Let Me Tell You About All The Things I Do To Stay Safe (or, Jill Meagher is not a cautionary tale)

My local pub – my favourite place to drink – is really close to my house. It’s so close that, on a clear day, you can see it from my end of the street. Getting from there to here requires crossing a main road, and then walking along streets lined with residential homes on both sides. It’s quiet, and it’s familiar and I walk from here to there and back again ALL the time.

Last weekend, whilst making a trip only barely longer than mine – also from her local bar to her home – 29 year old Brunswick woman Jill Meagher was kidnapped, raped and killed. Early this morning, her remains were discovered in Gisborne, 45 kilometers from where she was last seen on Sydney Rd. The internet exploded today with condolences to her husband, family and friends, and as well as with the usual warnings from armchair concen trolls to young women to “be careful, and take precautions”.

Commenter GIW at 3AW says:

There have been so many incidents of rape, assaults, harrassment and murder but still women don’t get it. You do not venture out on your own in the wee hours of the morning especially after you have been drinking, why is it so hard for that message to sink in.

And there are many other sentiments the same. Be careful girls, don’t walk alone at night, don’t get too drunk, don’t wear high heeled shoes. BE CAREFUL!!!11!!!!1ELEVENTY!

Let me tell you about all the things I do to stay safe, every time I leave my house alone at night. EVERY TIME.

  • I carry my keys in my hand after I have gotten off the tram, because they are sharp, and because it gets me into the house quicker.
  • If I know my partner will be awake, I text him when I have gotten off the tram and he meets me at the front door so I don’t have to unlock it.
  • I cross to the other side of the road if I pass someone who makes me feel uncomfortable.
  • I check my reflection in shop windows to figure out if the man who is walking behind me is getting closer on purpose or if he just happens to be travelling in the same direction as me.
  • I promise my friends (and make them promise me) to text as soon as I get home, so they will know I made it safely.
  • If it’s not too late, sometimes I telephone someone so I am talking to someone as I am walking alone.
  • I routinely text my partner as I am on my way home, letting him know where I am at the various stages of my trip, so he’ll have evidence of where I was if he ever needs it.
  • I avoid making eye-contact with passers-by.
  • If there is a group of men on the street, I will hurry by as inconspicuously as I can.
  • If I am going somewhere on my own, I almost always wear flat shoes, in case I need to make a run for it.
  • I wear sunglasses and headphones on public transport so that people will feel less inclined to strike up a conversation with me.
  • As soon as I get off the tram, however, I remove both sunglasses AND headphones so I can see and hear what is going on around me.
  • If I can see my shadow from street lights, I keep an eye on it to make sure there’s not another person’s shadow too close to me.
  • If I am carrying an umbrella I take it out of my bag and carry it in my hand, so that if I need to use it to hit someone, I can.
  • I walk on the inside of the footpath, nearest the buildings, so that it would be harder for someone to pull me into a car, and so that I don’t have to squeeze through groups of people coming in the opposite direction.
  • Once, I was on a tram home quite late, and a man struck up a conversation with me. He made me feel SO uncomfortable that I got off the tram at a different stop than usual simply so he would not know which tram stop was mine.

I am sure there are a million other things I do that I haven’t listed here, simply because I don’t even notice that I do them. And furthermore, I would wager that many, many other women do these things, or similar things, to feel safer when they go out on their own. All that’s left to do from here is either never leave our houses again unless in the company of a manfriend, or start squarely blaming the perpetrators of these crimes against women instead of pointing the finger at the victims in an attempt to mitigate blame.

I refuse to become a shut-in. I refuse to let fear scare me into not living my life on my terms. I refuse to be blamed for the crimes committed against me and my sisters. What happened to Jill was an awful, terrible, violent crime, but urging young women to “protect themselves” absolves bad men of the blame for the crimes they commit.

Clementine Ford said today on Facebook:

Seriously. Those concern trolls publishing statuses today and tweets reminding women not to be naive about their safety need to be shamed in the public square. Jill Meagher was not raped, murdered and casually discarded because she was silly enough to believe that the street at night didn’t pose some risk for her. Those things happened to her because someone chose to do them – because some people still deeply hate women and believe they are entitled to desecrate another human being for their own satisfaction. We do not solve that problem by ‘reminding’ women that the rules are different for them and urging them not to be so cavalier about their precious, vulnerable selves. We begin to solve it by placing the blame where it is due – on the shoulders of those who think its their right to do these things to another human being. If it’s too unpleasant for people to dwell on that, the urges and actions of people who despise women so much they could do this to them, then they should shut the fuck up and leave the grown ups to talk about it.

FFS. Don’t insult her memory, or that of other women who’ve endured sexual violence, by making the take-home lesson that women need to be more careful. You know what would really help women? Living in a world where their fucking rapes and murders weren’t turned into cautionary tales.

RIP Jill. I will remember you.

She is exactly right. What happened to Jill Meagher is not, and should not be a cautionary tale. It is a tragic, violent crime, perpetrated by a bad man. That man is to blame. Not Jill, not the drinks she had on Friday night, not her high heeled shoes, or the time of night that she decided to walk home.

I wish to extend my love and best wishes to Jill’s husband Tom, and her family and friends both here and abroad. The coming days and weeks will be very trying for them and I hope they will be able to draw strength from one another and from all the good people of Melbourne who banded together this week to help the Victoria Police and the SES find out what happened to Jill.

May eternal light shine upon them all.


The Good Men in my life

I have, at different times in my life, been accused of being a “man-hating feminist”. It’s almost a rite of passage for woman feminists to be accused of hating men – once you’ve been accused of hating men, that’s it, there’s no going back, you’re a real feminist now (along with being called humourless, frigid, a slut, a frigid slut (what?), and being told to pipe down and get back into the kitchen). Anyone who actually knows me knows I definitely do not hate men. In fact, I don’t know ANY self-identified feminist who hates men. I love men, and I hate the patriarchy. Play the ball, not the man, as my Dad would say if he was watching football and if the patriarchy was a football game.

So I wanted to kind of refute the idea that I am a man hating feminist by telling you about the men that I love. This probably won’t change the minds of anyone who has firmly made up their mind that I hate men, but it will make me feel good.

I have been very lucky, throughout my life, to be surrounded by so many good men, men who have taught me things, men who I have taught things, men who have loved me and men I have loved in return. I am a feminist because of these men, because they allowed me to think for myself, and valued my education, and valued me as a person in my own right, and valued my opinions.

My Dad – the original Good Man.

My Dad is the first Good Man I ever knew, and he remains the benchmark for what a Good Man should be. My father was married at 29, had two children by 35 and was widowed at 43 with two daughters under 12. I am sure he thought he couldn’t do it, I am sure he despaired about how he would raise two girls without his wife by his side to guide his hand, but he never faltered. If he doubted himself, he never showed it, if he worried about how he would manage our uniquely feminine issues, he never let us see it.

He did, however, grieve for his wife and allowed my sister and I to express our grief about our mother whenever we wished. He never hid his sadness from us, but he always made sure that after we had a good big cry, we went and did something to occupy ourselves. We were never allowed to wallow.

He has a quiet strength of character – he isn’t given to fits of rage, but when suitably provoked can be FIERCE. He protects my sister and I, but never sheltered us. We were always allowed to figure things out for ourselves, and he is always there to catch us if things go wrong.

He has been my father for 29 years, and my mother for 17. He got me through my first period, my first boyfriend, and my first broken heart. He put my sister and I through private school on one income, and we wanted for NOTHING. He listens without judgement and his hugs make all the bad go away.

He taught me about rock and roll, and even though I fiercely resisted listening to “that oldies music” when I was a teenager, as I write this I am listening to Cold Chisel. We can sit together in a pub for an entire afternoon, drinking beers while he tells me about my grandparents and his youth, or come home and sit in my loungeroom and play records until well after dark.

He taught me what a Good Man acts like, and for that I will always be grateful.

My Dad’s friends Alan, Brian, Steve and Paul – my “uncles”.

Mum and Dad used to throw parties where all their friends would come to our house with their kids. These usually happened on warm Saturday afternoons and involved a couple of casks of Coolabah wine, a barbeque, and a few Esky’s full of beer. Us kids would eat sausages and chicken wings and play together, and our parents would sit at the big garden dining table and drink. After my mother died, these happened less frequently – the women and children stopped coming around as my Dad would put on more  male-oriented days – getting together to watch the Grand Prix, or the footy, or some other kind of sporting event that his friend’s wives weren’t interested in.

So there were A LOT of men around my house from the time I was 12 years old. I usually socialised with them, and helped Dad to prepare snacks before his friends arrived. I was interested in sports too, so I would hang around to watch with them. And if any of Dad’s friends were bothered by the presence of a 12 year old girl at their Bro Parties, they never showed it. Four men, in particular, stand out; Alan, Brian, Steve and Paul. Dad has known Alan ever since they were little kids. He has known Brian longer even than he has known me, and has known Steve and Paul since the mid-90’s.  I always, always felt safe around my Dad’s friends. They never mocked me, or made me feel uncomfortable, or talked over me, or laughed at me, and I particularly feel like Brian and Alan are the Uncle Jesse and the Uncle Joey to my Dad’s Danny Tanner.

In 2002, my Nanna died. Nanna was Dad’s mother, so he and my sister flew down from Brisbane to attend her funeral. When we arrived at the church, my Dad’s cousin Sandra grabbed me and told me I had to give a reading at the funeral. I was not expecting this, and so was pretty nervous. I spent most of the service reading over what I had to say, and then when it came to be my turn and I got up on the altar to read, I was feeling ill. I am not good at reading at funerals, even though I have read at almost every funeral I have ever been to. I started reading and my voice wobbled, so I looked out into the church to try to gather my thoughts. I spotted Brian, Steve and Paul in the congregation, and they smiled at me. I will never forget how safe and loved I felt in that moment, knowing that three of my Dad’s best friends were there to look after me, my sister, and him.

At my Pop’s funeral in 2007, I had the same experience; the unexpected duty to read. The presence of Alan in that congregation gave me an anchoring point. I have always felt loved and supported by my father’s friends. I have always felt like I could rely on them, if I ever needed their help. They never treated me like I was an inconvenient imposition, and they are all Good Men.

Peter – my best friend, my brother.

I was born nine days after Peter. Our childhood was spent up trees, tearing around our street on bikes, on the roof of his parents’ carport, and climbing anything that was fixed to the ground. We grew up together, by the time we were 14 we were too cool for riding bikes, but not too cool for avoiding doing homework by spending literally hours throwing our basketballs through the basketball hoop in my driveway. I could go on here for three or four paragraphs about how similar we are, but instead I am just going to borrow a song lyric from The Boss; “we liked the same music we liked the same bands we liked the same clothes”.

He is my longest, oldest, dearest friend. He stood with me at my mother’s funeral, and read a prayer for her. He attended my Pop’s funeral. He is always there when I need him, and I him. When he started dating the lady he is now about to marry, he invited me to come out to the pub with them and some of her friends so I could meet her. While she was at the bar, he took me aside and urgently asked me what I thought of her. Of course I told him I thought she was wonderful. He probably doesn’t remember this, but I will never forget it. (If you’re reading this, Peter, I still think she’s wonderful!).

Peter is always there for me, and I for him. I know that no matter where life takes us, or where we end up in the world, that if one of us ever needs the other, we will find a way to get to each other. He’s my brother.

Mark – my main man.

I met Mark in September of 2005. When we first started dating and I told him I was non-monogamous, I am sure he must have freaked out, but instead of totally losing his shit, he said “Ok, let’s see what happens”. Six months after we met, we moved in together, more out of necessity than out of any burning desire to live togther, or any feeling that it was the “right time”. Seven years on, he’s still here, and we have a home and two cats together. He brews beer and bakes bread and grows vegetables in our little plot of land. He understands me better than anyone on the planet, and tolerates my more unconventional behaviour. He is my greatest ally, and in the time I have known him, has learned so much about feminism and rape culture and intersectionality that I barely recognise him as the man I met 7 years ago.

We are similar enough that we enjoy the same music and movies and foods, but different enough that we don’t get bored. We have our little in-jokes and our pet names for each other (which I am not going to share here, because they’re ours), and we enjoy spending time together, but I have never felt like we are co-dependent. We value our time away from each other as much as we value our time together. I have never felt like he is possessive of me – he has never asked me a million questions about where I am going, who with, why, and what time I will be back. He values me as my own person, distinct from him.

Of course, I knew all this from the first time I met him, because we got to talking about Tori Amos and how much he liked her music. That is the litmus test. I have NEVER met a man who likes Tori Amos who has turned out to be a vile misogynist.

He has a huge big heart full of love, and I feel very lucky that he has chosen to share that love with me.

Emil – the unexpected surprise.

I didn’t plan to love Emil. It just happened, even though I fought it for months and months. I met him in a nightclub. I had lost all my friends somewhere in the building, and was happily dancing alone when the most beautiful man I have EVER seen came over to say hello to me. He was so beautiful that I could barely believe he was interested in me – and in some ways I still can’t. He is wealthy, and gorgeous, and European and has a very high-status job – so sometimes I definitely feel like I am batting above my average. But despite all that, he loves me. Not in the same way Mark loves me, but in his way. I am very fond of him, and he of me.

He does this adorable thing where when we’re laying in bed and talking and if I am laying on my side, he’ll lay on his side at a slightly askew angle to me and rest his head on my big soft belly and look up at me as I chat away at him while he traces outlines in my skin with his fingertips and I don’t even think he realises he’s doing it but it’s adorable and it makes me squee.

I feel sexy, and happy, and desirable and loved when he does that. It makes me feel like I am beautiful and powerful and worthy of love and admiration. When he rests his head on my body like that it feels like he is accepting me for exactly who I am and what I look like, it’s as if he is saying to me “your body is beautiful and comfortable and I am rejoicing in it and enjoying it”, and it feels like he is loving every single piece of me, exactly as I come to him.

Jason – my newest friend.

Then there is my friend Jason Coggins who I have only known for one year but who has become one of my dearest and most trusted friends. He is smarter than me in a lot of ways (many people are), but is always open to learning new things from people who know more than him. When I first met him, back in October last year, he immediately greeted me with a warm hug and a smile, and I immediately felt safe and at ease in his presence. That feeling has not changed. Jason challenges me, supports me and never makes me feel like my opinion is silly, or like I am being “hysterical” or “humourless” or “seeing problems where none exist”. I feel valued when I am around Jason, and he always listens to me. I appreciate that more than I can adequately express in this small space.

But lest he gets a big head if he reads this, I should point out that he IS English. Can’t win ‘em all!

These are the men in my life. The men who, since the day I was born right up until now, have enriched my life in many different ways and taught me things and allowed me to flourish. They have been my friends, my lovers, my protectors, and my providers. Each of them has, in his own big or small way, contributed to me becoming the person I am now. My life is infinitely better for knowing and loving these Good Men.



Yay destruction. 

Sorry Alan Jones, you’re now irrelevant!


Yay destruction.

Sorry Alan Jones, you’re now irrelevant!

Gentlemen: This Is Your Rape Culture

In mid August, two news stories broke. In both, a man was asked to move from his allocated seat next to an unaccompanied minor on a short plane flight within Australia. On a Virgin flight from Sydney to Brisbane, firefighter Johnny McGirr was asked to swap seats with a woman passenger, and on a Qantas flight from Wagga Wagga to Sydney, nurse Daniel McCluskie was asked the same thing.

The reason given by both airlines, was that of child protection: adult male passengers may not sit next to unaccompanied minors under any circumstances. Adult female passengers may, but men may not.

Statistically, a child is more likely to be sexually assaulted or victimised by someone already known to the child – a family member, a family friend, a close associate – than by a stranger. And the likelihood of that happening on an aeroplane – one of the most highly monitored, paranoid spaces in the world, is ASTONISHINGLY low. But despite that, several airlines share the same discriminatory policy.

Gentlemen: welcome to rape culture. Here’s a cup of tea, get comfortable, you’ll be staying a while – and read the article at that link, if you like. Melissa McEwan has written a brilliant treatise on the rape culture which should be required reading for anyone curious about the subject at all.

I have been amused by the opinion articles I have read in the last couple of weeks on this topic – not as in “ha ha”, but as in “this is peculiar”. We all live in the rape culture. We benefit from and are hindered by it, in varying amounts and degrees depending on our gender, the colour of our skin, our sexuality, our income, and a whole host of other fixed and changeable variables. There are some groups who are more aware of the rape culture, of their place in it, of the oppressions and expectations that the rape culture puts on them. There are some groups who, try as they might, simply cannot ignore the disadvantages that rape culture serves them with, and some groups who are so completely ignorant of the myriad ways in which rape culture privileges them above all other groups that they end up in positions of power, making decisions for these other groups without ever having to question what it’s like to be in one of those groups.

But now that most privileged group, the white male, is learning what it’s like to be pre-judged by the rape culture. Women, transgendered people, queer people, people of colour and many other minority groups notice the prejudice that happens against them every day. If I was to sit here and write about every single incidence of prejudice that I notice, I would be a profoundly unhappy person. So watching as a group of white men (traditionally the most privileged group on the planet) suddenly discover the ways in which the rape culture disadvantages them, and become outraged at it, has been curious for me. Women, queer people, transgender people and other minority groups have been trying to tell you this for years!

In December last year, I wrote:

“Rape culture doesn’t only diminish and disadvantage women. It diminishes and disadvantages men too. It positions men as sexual predators, as insatiable creatures who only exist to pursue their basest desires, to leer and jeer at women on the street, as creatures who can only see women as prizes to be won. It positions the woman as the prey and the man as the hunter, and gives no consideration to anyone who is outside of the heteronormative paradigm.”

The same applies here. The rape culture has cast all men as dangerous predators, out to attack children and women indiscriminately. Now, by no means do I wish to diminish the real and lasting damage that paedophiles do to children every single day around the world. But treating every man as a paedophile is as dangerous as treating every man as a rapist. It prevents children from forming meaningful relationships with the men in their lives, risks teaching young boys that being male is somehow a deficiency (in much the same way as the rape culture has spent the last thousand years teaching young girls the same thing), and creates a world in which men must check their behaviour each and every time they interact with a child.

The two men who were asked to move seats are both men who do work involving the welfare of children. One is a firefighter who, presumably, has rescued children from certain disaster, the other is a nurse with the Wagga Wagga health service who, as a condition of his employment, must undergo regular criminal background checks to ensure his suitability to work with children. But simply by deciding to Fly While Male, they have both been treated like criminals by a company they are paying for a service.

Some men are paedophiles. Some paedophiles are men. But it does not automatically mean that all men are paedophiles.

This is why we need feminism. Because dismantling the damaging ideas that have sprung up around sex and gender and sexuality is everybody’s business – not just work for women, or trans people, or queer people. Feminism teaches us to question why culture is the way it is, to question why and where our ideas come from, and to work together to construct new ways of relating to one another – ways that respect and understand our differences and similarities instead of shoving us into boxes.

Gentlemen, this is your rape culture. It is my rape culture. It is up to all of us to reject it, absolutely.

Reblog: I had an abortion


I had an abortion.

I’m not going to tell you how old I was when I had it.

I’m not going to tell you what the circumstances around the pregnancy were.

I’m not going to tell you whether birth control was used or not.

I’m not going to tell you whether it was a wanted or an unwanted pregnancy.

I’m not going to tell you how far along the pregnancy was.

I’m not going to tell you whether there was a genetic abnormality, or whether my life was endangered by the pregnancy.

I’m not going to tell you any of those things because I think answering those questions, creating the situation from which my experience unfolds offers someone, everyone, anyone, the chance to say, “She deserved to access abortion,” or “How dare she get pregnant and have an abortion,” or find some pity in their heart for whatever piece of my situation offers them the opportunity to justify their judgment, or their sense of false safety.

When I was in high school (so many years ago) we had a speaker come to talk with us about HIV and AIDS. He told us about what living with AIDS was like. What it was like to defecate in his bed at 3am and be unable to move by himself and having to call for his parents to come clean him. To live with the stares that people gave him when they saw the sores on his arms. To be asked, over and over and over, “Well, how did you contract the disease?” He said it was a question he never answered. Because the answer would muddy his message with pity or feelings of false safety. How he contracted the disease was irrelevant to the fact that he had it.

This is how I feel about my abortion. None of the, “How did it happen?” matters. It’s irrelevant.

What matters is that I was able to access abortion when I needed to. When I wanted to. When I was pregnant and had the need to no longer be pregnant. When I was desperate to not be pregnant.

I walked past anti-choice protestors with their signs, and listened to their shouting, “Don’t do this! Think of your baby! We’re praying for you!” I pushed past them as they blocked the sidewalk.

The facility that did the abortion had, what I’ve come to understand is, an abortion doula. She held my hand, asked me if I was okay. If I needed anything. She tucked the stray hairs from my ponytail behind my ear and told me that everything was going to be all right.

When it was over, I threw up.

I have never regretted my abortion. For a long time I didn’t talk about it. In fact, I’m only just beginning to talk about it. I’ve always felt that my experience was just that, my experience and didn’t need to be shared. (I will admit, I did fear negative repercussion. I feared facing hostile judgement.) But I’m learning that things we don’t talk about – abortion, miscarriage…are things that we NEED to talk about. *I* need to pipe up when I hear someone struggling and say, “I’ve had this experience, too. This was how it went for me.”

Silence equals shame. And I am not ashamed.

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart

Seventeen years ago today, my mother died. This was the song we played at her funeral.

6/8/95 YNWA

Currently slut-shaming

Girls, have a great time, you know, dress how you want, just be really really careful and know the risks that you may take.
Australia’s Next Top Model judge Charlotte Dawson, on A Current Affair tonight. What risks are you talking about here, Charlotte? I don’t think you’re worried that one of these girls might fall down and skin her knee. Did you know that wearing clothing isn’t an inherently risky action? One does not invite danger by getting dressed to leave the house.

If you’re implying that “loose, slutty dressing” leaves girls at risk of sexual assault and rape, you’re dead fucking wrong. Rapists leave girls at risk of sexual assault and rape. And rapists don’t care what you wear. They care about power. (Trigger warning at this link for remorseless accounts of sexual assault.) Victim blaming and slut shaming is SO NOT COOL, Channel Nine.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle

<br />
Geraldine Hoff Doyle, was a 17 years (in 1942) while she was working at the American Broach &amp; Machine Co. when a photographer snapped a pic of her on the job.<br />
That image used by J. Howard Miller for the “We Can Do It!” poster, released during World War II. </p>
<p>Mrs Doyle died on December 26, 2010, aged 86. She will be an icon forever.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle, was a 17 years (in 1942) while she was working at the American Broach & Machine Co. when a photographer snapped a pic of her on the job.

That image used by J. Howard Miller for the “We Can Do It!” poster, released during World War II.

Mrs Doyle died on December 26, 2010, aged 86. She will be an icon forever.

(Source: stangefruitandwildthing)

Had it up to here.

I am sick and tired of people who claim to be progressive spouting some of the most vile racist and misogynist rubbish I have ever heard, and then claiming it’s “just an innocent joke”.

No joke is “innocent” when it’s at the expense of a marginalised group.

Further to my Leisel Jones post earlier…

In response to some tweets I have been getting (from someone who can’t read sarcasm), I would like to point out that I don’t actually think that Leisel Jones is fat.
I think she looks lovely. I was using sarcasm to reflect the hatefulness of the Fairfax article back onto itself.

Are we clear?