20 March 2018

Not everyone is a prick

I'd like to start with the good news.  The world is more full of Yassmin Abdel-Magieds, Behrouz Boochanis and Magda Szubanskis than it is the spineless jerks that troll them.

It's just that sometimes hate is spewed at us in so many different ways, from the mouths of our politicians, from gutless national policies, from institutionalised misogyny, from defensive religious institutions, from the back seat of an Uber, from the headline of a newspaper, from lazy TV commentators, from professional xenophobes with newspaper columns, from the social feeds of angry, anonymous men whose privilege is being threatened by progress.

We think that the world is getting more unsafe, when the opposite is true. We think that nothing is changing, but yet so much is.

So much is.

And it's happening at a molecular level. It's happening when people stop using racist language to describe their taxi driver, it's when seven year olds know about Malala, it's when 10 year olds are appalled by notions of slavery, it's when 15 year olds can't imagine a world where a woman had to resign from her job if she got married, it is when 80 year olds are marching in pride rallies to support their grand children, it's when schools are actively celebrating harmony days and children can't imagine a world where you grew up knowing only how to say 'hello' in your own language because classrooms were not a place of diversity.

It's happening globally too. World Vision over the last 5 years have seen over 90% of the children they treat for malnourishment make a full recovery and are reaching one person every ten seconds with clean water.  Men in India are actively taking a stand against child marriage that has tarnished the future of young girls for centuries. The amount of people living in extreme poverty (under $1.90 a day) has dropped by over one billion. The number of children dying due to poverty over the last twenty years has dropped from over 30,000 per day to under 16,000.

At the same time as first worlders are banging on about how detrimental innovation and technology are to the lives of themselves and their families, families in developing countries are benefitting from pilot programs like Last Mile Mobile Solution (LMMS). Started by World Vision and used by them and a bunch of other organisations now, it ensures that in times of crisis or at 'The 'last mile' (the critical stage of humanitarian aid delivery) that essential supplies reach the people most affected by disasters. Aid recipients are accurately tracked. Rations and supplies are calculated and distributed with precision. That's something like 4.5 million beneficiaries in over 29 countries supported by a dozen different humanitarian agencies.

Bloody technology.

All the small acts of kindness, the monthly donations, the time given to causes and projects, the letters written, the petitions signed, the marches marched, the sharing of information, the miles walked or jogged to raise funds, the sausages sizzled, the fetes held, the volunteers volunteering.... all of it is making a change.

The world is full of Yassmins and Magdas and Behrouzs. But it's also full of Janes and Mohammeds and Simons and Wolfgangs and Svetlanas and Chucks and Brads and Kates and Imanis and Ashas and Richards and.... well, I think you get the picture.

The world is full of good people. Doing good things. Changing the world for the better. One little bit at the time.

Seek them out. Be one.

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13 March 2018

Short hair. Yeah. Nah. Yeah

My seven year old daughter got her hair cut short on Friday afternoon. She's now rocking a super schmick pixie cut. She looks amazing.

It wasn't something we suggested. She'd been thinking about it for a while before she asked to do it. She chose a style she'd seen on Emma Watson who is her all time favourite actress and feminist, who she has been reading about in 'Good night stories for Rebel Girls' and googling to find out more. It's a parenting win as far as we are concerned.

Plus it's just hair. Her hair. She wants it cut she can have it cut. She wants to grow it. She can grow it.

What has totally blown my mind is how cutting her hair made her stand out in the playground.

Little girls from other years were coming up to me in the playground asking why she'd cut her hair. And when I said she wanted to, they kept asking "but why? she is a girl". Parents were asking if she was sick or had cut it accidentally. Another girl said she loved it - but she would never do something that made her look different. A couple of girls in her class were snarky jerks about her looking like a boy, and while I was tempted to go all Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction on them, I said nothing.

And looking around the playground I saw that she was unusual.  There was no short, short hair cuts on girls to be seen on any of the other heads running about.  Here I was occasionally despairing that the uniform code didn't allow the girls to wear pants, but I hadn't realised that gender conformity was so strong in in so many more ways across the playground.

In fact, looking around the playground, the girls were a sea of 'same, same'. It is the boys and boys alone that were expressing their individuality in their haircuts. Long hair, short hair, fades, undercuts, buzz cuts, mini mohawks - you name it - it was there.  If you were male.

I do not think that in order to be a strong woman you need to deny your femininity by lopping off locks and burning bras.  But I do think that if we look around our playgrounds and see nothing but conformity in the 'look' of our female students and diversity in the male students we need to be having a good hard look at ourselves.

I completely accept that had my daughter not chosen to cut her hair, I would probably not have noticed. But now that I have, I'm going to be more mindful of celebrating other demonstrations of individuality when I see them in my daughters or their friends. I'm going to remember how if one small girl cutting her hair short can temporarily throw a playground into a spin, how hard it must be for children who follow their own paths in other ways every single day.

Those that have been following along at home for a while know that I think that the sun rises and sets in my children's bottoms. I love them with a fierceness I never knew possible. But I can tell that I am feeling so proud of my eldest daughter right now that I could pop.

Because she was aware that her haircut would not be loved by all. She told me on Friday after she got her haircut that she thought some people would make fun of her.  But she did it anyway. Because she wanted to do it. And she followed her own path in her own small way.

Is there anything more badass?

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1 March 2018

The end of a generation

Death is a mysterious beast in the western world. We don't like to think about it, plan for it, and by no means can we be honest with our children about it.

But the fact is, death is a fact of life. We don't know whether we are going to live until we are 101 or die tomorrow. No matter what we do to look after ourselves, no matter how well we eat or how often we exercise, there is nothing that protects us from the random events that take people we love away in an instant.

And then there is old age.  That stage of life where people can appear to be a homogenous blend of high pants, white hair and wrinkles. Where in fact, there are people that have lived these extraordinary lives through wars and spouses and innovation and change that has been unparalleled in the centuries before. 

Yesterday we went to the funeral of my favourite great-aunt. The last of her generation. Her name was Betty and in my life time she was a fierce, sassy, no bullshit broad. And I understand that she was like that long before my lifetime. She smoked way longer than she should of, she'd driven trucks during the war, been a nurse, played golf, was part of the RSL, and the Red Cross, outlived two husbands, raised a strong and open minded daughter and she loved her family openly and vocally.  She could be curmudgeonly when the mood took her, but having known her siblings (my grandfather included), I'm pretty sure that was genetics. 

But the side of Aunty Betty that we got to see most as her grand-nieces and nephews was her mischievous side. She was the Aunt that would let you have ginger beer and lemon squash every time you visited. Or ice-cream before dinner. She would encourage us in small acts of defiance and she gave the kind of hugs that only people who didn't give a shit what other people thought could give.

Source: AIPP Reflections Project 2015
She enjoyed having a natter and a good argument. I still remember a spirited discussion between her and my mother when I was quite young, in which she told my mother she was 'just plain wrong' - a concept so alien to me at that age that I was convinced she'd disappear in a puff of smoke. Despite realising in later years that she and I were at opposite ends of the political spectrum, she was the one that told me that if I believed in something I should say it out loud even if nobody else agreed with me. She said a lot of things quite emphatically. I liked that about her.

I was pleased my daughters got to meet her. Their great-great-Aunt. In the way of small people, they understood that she enjoyed their company even as her mind wandered.  It was only a few short years ago that she played tag with Tully even though she couldn't move that fast and was going blind. She just loved the simplicity of seeing a small person shoot past her giggling. I remember it from visiting her when I was small, and I remember seeing her like that with her own beloved grandchildren. I want to be that kind of old - the kind that actively enjoyed the company of people of all ages. 

A post is not enough to capture all of the feelings I have about Aunty Betty. At the very least she lived a life which deserves a book in which I am nought but an extremely peripheral player. But I know this for sure - like all of us, Aunty Betty was a complex, imperfect individual. Like all masterpieces, her beauty was in the layers and the extraordinary strokes that marked her. Like all masterpieces, everybody that looked at her or knew her, saw her value in different ways.

But I think all of us agree, she was priceless, she was loved and she is irreplaceable. 

Go well Aunty Betty.

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