Feminism, Fitness and Me

I consider myself a left leaning, feminist. I like socialism, equality and justice. I regularly give thanks to my female ancestors for the work they did to enable me to be the independent woman I am today. I also thank my male ancestors for being progressive enough to know their wives and daughters were not just baby making house keepers. Being a mother, parenting and lifestyle is important to me, right now because I’m living it.

I was born in 1983, both of my parents born in the late 1950s. My parents both worked full time during my early childhood and I realise now in retrospect that this in itself was something quite unusual, considering only ten years earlier, had my mother and father had me, my mother would have had to give up work.

My family was always progressive. When I was a small child, it was never expected of me that I would get married and have babies. We were always told that we could go to university to get a degree, that we could go to TAFE and get an apprenticeship. My cousins and I would play games where we were doctors, school teachers, train drivers, fire fighters, police officers, hairdressers, super heroes, mothers and fathers, you name it. Not one of us were told that we couldn’t be anything we wanted to be.

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Obviously, women are still not equal in terms of pay and working conditions. I have given it a lot of thought as to why I think this is the case and also why I don’t believe women will ever be one hundred percent equal. It all comes down to babies.

I have multiple qualifications, including a degree, however I do not work full time. Not working full time is a choice my husband and I have made, however this greatly impacts on my earning capacity and also my retirement fund. Women tend to work in industries where there is the flexibility for part time or casual employment so that they may be there with their children as they are growing up. The unfortunate truth about these industries is that they do not earn the money that our male counterparts would earn working full time in an industry that does not offer part time or casual employment.

We may not ever be able to change this. I understand that businesses cannot afford to pay for people employed part time to earn the same as full time workers. That isn’t what I’m suggesting here.

One thing that I have noticed about feminism recently is that some people have quite extreme definitions of feminism. For me, feminism has no rules. There is no club for feminists with inductions and monthly meetings. We don’t have membership cards or a secret handshake. I see other women and I’m happy to know that they have the freedom to make their own decisions and choices in the world. Especially when it comes to their parenting and lifestyle choices.

Even though Australia certainly has its flaws in terms of legislative equality for marriage in the LGBTI community, there is also currently a bill before New South Wales state parliament that inadvertently threatens to remove easy access to abortion; Australia is a pretty free place to live. We have the right to vote, in fact it’s compulsory for all Australian citizens who register over the age of 18. We are not forced into marriage as teenage or prepubescent girls. We are able to work if we choose. We are allowed to drive. We are able to continue working after we get married or have children. We can wear a bikini to a shopping centre if we choose to. We have freedom of faith, whether this means believing in a church or not or wearing the religiously significant symbols of that church. Women are not shamed or shunned anymore for not being married or not being married before having children. We have even had our first elected female prime minister, an unmarried, atheist who did not have children of her own. We have had female state premiers, we currently a female Governor General, female chief executive officers etcetera, showing Australian girls of the future that there is no position impossible based in your gender.

Being a parent in my early thirties, working, I try to be open minded about choices other people make for themselves and their families. This is how I’m a feminist. Those choices range from how they deliver the baby, how they feed that child, to how they feed themselves and which lifestyle they choose to adopt. Whether or not they choose to have babies even. For me, feminism is allowing women the choice to live however they want, not how society pressures them to live.

Just recently a woman named Maria Kang posted this photo on her website:

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This one picture started thousands of conversations among women, about whether Maria Kang was being offensive or not. About whether she was inspiring to women or fat shaming them. About whether she has had plastic surgery or she digitally corrects her images to gain ‘perfection’.

I read passionate replies in response to her polarising photograph. That she is inspiring to all women, not just mothers. That she is fat shaming women, expecting them to think that her look was ‘perfection’. That she was not a good mother because she obviously spends all of her day exercising and not with her small children. That she is an inspiration for all people as she proves that you can have a busy working lifestyle and one which is healthy. The comments went on and on. However the ones that stood out for me were how she was not a good mother and how she made ‘fat’ people feel bad.

W T F.

It seems it was her headline What’s Your Excuse that most people had a problem with. They said it was inflammatory, that she doesn’t have the right to decide who’s excuse is valid or invalid. I’m still scratching my head over the whole ‘bad mother’ thing. In fact I’m offended for her.

Eve Vawter is the editor of mommyish.com and describes herself as a feminist. She wrote this article in response to the ‘fat shaming, bad mum’ accusations thrown at Maria Kang

“Meanwhile, back in the world of everywhere we never see men with strong bodies posing with their babies and being told they are BAD DADS for working out”

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Where is the mens fighting about his dad abilities. He has all the muscles and the child is being carried dangerously, damn it!

Just this small example alone proves that there is much more work to be done for feminism in our society. My feminism means I don’t have a care factor at all over what Maria Kang does with her body or her family. Her kids look happy, I assume they are loved, not neglected or abused. Isn’t that what is important here?

Spawning this argument, I came across a new term called Fitshaming. Clever, I think. I’m one of those people who facetiously and shamelessly post on my personal Facebook and Twitter every time I’ve completed a run. When I participate in fun runs, I post photos and multiple statuses about my achievements for the day. Because you know, if you don’t post about it on social media, the workout means nothing!

Fitshaming as a term has come about because people who do post their achievements online are now getting a backlash from others. Our society has become such a micro-society on social media that there seems to be little unwritten rules about what is appropriate to Tweet or post on Facebook.

Where does feminism fit into all of this? It’s women who overwhelmingly have complained online about Maria Kang’s photo. It’s women overwhelmingly who are Maria Kang’s target audience. Can you see the problem here? Women are the ones who are fighting among each other when they should be the ones supporting each other’s right to choose their lifestyle.

I started my weightloss/healthy lifestyle on January 5, this year, you may remember this . I primarily started because I was obese with a BMI of 32, but also because I was in such a bad headspace with depression, PTSD and anxiety, that I was desperate to feel better. Just about everyone knows this, so I admit I have not had any personal negativity from others, toward my personal achievements. I now have my BMI down to just over 25, so I’m still classed as overweight, but my new lifestyle means that I’m not going to stop once I reach my goal.

My exercise and healthy lifestyle does not make me a bad mother. I actually think it’s improved my parenting. My daughter and I get outside in the fresh air and sun. We can play together now without me being out of breath or so uncomfortable sitting on the ground that I can only tolerate it for a few minutes. I’m showing her that healthy living is the key to happiness. That fast food is an okay sometimes food, but just like my car needs a certain kind of petrol to run properly, if I put the wrong fuel in, the engine won’t perform well consistently.

Isn’t that the message Maria Kang is giving in her photo? Treat yourself well, live a healthy lifestyle, love life. No excuses.

Where are all the feminists? Why are we only allowed choice if that choice is to be the same as everyone else? Why is there such a divide between women, we should be joining forces together to create a feminist society where women and men are given equal opportunity to be whoever they choose to be.

You can follow me on Facebook Have a great week!

Working For The Man

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in Australia in recent years, you will have noticed that the price of clothing has dropped dramatically.

Stores like Target, Kmart, Rivers, Cotton On, Coles and Big W have always sold cheaper clothing as opposed to other retailers such as David Jones and Myer. However even for their cheaper prices, in recent times their prices have gone even lower. It’s possible now to buy a T-shirt for a few measly dollars.

Interestingly, I cleaned out my wardrobe last Christmas, donating four large bags of good quality clothing that no longer fitted me, to charity. When I was in the charity store, I noticed that they were selling second hand clothing for $10/piece. Which, was way more expensive than going to Coles and picking up a Mix branded, brand new T-shirt. I discussed this with my mother and we both agreed that the people who would normally shop in charity stores, would understandably be more likely to go to Coles now to get something fashionable and brand new.

Earlier this year, an eight storey clothing factory collapsed in Bangladesh. Over 1000 workers were killed. When I heard of this occurring, I remembered the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire where 146 people perished and 71 were injured as a direct result of appalling working conditions. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire happened in the midst of a major unionisation movement and led to the improvement of conditions and allowed the growth of the unionisation of the workers to enforce safe working conditions and reasonable working conditions.

While we in the West have been working in safe conditions, thanks to the brave women and men who died at work and fought ever so tirelessly for workplace safety during the industrialisation of our society, there has been up until very recently, a largely ignored population of workers who are suffering the conditions that our ancestors did one hundred years ago.

On 24 April 2013, horrific news broke out of Bangladesh. A garment factory, named Rana Plaza where thousands of people worked making clothes for multi-national companies, collapsed killing 1,127 people, with approximately 2,500 people injured and many unaccounted for.

This tragedy brought to our attention, exactly what is going on and where our cheap clothes really come from.

The sheer number of people who died, for me is unfathomable. I don’t think there are 1,500 employees at my work. Or if there are that many, the number wouldn’t be far above 1,500. To think then that another 2,500 were injured and then there are many more unaccounted for, is just horrific.

If you have an hour, I urge you to click on the link below and watch the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s episode of 4 Corners

4 Corners 24 June, 2013

The next thing for you to consider, is where exactly your clothes come from. I did look through my wardrobe today. I can honestly say that in the last two years, I’ve bought clothes mainly from Target, Big W, Rivers and Kmart. For myself and my Missy. I’m not made of money, so when I see something for $10 over the equivalent for $40, of course I pick the $10 option. Also, I compare the quality of the fabric and often there’s no difference, so I choose the cheaper option, naturally.

Seeing the ‘Made in Bangladesh’ labels on my clothes made my heart sink. Here I am perpetuating an industry that treats workers like nothing more than cogs in an engine. Churning out more and more for less and less.

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Another report on the ABC’s programme, The Roast compared these garment factory workers, to battery hens.

The Roast 25 June, 2013

And they’re absolutely right! Here we are, happily paying a few extra dollars to buy a dozen eggs that have been procured in an ethical environment for our chooks, but happily allowing the continuing plight of the most vulnerable people in the globalisation food chain.

If you click here you’ll be taken to a website that lists companies that allegedly source their labour and products ethically. Two that stand out though, are Rivers and Cotton On which were two of the companies named in the 4 Corners story. So I’m not sure of the veracity of the web page. It may be outdated information.

As I post here today, I’m making a public declaration to shop ethically. I know that by taking my business elsewhere, I’m potentially cutting off the thousands of oppressed Bangladeshi workers who rely on the garment factories to survive, however I cannot willingly support the system.

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This is what cheap clothes look like to us
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This is what cheap clothes look like to them
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They need us in the West to take a stand and say that we will not allow our fellow men and women (and even children) to be literal slaves to an industry for pittance.

It’s your turn now, are you with me?

I Love and Hate my Sunburnt Country

I’ve been reading some blogs today, especially my friend RoboMum’s blog and she asked about ranting.

Ranting is something I do on a frequent basis. Ranting is something I did quite a bit of today.

I live in Sydney. I have lived here my whole life. I’ve travelled a little, Europe, New Zealand and the east coast of Australia, but I’ve never lived anywhere else but here. Sydney is very much my home and I love this city dearly, about as much as I hate it too.

Sydney’s a funny old place. Some amazingly affluent suburbs surrounded by the poorest of the poor (think of the very wealthy Eastern Suburbs and Kings Cross) and some essentially forgotten about, ‘ghetto’ suburbs. Social experiments that had disastrous results and repercussions that are lasting decades (think Claymore and Shalvey).

The actual geography of the Sydney metropolitan area is enormous. According to Wikipedia, there are 4.6 million of us, living within 12,144.6 km2 (4,689.1 sq mi) of land. Comparing us to Singapore, where nearly 5.5 million people live in just 710 km2 (274 sq mi) of land, we do really well here.

We have access to an awful lot of social services, such a health and education. If we can’t find work, we have access to government assistance. It’s not a bad set up we have here.

Which is why today, I got on my high horse and ripped into people on the Internet who were being wrong! It seems to me that some Sydneysiders truly believe that they are better than others and that they should have exclusivity to certain areas of Sydney.

I’m a south western Sydney native, who currently lives in north western Sydney. I grew up in amongst hundreds of cultures and languages. Big lunch consisted of sharing salami, baklava and Twisties, which was awesome. I had friends who taught me to swear in Italian, Arabic and Vietnamese and it was awesome.

So imagine my dismay, when I read this quote on my local newspaper’s Facebook page this morning regarding the proposed new railway line being built:

I spend a lot of time online and there appears to be a worrying increase in the occurrence of vandalism and crime reported in the *North West*. Where traditionally it was a quiet area, it now appears to have changed dramatically.The perpetrators of the anti social and criminal behaviour are mostly not residents of the *North West* area, but appear to have travelled from areas along the Cumberland Highway which is a direct route from the southwest area of Sydney to the *North West* districts. The first experience I personally had was in the car park at The *Club* when it first opened under that name. As a frequent visitor to the *North West* RSL at night for over 15 years, we greatly anticipated the state of the art upgrade. But what I saw was a dramatic increase almost immediately in the mediterranean youth. Drugs were being bought and sold in a rather public manner and the car park was packed with hotted up vehicles and the car park stairways were littered with these youths who were belligerent in manner and unashamedly blocked the walkways. Swearing, loud behaviour and a trendy dress dripping with gold jewellery was a complete change to the more conservative regulars. I stopped attending a night, have gradually ceased going to the club at all, in protest and through fear of safety, to this attraction for troubled youth. The club catered for this group, and the regulars and members now had to now line up to gain entry, surrounded by non english speaking youths.Everyone now had the same name bra or bro. The new management of the RSL had completely dismissed the need for the once very popular community gathering agenda, and now focused solely on the new money. Huge bouncers at the doors replaced the friendly door greeters, and the Police vehicle sirens now scarred the quiet and peace, particularly at night and on weekends.

It turns out, when challenged and she got defensive, this bigot has a ‘Lebanese’ son in law and a Malaysian daughter in law, so it’s ok to say these things because she’s totes multicultural and stuff. I’ll bet she even eats garlic on special occasions.

Another winning North West resident:

*Previous Poster* you are my long lost twin. you couldnt have said it better.
you can stand outside *Shopping Centre* and know who is and isnt from “round here” – alot of people come from parra and blacktown to *Shopping Centre* now, it used to be people i knew, now we are deterred and fit in our shopping between lunch in the city.

(I’ve only changed the names of people and locations, the spelling and punctuation remains as posted on the public forum)

To which I replied:

You lot disgust me. This ‘us and them’ attitude, it’s Australia, we are multicultural. Get over it.

So then the justification of casual racism started.

*Addressed to me*. I think the ‘us’ and ‘them’ statements refer to people who are from our area and other people/youths from areas other than the *North West* who’s behaviour in our community is cause for concern.
I personally am not looking forward to the new rail link. As I’m sure it will bring with it a lot of unwanted bad behaviour, loitering and crime.
*(Edited sentence out, it was long and pointless)*
It would be nice if there was some way to ensure that people getting on a train headed for communities in the *North West* were either going to/from home, to an event/party or the shopping malls. Specially late at night. Loitering youths from other communities with nothing to do shouldn’t be able to get on a train and loiter here either. It invites problems and crime and residents will begin to feel at risk and unsafe.

To which I bit back (because I was fired up by now):

*Previous Poster*, I wish that was the language that the previous posters had chosen to use. They didn’t though and specified areas of the world where they assumed the ‘perpetrators’ came from, and coming from those areas, must mean they are riff-raff. It just seems not enough of us are trying to stamp out casual racism in our society. So when there is a platform (such as the *Railway*) the people who are ‘not racist, but…’ come out in droves. I know I’m kidding and really idealistic by trying to post a valid argument here when it know it will fall on deaf ears, after all the attitude wins elections and is sanctioned by the very people in our society, the politicians and media, who should be using their influence, to do their bit to stamp it out.

Then this little cracker from another winning North West resident:

^ I think a part of the whole “im not racist but” has two sides. One, there is still lots of racism going on, but on the other hand, that words gets chucked around like nothing else. If you dont agree with somebody’s religion, you get called racist. Even when religion is not a race. If you disagree with a cultural trait of a group of people, you get called a racist, even when culture isnt defined solely by race. In general, i think its naive to ignore the fact that some areas are more rough than others. its all about uprbringing and culture, race has nothing to do with it.

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So that was me even though I was reading the damned thing online. Not content with not having the last word, I sunk the boot in:

It has nothing to do with disagreeing, but everything to do with judging. Sure there are areas where crime is more prevalent, however to suggest that the *North West* has none and it’s an idyllic utopia of beauty and wonder is just naive. To blame it on “Mediterranean” looking people (I’m not making this up, read all the comments) is racist. I’m not throwing the term around loosely, I’m calling a spade a spade.

I must have bored the bigots because they didn’t come back for more (disappointingly). I really don’t believe that they learned something from me today (disappointingly).

What concerns me most, is that this society we live in, has so much wrong with it. I see great community spirit in times of natural disasters and in times of trauma and sadness. When there is a sickening crime committed, the community bands together in disgust to demonstrate that bad behaviour is not tolerated. However here we see a blatant example of Australians forgetting that we have boundless plains to share.

How on earth are the big issues like the disastrous asylum seeker policy (which I’m completely opposed to locking people up for seeking asylum, FYI) ever going to be solved, when in our own neighbourhoods, people are intolerant of others who live 20km away.

As much as I love being an Australian, I hate it equally. I find it shameful at times to see just exactly how some people operate. I fear for the society my daughter is growing up in, where her social influences away from myself, her father and our family, may have these disgusting values and beliefs. I want her to know and understand that a person’s address and skin colour mean nothing, that it’s the person inside that counts. I want her to know and understand that a persons life, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or wage, is valuable and they deserve respect and dignity. Lastly, I want her to know that it’s okay to take a stand against those who think it is ok to discriminate on any grounds.

I want you to know that it’s okay to take a stand.

Racism stops with us. We have to be the example set in society for others to live like.

{Linking up today’s blog with The Lounge. Click the RoboMum link in my first paragraph}

Australia is Not as Enlightened as We Think

So many reasons to keep on fighting…

The rights of a mother to feed their child, in any way, without fear or discrimination.

The rights of any person, straight or gay to love and have that love recognised legally, without fear or discrimination.

The rights of any person to worship or believe in any religion or belief without fear or discrimination.

The rights of a woman to wear what she likes without fear or discrimination.

We can’t stop. We mustn’t stop. We think our society is enlightened. It’s not.

As long as the media keeps reporting on the clothes our PM is wearing, rather than her policies, we’re not enlightened.

As long as our nations’ leaders are saying that gay & lesbian people are not equal, we’re not enlightened.

As long as we teach our girls to not get raped or molested, instead of teaching out boys not to rape or molest, we’re not enlightened.

As long as society perpetuates discrimination against breastfeeding mothers, we’re not enlightened.

As long as it’s possible for a person to be discriminated based on the colour of their skin, we’re not enlightened.

As long as people spread viral emails about Asylum Seekers, perpetuating myths and lies, we’re not enlightened.

We still have a long way to go in Australia. A very long way to go. Be the change our nation needs. Don’t think about it or wait for someone else to do it.

Change starts with us, the people.

The Tiresome Breastfeeding Debate Continues

It’s been a good few days since I last blogged. I’ve just been quite busy working and mothering.

However, I’m incensed today. Besides the fact that I’m generally a bit angry as a normal state, I’m pretty annoyed that in 2013, where we’re supposed to be enlightened in Australia, breastfeeding is still a topic of debate.

I absolutely believe that the breastfeeding naysayers tie into the anti-feminism debate. Breastfeeding is a woman only activity. Sorry dads, but biologically you can’t do it. I wonder if men could do it, would it be such a polarising topic. Would there be such opposition to a man feeding his baby in public?

This week in Australia, a woman who was breastfeeding her baby felt humiliated and compelled to leave a public swimming pool because she refused to feed her baby away from the public eye. That’s right. A staff member of the pool told a nursing mother that she couldn’t breastfeed her child in public view. In Australia. Where it’s against the law to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers.

So today the debate rages. A high profile breakfast TV presenter (you know the type, the commercial radio breakfast show DJ of the TV world) has said that the mother should feed discreetly to prevent making other people feel uncomfortable.

Video from Channel 7 showing David Koch’s comments

Huh?

Other people matter when we breastfeed our babies?

I’m confused.

I can honestly say that during the 15 months I breastfed my daughter, I did not give a second thought to anybody except my daughter when feeding her. I’ve fed her in restaurants, at the park, in the tea room at work, at the shopping centre (you get my drift). I only ever once had a woman look at me like I was doing the wrong thing. Nobody ever said anything to me. One time I was feeding Missy as a little one on a bench outside of a shop, an elderly woman who could barely speak English, congratulated me on doing so well.

In saying this, I did not ever sit there with my breast out. I also often used feeding rooms, but was very picky where. Some smelled like a broken sewer. Some did not have chairs in them. Some were so dirty, I felt it was a health hazard for my baby and I to sit in them. In those instances, I’d sit in my car if I couldn’t find anywhere for us to sit where I felt comfortable. It wasn’t about modesty for ‘flashing my breasts’, it was about going somewhere quiet so my daughter wasn’t distracted and would feed. When I did feed my child in ‘public view’, I was not using my daughter as a political statement. I was just trying to feed her.. Like any mother does, regardless of whether that child is breast or bottle fed.

First and foremost, in those 15 months I was breastfeeding, my breasts were my babies food source, not a sexual play thing. I also did not ever cover her head while she fed. Have you ever eaten a sandwich with a blanket over your head? It’s darn near impossible.

It’s time to get over the ‘breast feeding debate’. It’s time to stop worrying about how babies are fed. Breast or bottle, it’s up to the parents, nobody else. If a mother needs to feed her child, then she should be able to, wherever she is, however she chooses, without having to worry about offending or upsetting anyone.

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