Monday, December 31, 2012

Sexual Assault in India

I am so angry at the moment. The death of a young woman following a gang rape in India is so tragic, so unnecessary, I am almost shaking with rage. More than that, I am afraid because I have someone close to me visiting India right now and I truly fear for her safety.

What possesses any man to think he a) has the right to sexually assault someone who was sitting on a bus with her boyfriend and b) to join in with his friends in torturing her, causing her so much damage that she dies?

All I can think of is total disrespect for another human being. I'm not Indian and I live in a country where rape is treated as a serious crime. I'm eternally grateful that I have never experienced such a serious assault - although I, like many other women, have experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour, some of it shockingly invasive and very frghtening - but I do know women who have been raped and how much damage it does. And, scarily, in the news reports from India there has been so much victim shaming going on I feel physically sickened. When women go out to protest peacefully the police response should not be water cannon and truncheons.

As a non-Indian I can't speak first hand about what happens there but this woman has lived there and what she and others have say paints an alarming picture of what is supposed to be a modern, civilised country.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

I've been following US online comedy The Lizzie Bennet Diaries since soon after it started and I have to say it's completely addictive. This is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice given a thoroughly modern twist in the form of a vlog - and my uninvited spell checker just changed that to blog. You'd think that it would be at least that up to date with current technology, wouldn't you? But back to the subject. In a series of videos Lizzie, her sisters, Jane and Lydia, and best friend, Charlotte, share their experiences as Lizzie's mother tries to find wealthy husbands for her very twenty first century daughters. It is clever and very funny, all the more so if you know Pride and Prejudice. 

After a while, wild child, Lydia, decides that instead of just continuing to crash Lizzie's videos, she'll start up her own vlog. It's even better if you can watch this along with Lizzie's which you can on the website. There's much more here too as others also get into the act.

I'd recommend setting aside some time before you settle down to watch and starting from the beginning. If you're like everyone else I've talked to about it you'll be glued to the screen for quite a while. I suspect Jane Austen would have approved.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Season's Greetings

Wishing all my readers all the best for the festive season and a New Year that brings you all you could wish for.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Carols By Candlelight

This is a uniquely Australian Christmas tradition held in all major cities - and many smaller centres as well.

Although there has been group carol singing for centuries all over the world the idea of holding carol singing for the public at a central place originated in Melbourne in Victoria. The idea came from a radio announcer, Norman Banks, who aimed to get people together to join in singing favourite Christmas carols. The first Carols by Candlelight were held in Melbourne in 1938. The idea spread and now Carols by Candlelight (or in places where there is a high fire hazard by torchlight) take place across the country usually on the last weekend before Christmas or on Christmas Eve.

For those lucky enough to experience it there's no question that there is something very special about sitting out on the grass on a warm summer's night with candles flickering in their holders and lighting the faces of the crowd as they join in traditional carols and other Christmas songs along with the singers and massed choirs.

The two biggest events are Carols by Candlelight in Melbourne (sponsored by Channel Nine) and Carols in the Domain in Sydney (sponsored by Channel Seven) both of which are telecast by their sponsors. To me, the downside of this sponsorship is that there is a lot of promotion of shows on the channels and that makes for a somewhat commercial feel. Still most people see that as a small price or even actively enjoy it so I guess I'm out of step there.

We don't always get to the carols - those in Perth are held on the weekend before Christmas - but we have our own tradition associated with them. Every Christmas Eve Pisces settles in with Carols By Candlelight from Melbourne on the television while he makes the fruit salad from Christmas dinner. Combining the traditional celebratory carols of Christmas with the pleasure of preparing food to share with loved ones is not a bad way to acknowledge both the religious and social aspects of Christmas, in my opinion.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

School Shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut

I've been avoiding reading about the dreadful mass murders in the US until today. Now I have and it is truly heartbreaking - so many little children dead and such stories of heroism as teachers sought to protect them and their schoolmates. I find it hard to comprehend how anyone could do such a thing - but then I never thought anyone would murder innocent and inoffensive people sitting enjoying a meal in a cafe at Port Arthur in Tasmania or teens at a holiday camp in Norway either. I guess most of us feel like that. The twisted few are aberrations but what damage they cause.

My heart goes out to all those who have lost someone dear to them or have the horrific task of dealing with the aftermath.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pageant Girls

There are certain television programs I watch from the US that disturb me on a regular basis - and I'm not talking about the fictional ones although the preoccupation with violence in many of them is often problematic. What I'm talking about are those about children's beauty pageants. They are documentaries  of a sort and I admit I watch them with my head shaking as I wonder just how deluded some people are and how low they can go - and that, of course, is the fascination. For every sensible parent whose child obviously loves performing and is doing so in an age appropriate way there are dozens of others with little girls made up like adults, dressed in skimpy outfits and performing gyrating dance moves that seem more appropriate to a strip show.

During the interview segments the parents - mostly mothers but with a smattering of fathers - nearly all say that they're there because their child loves it and if the child ever loses interest they will walk away. Unfortunately their behaviour often belies that. Many of the girls are bullied into practising, they are pushed on to the stage even if they are ill, laced into outfits that are painfully uncomfortable and the pressure put on them to perform perfectly is horrendous. Children as young as four are expected to perform flawlessly and, when they don't, not only are they marked down by the judges, they are berated by their parents.

Then there are the girls who are spoiled and bratty and often talented. They perform well on stage but their love of being centre stage carries on off-stage too. "Oh," their parents say fondly, and as if it's a good thing, "she's such a diva," as little Gracie-Suellen, Sirinitee, Ebiny or Ever Lily throws yet another tantrum. Well, no. She is being indulged and not learning how to succeed in the real world. It's notable in the parent provided bio that many of these girls, even the four and five year olds, apparently - and unbelievably - aspire to be Miss USA or Miss Universe.

The delusions of some of the parents is hard to believe. One woman left a recent pageant convinced her child had not won because the judges had only picked blue-eyed blondes and there were no dark-haired girls in the competition. In her opinion the whole thing was obviously rigged - except one of the major winners had dark hair and maybe her daughter was marked down because they were so extremely late at one point she arrived after the section finished and that meant she lost points. Then there was the mother who was so offended that her daughter didn't win - as she thought wrongly having not bothered to pay attention to the instructions - that she threw a massive tantrum, broke her daughter's prize and walked out.

I'm quite sure that many of these children are there for no other reason than their parents's desire for them to be there. There have been interviews with mothers who bluntly state that they wanted their child to be in pageants before they were even born. Obviously these children never had an option. They do interview segments with the children as well as following them around with the camera and it comes over very clearly that, apart from the few highly competitive girls, that much of pageant day is anything but fun for them.

So why do I watch when in my opinion there is an unhealthy preoccupation with physical beauty (and it shows in the comments some of the girls make in their interviews) and the children are often being treated in ways I find disturbing?

Well I think it's as I said above. I'm fascinated by how low these parents can go. I equate it to watching a train wreck. You know it's going to end in tears but somehow you can't look away.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Flash mobbing

For no reason except I found them uplifting I share this and this.
Edit: I forgot to acknowledge Dorathy and Keira for pointing me to these.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sexism Excused Because It's Historical Fantasy.

Right? Well, no. The usual answer to anyone who questions this perceived wisdom is that historical times were sexist and the authors who follow this pattern are just being accurate. Instead it's more that men wrote history and so we get men's view of history. Oddly, there have always been many women who refused to accept their place as defined in these traditional histories but they are still regarded as unusual. A few examples who spring to mind are Jean of Arc, a successful general, Elizabeth I of England who ruled in her own right from 1558-1603, Isabella I of Jerusalem, also a queen regnant from 1170-1205 and these are only a few women prominent in political matters. I haven't even started on the scholars, scientists, authors and artists.

 Tansy Rayner Roberts posted about this here a few days ago and this has now been reposted here at where there has been much discussion on the subject. The comments make interesting reading. As an historian Rayner Roberts has a useful perspective and particular interest in this area and she has now posted a list of all her posts connected to the subject and on feminism generally here. If you missed them the first time around, and whether you are interested in feminism or not, I think they are worth a look.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Mr Blobby on The Big Fat Quiz of the 90's

For absolutely no reason other than I needed a good laugh and thought you might like one too via The Bloggess this.