War, sex and babies.

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One of my daughters tells me I am too inward looking and that I do not engage with the world in any meaningful way. I do not know what is going on beyond a four kilometre radius of my home, she says.

She may be right. I am, as they say, out of touch.

It is hard to put things together.

This is the closest I can get to an image for this post: Mealtime and four cats – the tabby male, the others female, momentarily in harmony.

Today I listened to the radio as I drove around that four kilometre radius of my home, dropping off one daughter here, and shopping there. Food for the table.

When I reached home, I pulled my car into the driveway but did not stop the engine until the programme was over.

A certain Dr Christopher Ryan was talking about sex, but not in the way I’m used to hearing people talk about sex on the radio, not in that nudge-nudge, wink-wink sort of way, or that other, worse still censorious way, where the likes of artists like Bill Henson get hauled over the coals for indecency.

In a nutshell, Ryan talked about the way in which there is a connection between the aggression that gives rise to war and the repression of our sexuality. He cited research that demonstrates a correlation between the length of time babies are held and nurtured along with the amount of latitude offered to adolescents in exploring their sexuality and peaceful societies.

He contrasts certain other societies – which Ryan fears are on the rise – where children are not held for long as infants, nor fed maximally, nor nurtured in warm loving environments and where adolescents are discouraged from expressing their sexuality, with a warrior mentality that leads to war.

Earlier on the radio I had heard a snippet of live footage from a journalist who walked through the streets of Kabul with an Afghani woman to experience first hand what life is like for women there. Apparently the streets are typically filled with men and boys. The number of women outdoors is negligible. Women do not dare to venture out for fear of being harassed and sure enough it happened before the journalist’s very eyes.

The woman he travelled with was grabbed by a man who pulled at her breasts and groped her body.
‘They think a woman on the streets, any woman, is a prostitute,’ she said ‘ and deserves to be treated so.’

Which brings me to my third muddled point. I’ve mentioned before Jennifer Wilson’s blog No Place for Sheep, in which she argues against a political lobbyist, Melinda Tankard Reist who is opposed to pornography and the sexualization of young girls, a laudable concern you might think, but this concern travels hand in hand with Tankard Reist’s religious background which she is apparently reluctant to discuss in public.

Jennifer Wilson’s beef is two fold. She believes that any one who is active as a lobbyist for public behaviour and morality should at least declare their orientation, whether from a religious background, a political background, whatever.

Further and perhaps more importantly, the reason for the brouhaha, Tankard Reist’s lawyers have issued a defamation threat to Wilson if she does not retract her statements. Wilson refuses to be silenced.

Politics and emotions and sex and babies and war all come together and my poor brain cannot tease out the threads in this battle over sexual repression or expression. Can yours?

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69 Comments on War, sex and babies.

  1. rosaria
    February 18, 2012 at 4:55 am (6 years ago)

    We are having a great deal of bruhaha here in the States, ever since the Republicans are advocating no birth control. It all feels like a time warp.

    Reply
  2. Snowbrush
    February 18, 2012 at 6:11 am (6 years ago)

    "One of my daughters tells me I am too inward looking and that I do not engage with the world in any meaningful way."

    This was a puzzling lead into a post in which you certainly appear to know a lot about the affairs outside a four kilometer radius of your house.

    Reply
  3. Kass
    February 18, 2012 at 6:17 am (6 years ago)

    Doesn't your daughter consider blogging a meaningful engagement with the world?

    Sexual repression leads to inappropriate physical, emotional or literary outbursts. Whatever is repressed is doubly stressed in some area of our makeup….but then, who gets to decide what an appropriate expression is? Who are all these people who rate and analyze behavior?

    Reply
  4. Andrew
    February 18, 2012 at 6:34 am (6 years ago)

    You may have picked up what my attitude to religion is, any religion, but oddly perhaps I don't see her religious beliefs being relevant to the two causes. Pornography for adults who are sexually mature is fine, but not for teenagers. It could well ruin or at least make difficult their future sex lives. As for young girls dressed like adults, it is wrong.

    Reply
  5. Mary LA
    February 18, 2012 at 7:02 am (6 years ago)

    Elisabeth, I think a great deal about sexual politics. And all kinds of other dynamics and oppressions. But the more I question and reflect and read, the more the puzzle knots and tangles.

    Last week a friend of mine was raped in the foyer of the building where she works. When she came into work two days later, there were still stains from her blood on the floor and clumps of her hair near the lift doors. She cleaned them up herself.

    Because I live in a country that is both First World and Third World, we get the best and worst of both situations. The violence, the active struggle to transform society, heightened awareness of gender rights, unlearning racism work, extreme poverty, extreme courage and tenacity in working for change.

    I turn inward myself at times, for respite.

    Reply
  6. Jim Murdoch
    February 18, 2012 at 7:48 am (6 years ago)

    Introspection and meaning are two things that interest me. Four kilometres, eh? I couldn't tell you what’s happening in the next street. I do watch the news faithfully but this is new. When I worked I never had time. I never read a newspaper or watched the news on TV and only major events like the death of Diana or 9/11 ever registered with me. Yet if you asked me what I thought my primary driving force was it wasn’t sex (as Freud would have us believe although I wasn’t disinterested), the need to belong (Jung) or the desire to master things (Adler) nor was it love (the Beatles): to my mind life was meaningless if it didn’t mean something. I’m being facetious when I put it that way but, for me, as introspective and private as I am, I need what I do to be meaningful. So how do I define ‘meaningful’? Basically that the things I say and do enhance the lives of myself firstly and then anyone I interact with. It’s important to me now that these words I’m writing reassure you. Others likely will read them but my primary concern is you. I have it in my power to encourage, discourage or ignore (which, to my mind, is likely to discourage too). I have the power to make a meaningful contribution to this discussion and no, it won’t change worlds but do we not rush to the aid of a neighbour who stumbles simply because it’s only one person and they’ll be able to get up find on their own? (Okay, I know some people might or at least hang fire until they see what’s what but that’s not me.)

    I am a lousy manager. I know this because I’ve been a manager and I was never a very good one. I was a good boss but I never managed. I’m virtually incapable of delegation because no one does things the way I want/need them done and so I end up doing far too much myself. I do, however, work exceptionally well when left alone to get on with things. I have talents and I have limits. You don’t put a man like me in public office or even on a public platform if you can avoid it although I’m actually not a bad public speaker as long as I’m not required to speak extemporaneously. I’m a backroom boy and perfectly happy to be managed. Managing is a skill set that, in my experience, few managers possess; they hold the title and the responsibility but rarely the ability and usually have simply been promoted to the position because people assume that experience doing the job has magically activated their managerial genes which is rarely the case.

    Now what’s all that got to do with the price of cheese? People are different. When I first read Brave New World (which was as a comic strip in World of Wonder) I actually loved the idea of the Alphas through Epsilons. Even as young as I was then I thought it would be wonderful if someone could get me to fill in a form and then tell me exactly what role in society I needed to fill and then once I was ensconced in that position to realise that that was exactly the right role for me. People did come along—okay my dad mainly—and say if you do this, that or the other you will be happy but that happiness was invariably contingent on making some adjustments in my lifestyle, beliefs or personality and so it was never a perfect fit.

    Then I wrote a book, made one woman think and changed another woman’s life. The first was the first person I let read Living with the Truth who, after reading it, said, in so many words, “You’ve made me think about how I’m living my life.” I’m hoping now that she quit the desk job and took up nursing while she had time. The second was Carrie who got on a plane and crossed the Atlantic because of those (and a lot of other) words. I don’t write to change people’s lives but I am aware that what I write has that potential.

    In a war not everyone gets to fight mano-a-mano with the enemy but there are plenty of other ways to support the war effort by utilising the unique talents of every individual. It’s the old “for want of a nail” philosophy. What we do online affects people but—mostly—we never know how much good we’ve done. But that’s no reason to stop.

    Reply
  7. Isabel Doyle
    February 18, 2012 at 9:06 am (6 years ago)

    I am not in Kabul, nor is the culture here quite as war-like; however the underlying attitude to women – uncovered women – is the same. A woman in western clothes on her own, has to be very careful where she goes and what she does and who/how she speaks to men.

    I have been groped twice here, once in a supermarket queue with my husband on the other end of the trolley. I've been followed in car parks by men in huge utes. I've been leered at.

    You've seen me Elisabeth – I am hardly 'hot' property, young, blonde, nubile or otherwise irresistible. (not that any of these are excuses)

    It is unpleasant; it is hypocritical and it is often frightening.

    I am sure the repression of normal curiosity and relationships is part of the problem. If I am told again 'it is their culture' as if that excuses everything, I will spit.

    Sorry, I am ranting. I feel for the women in Kabul – far too close to home.

    Isabel x

    Reply
  8. The Weaver of Grass
    February 18, 2012 at 9:39 am (6 years ago)

    Most interesting post. I often look at footage of those African tribal women who carry their babies around with them, and think that this must be so good for the babies. And yet one sees artefacts dug up from pre Stone Age times and they always include spear heads and other things for killing – one would like to think it was animals for eating but often there are human skulls with spear injuries. Maybe men have a built in urge to fight wars. I wish I had heard the programme as it sounds so interesting. But also one can create any hypothesis if one has access to the right information.
    As to the streets of Kabul – I despair of the attitude to women there, but I do really feel that we can do little to help there – that sort of reform takes generations, not a war.

    Reply
  9. Marja
    February 18, 2012 at 9:41 am (6 years ago)

    Not an inward post at all but a presentation from a woman in touch with the world.
    I had the same sort of experience of men pinching my leg when I travelled with my mum to Marrocco when I was young. It made me feel sick.

    Reply
  10. Marja
    February 18, 2012 at 9:42 am (6 years ago)

    Not an inward post at all but a presentation from a woman in touch with the world.
    I had the same sort of experience of men pinching my leg when I travelled with my mum to Marrocco when I was young. It made me feel sick.

    Reply
  11. Elisabeth
    February 18, 2012 at 9:46 am (6 years ago)

    I hear rumblings about the brouhaha in the states, Rosaria. As usual it trickles down to us in Australia some time after the event and it's scary, as so many of these fundamentalist perspectives are irrespective of what side of track they're from.

    Thanks, Rosaria.

    Reply
  12. Elisabeth
    February 18, 2012 at 9:51 am (6 years ago)

    Of course I know more about the world than within the narrow radius suggested by my daughter, Snow. She was complaining about my reluctance to travel abroad. Even so there are so many things I struggle to understand better, even within those nearby kilometers. Still in some instances, I try to improve my knowledge, especially through books, the Internet and the blogosphere.

    Thanks, Snow.

    Reply
  13. Elisabeth
    February 18, 2012 at 9:59 am (6 years ago)

    I agree, Kass. I too have been wondering about these people who seem to rate human behaviour. I suppose we need our ethicists and our lobbyists, our moral crusaders, but they sometimes trouble me with their zeal for telling other people how to live their lives, beyond the strictures of basic law.

    As for my daughter, at this stage of her life I don't think she considers blogging to be a profound and worthy activity, nor does she believe it's an activity that offers a broad world view.

    She's of the view that you need to go there and see the outside world in person. It's not good enough to read about it.

    Thanks, Kass.

    Reply
  14. Elisabeth
    February 18, 2012 at 10:08 am (6 years ago)

    If you followed the blog, andrew, you might better see why the background of an activist is important. Here's a quote from Julia who describes it well in the comments section of Jennifer Wilson's post, 'When it's ethical to disclose your religious beliefs' :Julia says:
    "February 17, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    It’s not only an issue if a person’s values (and political lobbying) come from their religious tradition. Their “values” may come from elsewhere, other traditions, other vested interests

    If, say, a lobbyist (or groups of lobyists) were pushing to make smoking compulsory on the grounds it is far healthier to smoke than not smoke. They back their campaign with proof from unspecified research produced by unnamed sources, include anecdotal evidence from witnesses with aliases. On the surface their campaign looks very reasonable. & any criticism is howled down, covered up &/or otherwise negated by seemingly (but not necessarily) unrelated supporters. Then the lobbyist is asked about their connections with the tobacco industry and answers “I refuse to discuss it because it may detract from my message”,,,yet the lobbyist has a track record of hanging out with management & staff of Phillip Morris & other tobacco corps. may even be receiving $millions in funding from them. Would you happily take their word for it that smoking is healthy for you and legislating compulsory smoking is a good thing & you join them in their campaigning? Would you accept without question they are completely unbiased? Or that their unspecified source of “proof” is scientifically valid? After all, you’ve seen plenty of people smoking, and they look healthy. so why not make it compulsory? What difference does it make where the lobbyist’s “values” come from?"

    this makes sense to me. I hope it helps you see why one's background matters when dealing with the so-called public good at the policy level of activism and lobbying.

    Thanks, Andrew

    Reply
  15. Elisabeth
    February 18, 2012 at 10:12 am (6 years ago)

    It sounds ghastly, Mary, where you live and how dreadful it was for your friend to be so brutally accosted with the evidence of the cruelty shown to her and then having to clean up the aftermath herself.

    No wonder you grapple with sexual politics. We all do to some extent, and as you say it is a tangle. How to allow a reasonable degree of freedom of sexual expression that does not turn into sexual abuse. It's tricky.

    Thanks, Mary La.

    Reply
  16. Elisabeth
    February 18, 2012 at 10:36 am (6 years ago)

    A life without meaning to my way of thinking, Jim, is a life not worth living. So I agree with you here. And I see nothing wrong with being an interior type of person, however much people might prefer extraverted types.

    I am an extroverted type myself or at least that's how I see myself or saw myself until more recently when I realised I prefer to stay at home and write or work to going out to socialise, though that's not to say I don't enjoy a good conversation with someone to whom I feel close from time to time.

    My daughter and her boyfriend dropped by this morning and we talked about next to nothing for the next hour or so and it was straight out wonderful. it probably was not that we talked about nothing. The things we talked about held meaning but it was light hearted and loving and intelligent all rolled into one, the way I like it.

    This is how I view many of the comments that come my way these days through my blog, especially yours.

    Strangely however this post, perhaps because I included the word sex – what a mistake – in the title has attracted some spam. Unusual for me.

    You've said such a lot here, Jim, and I'm afraid I can't do it justice but I'm grateful for your thoughts. They confirm my belief in the value of meaning and connection.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  17. Elisabeth
    February 18, 2012 at 10:45 am (6 years ago)

    You have every reason to rant, Isabel. You live in the thick of it. Sexual politics or power politics. To me rape is not about sex, but about an abuse of power and a wish to humiliate another in order to spare oneself one's own feelings of inadequacy.

    Not that you write here about rape, Isabel, but I suppose there are degrees of this sort of distortion of sexuality for motives other than human connectedness.

    Even here in fairly safe suburban Melbourne my daughter complains about being wolf whistled regularly. It makes her feel so uncomfortable, almost violated. On the other hand there was an article during the week from Bettina Arndt about the confusion men feel about were they might cast their eyes when confronted with the cleavage of a big breasted woman who is not covering much of it.

    It's such a difficult issue. I can't see myself coming down hard any where. I have such mixed feelings. Hence my confusion.

    Thanks, Isabel.

    Reply
  18. jabblog
    February 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm (6 years ago)

    Your photo of cats is most appropriate in view of Dr Christopher Ryan's piece on bonobos. Would a matriarchal society really solve the world's problems? It's tempting to think so.

    I also read the pieces by Melinda Tankard Reist and Jennifer Wilson and then the comments on a piece by Jill Singer. What hope is there when opinions cannot be freely expressed without bringing down opprobrium on the writer's head?

    We will never achieve Utopia or even a world without conflict but we might some day have mutual respect.

    Reply
  19. erin
    February 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm (6 years ago)

    fundamentally, why should Wilson not be able to express her ideas openly (even if her ideas are questions pointed at Reist) if Reist can? if Reist's ideas are solid enough, they should hold up. if they are not, they'll falter. if she and the lawyers are concerned it is because her ideas do not stand up to scrutiny except for a certain and specific sect of the society.

    and yes, Reist and her crew is acting with repression in mind, all sorts of repression.

    it comes down to the fundamental split is societies between the left and the right. the world over we fight these issues as though we are two separate species. we turn an engine of distrust and unwillingness to waver. this too is part of the engine of war.

    very smart and important subjects, elisabeth.

    xo
    erin

    Reply
  20. Isabel Doyle
    February 18, 2012 at 3:05 pm (6 years ago)

    Elisabeth, large-breasted women with cleavages on display make me uncomfortable. I think there are times and places when these are lovely and appropriate and times when they are not.

    Strangely, you don't see too many women displaying themselves like that here – partly because of the unwanted attention, and partly because they risk arrest …

    x

    Reply
  21. aguja
    February 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm (6 years ago)

    Our daughters thought that we were boring and insular …. so we took an oportunity that arose to live in a different country (it just happened that way). Guess who was horrified then??

    People rarely see us for what we are. I love people as what you see is not what you get and I find it interesting to discover, little by little, the person within.

    And I have to say that I think that your daughter is under a misconception, from my reading of you and your blog.

    Reply
  22. Elizabeth
    February 18, 2012 at 5:22 pm (6 years ago)

    Those who cry loudest about morality and those who judge the hardest about "moral" issues — religion, sexuality, etc. — have typically and eventually been exposed. Repression is deeply troubling, I imagine — so the person you heard on the radio brings up such interesting findings.

    I find the constant grappling with it all — for me, it also includes fighting for the rights of the disabled — very exhausting. Which makes me think a 4K radius is comforting.

    Reply
  23. Kirk
    February 18, 2012 at 9:25 pm (6 years ago)

    The fact that you read that one blogger is evidence of your interest in the wider world, Elisabeth. Or how about your own Annie Lebovitz/Susan Sontag post of a week ago, and the way you adeptly linked it to an episode from your own life? Anyway, I'm personally fascinated by the interplay between the personal and the political/cultural/socialogical. We can kid ourselves all we want that the politcal/cultural/socialogical doesn't matter, but if we live in a house instead of a hut, eat with a fork and spoon instead of chopsticks, pray to one god instead of many, and return immediately to work instead of taking an hour-long siesta, then, yes, the political/cultural/socialogical DOES matter. And to specifically single out the political, that's whatever the politicians decide it is. In one of your reponses to the comments, you mentioned cigarettes. Well, if a politican passes an ordinance outlawing smoking in public places, people who heretofore have smoked in public places and not seen the act as political, if they persist in doing it, will find themselves practicing politics (as well as breaking the law.) 18 years ago there was a scandal involving Woody Allen, who had an affair with his then-girlfriend Mia Farrow's adopted daughter. Newt Gingrich (yes, he was around back then, too, kiddies), in his zeal to change the composition of Congress, tried to make a political issue out of it. Whatever your feelings about what Woody did, I doubt if he meant it as a political statement.

    For an American, it seems kind of strange that a moral crusader would want want to hide their religious affilation. God knows (no pun intended) there's no reluctance for such people, for whom we have more than our share, to advertise it here in the States. I just saw a tape of a presidential candidate, a man who, against the pundits expectations, is still very much a contender, say that God writes all of our laws! But you're right that we should know where our political activists are coming from. You used smoking as an example. Two more examples I'd like to cite is the hawk with stock in the defense industry, and the global warming denier backed by the oil industry.

    I've heard the theory before that the unrest in the Middle East is a result of sexual repression. I have no problem with that theory, but should remind everyone that people often seem much more concerned about such repression when there's oil under the ground. That said, count me among those who do wish to see less sexual repression. In the West (which I believes includes Australia, at least in terms of heritage if not geography), the last vestige of such repression may be the human animal's need to catagorize, to pigeonhole, to label, each other.

    You gave me quite a bit to comment on, Elisabeth. You do realize that, don't you?

    Reply
  24. Kleinste Motte
    February 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm (6 years ago)

    I believe the a man will 'undress a woman' mentally if he chooses and that can happen anywhere. I also believe that some men use their aggression in offensive ways. Almost every woman can relate a story or two of being improperly touched in any country. Although laws and religions were created to hinder it just notice how sex and crime continue to be a huge issue. The study done by the article you mentioned seems limited to a small group. Globally I doubt there's any point to it. Our survival instinct is still a part of us and each of us will react in our own unique way. What does public have to do with that?

    Reply
  25. oceangirl
    February 19, 2012 at 9:44 am (6 years ago)

    I really like Kass' comment.

    As a mother of two teenage boys, I wonder about my repression and oppression. And as a widow of almost four years I wonder about my repression and expression.

    Reply
  26. who
    February 20, 2012 at 2:13 am (6 years ago)

    I think you have to be very careful about the opinions formed from articles written in newspapers or magazines that are sold as a single copy as each publication comes out rather than subscriptions. In the news media it is a race to be the first to hit the stands or the first to televise the on-location broadcast. I do appreciate seeing or reading news reported from places I cannot be. But I know that what I am seeing or reading can easily be rumors. Even events that are supposedly “caught on film” can sometimes be picked apart as inaccurate,

    Regardless of the accuracy of the journalists experience in Afghanistan, I am personally opposed Afghanistan’s societal views, laws and rights in regards to women. But I believe even the most fundamentalist Muslims have a God given right to maintain and live according to their values, views, beliefs and way of life.

    I should state that unless occurrences are taking place in public places, there are many situations where I draw my distinct line between right and wrong to be dependent upon whether or not the behavior or actions in question are desired by all parties involved (AKA explicit consent) If the actions are unwanted, a person should have the right to not be subjected to the unwanted behavior.

    But the standards written into any jurisdiction’s law should be universal. If it’s legal for a man and a woman to passionately kiss in public (or even if it isn’t but the legal limits not enforced) I think it should be legal for two women to do the same as well as kissing between two men.

    If people are allowed to pray to God in a building owned by a public agency, prayers made to whomever the person chooses to worship should also be allowed.

    If a person is howled at, and it makes them uncomfortable, I don’t think it would be out of line if they turned and yelled back “your behavior is unwanted!” If the behavior doesn’t stop, it would be nice if a law enforcement officer would protect that citizen from being intimidated.

    Nearly all officers that have authority to use force to ensure citizens’ rights are protected are on patrol to enforce laws regarding autos. Probably 90% of their enforcement is writing citations for moving violations.

    I wonder why there are so few studies performed on the covert intimidation, harassment and lesser acts of terror that are perpetrated via direct and indirect words. How many minorities, whether they be a minority due to religion, race, sex, sexual identity, sexual orientation or a lifestyle in general feel threatened or even intimidated by the very enforcement officers or political office holders who write the laws that are supposed to protect God given rights of citizens. Because they are not equally distributed nor protected as clearly stated in the inspired words which were written as the foundation we (here in the states) base our entire legal system of executive, judicial and legislative branches of THE LAW and enforcement of it.

    I realize people for the most part have good intentions, but how long has it been since all forms of sexual rape have been accurately defined by our justice system? Was it the sixties, seventies or eighties?

    The Civil Rights movements that addressed discriminatory laws (or even just enforcement of them) according to sex and race is the same discrimination that has a seemingly strong foothold against citizens’ sexual orientation.

    Denial is a very funny thing
    The strength of denial that influences a person to such a degree that they justify the enforcement of their personal moral beliefs upon the masses is a very potent thing. However it is never strong enough so that the same person remains under denials spell when the tables are turned and it’s the beliefs of somebody else that are forced upon them.

    It’s funny in that really humorous predictable kind of way

    Reply
  27. R.H.
    February 20, 2012 at 5:57 am (6 years ago)

    I've seen your little comments at Wilson's blog and left one there myself (just for Old Home Week).
    I won't be going back; I've experienced it all before, a kind of "Let's try out the skills we learnt in university debate class."

    She's scored 160 comments and it seems a lot, but 50 are from the same person, 15 from another person and 30 from the irate madam herself; Miss Wilson. The rest (most of them) are from old campaigners I've seen around other blogs. Tiresome old buggars.

    What inspires morality? Faith Hope Charity. Does it matter? If I were poor and someone put a dollar in my hand I wouldn't care if it came from a pimp, a stand up comedian or the Pope in Rome.

    Consider this: In the 1960s Joe Borg owned about twenty brothels in Kings Cross. One morning he started his car and got blown through the roof. Turns out he'd bequeathed all his brothels to the RSPCA. Relatives contested the will, the RSPCA fought back like mad and won. Which was a win for dogs, cats, and other poor creatures.

    It doesn't matter where it comes from.

    Ruth Park tells a story of a notorious Surrey Hills prostitute who put on parties for the local slum kids. Should they care?

    I've sent some mean comments about you to this blog never expecting you to accept them but I'm sorry I did it. And I really am sorry, my only excuse is to say that if you ever have to fight you must give your all. My background for this opinion comes from boxing matches in the jailhouse: never be half-hearted.

    Reply
  28. Elisabeth
    February 20, 2012 at 7:23 am (6 years ago)

    Pat the age old human conflict between our loving and out hating feelings seem to drive so may of our extreme behaviours. For women as well as men.

    I think back to my sense of how life was over one hundred years ago and these awful and misogynistic attitudes to women were everywhere. At least they are slowly being tempered in some parts of the world, but these changes bring different challenges. I sometimes worry about my sense of the disenfranchisement of some men who are confused about how to live in a world where fathers are absent or less visible. It's hard to know how to respond to so many of these conflicts but as you suggest they are complex and take time to grapple with, not only in places like Kabul.

    Thanks, Pat.

    Reply
  29. Elisabeth
    February 20, 2012 at 7:24 am (6 years ago)

    Women can be so vulnerable when they travel. The clash of cultures, the expectation that women alone are fair game, all these things reinforce the horrible stereotypes that can give certain men a bad name. It's sad.

    Thanks, Marja.

    Reply
  30. Elisabeth
    February 20, 2012 at 7:29 am (6 years ago)

    I agree Janice, a bit of mutual respect across genders and within genders and hybrid form would go along way into easing some of the tensions. I'm not sure though whether a more matriarchal society would not bring along it's own difficulties, different from but maybe equally problematic to those of patriarchal societies.

    As for Utopia, if it existed I imagine it would be terrible. There'd be no incentive to create new forms if everything were like paradise.

    It's impossible in any case. Utopias develop their own internal tensions as far as I can understand.

    Thanks, Janice.

    Reply
  31. Elisabeth
    February 20, 2012 at 7:36 am (6 years ago)

    That battle between the left and the right is an endless one, erin, which creates tensions that i suspect we cannot escape. It's as if we need the one side to offset the other because both sides have their strengths and weaknesses. Too much conservatism and we grow sterile; too much turbulence and change and we can't get our balance.

    But as in all things the problems are most pronounced at the extreme ends in both directions. To my way of thinking the only way to iron out the extremes is through discussion, passionate but also thoughtful discussion, certainly not repression of either voice, unless one voice or the other is purely destructive.

    I don't think Wilson's words are destructive and I am concerned at the degree to which Tankard Reist appears to want to silence a dissenting voice that throws more light on the possible anomalies of her own.

    Thanks, erin.

    Reply
  32. Elisabeth
    February 20, 2012 at 7:40 am (6 years ago)

    Walk through the streets of Melbourne, Isabel, as you'd have noticed on your last trip here perhaps, there's plenty of cleavage on display and it can be disconcerting, especially if you allow yourself to think about it. It certainly must be so for men, and then as you say the cultural differences in certain places can make such displays of one's bodily attributes positively dangerous – arrest you say. Funny in some other places here it's almost dangerous to cover up completely as in certain Muslim forms of dress. These issues are complex.

    Thanks, Isabel

    Reply
  33. Elisabeth
    February 20, 2012 at 8:53 am (6 years ago)

    Your decision to live in another country , Aguja, was a powerful one. No wonder it rattled your daughters who once considered you insular. It's for the children as they grow to become critical of their parents, but in time the criticisms mellow, at least mine have.

    Thanks, Aguja.

    Reply
  34. Elisabeth
    February 20, 2012 at 9:07 am (6 years ago)

    A four kilometer radius is a comfort, Elizabeth, perhaps for many of us, though I'm sure there are others who get comfort from distance and travel.

    As for issues to do with morality and repression, they can be very troubling. You fight about them all the time in relation to your beloved Sophie. You'd know.

    There re so many instances in which people are silenced about things that really matter and it's important to speak out against it.

    Thanks, Elizabeth .

    Reply
  35. GingerV
    February 20, 2012 at 10:33 am (6 years ago)

    enjoyed the discourse. took my full morning coffee to read down through the comments. As usual reading stimulated questions – one is can we teach restraint without being repressed. listening to nightly news misinforms routinely – with or without the intent. and is it possible to be truly informed if you don't read or listen to those you disagree with. Have a good week.

    Reply
  36. Elisabeth
    February 20, 2012 at 10:48 am (6 years ago)

    Kirk, I've come to your comment late tonight and there's only so much energy I have now to respond to you. I can't do justice to my response now so I will get back you it and you as soon as I can.

    Reply
  37. Syd
    February 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm (6 years ago)

    I have seen 12 year olds look like they are 20. It appears to be a trend among many young women. The boys still look like boys. Interesting how there is a difference in the sexes with regard to sexual maturity. I wonder what that says about our evolution as a species. Age at sexual maturity is decreasing–perhaps due to hormones in food and perhaps some social pressure.

    Reply
  38. R.H.
    February 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm (5 years ago)

    Well maybe one more comment from poor RH.

    I was a regular commenter on a huge blog based in Brisbane, and very popular too, but got banned by the closet masturbator running the show. Why? Good heavens, for offending his schoolboy oracles and one-legged lesbians.

    Miss Wilson needs someone like me commenting on her blog, crossing swords with them all, so they could compete in screaming at me. And they would, just to show what fine people they are. Every blog like hers needs a Goldstein
    (a central character in Orwells 1984, invented by a dictator, the idea being to unite the populace through loathing him). You get a lively blog that way.

    Don't be suckered. She'd like your type there too, well-meaning sort. Don't fall for it, don't be USED.

    Reply
  39. Tommaso Gervasutti
    February 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm (5 years ago)

    My brain neither could tease out those threads Elisabeth, the issue you have pointed out is one of the most painful, difficult and also unfathomable but that connection-contrast between sexual matters and war is what I have always felt myself too.

    Reply
  40. Cait O'Connor
    February 20, 2012 at 11:55 pm (5 years ago)

    You have raised so much here to think about Elisabeth, it has taken a long time to read all the comments and as it is very late I shall not make a long comment. The link with male aggression, wars and the sexual aspect I agree with. Interesting too about the care of babies etc. It is refreshing to read this post as last night I read about bloggers who are dead against writing about 'politics' of any kind.

    Reply
  41. who
    February 21, 2012 at 4:56 am (5 years ago)

    Don't worry about it Robert, everyone is going to die in the next twenty four hours anyway. I got the word straight out of the the Horus's mouth via a message from Muslim Jesus wherein he said, "you mucker fothers! I am not even a gamer and I just watched a sixteen minute youtube video where the only thing that happened was a person pretended to memorize pokemon characters names and what I guess was their elemental source of super pokemon power. I could have been watching porn, but instead I was intensely studying the video to parse out any hidden messages that may have been from Christian Jesus (which as you are all awares, no such message existed) there was no innocent. Every single one of you is guilty of treason according to Muslim Jesus. You will all die now for wasting what could have been valuable porn time. Consider yourselves lucky you are getting 24hr notice. If she hadn'ta been cute, and I wasn't able to touch myself anyway during those sixteen minutes, you would all already be dead by now"

    Swear To God, that was the vision and the message was in quotas (albeit the ' kind and not the " kind) irregardless it was signed

    "Muslim Jesus" and dated "Feburary to zero, to zero, twelve"

    but the messinger pronounced Jesus like a Mexican, so take it with a squirt of salt

    Reply
  42. Elisabeth
    February 21, 2012 at 8:19 am (5 years ago)

    The interplay between the personal and the political/cultural/sociological is fascinating, Kirk, however complicated and obtuse it can become. As for moral crusaders wanting to conceal their moral orientation it's probably more likely to happen here in Australia where our secularism at least as far as I can see is perhaps a little more powerfully entrenched.

    Australia allegedly embraces multiculturalism and for this reason we tend to have more religions at hand that compete and a tendency therefore to try to respect all religions and cultures by advocating a more neutral stance from the government.

    For instance, we can take an oath to the queen or swear an affirmation when we sign affidavits or become citizens. Secularism, in other words is more acceptable and religious origins might be less welcomed in the mainstream.

    This is only based on anecdotal evidence on my part, so I may well be wrong here.

    Thanks, Kirk.

    Reply
  43. Elisabeth
    February 21, 2012 at 8:25 am (5 years ago)

    I agree with you Kleinstemotte up to a point, and particularly in so called western societies where our instincts for survival and our ability to handle unwelcome overtures from predatory types might be more of a given.

    On the other hand, I think there are cultures and places where it is not so easy, with all the will in the world, to protect ourselves as women.

    Likewise in totalitarian regimes for instance, it's not just women who are oppressed but men too. In such situations where freedom of choice is taken away from ordinary and decent folk then I think it is important to recognise the problems and try to attend to them.

    These things can be blatant but I think there are also subtle abuses that occur in any society, first world or third, that need our attention.

    Thanks, Kleinstemotte.

    Reply
  44. Elisabeth
    February 21, 2012 at 8:30 am (5 years ago)

    Kass certainly has a wonderful way with words, Fazlisa and yes, I can understand that these things become an issue for the mother of sons, perhaps in a different way than for the mother of daughters, but equally conflictual.

    And it's probably different again for a widow as opposed to a partnered woman or a woman who is otherwise alone, and with all sorts of gendered variations and relationship types in between.

    Thanks, Lisa.

    Reply
  45. Elisabeth
    February 21, 2012 at 9:54 am (5 years ago)

    Dusty, that's one long powerful and thoughtful statement.

    Thanks. You seem to have covered so much ground in relation to equality and justice for all. It's a pity it doesn't work as egalitarian as would be ideal.

    As for good intentions, most of them are a bit mixed. We are human after all. And as for denial, it's commonplace.

    I spent the best part of today at a funeral followed by a celebratory wake. It certainly sharpens the mind and tempers the senses.

    Thanks again, Dusty Who.

    Reply
  46. Elisabeth
    February 21, 2012 at 9:59 am (5 years ago)

    I'd rather have you write that I'm a 'gentle thing', RH, sarcastic as it may be, than that you offer me the label 'bird brain'.

    Insults don't get much of a hearing unless we are face to face and know each other very well. Insults within the blogosphere tend to look worse than they would in the day to day boisterousness of real life and relationships.

    I'm probably tougher then you imagine, RH, and you are probably far gentler than often comes across.
    Thanks for all your comments here.

    Reply
  47. Elisabeth
    February 21, 2012 at 10:04 am (5 years ago)

    I agree, Ginger, it's a great question: 'Can we teach restraint without being repressed?' And the answer is most likely complex.

    As for the need to listen to thoughts and opinions that conflict with ours to be fully informed, that's a tall order but also bears some truth.

    There are some perspectives I cannot readily come at, those of psychopaths and paedophiles for instance. But in the diversity of human thought across the so-called normal spectrum, there's much room for conflict and consideration.

    Thanks, Ginger.

    Reply
  48. Elisabeth
    February 21, 2012 at 10:05 am (5 years ago)

    Tommaso Gervasutti, otherwise known as Davide, thanks for these thoughts. The threads are indeed difficult to disentangle.

    Reply
  49. Elisabeth
    February 21, 2012 at 10:08 am (5 years ago)

    I agree Syd, hormones in food might be speeding up the process of maturity but I expect there are other cultural and sociological factors at work, changes across the entire spectrum of human development, biological and psychological as well.

    And yes, from my observation, girls seem to mature faster than boys, but in time they catch up.

    Thanks, Syd.

    Reply
  50. Elisabeth
    February 21, 2012 at 10:11 am (5 years ago)

    It's dicey writing about politics, Cait, just as it's dicey writing about religion and sex. All of these things tend to stir up the passions and conflictual perspectives across the board. I'm glad you found it a worthwhile read, and that you enjoyed the discussion, which to me is one of the best aspects of blogging, however conflictual.

    Thanks, Cait.

    Reply
  51. Ruth
    February 21, 2012 at 10:58 am (5 years ago)

    Fascinating, and I wish I had time to read all the commentary.

    Really excellent points for discussion. It's complex. I am intrigued by all things baby, of course, with a one-month-old grandson whose life is being shaped as we cuddle him as much as possible.

    I also remember living in Istanbul, where I felt it obligatory to walk down the street with my eyes down. It was intuitive, and though I may not have needed to, I felt compelled to walk that way. I knew that most Western women were viewed as sluts. I do think that societies that are repressed sexually will erupt in some way.

    Well, I'd love to sit in a room with you and your readers and listen, and discuss.

    Reply
  52. susan t. landry
    February 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm (5 years ago)

    such complicated issues and questions, and ones i think that all of us who came of age in the 1960s have watched unfold with heartache:

    how do we reconcile the chasm that looms between freedom of speech and pornography?
    what can we learn about how young women feel about themselves on the inside from how they present themselves on the outside?
    how can young men figure out what they want, when the peer-group approved way to approach young women can feel so uncomfortable? (what if all they really feel is tenderness and awe?)
    how can anyone condone the commingling of aggression, violence, and sexuality?

    i came late to this discussion, elisabeth–but these are topics that have been troubling me for quite some time.

    Reply
  53. Elisabeth
    February 22, 2012 at 8:18 am (5 years ago)

    Babies are at the heart of it, Ruth-congratulations o your new grandson – and sadly I think sometimes our societies repress babies, or our love for them at times almost as much as we repress our sexually. No doubt the two, babies and sexuality, connected.

    I can see you in my mind's eye, your eyes cast down in Istanbul. It's sad when one half of the population feels intimidated by the other half and it can go both ways.

    I'd love to sit around and join in a conversation about these matters, too, Ruth. Thanks.

    Reply
  54. Elisabeth
    February 22, 2012 at 8:22 am (5 years ago)

    Your questions bear repeating, Susan:

    'how do we reconcile the chasm that looms between freedom of speech and pornography?
    what can we learn about how young women feel about themselves on the inside from how they present themselves on the outside?
    how can young men figure out what they want, when the peer-group approved way to approach young women can feel so uncomfortable? (what if all they really feel is tenderness and awe?)
    how can anyone condone the commingling of aggression, violence, and sexuality?'

    I can't answer any of these questions but they are important and thank you for raising them.

    The very fact of such questions at least allows us to see some of the issues more clearly. And sometimes it seems to me, it's better by far to ask questions for discussion than to try to answer them.

    Thanks, Susan, for your eloquence and thoughtfulness here.

    Reply
  55. R.H.
    February 22, 2012 at 11:58 am (5 years ago)

    How about the chasm between freedom of speech and the Racial Discrimination Act? Are you unhappy with that?

    Pornography treats women as THINGS.

    Funny how a bigger noise isn't made about that by "feminists". And that Reist who does make a noise about it gets persecuted by them.

    Reply
  56. R.H.
    February 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm (5 years ago)

    Or the "Racial Vilification Act" if you prefer. Complete gag. Pretty good, Goebbels did no better.

    I've found freedom of speech pretty hard to get from bloggers who put Doctor in front of their names, as if a PhD from a cardboard university in Australia gives you sainthood, and the right to censor (delete) anyone who doeasn't agree you're marvellous, ect.

    Reply
  57. Mimi Foxmorton
    February 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm (5 years ago)

    Thank you so much for your comment, fellow Cranford fan!
    I did soooo adore the series.
    (except for the last part about Bessie……) 🙁

    LOve your blog! Looking forward to following!

    Have a lovely and creative day!

    Mimi
    Collage Pirate

    Reply
  58. Phoenix
    February 22, 2012 at 8:49 pm (5 years ago)

    The only smart thing Freud ever said was: "The repression IS the neuroses."

    When you have a sexually repressed society, sexual obsession blooms (see: the Catholic Church). When you have a religious society that sexually represses men and women, the sexual obsession that is blooming in men turns into anger and violence and guilt, which leads to shaming women for being sexual creatures at all, which leads to a Rape Culture. (see: the recent incident in Israel where a young girl whose ankle was being revealed by her clothing was physically attacked by several Rabbi's)

    We have a Rape Culture here in the United States that some conservative politicians would like to expand upon by regulating women's decisions regarding birth control.

    When you take away a person's right to make their own decisions about their own body, you treat that person like an object. When you want to do violence to a person in society, you first treat that person like an object. Objectifying a person is the first step toward violence.

    There is a storm coming. God help the women of this nation, and every nation, when they begin to attack us in the streets and take away our right to decide when we get pregnant.

    And once the women in a society have been trampled upon… God help the men. Because a society that does not treat men and women equally is doomed.

    Reply
  59. Linda Sue
    February 23, 2012 at 1:45 am (5 years ago)

    religion…DAYAM! When we all learn to dump religion (oppressor of women all) we may move forward into some semblance of clear thinking…You are wise to stay within the realm of kitties chowing down! It's the only thing that makes sense, really!
    And Vegemite…there's that…

    Reply
  60. Harry Kent
    February 23, 2012 at 2:57 am (5 years ago)

    Seems to me that for every thing there is a season.

    There are plenty of voices out there who will tell us we all ought to care passionately all the time about everything and live our lives to 'make a difference'.

    I wonder, are these the same people getting a face job to look forever young (as if)?

    But maybe outrage and passionate action belong to the young. Maybe that's part of their mission and part their charm. Their well-intentioned action of course will bring a train of problems for the next generation of young to be passionate about and 'make a difference'.

    For instance, i watched the program on the woman's walk through the streets of Kabul. According to their lights Afghan men were passionate and were taking action for 'public decency'. They had never reflected upon the un-Islamic injustice, immorality and cruelty of their efforts to 'make a difference'.

    Bombing Bagdad sure made a difference. What sort, i wonder.

    Maybe the aging have a role to play in withdrawing from 'making a difference' all the time by looking inwards and asking some calmer but deeper questions of themselves and of humanity – unless the young are being too passionate and busy to listen, as has mostly been the case through the ages.

    Maybe your cats with their backs to us have a wisdom too, Elizabeth. My Corgi turns her back to doze whenever life has become too much and she needs some time out.

    Being in touch with the rhythms of the body and the seasons of the heart is the opposite of being out of touch. And it only takes a few square quiet meters.

    Reply
  61. Elisabeth
    February 23, 2012 at 9:55 am (5 years ago)

    Good to see you here, Mimi. The life at Cranford seems a long way from the issues I raise here, but in some ways that's the point of it for me – a glorious escape. Thanks, Mimi.

    Reply
  62. Elisabeth
    February 23, 2012 at 10:00 am (5 years ago)

    Tracy yours is a powerful and wonderfully eloquent comment that reflects my own thinking. Repression is dangerous. It happens inevitably in all of us to a degree, but when it is institutionalized as it were, when it is politically or culturally endorsed, it becomes something else indeed.

    We live in frightening times, Tracy, but I doubt that they have ever been anything but scary as regards the equality of people, men and women, children and the aged, races and cultures.

    Education helps. Thinking about these things helps. Empathy and compassion help.

    Thanks, Tracy.

    Reply
  63. Elisabeth
    February 23, 2012 at 10:04 am (5 years ago)

    Those cats make sense to me too, Susan. In this photo they feed in order but it isn't always like that.

    Cats, as far as I can see ascribe to no other religion than survival and comfort, which is perhaps a good thing. Some religions seem to espouse death and discomfort. It makes little sense to me as indeed it seems it makes little sense to you. Then there's a pair of us.

    Thanks, Linda Sue.

    Reply
  64. Elisabeth
    February 23, 2012 at 10:09 am (5 years ago)

    Often times I struggle to make sense of the ways of the world, especially as regards war and oppression.

    Today hearing about those journalists who died last night among the many other thousands dying in Syria seems such an outrage and yet it happens, and continues to happen.

    The struggle for survival is brought to a much more cruel level among humankind, even as there are other times when people can excel.

    Thanks for your thoughts here, Harry. I value them even as they sadden me.

    Reply
  65. who
    February 23, 2012 at 3:17 pm (5 years ago)

    whoa! you posted it Elisabeth! serves me right, while I will point out I was not at all being serious (about the God, Jesus and Horus part anyway) I will be honest and say that many of my comments all over the web never get posted by the blogs owner. I would guess 25% of my comments are rejected.

    But I do feel like I owe you a second serious comment.

    In regards to those who are advocates for laws that dictate what a person can or cannot do in the privacy of their own home, specifically from your blog topic, Porn: I can understand where MTR is coming from, because for many women employed in that industry it is a damaging experience and done more out of desperation then a desire the be in that line of work. Of course there are women and men who also choose, enjoy and have careers that are not emotionally damaging. But the thing is, for those it damages, that the damage had begun long before the women ever touched alcohol or drugs, long before any progression started that led to that employment, which for some it began as stripping.

    be weary of my words, because I am stereotyping, because I am giving you just one possible scenario which is a young woman who begins stripping because people like to be admired, fawned over or desired. Drugs and alcohol often come into the picture

    and I am not knocking any jobs, nor the parents of the children because Lord knows they may have tried, HOWEVER, it all starts at home. And this is really going to piss off some people even more than my second comment, but I subscribe to the theory that damaged people do not feel loved. They don't feel accepted. They feel that who they are is bad or wrong. They feel shame, to the point that they feel alone and that they cannot be honest with anyone but other damaged people.

    And that is probably the saddest thing in the world. It's a God damned atrocity because there is NOTHING that can ease their pain. No money, no luxury items, no life, no drugs, no spouse that can pull a person out of that spiritual death until they free themselves from the lies our society pounded into them.

    Because there was absolutely nothing wrong with them spiritually at birth. And when children or people at any point in life that it starts (for some it isn't until they are adults; and unfortunately for some it isn't until the next life) But when people first felt loved, like a new born is held tight, close and protected in the womb, and then they are in a space they feel safe, learn that they are important and that they matter, that they have worth, and then that who they are is perfect and that they can be anything they want to be and they understand that this is true then there is nothing that life can through at them that can destroy their spirituality. But only when they are taught that in their perfection process, they will make mistakes and when they do they need encouragement until they know these things are true. Once they do, then tough love or drill sargeants can refine a person. But not until they understand that this is true.

    But we set our children up for failure, when they do not understand the truth of who they are, and instead believe the bullshit that this world feeds them.

    What is wrong with the world, is that the people in it, do not know who they are, or in some cases they know who they are but were fooled into believing who they are is wrong and it literally rips them away from themselves. The pain from that separation cannot be comforted, not until the ripping apart from their self stops.

    Reply
  66. Elisabeth
    February 24, 2012 at 9:39 am (5 years ago)

    I agree with you here, Who, and I find your efforts to describe what it's like for a child who does not feel loved in the beginning when it really counts – though I suspect it always counts – to be poignant and powerful.

    There are aspects of MTR's argument that I agree with but the point I was trying to make here is not so much her argument against pornography and the way it can take over people's lives, but the where she's coming from argument that she seems reluctant to share.

    Thanks for making such an effort to get beyond the joking side of things, Who. After all these are serious issues. Even so I think there is also room to see the lighter side of things. We get into trouble when we take ourselves too seriously but at the same time we also need to take ourselves and others seriously enough.

    Reply
  67. Andrew
    February 25, 2012 at 8:20 am (5 years ago)

    Ah, you put a large effort in response to my ever so brief comment and you used some quite sound logic. Thinking about it a bit more, it rather boils down to me agreeing with her causes, that is she and I are right in what we think, and if she presses the argument for a different reason than I do, her religious beliefs, then it matters not to me because her thoughts align with mine. Can we not unite against a wrong, a common enemy, the matter being a wrong because I judge it to be, and then argue about her silly superstitious beliefs later? I am blathering now. It boils down to could I align with an enemy to achieve a common goal, yes, and then go on to defeat the enemy, yes. Ha, you made me think. I don't do it too often. 🙂

    Reply
  68. Elisabeth
    March 1, 2012 at 5:58 am (5 years ago)

    Are you sure you don't think so much so often, Andrew. It sounds to me as though you might think more than you give yourself credit for.

    I think things need not be so black and white that we simply become friends and enemies and yes we can support someone whose views in other ares we disagree with.

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Reply
  69. Dominic Rivron
    March 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm (5 years ago)

    Based on what you've written, I'd say Jennifer Wilson is dead right. I think there is a huge issue here. People are constantly interviewed in the media with no reference to their affiliations. The results of reports are publicised with no reference to the background of the organisations that produced them. It should be made virtually impossible to do this.

    Reply

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