24 December 2015

Advertising and altruism. A Christmas Tale.

Being a self-confessed bleeding heart lefty with socialist leanings (that works non-ironically in the field of brand and marketing), I have schooled my daughters to recognise advertising with more vigour than I have schooled them to eat their vegetables. This has resulted into two adorable children who know what advertising is, wants the thing anyway, and can’t be bribed into eating peas or potatoes no matter what.

Thinking I would be able to get them to understand the complexities of advertising and how it can be a force for good, not just for kinetic sand and Barbie dolls, I put our collective hands in the air recently to donate our time and their cute faces to the World Vision photo shoot, raising awareness for their Christmas gift campaign. What a brilliant opportunity I thought to myself, to have them see behind the scenes of ‘an advertisement’, coupled with a cause we actively support in our household.



Because my darling daughters are only five and THREEANDAHALF, I pitched it to them in the way I believed would best articulate the importance of doing good deeds to help raise awareness of other good deeds. Like all parents with children going through the ‘Why?’ stage, I asked “Wanna go see some goats on Friday?”

That said, having got their agreement to pose with a supermodel, frolic with goats and lambs, hold wee chickens and converse with a donkey, I really wanted them to understand WHY we were doing it.  And this is where it always gets tricky.

Super models and Jessica Gomez
Despite my clearly magnificent spiel that articulated every key point in splendid and all-inclusive detail – they still had more questions than is possible to field in the life span of the average human.

“But why do people need goats to help them live?”
“Why don’t their mums or dads give them goats?”
“Why doesn’t their childcare centre share their eggs like ours do?”
“What do you mean not everybody goes to school? WHAT ABOUT THE LAW?”
“What do you mean people don’t have lights to do their reading by? WHAT IF THEY GET SCARED OF MONSTERS?”
“If it’s an advertisement to help kids why isn’t Jay Laga’aia coming? He likes kids.”
“Why can’t somebody loan them some pencils?”
“I don’t fink vacca-nashuns are a good present Mummy. They poke you with NEEDLES.”

Our end result is that the five year old explained earnestly to her younger sister that no, they are still not allowed to get a cat but these other kids were allowed to have goats because of an advertisement and that we were going to have to buy some chickens as presents because not every childcare centre shares their eggs. And Jay won’t be there because he’s busy, so the fashion lady is coming instead.

To which the younger replied, “Okay. What colour goats shall we choose?”

I’m not sure that it’s exactly the elevator pitch World Vision can use in their next advertising campaign, and I know that teaching my daughters to live compassionate lives will be an ongoing thing, but there is no mistaking the joy they took in perusing the gift website this week and choosing animals and gifts they thought children like them would like.

Children just like them.

In the end it’s such a simple decision to support the work of World Vision. Every time.

Merry Christmas everybody. 
May you give a little, get a little, and say 
"A goat! Just what I always wanted" at least once. 


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21 December 2015

Bloody Christmas!

I love Christmas. I love birthdays. I basically love everything that means we get to celebrate positive things so sometimes I even like to celebrate Wednesdays, the occasional Tuesday and at a push Monday mornings about 10am.

I even love the wrapping of gifts, the giving of gifts and the sheer conspicuous consumptive glee that comes with knowing that Santa may have bought somebody a Barbie campervan and somebody else the Baby Alive doll that they wanted MOST OF ANYTHING EVER. Because Santa is a soft touch and doesn't care who knows it.

Plus - we make our children give away unwanted toys still in splendid nick (see what I did there) before their birthdays and Christmas to people that might not have the same opportunities as them, which has the dual purpose of actually being a good thing to do and assuaging some of the Catholic guilt that sits alongside conspicuous consumptive glee.

Nobody is ever purely altruistic.  Altruism generally makes you feel good so it can't be entirely altruistic.  The conundrum eh? The sheer bloody conundrum of revelling in capitalistic opportunity while being a bleeding heart lefty do-gooder.

Speaking of bleeding.... *

This month in addition to celebrating making it to 41 years of age despite all the excellent decisions I have made throughout my life (sarcasm peeps, sarcasm), I also racked up 25 years of blood donations. I know. They sent one of the admin guys to thank me personally and give me a second milkshake during my last donation so I'm winning on all fronts really.

Back in the olden days, my mother celebrated all of our sweet sixteen birthdays by taking us out, getting us free milkshakes and making us donate a pint of our blood. Meaning that all of us have an impressive array of needle-marks in the crease of our left arms that could have us featuring us as a headline in The Daily Telegraph should they get desperate for click bait.

That said, I look back at the 25 years of blood donations in three different countries, bar gaps for breeding, malaria medication, tattoos, navel piercing and the odd operation, and I'm pretty pleased with myself. There is something very satisfying about donating blood - it feels useful in a way that very few other things do.

They haven't taken my whole blood for a while, so to make sure I still get my milkshakes, I have been giving plasma which has the added bonus of making you feel a bit high and letting you have a small morning nap every fortnight as they pump blood in and out of your arm which is a positive result for everybody I feel.

Even though I am O negative. BOOM TISH.

Oh come on, that was funny. And it's basically the best blood in the world because everybody can have it so even my blood type supports my utopian socialist views.  No wonder I'm annoying.

But the irony (honestly - I'm punning all over the place today) is that the period of gleeful capitalist consumption is also the time when blood supplies become most critical.  And so on the night before Christmas (well actually the morning), I'm taking my arm into the blood bank and giving them a bag of my finest.

Which should free up space nicely for conspicuous consumption of food and alcohol the next day.

It really is the gift that keeps on giving!

Take this as the least subtle hint I've EVER made. #notsponsored #iamjustannoying


* I freely acknowledge the breathtakingly brazen laziness of such a segue - many apologies


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14 December 2015

The Shame Game

Blood is thicker than water. That's what they say isn't it?

You can always count on your family. They say that too.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. That's a particular favourite isn't it?

Am I allowed to cry bullshit on behalf of those that can't?

I have friends who over the years have shared stories which are beyond my comprehension.  Not just because of the abuse involved, but because of the response they received from the people they trusted to help them.

Here's a sample from my own circles - 

One friend told her mother when she was about ten that her brother was sexually and physically abusing her and her mother replied 'Boys will be boys'.

Another friend in her late teens told her mother that her father had been sexually abusing her since before she started school and was told 'That God forgave him so she should too.'

One told her parents that her grandfather had raped her during a sleepover and her mother said 'If you tell your friends nobody will want to play with you.' She was six.

One told told her parents about how her grandfather had been abusing her and was told to keep it quiet 'because she would never get a husband if they found out she wasn't a virgin'. She was 12.

One friend told his mother that her boyfriend had raped him while she was away and she kicked him out of the house for being gay.  He wasn't. He was 13.

And the stories go on.  In the cases above - the expectation was on the survivor to maintain a relationship with their abuser and say nothing.  

Their families were outraged when they spoke up eventually. When they were adults and found the strength to fight back.

But strangely, they were not outraged at the abuser. Not at the guilty party. Not at the person who violated the child.

"How dare you air the family's dirty laundry like that?"
"How dare you?"
"Who do you think you are?"
"What will people think of you?"

And most importantly - "what will people think of us????"

When you're told something like this for the first time, you feel that the person telling you must have got it wrong. Surely they misunderstood? Surely the mum meant to say 'God might have forgiven him but when I get my hands on the son of a bitch he's not going to have a penis any more?'  

Or words to that effect. 

Or even if they got it horribly wrong when they first heard. Shock. Denial. Anger. They can cloud our thinking, impair our judgement. Surely, once they had a think about things, they'd apologise and support them. Give them love, shelter them, remove them from risk. Support them. Get them professional help. Report the abuser.

Help them to understand they they have nothing of which to be ashamed? 

In these cases. Not once. Not once. 

"Grow up".
"Get over it".
"It happened so long ago."
"Why now?"
"What difference will it make?"
"How do I even know this shit is true?"

In all of these cases, as angry as the abuse makes me, the element that gets me inarticulate with rage, shaking with impotent fury, is the response of the families and the burden on the abuse survivors not to shame the families by seeking justice, or speaking out in any way.

Perhaps that is now in part because I'm a parent now myself and I think I would be incandescent with anger and a desire for justice if my child was hurt in any way.  But in truth, the fury was there when I heard the first of these stories over twenty years ago.  

I don't even like the polite word 'abuse'.  It sanitises rape, sodomy, incest, paedophilia, violence.


It essentially means that we can trivialise somebody's experience so it's palatable to us.

But why aren't we focussing more on the people that have suffered the abuse? If we silence them, if we disbelieve them, if we don't give them an audience or a voice, they continue to suffer.

They continue to take responsibility for a series of actions which are not their responsibility. We become complicit in the abuse. We help perpetuate the idea that this is something that 'just happens' or people can get away with.

We play the shame game.

Which makes us collectively a pack of arseholes.

It's not a comfortable truth but I think we are all probably complicit in the shame game at times. Whether it's the lingering attitudes of previous generations, ingrained misogyny, a lack of equal experience, not knowing that the right thing to say is, whatever - we silence people.

I don't have the answers but I do know that it needs to change. I do know that my friends and the horrific number of people just like them, need to know that they can yell as loud as they like or whisper quietly if they will, but that they are not alone.

They are not to blame.

They have a right to mourn the loss of their childhoods.

They have a right to seek justice and tell their stories.

And most of all, they are loved.

If you need any support please call Lifeline on 13 11 14

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4 December 2015

#endviolenceagainstwomen

There is no difference between 'online' and 'IRL' anymore.

Who you are online is exactly who you are in real life. 

So if you threaten violence against women (or men) online, those are thoughts that exist in your head in real life. They are a reflection of your true self.

So if somebody disagrees with me online and calls me a bitch, or hopes I get raped by the refugees I advocate on behalf of, they really think that.

I've copped some abuse, by men and by women, but mostly by men. And all because I am a big believer that human rights are for all humans. Those that are Gay. Indigenous. Refugees. Women. Poor. Rich. I've even written in support of people who I really don't like. 

Clementine Ford recently copped a lot of abuse Rape threats. Death threats. Violence. Intimidation. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of posts. 

People are charming aren't they?

People threatened things I had never even had the inclination to think in my entire life. Let alone say out loud. And don't be mistaken - typing something on a public page on the internet is EXACTLY the same as spitting it into their face at the watercooler. 

And some posted this venom on her public page, using profile pictures where they are posing with their wife and daughters. 

Imagine. 

She called them on it. Many of them. Using information they make publicly available on their profile. See here. One guy lost his job over it. 

She continues to call them on it.

She's indefatigable. 

It's not a case of sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you. The science has been in on that for a long time. It's bullshit.

Abuse is abuse. Violent words are violence. Violent acts are violence.

Women have the right to have opinions without threats of violence, death and rape. 

I stand with Clem. I stand with all women who can't find their own voice because they have been silenced through fear and aggression.

I stand with them not because I am fearless but because incidents like this make me doubt my fundamental belief that all people are essentially good.

I stand with them not because I am fearless but because I want my daughters to grow up fearless. 

I am incredibly proud to be taking part in today's Twitter campaign #endviolenceagainstwomen. 

Join us. 

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1 December 2015

Elf on the run

This year we have cheerfully bought into conspicuous consumption and have introduced 'Elf on a Shelf' into the family home.

This is Mary.  Named by the girls without intervention. Personally I liked Rosie-Sparkle-Boo-Butt better but they decided Mary was the best name for a Christmas Elf.

An 'elfie'
I know right? And they have no idea. That is what is so awesome.

The general premise of Elf on a Shelf is that the elf comes into your home and observes you during the day to find out if you are naughty or nice and reports back to Santa each night.  Each day the elf is hiding in a new spot and part of the fun is finding the hiding spot.

The story that accompanies the elf says you are not supposed to touch the elf as that kills the magic off and it talks about good deeds and about night time prayers in the story which led to conversations about god which I obviously deflected with a clear and definite 'ask your father'.

Because theology at bedtime is generally more than my brain can cope with at this time of the year.

Elf in the Shelf obviously works MUCH better in homes that are more authoritarian than ours. This is something we learned pretty much immediately.

As you can see above, Mary the elf was covered in snowman putty on her first day in the family home in case she was missing the snow from the north pole.

They weren't TOUCHING. They were HELPING.

Honestly. Don't I know anything?

She has also been HUGGED.

And KISSED.

And CHATTED to like nobody's business.

Because Mary is part of the family and not hugging and kissing her would make her feel like we don't love her.

Go ahead - argue with that if you can.

Plus my girls are perfect remember - so obviously they are angelic, well behaved and generally a shining example of our excellent parenting at all times with no exceptions. Ever.

Perfection
And it's very lucky that I'm not a boy called Pinocchio.

In fact, for me, the best thing about Elf on the Shelf is the conversations the girls have with the magic elf rather than any possible impact on behaviour (Um... zilch, zero, none, not a chance, it's just make believe mum - everybody knows that Santa can hear you when you think)

I love the joy that goes into these imaginary conversations and new discoveries. I like watching them grapple with real magic versus make believe magic.  The earnest discussions about whether the Tooth Fairy and the elves know each other because they are real fairies whereas the ones you see on the TV are generally just stories and the ones you find in the toy catalogues are just advertising.

So much GOING ON IN THOSE BRAIN BOXES.

And the delight when they find Mary's hiding spot each morning.  The breathless retelling of what Mary did last night when she visited Santa and her other elf friends.

It's ridiculously cute.

So yes. We're part of that growing culture of people buying into Christmas traditions in the absence of our own, contributing to the dumbing down of society as a whole and commercialising the pagan and christian yuletide messages with nary a thought to the therapy our children are going to require in future years because we lied to them about Santa Claus.

And it's fun.

  ****
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