Category Archives: responsibility


There is a trope among some people I know that suggests that individuals are solely responsible for how they react to something.  This is not a trope I subscribe to.  Let me explain with an example:

Person A and Person B are in a relationship (could be intimate, could just be friends – they’re close).  Person A says something hurtful/cruel to Person B.  Person B becomes upset at what Person A just said.

Now the trope suggests that Person B has the option to choose not to be upset, and if Person B becomes upset, then that is their choice.  So if a partner of yours has broken up with you and you’re sad and angry about that, then that is a conscious decision you’ve made to be sad and angry.  You could choose to be happy, or even neutral about it.  Clearly there are some people who would be happy when a relationship ends, but could they also choose to be sad and angry?

Continue reading Responsibility

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I’ve been collecting articles for this post for the past two days (I would have written this last night but our home internet was shaped), so it will be link and quote heavy, but I think this is an important issue to post about and is going to take me the whole evening, so I hope you enjoy it while I settle down to write what’s on my mind.  And it’s going to be LONG.

What is Wikileaks?

Just in case you’ve not had access to the news and don’t know what Wikileaks is, and why I’d be blogging about it, Wikileaks is an organisation (to put it simply) that releases leaked information (typically about governments) to the media and wider world (currently hosted here).  This year (2010), they’ve published documents mostly on the US Government, causing it quite a lot of embarrassment – releasing leaked documents on the Iraq and Afghan wars and most recently (and what has caused the current shitstorm) it has started releasing over 250,000 diplomatic cables sent between US embassies and the US State Department, drip feeding their release in conjunction with several major media organisations.

Continue reading Wikileaks

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I’m not used to feeling intimidated… well I am and I’m not.  Let me explain.

I was regularly told during my childhood that I could do whatever I wanted.  Anything I wanted to put my mind to, I’d be able to achieve, with appropriate learning/effort/time.  My parents were happy for me to be an engineer, plumber, optometrist, marine biologist, mother, teacher, nurse, chemist, whatever struck my fancy at that point in time.  And when I first stumbled into a full time job that ended up being a 15 year career, I started with baby steps and ended up running with the bulls – all with time, effort and learning.  It flowed over the years, and although there were moments of intimidation in the whole, “You think I can do this?  Are you sure?  I’m not so sure” when I started a radically different role from the one I was doing (going from being managed to managing for example), the roles had enough in similar and I knew who I was working with, or going to be working with, for it to be relatively smooth.

I’m no longer in that position.  I’ve made a HUGE career change, I’ve started afresh again and I’m in very unfamiliar territory.  The internship here with my global multinational employer was easy, all work and no responsibility, but somehow I’ve impressed EVERYONE, and they’ve offered me a role with lots of responsibility (and training and support and time to get to know everything).  I’d forgotten just how intimidating starting a new role can be, especially when it comes with high expectations and responsibility.  I know I can do just about everything I put my mind to, but right now I’m anxious that I may have bitten off a bit more than I can chew, even if many of my immediate colleagues think that I am a gift from their deity of choice.  So anxious in fact that while napping on my weekend away with James (photos here), I kept dreaming of falling of the cliffs of Mount Buffalo. Accepting this job is the right thing to do for me, for my career, for my mortgage, and for the future plans of world domination that I may or may not have.  Intellectually I know all this, but my emotional side is biting her nails and stressing about stuffing it all up.

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Sometimes you should think the worst

*trigger warning – this post discusses violence to children*

Another day, another child dies – and in the grand scheme of things not very noticeable given that 16,000 children die (on average) each day around the globe each day.  This child however was fortunate and was born in a Westernised nation (Australia), had survived bone cancer (losing a leg and perhaps her hearing – the media is unclear as to whether she was hearing impaired before cancer or not), and moved with her dad to the US when he remarried.

What is currently known is that she is missing, presumed dead and her step-mother has been listed as a person of interest in her disappearance/death.  The report in The Age quotes relatives and neighbours and their statements do not paint a pretty picture.

Relatives of a missing 10-year-old Australian girl, missing feared murdered in the US state of North Carolina, have described the child’s life as miserable, saying she was locked in her room for most of the day and was punished over little things.

“I just think this was something for a long time that we knew was going to happen, everybody that was close to the family,” relative Brittany Bentley said on CBS’ Early Show on Tuesday.

Bentley, who is married to Elisa Baker’s nephew, said she would have Zahra over for weekends and the girl would get mad when it was time to return home.

Zahra “was locked in her room, allowed five minutes out a day to eat, that was it”, Bentley said.

“She was beat almost every time I was over there for just the smallest things. Elisa would get mad, she would take it out on Zahra, things the kid didn’t deserve. She just had a horrible home life.”

“There were warning signs along the way, but you never want to think the worst,” said former neighbour Kayla Rotenberry.

Rotenberry, the former neighbour, said she and her fiance were good friends with the Bakers when they lived in the nearby town of Sawmills. About six months ago she noticed that Elisa Baker’s hand was swollen, Rotenberry said.

“She told me that she was trying to spank Zahra, but hit her on her prosthetic leg,” she said.

Another former neighbour, Brandy Stapleton, 22, of Lenoir, said that Elisa Baker told her the same story about how she injured her hand.

“She wasn’t the person everyone thought she was.”

I understand, generally, people’s unwillingness to get involved, the whole “not my problem” thing,  but in this case, had the neighbours or relatives who had witnessed or known about the abuse visited upon Zahra reported it to the authorities she may still be alive.  There have been numerous recent cases of children going missing, presumed dead where it is possible that someone reporting their concerns may have saved their life.  Overstretched child protection services do not help the problem – and governments need to move on providing well supported, trained and appropriate staff to assist vulnerable citizens.

This article really touched a nerve for me because my husband has shared his horror stories with me of physical abuse from his father that were known about by other family members and by neighbours, and no one did anything.  He was (relatively) lucky in that he survived his childhood and escaped.  But, he or his siblings might not have been so lucky through no fault of their own.

If you know or strongly suspect that a child is being abused, please report it to the relevant authorities.

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This is NOT yours

*Trigger warning – this post mentions sexual assault*

An article in today’s Age, titled, “Grow up men!  Breasts are not public property” reminded me of a post that I had intended to write on being female and being public property.

But first let’s start with this article.  Despite being titled with “Breasts are not public property” the picture associated with the article is a depersonalised woman (shot of cleavage down to waist) wearing a low-cut leopard print top.  The first fail.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the image choice was made by a sub-editor, but as my husband is nearing the end of a 4 week stint as the Screen Play journalist at Fairfax while the regular journalist is on leave, I suspect the author, Brendan Black, chose that image himself because adding images to the online CMS is the journalist’s (well in my husband’s case) responsibility.  Even if it isn’t, the article’s incredibly sexist tones would suggest that Brendan Black did not fight against having that image placed there.

The next fail is a result of this:

Breasts are celebrated as an extremely erotic area of a female’s body, and males are all too happy to assert any apparent ownership rights to them. We love to sneak a peek at a woman’s cleavage, cop a feel when we’re allowed to (and even when we’re not), and have pride if our partners are “blessed” (as long as other blokes don’t look at them). Some women will use them to actively gain male attention, while others will feel anger if we dare to acknowledge the existence of their breasts, while forgetting they also have a face.

I’m guessing that Brendan Black was attempting to be a feminist ally with this piece, but he fails at every turn.  The first sentence of the section I’ve quoted above talks about males asserting ownership of breasts, as if breasts were property to be owned… and since they’re on a woman’s body you can own her too.

Then he enters incredibly dangerous territory with, “cop a feel when we’re allowed to (and even when we’re not)” effectively condoning sexual assault as being ok, because you’re only touching a woman’s breasts and they’re public property anyway, or property of her boyfriend/husband.  Lesbian’s breasts must be public property as must those of single women… yeah… or something because they don’t have a man who is claiming ownership of them.

Apparently heterosexual men will also be proud of their partner’s breasts if they are “blessed” without defining exactly what he means by blessed… having two breasts perhaps?  And then goes back into standard ownership territory with “as long as other blokes don’t look at them”.

Brendan finishes this section with a dig at feminists and women who don’t want to be harassed by men staring or groping their breasts by suggesting that it is not preferred that women would like to be more than their cleavage.

The next fail is:

Once my son was born, I quickly realised what I had long dreaded: my wife’s breasts had to be shared with someone else, even though he had a greater need for them than me. … Nevertheless, seeing my wife’s naked breasts several times a day, even with lessened ownership rights and in a new context, is still enjoyable, as it beats asking for permission.

So Brendan is back on the ownership stuff.  I’m sure Brendan doesn’t actually feel this way, but the way he is writing about his wife, it sounds like her breasts are far more important than the rest of her.  She sounds like she is a vessel to carry around breasts that he likes TM.  I actually struggle to believe that he really typed “lessened ownership rights” in a piece that is meant to be taken seriously, except I keep seeing it there, and it keeps making me more and more angry.  Brendan is speaking as if his wife is his property, that she has no agency, no thoughts of her own, that she is an inhuman object to possess like a car or a dog.  She has no dreams, wishes, ambition, likes, dislikes or passions.  She is just breasts and a feeding machine for their son.

Brendan actually gets to the point of the article after this section and talks about studies about breastfeeding and societal attitudes towards it… and by societal attitudes, I mean Western attitudes, and probably white-Western attitudes.

“The transition from sexual to sustenance object can create confusion in the minds of us mere males; we want to look because we like breasts, but as their raison d’être has been stripped of all sexual connotations in this context, we feel that we shouldn’t, and this can create embarrassment or disgust.”

I’m not sure at this point whether Brendan is summarising from the study he has quoted earlier or elucidating on his own, but he seems trapped in a world where breasts are sexual objects over their biological function.

When sitting near other breastfeeding mothers, I have wondered at my own feelings of embarrassment, given my pro-breastfeeding, pro-funbag stance, especially if I know the mother well.

Yes, he used “funbag” to discuss breasts in an article ostensibly about breastfeeding (and ownership of women).

If sexual relations recommence during the breastfeeding period, one would assume that the breast has not lost any of its sexual potency, even if its function has widened, its appearance has changed or discomfort has increased; a baby suckling at the breast is not akin to sharing your bed with an unwanted man with equal access rights.

I’m not sure that Brendan really understands the point/s he is aiming for in his article.  It’s like he’s suggesting that breasts are why heterosexual men have sex with women.  Without breasts they’re isn’t sex or something… and perhaps even that breastfeeding mothers can still be sexual women, which would be nice if it were phrased that way.

And then he dives right into “an unwanted man with equal access rights” which suggests to me that he has potentially likened his newborn son to being like another lover for his wife before realising that that is nonsensical.

Whatever the method, bottle or breast, the act of feeding and sustaining a child must override any selfish feelings we have regarding a woman’s body, whether in private or public. My own feelings of embarrassment have now dissipated, as I have reconciled that breasts have different uses, they need not be in constant battle with each other, and there’s no need to be a hypocrite. If a breast “on display” is there with an attached baby, chances are the mother is more concerned about her baby’s survival than giving you an eyeful. The sooner we realise that the world and the breasts in it are not there purely for our enjoyment, the better.

Yes, override any “selfish feelings” you have.  Let me reiterate my earlier point.  A woman’s breasts are her own and not yours.  Brendan has also finally learnt that breasts have different uses… not really.  Breasts are for breastfeeding, they have auxiliary uses if that works for the woman concerned.

Overall Brendan failed miserably here at being a feminist ally, and I think he was hoping to head that way with the last two sentences of the article.  His focus on ownership of his wife’s breasts, his casual acceptance of sexual assault by non-consensual touching of a woman’s breasts and complete failure to treat an important issue seriously leads to a big fail.

Women already have to deal with being viewed as possessions enough in the world without it being reinforced in an article like this.  Slavery ended over 150 years ago, and yet women are often still viewed as possessions or public property.  Some men feel that they have the right to look, touch or comment on women’s bodies and appearance without invitation or permission.  Telling them to smile, “complimenting” them while they’re going about their own business, and invading their space and bodies without permission.

It’d be nice if those men would stop and think about what they’re doing, but since they’re stuck in their sense of entitlement and strong belief that they have every right to demand that women respond to them.  But seriously guys?  This is my body, my space, my thoughts and dreams and you are not welcome to mess with them, because violence will ensue as I kick your arse.

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