Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Alley

This is a scene I had to write as an exercise for my Creative Writing paper.  I didn't end up submitting it for the paper, but I liked the scene enough to share it here.  It's not quite long enough to be a story, really.

***

The cracks in the footpath make strange hieroglyphs.  You wouldn't think a city only an hour's drive away could be so different. The last time I was here, there was a Chinese bakery on the corner I just passed - now there's a bottle shop.  Or was it a different corner?  The mosaic on the building across the high street looks familiar, and it's unusual enough that I'm sure that Craig's house is around here somewhere.  Maybe it's one street over and I've gotten turned around somehow.  But I'm not certain this alley is a suitable shortcut.

Drifts of rubbish and piles of leaves from the avenue of trees on the high street erase all the sharp angles on either side of the alley.  The leaves deaden sound: it's like stepping into a forest or a church, it's so quiet.  The roar of traffic from the high street has faded to a soft murmur, like people whispering secrets in an adjoining room.  The alley is draped in twilight, but I can see light at the other end where it opens onto the next street - Craig's street, I tell myself.  I pick my way carefully along the alley floor, watching for used needles from drug addicts and used condoms from prostitutes.  I try to look confident, to deter muggers.  It's the middle of the day in a busy part of the city, after all: I should be fine, should be safe, there's nothing to worry about.

Halfway down the alley, one of the recessed doorways seems somehow emptier than the others, and I glance in that direction and see the door is open.  A short, dark hallway ends at the base of a flight of stairs to the second floor of the building.  There's light up there, too: the door at the top of the stairs is open.  Perhaps I can ask for directions, I tell myself as I move down the hall.  But of course that's just justification after the fact: without knowing why, I was already through the first door.

I lick my lips as I creep up the stairs.  The door was open, I tell myself.  I'm not breaking in, after all.  So why am I creeping like a criminal?  I give myself a shake, mentally and physically, and stride up the rest of the stairs with false confidence.  I can always tell them I'm lost - it wouldn't be lying!

Outside the second door, I pause, confused.  I can hear a radio playing, or perhaps a TV, but it's not in English.  I have a brief, panicky moment as my mind flits about as terrified as an injured bird before a couple of phrases jump out at me and I recognise the language as Spanish.  A moment later, music starts playing, and I think radio, before I'm startled by a voice that sounds very close by joining in with the singing in a loud, off-key soprano.  Involuntarily, I step back, and totter off-balance at the top of the stairs before throwing a hand out and grabbing the handrail and steadying myself.

Inside the apartment, the singer carries on, unaware of her enraptured audience.  She sings unselfconsciously, never minding that she's off-key or that she has to mumble along with the bits she doesn't know.  She's lost in the music, enjoying herself despite her dark surroundings, and I wonder how I could have ever been nervous about being here.  Sure, the hall and stairs are dark, but the stairs are clear of rubbish and the handrail is clean.  The walls are a dull, mustard yellow, but there are no cobwebs or damp spots.  This little patch of inner-city alley living is clean and well cared for.  I approach closer to the door and notice that it is painted a fresh, clean white, and the apartment number and door-knocker are polished shiny.  The inside of the apartment, the part I can see anyway, is similarly light and clean.  I can't see the singer, but now that I'm closer I can hear the distinctive rattle of crockery: she's washing dishes and singing along to the radio on a beautiful spring day.

I raise my hand to the knocker and grasp it, before carefully lowering it again so it doesn't disturb her.  Who am I, after all, to disturb her peace, her simple joy?  I retreat back down the stairs with a new spring in my step, and continue on down the alley towards what I'm sure is Craig's street, whistling a Spanish tune to which I do not know the words.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Privilege, Part 1

This year has really been a life-changing year for me, in so many ways.  I got married, I travelled to a foreign country, I learned that it is, in fact, possible to be happy AND fat, and that "fat" is not a dirty word.  Through my media studies course, and my Fat Acceptance and Feminism reading, I've also been learning a lot about privilege, and about how it is impossible for us to view the world without our filter in place, or to view it through someone else's filter - but that we can make adjustments to our filter, if we choose.

In a coincidence that smacks of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, I've recently encountered the skin-whitening industry through several independent media outlets, and have had a couple of brief discussions with an Indian friend of mine (Legally Alien) about it.  One discussion was triggered by Melinda Tankard Reist's blog post about the industry and the advertising it uses.  Some commentors on her post raised similar issues to Legally Alien: that MTR's description of this as "white supremacy" smacks of white ethnocentrism - that if Indian people want to have white skin, it must be because they want to be more like Western, white people.  I'm not going to go into the real causes here, mostly because I don't fully understand those causes myself yet.  I know the caste system is involved in India, and other class distinctions in other Asian countries.  But I don't know enough about any of those causes to comment on it myself.

My point (and I do have one, and yes, it's related to my post title, I promise!) is that of course MTR viewed this desire for white skin through (at least partially) a white, Western filter.  Even as a feminist/activist/advocate, it's not possible for her to completely remove her filter.  She's probably far more aware of it than most people, but it's still there.  The interesting thing for me was that, even though she makes very little reference to why some cultures value white skin, people assumed that she assumed it was because they wanted to be like white Westerners, because that is what she is.  That's a lot of assuming. And you know what they say when you assume something...

So anyway, as a white, middle class person in a developed, democratic country, I have oodles of privilege.  Bags and bags of it.  But I like analysing that, and looking at other cultures and societies and religions and people and traditions and, well, everything!  But I'm always scared, that as a member of the dominant culture, if I ask a question about that sort of thing, I'm going to look like a stupid, privileged white person.  I have a couple of good friends (including Legally Alien) that I feel comfortable asking "stupid" questions, because I know that they understand my motivation and that I'm genuinely interested.  But sometimes I don't ask questions, because I don't want to offend people, which is sad.  Surely open dialogue to learn more about each other benefits everyone?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Outfit of the Day: Late and Lazy Edition!

So my online presence in all media has been pretty quiet recently, for various reasons: work has gone crazy, uni semester has started, and I've been sick, sick, sick (and not in a good way!).  I missed last week's Weekly Wrap-Up.  I'll try not to miss it again this week.

So that my blog doesn't die, however, here is an Outfit of the Day!  This one is actually from last Monday, but hey, if lillipilli at Frocks & Frou Frou can do it, so can I!

Dress & Belt: City Chic
Tights: We Love Colors (Amethyst)
Shoes: Rubi Shoes

This was the first time I wore this dress from City Chic, even though I bought it way back when I bought my black cardi.  It's completely different from what I would normally wear but is super comfortable and quite warm.  It's shorter than I would like, so I don't think I would ever wear it without something underneath.  My amethyst tights from We Love Colors were the perfect splash of colour for a Monday!  The shoes are super-cheap ones from Rubi Shoes, I got 2 pairs for $20 or something.  The other pair is red, and apparently I've never shown them in an OOTD post!  So I'll have to remedy that soon.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Curfew

This poem was originally submitted for my uni paper Creative Writing.  This is the revised version.  It is a poetry form called a pantoum.  Writing poetry to form is a challenge, but I really enjoyed writing this.  I love the rhythm of it and I think I will try to write more in this form.

Children play in the twilight
Stark lights shine over the sports field
The cries of the children are muted
The distance between us is great

Stark lights shine over the sports field
I hear you calling my name
The distance between us is great
The wind blows my skirt out behind me

I hear you calling my name
I turn from the sound of your voice
The wind blows my skirt out behind me
Laughing, I run through the grass

I turn from the sound of your voice
Your words are lost on the wind
Laughing, I run through the grass
I hope that you will catch me

Your words are lost on the wind
I hear my mother calling
I hope that you will catch me
It is nearly too late for me now

I hear my mother calling
The cries of the children are muted
It is nearly too late for me now
Children play in the twilight

Monday, July 12, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

Uni: Semester 1 starts this week.  I cleaned off the dining table in preparation but didn't do any advance reading, oops!


What I'm Playing: ME2 still.  We downloaded Borderlands to play together but my PC crashed every few minutes and I really couldn't be bothered figuring out why, so we gave up and I'll have to figure it out later.

What I'm Reading: Finished The Greatest Show on Earth and started re-reading Inconceivable by Ben Elton.  If you know anyone who is struggling with their fertility (and if you're reading this blog, you do - me!), then you should read this book.  Seriously, go read it.  I'll lend it to you if you want (once I've finished it, that is :)).  Don't bother with the movie based on it (Maybe Baby) - I love Hugh Laurie but the book is really much better.

What I'm Listening To: Guns n' Roses in the car this week.

To Do List: What To Do List?  I'm not making much progress on it :P

What's Caught My Eye: A few links this week:
  • Saturday was the 25th Anniversary of the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior.  On a related note, my sister linked this interesting video about nuclear testing.
  • I wish I had a video camera so I could participate in this.  I guess I could use the video function on my digital still camera.  Hmm.
  • Also, Spain are the World Cup champions, hooray!
Mini-Goal: Get my first week of uni work completed on time.

On the Menu: Vegetable Pot Pie.  We get fresh fruit and veges delivered every 2 weeks and so our fridge was full of veges.  I found this recipe in our vegetarian cook book and it was delicious.

Fashion: This week was my work's Bonus Dinner, as I've posted elsewhere, and I loved dressing up and seeing everyone else dressed up too!

Word of the Week: Oh, I'm putting myself on the spot here...I don't have one this week, sorry!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Special Edition Outfit of the Day!

Last night was my work's annual "Bonus Dinner".  All the girls get dressed up, all the guys get drunk, and we have dinner at a fancy restaurant big enough to hold us all.  Last night's was at the Lagoon Restaurant in the Surfers Paradise Marriott.  The food was delicious, although the service wasn't as good as you would expect.

I was really looking forward to the dinner this year, because I've been feeling so happy and confident about my body and my clothes.  Most years I've worn something quite daggy (although last year I put in a bit of effort as well).  This year I went for a goth look.

Dress: City Chic
Shoes and clutch: Tony Bianco

I got the dress on sale from City Chic's website for $40, down from $180!  I loved it, they had it in my size, so I snapped it up without trying it on.  If anything it's a little loose.  It has a corset-style top half that laces up at the back so it's semi-adjustable.  The shoes and clutch were both also on sale.  I've posted these shoes before and now you can see how high they are!  Astute readers will also notice that the choker is the same one I wore for my wedding.  I got a lot of compliments on all aspects of my outfit and I was really happy.  Unfortunately, Dave was at work so I had to get ready by myself and didn't have anyone to take a photo!  I had to get one of the girls from work to do it there and I forgot to turn on the flash so it's a bit grainy sorry.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

As women, as human beings, we all judge.  Judging, making assumptions, fitting people in boxes - these are all related and are techniques developed during human evolution to protect ourselves.  However, as rational, modern human beings, we have the ability to override our evolutionary responses.  We can try to be less judgmental of others, and we can analyse why we are judging someone to learn more about ourselves.

The discovery of the Fat Acceptance movement had had a huge impact on my thought processes.  I am a lot less judgmental now, and when I catch myself making judgments about others, I question myself.  Why am I making that judgment?  Who am I to judge that person?  What right do I have to judge someone, when I don't know their situation?  How can I know their situation - I'm not that person!

At about the same time as I plunged into the Australian Fatosphere, there was a bit of a brouhaha between that group of bloggers and Mia Freedman.  Mia Freedman is a journalist who used to be editor of Australian Cosmopolitan magazine (about the time I was reading it as a teenager, in fact).  She is currently Chair of the Australian Federal Government's National Body Image Advisory Group, and the creator of the website MamaMia, which is part-blog, part-current events, with plenty of fashion and celebrities thrown in for good measure.  I'm not going to go into the details of the altercation - if you want more info, you can check out Spilt MilkFat HeffalumpFatuosity, or even Mia herself.  Anyway, the whole big deal re-acquainted me with Mia Freedman, and I added MamaMia to my Google Reader, just to see the sort of things she posts about.

I have many problems with MamaMia.  I feel the same way that Definatalie does: MamaMia's focus on fashion and celebrities is at odds with her position as a body image advocate.  She frequently describes herself as such, while at the same time encouraging women to judge other women based on their appearance, and to compare themselves (consciously or otherwise) to slim celebrities.  I also feel that MamaMia displays a slim, white, privileged bias.  Further, many of the posts made liberally quote from elsewhere and are not original or analytical of what they are quoting.  I don't read everything posted on the site, but I do occasionally comment on posts to call her out on things I find particularly outrageous.

The latest post to fall into this category is this one, about pregnant women in war zones.  The tone of the post is very judgmental.  Mia even says herself "[t]his is one of those instances where I try not to judge BUT I JUDGE."  The little "I know" in its own paragraph in the middle of the story shows that Mia assumes that her readers are also going to feel outraged at this woman, and to make the same judgment that Mia herself made.


The problem I have with this is that Mia also says, in her first addendum to this post, that she is "pro-choice".  I feel that she is missing the point of being pro-choice.  Being pro-choice is not just about a woman's right to have (and access to) an abortion, just as Fat Acceptance is not just about a person's right to be fat.  Being pro-choice is about supporting a woman's right to make her own choices, and to not judge her based on those choices.  Therefore, I don't feel that someone who is pro-choice can also be against a woman choosing what she does with her body while pregnant.  When I called Mia out on her judgments of this woman, she took one phrase I had used and turned it into hyperbole while ignoring the point of what I had said.  She was defensive and fell back on "I was simply expressing my opinion".  No Mia, you were not.  As my friend Legally Alien said when we were discussing this, “there’s a difference between being opinionated and being judgmental”.  Mia Freedman was being judgmental.


After a few readers had responded to Mia's post in a similar way to me, she updated the post with another addendum.  Once again, she turned what we had said into hyperbole and completely missed our point.  Essentially, Mia asserted that she had every right to make the judgment she made, because it was based on "facts".  The "facts" that she says she used to make this judgment came, of course, from the original article posted by the woman who caused the controversy in the first place: Elizabeth Rubin, a pregnant journalist embedded in Afghanistan.  Isn't it possible that she overstated the situation?  And even if she is completely honest about the advice she received and the policy of the US armed forces, that still does not give Mia Freedman the right to make this judgment.  Is she this woman's obstetrician?  Is she the colonel making the decision on whether to allow a pregnant journalist to embed?  No.


Mia Freedman is in a powerful position, and with that power comes responsibility.  Many young women read her blog and pattern their thoughts and behaviour after her.  She should could be teaching these young women to not be judgmental, to support the rights of all people to make choices.  She should could be demonstrating how to have reasonable discussions with people who do not agree with your opinion.  Sadly, she does none of these things.


EDIT: It was pointed out to me by a commentator called Flotsam over at MamaMia that this post does not fit with the "ethos" I'm expounding.  I believe he/she is referring to my last paragraph above.  Fair enough, I agree that my "should"s were out of place.  I've transparently made a couple of edits to the final paragraph to reflect that.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Outfit of the Day!

I know I said I probably wouldn't post another OOTD before this Friday (super excited still!), but I got my birthday heels and had to throw together an outfit for them.  I went for a monochrome look with the gorgeous silk scarf I got while in Malaysia adding a splash of colour.

Cardi: City Chic
Tank: SUPRÉ
Jeans: JeansWest
Heels: Tony Bianco
Scarf: Central Market, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The heels are the Erin heels from Tony Bianco:


They're fabulously cute.  Unfortunately, they slip off the back of my feet, making it impossible for me to walk in them :(  So I had to switch to my spare shoes that I keep in the car.  I need to get some heel shields to stop that happening so I can wear them and show the girls at work!

I also loved the scarf but didn't wear it most of the day because it felt like it was kind of in the way.  It's a long scarf and I'm not sure how I should tie it.  Come to that, I have a huge square scarf and a smaller square scarf that I also don't ever wear because I'm not sure how.  Any suggestions are more than welcome!

Overall, the outfit looked cute but needed work to make it wearable all day.  Back to the drawing board I guess!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Wolf With the Red Roses

This poem was originally submitted for my uni paper Creative Writing.  I liked it so much I haven't revised it at all.  I composed it in my head in the car on my way to work one day (listening to the song referred to in the poem - based on a true story!) and wrote it down as soon as I walked in the door!


That old song is playing on the radio –
the one about stealing words with kisses –
and I remember the first time I heard it:
sitting cross-legged on the lounge-room floor,
leafing through my parents' record collection
(already artefacts from an ancient era,
or so they seemed to me then)
and trying to rebel, but not through Punk.
I had freedom then, though I didn't know it –
freedom to be "me" (whoever "me" was).
But adulthood knocks on the door
of adolescence, dissembling,
like the wolf with the red roses.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Once again, my Weekly Wrap-Up is late, sorry!  I had to work all day on Sunday by myself (my boss was working from home) and there was a lot of work to do, so by the time I got home from work I was not in the mood for blogging.


Uni: I got my second result back, a B- for Language & Communication, which was a bit of a relief because I was a little worried about that exam.  It's still quite far below my goal grade though (I like to see those A's!), so I need to work extra hard for the next semester.  I'm doing 6 classes this year (plus one in Summer School), but two of them are Double Semester papers, so I won't finish them until the end of the year.

What I'm Playing: Still playing ME2, but Steam had a big sale this week so we bought a bunch of new games. Not being able to get ADSL2+ here however means we have a 50GB download limit (the horror!) so we have to ration our downloads of games unfortunately.

What I'm Reading: I finished Dark Tower VII and Bill Bryson's At Home and started on my birthday present from Dave's parents, Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth.  I love Dawkins - he's the reason I'm a fully-fledged Atheist as opposed to merely Agnostic - and I think I will dedicate a whole blog post to him soon.

What I'm Listening To: The last week has been very, very stressful and busy at work.  I don't want to go into it too much because this week is even worse.  Suffice to say I've needed some stress relief and Metallica has been the answer!  I've been blasting ...And Justice for All and the Black Album all week in the car.  At work on Sunday I plugged in the tinny little speakers that I keep in my drawer and cycled through an eclectic mix of Björk, Black Eyed Peas, Guns n' Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, and the EP of Evie Parts I, II & III by The Wrights.  I love Evie, this recording is one of my favourite Australian recordings.

To Do List: Next week is the start of Semester 2, so this week I need to clean up my study area and prepare for that.  I still have everything else on my To Do List as well.  Man, I suck at this!

What's Caught My Eye: I added another blog to my ever-growing collection of Fat Acceptance blogs.  This post is an excellent Fat Acceptance 101 post and I really, really encourage everyone to read it.

Mini-Goal: Clean up my study area and revise the poems I got back from my Creative Writing marker so I can post them here.

On the Menu: On Monday we had dinner with Dave's sister and her family, so no New Recipe Monday this week.  I also still have not made the Cherry Cheesecake Slice I'm supposed to be trying.  Not sure when I'm going to get the chance to do that either!

Fashion: Like I said elsewhere, I bought two coats from Miller's this week.  I also bought my birthday present heels from Tony Bianco with my discount voucher.  As soon as I wear them, I'll have pics!

Word of the Week: Once again, a quote.  I might have to change this section to "Quote of the Week" instead!  "Emptiness is loneliness and loneliness is cleanliness and cleanliness is godliness and God is empty, just like me..."