Wednesday, October 31, 2012


And so another Halloween has passed by, with all the revelry and/or non-revelry that involves, and we move onto the next holiday, St Arthur's Day, which takes place on November 8th, and commemorates the patron saint of marbles, who died on that date in 1129 when a sack of weasels was accidentally dropped out of a third-storey window onto his head.

So here are some things about Halloween:

1. It's the name of a popular series of movies. This is fair enough.

2. Some people don't like it because it's American. So those people should shut up and be ashamed of being stupid. Firstly because it's not American, and secondly because if it is American, why do you give a fuck? Christmas didn't start in the Dreamtime either, get over yourself. Stop thinking American things should be shunned as if America is a colony for Nazi lepers. The Simpsons comes from America and so does Aerosmith, so shut up.

3. That is only for people who don't like it because it's American. People who don't like it for other reasons are fine.

4. Unless you don't like it because it's evil or something, then you're an idiot.

5. Halloween parties are great. Go nuts.

6. The ACTUAL bad thing about Halloween is trick-or-treating. Take that away and there is nothing wrong with Halloween. Take that away and Halloween is really rather lovely. But with it, Halloween sucks. Firstly, I'm in my house. I am in my house because I want to be in my house, with my family. If I wanted to be with other people, I'd be outside my house, or I'd invite other people into my house. If you go around banging on the doors of people's houses, you are a serial pest on a par with a Jehovah's Witness. If you bang on the doors of people's houses and then demand candy, you are worse than a Jehovah's Witness, because at least Jehovah's Witnesses don't irritate you and then expect you to feed them.

Guess what? If you want your kids to eat chocolate, YOU buy it for them. Am I the freaking Candyman? What gave you the impression it was my job to purchase sweets for your family? What sort of sick holiday is this, that places an expectation on us to spend our time and money providing lollies for the children of people we've never met? So, no, you will not receive a treat from me, because I don't know you, I don't want to know you, I have no desire to give you presents, and I do not wish to reward your offensive behaviour in harassing me in my home. And if you then decide to subject me to a "trick", I will call the police, because we live in a society of laws.

7. Oh, also, we don't get a day off work, so fuck that.

This is what happens when you let your children knock on strangers' doors.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Feminism, right? Sometimes, I think, we can get sick of talking about feminism, and hearing about feminism. Sometimes it's just exhausting, isn't it? Boring. We wish sexism and misogyny and patriarchy didn't keep getting raised. We'd like a break.

I feel this, I really do. I bet a lot of the people who spend a lot of time talking about feminism get sick of it sometimes too. Unfortunately, as much as we'd all like a break, it is difficult for feminists to take a break when every day some idiot goes and illustrates perfectly why they have to keep hammering away, because there is just so many more concrete-thick skulls to penetrate.

I was watching Q&A last night, and this really hit me with monstrous force, as I watched Kate Ellis MP attempt to answer questions and address issues in the face of some truly mind-boggling rudeness and disrespect from a sniggering bipartisan triumvirate of Lindsay Tanner, Christopher Pyne and Piers Akerman.

Now, in my opinion, in the area of feminism and gender relations, there are very many areas on which room for disagreement exists. I think reasonable people can differ on many issues without anyone being assumed to be stupid or bigoted. And you can disagree on all sorts of things. You can disagree with me, or anyone else, on women's portrayal in the media, or on women's dress, on affirmative action, on pornography or sexual freedom or sexism in the workplace. I would not necessarily think you a fool for taking a different position to mine on any of these issues.

But if you try to tell me that feminism's job is done here, that we are not still living in a society that is positively drenched in sexism, then I will laugh you right out of that cosy little cocoon you're snuggling up inside. Because if you're living in this world, and you think everything is cool, men-and-women-wise, you're pushing a line so obviously and directly at odds with the evidence in front of your face that you might as well be telling me that you just rode into town on a flying sheep.

Q&A seems such a minor, petty thing to focus on - and it is. It's a tiny drop in the sexism ocean, and there are sure bigger problems out there. But last night's episode crystallised so exquisitely for anyone watching the heart of the matter - the disrespect, the sneering condescension, and the hostility towards women from which so much inequality and injustice springs.

This wasn't a rowdy debate where everyone was talking over one another. This wasn't someone feeling so passionately about a subject he just had to break in to be heard. And this was not a case of one or two interruptions. This was interrupting, cutting off, and shouting down Kate Ellis pretty much every time she dared open her mouth, in a manner that couldn't have been more efficient and systematic if Tanner, Pyne and Akerman had got together beforehand and plotted the course of the evening out on a spreadsheet. This was Akerman preventing Ellis getting her point out simply by repeating the word "shadecloths" four or five times, as if that was a counter-argument that would shoot her down; or later on, breaking in to an answer she was giving on education in order to kindly tell her to go and talk to Margie Abbott. This was Ellis attempting to answer an audience member's question but being drowned out by Pyne and Tanner starting up a conversation about Downton Abbey as if she wasn't even there. And this was Pyne in particular (and this is pretty much his lifelong form line) talking over the top of the minister every single time she looked like getting near speaking her piece. It was a horrible display by three men who, according to all reports, claim to be grown adults of fully-functioning intellectual faculties. But in the presence of a federal minister whose views on a range of issues are actually quite important to the country, but who happened to be a woman, they could not find it within themselves to grow the hell up and act like decent human beings. And, what's more, host Tony Jones seemed quite happy to let them stomp all over the discussion like a pack of St Bernards tracking mud over a carpet.

Of course the other guest, US playwright Nilaja Sun, barely got to talk at all, although some of that could be put down to  most of the discussion being very Aus-centric: but when you have five guests, two of whom are women, of which one is barely allowed to talk, and the other has every statement swamped by the bellows of the swaggering Ox Chorus surrounding her, it paints a stark picture of how women are treated 'round these parts.

Bear in mind, again, this is a minister. Not just a woman who wandered in off the streets, but an accomplished, elected representative, in a position of considerable responsibility with significant influence on our government. Patronised and shut down like a schoolgirl answering back to the principal. It was, to put quite mildly, revolting.

And why did they do this? Because they knew they could. They knew that if you shout down a woman, you get away with it. Let's not pretend they would have acted that way if Bill Shorten had been in that seat - nobody's default setting is "disrupt" when a man is talking. What's more, they knew that Shorten would have fired back, and they knew that Kate Ellis couldn't without being painted as shrill and hysterical. Ellis knew that too - she knew the minute she rose to the bait, told someone to shut up, demanded to be given due respect, she'd be tagged a harridan, which is why she put in a performance of superhuman restraint and class, and emerged looking a more worthy person than those three men put together.

And this is not a Labor vs Liberal thing - Akerman and Pyne were repellent, but Tanner joined in the shut-up-girlie game with gusto. The Liberal Party seems to be captive at the moment to a particularly nauseating cabal of misogynists, but this cuts across the left-right divide. It's not even man vs woman - rest assured there are women who would have watched that show urging the men on to shut the mouthy bitch up.

I've said it before: the battle is between pricks and non-pricks. You're sick of hearing about feminism? Fine: let's not mention feminism. Let's drop the battle of the sexes schtick. How about we just talk about human decency? How about we talk about the ability to treat another person like a person, that ability that is sorely lacking in men like Akerman, Tanner, Pyne, Alan Jones, Tony Abbott...and on, and on, and on. How about we talk about looking at someone and not deciding, based on what they've got in their pants, that you're perfectly justified in treating them like a cross between an irritating insect and a disobedient toddler? How about we talk about, if this isn't too much of a stretch, a public discussion where how seriously you get taken doesn't depend on whether you're packing a penis?

Last night, we saw that the men who believe they have a right to power over all of us have zero tolerance for any woman trying to muscle in on their turf. We saw the clear, shining face of sexism. And those of us with a scrap of decency should be under no illusions: we're in a war here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Time to put on our big-boy pants

This is just a short explanatory note for the benefit of any radio station executives or deputy opposition leaders out there who might be struggling in their understanding of the world.

Let us imagine you run a business, say, a cake shop. A lot of people buy cakes from your cake shop, but at some point they start to go off your cake shop a bit. You might wonder why, but then the customers who don't want to buy cakes from your cake shop tell you why - it is because the plumbing in your cake shop has gone wrong and as a consequence your cake shop is constantly permeated by the foul smell of sewage.

Now you of course employ a plumber to look after your plumbing, but the service which your plumber has been providing is now of a very poor standard - in fact, the service he is providing is causing you to - take careful note here - lose customers. And your customers are telling you that this is the case, which is actually quite nice of them, because otherwise you might be losing them without knowing why, which would be unfortunate.

And so you call your plumber and you say, "Sorry, your plumbing service is not achieving what we want it to achieve, and it's damaging our business - we will not be requiring your plumbing service anymore, we're getting a different plumber."

OR perhaps you think, to hell with customers who can't stand a little stench - they're not our customer base anyway, we're going to stick with our plumber because we like him, and the really loyal, valuable customers will stick with us and keep buying our cakes.

Either way, that's your decision to make - you are in full possession of all the facts. Your plumber is causing people to avoid your cake shop, and you have to decide whether keeping your plumber or dismissing your plumber is best for your business. So this is what you do.


Imagine that your plumber is actually a radio station, and instead of providing plumbing services, it is providing advertising, and instead of the smell in your shop, what your customers are complaining about is the content broadcast on that radio station, which is causing them to avoid your shop. Meaning - again, follow this very very closely - the service which is being provided to your business is losing you customers.

You have a decision to make, again - but again, isn't it nice that your customers kept you informed so you could make business decisions in possession of all the facts? Now YOU, as a business owner, are able to make an educated choice about whether the business lost due to the service being provided to you is worth the benefits of that service. All is in order.

Now, please...imagine that VERY hard, and then take a bit of a look in the mirror.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Generosity Please

I am not telling you anything you don't know, but the media is a strange and shifting place. Being a freelancer in the middle of it is an uncertain and slightly terrifying existence. I keep on writing because I happen to think I'm pretty good at it, and that it's a worthwhile career to pursue, but I can't say whether I'll still be doing this in a year, two years, five years. As much as you might do it for the love, money is, sadly, a necessity round these parts, and if there's no money to be made writing, a lot less writing is going to happen.

As a writer, my past, present and future are all bound up heavily in brave, supercool independent media, that have given me a break, given me an outlet, given me an audience and given me a little bit of cash to reward my efforts too. They've been bold to do this, and I'm eternally grateful to anyone who's published me.

But these outlets are just like the mainstream behemoths: they need people to be willing to pay for good content. There's free stuff all over the internet of course, but if we want a world where there are talented people with the time and inclination to really throw themselves into their work, we need to stump up some dollars to give them that chance, and make sure a thousand flowers can bloom in the media desert.

So. With that in mind, here are a few places you could sling a few bucks to - if you're not already - to help them stay afloat and make a go of things. All of these are great organisations that I've written for, will write for in future, and recommend highly.

First New Matilda. This was the first place to publish me at all, when I was, in the most literal and extreme sense, an unknown. They took a chance and I owe them forever for that. They brought my political writing into the world. But beyond me, they have loads of brilliant content, like Ben Eltham's work, stuff about Israel, asylum seekers, the environment and much much more, from an array of talented writers who provide genuinely alternative viewpoints to the mainstream. They run on a shoestring and do it with style and substance, and without paywalling. They rely on the generosity of their readers - why not be generous?

The King's Tribune. Subscribing to the KT not only gets you access to the full extent of their spectacular line-up - and it is spectacular, featuring not just me, but geniuses like Helen Razer, Jo Thornely, Greg Jericho, Tim Dunlop, John Birmingham and many more, plus awesome interviews and features - but also it gets you an actual paper magazine. Can you believe that? In these days of digital chicanery, MySpace etc, the Tribune has shown faith in the beauty of the printed word, while also spawning a snazzy-as website. It takes some balls to push that boat out, and it's resulted in a real high class mag that entertains and enlightens AT THE SAME TIME. Subscribing to the Tribune will be money well-spent, but what will also be money well-spent will be donations to the magazine's indiegogo. After an incredible amount of hard work, the KT is on the verge of making it as a real going concern - it can keep operating. But the proprietor has accumulated debts that need to be repaid if that's to happen, so the fundraising is on, and anything you can spare will be greatly appreciated to help keep alive the brilliant magazine that you'll be subscribing to! The indiegogo site goes into more depth about just what the funds are being raised for, and includes a video which features Helen Razer, played by me.

Lastly, Bide magazine, a brand-new quarterly digital magazine of society, culture, politics, and basically the entire scope of human existence. It is a sophisticated little corner of the web for lovers of reading to lose themselves in, and it's run by my friend and well-known genius Anna Spargo-Ryan. For an annual subscription you pay $10 which is OBSCENELY cheap, and if you help it thrive, I shall be privileged to keep contributing certain whimsies to it.

Of course there are heaps more than these, worthy of support, but these are three that I'm involved in that, if you like what I do, I think you'll find are worth keeping afloat. Sometimes it can seem that the media is asking a lot, when you can get so much content without paying, but really, subscribing to any of these outlets is actually pretty damn cheap - it's just a different payment model than slapping a few bucks down at the newsagent. And all of them will provide entertainment, information, discussion, debate and perspectives you might not have seen before. If you want smart people to keep giving you the benefit of their smartness, you have to play your part. I, and my colleagues, depend on you. Do give it some thought.

(oh and buy tickets to my show too)