religions are undemocratic and those who are governed get no say in how their faith is run, and instead are expected to follow the leader/s. Many religions abuse their power over their flocks.

The Catholic Church in Brazil, in March 2009, excommunicated a 9 year old’s mother, and the doctors and nurses that performed the necessary abortion of the twins she was carrying, after she was raped by her father… for performing that abortion, regardless of the fact that the doctors advised that as she was so young, she would not survive the pregnancy. The 9 year old girl was judged too young to be excommunicated and the father was not excommunicated for his abuse of his daughter… but abortion is a grave sin and the result is immediate excommunication. This was widely condemned by Brazilian Catholics, the Brazilian Government and many liberals in the rest of the world. Story here.

This story is evidence of not only a massive abuse of power over who can and cannot be members of a certain club, but a massive failure to understand the impact of abuse on individuals, the fact that the world is not black and white (instead MANY shades of grey) and that abusing a child is a far graver sin than aborting two foetuses that would have died with the 9 year old if she had been forced to carry them to term (lets not talk about the bad genetics of incest either). This is a failure to understand that women should be in charge of what happens to their bodies and that to threaten anyone with excommunication if they decide, for whatever reason, that they need an abortion is wrong, especially (as in the case of the Catholic Church) when that organisation is run by a bunch of men who allegedly have never had sex.

The bible

I haven’t got a lot to say on the topic of the bible. I know that biblical scholarship suggests that the Old Testament was re-written several times by the Jews as it was relevant to them in their struggle for survival – see Spong’s book: The Sins of Scripture for more information.

You do have to admit though, to take the bible literally, for everything, would be a huge task. One guy tried it, and worked really hard. I don’t know if I would bother to do such a thing, especially as to live like that involves more effort than I think anyone should put into being faithful.

The bible is full of horrible, horrible things, shipoffools.com conducted a survey on the bad bits of the bible recently that was reported in The Times Online. Lovely versus such as those ordering genocide (1 Samuel 15:3), suggesting that women are beneath men (1 Timothy 2:12) and that rape of your female concubine is ok (Judges 14:20-25). The bible is not a “good” book. The bible is a book of interesting historical stories of a group of ancient people who had to fight to stay alive and retain their identity and of an inspirational man who was misquoted (or written about only by men and their point of view) and another man who was deeply troubled and wrote conflicting letters to different Christian groups around the known world.

Ok, rant over for now. I’m sure I’ll think of other things I should write, but since I’ve been meaning to write this post for 6 months now, its time it was published and my links folder emptied for the next big project.

All comments and thoughts welcomed.

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I am NOT a lady

I have never been a lady.

I will never be a lady.

Why do people, mostly men of a certain generation, think its ok to refer to me as a “lady”, or to other women as “ladies”(or lady if singular)?

When I was growing up, I’d regularly be told, by my grandmother (and occasionally my mother), “that’s not very ladylike”, usually referring to climbing trees, wearing shorts, slothing about, running, shouting and generally having fun. Very quickly I equated “ladylike” with “not fun” and went out of my way to avoid “ladylike” things and settle on fun things instead.

So these days, when people refer to me as a “lady” or if I am with a group of women “ladies” it tends to get my back up really quickly. My instant response, which is sometimes bitten back, is “I am not a lady, I am a woman.”

Wikipedia, my source of things interesting, doesn’t really have much to say on the term lady. It talks about the historical source of the word and how it has been used in a sexist manner “lady doctor” and “lady lawyer” instead of doctor or lawyer… (perhaps woman doctor or female doctor)? Personally I’ve never been big on identifying the gender of someone undertaking a role, I don’t go around saying “my male doctor…”, unless it is specifically relevant. “My doctor is pregnant” is clear about the gender of the doctor (unless modern science has suddenly increased the capacity for reproduction), and gender doesn’t play a role in how successful someone will be in their career.

I’m not the type of person who talks about a “cleaning lady” even when I’m attempting to identify one in a crowd, people undertaking jobs tend to manage to do so in a genderless way for me, for most jobs. Actors are actors regardless of gender, as are poets, waiters and mayors. However, there are still Policemen and Policewomen (thanks to TV) and Ombudsman (are there Ombudswomen?).

I suppose part of this is based around my own gender identity. I don’t see myself as overly feminine and usually instead sitting nicely between the male and female spectrum of behaviour (despite what some others may claim) and gender identity. This does play a role in why I don’t like being referred to as a “lady” as I do see that term complete with all the trappings of femininity that I tend to avoid like the plague. However, for all those women that enjoy those things, go ahead and seize “lady” and use it as much as you like, a long way away from me.

So for the handful of people out there who might read this blog… do you have any problems with the term “lady”; what do you do about it; and how did those issues eventuate?

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Urm, last time I checked this was MY uterus

Dear father-in-law,

It may have escaped your notice, but we’re now living in the 21st century. Women “achieved” equality with men in Australia in the 1970s, contraception became widely available around the same time and religion has been on the decline in Australia since about then, at least. Specifically Christianity, the religion you profess to belong to… well you’d state Catholicism, because you define it all differently.

Anyway, that’s kinda besides the point. Lets remember some history here so my comments are more in context. In July 2006 I had an ectopic pregnancy. Now, you seemed to have, at that time, no understanding of what an ectopic pregnancy was, how people can and do die from them, and how close you came to having a widow for a son. I say you have no understanding because you asked, 3 months later if I was pregnant again, “gotten on the horse that threw you” kind of stuff. I was so shocked I didn’t knee you in the testicles, though everyone agreed later that I should have.

In May 2007 I got pregnant again and then miscarried. It wasn’t as upsetting as the whole ectopic pregnancy thing (funnily enough) and I got over it. I didn’t tell you. I didn’t tell you because a) it was none of your business and b) I miscarried at 6 weeks, which is incredibly common. If everyone who miscarried at that point told the world, we’d all be upset for them all the time.

In December 2007 you discovered that I had miscarried in May and we had a HUGE blazing row when I told you that I didn’t want you to ever talk about me being pregnant again to you… you threw me out of the house… what you don’t know is that this was one of the funniest experiences of my entire life. Granted you had had a serious heart attack earlier in December and were emotionally fucked up as a result… hence me not taking your yelling and screaming at me personally. By this stage I was actually over both the miscarriage and the ectopic pregnancy, and was of two minds as to whether or not I’d try again… you certainly didn’t help.

In July 2008, when you were down for my grandmother’s funeral, and after I mentioned my sisters’ children, you ask if I’ve finally gotten over my two losses. I can’t remember what I replied, but as my grandmother had just died, and you’d done me the “favour” of coming ALL this way for her funeral, I decided to not kick you out of my house at that point.

In December 2008 when you came and visited again, you compared my miscarriage to your daughters recent one. I thought that this demonstrated an incredibly lack of tact and understanding on your behalf. Miscarriages are painful things, and people generally want some privacy to grieve and not to have comments made about them.

In April 2009, when we had come up for your 50th wedding anniversary, you told me as I was leaving, that if I wanted any help with getting pregnant that I should speak to your wife who has blessed medallions that are guaranteed to help.

On Saturday, August 2008, ten minutes after arriving in my house for a visit while I had a pile of homework to do for school and your son was in the US for business (and you only gave me 24 hours of notice that you were coming), you ask me, “How’s the pregnancy thing going?”. My response, “We’re not talking about that.” Your interpretation, “Oh, so you’ve given up. I’m sure God has other plans for you.”

Thank you God for having other plans for me.

My response, “If God wanted me pregnant, I’d be pregnant by now.” Which is a nice way to end a conversation that I didn’t want to have anyway. Clearly you’d forgotten the huge blazing row we had had in December 2007, and given that you’d had a heart attack about 4 weeks beforehand, that is entirely possible… but let me remind you of some of the things you said…

“You do realise that any children you have would be MY grandchildren?”
“You can’t call me Peter, you can call me Dad or Mr Dominguez”

Lets start with the first one shall we? Any children I have, will be MY children… not yours, not my parent’s, not the next door neighbour’s, not the church’s or anyone but me and its father. If I choose to have children, it will be because I want to have them and any pressure or sense that you think I should have children can take a flying leap into eternity for all I care. Its my body, my reproductive system and I have a right to privacy as far as my reproductive potential goes.

Get your goddamn hands off my uterus.

Oh, and you already have 16 grandchildren. Don’t you think that there are sufficient grandchildren there? I certainly think that 16 is overdoing it a bit. I manage to remember all their names, but am not close to any of them, don’t buy them presents and am generally a very poor aunt.

Tonight, while we were at dinner, you again hoped that I might have the joy of having a child. Just last night we agreed that I wasn’t going to have any children, and then you tell me that you hope I might change my mind and have the joy of a child. When will you just fuck off about this?

Motherhood, by the by, is not what women aim for in life. Well not all women, some really do want to be mothers, and that is their be all and end all in life. However, you should never define a woman by whether or not she’s had children. Our discussion of Quentin Bryce, the current Governor General of Australia, should not have, “Ah yes, another fine woman, a mother, a grandmother…” mentioned anywhere in it, unless of course we were talking about her children, which we weren’t. Women are more than uteri that have the potential to have children. I am not a lesser woman just because I am not having children. To make me a second class citizen of a class that for the most part can be defined as second class citizens is so very very wrong. I don’t begrudge women who have children, but I certainly don’t think that they are better than me for having children or define them by the fact that they have had children.

Now, the whole “dad’ or “Mr Dominguez” thing. You are NOT my father. You will never be my father and as my father-in-law, you only have a limited right to any of my personal information and no right to cast comment on me or my lifestyle, no matter how much you think you do (oh and only if you knew about my lifestyle… but anyway). You also have never gained my respect, so “Mr Dominguez” is not something that I’ll ever call you either. You’ll have to manage with “Hey you” and “Peter”. I don’t care if you don’t like either of them, since I don’t have any other options and “fuck head” and “dick head” are considered obscenities.

In general I find your conservatism, conspiracy theories, racism, homophobia and religious intolerance impossible to bear. I grit my teeth when I am around you until I get really bad headaches from the jaw tension. Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, converts, small l liberals, greenies, people of the LBGTIQ spectrum and anyone with a different skin colour to your own is as much a valid human being as you, and as entitled to walk this earth, occupy positions of power and do what they think is best. I find your narrow minded beliefs incredible and do wonder how on earth that thing between your ears that you call a brain functions, because everyone else I know is completely alien to you, even my mother who is more conservative than me.

I find you impossible to deal with, the fact that I can tell you something and two minutes later you’ve forgotten, because you weren’t paying enough attention, irritating. Yes you are deaf, I understand that, I do what I can to make myself heard, but you don’t listen to me anyway. I can tell you to turn left at the next roundabout, only to have you, when we get there 2 minutes later, keep driving straight and to act all offended that I hadn’t told you, even though you had acknowledged what I said 2 minutes earlier.

Now, I have a splitting headache and need to sleep… and hope that you feel sorry for me in the morning and don’t wake me up when you leave.

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Exclusive clubs

Exclusion on any basis tends to annoy me. Always has. The exclusive nature of apartheid in South Africa was probably one of the things that taught me that exclusion was a bad thing. After all everyone was saying how bad it was, and South Africa was a pariah among “western” nations… so clearly excluding people on the basis of skin colour was a bad thing. This much I figured out.

I also wasn’t a fan of unfairness which wasn’t quite exclusion, but was almost. Someone being treated unfairly because of a real or perceived difference by someone else. A beautiful, intelligent and patient Aboriginal girl at my primary school was made to repeat Grade 3 (after finishing Grade 6) because the school did not know what to do with her. Suddenly an 11 year old girl was placed with the 8 year olds. When I spoke to her about it, she said that she would transfer to Yirarra and finish her education there as soon as she could. In a typical 8 year old fashion, I never chased it up nor do I remember if she eventually did.

My parents, well more my mother, was big on fairness, non-discriminatory behaviour and treating people equally regardless of who they were and where they were from. The missionary inspired teachers that taught me in Alice Springs were also big on social justice, and the nuns and brothers of the Sacred Heart in Alice Springs were also big on social justice.

One good thing about my Catholic upbringing, was generally the ability to discuss social justice issues and talk about fairness and justice in general. Certainly more useful in my primary school in Alice Springs versus my secondary schooling in Bendigo.

My mother, in Alice Springs, taught Aboriginal students in the Aboriginal Unit of my Catholic Primary School. She thought that it was exclusionary for those students who had good attendance and who did not need the extra support that the Aboriginal Unit was developed to provide to be kept away from the mainstream educational system. She fought for those students to be included in mainstream schooling and only for those who needed extra support and attention to be in her unit. She had the support of the Parish Priest, but outraged those social conservatives who thought they knew best about what these students needed, and lets face it who were probably consciously or unconsciously racist, to be kept in the Aboriginal Unit. So outraged were they, they started a smear campaign against my mother and the Catholic Priest, suggesting that they were having an affair and were horrible to me and my sisters. Thankfully we left town for unrelated reasons just as this started to get really nasty.

So why this blog post… well I’ve had some interesting conversations with people about exclusion recently, and read some interesting articles about exclusive clubs and the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission’s thoughts on exclusion for clubs. It has been suggested by the Government I believe that exclusions granted to clubs and institutions to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and the like may actually not be in line with Victoria’s Human Rights Charter.

Of course religious groups have complained that the state is interfering with their religious freedom by not letting them discriminate and exclude people whose lifestyles and/or beliefs are not in line with their religions, and Men’s clubs in Melbourne are also under attack. Both of these, of course break my heart and bring tears to my eyes… not.

You see… I’ve rethought exclusion. I have a problem when a powerful group excludes a powerless, or less powerful group…. though there are caveats here. So when white Afrikaans in South Africa excluded all black people… they were a powerful minority, the same goes for Sunnis in Bahrain excluding the Shia in Bahrain. Its not about the size of the group, just the power that they possess. So a Men’s club in Melbourne being under threat by a change of law? Yippee! Force them to live in the modern day and age… and deal with some diversity – because I’d suspect that they’re not only a male only club, but they also have “standards” as to who their members can be… so I’m guessing wealthy, mostly white business men.

The same goes for religious groups… and I’m looking mostly at Christian churches here, because that is where my experience is. A group that has spent time persecuting and excluding less powerful members of society or their own less powerful members… they’ll suddenly have to employ single mothers, queer folk, divorcees, etc. This cannot be a bad thing, as much as they may sook about it. I’m quite happy that Christian school children will actually have a wider world experience with people from different situations in society. It’d be really nice if there was a way to force the Catholic Church to accept women and married men as priests… but I don’t see that happening at this point.

The legislative change also goes for Women’s Clubs… which I have a bit more of a problem with, because traditionally women actually have less power, and need safe space to network and generally exercise. I suspect that Women’s Clubs will be able to successfully fight for their right to exclude men on the basis that far too many women are harassed and killed in gyms than men (just look at that recent massacre in the US for instance), and that women’s clubs are required until women really do have full equality with men .

But what happens when a persecuted minority group, who has their own private club on private land, begins to exclude others? I can understand a lesbian’s collective excluding men… and to an extent I can understand them excluding heterosexual women. But by what token can they exclude bisexual women or even trans-women? Apparently the argument for excluding trans-women is that they were born male and therefore have accessed the privilege that men have… but surely by transitioning to female, they’ve not only forgone any privilege they may have had (and since when was the queer looking boy at school granted any privilege?) they’ve also assigned themselves far into “other” territory and are far more discriminated against and excluded than lesbians. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

I guess bisexuals, by their argument, have the best of both worlds, spend time passing as heterosexual or something. This is not an issue which I have spoken to any radical lesbians about, I just participated in a conversation with someone who is bisexual who was aware of this conundrum.

An ideal world is one where people are recognised for the intrinsic value they possess and the unique gifts they bring into the world. A world where gender, sexuality, relationship status and skin colour aren’t even noticed.

Doctor Who – The Doctor Dances [2005]
Captain Jack Harkness: I’ve gotten to know Algy quite well since I’ve been in town. Trust me, you’re not his type. I’ll distract him. Don’t wait up.

The Doctor: Relax. He’s a fifty-first century guy. He’s just a bit more flexible when it comes to ‘dancing’.

Rose Tyler: How flexible?

The Doctor: Well, by his time, you lot are spread out across half the galaxy.

Rose Tyler: Meaning?

The Doctor: So many species, so little time.

Rose Tyler: What, that’s what we do when we get out there? That’s our mission? We seek new life and…

[weakly]

Rose Tyler: and…

The Doctor: [nodding] Dance.

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PETA annoy me

I’m not against the ethical treatment of animals, I think that PETA has done some sterling work in relation to having people think about the ways animals react to things and considering them as beings versus objects and this isn’t a bad thing. However, I do object to PETA’s demand that Australian farmers stop mulesing their sheep and their critique of Sam Neil and his support of the meat industry.

Lets start with mulesing. PETA state that it’s “cruel and painful and that more humane alternatives exist” (wikipedia), without actually stating what “more humane” alternatives there are… you know being useful instead of just condemning. It would be nice if they decided to research said humane alternatives and provide a response instead of getting businesses to boycott Australian wool for our alleged cruel practices.

The Wikipedia article linked to above has a good summary of the debate and what is being done where. If you want more education on the whole debate, that’s not a bad place to start.

I don’t know if PETA have actually seen a sheep with flystrike, but my mother cared for one a couple of years ago, and what she described sounds far worse than mulesing. She told me that the sheep looked like it was walking mince meat… it was in obvious pain and midway through the infestation was unable to walk and barely able to feed itself. It eventually healed thanks to both my parents care and is now a healthy sheep… but is it crueller to provide short-term pain (much like a vaccination) or let an animal (or person) suffer the consequences of an infestation/disease because the short-term pain is considered cruel?

Now Sam Neil. You can see his long term involvement with the meat industry here, here, here, and here. Some of them are funny, go and see…. this post can wait. He also did, though barely recognisable, an ad for vegetarian food, suggesting that vegetarianism is the next step in human evolution. Clearly Sam Neil also has bills to pay.

Anyway… What annoyed me about PETA’s commentary on Sam Neil’s personal decision to be, or not to be, involved in an ad campaign was their language and assumptions. Firstly they banter around the word “Jurassic” because he was in the movies… failing completely to realise that the Jurassic period had no ape like ancestors around at the time, and that all the mammals at that time were small rat-racoon like things (evolution of mammals here and human evolution here). The first primates, our ancestors, appeared about the same time that dinosaurs died out.

Of course PETA could be suggesting that meat eating is a dinosaur thing… but really most of the mammals around at that time would have been insectivores. And Sam Neil is right, well the script writer for the ads that Sam appeared in, is right. Without eating meat, it is unlikely that we’d be the species we are today. Whether we consume too much meat or not is another issue… and one I’ll address shortly.

The whole “Meat: It’s What’s Rotting in Your Colon” myth that PETA continue to push, without any medical citations also annoys me. Snopes have a good commentary on that here, but lets just think about the whole claim logically. I eat meat… I have various digestive issues that relate to fructose malabsorption and the fact that I have had my gall bladder removed recently, so I also have what is called an enzyme dump, which will rectify itself in time. On that basis, my colon is often spasming due the laxative effect of the fructose and enzymes… on the days that it is not, I certainly don’t notice the horrible effects of meat rotting in my colon. I live with two other people, and I don’t notice any horrible effects of meat rotting in their colon… and given what road kill smells like, surely my house would smell the same if meat was rotting in anyone’s colon here.

Oddly enough its actually very hard to dig up enough information about the veracity of the claim that red meat (or any meat) rots in your colon. The internet is full of people with opinions and agendas to push (hello there) and so there are doctors who are devoutly religious who have vegetarian agendas to push, PETA with their agenda to push, misinformation and other stuff… This site suggests that meat can take some days to digest, depending on your individual circumstances.

Wikipedia (and here) doesn’t suggest that meat sits in the digestive system for days, and as its the most reliable source of information I can find at the moment, I’m going with them.

Now, if PETA had gone down a sensible path… suggesting, for example, that farming animals is bad for the environment, uses too much water and produces large amounts of Greenhouse gas, as the WhyVeg.com people have leaned towards, then they’d be more credible about the whole thing. If they’d run with, “abattoirs are horrible places and animals suffer terribly in them AND meat eating is terribly bad for the environment” I probably wouldn’t be so annoyed with them.

In the end, I personally recommend eating less meat… don’t eat it every day, exist on less, eat more vegetables and fruit than meat, etc. The current editorial thing on WhyVeg.com advocates that, and that is a far more successful message… tap into the growing green consciousness and welfare of animals versus scoring cheap political points.

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Why Conservatism is bad for women’s rights (and rights of other minority groups)

I read over the weekend an article by a very “enlightened” Australian politician, Tony Abbott, a big “C” conservative and a big “L” Liberal. Not my favourite man. Apparently he’s just written a book, as part of his “grieving” process of being a member of a political party that lost the last election to an unworthy opponent, and not having the power he once had.

His book talks about the “coming out” of Conservatism, and how a return to “traditional family values” is an important thing. Given, he says, that gay people are likely to get the right to marry in the near future, perhaps adding extra options to heterosexual marriage will continue to make it all special.

He advocates reintroducing “fault based” divorce. This went out of fashion, and law in Australia around the same time I was born (1975). The fault based divorce laws provided only 14 grounds for divorce and placed the burden of proof back on the couples. It was widely seen as unfair and although conservatives and religious groups alike were horrified when it was abandoned to a faultless system in 1975, however society did not crumble and the world did not end.

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 provided 14 grounds for the grant of a decree of dissolution of marriage (‘divorce’), including adultery, desertion, cruelty, habitual drunkenness, imprisonment and insanity. To succeed on one of these grounds, a spouse had to prove marital fault (sourced from here). This meant that individuals had to hire lawyers, private detectives, seek witness statements and prove one of the grounds. If the judge believed that the evidence was fabricated, then he (because they were mainly men at that time) could refuse to allow a divorce.

So, imagine being a victim of domestic violence trying to obtain a divorce at that time, or if the laws are reintroduced for people to voluntarily sign into, imagine trying to obtain one. If the judge doesn’t believe that you have been subject to “cruelty”, if you were unable to prove the violence because it was psychological versus physical, you may not be able to obtain a divorce. Is this a fair and reasonable thing?

The big problem with this style of conservative thinking, and “traditional family values” is that it places women in society at a lesser place than the men. Women are typically more likely to become victims of domestic violence than men (I am not denying that men are not victims of domestic violence), so if it harder for women to obtain a divorce from a violent marriage, then that’s hardly fair and surely not part of what people would think that “traditional family values” are.

Another big problem of course is the fact that conservative political parties and religions talk about “traditional family values” and don’t define the phrase… because we all magically know what it is. Of course, “traditional family values”, how silly of me. Do they mean, as I suspect they do, that children are raised (and you will have children, because without them you are not a family) by both mum and dad, living in some lovely house in suburbia, with their 1950s style decorated house, where mum cooks dinner for everyone every day, keeps the house clean and always listens to her husband complain about work at the end of the day? Probably…. but the 1950s were not the Golden Age that some current politicians and religious leaders believe them to be. There were things that really worked in the 1950s, and there were many things that didn’t.

If we turned back the clocks to 1950 we’d lose our lovely air-conditioned and heated homes, wonderfully diverse range of restaurants, and our lovely multicultural society. These are things I value, I enjoy being able to select a cuisine from just about anywhere in the world and be able to find it and share it with family and friends, I love getting to know people from all around the world and sharing thoughts and ideas with them. I enjoy being environmentally aware and trying to be active about things I care about. I don’t fit the 1950s mould and never would… and society today would not want to give up their freedoms that they have gained and created since then.

But if somehow conservative groups did turn back the clock, it’d go badly for women and other minority groups. Since the 1950s women gained better access to workplaces, anti-discrimination laws came into place, Australian Aboriginals were recognised as Australian citizens and were given the right to vote, the White Australia policy was repealed as draconian and stupid (perhaps my words), multiculturalism generally began to work, and despite some things like the Cronulla Riots, generally does work in Australia, and queer people began to live openly and without fear.

Despite all the gains that women and other minority groups have made over the last 50 years, there are those that still want to imagine that the 1950s exist. Just read this blog post as evidence that some people view “a good wife” as a doormat for her husband.

Lets not turn back the clock, lets actually look at preserving rights that we currently have and creating new ones if we actually need them. Lets recognise what rights minorities in our society need to feel safe and participate fully, instead of creating a slippery slope where they may lose rights because of some dream of a Golden Age that never existed in reality.

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Pink

Who was it that decided that pink was a feminine colour? Who thought that marketing pink for girls and blue for boys was a good idea?

Because if I ever find out, even if they’re dead, I’m going to hunt them down (I’ll make a time machine especially) and kill them. Permanently, fatally and as messily as possible.

There are a few, ok a lot, of things that make me see red and want to kill (I so need a holiday), and pink is one of those things that does it every time.

Why pink? Because its forced feminisation of women (and men). Because its seen as a “girly” colour (and although it looks good on some people – myself included), the idea that women must like pink it is therefore pushed and hard.

Lets take this site as an example. Its the site of the Australian, National Breast Cancer Foundation. I’m all for research into finding ways to prevent, treat and cure cancer. But as they decided to adopt pink, the “colour of women” (quotes all my own), I actively avoid purchasing products from manufacturers that donate a portion of the profits from their goods to said research, because they re-brand their goods pink. I almost refused to organise the “Pink Ribbon Breakfast” at work because of the whole pink thing, and I didn’t suggest that people wore pink, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Wikipedia adds in relation to the breast cancer awareness:

Pink is the color of the Breast Cancer Awareness ribbon. Pink was chosen partially because it is so strongly associated with femininity.

And quite frankly, I think that sucks. I don’t associate pink with any of the femininity that I admit to. So the National Breast Cancer Foundation loses out from me, and others who have issues with pink.

Things that have made me hate pink have included:

  • Being bought pink clothing as a child, because I was female
  • Being unable to find any sleepwear in any other colour than pink
  • Being told that pink is ladylike

Lets start with the last one. I make no claim to ever wanting to be a lady or to have ever been a lady. Ladies have no fun… I’m a tom boy through and through. I’d much rather be outside swimming, climbing trees and riding my bike for hours as a child than being proper, polite and doing “ladylike” things, whatever they were. These days, I continue to eschew things that would be deemed ladylike, because its really not me. I’m a geek.

Going to the first one… it goes to gender identity. I may physically be female, but I don’t consider myself to be female. As far as I’m concerned I sit in the middle between male and female as far as my gender identity goes. Making me wear pink states that I’m on one side of the spectrum, when I’m very happy being in the middle… a lovely combination between feminine and masculine.

The third one just annoys the hell out of me. I’ve declared that I don’t like pink, so give me options when I do have to buy sleepwear for those times I’m sleeping at other people’s houses and sleeping naked isn’t an option.

Apparently before World War 2, pink was considered a masculine colour, and so when the Nazis were busy persecuting homosexuals, they identified them with pink triangles as they were attracted to other men – article here.

So how pink ended up being a female colour I have no idea… I’m just going to lay all the blame at marketers. Wikipedia states:

In Western culture, the practice of assigning pink to an individual gender began in the 1920s. From then until the 1940s, pink was considered appropriate for boys because it was the more masculine and decided color while blue was considered appropriate for girls because it was the more delicate and dainty color.Since the 1940s, the societal norm apparently inverted so that pink became appropriate for girls and blue appropriate for boys, a practice that has continued into the 21st century.

The thing is, I like blue. Whether I’d blue if I was forced to wear it, I’m not sure. I haven’t heard from any guys who wore blue as children now hating the colour. I think there is a lot more blue in nature, and so we deal with the colour better (the sky, the sky reflected in water). Pink is the colour of insides, of some flowers (though genetically manipulated ones typically) and of some sunsets. The sky is big, flowers, insides and sunsets aren’t.

I know I’m not alone in my intense dislike of pink. I have fellow sisters and brothers who also hate the colour, and that makes this rant all the fairer. I just want manufacturers and charities to rethink pink… to not classify it as the colour of women… because that lumps us all into one bucket and we’re a diverse rainbow, we’re not all the same.

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A blog about feminism, religion and stuff… in no particular order