Bollocks to that

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Dear Grant, (@grantfeller)

Oh man, where do I begin with this?

So I read your article in Sunday Style Magazine (Why Men Make Terrible Mothers, 28/10/14) and I’ll be honest: I had to close the magazine and go for a walk in the fresh air. Because, really. Are we still doing this? In 2014? In the face of actual real life statistics that prove what we all inherently know – that the bond between an adult and a child is profoundly influenced by the quality time that they spend together, not whether or not the adult has lady parts or man parts – you still want to get out of nappy duty by playing the gender card.

Oxytocin – the love hormone – is a wonderdrug. It helps women grow healthy babies in their bellies. It helps them get those babies out. It masks the pain and trauma of childbirth. It forces a bond between mother and child so that the child won’t be abandoned. It assists with the creation of milk for those babies. That’s a whole lot of crazy shit, but it all happens over a very short space of time in a new human’s life – 6 months, 12 months, or for the hardcore amongst us, a couple of years. But what’s a couple of years compared with the 18 that you are legally obligated to take care of that child? Or the lifetime that your heart compels you to be there for them? Women get a head-start in the bonding department – absolutely. But without constant and consistent time spent with that child, a bond won’t form on its own. Love grows and continues to grow long after the maternal oxytocin wears off. And men produce oxytocin, too. Why do you think that is? So that they can bond and connect with fellow human beings. Think about the people in your life whom you love – do you honestly think you love them less than the women in their lives?

This whole backhanded ‘Women: The Altruistic Wonders’ argument is precisely the kind of manipulative shit that keeps women from pursuing the same social privileges as men. Because why bother hiring a woman if she’s just going to exercise her natural instinct to go off and have babies? Why bother educating her if she’ll never fulfil that potential? In fact, why bother letting her out of the house in the first place if all she’s ever going to do with her life is raise children because she naturally wants nothing more than to live it in servitude to her kids?

As nicely and jovially as you tried to put it, you essentially said that women belong at home and men belong in the workforce. Bollocks. Humans belong where they are best suited, whatever bits they have between their legs. Gender roles are a dangerous social construct that only serves a small few (but perhaps you are one of those few). This constant suggestion that women have a set role to play isolates and limits them, and in turn isolates and limits men. This is problematic for both of us; it causes deep-set anxiety in women who find themselves not enjoying motherhood as intensely as society expects them to, and it breeds a sense of powerlessness and obligation in men. What will men do without the women in their lives if they are so inherently incapable of taking care of the kids? What if they are unable to provide for their family? What control do they really have over their own offspring as mere men? God forbid they actually enjoy caring for their children and feel emasculated by doing something they love.

Insistence of set gender roles has darker and more sinister undertones, too. There is a proven link between the respect and authority that women have in society as a whole and the incidence of violence against them. In communities where women are represented in a diverse range of roles and responsibilities, and revered in positions of authority, lower instances of domestic abuse and rape are recorded. And it’s not just women who suffer from the crippling social expectation of strict gender roles. The most common cause of death in young men is suicide. Men, who are taught that feelings are something they shouldn’t have, would sooner die than talk about what’s troubling them. This is not a coincidence. I want to be part of a world where women have more choices, but I also want to see men living long, happy and healthy lives. The two can’t be separated.

I’m gonna level with you. The job you’re doing – being at home as the primary carer of a child, while also trying to nurture a fledgling business – that shit is HARD. It’s not hard because you’re a man, it’s hard because it’s HARD. I know. I do the same job and I’m a woman. I was legitimately surprised at how shit I am at this job. The suggestion that you’re not good at it simply by virtue of being a man is a cop-out. And if that’s the case, what’s my excuse? Women are expected to be good at raising kids so they pretend they’re happy, even when they’re struggling (#lovemyjob). Men are not expected to be good at it, so are either praised when they manage a basic task, or excused if they drop the ball. But it’s all unfounded bollocks; if you’re not enjoying it, or you’re finding it hard, the problem and its solution lies with YOU. If you’d rather be at the pub than at a play date, it’s not because you’re a man, it’s because those are your priorities. And OK. No judgment. I’d rather be at the pub some days, too. It might get better with time or it might not, but ultimately you have choices – far more than I do over here in the same boat – that you can exercise to better your situation. If your choice is to walk away from being a primary carer, have the courage to say that you couldn’t make it work. Not that you are a man and all men are incapable, cleverly ridding yourself of the disappointment and responsibility that you might actually have to face.

I grew up with less choices than my male counterparts on the basis of my gender. I want more choices for my daughter. And more again for the granddaughters I may one day have. I want my son to never feel trapped or emasculated if his favourite film isn’t Full Metal Jacket. Please, be part of the solution. It’s easy, even trendy, to stand up to blatant sexism and misogyny – those lines have long been drawn in the sand. But it is so hard for women like me to stand up to the kind of everyday sexism that you have displayed in your article because you either think it’s a joke or it makes no difference. Please, it is not a joke and it makes a difference. It’s puts women in their place, with a smiley face.

You’re doing a hard job. I’m doing a hard job. We’re neither of us particularly good at it, or enjoying it as much as we’d like, but we’re doing our best. And for fuck’s sake, let’s get on the same side here because we’re all in this together.

 

Caroline says: Yeah, what she said ^^^. Grant, I’d be happy to catch up with you during the day to lament together how our businesses aren’t traveling at the warp-speed they could be because we chose to have children. Let’s whine in unison over a soy flat white in a (pram-friendly) cafe and compare notes on how boring sheet-changing really truly is and how we just aren’t congratulated enough for those little jobs around the house. Friends got a promotion and a new car? What about us? My kid is rolling like a trouper but where is my thanks? We can congratulate each other Grant, cos lord knows we deserve it. But let’s please do it as people, as parents and as ourselves. Not as sweeping generalisations of our gender. Men and women deserve more than that.

Why the WAF needs Feminism

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I’ll be honest with you WAF, when I first visited your tumblr with all those haughty opinions of yours, I kinda scoffed. I mean, really. A bunch of women making the ultimately feminist choice to express their opinion by making largely feminist statements under the banner of not needing feminism. If I could have located just one woman holding a sign that said ‘I don’t need feminism because I believe that men are superior to me and that my opinions don’t matter’ then maybe you would have made your point. Instead, it’s just a bunch of feminists deniers dissing on feminism. Some of the best ones are:

I don’t need feminism because I made a choice to be a stay at home mother.

I don’t need feminism because I don’t need a pack of angry vaginas to fight my battles.

I don’t need feminism because having sex with a stranger is irresponsible, not rape.

I haven’t needed feminism since the 1920s.

LOL.

I promptly forgot about WAF. Their issue isn’t with feminism but with their skewed perception of feminism. And, it seemed, the underlining fear that aligning themselves with feminism might make them seem angry or unattractive. Far be it for me to tell them otherwise. They’re big girls (so they keep insisting). They can work this stuff out for themselves.

Then just yesterday I read a really, really, really sad article about real life marital counselling in the 1950s and 60s. It’s a long read, but you can check it out here.

It uncovered an epidemic in 20th Century social culture to blame women for any kind of discord present in an unhappy marriage. Even violence against them. The ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?’ column was published in a widely read and very popular women’s magazine. And I imagine the published cases only represent the very tip of the iceberg.

Take ‘Elsa’ and ‘Josh’. Elsa was beaten and humiliated publicly by Josh on a number of occasions. After giving birth to a baby girl, Josh ignored Elsa and their daughter showing his disappointment in the fact it wasn’t a boy. When he had to make his own breakfast one morning shortly following the birth, he flew into a rage. The counsellor’s comment, as published in this national magazine:

“If she wanted a serene family life, she would have to learn to give Josh what he wanted from their marriage and thereby help him control his temper.” In other words “This wife needed to be convinced out of her own self-righteous understanding of the situation.”

In response to more and more women writing in to discuss domestic abuse, he comments: ‘it was interesting to find how bitterly the average man resents a sloppy and slovenly wife.’

Still think you don’t need feminism? Still think you haven’t needed it since the 1920s?

Find me one woman on the WAF tumblr that thinks this is OK. Not just the abuse, but the justification of it.

Find me one woman on the WAF willing to put on a placard ‘I don’t need feminism because in cases of domestic violence it is my duty as a wife to help my husband control his temper.’

Find me one woman on the WAF who wouldn’t fight tooth and nail if Elsa were her sister or her friend.

Let me tell you something WAF: you’re here, expressing your opinion on a global scale, because of feminism. And let me tell you something else, if you ever find yourself married to a ‘Josh’, that ‘bunch of angry vaginas’ you hate so much will not rest until you are safe.

I’m gonna level with you, WAF: there are some angry feminists and there are some peaceable ones, too. Lucky for you, you can ignore the angry ones if you find them so displeasing – believe me, it will never be illegal to shave your legs, like men or wear short skirts. But all in all, this developing global community of ours hasn’t reached a point where all women out here have the choices that you seem to think you have. You think you don’t need feminism, but your mother probably did and your sister might, your daughter might, your neighbour might. I’d love nothing more than to say, with all honestly, that we don’t need feminism anymore. But we still do.

So when you say your prayers tonight, and find yourself grateful to live in an imperfect but improving society, feel free to give your thanks. To feminism.

Remember ‘Elsa’. Not her real name, but she was a real person. A woman who was told, publicly and not so long ago, that her husband might beat her if she finds herself unable to tend to her prescribed household duties. Remember her and the many women like her who still live in the same fear. Lest we effing forget.

Sleep Deprivation – Tortured Delirium or Creative Genius?

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I’ve always been a great sleeper. I love sleep. I sleep well. I sleep long.

Correction: Slept.

Lately, August has been enjoying his “babies being babies” status by waking every two hours overnight to feed. I’m talking ravenous feeding. He’s little, he’s growing, and it’s just not an option for me to refuse to feed the little tyke. So I’m up. A lot.

As the days wore on and my maximum length of slumber at a time peaked at 2.5 hours in a 5 day period – I hit delirium. And this is where it gets interesting. I think I found a correlation between creativity and sleep deprivation. A positive spin on a shite situation – yes indeed. Could it just be the delirium talking – quite possibly.

I can only liken it to that level of drinking when your barriers come down, you get all loosey-goosey in the chatter department, and you suddenly become a champion pool player. I have proof that after approximately 3.5 glasses of wine, I “get my eye in”* and start sinking balls like I’ve joined the professional circuit. I once got someone to take a video of me executing some crazy shot that included ricochets, jump shots and 3 balls sunk, just so I could show people my mad skills in the harsh light of day. Amy and I once went away for a weekend to write an ebook (still in progress), drank a couple of bottles of red, befriended the local pub owner and creativity positively sparked out of us. We think.

I started to see this side of me emerging around 3pm each day, but now my mad skills extended to heightened wit and crazy styling ideas. And there was no booze involved. I had inadvertently “got my eye in”** by not sleeping.

My self-editing went out the window, with any idea getting airplay. I was spinning puns and weaving wordplay without pause, and thoughts were streaming out of me. I also got totally over-emotional, like a drunk crying into a beer. But this was a small price to pay for flashes of brilliance.

A lack of inhibition has been characteristic of many creative greats, with an ability to tap into ideas that might never have seen the light of day had they allowed editing to occur. I can totally understand the need to chase this feeling, this crazed state of heightened everything where it just seems easier to work. Sure – you’re dancing (sometimes flailing) to the sound of your own drum. Sure – timeframes go out the window and strangers give you polite smiles and start to back away slowly. And SURE – your partner/family/dog are a little unsure as to why things are getting made when there are chores to be done. But all just a byproduct of the delirium. A small price to pay.

For a spell at least.

We know that sleep deprivation also does a whole heap of bad stuff to your body if it continues for too long a stretch.*** You shouldn’t drive, operate heavy machinery or basically do anything that requires refined motor skills and quick judgement. And we don’t CHOOSE it (that would be taking it one step too far).

But you know what? Two nights ago, August slept from 9pm to 5am. I awoke with both the fear of God that something had happened to him, and the pain of Zeus in my engorged breasts. After I’d checked that he was indeed totally fine and happily gurgling to himself in the cot, I realised that I felt like a new woman. I felt great! Good Morning World!!

But I also felt something was amiss. I sat down to try to plan my day, to write some more and plot a moodboard. And struggled a little. Then it hit me. My eye was out. I was totally rational and rested. And although I was so relieved to have been handed this delicious stretch of sleep, I was also a little sad that my loose crazy genius had also retired. Now I really had to think.

For the time being at least. August is nothing if not unpredictable.

 

 

 

* not scientifically proven

** also not scientifically proven

*** this is totally scientifically proven but I just don’t have time to Google the appropriate reference. Soz

 

Eccen-trip Melbourne | St Kilda, Football and Food

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Last week’s Eccen-trip to the iconic Melbourne locale of St Kilda had a something of a family affair about it, as we became part of the cheer squad at a football game final with a difference.  This was the Wynbay Bulldogs vs the Broady Power, teams in the Reclink Australia league, a competition that supports people with mental health issues, a disability, those experiencing homelessness, financial hardship or substance abuse or who have come through the corrections system. My husband Adam is a mentor in the Wynbay team, and Amy’s husband John had a hand in the trophies for the Final. Those guys.

We decided to combine the trip to catch some of the game with the generally favoured past-times of coffee-drinking, Hazel-watching and Melbourne-loving by checking out Luna Park and some of the suburb’s best cafes. How could we go past an establishment called “The Beavers Tail Social Club”, I ask you?

Fred generally chillaxed and pondered life’s big questions, August flirted with complete strangers, and Hazel – well, Hazel did what she does best. Being Hazel.

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The God Spotlight

Throughout my life, I have experienced moments that I have come to refer to as ‘God’s Spotlight’.

It’s a little hypocritical of me. I don’t really believe in God. Not in any traditional sense, anyway. I guess I would call my morals and values non-denominational Christian but, if I’m honest, that’s simply because Christianity is mainstream in my environment so it’s the religion I know the most about. I’m fairly certain that these same values that I live my life by are the backbone of most religions. And, um, the law.

Don’t kill. Don’t steal. Be kind. Love one another. Ya know?

I also support a lot of things that most religious denominations, in practice anyway, typically don’t. I’m Pro Choice. I’m Pro Marriage Equality. I’m a feminist, too which isn’t sacrilegious as such. It just gets under their fingernails a little bit. I rather reluctantly went to a Catholic School and was an argumentative little hellraiser in mandatory RE class. “But Miss, how can you believe that God loves you when he drowned EVERYONE!? Even the ANIMALS!? I’m sorry, but that guy can’t be trusted.” But when all’s said and done, I guess I believe in a ‘God’ (poor ‘God’. He will always be an inverted commas kind of thing for me). Maybe it’s not a him or a person at all that I believe in but a force, that’s both within me and also everywhere. I don’t know. Whatever. I like it. It suits me fine.

So anyway. In my life, typically my childhood, I often had moments whereupon my experience of a situation was inexplicably heightened. They would be moments of little or no spectacle, forgotten quickly by the others right there sharing the same experience. But for me, it was as though a spotlight was shining and the moment would be recorded by my mind with such precision so to never forget. I have a catalogue of them, many of which I’ve never truly analysed for their potential meaning. I’d like to go through that catalogue one day and try to figure out exactly what it was they (or He or It) were teaching me at that moment. But my favourite and most important one was this:

It was 1992 or 1993. So I would have been 11 or 12. I had gone with my aunt and uncle and cousins to a holiday house on a river at a tiny little place called Tunnel Bend on the Howqua River. The house was a shack deep in the bush. There were blackberries everywhere. And a really cool badminton court. And a river with a fairly strong current that travelled around in a circle through a man-made tunnel that had been cut from the earth during the Gold Rush. The shack backed onto a small stony beach where we’d paddle downstream to the tunnel on lilos, drag them up through the dark tunnel over rocks and rockpools, and then resume paddling on the other side, arriving right back where we started.

We had all set out one mild morning – not hot, I remember that – to a spot further up the river that had a nice stretch of stony beach, where the current wasn’t too strong for kids to swim. We didn’t drive or walk, we got on lilos and floated up to the spot. I shared a lilo with my cousin. My uncle kayaked.

We splashed around for a while, but I felt a bit cold so I jumped out of the water and sat on the stony beach wrapped up in a towel next to my sister and my aunt who wasn’t there to swim, so she was wearing jeans, shoes and a jumper. My cousins and uncle were still out in the water. I turned away for a split second and before I knew what was happening my aunt was in the water – in her jeans and her shoes and her jumper. I heard her yell something beforehand, but I didn’t hear what. I looked out into the water at her four boys swimming, but for a moment I couldn’t see my uncle… and then, within seconds, his kayak flipped up out of the water and he was there again. My aunt was still swimming out to him, fully clothed. She must have looked up and realised he was OK and stopped, treading water, for one electric moment while we all looked on a little confused. Then she waded back to the shore and my uncle followed her.

“I saw you go under,” she said. “I thought you were drowning.”

He looked at her with a proud smile and said something along the lines of ‘you silly sausage’, gave her a kiss and a hug. She was drenched, her jeans and her shoes and her jumper. And she was magnificent. A woman who had leapt to save her husband, without thinking of the consequences. Without a care that it wasn’t a particularly warm day and she had no other clothes. Without a care that she might look silly. She jumped in the river! In her jeans! In her shoes! In her jumper! She didn’t waste a moment to consider whether he was perfectly OK, perhaps not drowning at all. It didn’t matter.

THIS. Said ‘God’. Pay attention to THIS.

I was 11 or 12. I didn’t know anything about love. I knew I loved my family and they loved me. But I didn’t understand this kind of love, or this kind of fear of loss. I had no context with which to process this moment but my naive little mind, yet to experience love or hurt, opened up and swallowed it all.

That little spotlight film has played and re-played in my head for many years. Throughout my teens, when love was confusing, it taunted me like a puzzle I couldn’t solve. It would be years before I began to see its relevance. That spotlight has helped me to recognise when someone loved me. And it has helped me recognise when someone maybe didn’t. It taught me to leap without fear of being wrong or looking silly. That even when you are wrong or look silly, you are still magnificent and brave. It taught me that the magazines, with all their advice on playing it cool and keeping your cards close to your chest, are wrong. Most importantly, it taught me that women are not just the objects of love; we are capable of loving with the same ferociousness and foolishness as men. Simply put, that moment taught me how to love.

And so I credit this funny little moment with so much of the love that I have in my life. So thanks ‘God’. If that really was you, it was a darn cool trick.

Eccen-trip Melbourne | Queen Vic Market

↑ This kid and her fruit! Checking out the produce at Queen Vic Market ↑

One of the things we want to try to do more of is getting out and about around Melbourne town with our kids. Maybe you like indoor play centres – no judgement – but I don’t. I want to get out and experience this great city of ours and I want my kids to do the same. In fact, Hazel has taken to asking me on a Thursday morning (our traditional day together, when I’m otherwise working) ‘What adventure will we go on today?’

This particular post is about my family’s regular, weekly adventure. It’s something we decided to start doing this year because a) going grocery shopping SUCKS but b) going grocery shopping is essential and c) lovely weekend family time is at a premium so c) let’s do a weekly family outing to the Vic Market on Sundays and kill two birds (one sucky one lovely one) with the one stone!

This one was a particularly special Eccen-trip because it was my birthday. The best part about that is that I led us around the market in a completely haphazard way, as is my wont, and John had to kinda cop it. We’d usually be a little more organised, a little less whimsical. But it’s my birthday and I’ll ramble if I want to.

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↑ Current favourite – Blood Oranges ↑IMG_0155
↑ Inside the covered Queen Vic deli! We have a ‘cheese guy’ and a ‘butter lady’ among other regulars ↑

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↑ Do not visit the Vic Market without trying a Borek ↑IMG_0162 IMG_0163

↑ First stop for me is always Market Lane for coffee ↑IMG_0170 IMG_0171

 

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The First Eccen-trip, Melbourne – Royal Exhibition Building Gardens and Life InStyle Trade Show

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It was a blustery day that saw our small convoy hit up the Royal Exhibition Building to explore both the surrounding gardens and the Life Instyle Expo taking place inside the impressive building. So blustery in fact, that we were actually worried that the wind would take one of us with pram in tow (let’s be honest, it’d be Amy first). It was to be the first “official” DoE Eccen-Trip, Melbourne outing (read: first to be blogged about) where we got out the cameras and attempted to combine kids, creativity and coffee. I would suggest it was a win/win/win outcome, regardless of how my hair looked after Mother Nature blew it out of any acceptable shape.

Amy has been contemplating including her retail collection in the Life InStyle trade event, and I was interested to see what was happening in the area of form and shape that could translate into event styling later in the year. We also wanted to hit up some of the Kids InStyle vendors,  to get an idea of brands that might be in line with DoE (grand plan schemes peeps!)

The boys pretty much hung out in pram or on boob, so Hazel got much of the lens-time on offer. We caught up with the lovely Zoe Howard of Cushionopoly, with her gorgeous range of cushions designed, screenprinted and handmade in Melbourne. Fred flirted outrageously with Amy’s studio-mate Tamara of Retro Print Revival , and we generally ooohed and ahhhed over the many beautiful new products that caught our eye. Or Hazel’s hand.

 

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140731 hazel web3The exterior colour-wall of the Melbourne Museum

140731 amyfred Amy and Fred. Hat don’t fit? Still rockin’ it.