Trump is not the problem

I want you all to stop.

Stop saying Trump is the problem. Stop saying How could they? Stop saying We need to get rid of Trump.

Trump can get in the fucking sea. He could be on a boat attacked by the kraken, crushing the boat and cracking it in half so everyone is flung into the water and then ignoring the other inhabitants and picking Trump up in one of its giant tentacles and stuffing him whole into its enormous mouth, and I would not feel remotely sad. Maybe for Barron. I feel sorry for Barron.

I won’t feel sorry for him when he is like Trump Jr brandishing his privilege and his slicked back hair like a skeezy villain. The kind of guy that walks up to a woman in a bar and flashes his white toothy grin and you feel a shiver down your spine because you just know this guy is gross. A bit like Christian Bale in American Psycho which I totally haven’t watched because why watch American Psycho when I could just watch the news?

Spot the Difference?

If Trump disappeared tomorrow the world would still be a fucking mess.

A huge mess. Big mess. Very messy.

Trump is a problem but so are the 4155168521 people like him. I made the number up, okay. I mashed my keyboard. I hear that’s how facts work now.

I’m not even talking about America. I’ve never lived there. I only care about America because Americans seem to have an impression they are leaders of the free world.

Terrifying.

If Trump got eaten by a giant bear tomorrow, which I’m not saying will happen, but it might, there is a remote possibility this could occur, then the world would keep going. We’d all breathe an enormous sigh of relief and then wake up tomorrow and find a million different people still shouting. We’d wake up in a world with men still trying to deny women the right to their own bodies. We’d wake up with white supremacy.

This morning I woke up in a country many people admire for its equality, and for its generally benevolent status in world politics. I woke up in a country which recently passed a law banning the niqab. One where its immigration minister baked a cake for the occasion of passing her 50th amendment tightening immigration laws. Hooray for pandering to the far right!

I have grown to love Denmark and I honestly believe the Danish people are better than this pandering. But not good enough to let fear get in the way of doing what is right. Next month we leave Denmark, and move to Australia.

Australia. With it’s detention centres on Manus Island. A country that has dragged its heels over allowing gay marriage. A country that needs to have a serious reckoning over its treatment of its Indigenous people. Both historically and also now, like right now. A country where not securing consent is somehow considered not rape.

Its not like my home country is any better. With something that National are finally calling a ‘Housing Crisis’. Where parents in fulltime jobs are struggling to afford the basics of housing and food for their children. With people more willing to spend millions on healthcare and motels rather than spend money ensuring kids don’t end up with rheumatic fever in the first place because they don’t want to give “handouts” to people who are disproportionately brown.

Oh, the rest of the world? Well Ireland finally lets women not die in pregnancy, but not Northern Ireland. Who don’t have a single Rape Crisis centre  by the way. In Calais, refugees have their tents, and sleeping bags removed by a government employed militia, but that Macron – he’s pretty cool eh? And Mexico is a pretty fucking grim place to be a woman, actually a lot of the world is a grim place to be a woman.

But never mind all that. ALL OF THAT. Let’s sit around and bitch about Trump. Let’s bitch about reverse sexism, and reverse racism cause somehow people think that’s a thing. Let’s miss the point entirely and say All Lives Matter, but especially yours, because people can’t listen and understand contexts and how political and social structures impact our daily lives and that some people suffer more under these than others.

Trump is not the problem. The world is the problem. Let’s stop holding Trump up, like a Nelson’s Column of everything that is wrong. There is plenty wrong with his Ableist, Racist, Sexist arse, but he’s not a column. He’s only the apex of a pyramid, and if he wandered into a pyramid and then the door shut and he was stuck wandering around in its maze like interior and then he accidentally woke the Mummy who cursed him and chased him back through a pit of scarabs and out the door into the desert where it turned into a giant face and ate him, which I’m not saying is likely to happen, but you know I saw a movie and anything on the screen is like a fact now, so if all of that did happen, all we would find is a new fucking apex on the pyramid.

We’ve got to knock the whole damn thing down.

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I Wanted To Write

I haven’t been writing here much recently. I’ve been busy, other projects, other jobs, other chores. It has also been a difficult time for me. I’ve retreated a bit, intentionally. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, so I’ve decided to share something I wrote late last year. It is important we talk about mental health. It is important to share our experiences so we can create understanding and build bridges. It is also really hard to do that when you are in the grip of things.

It is easy to say – ‘ask for help’ or ‘it’s okay to not be okay’. It is a lot harder to really be there for someone when they reach out to you. It is made harder by stigma, by lack of government funding to help and overstretched mental health services. Awareness only helps if it is followed by meaningful change. Even if you think you will never need it I suggest reading this guide to supporting someone you care about through a mental health crisis. The most important thing though is to listen. When people are ready to talk just listen.

Willem van de Velde the Younger - A Dutch Ship Scudding Before a Storm

I wanted to write. But when I sat down I just stared at the blank page and didn’t know how to fill it.

I wanted to write. But all that came out were scratchy little monosyllables like Um and Ahh and No.

I wanted to write. But then I wondered, would it be good, would it be worth setting down? Or should I just let it spin on loop in my head until the idea was worn down and any lustre it once had was well and truly gone.

I wanted to write. But when I looked at the words they had lost their shape. Like wreckage strewn across a beach. It was hard to see how the sentence had once fit together.

I wanted to write. But I listened to the little voice inside my head that said don’t bother.

I wanted to write. But I didn’t want to project a false image of myself. Creating a fake online life where I have my shit together. My life is often very good and happy. I have fun with my kids and enjoy coffee and walks in winter but, but, but…

I wanted to write. But anxiety can be funny like that. It doesn’t really care what you want.

I wanted to write. But I don’t want to hear that I’m oversharing. Talking about mental health still carries a lot of stigma. 20% of people struggle with anxiety at some point in their lives, so I’m not that unusual, am I?

I tried to write anxiety but that is a lie within a lie within a lie. The real word is a hard word. One that sits in your mouth as you try to avoid catching your tongue on its sharp edges. One that hovers in the space between your paralysed fingers and the keyboards, daring you to punch it out.

T

R

A

U

M

A

I wanted to write. Wrote even. Spent hours carving out the words. But when I came back to it to polish it off I gave it one gentle tap with the hammer, and the whole thing crumbled to dust.

I wanted to write. So, I tried again. And I imagined someone combing the beach, finding

– Planks, still strong and sturdy. Putting them together and finding they are sail worthy after all.

Or

– A delicately carved piece of scrimshaw, hard etched lines scratching out a story.

Or

– A shard of glass, holding onto its colour even as the sharp cut edges are worn away by the collision of sand and tide.

It’s safe now, to nestle it in your palm, and run your fingers over.

It’s safe now, to write what I wanted to write.

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Language Gaps

In my language classes we learned words like table, went and cold.

We learned how to describe our homes, our families and our interests.

We learned how to talk about our home countries, its weather and how people celebrate Christmas, or not as the case may be.

We learned so many useful things. Things  that I use on a daily basis. Language that helps me go to the shops, to pick up the kids from kindy, to pass pleasantries on the bus.

But I never learned the words for breathing. I never learned the word for bleeding, or vomit, or rash. I never heard the word for seizure.

I never learned these words until I needed them. Until after I needed them. I learned these words in hard places. In doctor’s offices, or in panicked late night phone calls.

No matter how good at a second language you get there are always gaps. Little gaps mostly. Ones that you can work through if people repeat their words slowly, laying the bricks down like a bridge forming in front of you. Or that you can shrug off, walking away from a stranger with a smile, sure that whatever it was being said it was, at least, kind. Or gaps so small you can just skip over them, without slowing down the tempo of your already clumsy conversation.

The gaps might just be single words that you can fill in. A connect-the-dots conversation where you are a very determined five year old. Pencil gripped firmly between your fingers. Eventually the time comes where you are tired and you lay your pencil down. Brain done. Can I watch TV now?

We learned how to ask someone to speak English, or to speak slowly. We learned the common phrases, you’re welcome, how are you, how much is this apple? But we never learned what the operator will say when you call an ambulance at night. So your brain catches when you hear it. A slight panicked freeze in which all you can find are your gaps. Because in these gaps are all the important words.  All the fear of the what-ifs that can’t be spoken out loud, no matter what language you try to say it in.

People are kind. They hide their frustration. There is always that fortune of living where English is widely spoken. Even then, those times when defeat is admitted, or the conversation is too important for my mistakes the gap is there. Each doctor finds their own unique gaps. Our conversations slip and slide as our languages are mixed. A word here and there, untranslatable – do you understand? Mutual incomprehension is, thankfully, rare.

We nod, our brains churning. The glazed stares of parents still in shock. The English slides over us too. Important facts snagging, to be held onto and inspected later. Only now in the moment we must keep moving forward. Any questions? Always. There are always questions. The deeper you go you find that there are not always answers of course.

We are grateful, so grateful, for every person who makes that effort to speak to us in a language we can easily understand. Those who take incomprehensible facts and lay them out in front of us so we can understand them. But it is hard to show grateful when you are scared for your child.

In this we are no different to any other parent. No matter what language we speak.

There are no words for some things, in any language. No word for the measured look in a doctor’s eyes as your questions stumble out. No word for the silences that grow louder as they listen, and measure, and poke. No word for the perspective trick that makes your child appear smaller on a hospital bed, or under a mask, or surrounded by machines, electromagnetic waves aimed directly at the heart.

There is a word we learned. Hjerte.

Then there are the things we don’t need words for. They are the same whatever language you speak. The whispered lullabies. Fingers that stroke gently across foreheads, smoothing down the hair. The questions posed by little arms that clutch to you for safety and the answering beat of your own heart.

A beat that is the simplest, most universal message of them all. A beat that says I love you. I am here.

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My Not Very Ethical Christmas

Anyone else feeling the pressure with Christmas around the corner?

We hit an early peak in this house, as we try to get presents posted in time for them to wing their way round the earth to our family. I spent too much time standing in packed shops full of Christmas themed housewares nobody truly needs, listening to Mariah Carey and waving my bankcards around with abandon as I spot just one more perfect little Christmassy thing, just a wafer thin one. Go on. ‘I can make room for that in my life’ I cry as my shopping bags begin to erupt in a slow tinsel-lahar.

It’s not just the pressure to have a good Christmas though is it? There is also the pressure to have the right Christmas. The ethical Christmas. The one that is a perfectly festive celebration which by necessity involves consumption but at the same time not excessive consumption.

I’m not having a particularly ethical Christmas this year.

Yes, I have read THAT George Monbiot article where he terrifies us all over how we are killing the planet with our excessive consumption.

And do you know what? I don’t really care.

I mean I do care. Obviously, I do care. I’m just not going to let caring take away my Christmas.

Putting up the Christmas tree was so special and the kids loved it. Every mismatched ornament was hung with enthusiasm and a complete disregard for the overall aesthetic.

I’ve made a big rich fruit cake because I always do, and we’ll make Danish risengrød (rice pudding) for Christmas Eve because it is the law in Denmark and I think they’ll deport me if I don’t.

I’m going to buy my kids presents. I feel my son has had a hard year and I want to give him something good. Something he’ll love. Not a book about how we are all slowly destroying the rainforest with pictures of orangutans (Sad Face). Not a candle making kit because making your own candles is both environmentally friendly and Fun!

There’s going to be wrapping paper, and ribbons, and little gifts to be unwrapped and cooed over and hopefully used and not just chucked in the corner to moulder away until next year.

I want to have all these things.

More than that I want to have all these things without seeing a billion different articles telling parents that they are individually responsible for wiping out polar bears.

We’re not okay?

Okay. Maybe we are. But not any more than any other individual on any other day of the year.

Christmas – it isn’t just another day of the year. It is a special day for lots of people. It is a festive day. With that comes consumption. Any consumption is still consumption. Regardless of whether it is ethical or not.

Like it or not this is the society we live in. There are aspects of consumerism I find bleak. That doesn’t mean that every purchase is ultimately hollow. Giving gifts to those we love is an act deeply rooted in our minds. Humans have been giving their children toys for millenia.

There are a lot of families who are low consumers most of the year but for whom Christmas is the one time they splash out on their children. Who have toys on lay-by for months for this one day.

There are a lot of families who are grieving, or living with serious illnesses, or facing uncertainty in their futures, who just want to make this one day special. To forget their troubles and celebrate for just one day.

There are families like mine, scattered over the globe, far away from their grandchildren, or niblings, who don’t get to spend time together. The best they can do is wrap a little gift, take it to the post office and send it on its way, sealing some kisses in the box to say I think of you. I wish I could spend time with you. I love you.

If you’re feeling good and your needs are being met in life then yes, it can seem easy to simplify and minimalise. Maybe your family is super happy with Laura Ingalls Wilder-esque childhoods and a 100% biodegradable corn cob for a doll. I mean, great. You still don’t get to judge people for the ways they have of bringing joy into their lives.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Corn Cob Doll

Giving experiences rather than presents is a lovely idea. We’d love to go to the Christmas markets at the theme parks. But like many families that isn’t very accessible to us, and not just because of finances. My son loves to go out but he rarely has the energy for that at the moment. Last weekend we managed only a short trip to an outdoor museum we live only minutes from. It is always a lot of effort for minimal reward. Frankly, he is much better off having days at home playing with his Lego. I don’t want to give him experiences that exhaust him and stress us out. I want to give him that awesome present he has his heart set on and watch his face light up when he opens it.

Besides, there is a lot of unpaid labour going into these low-impact Christmases. It’s not good enough for a parent (Mum, 99% of the time it is Mum) to grab a roll of wrapping paper as they go through the checkout anyway. We’re supposed to find rolls of craft paper, and nice non-plastic-based-ribbon, and environmentally friendly dyes and a potato. Who is taking the time to sit with the kids while they decorate the paper? Who is tidying it up afterwards? Who is organising the cupboard to save the ribbon for next year? Yes. It is doable. It is all doable. But surely we are at the point now that we recognise we have got to stop putting the burden on individuals and change the structures everything is running on?

It is great if people find ways to incorporate ethical products or homemade presents, but if you don’t have the time or the space to do so then I don’t think that makes you lazy, or thoughtless.  I know we are so fortunate to be able to have the celebration we are having. We are keeping things pretty simple but it still takes time, and effort. Christmas might be a time of joy but it is a hard time for lots of people, and if that is you reading this, then I want to tell you that whatever you are doing is enough. Not being able to live up to some ethical ideal doesn’t make you a bad person. Buying presents doesn’t make you a shallow consumer.

Every year at Christmas I shed tears for my mother who isn’t alive to celebrate with us. No amount of Christmas Cake or wrapping paper can fill that void. However, creating Christmas, filling my home with the echoes of Christmas past, is important to me. I know my children are making memories they’ll hold close all their lives. A sense of family. A sense of celebration of the passing of time, and the rituals that accompany it. A sense of joy. That means something.

As a wise friend of mine once wrote

Celebration is why people love Christmas, even when they’re not Christian.

Celebration is a fundamental part of our human experience. It is something humans have done in every culture, in every part of the world, since prehistory. Celebrations add meaningfulness to our lives. They give us a sense of belonging within our communities and families. Let’s not use Christmas to shame each other, but as a time to celebrate each other.

Merry Christmas Everyone – however you choose to celebrate.

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If she knew

If she knew, why didn’t she do something?

Why didn’t she?

It all depends on what you mean by knew.

Us women, we’re like Spiderman, you see. Sometimes knowing isn’t a concrete fact. It’s not a single blatant offense that belongs firmly in the harmful or criminal categories. It is a long slow accretion of data. Sets we’ve been building our whole life. Knowledge that means sometimes we meet men, even outwardly charming men, and they set our spider senses tingling. The little buzzing in our brain that warns us to be on guard in the presence of this man.

We’ve spent our whole lives being taught how to keep ourselves safe. In a world that will not grant us a right to safety in our workplaces, in our leisure time, not even within our own homes.

And we learn, we learn from a young age to watch out. The world is full of subtle invasions of our safety that we navigate every day. Right in front of your eyes and you don’t even notice.  The acquaintances whose eyes linger. The ticket collector who holds onto your ticket a moment too long, forcing you to look at him, or look away. The men who ‘bump’ into you and then eye you up as they apologise. The jokes you are expected to smile at, because is there anyone around who will back you up if you don’t, or will things just get nasty? So, you smile and move on. And the whole time our spider senses are tingling. We know these men are creeps.

This is just the boring backgrounds of our lives.

I’m sick of it.

I’m sick of being expected to know who’s a creep and who’s not. I’m sick of being expected to watch out, to be careful after dark. I’m sick of being expected to be nice to men when they are decidedly not nice in return. I’m sick of men whinging that they all get labelled as predators just for being nice to women, even though we know hundreds of men we don’t label predators, so spare me your sob stories and reflect on what aspect of your behaviour we dislike so much. I’m sick of being told not to rock the boat, not to make a fuss, not to take things too seriously. I’m sick of being minimised, and made to feel small, like we’ve been doing this wrong. I’m sick of wondering if this will ever, ever change.

On 8th November, almost exactly one year ago, Trump was elected President of the United States. We know he is a sexual predator. His ex-wife has testified that he raped her. His own words have been played for us to hear, over and over, and over.

How can any women ever expect to be believed? How can we ever expect to be supported when knowing that a man is not just a creep, but a bona fide sexual aggressor is not enough to see his career finished, his public persona confined to a trash heap, any shred of respectability razed.

Speaking out has got women nowhere. One individual might be stopped. Weinstein’s career is finished, maybe even for good. There are a million Weinsteins and a million Trumps. A million men ready to turn a blind eye in the hope they can hoover up the crumbs that fall from the gold-encrusted plates. A million women ready to chance it, see if they can be the lucky one to get through the obstacle course unscathed and grab a prize at the other end. Or at least, get through, relatively unscathed.

Right now, I want to call out every creep I’ve ever met. I want to scream from the rooftops but I won’t because then I’ll seen as a crazy misandrist and who will listen to me then?

No one.

It’s so easy to ignore our suffering isn’t it? You can ignore it when we are quiet and smile and play along with the status quo. You can ignore it when we are angry, because then we are just hysterical bitches. If we didn’t say something at the time, you can ignore us. It can’t have been that bad. Did we say No?

The point isn’t that every instance is that bad. It is just the sheer volume of shitty behaviour we put up with in our lifetimes. Every time our spider senses tingle there is a calculus to be made. Is it safe to say something?  Is this someone I will ever see again, or can I just swing away to safety, putting their foul jokes behind me? If I say something about this colleague how will this affect my relationship with others in the office? Will my bosses support me? Will any one in this crowded public place intervene, or will they assume it is “just a domestic”?

And you know what, we can’t call it all out. We just can’t. It is too much, too tiring. If we do we are far too easily labelled as uptight, humourless, man-hating, asking for it, bitchy, hormonal, slutty, imaginative, sensitive, bossy, hysterical, misandrists, wishful-thinkers, heartless, career-wreckers, frigid, ugly, fat, shrill, flirts, cold, nags, anything, anything but someone on the receiving end of calculated male aggression.

If we kicked up a fuss every time we put up with a shitty comment, or an unwelcome look, or even touch, the world would grind to fucking halt.

It is not just Hollywood, or the BBC, or sports teams, or public transport after dark, or your average office work space. Sexual Harassment is everywhere. Everywhere.

Our entire world is supported by women keeping their head down, being strong and powering through because sometimes we just need to use the photocopier.

That’s the way it is.

Some weeks, weeks like this, like that one last November, I think about that. I think that if that’s the case then all these systems, all these businesses aren’t worth it. If that is what your capitalist society has built its foundations on – I don’t want it. If your business model is predicated on lip service against harassment and the bare minimum of protection – then piss off. If you require the silence of women and minorities to keep power – then we should be tearing it from your hands and grinding it under our heels. We won’t even care how you think our legs look while we do it.

Sometimes I just want our collective rage to burn so fierce these men and the systems that support them will be reduced to nothing but ashes on the ground. Every single one of them.

We know who you are. You are every man who has felt entitled to something he is not.

Maybe it is finally your turn to be afraid.

We are finally hearing the power of our collective voices. It’s a power that won’t just allow us to swing to the rescue. Tangling misogynists in our sticky feminist traps. No. This is real power. Power that shows that if women know they will be supported and believed then we can make the world a better place.  Power to redraw the line, so as Emma Thompson put it, one women, once would be enough.

Power that says no women has to keep quiet.

If she knew.

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