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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The Australian National Anthem

Let’s deconstruct the Australian National Anthem. Well the first verse anyway, because very few Australians know the second or subsequent verses (and I’m amongst the group that has no idea about the other verses).

Ok, lyrics are as follows and the history of the anthem is here:

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Actually I might put the second verse in at the end of this post. Its full of things that some people might find interesting, but I’m going to provide no comment on it.

So, the first two lines:
Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;

So, the first line isn’t too hard to understand. They gender included the anthem because it used to be ‘Australian sons let us rejoice’, and since there at least 50% of Australia are Australian daughters, someone thought it might be nice to share.

The second one doesn’t refer to the average age of Australia, which currently is around 34 years (here) which means that next year I’ll be an average Australian – how nice – but that as a nation we are relatively young, what with only declaring our independence in 1901 and becoming our own country and not another outpost of the United Kingdom – this also involved the Federation of a whole lot of kinda independent states/outposts of the United Kingdom into one country as well. Any history errors here are all my fault, I’m doing this from memory.

The free bit doesn’t refer to Australian prowess in bed and our propensity to be easy to pick up on holidays (all gossip I’m sure), but to how we’re a free nation, and given this was written before Federation, I’m really not sure what else the author meant. But anyway, we’re free… isn’t that nice. Though with the current climate of fear regarding terrorism, I’m not sure that we’re as free as we were 20 years ago – but don’t get me started on exchanging my freedom for safety.

We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;

This… song… was written in sometime on or before 1878. Apart from the lovely fertility of Australian soil, it probably also refers to the huge amount of gold that has now been removed from Australia and used for all those things that gold is used for.

And yes, if you work (toil) then you can get wealthy, that’s bleeding obvious really. So perhaps if you work hard in the gold fields, you can get very rich… or in the farming lands. Though although today there is still a lot of money to be made in the mining industry for things usually other than gold, there isn’t as much money to be made in farming – but I think that’s the story all over the world.

Our home is girt by sea;

Ah girt… one of those ancient and unused words of old. According to the Macquarie Dictionary, its the past tense of “Gird” which can mean “to surround; hem in”. So Australia is surrounded and hemmed in by the sea. Well given we’re the biggest island continent in the world, yes we’re surrounded and hemmed in by the sea. Though that doesn’t sound anywhere near as nice as “girt by sea”.

Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;

Less and less of our land is currently abounding in nature’s gifts, beautiful or rich… and more of them are becoming increasingly rare. However, Australia is still a beautiful country and there are things here that aren’t replicated anywhere else in the world – hence the rare bit. If it disappears in Australia, its gone everywhere forever.

In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.

So history should be full of saying how wonderful Australia is. How lovely… lets not have an accurate history of stupidity, waste, bad decisions, just the good that is done… lets forget the rest and fail to learn from it.

I’m much more for an accurate recording of history, from learning from our mistakes and from being brave enough to report the failures as well as the successes. Changing history is much harder these days. I’d prefer the anthem to say something about truth, but that’s not to be.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

So anyway… lets all be happy that Australia is wonderful and sing its praises highly.

Well that’s my take on the anthem… here is the second verse… make of it as you will.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

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“The Ten Suggestions or A Royal Law of Love?”

Subject courtesy of the “United Church of God” and a pamphlet they sent me recently. I want to address the whole idea that the 10 Commandments apply to EVERYONE in the WHOLE world. I think it’s sheer arrogance… but here is what else the United Church of God has to say on the issue.

Do the Ten Commandments have relevance to our every day life in this hectic and confusing 21st century?

Some people consider them to be only good suggestions, while others may make an attempt to practice some of them. Very few view these commandments for what they really are: the best advice our loving Creator can give us. They are designed to protect us, our families and communities.

Properly understood, these principles not only apply to today’s world, but they can also transform the way we think and how we approach the problems and difficulties of life.

Ok, so apparently the 10 Commandments are just as valid now, as when Moses walked down Mt Sinai countless centuries ago… First lets go and find what the 10 Commandments actually are… as biblically stated versus the common understanding of what they are… because biblically there are actually two versions.

The first in the bible is actually from Exodus 20:2-17 (NIV) and the second version is from Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (NIV). There is also a set of 10 Commandments at Exodus 34:11-27, which are completely different to the first Exodus set and Deuteronomy. Wikipedia has usefully outlined the similarities and differences here so that I don’t have to. Actually go and read the whole article, I can wait… its interesting.

Ah, you’re back… so the 10 Commandments… are they actually still relevant in this day and age? All of these are taken from here which doesn’t necessarily tie in with the NIV bible I have in front of me. Where significantly different, I’ll comment…

ONE: ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.’

Right… clearly this only applies to people who believe in the Christian-Judiac-Islamic God. There is no wiggle room here for Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians (??), Taoists, Atheists… or anyone who isn’t Christian, Jewish or Muslim (though the Qu’ran has its own Commandments).

Clearly this fails the modern day understanding of freedom of religion being a human right.

TWO: ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’

I think many Christians fail this one… Muslims tend not to create sculpture or paintings of people for it is forbidden, and some Jews also don’t have statues or paintings of people for the same reasons.

The actual bible quote refers to creating and worshipping idols, somewhat different to creating images and likeness of stuff. Oh and the original bible verse has God being a vengeful God… hardly the type of image that we want to propagate these days.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

So, yes this one fails as well. Again assumes a belief in a certain God, and then tells you not to worship other stuff. Something that many people tend to forget… Evangelical Christian right in the US? Hello, can you hear me? Worshipping money and power? Bad people, naughty… big smacks.

THREE: ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.’

Oh Jesus Christ! Oops did I just blaspheme? I don’t typically say that phrase, but I think that most English speakers these days use, “Oh God” just as freely as they say, “and”, “if” and “oops”. Again this relies on a belief of a certain God, and for those who don’t, clearly doesn’t apply.

FOUR: ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.’

Which Sabbath day? Exodus goes on to suggest that no one, not the Jews, the slaves, their animals or foreigners are allowed to work on the Sabbath, hence the Orthodox Jews not working on Saturdays, looking for ways to avoid working accidentally… you know by using light switches… I think that its all a little over the top, but that’s their choice.

So, back to which Sabbath day… The Jews, the originators of the Old Testament of the Bible say that the Sabbath is Saturday, the last day of the week. Most Christians view Sunday as a holy day because that is when Jesus rose from the dead, and therefore is holy for that reason… the Sabbath moved thanks to Jesus. But Christians may attend a service or mass, but then continue on with the rest of their lives, working or whatever on Sunday… well these days anyway.

I think the Seventh Day Adventists returned the Sabbath to Saturday, but I don’t know a lot about them, and haven’t researched them, that’s a story for another day.

So, again, this requires a particular belief in a particular God, because you’re resting on “His” day of rest, so… it fails.

FIVE: ‘Honor your father and your mother.’

Not a lot of leeway here. So what about the parent which abuses the child, physically, sexually or emotionally? Should that child honour their parents? I certainly wouldn’t suggest so. That’s gross betrayal, and certainly not good parenting according to anyone’s idea of decent parents. We don’t live in the dark ages any more. It’d be nice if the 10 Commandments didn’t any more either. This one fails for not considering what happens to the children who are abused.

SIX: ‘You shall not murder.’

Yay! One that passes. Apparently Catholic catechism goes one further and states that “You shall not kill… except in cases of capital punishment (though they’d prefer incarceration and rehabilitation) or war (if necessary and for good reasons).

So, standard ethics here… don’t kill people because you don’t want to live in a society where people could kill you. Killing is bad… m’kay?

SEVEN: ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

According to the bible I commit adultery every second week night and every other weekend when I sleep with my other husband. Because men could have multiple wives back in biblical times, women however were the property of their husbands and didn’t have the right to have multiple husbands. I’m fighting back against this trend… lets not also mention the bisexuality… that might make the bible writers head explode.

So adultery you reckon… what exactly is adultery?

Thanks to wikepedia (again)

Adultery is the voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and another person who is not that person’s spouse. In most cases and especially in Western countries, only the married party is said to have committed adultery, and if both parties are married (but not to each other) then they both commit separate acts of adultery. In other countries, both parties to the adultery are considered guilty, while in others again only the woman is able to commit adultery and to be considered guilty. In some cases it is only considered adultery when a married woman has sexual relations with someone without the permission of her husband.

Right… actually on the basis that modern, so called Christian societies fail this one on a regular basis, I’m thinking of Governor Standford as a beautiful example here, and I’m sure you can think of other so-called Christian and perhaps even Jewish people who have had affairs and recognise that this standard is failed by society in general.

Given that I’m not a practiser of monogamy, can I actually be accused of adultery? If I cheated on my partners, then perhaps I could… I’ll let this one pass only if we can redefine adultery to mean “cheating and lying” and then tie it into number 9 below.

EIGHT: ‘You shall not steal.’

This one passes too. You don’t want to live in a society where people steal your stuff, so you shouldn’t steal their stuff. Nice simple ethics.

NINE: ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.’

This one passes too. Don’t lie, be honest. Not that hard really… I don’t care how much you don’t like or even like your neighbour… being honest is the right thing to do.

TEN: ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.’

To covet:
1 : to wish for earnestly
2 : to desire (what belongs to another) inordinately or culpably (Merriam Dictionary)

What exactly is wrong with wanting something? I’d love to be as rich as… urm… Bill Gates, minus the tosseriness (and yes that is a word). I’d really like to have so much money that I can sleep on it, rub it all over my body, burn it to keep warm… and not have a care in my life. I don’t… but what is wrong with wishing for that?

What is wrong for looking at a neighbour’s or relative’s house and thinking that I’d like something like that, or some item in that house? Provided I’m not stealing or lying about it, how is this wrong?

This one fails on being illogical. Its good to have dreams and its good to chase them… wishing or desiring an object, a status or lifestyle can provide the impetus to seek out those dreams. I’m all for coveting, so go right ahead.

So in summary, the 10 Commandments are not “A Royal Law of Love” and are not relevant to the 21st century. Lets find some other decent ethics and create a new and interesting moral society… I’m all for moral universalism myself.

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