The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Monthly Archives: July 2012

Quickie: A little bit of love

I’ve been pretty quiet on the whole Marriage Equality debate, mostly because I am exhausted by it all, but also, there are voices way, WAY more important than mine.

Why am I exhausted? Because I don’t understand why this is a debate at all. We have legislation that says you can’t discriminate based on sexuality, marriage the way it stands now does, so fucking change it. The End.

The anti-marriage equality people* can come up with all the justifications they want – it’ll cost us money, it’s dangerous, marriage is about family/procreation, it’s a slippery slope, and next thing you know, we’ll be able to marry dogs – but what it comes down to is that people who aren’t straight, cis, monogamous, missionary position devotees, are, well, icky.

Your church teaches you that only men and women should get married. That’s nice, but your church doesn’t run my country, and you, sir get the same right to make this decision as me. And you can bet I’ll be telling my MP to ignore you and your bigoted friends.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time dissecting your argument. You’re wrong, in any number of ways, and smarter people than me have written why. But how about you all stop hiding behind “marriage means one man and one women/marriage is about family/gender roles matter” and just say “I think this is gross, and my bible tells me I’m right, and I will pander to my supporter base by opposing this”?

Kthx, etc. Or am I just being incredibly naive?

* That link, thanks to FsOLTG, also features a delightful bit of Benjamin Easton threatening to physically harm his opponents. Delightful.

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

A beautiful reflection on privilege, from dear FoTLG Jackie: I should be so lucky.

Laurie Penny and Martin Robbins discuss feminism and men.

It’s no fucking wonder that the rates of sexual assault are where they are. On the one hand you have women who are told sexuality is the most important thing they can have/wield. On the other, men raised to cede control to their penises and told their value is measured in their ability to dominate their surroundings.

Google’s auto-complete function will give you helpful suggestions if you search for ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, or ‘transsexual’. But not ‘bisexual’.

Google says Instant Search “helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback”. If that’s the case, why would Google block the nearly 12 million results for the terms bisexual suicide from appearing instantly? As a bisexual advocate, that’s a pretty important search term for me since the 2011 Bisexual Invisibility Report stated “One in two bi women and one in three bi men have attempted or seriously considered suicide.

Manliness, Relationships and Erections: Clarisse Thorn kicks off a really interesting and poignant discussion about coping with erectile function (not “dysfunction”: occasional loss of or failure to get erections is perfectly normal) in relationships, and the guilt, awkwardness and insecurity it can bring.

Do go and read Emma’s post at Public Address, on the weasel language that pollies are using now that Louisa Wall’s Marriage Equality Bill has been drawn out of the ballot: The Upfront Guides: The Weasel Translator.

Something pretty, or at least fun: Skeptical Mothering’s tips for breastfeeding in public.

Tips for Nursing in Public

Text version:

1. Plan ahead. If you’re planning to visit someplace that might attract new mothers, such as a park or a discount store, try to time your visit so that you’re less likely to be there at the same time as a nursing mother. Midnight is good.

2. Practice in front of a mirror. At first, your shock may show plainly on your face, so try sitting in front of a mirror and picturing a nursing mother. Keep trying until your expression stays neutral. You can also try having a friend or your spouse watch you and provide helpful comments.

3. Dress appropriately. Try wearing a scarf or a top that has a hood. That way, if you encounter a nursing mother, it’s simple to pull the fabric up over your eyes, or to pull the hood forward to act as blinders so you can easily avert your eyes and not suffer any peripheral vision of a nursing baby.

4. Be discreet. Avoid calling attention to yourself, and there will be no problem. If you’re ostentatious about your disapproval, you’re just inviting a confrontation.

5. Find a private place. If you absolutely can’t avoid voicing your discomfort with public nursing, there are plenty of appropriate places. Go to the nearest changing room and let out your feelings. Almost every establishment has convenient public bathrooms where you can have total seclusion while you vent. If all else fails, go out to your car – it’s a little inconvenient, but well worth it to avoid making a scene.

By following these simple steps, you can make sure that public nursing never leads to ugly confrontations or public relations battles, and everyone will be much happier.

Quickie: Today in Fat Shaming

Thanks, New Zealand Herald. I always know to turn to you if I want to feel shit about myself, and the world in general.

In which I get very, very angry with Louis C.K.

Trigger warning for rape

So this, this right here, this person you like and laugh at and respect in other ways, this person is currently the personification of male privilege.

Thinking that it’s part of a “dialogue” when a woman gets singled out in a comedy club and has someone “joke” about how funny it would be if she was pack raped there and then, that is privilege. It is something only someone who is fortunate enough to not be threatened by rape culture can afford to think.

The fallout from a woman being threatened with rape in a comedy club for the purposes of a “joke”, is only beard-strokingly interesting to people who have never been told that what they’re wearing could get them into trouble. To people who don’t have to think of survival strategies on a daily basis, to the point where they’ve perfected LOUD FAKE CELLPHONE CONVERSATIONS while walking home in the dark. To people who haven’t memorised which neighbours stay up later than others in case you have to run to their door. Or which shoes you can run in and which you can’t. Or which of your boyfriend’s friends you don’t want to get a ride home with. Or what you’d say if you needed to leave somewhere fast.

Rape “jokes” (no matter how public they become) are not part of a dialogue. They are part of a systematic and institutionalised violence against women everywhere and always.

The reactions to those jokes are not part of a dialogue, they are fucking survival strategies. They are attempts to try and protect ourselves, our sisters, our daughters, our mothers, from the ever-present threat of rape, which is now even more dangerous because apparently it’s funny. They are attempts to get people to please stop scaring the shit out of us, or reminding us of something we’re trying to forget, or what could be in our futures, or what has definitely happened to women we love.

It must be really nice to have the ability to enjoy those pleas as part of some interesting anthropological discussion which benefits everyone apparently, because Louis CK got reminded he doesn’t have to worry about it.

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

Over at The Hand Mirror, Anthea takes apart Sam Judd’s article about teh horrible fatteez, and the Queen of Thorns does the same with the latest manifestation of the-only-good-incubator-is-a-pure-incubator meme.

At Feministe, a discussion on how to encourage your kids to delay having sex without “being all shamey”. It’s honest, nuanced, and to me (Emma) anyway, still very problematic.

Sandra gets her rant on at Letters from Wetville: Breaking news! Men demand more opportunities to care for the elderly for no pay, make cakes for the school gala and clean floors. Do you think she’s being just a bit sarcastic?

The Pervocracy goes Cosmocking again. This time, their sex tips based on Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s right. Surprise BDSM.

you might be able to guess what your partner likes if you stick to the cultural standards.  When you do BDSM, you can’t guess.  Kinks are too complicated for that and the stakes are way too high.

Captain Awkward opens a discussion on green flags in relationships. What are the signs that this whole thing is going well?

Red flags are glaring, at least to people on the outside of a relationship; green flags are more idiosyncratic and have to do with what you want from romance and sex and togetherness. Each happy couple is happy in its own way.

Something interesting:

Lady Garden

Susan Garden, Baroness Garden of Frognal, sometimes styled Lady Garden

Guest Post: Women’s Refuge Week

This year has been a tough one for me, for lots of reasons. Part of it is that finally, for the first time, people know that I’ve been on the receiving end of partner abuse.

My partner and I have both balked at the word ‘abuse’. I’ve had to accept that’s what it is. It’s not Domestic Violence as people imagine it by default. He hasn’t hit me. But I’ve left my house because I’ve been too afraid to stay there.

This had been going on, very rarely, for years, but this year it got much worse. It got to the point where we had to acknowledge it, and for the first time tell other people about it. And the reactions have been interesting.

Those friends who have stuck by me this year, through all the other shit, have been brilliant. And yet, even then… There is a pervasive attitude, that I had myself without realising it, that if it’s not violent, it’s not serious. I’ll tell people what’s happened, and they’ll ask if he’s hitting me. They’ll say, “If he hits you, leave.” As if everything before that point is somehow okay. They’d never say that, of course, or consciously think it, but the unconscious separation is there. Not all abuse is physical, and the emotional and psychological abuse counts too. Just as much.

I’ve lain on my bedroom floor crying hysterically, while he leaned over me and yelled abuse. I’ve struggled to dress and leave while he mocked me for “pretending” to be afraid. I’ve seen my GP in tears because I can’t tell her that when I go home, I’ll be safe. The fear became my defining characteristic, the thing that controlled my behaviour and influenced my decision-making. Even when we started trying to work things out, I made myself responsible for policing his behaviour.

This happened for the first time sixteen years ago, and for all that time I kept it to myself. I told no-one. Most of the time things were fine, after all. He’d come home from work the next day and everything would be back to normal, like it never happened. I helped him pretend it didn’t happen.

So in February this year, when it got so bad I was safer on the street at four in the morning than at home, I had nowhere to go. Not one of my friends who lived in the same city knew what was going on. I’d, quite voluntarily, isolated myself from help.

What I did have was the resource pack my counsellor had given me, from Women’s Refuge. No matter how alone, how frightened I was, there was somewhere for me to go.

So this Appeal Week, I’ve made a donation. Maybe you could too.

As a friend, you can’t save someone else. You can’t make someone leave a situation like this. What you can do is give them your belief and your support, and take what they say seriously. Just because there aren’t bruises doesn’t mean there isn’t damage.

Why women don’t make it to the top in the police force

Cross posted

Today’s Dom Post says that we need more women at top levels in the police force, and argues that a big part of the problem is the entrenched culture of sexism and misogyny. It goes even further than suggesting that the culture in the police force needs to change, saying:

Changing the culture of an organisation takes time, but the time for soft-footing the issue is past. If there are still police officers who cannot deal with women in the workplace they, not their female colleagues, should go.

And it fingers the sexual harassment and bullying of women officers as the big problem that stops women from making it to the top.

There are two explanations for the dearth of women at senior level. One is that the country’s 1564 sworn female police officers are good for patrolling the beat, making arrests and prettying up the station, but do not have the heads for more serious matters. The other is that the police culture is antagonistic towards women. Dame Margaret Bazley’s 2007 commission of inquiry into police conduct and a 2000 review of female participation in the criminal investigation branch suggests the latter is the case.

Dame Margaret’s inquiry focused predominantly on sexual misconduct, but it revealed a workplace in which antediluvian attitudes toward women persisted well into the 1980s and in which elements of the police hierarchy regarded allegations of sexual misconduct in the same way as the Catholic church. They were to be hushed up and tidied away rather than dealt with.

The 2000 CIB review revealed a similar culture. Author Prue Hyman, associate professor of economics and women’s studies at Victoria University, found an, at times, unwelcoming climate for women ”where mild gender harassment and workplace bullying is often tolerated”.

Wow. Tough talk. Watch out for senior police officers denying it all later on today…

But I don’t think that’s the only attitude problem that’s stopping women from getting to the top in the police force. Last Saturday’s Dom Post had a full page article about women in the police: What stops women becoming top cops?

There are some clues in the article about another huge problem for female police officers.

“Reviews have discussed how it takes a ‘special kind of woman’ to get ahead; that there are higher standards for women; that the police internal culture demands a certain assertiveness and personal resilience from women; that there is an element of sexism; and that all in all it’s an old boys’ club.”
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She points to the recent departure of Ms Rose, and Superintendent Gayle Gibson, who retired last year.

The difficulty of combining work and family are a barrier to career progression, Ms Hornsby-Geluk says.


Dayle Candy, who had risen to the rank of detective senior sergeant when she quit in 2001, says she couldn’t juggle work and family. She had served 26 years.

“There was an atmosphere that persisted that I wasn’t capable of doing the job because I had a family. And there was very little discussion around changing that. The environment wasn’t created to change that.


One former senior officer believes entry to the top of the hierarchy requires a cop to have served as a detective inspector, an area commander and a detective senior sergeant – all demanding roles requiring long, often unpredictable hours that often don’t suit mothers.


Mr O’Connor wonders if the current push to get more officers serving on the front line will stall progress. “Police work is police work,” he says. “The [current] mantra is front line. What that means is, generally, shift work. Shift work is generally less family-friendly.”

He also accepts that many women officers have partners also in the force.

Both Ms Hughes and Ms Candy question whether the nature of frontline policing is compatible with family life.


“Women in every other workplace are balancing their work with their families, their husband. Does it upset families at times? Yes, it does. I think it is no different from any other workplace.”

Notice the theme in all of that? Childcare and family life is a problem. But more than that, notice who it is a problem for. It’s not a problem for male police officers. Instead, it’s a problem for women in the police force. Male police officers with children don’t have to worry about childcare, but female police officers do.

And therein lies a problem. For a woman to succeed in the police, she has to be a superwoman, juggling career and children and shiftwork, because this is all regarded as her responsibility. Who knows to what extent police bosses just don’t get around to promoting women because they look at her responsibilities, and decide that she won’t be able to manage. Maybe they don’t do this explicitly, but just make a casual hidden assumption that a woman who is a mother won’t be able to manage. That’s certainly the casual hidden assumption in all the quotes above.

A woman shouldn’t have to be a superwoman to succeed. That’s one of the key points that Anne-Marie Slaughter made in her article in The Atlantic: Why women still can’t have it all. Men aren’t required to be supermen to make it to senior positions, but women are. And one of the central reasons for that is that people still think that childcare and families are the woman’s responsibility.

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

On killing trolls with kindness. Easier said than done, but worth thinking about. (Via FoTLG, @KB)

[trigger warning for sexual assault] The US feminist blogosphere is awash with discussion of Daniel Tosh’s rape joke. For my (Tallulah’s) part, saying someone should “get raped by 5 guys right now” isn’t not funny because it’s a joke about rape, it’s not funny because it’s not a fucking joke.

What Jessica said.

It’s kind of a clusterfuck of injokes, but this random moment on Tumblr made me (T) laugh my head off.

Aaaah, Southland. Why you gotta suck so hard?

Managed to avoid the comments on all the fat-positive article that have been around this week? Aren’t you the lucky one?

When it comes down to it this whole thing is about how the way we talk about people contributes to controlling who does and doesn’t get to count as a full human being who is worthy of respect and dignity. That can’t be separated from the way sciencey speak medicalises non-normative bodies in order to constitute them as less fully human than those it’s declared are “fit” or “healthy”

In case you missed it, the bumper 50th edition of the DUFC. So much reading in there!

All those wretched grunting female tennis players. How dare they have bodies in public!!!

Oh, hey, it’s Bastille Day. Kick back with some champagne and celebrate la Fête de la Fédération. Here, have some can-can dancers.

And as an extra-special Bastille Day treat, I bet French people love The Gos. How could you not, after this video.

How may I erase thee? Let me count the ways.

Cross posted

Bouquets and brickbats time, for the New Zealand Listener.

The cover story this week is about weight loss myths. It’s not on-line yet, but if you can buy a dead tree version, it’s worth it. The story is familiar to people who have even a passing acquaintance with the fatosphere and fat acceptance, as I do. The standard points:
– Dieting doesn’t work for the great majority of people (that would be 95% of people).
– Fat seems to be linked to poverty;
– Diabetes and heart disease don’t have a causal relationship with fat, or if there is a causal relationship, it’s a minor one, or it comes about through side effects.
– The death rate for fat people is no better and no worse than the death rate for thin people.
– Health At Every Size (HAES) is the way to go.

So far, so good. The story even ventured into some difficult territory, talking to a woman who had instigated severe diet control, and lost a huge amount of weight, going from size 22 to size 12 through dieting alone. But is she happier?

“… It’s still the same me and in some ways I am happier. There’s no doubt you have more social approval…. but there are things that I miss from when I was a larger woman. I got enormous pleasure from eating and loved to feel as though I could eat when I wanted to eat. That’s a wonderful thing and a wonderful pleasure…” She weighs herself every day and says sometimes she feels that her life is destined to be one “where I hardly eat anything”.

The story works hard against all the myths about weight and weight loss. There’s no alleged “balance” from people think that it’s just a matter of will power and diet. It’s all about debunking the myths. In the mainstream media. That’s fantastic.

But… the writer talked to four people, all of them academics: Andrew Dickson, Linda Bacon, Robyn Longhurst, and Cat Pausé. The printed article had pictures of three of them: Andrew Dickson, Linda Bacon, and Robyn Longhurst. Dr Dickson is a large man. Dr Bacon seems to be of slender to moderate size. Dr Longhurst is slim. Only one largish body in sight, and certainly not a fat body. The only person who was interviewed for the article, and who was not pictured, is a fat person, Dr Cat Pausé. Cat is fat. Not large. Not weighty. Not chunky. Fat.

So as far as the New Zealand Listener is concerned, we can talk about fat, but we can’t picture it. Erasing people who are fat, and hiding them from view, turning fat people into just words, but not whole people with bodies and faces and lives and realities, even in a sympathetic article. Erasure. So many ways to do it.

So here’s a picture of Cat. It’s her signature piece.

Dr Cat Pausé

And here’s a google image search.

Here’s her page at her place of employment.

Here’s a 20/20 segment about fat acceptance in New Zealand, featuring Cat.

And here’s Cat’s reflection on the 20/20 segment on fat acceptance in New Zealand.

Comments Bingo

Once again, my darlings, I’ve read the comments so you don’t have to. The things I do for you. You should all buy me bourbon and bonbons.

Liam Dann, whose columns I normally enjoy, wrote about the NZX requiring gender reporting from listed companies. So far, so…fine. He’s aware that writing about gender issues might “get him in trouble”, so I assume the very middle ground he’s steering is because of that. Though, why he’s mixing up reporting and actually having quotas is beyond me.

Here’s what we know. There are systemic reasons why there are few women in leadership roles in business, that involve undervaluing women’s skills, the impact of child care, and the fact that few women get mentored into senior positions. Little of this is addressed by the column, or in fact requiring disclosure, but it’s a step. I like to blame the fucking patriarchy, but you can choose your own cause. It’s worth mentioning the even tougher time women of colour and GLBT folk have, but that’s a very different column. That will never be published in the Herald.

So I have no beef with Mr Dann, particularly, which makes a nice change for Herald columnists. But the commenters never fail to live up to the lowest common denominator.

First up, Gavin believes “the number of women in the top tier of our business community is an embarrassment.” to whom? What a total non-issue.”  Well, Gavin, to anyone who believes that women deserve equality in all aspects of society, not just in name but in practice. Also, to anyone who wants our business community to be successful.

Lloyd wants “proper equality”:  “Why is there such an unfair gender imbalance in home executives. Let’s set a quota for home Dads and force 50% of home Mums back into the workforce. Fair’s fair.” I agree, Lloyd, let’s do that. And watch childcare in workplaces increase exponentially. Because no woman ever stayed home to look after children because that’s what made financial sense, not because she’s a lazy slapper, right?

BONUS ROUND: What About The Menz AND gender essentialism. Top marks for you, ‘A Dad’: “Perhaps we can also get the gender imbalance fixed for dangerous jobs too. Too many men are dying from mining, the heavy engineering and the armed forces. Yes, a very divisive subject but very important to air because of the many complexities that relate to each gender. We will never be equal as we are physically and psychologically different.”

YouKnowIt’sThe Truth can’t bring himself make an argument, except to say “The phrase “PC gone mad” is often despised by many as it’s so over-used, but I can’t think of a better one in this instance.” IT’S PC GONE MAD! Next, those uppity bitches will want, like, proper healthcare and education. GOD!

Timespider thinks successful people are special snowflakes and we should laud all of them: “When a woman makes it to the top she deserves it if she made it by herself & good on her – we need more women like this”‘ Because no man ever received assistance, mentoring, special education. EVER. They all got there through hard graft and good genes.

In totally missing the point news, along with a good old-fashioned, strawman, please come down Westiman: “Women are given opportunity to obtain skill sets- as you put it-turn the telescope around and ask the same question for men. How many men are nurses and what a kerfuffle that caused. There is a fundamental difference and as soon as you try to smooth the difference out you have total confusion on the roles/skills of both genders- Quotas are not the answer- are women some kind of “Sealord” catch?”

Speaking of strawmen, thanks Gondwana: “Should the All Black panel be adjusted genderly and when was the last Silver Ferns coach a male (I nominate myself to be the first even though I know nothing about netball). Why not leave people to live their own lives if they are good enough and work hard enough and sacrifice enough they’ll get their regardless of their gender.”

Oh, but wait, Gondwana has more: “This government enforced social engineering will be the death of us all. And you’ll notice it only ever goes one way! Women are always portrayed as the poor innocent little victims of male prejudice and never of their own folly and poor choices in life!” government enforced social engineering! We’re getting close to bingo here, folks.

So, that must mean it’s time for a little bit of drive-by misogyny. Wolfman sez “If you want something stuffed up, give it to a woman, plenty of examples of this around the world.”

Oh, also, we women should just be quiet and wait our turn, according to CGD: “I believe in 20-30 years from now there will be many women with the skills and experience to be in executive roles in bigger numbers than there are now. Good things take time!”

Except, that of course, it’s all our own fault, because we suck, and should probably get back in the kitchen. Right, refugee? “Women dominate in the teaching professions. Boys are failing. Badly. No one seems to have any problem with that, but answer this. Why? The London School of Economics knows.”