it's a jill rant

I have a lot of opinions, and I provide a new one every Thursday evening. Don't worry, even my Mum says to ignore me.

I’m a complementarian and I couldn’t care less about anyone’s hair

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I stopped going to Equip a few years ago.

There was, at the time, no controversy. No especial love lost between me and that gaggle of shiny haired conservative women. I didn’t consciously decide to stop meeting with them, to stop soaking in their cheer – so bright a playschool presenter would roll their eyes in envy.

To be honest, I thought my non-attendance was just a side-effect of my busy-ness. But either way, I wasn’t there when one of them got up a week and a half ago and unconsciously lit a wildfire.

Following now famous comments from a speaker about whether or not a woman should have short hair, the tiny bubble that is the Sydney Christian internet erupted. A small and angry portion of women were annoyed about being told not to cut our hair or have tatts. The larger portion of the chatter was about bigger questions of theology and identity – about feminism, biblical interpretation, preaching, headship and gender. The mainstream media got involved. Lots of people pointed at Equip as an example of the kind of bullshit complementarianism is best known for, and on some levels,  I can’t fault them.

I feel I should say straight up that I myself am a complementarian myself –though probably a bit of a watered down one. I’m proudly and vocally a feminist, but I’ve traditionally held that it’s men who should be the rectors at church. That marriages should be equal, but that men should lead the way in displaying sacrificial, Christ-like love. Not because I personally think it’s a great idea but because I think that’s what the bible teaches – though I absolutely respect the well-supported opposing viewpoint.

Honestly though, reading the often heartbreaking stories of so many women this week has me re-considering my position unlike any biblical argument ever has.

To be saying at Equip that a woman shouldn’t cut her hair is not only hurtful and a poor witness and confusing and probably racist – it’s also, on so many levels, silly and a waste.

If you’re the kind of Christian who thinks it’s deeply important that women look like women, there are loads of ways to do that that have nothing to do with hair. Quite frankly, even if I buzzed my dome tomorrow, I think my DD’s would continue to give away that I have a vagina.

Sadly though, this isn’t the first time us complementarians have been guilty of taking odd verses of scripture to illogical conclusions.

Shockingly, the last time I attended Equip five years ago, I went with a secret that was not my affiliation with a certain F-word (by which I mean the better f-word – feminism). It was a silence I wore, quite literally, around my neck. It hung, bumping against the soft skin at my waist, on a long, cheap silver chain. It was a diamond engagement ring. I’d been given it the night before the conference.

I had gone hoping to glean some insights for the road ahead – my engagement and eventual marriage. I expected to find plenty among such perky marriage lovers as the women of Equip, but among the cheery kindness, I didn’t find much balm for what I felt were quite reasonable fears. Marriage was a long time, was I ready? How do you even love someone for that long? Did an odd surety that this was the right one make up for my many questions, my many faults? How would I tell all my non-Christian friends I was engaged at 22?

How could I hold all these fears and, the next day, once our families had all been told, draw my engagement ring out from behind my dress, and handle the squeals and jealousies I knew were coming?

None of these questions were answered that day – though this was hardly surprising in a conference not specifically about marriage. I did get some advice though, while sitting through an elective by an impeccably attired blonde lady. I don’t remember what the topic was supposed to be, but I do remember one of the takeaways of such.

“We should all be dressing in the ways our husbands like best,” she said. Or, she said some version of such – forgive me, it was five years ago.

“If your husband doesn’t like makeup, don’t wear it – and if he does, you should.”

A bullet-like bullet point. Straight and simple. Here I was seeking, ready to lap up any advice about marriage. But this hit seemed so shallow, so out of place. Yet another thing to do, to worry about. I wanted to be let in, to see the real stuff, but I was being kept at arm’s length by advice perhaps too trivial even to be scribbled in shiny pen on a scrap of paper and placed in an advice box at someone’s kitchen tea.

It is perhaps illuminating that I don’t remember what part of the bible the speaker was using to justify this point.

Don’t get me wrong – there was a time, not too long before this, in my early twenties, when I would have loved to dig down deep into the tiniest parts of a speaker’s understanding. I wanted to know everything, I was hungry for the most obscure scraps of wisdom. I was anxious to be completely perfect, totally absolved.

I’m not sure if, back then, I really understood grace.

I don’t blame myself, I was young, and I’d had too wonderful a life. But something had clicked in the difficult preceding year, as I’d turned round to really face the failings of my church and myself. Little things are of course, important, but I’d started to understand then, as I understand now, that I’d been adding too much weight to them.

I had spent time, for the preceding several years, in quite a liberal university group. Most of them would have called themselves egalitarian, and at first I, a staunch complementarian, had struggled to adjust. But the fact was that what united us was more powerful than the divide. I had learned a lot from them, and I had seen the power of their presence on campus.

At the same time, I was starting to feel the pressing in of a new knowledge. I had been working, at that time for several months, at a legal centre where the majority of the clients were homeless. I spent some of my period of engagement helping battered wives fill out divorce applications. The need before me was palpable, my own problems shrinking under its weight.

It had started to filter through me then, and now fills my whole body – the wonder at the tiny, petty fights Christians sometimes  seek to start from the pulpit. Not because we shouldn’t disagree – I feel strongly that we should. We’re not a cult. But can’t we disagree about something that matters? Can’t our leaders guide these disagreements in a direction that helps our understanding, and our love for the world?

I have so, so much empathy for the women who were hurt by these comments, all of which seem to have been silly and unnecessary. A woman CEO “helping” her male employees? How about she helps her female co-workers close the wage gap first?

But you know what? Even in my own anger, I see the senselessness of this debate, of this very valid parade of hurt feelings.

I don’t feel that, when I stand before the Lord, my complementarianism will come up. I can’t believe it will be added to my long list of sins – my greed, my pride, my doubt, my many failures to love, my laziness, my selfishness, the ways in which I have let down the ones I care about or was given to teach. But nor can I imagine my choice not to identify as egalitarian will earn me some kind of commendation.

I hope we spend time in heaven talking to each other, because I have a lot of people I’d like to catch up with. But I doubt that, even with eternity before us, we’ll spend lots of time on such tiny questions of theology. I certainly don’t think we’ll spend much time re-hashing past hairstyles, and examining each other’s tattoos or lack thereof.

None of this would matter, I don’t think, if we had all gained the kind of perfection I’d imagine life would someday mould me into when I was young. Perhaps, if we all lived lives of devoted service free from the world’s cares, we could all spend a good portion of our waking hours wondering the best ways in which our tresses could reflect the heavenly.

But as it is, I can’t get into such niggly debates any more. And it seems, based on the strong and swift condemnation of what was probably an example in a much larger talk, many Christian women feel our time is better spent in other ways than worrying about out hair.

The fact of it is, I think, that we are too busy, and too tired. And in many cases, too hurt by a shiny, Stepford wife stereotype that Equip – for all its good points – has helped perpetuate.

For Christian women, traditional pressures, the type dealt with by our mothers and grandmothers, remain. We are still meant to be able to whip up an excellent meal or cake at a moment’s notice, to be a natural hand with children, to keep a spotless home, and to look fabulous no matter what the reason or season.

Add to this the new pressure to be one of the lucky few plucked from the crowd for partnership – whether or not that’s what we want it’s what others want for us – it’s no secret eligible men are now slim pickings in many places.

Then we add traditional service to the church, teaching scripture and making meals and cleaning up messes and praying with our friends – as well as more modern egalitarian roles, now present even at more conservative churches. We teach at bible studies and youth groups, lead singing and prayers.

Then, we are also workers – there are so few places left in Sydney where one can wrangle being a stay-at-home spouse or parent. Whether we are high-flying lawyers, doctors and executives, or work part-time or freelance, bringing in the bacon is now an element of life for almost all of us.

Add to that even the good things of life – time with wonderful friends and family, time with ourselves, celebrations and joys.

Add to that then the very bad – death, disease, caring responsibilities, health concerns.

It’s no wonder that when we were told what we should really care about is helping out our male co-workers (and beauty tips) we all lost the plot a little.

There are so many things we could be taught, at a time for just us. So many cares that could be cast to the cross. I would love to hear, from women wiser than I am, how to place Christ at the centre of this avalanche of competing wants and needs. How do I talk about Jesus with my friends and family? How do I make my love for people obvious in my workplace? How do I create a strong marriage that can also out to the many single people around me? Is having children really the horrible disaster the secular world assures me it will be? How much can I care about my career before I’m being a selfless dickhead? And on and on ad nauseum, the endless questions and concerns. And these are just mine! Imagine all of those in that room! The swirling dance of uncertainties, loves and losses, the regrets and the pride. And somebody got up and spoke about HAIR.

Just thinking about it all makes me so tired.

Perhaps I am wrong when I sometimes think that the way the church treats men and women is fundamentally different at every level. At one level, I’m beginning to think, it’s the same.

I think so often about how out of touch male preachers sometimes are with their congregations – with the opinions, concerns and troubles of the everyday worker, parent and neighbour.

If I’ve realised anything in my reflection on Equip, it’s that many of our female preachers suffer the same fatal flaw. For whatever reason, they do not come to the pulpit with the same concerns as their listeners. They give time to tiny fears and insecurities – rather than to trying to tackle the big concerns of money, relationships, time and work that see the majority of us still up at 1am on a school night, reaching for a big glass of wine or a second Connoisseur ice cream.

I hope that future me will make the time to attend Equip next year. My complaints, I promise, don’t come from any ill will towards the speakers or the organisational team- many of whom I know to be women who are Godly, kind, and in every way well-intentioned. I almost chose not to publish this post, because reading negative comments constantly about one’s work is awful in a way that those of us in the media are only too familiar with. I’ve decided to hit publish out of selfishness, and out of solace with those egalitarians who have spoken out.

I hope to come back to Equip not only to show my support, but because I have missed being part of such a big crowd of female believers – and I still believe, fundamentally, in the power of women preaching to women. In our concerns being tackled by our own. Also, I just really like hearing metaphors in sermons that aren’t about superhero movies or sport.

I hope, though, that this little ruckus will bring change. That Equip will become a place where women are armed, not coiffed. A place like the men’s conferences, advertised with fighting words and comforting shots of mountains. Where women can hear talks that bite and shift, but also include and console. Where, like men, we will hear talks about being strong and courageous, talks that speak to our whole lives, and that – please Lord – don’t focus on the “controversy classics” or those standards of Esther and Ruth.

I hope we can hear talks that speak to the women who are really there, rather than the old myths that are not.

Talks that are truly, equal but different.

Millenials, do we even want to own homes though?

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“There’s nothing like the feeling of walking in to your first home” our mortgage broker sighed wistfully, as he pushed the hefty piles of paper towards me for my signature.

But as I walked into my newly purchased property, exhausted after scrubbing my disgusting, cockroach-infested old rental to the bone, I only felt confusion, apprehension and fear.

I am that rarest of creatures, a millennial who, through hard work and many acts of God, owns her home. But when I come back to it at the end of the day, I don’t feel young – I feel old and tired.

This week, another property mogul – Tim Gurner, this time – has said young Aussies should give up their creature comforts and knuckle down to save for a home. But as I lie awake at night in the home I’ve already bought, considering the crushing mountain of debt I have built, I often wonder – why the hell did I do this to myself?

So I own a piece of ground – I mean, great, I guess. From the second I bought the damn thing all it’s demanded of me is more money. There’s rates and renovations and responsibilities pounding down my door all over the place. A lot of the time I reckon I’d rather be with my mates who rent, pounding schooners at the pub – and not just because my partner, our two dogs and I are constantly at each other’s throats in such close quarters.

Rather than living the Aussie dream, I have a rising feeling I’m just a victim of it. And a dumb one at that, because I worked incredibly hard to be here.

Unlike so many fantastically knowledgeable billionaires, I tell the secrets of my success to anyone who asks, for free, without requiring attendance at thousand dollar seminar held in a cheap hotel. I partnered up young, we hardcore saved with two incomes – and even with all that, the bank of mum and dad had to come through with a loan.

As a property reporter and as a millennial I completely understand the outrage that builds every time some white dude with daddy’s money tells us all to knuckle down and give up life’s little luxuries to purchase a property. I mean, I did it, and I know how hard it is. How impossible it is for people who, unlike me, can’t borrow money from family. How impossible it would have been for friends who own property if they couldn’t have lived at home while they saved a deposit.

Everyone deserves a good whinge and I’m always happy to listen to friends struggling to buy. But often when I hear one of my mates lamenting the state of the property market, quietly running through in my head the average house prices for the suburb where they currently live, I quietly think to myself: “are you sure you want my life?”

Sure, you could give up literal joy and get a foot on the property ladder, and it would (apparently) set you up forever. But is it worth, like me, only really beginning to live at some distant point on the future?

I get it, older generation, when you say that buying anything is about sacrifice. I’ve always been a saver. I eagerly tucked away the $6.75 an hour I earned at my first job when I was 14, and at every other poorly paid job I had through university, and at every poorly paid job I’ve had since. I wore hand-me-downs from my middle sister and shopped at Vinnies well into my mid-twenties. I turned down nights out, holidays, meals – I’ve never seen free food, or a free tote bag, I haven’t nabbed.

I figured it would all be worth it, when I could plunk down my 10 percent to own some bricks and mortar.

But there’s something I didn’t quite realise about owning a home. Something they never seem to include in the “young tycoon buys suburb” style write-ups boomers love to forward to us 20-somethings.

Even after you’ve scrimped and saved, you just get to do it some more – and especially when you’ve just scored a Sydney-sized mortgage.

I get that I’m an idiot for not realising this sooner – I’m sure all the boomers will call me a millennial snowflake, or a straight up moron, and in some ways I agree. But even boomers, I think, can see the downsides to the home ownership dream, in their day and in the present day. If many of them were in a modern man or woman’s androgynous loafers, staring down a million dollar average price, and could have seen in a crystal ball all the things they’d be giving up to own a home, would they still have plunked down the dosh?

I’m not so sure I would.

The three grand or so I pay every month to the bank is the money I would be using to explore the world, to actually go out on a date with my partner, to take even a minute off from working and side-hustling.

But I don’t have that money. The bank does. All my dreams are on hold ‘til I’m older.

Don’t get me wrong, other millennials. I can already hear you. “You already own a bloody home, you don’t get to whinge.” Fair crack. It’s not that I don’t understand the supreme privilege of my position. I promise that along with being ambivalent, I’m also grateful. I know that I am basically a unicorn. A unicorn who lives in a falling down one-bedroom house, but singular all the same (yes, I swear, it’s a house with one bedroom – nobody will ever believe me that it’s a real thing).

But in so many ways, I’ve traded my youth for it.

I’m not saying millennials shouldn’t keep raging – we should. We’re being gaslit by the older generation, who bought homes when uni was free and wages were rising and when the city wasn’t so sprawling that a “budget suburb” meant a two hour commute to work.

And I’m not even saying that boomers shouldn’t keep telling us to save money for things we want – though it’s time they admit that the property market is fundamentally different than it was when they were younger.

I’m just saying that it’s time we stopped pretending that saving for a home is the only hard bit, and that there isn’t more to life than just getting your hands on a plot of land.

Millenials, I say ignore the boomers and enjoy spending your money on whatever you damn well want.

Like me, they’re probably just jealous.

A timely reminder

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I made a firm promise to myself at the beginning of the year that I would post on my blog every week. This promise has been stretched a few times, but never broken as thoroughly as in this last fortnight. I was sort of too sad to write, or too happy. In both, I was too much a part of the world – but here I am, back again, not with something funny or topical but with a long, rambling post about my life, so good luck with that.

The week before last I waited until the last possible moment to take lunch.

My stomach was rumbling as I clattered my way down the stairs that lie in the very belly of the big newspaper office where I work.

Many days I curse these stairs, the office and the impulses that brought me here. I used to be a magazine editor, a job I loved, but I traded it in when I was “headhunted” into a reporting role. I resent the job – which I don’t find as rewarding or as professionally impressive – and I resent the kind minds that inspired me to take it. “It’s a bigger company,” they said “more stable.” Ironically, it’s now in the middle of massive redundancies – but even before then, it didn’t feel good enough. I could no longer count myself the singled-out one, the young boss lady, with the impressive business card. I’m just one of many, and hardly the most impressive of the bunch.

But I don’t think of my career that day, as I trudge down the stairs. I think of the reason I am leaving the office for such a late lunch, to walk the ten or so minutes it will take to get to the nice salad place, a pleasant culinary retreat from my woes.

The reason is a phone call, which will come from my husband, about our little dog, Sunny.

Sunny was my choice – we have two dogs, and we both chose one. My husband chose beautiful Bruno, a show dog, a blue-blood blue. Both of our choices had to adopted, desexed and from a rescue we supported – but he picked the one closest to pure bred. Bruno looks like a dog prince, a quarterback, bouncy and confident; popular, cheeky and beloved.

When I first saw Sunny, even I thought she was too odd-looking to adopt – and who am I trying to impress? Me, a chubby, stressed-out average-looker, who already had one pitbull? But Sunny was truly odd looking, with a big comb-like mound of loose skin under her chin, a saggy belly with droopy teats attached, her trademark self-possession and sass on firm display even through the camera. She was burly and odd.

I almost didn’t take a second look – but I noticed, halfway down her adoption listing, the one fact that was absolutely key, the one non-negotiable. Sunny loved to wrestle.

Bruno, of course, loves to wrestle – most boys who look like him do, whether human or canine. It was essential his new companion, who we were adopting in large part to keep him company, feel the same.

I put Sunny on my mental shortlist, and went back to flicking through adoption profiles on the websites of my favourite shelters. But she wouldn’t leave my mind.

She wriggled herself in there so completely, that eventually, we went and met her in person. She didn’t make a great impression.

Shortly after being brought out to see us in the little pen-like verandah at the front of the shelter, Sunny dug herself a little hole in the dirt of an adjacent garden and lay herself across it, like a flower that had grown wrong. She didn’t want to say hello to us, and in a brief moment of play, she bit Bruno and he bled a little.

My husband was giving me the look – the “are you sure about this?” look – and the shelter lady seemed equally uncertain. I don’t know why I chose to take her home – or, not even home, but to the vet. We paid our money, and we drove there straight away.

It was supposed to be a check up, but Sunny ended up staying there overnight. She’d been desexed while in heat, and something had gone wrong.

It would be the first of a long line of medical problems. First, the time she got an abscess on her ear that required an expensive operation – during which they also removed several teeth, which she had ground down in her past life.

“Probably chewing on a cage,” the vet said.

There was the time she and Bruno got into a fight, and he tore a little hole in her ear, which bled and bled all over my sister as she held piece after piece of toilet paper over tissue-like skin and velvety fur. Sunny has a scar now – it’s one of many that mars her sweet little face. Proof of time spent as a stray, or maybe even as a puppy farm or bait dog.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising Sunny spends so much time at the vet.

In fact, she’d headed off to the dog doctor, basically her second home, a week or so prior to this day – this day when I am headed out to lunch. She’d been feeling a little under the weather, we told the vet, who said she would need antibiotics and a second visit on Monday.

“I’m like 90% not worried,” he said, “but I’m like 10% worried.”

The next time Sunny went to the vet, they told my husband to take her straight to animal hospital.

They told us him weren’t sure what was wrong. But they were testing for cancer.

I’d been worried about her, that morning my husband took her in. He’d had to call and let me know, and later, at home, reassure me.

“Everyone loves her at the vet,” my husband said, in comfort.

I feel the tears begin to slide down my face as I lean forward to place my head in his chest.

“Everyone loves Sunny,” I mumble.

Then the test, the big needle that must have gone right down, past skin, past bone, to her liver and lymph nodes. They needed to be checked, to see if anything was growing there that wasn’t meant to grow.

This is why my husband was going to call. To tell me, in the middle of my work day, if my dog had cancer. If she was going to die.

I was sure that she did. That she was.

The other treatment wasn’t working like it should have been – not for the liver infection she was supposed to have had. The latest antibiotics they were considering were for dogs on death’s door, they said.

So, I was leaving work for a moment. I was leaving to take a phone call, to hear my dog had cancer. My adult dog. Not the kind where I could palm off difficult decisions about cost or care or lethal injections to my parents – the real kind, where I was in charge.

I know some people will roll their eyes. “A dog is not a person,” they will say. Of course a dog is not a person – a dog is better than a person. It is not as important, but better is different to important.  Important makes money to pay the mortgage and talks to you about your many problems. A dog eats your most beloved possessions, but knows about your personal problems without you having to tell them.

I knew and know, I promise, that my dog being sick is not the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone. But it was a real thing and it hurt. 

I prayed.

I don’t pray – not really. Well, I pray in church. And I pray sometimes, in the small hours of the night, when my mind won’t let me slip into sleep – fearful and fervent, and forgotten in the morning. Repeating soothing, old, well-trodden lines to God and myself.

I forget to pray, in my waking day. I have too many deadlines to pray. Too many things to read that must be read. Too many emails to get back to. Too many booze-fuelled catch-ups to attend.

But I prayed that day, for my little dog. I asked God to care for her, to make her well. I apologised for my smallness, her smallness, the insignificance and mountainous impossibility of my request. I looped my prayers over and over in my head, like collecting up a spool of thread, hoping that if they got big enough, they could be seen – not just by God, but by everyone. That if they got big enough, they would have to be made real.

As I walked along, praying, I saw one of the papers I write for, lying on the pavement in a doorway. It’s a small publication, often too small to even fit in the stories I write for it, meaning I grump around the office for an afternoon, muttering about wasted time and angry contacts.

On the front of the paper sat Guy Sebastian, alongside a headline. His religion was lost, it said. He believed only in himself now.

It was such an odd, shocking coincidence. I was here, at a low, praying, really praying for the first time in a while, while a newly tatted up Guy, on top of the world, lost grip on the whole conversation.

My train of thought was gone, and everything started to rush back. Sunny, small and sad in a little cage. My husband, dealing with clients and waiting for bad news he would then have to pass on to a distraught spouse. Bruno, alone, sleeping on the couch in the grumpy, sad state he comes to when he knows something is wrong or someone is unhappy.

I think about Guy as I duck into a largely abandoned bookstore, eager to take the call there. What has he gained from his success and what has he lost? I think about my own very limited rise to the measure of an adult. I own a house, I have a partner, I have a job that makes people ask more questions, that is of interest to them. I don’t spend the time with myself that I once did, or with my family. Or thinking about things, or learning about God. I am sure it could only be worse for someone who has gained more than me but seeks even more than that – wants to have more than more, to be more than more. To rise.

Right now I don’t want to rise, I just want my life to be like it was last week, and then take a different route, one without dog cancer.

The call doesn’t come in the bookstore.

A few days later I will be ushered, with my husband, into the animal hospital. It’s essential, they tell us, that Sunny eats. If she doesn’t eat, she can’t go home.

Even before she entered the hospital, neither my husband or I could get Sunny to eat – not since she’d been sick, that is. Before that, literally anybody or anything could get Sunny to eat. But for several days, nothing.

After we say hello I hug Sunny, who smells strange, like steel and dirty washing. Then the nurse brings in three plates of food. Sunny’s favourite, barbecue chicken, is present, but she only sniffs at it, refusing to eat. My husband takes some in his big hands and offers it, tenderly to the little dog. She won’t eat it. I worry for him then – his dogs are everything. What if Sunny never eats? What will it do to him?

She won’t take chicken from me either, nor will she take some of the cat biscuits the nurse has left – dogs are supposed to prefer them, she said. As I stroke Sunny’s lovely soft ears, I try for a hail mary, scooping up a little mixture from the final bowl. It’s brown, sludgey, with a little grit too it.

I coo to Sunny and hold some out to her.

She looks at it, and then at me. She sniffs it. And then she licks it from my fingers.

Tears rush to my eyes. I look to my husband, who has worked from home all week to look after this dog. He offers her some of the goop and she won’t take it, but when I hold my own fingers out again, smothered in the stuff, she laps it up gingerly, giving me careful glances.

I know that it could have been anything that made Sunny eat from my hand, but to my poor, sore heart, her favour feels rich and significant.

Sunny is my dog.

She fights so hard for herself, she is brave and ugly and misunderstood. She loves to wrestle but will attack on a whim.

Sunny is my dog, I tell the vet.  “She’s my favourite thing in the world.”

We sit there, for nearly an hour, while Bruno whines at the door, and I feed Sunny an entire bowl full of what is apparently wet food for anorexic dogs – tiny, slimy scoop by finger scoop. Watching her eat, the catharsis of it, might have been the happiest moment of my life.

Even now I can feel it slipping away – that tragic knowledge of what really matters, that surety that only comes when you’re tested. “Oh,” you think, in that dark moment, “all those other things? Jobs and reputations and followers and fake friends and fancy cocktails? Those weren’t real. I only needed them because I had all my real things.”

I have that awful knowledge, that day in the bookstore, as I wait as long as I can before I have to go and actually pick up some food I don’t want. Before I have to walk back to the office and write whatever it is I was writing that day – doubtless, it was unsatisfactory to someone.

I must have picked up my salad, and walked, daze-like, back to the building to start on it.

Perhaps – I think, when I realise I am there, climbing back up the steps to my private, tiny prison without walls – perhaps the test hasn’t come back yet. Perhaps there’s been some delay.  Maybe I have been granted a reprieve – another few days of blissful not-knowing.

But as I reach the second floor landing on my way to my third-floor desk, my phone rings.

I hear it in my husband’s voice before he speaks.

“Good news,” he says.

I thought I would cry even for good news, but I don’t.

I can’t stop smiling.

Calm Down Christian Blokes, Nobody is Bullying You

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about that Cooper’s video. If you haven’t, you can feast your eyes on it in all its cringe-y awkwardness here.*

I have a lot of thoughts about this video. Mostly, that it made me once again wish I could run PR for the entire religion of Christianity.

Seriously. How did nobody from a religion centred around loving your neighbour stop and think: “Hey, you guys, just a thought – maybe this video of three white guys, two of whom are Christian and all of whom are right wing, having a good lol over a beer about an issue that contributes to the fact that gay people are 14x more likely to kill themselves than straight people, is not going to go over well on the internet.”

Predictably, condemnation was swift. I’m not going to add to it – well, anymore than I already have in my attempt to describe the video above, which we can all agree failed spectacularly as a piece of impartial reporting. As previously discussed, I’m not the right person to speak for the gay community.

What I want to talk about is the condemnation of the condemnation. The pushback against the video’s detractors. Because, of course, the Christian white boys were outraged. How dare someone take a thing that they had made and not like it?

“We’re being bullied!” They cried. “What about freedom of speech?”

Firstly, Christian white boys, nobody was attacking you personally. They were not, for example, calling you out publicly for your decision to wear a one-piece swimsuit to the beach, or a tank top during a 40-degree heatwave, such as Christian men do to Christian women all the time. The dialogue was about the video, the very specific ideas in that video, and the presentation of such.

Secondly, in the style of many pre-schoolers I know, I think you need to learn a little lesson about bullying, because I’m not sure you know what it means.

The definition of being bullied is not “I said something and people did not think it was appropriate and got angry.”

It is especially not “I am a white man who practices Australia’s dominant religion and I said something and people did not think it was appropriate and got angry.”

Bullying is a big, popular kid and his gang of mates picking on a small kid who doesn’t have any friends.

If you honestly cannot see that the church has been the big, popular kid tearing down gay people and women and racial and religious minorities in the past, then I maybe can’t help you – you might actually be too far gone to change.

But I think a lot of Christians, including lots of white men, realise that the church has done wrong in the past, and has used its power in really terrible ways. The difference now, they say, is that we are no longer popular. People watched our big boys bully those smaller than themselves and left and joined the other side, in droves. There are more of them now, they say. They have gotten muscly over the summer holidays. They are the bullies and we are the ones being picked on.

To which, I have to say…weeeell…

Sure, bible-believing, church attending Christians are certainly thin on the ground in lots of places – and gay people undoubtedly have a lot of support on the issue of marriage equality. Those Christians in dissent** have long been outvoted by the general public (though still, bizarrely, in their next breath, claim they are supporting a silent majority).

But as any good networker will tell you, being powerful is not just about having friends. It’s about having the right friends.***

The fact is that, barring a lot of legal reform and a systematic cull of the older Caucasian blokes from beachside suburbs who run Australia, Christians are not being bullied.

It would be difficult, in this country, for us to be bullied ever. The constitution legalises our right to teach children about Jesus in schools.  Further legislation enshrines our values on everything from break time to BDSM. Any and every perceived slight against us is reported in right wing media as an attack on “the Christian values that built our nation.” There are so many Christians in parliament that they have their own prayer group – it meets on Monday nights.

If anything, we are overrepresented in positions of power. According to a 2014 article, during Tony Abbott’s time as prime minister, 8 of 19 members (42%) of the cabinet were Catholic, to say nothing of what I’m sure was a strong protestant showing. In contrast, only 25% of Australians said they were Catholic in the 2011 census – a number which I would bet money dropped in time for last year’s debacle.

There are only three out gay members of Australian lower house, 2% of the house’s total headcount (according to this 2016 article) and to my knowledge, no transgender members, while statistics indicate that one in every ten people is likely LGBT.

It’s easy to see why people don’t take too kindly when we say there is nobody to stand up for our values. When we argue we are being silenced, bullied and ignored.

Now, don’t mishear me, Christian blokes. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Christians or white people or men being in positions of power having political opinions, or voicing those political opinions – though if they’re Christian, they’re called to do that in a loving way. We live in a democracy, a system of government based on people giving their views on policies, laws and legislators.

The thing that the most privileged Christians need to get used to is the fact that people can now say whatever they want back.

Seriously. Whatever they want.

They have friends now. If those friends don’t want to buy your beer, that is their prerogative.

Even if we think we are being nice and doing a nice thing. Even when we think their response is mean or illegitimate. Even when we think we are right.

Our detractors can still say anything the like, and we have to try and be loving in response.

Not try to stand on our rights. Not try to yell louder. Not try to silence the opposition.

God’s promise to us was not that we would live lovely lives protected from nasty name calling. In fact, it was the very opposite.

I understand the fears Christian white men have. They have never been a minority before – they have never been powerless. But to wallow in their own suffering as though they haven’t and aren’t causing suffering, or as though Christians aren’t being gunned down with machine guns in other parts of the world, is laughable to anyone, and particularly to the women and minorities that their voices have previously silenced.

It’s time you all came out of your bubble for a bit of air, took a look around, had a chat with someone who’s not like you (that wasn’t just a debate about an opinion you’re secure in), and learned to deal with where we are instead of longing for a past that is very much gone.

I think it would really help some of you stop saying silly things that those of us living in the real world then have to try and explain to our non-Christian friends and family – and I think it might help the rest of the world be a little more sympathetic if we ever come under real attack.

Perhaps every Christian white man fear will come true, and you will all be right. Maybe Christian ministers will be thrown in jail for preaching the bible’s views of sexuality. Maybe they will take away our legal right to tell our children about Jesus. Maybe we will be told we have to make a cake for a same sex wedding.**** Maybe your kid, who I suspect is the real target of your worry and concern, will support values you do not support, or will not be a Christian, or is gay or transgender him or herself.*****

You know what I doubt is going to slow the advance of that day, of those days, which may very well be coming? Privileged people playing a false victim card too early, before anyone has made any serious attempt to limit the rights of Christians in the first place.

And if our brothers and sisters, about to be eaten by lions and set on fire and nailed to pieces of wood, can bless their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, I promise, you can shut the hell up and stop writing nasty homophobic comments on Facebook.

*TLDR summary: three white guys in suits drink Cooper’s beer and discuss the pros and cons of same sex marriage

**And we are not all in dissent

***This potential pun was unintentional, I promise, I hate puns because I am a humourless bitch

****Which like, sorry Christians but big fat who cares. It’s a cake, nobody is forcing you to have gay sex

*****In which case I hope you will do as the bible says, and still love them and take care of them

In Which I Complain About Adorable Children (and Myself) for IWD

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post for this blog.

The content of the post was, as I intended it: Christians and gay people are fighting again. We should probably stop being mean to each other but Christians should probably stop it more.

A friend of mine reached out to me a few hours after it went up. I need to mention for context that she is a lesbian, I just didn’t want to say “a lesbian friend of mine” because that sounds like her sexuality is the reason we are friends – it is not, we are friends because she is great. She said the post was offensive and a bit gross, and told me why in exacting detail, which is something she did not have to do, because minorities do not exist to educate you about why you are a dickhead, they exist to live their own lives and you are just in their way. She asked me to pull it down and I did.*

I tell this story for three reasons:

  1. I like to begin all my blogs with a rambling personal anecdote because I AM OBSESSED WITH MY OWN LIFE
  2. Even if you think you are doing a nice thing, or at least making a point in a respectful and nice way, it is possible you are not
  3. I am still here. I tried to do what I thought was a good thing, I learned that it was at best problematic, I felt sad for a moment, and then I felt angry that I could not say what I wanted, and then I felt angry that I was dumb and inconsiderate and I had upset people, and then I felt angry that society is not better and is fucked, and then time went by and I forgot about it and felt sad and angry about lots of unrelated things.**

The other reason I tell this story is because I’m about to roast some people for doing exactly what I did, and I sort of have mixed feelings about it but sort of don’t.

The subject of my roast is obviously, adorable children from Sydney Boys. They are not really children, they are young adults, it’s just that school uniforms make everyone look 12.

Today, these young adults – young adult prefects, I should clarify, as they did – made a video. In it, they face the camera, and repeat statements about why we need feminism. They do not, as I initially thought, make statements about why they as men need feminism – and feminism does have a lot to offer men and boys, apart from the chance to be outraged. They simply repeated statements made by their female friends and relatives about why they need feminism.

And people liked it you guys, they really liked it.

It’s been in my Facebook feed all day, and shared by everyone from major media outlets to loads of regular and kickass women.

Well, I freaking hate it.

Boooo adorable children and future hot guys raising awareness about feminism.

Boooo.

Ok. Don’t get me wrong. Obviously, I do not hate the message. I don’t even hate the messenger. These boys tried hard to do a good thing and I reckon they learned stuff. They potentially weren’t aware they would become an internet sensation, and even if they were, the net effect of what they have done is still good. People are listening to them in a way they won’t to me or any other woman.

I just hate it.

I hate that these women’s stories, some of which are frankly pretty traumatic, still garner more respect, are still praised more for their bravery, are still shared more widely, are still more palatable to society, and are still heralded as more feminist in this form than when ACTUAL WOMEN TELL THEM.

You want videos in which women talk about why they need feminism, or articles in which women talk about why they need feminism, or freaking tweets in which women talk about why they need feminism? You want women telling their own stories of rape or being overlooked in the workplace or literally most other things that have ever happened to us? Those are all out there! In fact, they are all everywhere! They are so ubiquitous I couldn’t possibly link to them all. I, as someone who loves to trawl the feminist web, am frankly kind of sick of reading them sometimes.

The difference is that the privileged men that the boys in this video will grow into do not read them. They need to hear them out of the mouth of someone like themselves. A man.

They need this video of adorable children “sticking up for their mothers and sisters and future wives and daughters,” or whatever whatever.

And that. That. THIS is why we still need International Women’s Day. We need it because women are still beaten with the crazy stick when we tell stories men are praised for telling. We need it because male feminists still expect a cookie and some nice attention for trying to help. We need it because the same media outlets who days ago were crying foul over the ABC’s decision to take male voices off the air for one single day have suddenly come around to the feminist message because a white man said a thing.

Perhaps, like me, it’s time men spend some time listening.

*Reasons I pulled it down include: I dislike making my friends sad, nobody paid me to put it up so who cares if it is now not there, knowing my luck somebody would pick it up and roast it on Twitter which is not something I need in my life, I do not want to be a jerk who contributes to LGBT suicide rates, and etc.

**I don’t think I’m fundamentally a jerk for writing that post. I don’t think I’m fundamentally a good person for fixing my mistake. I think I’m a huge mess like everyone else in the whole world who learned literally one single lesson.

If You’re Banning All the Muslims, Put Me On the List Too

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As I have previously mentioned about a million times, I am a white woman and a pretty hardcore Jesus-person.

I don’t mean to bring up my race so often, but today it is relevant.*

It is relevant because I had to watch Jackie Lambie once again throw around anti-religious sentiment, this time on Q and A.

And funnily enough, that anti-religious sentiment only applied to religions often practiced by immigrants. Because obviously.

Christians rarely stand with those of Islamic faith because, quite frankly, a few of us are racist, a few of us are lazy, and most of us are too busy organising all of the various activities our church wants to put on.

This is ridiculous and frankly, it’s time we speak up. Religious freedom in Australia needs to apply to all religions, not just the ones led by old white dudes.

Ms Lambie, my ancestors came here as convicts. We are the whitest of the white. It you’re searching for what the right see as “real Aussie”** credentials, you’d have to search hard to do better.

But if you’re so worried about Sharia that you feel its adherents have no place in our country, well, you’re going to have to kick me out as well.

If your argument is that to live in Australia you need to respect the Australian law as the only and primary rules for living, then I am out. So are many Christians beside me.

Many Muslims, including Yassmin Abdel-Magied, have spoken out to say that Muslims are instructed to adhere to the law of the land where they live, and Christians have that rule too. But, if there is a conflict, we are told to go with the bible’s rules, rather than the ones made in Canberra.

To be frank, I don’t think it will be long before this will be in full view for the public. Many Christians support same-sex marriage, and most think it would be dumb to refuse to make a cake just because gay people plan to eat it. But if Christians don’t very soon get ready to have a kind and rational conversation about gay marriage, our ministers will eventually end up in jail for refusing to marry gay people in our churches.

I would see this as a real shame. Because, even though I am a leftie, the point of the law is not, as I understand it***, to reflect the minutiae of tiny unseen values that squiggle around the hearts and bodies of every one of Australia’s citizens. Instead, the law is fundamentally about what we as a country find so abhorrent that it requires punishment. It’s about making compromises and protecting rights – making sure things are split up at least mostly equally and everyone feels at least reasonably safe.

Meaning, Christians can privately practice and believe whatever they like about marriage, but should not have the right to deny gay people the right at a national level. That Muslim people should have the right to go about their business – and middle-aged white ladies should have the right to feel silently and irrationally terrified if they want to, but not to refuse them basic human rights.

If you’re saying goodbye to everyone who holds something above the law, say goodbye to  the woman who’s illegally using marijuana to treat her chemo symptoms, and the guy who went and beat up the man who was abusing his child, and as previously mentioned, myself. So long, Ms Lambie!

I’m not sure where I’ll go – I think England’s forgotten about my family by now. Perhaps I can pay a people smuggler to set me on a rickety boat bound for nowhere.

*I am quite happy to bring up my religion in any context, because it’s important to me, and also because I had to listen to you talk about sage cleansing and horoscopes so I figure we’re even.

**I know I’m so sorry; writing that made me throw up in my mouth a little. I was trying to speak the language of the right, but still feel the need to acknowledge that of course no white person is a real anything – our land is stolen land.

***I have a law degree, btw.

Good Work Other Women You Do That Thing I Don’t Care About

 

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I care about sport about as much as I care about being able to apply perfect winged liner, which is not at all, ever.

But I couldn’t help but feel a little swell of pride last week as I watched a promo for the first WAFL match.

It was with no small amount of wonder that I watched these women, limbs on display in their practical shorts and singlets, huddle up before going out on the field. Their long hair was secured in bands and braids, kept out of their faces. There was no cleavage on display, only muscles. Their bodies weren’t sculpted for bouncing, but to kick.

They were their own cheerleaders – and even though I don’t really like watching sport, I was drawn so strongly to them, off to lead themselves to a tiny victory, in support of a much larger cause.

It’s scary, to be honest, just how rare it is to see a group of women dressed up to honest-to-goodness go and a do a thing. Not to sell a thing or to attend a thing or to be a thing, but to go out and just kick some general ass and take some freaking names.

In a month where Donald Trump signed a bill banning abortion rights while surrounded by a gaggle of smiling, old white men, these women were a bright ray of sun.

They reminded me of someone.

They reminded me of many someones.

They reminded me of my best friend from school who used to be the only girl to enter coding competitions, who had the last few subjects of her degree awarded honorarily because she was that good – and because she had to leave the country to start her job at Google.

They reminded me of my youngest sister, who is also studying computer engineering and politely corrects me every time I accidentally state that she is “going in to IT.” Apparently this is the equivalent of calling a journalist a copy writer.

They reminded me of my middlest sister and all the awesome women teachers and scholars I know, who inspire and inform, who don’t get nearly enough credit for the fascinating things they know and can tell us.

They reminded me of the women at work who are rising up a male dominated ladder to become kickass, full-on, hardline, hard news journalists, who get scoops and front pages and knows all the names of the people in the NSW state parliament – instead of Googling them as needed, like I do.

They reminded me of the women I interned for when I still thought I might be a lawyer, who were tireless, fearsome legal advocates for teenagers who lived on the streets and drug addicts just out of jail and women in abusive marriages and confused international students done for drink driving.

They reminded me of the women I know who truly understand and passionately love the business of business, who are rising through the ranks in HR or PR or MR while studying hard at night for a master’s degree, so they can one day nurture other women, can help us all pull each other up the jungle gym that dominates the corporate enclosure.

They reminded me of all the women doctors I know, who are just now, ten years after high school, finishing up their training – or still studying. Of the many other women in healthcare who don’t get nearly the same credit, but are just as crucial. To have the drive to do something that takes so much of you, and sometimes seems to give so little, is incredible and inspiring.

They reminded me of several women on my Facebook, who all seem to be getting Phds in  incredibly complicated science things that I do not, for the life of me, understand.

In spite of what every film ever released would have you believe, I am not jealous of any of these women.Their jobs and lives and choices are inspiring as hell, but they’re not right for me.

But I am so, so glad – I am glad beyond glad – that they want them and that they have them, and that they show us there’s another way. A way where we are more than bodies, more than things, more than numbers.

I am so glad that in every field there is someone to lead the way.

I am glad, selfishly, because if I ever decide to have a child, it will probably be a daughter.

We are a family of daughter-havers. My mum is one of four sisters and between them they had seven girls, no sons.

I’m sure in this hypothetical future people will come up to my fake daughter at a party and pat her soft little head and – because they don’t know what else to say – will remark that she looks so pretty today, or that they like her shoes.

I suppose I will have to let her hear it, to hope it skims off her. But if I see it sneaking and wiggling its way into her brain I will take her hand and pull her aside and crouch down beside her as she looks confused about why I am so weird. I’ll take her little hand in mine and tell her not to listen. I will say:

Don’t be a thing. You are not a thing.

Do a thing.

Do your thing.

Whatever the hell that is.

Please Get Over Yourself, Fellow White Lady

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Hi! It’s me, your friendly neighbourhood privileged white lady! I have called myself in to the latest round of the privilege wars, because even though multiple excellent women of colour have written succinctly and well about why white ladies need to get over ourselves, apparently some of you out there just won’t listen! Like this bitch* fellow human being!**

Now sweetie, I read your article, and I want to you to know that I get it. I really do! I too went to a nice school and grew up in a nice middle class suburb with a pool and had nice parents who made nice money but still had room in their week to have lots of nice family time with me. Who could buy me everything the school said I needed and had time to read my home reader with me and make sure I did my homework. Who answered my many questions about educational materials and life in general and were so proud of me when I got into a nice selective school. Thank you for including us in your rant by the way – white people who go to selective schools are often assumed to have been somehow tainted out of whiteness by being around all those cheating immigrant children who got tutoring. But don’t worry, we still got preferential treatment and were frequently made prefects and held up as weird sex symbols!

But hey – let’s be real.  I don’t think I got in to a selective school just because my parents did all those things for me. I mean, that was a big part of it, but I also think I got in because I’m smarter than morons like you.

And you know what I did after school?  I got a degree, just like you! Actually, I got two. Isn’t getting a degree hard? All that turning up to class when you could be getting a tan and finding a billionaire to marry? And then getting a freaking job? When we could be sitting around living off mummy and daddy’s ‘Tory’ money? Seriously, we are basically freaking saints for even trying.

And you need a little pat on the back, do you? A nice little congrats for studying so hard to get your creative writing degree while mummy and daddy let you live at home and pay nominal or no rent? A scratch and sniff ‘well done’ sticker for getting up an hour early to hit the gym and put on your makeup so you can get some bloke’s attention? Oh, life is just so very hard for us well-off white girls isn’t it, with parents to help us pay for uni and lend us money if we need it and generally act as a safety net. Oh wait, you didn’t know? You didn’t know not everyone could run home to mummy and daddy if they were suddenly out of work or found themselves in a pinch? Yes, I know it’s very strange isn’t it. Some children of immigrants actually have to send money home to their struggling families to help out. Some white women from working class backgrounds have to hold down a second job as well as their full-time gig so they can pay rent and their car loan simultaneously. Some of people of colour find it difficult to land a job at all, because white people have all of them, and we are kind of dickheads about sharing.

You know what though, as you so eloquently pointed out, white women do not have all the privilege – we are not yet white men. Sometimes our voices aren’t heard. Sometimes people don’t listen to our opinions. I mean, in your case, sometimes the reason they aren’t listening is because you tried to whitesplain someone’s religion to them – which is potentially one of the only times when I think a women’s voice need not be heard, to be honest.

But even if your opinions magically became well-formed and not inherently ignorant and potentially racist, you know what’s not going to get them heard or win you respect (at least in the long term)? Making yourself into a sex symbol, as you suggest.

Sweetie, prepare yourself, because I’m going to use some big words. They are patriachal bargain and they mean you’ve decided to operate within our current, broken system, wherein you trade looking like a model and writing opinion pieces in defence of the status quo in exchange for a nugget of potential love from daddy.

What you’re doing is like putting money into a vending machine thinking that eventually, if you give it enough, it will grow legs and follow you home and listen to all of your opinions. In reality, it will give out shitty poorly refrigerated sugar goop that will make you feel good for a moment and then leave you worse off than you started, with all your credit gone.

We fe****sts (sorry, I know that word offends you, but it means, as you so eloquently put it, that we believe in gender equality) believe in the rights of you and Kim Kardashian to work as hard on your bods as you like, and to display them any way you please. I’m sure you are indeed more beautiful than me, a girl who – you rightly guessed – only sometimes wears makeup, and applies it poorly. But don’t pretend you’re doing yourself any real favours – and please, don’t even try to pretend that what you’re doing doesn’t impact the rest of us.

Do you really want women as a gender to continue to be judged primarily on our looks? On our ability to ensnare a man? Because you do know that’s how we got here in the first place – this place where our opinions aren’t valued. We spent centuries as living statues and human sex toys – the only thing that’s changed is that now we can actually fill ourselves with plastic.

But you know what? I’ve said all those things, and at the end of the day, I know the deal.

I won’t change your mind. And I won’t change the minds of women like you.

But you know what me and all the women of colour, and the trans women and the lesbians and the working class ladies and yes, even the single mums, are going to do for you, ignorant lady?

We’re going to help you.

We’re all going to help you.

Whether you fucking like it or not.

Yeah. I know.

It seems like an incredibly stupid thing to do, and frankly it is, because I don’t want to help you, or the many women like you I know in real life or know online or who voted for Donald Trump***.

But I do want to help as many women as I can up to my level, the privilege level of privileged white girl, so that together we can push some other ladies up to levels we haven’t quite hit yet.

Maybe that will be you lady. In fact, knowing all of our luck, it probably will be. When you’re  and old white man and you’ve got an army of angry disenfranchised people banging down your door, your first point of call is probably your friend the hot sexy lady who defends you all the time.

My point is, you are not going to lose any of your power by the bunch of us going up a peg. You’re going to benefit even if you do it kicking and screaming.

And eventually, we will all beat down your door. We will rise to your lofty new heights. I hope someday people of every race, colour, creed and sexuality will be privileged enough to enjoy the heights of your personal arrogance.

And you know what? I hope against hope that you will join us, angry privileged white ladies. I hope against hope that I can be for you what male celebrities who tweet about domestic violence and date rape are for the rest of the world – a voice you’ll finally hear, because you can only hear voices who look just like you.

But regardless of whether you’re onboard or not, we’re all headed onward and upward.

See you in the past baby doll!

*Like I would ever call this woman a bitch! It’s a wonderful word reserved for smart awesome lady friends, and also for dogs, who are the greatest and don’t deserve to be lumped in with frivolous white ladies.

**I thought for a while and this was the nicest thing I could think of to call her.

***Please imagine this beeped out, in the style of Broad City. I recognise this reference may be ironic given that it’s mostly, from the bits of it I’ve seen, about white ladies.

Normally I save my posts for Thursday nights, but this one was too bubbly and angry to live inside me until then. You should see another one pop up Thursday evening (unless you don’t.)

This V-Day, Give the Gift of Demanding Gifts

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Around this time every year some dumb meme that goes around that’s all “sure, your girlfriend says she doesn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day, but if you don’t get her something SHE WILL CUT OFF YOUR BALLS WHILE YOU SLEEP.”

My husband thinks this meme is hilarious, despite the fact that every year I literally thank him for not getting me anything for Valentine’s Day, because I hate it and it sucks.

So I CUT OFF HIS BALLS IN HIS SLEEP.

Just kidding – I like to keep that one up my sleeve to curb future bad behaviour. Also, it’s true that over my time as a human being, I have met an inordinate amount of women (including my past self) who seem to think they can just expect their partners to read their minds regarding how they expect to celebrate special occasions. These partners, they feel, should automatically know what they are thinking and feeling, even when what they are thinking and feeling is the precise opposite of what is coming out of their mouths.

They don’t think they should have to spell out what they expect from the special someone in their lives, because a) they have watched too many romantic comedies, and thus feel that all men should be able to read their minds in the way a 45-year old female writer can; and b) they feel that sharing their expectations honestly will make them appear ‘crazy’.

Instead, they end up drunk texting their friends sentences like: “I shouldn’t have to tell him that my birthday celebration needed to involve skywriting, he should just know,” which is not exactly the definition of non-insanity, at least as I understand it.

Now fellow women-folk, before you begin listing the myriad and offensive things men do to us, let me just say that I know. I get it. The men who date us are 98% minor scumbags and 2% token bi guys with amazing hair who end up married to hot gay dudes who wear a lot of fake tan. It may not be backed up by Census data, but you and I both know it to be true.*

But, let’s be real, we are none of us A+ sanity central all the time. Certainly, I am not. If my husband gets a Snapchat after midnight from a woman, I become immediately and completely convinced it is of some girl’s tits; even if the message has also been sent to me, and even though all the times I have given in to my lesser judgement and opened one of his Snapchats, it has been a lame joke about shared alcoholism. As a recovering cool girl, I fight the good fight daily to steer myself away from that tired lady-trope of “it’s fine” before I end up on that bumpy road of un-fine thinly veiled frustration that usually ends in at least minimal random crying and maximum man-regret and confusion.

The fact is that we have all been socialised to think we can’t ask for stuff, and that men should be perfect knights in shining armour who can instead predict what we want every second of every day. Somehow, we figured out that men are at best occasionally dumb dumbs and at worst the straight up worst; but we haven’t made the leap to, “oh, well guess I’d better spell shit out for you then.”

And guess who ends up crying and sending insane texts? Umm, that would be us, ladies. Your man is sleeping soundly, dreaming of Snapchat boobs.**

Frankly, this inclination we all have is ridiculous, because men are basically never afraid to ask for anything they need ever. If your man was only attracted to girls wearing inflatable T-Rex outfits, he would have brought one along for you to wear on your first date.

So, this year I propose a movement. There is no march, and you don’t have to think up a pun about Donald Trump. You just gave to tell your partner, straight up, exactly and everything you want for Valentine’s Day.

Yes. Everything. Even the things that they “should just know.”

If you, like me, genuinely do feel no real joy about V-Day and the only thing you want is to inwardly mock others for their slave-like devotion to capitalism, then by all means say nothing and receive nothing. But don’t think that makes you any better than anyone else, because it doesn’t. You have your own crazy, babe. We all of us do.

Better to be the girl who approaches her partner a few days beforehand, takes his or her hand, looks into his or her eyes and says  “babe, if you don’t get me a card and a single red rose and then take a cute picture of us and post it on your Insta while pretending like you did it of your own accord, I will leave you for that guy who’s always posting inappropriate comments on my half-naked selfies.”

After that, please feel free to fist pump the air like that greasy-haired rapey kid in the Breakfast Club.

Then, you wait.

And if your partner doesn’t follow through, feel free to CUT OFF HIS BALLS IN HIS SLEEP.

*If you are someone who dates women then the general premise still applies, although you may have to do some pronoun shifting. I assume that y’all are pretty much experts at digesting media by ignorant straight people by this point, so I doubt you’ll have much trouble.

**And then maybe getting yelled at by you briefly. But then back to sleeping.

It’s Another Christian Women Thing, Obviously

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I’ve thought a lot about whether to write this post, because I thought maybe I was being a poor sport or a wet blanket. Then I realised that I needed to see it on the internet, and that no one else was going to write it, and that being a poor sport and/or wet blanket has never stopped me before. There is not a single roller coaster on the Gold Coast I haven’t refused to go on.

Two things happened to make me decide that this was a thing I should write. The first happened after I wrote a post about how Christian guys are often not shy about dating around, and often favour the same kind of girl when they do choose to settle down.

I’ll openly admit that I was potentially, in writing that post, using my creative powers for evil not good – which is on me. Several people asked me if the post, or parts of the post, were about them, and I felt bad that they were uncomfortable. Some of them were incredibly wrong, and some of them were right. It didn’t diminish my deep affection for any of them.

I write about the foibles of Christian culture because even through Christians are utterly ridiculous, I love them. I love us. I love that we can’t make cordial and that our unstated dress code for weddings is floral dresses. I love that we still celebrate every Christmas with a bad play featuring children wearing tea towels on their heads. I love that, on the whole, our men are good and kind and don’t sleep with 14 women at the same time like I see other blokes doing.

But I also write about them because sometimes, they do dumb stuff, and it’s often dumb stuff that the people at the top of the line don’t notice.

Not because they aren’t kind or compassionate, but because they are old white dudes.

I know, I know, I am engaging in identity politics, I am a left-wing succubus riding the coattails of those blazing a path to freedom. Blah blah.

I am also right.

Because when I posted my article online I got lots of positive comments from women who has observed this trend, and a couple of negative ones from people who hadn’t.

Funnily enough, they were dudes of the caucasian variety.

Now, please don’t misread me. I am not sad that someone said something mean about something I wrote. At work, I write articles that go on the online version of The Daily Telegraph,  a well known cess-pool of dysfunctional jerk trolls*. If someone doesn’t like something I write on my own time, that’s honestly fine. Writing is subjective, and hey, I did it for free.

In fact, when I read the first “bad review” I was overjoyed. It was my first mean comment for my blog, and it was so nice! I was overwhelmed with love for the Christian community – even our internet trolls were friendly. We must be doing alright.

The second comment was this:

(What exactly is she accusing this guy (guys?) of?) Basically rape. And everything else. Oh, and being white too. Then again, it’s late so I may have missed the humour.

At first read, I was again delighted. If written on a story I wrote at work, this would be the nicest thing I had read all day. I would probably tread myself to a sneaky browse through the Jezabel home page to celebrate.

Then I was like….wait. Did this guy just accuse me of casually throwing around rape accusations?

Because, ummm, no, I did not do that. I would never accuse anyone of rape, unless a guy literally raped me or someone I knew and trusted was like “that guy literally raped me.”

I wouldn’t do that because women take rape accusations very seriously. We take rape accusations very seriously because we worry about being raped and assaulted all the time, because it could very easily happen. I went for a walk today when it was twilight out – I could have been raped. I drove home alone at night – could have been raped then too. I am sitting alone in a room right now – someone could bust in and rape me.

And if someone did rape me, I would want to be believed very badly. So would your wife. Or your mum.

But, let’s be real, this guy is not really talking about rape.

What this guy is saying when he brings up rape is not just “I don’t get what you’re saying,” it’s, “I’m going to discredit you and your point by evoking rape, which is a concern only to women like yourself. I can joke about rape accusations, because the chances that I’ll ever have to make one are slim to none. Bringing up rape brings up the fact that men are more powerful than you and don’t have to listen to your concerns or try and understand them.”

Now, whether he intended to say all that is up for discussion. Perhaps he has never been on the internet before, and lives safely in a hilarious bubble of manly good times where rape jokes are just a hearty, old-fashioned lol. Perhaps I have been incredibly rude to some poor guy who was just really tired and didn’t appreciate my sex jokes.

Either way, let’s move on, because despite being accused of making false accusations of rape by a man listed as studying at one of the city’s largest theological colleges**, his comment was not the tipping point for what is becoming an incredibly lengthy and rambling post. My dad was.

My dad is a wonderful man, but is not a believer. He goes to church once a year on Christmas eve.

Before his trip this year, we were discussing something to do with church, and he told me the best joke I have ever heard, which doubles as a tragic indictment on our churches and everything they value.

A few years ago, he said, he was having a drink with a friend who was a minister. My dad, a man who has three daughters and endless respect for women in general, asked his friend (genuinely) why there were no female ministers in some churches.

His friend, God love him, is reported to have said the following:

“Oh, a woman could never be a minister! Women just aren’t good enough at relating to men…I can be here with you, having a drink in the pub and talking, but a woman could never relate to a man in that way.”

Dear reader, I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my adult life. Except at this Vine, which is unrelated but speaks volumes about the kind of person I am.****

Because firstly, women can go to pubs and also can talk to men – we are not allergic to alcohol or to chest hair.

And secondly, because I have known, throughout my time in the church, some ministers who were so horrible at speaking to and understanding women it is literally beyond me that they have lived this long in the adult world. I’ve had ministers who made women so mad they considered leaving a church, ministers who left multiple women in tears after a standard question time, ministers who were straight up scared of talking to anyone with a vagina, and on and on and on. How do they buy an ice cream? How do they go to the bank? How are they all married?

Now, personally, I feel it’s biblically proper that we don’t have senior female ministers in our churches – though perhaps you take a different view. That’s cool, we’re still friends. But however you feel, women make up more than 50% of the average church. And, outside of paid ministry staff, I would argue they shoulder the lion’s share of the work in the average church.

And even outsiders see that.

They see the Christian women in their lives cooking pot luck dinners while the single guys buy drinks. They see them singing with the band and leading bible studies and helping at play group and giving up time at work to teach scripture.

They see the way Christian men talk about Christian women, who are their daughters, wives and friends.

And they remember.

This story happened years ago, according to my dad. I have been trying, all this time, to make a good impression for Christ, and unbenownst to me some dumb dumb stuffed it up with a sexist comment while I still thought Green Day were the height of musical talent.

Some would say I shouldn’t bring non-Christians into this debate at all, that this is Very Serious Bible Stuff, and non-Christians shouldn’t get an opinion on whether or not powerful men’s refusal to hear women’s voices is dumb. I would respectfully disagree.

If we’re eager for outsiders to see and know Christians, we have to be ok with outsiders seeing and knowing whole Christians. Not only the parts of our culture that we love and value but the parts that are kind of gross and unappealing and which maybe we’re not trying to fix as hard as we should.

We have to be ok with outsiders knowing, for example, that this man felt that men should be ministers because relating to men was somehow a far more important job requirement than relating to women – the larger and more active half of his church.

And I know – I know – that some men will instantly bristle at my singling them out at all, and at my pointing out how much power they have in our churches. But the truth is that like it or not, they have a lot. Whether they’re a minister, a worship*** leader, in charge of bible study groups, or just mates with someone in charge, they’re the ones leading the decisions about not just biblical direction, but social and cultural directions too.

And it’s time they started taking their ability to relate to women seriously.

I would love to see more than the current tiny proportion of Christian leaders actively seeking out women’s voices on big and important issues that aren’t whether or not we should serve cake or a pavlova at the Christmas barbeque*****. And by women’s voices, I don’t just mean married women’s voices, and I especially don’t just mean their wives’ voices.

Yes, sure, you blokes might still experience pangs of nostalgia for the old days when the ladies had to put up and shut up – but guys, I hate to tell you, those days are gone. The world has moved on. Let us help you through it, it’s important.

Outsiders see how our churches are treating women. All of us, including the ladies, need to have an answer for why women have the roles they do, and both outside and inside those roles, men need to treat women’s concerns, relationships, ministries and voices seriously.

Because ironically, if we don’t, Christian men won’t even be able to relate to men anymore.

*You do not want to hear the comments levelled at me when I said Tim Minchin’s house was art deco. Needless to say, readers did not feel it was art deco according to their exacting standards.

**A lame person

***Yes I clicked his profile I am a sad person with no life obviously

****Ugh, it’s singing, just call it singing

*****Also an important question because any woman would see at once that pavlova would require plates, while cake could be procured for less money and presented on serviettes