Sunday, March 19, 2017

One giant leap for womankind (Hidden Figures)

Men are better at maths than women, white people have bigger brains than black people, women's place is in the home, the moon-landing was a giant leap for mankind.

These pervasive myths are so spectacularly shattered by the real-life-based box-office hit film Hidden Figures that one feels there is no going back to the bullshit now that that film has been seen by millions of people around the world. And the fact that it is such a box-office hit when no-one is murdered or even injured, there is no sex or nudity, and THE MAIN CHARACTERS ARE THREE BRILLIANT BLACK WOMEN, is one of the most revealing and uplifting events of our times in that it speaks to the truth, I think, that people don't want to be lied to anymore and prefer a true story of courage and cleverness and justice won against impossible odds, to violence, sex, contrived macho heroism and lies. We get enough of the latter in global politics, after all.

The film is also highly entertaining and brilliantly acted, and was nominated for three Oscars, though it didn't win any. Who decides the Oscars again? (6,000 members who are 'overwhelmingly white men' appointed by invitation only).

But the truth that people of all walks of life are flocking to see, a truth hidden from any news, entertainment or media source for more than fifty years, is that three brilliant, black women, who all had children and were otherwise 'regular' women in the ultra conservative 1950s and early 60s, were instrumental in getting white men to successfully orbit the earth, then to the moon, leading the way at NASA in their pioneering computer programming, rocket engineering and, most critically of all, rocket science, the advanced mathematical calculations required to determine the trajectories for getting rockets and men up into space and back safely.

John Glenn even refused to embark on his mission to orbit the earth without the numbers being checked by the only woman and black person on the team of forty-odd mathematicians doing the sums to ensure he got up and back safely. Who knew? NO ONE - except for those involved, of course.

Behind every great man? Let's rewrite that: 'Behind every successful man there is a great woman'. Only in this film, the women are out in front, in the spotlight, claiming, at long last, the credit and glory they deserve, though only one of the three women is still alive to see it.

And let's not forget that their stories might never have been told but for another black woman - Margot Lee Shetterly - researching and writing the book Hidden Figures (2016) to finally bring them to light.

It's such an amazing and cinematic story but no storyteller, until now, felt it was worth the telling in book or film - the fact that the story was so well hidden, clearly would not have helped. And so often this seems to be the case with women's achievements throughout history. Most written history is the story of men, as if women weren't even there.

But something seems to be finally changing. Women have always been considered, at most, the second sex, at worst, barely human, with males given preferential treatment and access to privileges and power ahead of females from birth, in every country around the world. But as the message of this film is that when we come together simply as human beings we can reach the stars, literally, it might just be that we have finally been shown the error and harm of our ways so that we can go on from here with hope that we could actually make a world in which there is a whole lot more justice, happiness and peace. Awomen to that.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

'Sex is wonderful'

The title is a quote from a local author, Bernard Beckett, in his father-to-son letter written in response to the recent debate about rape culture in New Zealand. I encourage you to read it and thank author Sarah Laing for the link, and for her own response to the debate.

The debate was sparked last week by some boys from a local boys' high school posting on Facebook the comment that if you don't take advantage of ('fuck') drunk girls you are, effectively, not a man.

The comment received several 'likes' from other boys at the school before it was reported to officials and reached the media. There was an outcry from various quarters, including a protest organised by the local girls' school.

We have a very high rate of sexual assault in NZ and this issue has been debated and dismissed many times before. Those who have seen it all before and seen the limp legal response to a variety of rape cases, argue that the problem is that women continue to be held responsible for changing our behaviour 'This issue isn’t women’s responsibility to fix' while boys are repeatedly sympathised with and excused.

So Bernard Beckett taking public responsibility as a man for changing the attitude and behaviour of his sons, away from that of male entitlement and domination and towards respect for women as human beings, is a big step forward. Few men have taken this step in the past, rather, most leap to the defence of the boys and men accused of rape.

I fundamentally believe that if women had the social power nature intended us to have - and that we must have had some time in the distant past - we would be able to repel would-be rapists and ensure that men with the capacity and inclination to rape would not reproduce. By devaluing the feminine through misogynistic religions, war and pornography, etc (I think single-sex schools are a problem too), we transfer this natural power away from girls and women to those boys and men who think they have a right to do with us what they want, to own, to dominate, and to hurt us if we resist, because we are, to them, not fully human. Aristotle thought we were 'deformed men'. This is not about thugs. There are strenuous intellectual defences of the basic idea that women are a lesser species of being than men.

Sex is wonderful, rape is wrong. There is a world of difference between wonderful and wrong. It is up to men to return the power to repel would-be rapists to girls and women by teaching their sons the difference between wonderful and wrong and vigorously prosecuting those that fail to learn.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Master bed

Sorry about the uneven light, best I could do between downpours.

Her room really (the cat's).
Not for sale (room). Cat, possibly.
I have a theory that the mattress protector was developed by a man to avoid having to take the mattress outside for an airing once in a while. Lifting and carrying a double mattress is definitely 'men's work'.

But washing the mattress protector is mostly going to be women's work, as most washing is done by women, whether paid or unpaid. In our house, Moose does the Saturday wash and I do the rest, which is about even, to be fair.

But this 'master bed' load nearly killed the washing machine (and me). Three queen-sized sheets and protectors, plus pillowcases, all wrapped around a centre piece, spinning and churning madly, was nearly more than our machine could cope with. Handling them onto the line took a fair amount of spinning and churning too; really a longer-limbed machine and chief washer are required.

And that house there beyond the sheets - our neighbours of twenty-two years - has just sold for a second time this year. Estate agents bought and flicked it, adding a shiny vase of giant fresh flowers like a great fake smile. And bingo! It sold again.

Don't know how much more they got for it the second time but it didn't take long to sell. They'd only need another $50,000 to be doing very well out of the two-month deal, and that's precisely how house prices are pushed higher and higher. Sometimes I think the entire right-wing is a property developer and effective real-estate agent.

Parasites one and all.

Meanwhile, we live on next door, exposing our underbelly to the prospective neighbours - spin on that!

Nice garden.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Amy

What better way to celebrate International Women's Day than with the comic genius of Amy Schumer whose latest stand-up show - the Leather Special - we watched on Netflix last night.

'Be bold for change' is the message of this year's International Women's Day and Amy is nothing if not BOLD.

She not only challenges Hollywood and wider ideals of petite, pouting and passive femininity, but in this latest special she boldly uses her international platform to make a stand on gun violence and violence against women after two women were shot dead while watching her film Trainwreck by a man with a history of domestic violence.

She kind of stops her show to discuss this issue; namely that people (men) with a history of violence can buy a gun in the US, though she somehow still manages to make humour of it without taking anything away from the seriousness of the issue and her strong views on it. That takes real guts, and talent, and epitomises the 'be bold for change' message of this year's IWD.

Women have long been at the forefront of organised campaigns to end war and all forms of violence, while men have been at the forefront of blocking their efforts and fighting for their right to bear arms and kill people, effectively. The future of humanity rests on women being given more power to speak and be heard on the subject of ending all forms of violence, and Amy sets a fine example on this front, especially as she is entertaining and popular with men too and not as easily written off as a man-hating bitch, as feminists campaigning against guns, war and gender violence invariably are.

So here's to Amy Schumer, a true international woman living the challenge to be bold in fighting for change in how women are represented and treated by men, and for a world that does not condone and perpetuate violence in the name of some deeply misguided and sexist right. If a funny woman can be serious about stopping violence, we all can - and must. Be BOLD!



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

John gone, Jacinda in

Jacinda and Grant would have been great
So a bit of good local political news as the US sinks deeper into the political darklands of state-sanctioned patriarchal bullshit and bigotry.

Here in NZ the young, savvy and hugely popular female MP Jacinda Ardern has just been elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, giving the left-wing a chance of election after three terms of the right-wing under that previously popular political person with a name starting with J (John Key). Hurrah!

I wager Jacinda will ultimately replace John (who stepped down recently when he smelt the whiff of defeat) in the political popularity stakes, as she has that same all-round appeal - even if a female version, which for now at least seems likely not to equal the male equivalent for mainstream voters - but she actually cares about the people she represents, especially those who need - and deserve - political help. And ultimately I think Jacinda and her ilk will surpass the popularity of the 'old' white male on either side of the political spectrum.

A while back I voted for Jacinda to deputy lead with Grant Robertson as leader of the Labour Party, but the team of Andrew Little and his then deputy Annette King were elected to lead instead. Grant is gay and that seemed to be why the party voted for his blander, safer (not gay) colleague Andrew, which was disappointing and quite possibly politically disastrous. Grant is an awesome debater with a lively wit, much more so than Andrew, who is comparatively dull and ordinary. Grant and Jacinda would have been a dynamic, progressive and winning team, I think, with the exception of those voters, on both sides of the political spectrum, who remain sexist and homophobic.

But those old patriarchal prejudices are dying out and politics can only be improved when they do finally leave the world to be run by the broader of mind and more diverse of experience. A lot of men have a very narrow, black and white way of looking at problems, and politics has been limited and undermined by that narrow view for far too long.

We're not out of the woods yet, certainly not in the US, but here in NZ the election of Jacinda Ardern is a substantial step in the right direction so that is something to celebrate.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Broken Batman and Busted Robin

Broken Batman and Busted Robin
Sorry to sully the blog with this image, but the reason for it is that Trump looks SO tired in it it makes me feel good, and that's the main thing.

The man (loosely defined) has no idea what he is doing or how to do it and that would be tiring when it is your job to know everything and do everything.

His eye bags are puffy pouches of guilt for taking on a job that he is completely unequipped for and for hiring such a bunch of shit-bag old men to help, men who, if possible, are even less equipped than he is, because being yes-men, they are literally the very last sort of men Trump needs.

Old yes-men out, new 'no-women' (women who say no to Trump) of all ages in, that's the message for politics in the US and in all countries today I say - Cat Woman for President! - and that's what Trump's election and shady appointments are making clearer than any feminist campaign ever could have done.

So thank you, Broken Batman. You and your little Busted Robin side-kick up to your necks in Russian shit, have done us a favour. The bat-mobile can't save you now!

Monday, February 27, 2017

The mother of all men

Jeannie and Jim Gaffigan
Jeannie Gaffigan co-writes and produces her husband's comedy shows, including most recently the Jim Gaffigan Show for TV, which they have just stopped making after the second series to spend more time with their kids - they have five under the age of 12.

I was a fan of the Gaffigan even before I read this statement of his on the measure of manhood (now I want to marry him; move over Jeannie. Kidding, sort of). He is generally a very funny man, but his meta appeal is that unlike so many male (and some female) comedians, he doesn't mock and degrade women in his comedy.

In fact when I found this statement and podcast from Gaffigan I had just come from listening to two stand-up comedians, like him, played on our local RadioNZ (public broadcaster). One was from Bill Burr, the other from Ali Wong and both shamelessly mock motherhood as non-work. Wong does this while she is heavily pregnant with her first child so not really in the know yet as to what motherhood entails, and Burr does it because he doesn't need to be a woman - or even a parent - to know how pathetically easy motherhood is, he just uses his all-seeing, not at all man-biased, eyes.

Burr says it's not work if you can do it in your pyjamas. But he's wrong about that, because I can give a blow job in my pyjamas, and that's work; the clue's in the name 'job', Bill. Wake up, buddy.

Wong says feminists have ruined everything for women - while she's enjoying the rewards of feminist battles fought for her freedom to earn on a living on the stage (heavily pregnant) - because before feminism women never had to work (she actually says those words) and now they do, and that the reason she got pregnant was so she could put her feet up and relax and not have to work.

Good luck with that, Ali. I wonder if you will pay a woman (or a man as it always used to be when women didn't work) to help you raise your child and do the housework? Most 'career' women do, though not all. The key is we now have the choice to work at home for no money or on the stage for a lot of money, before we didn't. Stuff feminists for giving us that choice. The bloody bitches.

Indeed Burr and Wong are altogether so right and astute in their commentary on the state of our world. I mean what the world clearly needs is for women and motherhood to be respected less, because what's gone wrong so far is that women's 'work' throughout history has been way overvalued and men's work (golf) has been way undervalued. Clearly Donald Trump doesn't think enough of himself and doesn't get enough credit or power or success for all the WORK he puts in; that's clearly the problem.

The online backlash of comments from men to Gaffigan's podcast in which he expresses the above, deeply controversial sentiment that if men don't respect women and what they do they are not true men, is so telling of men's need to define themselves as better than women. Without that innate superior status, they're just people, like women - yes, women are people - and many men can't live with that. Here's just one of the comments in response to Gaffigan's radical feminist (not) statement:

‘Well in most developed countries a third to a half of men are not even interested anymore in chasing women and the number will keep rising. Men has realise it is not worth the effort anymore. In two/three generations only a small portion of people will marry/have children, wake up grandpa.’ 

Men really are so astute, factual - and grammatical.

It is no surprise to learn that Bill Burr, who is nearly fifty, has only recently (2013) married for the first time and that his fans are outraged that he married at all. This from one of them:

'I don't care if people get married or who they marry, but when your entire career revolves around making fun of marriage, gold-digging women, the unfairness of divorce laws, and then you end up marrying a pc woman with an attitude it just seems like a bad decision, lol. I also read that he said he doesn't have a pre-nup, he's worth around 4 million dollars, and if she divorces him, he'll just give her everything.'

Sure he will.

But he has a point. Burr's comedy career has been built on belittling women, so why marry one? His fans naturally see this as hypocrisy and they're right, to a point. But the simple truth is that the man, at 45, has finally grown up and seen the light beyond his cheap and nasty prejudices, just as Gaffigan did, only rather sooner on in his life. Gaffigan, a bit younger than Burr, married in 2003. Before that his comedy was less respectful of women, too; though it was never as shamelessly sexist as Burr's.

There's a pattern forming, folks: men need to love and respect (not merely lust after) a woman to figure out what it means to be a man, at least het men do. Gay men seem to know anyway; they typically respect their mothers a whole lot more than het men do, which no doubt makes a significant difference to their attitudes towards women.

Women, on the other hand, most of us at least (don't know about Ali), already know the importance of love and respect and family, etc, we don't need a man to teach us that. We just need men to let us teach them, and to do that they need to respect us enough first to be prepared to learn what we've got to teach them about the important things in life.

It's a Catch 22: many men can't learn respect for women without loving a woman and they can't really love a woman without first respecting us. No wonder there's so much domestic violence, divorce and cheap sexist comedy. It's something of a miracle it ever works between men and women.

So when it does, as in the Gaffigan case, it's an occasion to celebrate. I'm glad Gaffigan has five kids. If only he and the other guys capable of respecting women could father all the kids; the world would be fixed in no time at all, and we'd have better comedy to boot.