Survivor Samoa

I used to love Survivor. In fact, in public gatherings I often felt compelled to defend it and would sometimes go so far as to declare it ‘the best reality t.v show ever made’. I liked Survivor not least because of its sleek production. It is a beautiful show to watch. The colours and scenery are always pleasing to the eye, and the camera crew really know how to capitalise on that—panning out to capture the views of the oceans and green lush landscapes and catching insects and reptiles go about their daily existence. Survivor’s camera crew can make the falling of a coconut a beautiful event.

 I also loved Survivor because it seemed to me to be a brilliant showcase of the human psyche – the American psyche specifically. Yes, I realise it’s a reality tv show and that what we see is in fact not reality. But the emaciated and hairy contestants that emerge at the end of the 30 days demonstrate that they do at least go through some physical discomfort.

 The way that some contestants go about trying to get others on their sides, and the way that others don’t even try is, I think, fascinating.

 I have not seen Survivor for a few years. I don’t know why—life got in the way and I found better things to do, I’m sure. But for some reason I have allowed Survivor Samoa into my life (I think it’s because it’s holiday season and I am being lazy and slothful), and though it remains compelling viewing, I am disappointed with particular elements of they human psyche that I have witnessed in this series. Perhaps they were there before but I was insensitive to them.

 To put it simply, I am disappointed with the lack of sisterhood between the female contestants and the misogyny of all the contestants. Why is it that the women are the first to go? The stock response to this is because they are physically weak. Of course women are typically physically weaker than men, but I have some counter-responses to this. Firstly, some of they men on Survivor may look incredibly muscular and have a great deal of strength, but many of these men turn out to be lazy and half-hearted in the physical challenges. Think Jaison in this series. I can’t recall his name, but there was another man in a previous series who was also prone to giving up when things got rough. Put simply, some of the men on Survivor get away with being lazy just because it is assumed they are strong and powerful. Women, on the other hand, have to constantly prove their physical strength because it is always doubted—no it is more than doubted, it is often simply overlooked.

 My second counter-argument, and this is more important I think, is that not all the challenges in Survivor are physical. Actually, I get the feeling from watching this series that they are finally attempting to address the problem of gender discrimination (against women) in challenges by, for example, having the women compete against each other, rather than everyone competing together. Regardless of this, contestants still seem to carry an assumption that physical strength is the most important thing a team or an individual can possess. This is disappointing and perpetuates the idea that physical strength will always win over any other type of strength (like memory, puzzle-solving, endurance, among others), and that therefore men are better than women.

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gendered division of labour and ‘feminism’

I love to cook and bake. I have a friend who is brave enough to call herself a feminist and she hates cooking. I made a massive batch of chilli jam the other week and I took her some in a little glass jar – hand-delivered by me to her office. She said to me, ‘you know, I don’t want you take offence at this, but for someone who is really critical of the gendered division of labour, you’re a really good homemaker!’ I laughed and just said, ‘yeah, I just love cooking’.

I have since thought about the exchange. I don’t think doing activities that are typically associated with femininity, such as baking, cooking, sewing etc is incompatible with being a femininist. I don’t think it’s incompatible with being critical of the gendered division of labour either.  Actually, I don’t think being a good homemaker is anything for a feminist to be ashamed of either. In fact, I think everyone, regardless of sex should strive to be good homemakers. I think it’s a shame that things like cooking, cleaning and childcare get outsourced to the market these days in countries like Australia and the US (and many more I’m sure). I certainly don’t think women should go back to the kitchen…on the contrary, I think men should join women in the kitchen. Women have ‘joined’ men in the paid workforce, now it’s time for the men to catch up, as far as I’m concerned.

And in actual fact the outsourcing of domestic work has done nothing to break down the gendered division of labour because the people who are now paid to perform that work are still overwhelmingly women.

I just finished reading a book by Amy Borovoy, an American academic, about Japanese women married to alcoholics. She made some really interesting points – in Japan, in general, the work done by mothers and houewives is respected. Nurturing both husband and children are important jobs done by married women. Motherhood is central to a woman’s identity and while there is pressure on women to be good mothers, there is also social respect. Full-time housewives in Japan are also eligible for the pension regardless of whether they have ever been in the paid labour force or not – unlike in Australia, where married women get little recoginition or financial reward for raising the kids, cooking the meals, doing the wasing and cleaning etc.

The burden on married women in Japan to look after the family (including in-laws) and household is immense, but because of their status as mothers they are buffered from social expectations placed on women to be sexually attractive to men, they do not face sexual harrassment or discrimination in the workforce, and they engage in community and voluntary life – something most people in the workforce don’t have time for. Borovoy is not saying that Japanese women have got it right, and nor am I. Housewives remain financially dependent on their husbands and if the marriage fails, divorce is a very difficult path to take. The American feminist movement that focused on equal rights has seen women enter the paid labour force and consequently nurturing and domestic tasks have been outsourced. Neither stories from the US or Japan have seen a significant breakdown of the gendered division of labour. Maybe in the future we will see something in between the case of Japan and the US where housework and parenting are given appropriate value and where it is not assumed that WOMEN will do those tasks.

Lentil and vege curry

I usually use recipes to cook, and am quite unimaginative in that department. That doesn’t mean I can’t cook. On the contrary, I’m a great cook! But I have found that when I cook stuff without instructions it usually ends up a bit bland, or wrong in a variety of ways. I have to admit that MasterChef jolted me into action with regards to this – I have tried recently to cook without recipes. I haven’t had a great deal of luck, but there is one recipe I would like to share. I’ve been making this for a couple of weeks now just because its so delicious. Cheap too which is a bonus 🙂

These are the ingredients you need: Red lentils, 1 zucchini, 2 carrots, 2 or 3 medium-large tomatoes, any other veges you want, 1 onion, 1 tbls garlic pulp (about 2 large cloves), 1 tsp each of turmeric, brown mustard and cumin seeds, half a tsp of turmeric, 1 tsp of garama masala, salt, plain peanut butter (the stuff that is 100% pureed peanuts – no salt or sugar in it)

Put a generous amount of oil in a hot pan (I find that a combination of olive and mustard oils is great for curries). Turn the heat to medium. When the oil is hot, add the seeds. When seeds start popping, add the diced onion and stir until onion goes soft, about 5 mins. Add the garlic pulp (make sure it’s quite watery otherwise the garlic will just stick to the bottom and burn) and stir for a bit. Add roughly chopped carrots and zucchini. Add ground turmeric and some salt. Stir until veges coated. Add chopped tomatoes and a generous tbls of peanut butter and mix. Cook until tomatoes have gone mushy. Add rinsed lentils and some water so that lentils can cook. Cook on medium-low heat until done. Add garam masala at the end and salt if necessary. Yummy with brown rice.

Gender testing!?

The result of Caster Semenya’s preliminary ‘gender testing’ reveals that she has 3 times the ‘normal’ amount of testosterone for a woman. Woop-de-doo. Surely that’s not a great surprise. I think if you tested every single female athlete, especially ones that require a lof of muscle for their sport, you’d find high levels of testosterone in most of them.

There is a very good article in the SMH today in the Health and Science section that puts it out there plain and simple – there are lots of different combinations of chromosomes and hormones in people. But this does not necessarily make a person male or female:

Several degrees of androgyny.

The problem with Semenya’s testing is that seems to be this undecurrent of thought that female athletes who appear manly (?) are suspect. What of male athletes? Of course, men who appear womanly will not be tested, because less testosterone and more of those damn passive, fat-inducing and hysterical female hormones are no good to an athlete. But what about men who naturally produce three times the amount of testosterone that is ‘normal’ for a man. Should there perhaps be a new athletic category for those male athletes? The ‘uber-male’ might be an appropriate title for this category. In which case, what category do women like Semenya go into? Should there be a new category called the ‘uber-female’, or should she just compete with the men? Where does it end? Where are the boundaries? In other words, what are they going to do with the results of this ‘gender testing’ they are subjecting Semenya to??

3 million a year for being a shockjock

Kyle Sandilands and dreadful humiliation of a 14 yr old on air have been in the news a lot in the last week. I have always despised Kyle Sandilands and have long believed him to be the ‘scum of the earth’. For me, he seriously represents all that is wrong with contemporary humanity. He disturbs me greatly, but what disturbs me even more is the value our society seems to give him. He is nothing. Let’s see, he is not intelligent, he is not good-looking, he is not originial or artistic or creative, he is no good at sport, he is not funny, he is not philanthropic – in short, he is nothing. He is a white middle-class man, and that’s about it. Let’s be honest, if he was NOT a white middle-class male, he would not be where is he today – he would have needed at least one of the elements I have listed had he been say, a woman, or not white.

Anyway, I read in the SMH yesterday that his combined annual income from tv appearances and his radio show was over 3 million dollars. Let me get this straight, Kyle Sandilands earns over 3 million dollars a year for being nothing.  It makes me want to vomit.

I am often disturbed with the amount of money some people earn for what they do. It seeems to me that our capitalist values are upside down. The jobs that are important, necessary and hard are paid the least, while arseholes like Sandilands are rewarded for being nothing. Take childcare workers or aged carers – in Australia I think an average full-time wage in those industries is  $35K-$40K . The teaching profession is known for its low wages despite teaching being surely one of the most important jobs out there. I know medicine is an important profession, but do surgeons have to be paid hundreds of thousands a year?? Why? At the beginning of the 20th century, teachers and doctors were paid the same. Why have our value and reward systems changes so much?

Anyway, back to Kyle Sandilands,  the fact that someone like him is rewarded both monetarily and by means of social and public recognition I think is an indication of how warped our contemporary value system has become.

sorry elvis

bye bye elvisWe gave our 4yr old dog to a new owner today. My husband Andy bought him as a pup before we met, so he was well and truly hubby’s dog, and not mine. Given that I am allergic to dogs and have never really liked big dogs anyway, my grief today surprises me.

Elvis lived outside with Swan, a 12 yr old same breed – german shorthaired pointer, so they didn’t aggravate my allergies. I never asked Andy to get rid of them and never complained about having to live with dogs. We walked them together on the condition that I didn’t have to pick up their poos, and on the days Andy was out I fed them. It was never a ‘it’s me or the dog’ situation. I knew how much Andy loved his dogs.

Elvis, however, had an anxiety problem. He needed near-constant attention, without which he would whine incessantly. His crying was very frustrating and neither Andy nor I had the time or money to invest in training it out of him. Andy’s love for Elvis grew tired and irritated. Elvis also annoyed Swan who is too old to keep up with his energy – he would steal his bed and irritate her with his crying to the extent that she would bark at him to shut up. I wanted to give Elvis more attention but if I pat him too much I would end up wheezing, sneezing and itchy. It was to my great surprise that Andy suggested finding him a new home a couple of months ago. Nevertheless, I didn’t think much of it as Andy is a dreamer – he talks a lot about ‘plans’ but doesn’t execute most of them.

He executed this plan, and someone came to pick Elvis up this morning. Andy made sure she was a suitable dog owner for Elvis – she has a large property some hours north of here, several kids and a 6 month old doberman-cross that needs energetic company. I stayed out the back pruning some geranium because I hate saying goodbye. I didn’t think I’d really mind Elvis disappearing. The silencing of his incessant crying would be a relief! Yet now he’s gone I am absolutely racked with guilt. I know he’ll be crying now, wondering where his master, Andy, is.

One part of me tells me that he’ll be happier in his new home with all the kids and young pup to keep him occupied, but somewhere else in my head is a face that is frowning disappovingly and wondering how I could have been so heartless. How could I fail to protest to Andy about handing his dog over to someone we don’t know that well? Elvis was a happy dog. He was anxious, but very happy and energetic. I really hope he is happier in his new home.

I can hear Swan beginning to whine a bit now. Elvis annoyed her greatly, but he was her mate nonetheless. She has clearly enjoyed her time alone this morning, but is now beginning to wonder when her mate is coming back….

arrogant and horrible teenage boys

I tutor high school students at a little tutoring-school near my home and yesterday I got an insight into some disturbing realities of teenage boys. I was waiting to go into my classroom to teach my individual grade 11 student (who is actually a lovely teenage boy) and was sitting outside another classroom in which 2 or 3 boys and one girl were seated, supposedly studying but mostly talking. I couldn’t see them but I could hear them. The boys were talking about pornography and how one of them could access it on his phone (I didn’t know you could do that – scary stuff). The girl was silent but I knew she was there because I had heard her talking about something else previously. She was trying to tell a story about how she saw some boys lift a really small car up onto an elevated garden. I could tell she was attempting to join in the boisterous conversation but the boys were trying to knock her down: ‘How could they lift a car? That’s impossible’ Girl says: ‘It was a small car. Anyway yeah..so they would lift…’. Boy interrupts in a ‘I know about cars – I’m male’ authoritative voice: ‘cars weigh 400kgs. That’s impossible’. Girl hesitates: ‘it was one of those really small cars. A group of big guys can lift a car’. She finishes her story and then asks, ‘have you guys seen Transformers 2?’ One of the boy responds, ‘aw, Megan Gale, she’s hot! aw….’ Girl says impatiently, ‘have you seen it?’ Anyway, somehow the discussion reverts to pornography and I didn’t catch most of it. I did hear, however, the girl pipe up in a revolted voice, with, ‘why do you watch porn?’ One of the boy responds, ‘because he’s a 14yr old male. I’m 15 so I’m wiser now’. (I think this implied he doesn’t watch it anymore?? One can hope). Anyway, I thought, ‘fucking hell, is this what girls have to deal with at school??’ How depressing. THEN, at 5pm they all stood up and the boys wandered out of the room, books in hand and the girl stood up and went to the front of the classroom as a new student, a little boy, entered. The ‘girl’ was the teacher. I was absolutely dumbstruck. I had pictured a 14 yr old girl, but here was a young woman in her early 20s.  This young woman had been trying to engage in ‘cool’ conversation with 14 yr old boys?! And the teenage boys showed absolutely no respect for their teacher – in contrast they talked about pornography in front of her which, hey, when you’re an adult is sexual harrassment but when you’re 14 it’s ok? I felt pretty bad for the teacher because I thought, what would I have done if I had been in the same situation when I was her age? If young boys talked about porn in front of me back then I wouldn’t have known what to do. I would have thought ‘ew, gross’ but that’s probably about it. I tried to think about what I would do if any of my students did that now. I think I would have told them to shut up and then I would have talked to their parents (and probably get told to ‘chill out’).

Apart from the total lack of respect the boys showed their teacher, what struck me was the teacher’s attempt to engage with them by being cool and telling them stories and talking about movies. Would she have done this with girl students? How would 14 yr old girl students the same age have treated her? The boys were hostile and did not let her enter their territory – they made her try really hard, and this kind of made her sound desperate – as thought she wanted recognition in their eyes. I seriously thought she was a young teenage girl from their school trying to be ‘one of the boys’.