Canada has first cabinet with 50% women? But what about choosing based on MERIT?!

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Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just gave Canada its first cabinet with an equal number of men and women. For those who cry, “But the selections should be based on merit not on what gender you are!” here’s why giving women 50% of the voices in parliament is a good thing.

Government should represent and reflect the people.

Governments make decisions that affect all of us. Shouldn’t the people weighing in on those decisions reflect the diversity of those living under that government? Around 50% of the population are men yet 70% of NZ parliament is made up of them.

While no two women are the same, there are still issues that may be more relevant to one gender than the other (for example regarding reproductive rights) and it’s important for both genders to be able to have their voices heard on issues that are important to them. With the current gender imbalance in NZ politics, issues that women care about but men don’t may be overlooked. That’s not to say all men, or all men in parliament, don’t care about ‘women’s issues’, however there are things that are not part of their lived experience that they may struggle to relate to and may not see as a big deal, when to many women it may be. This goes both ways, as there are issues men face that women may have little experience with. That’s why there needs to be a balance.

This should also reflect the ethnic diversity of a country too, as minorities too face issues that may not be on the radar for those who have not experienced them firsthand.

I know it may seem tough to try and have a government that represents different regions, sexes, ages, and ethnicities while also being full of people who are amazing at what they do, but it’s worth attempting. Canada is doing pretty well, so why not us?

Diversity is proven to lead to innovation.

When people say that appointments should be based purely on merit, they don’t seem to take into account that there is merit in diversity. It’s good to look at issues through multiple lenses. There is merit in hearing different perspectives alongside the white male ones we predominantly hear. There is merit in representing the diversity of the people.

According to the Havard Business Review, diversity drives innovation: “Leaders who give diverse voices equal airtime are nearly twice as likely as others to unleash value-driving insights, and employees in a “speak up” culture are 3.5 times as likely to contribute their full innovative potential.”

A Forbes study identified “workforce diversity and inclusion as a key driver of internal innovation and business growth”.

Scientific American wrote, “Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers show that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups.”

The innovation, insight, and creativity gained from an inclusive and diverse workplace would be just as valuable in parliament. They are making decisions that aim to improve the lives of millions of people and move countries into the future. We need innovative minds on that team and diversity is a good way to get that.

People are qualified in different ways – it’s not black and white “he’s better / she’s better”.

When people complain about quotas to ensure equal representation, they always lament how unfair it is that some poor bloke is going to miss out on a job to make way for someone who isn’t as qualified.

The first problem with this argument is the assumption that out of an entire country of people there aren’t going to be enough suitable women to fill the spots. Everybody just assumes that all of the males we have in parliament were the absolute best person for the job, which implies there are more males in parliament because they were simply better.

In the words of NZ Green party co-leader James Shaw:

“Just because people say they’re hiring on merit doesn’t mean that’s what they’re doing. This idea of hiring on merit is a virtuous aspiration that usually causes more harm than good.

It’s such a noble sentiment that you can’t argue against it but it very rarely happens in the real world. And by pretending that appointments are made based on this aspiration which we continually fail to achieve we’re making things worse.

Take a look at our current Parliament which is seventy percent male. Or Cabinet, which governs the country, also seventy percent male.

No one seriously thinks all those guys are there because they’re the best of the best, or that they’ve all got so much more merit than any female politicians.

The reality is that it’s a traditionally male institution.

There were legal and social barriers preventing women from entering. And those overt barriers are gone but many subtle barriers remain.

That means that a lot of the guys running the country aren’t there purely because of merit. There are candidates for many of those positions who have more merit, who could do a better job, but they didn’t get appointed because they’re women.

To those who say we shouldn’t make appointments based on gender, I say, that’s what we’re already doing. Everybody just pretends that it isn’t.”

We need to stop living in the “ideal” world where everybody has an equal chance and the best people get the job – which just happens to be men 70% of the time – and start living in the real world where we value equal representation and prove it with our actions.

Men in parliament are rarely questioned on their merit, yet mention bringing in more women and people question their merit. The former Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a climate change denier as Minister of the Environment; he was clearly the best possible person for that position! They also had a man who moved from Immigration, to Multiculturalism, to Social Development, to National Defence. He must have been the absolute best person for all of those positions too! It’s amazing!

New Zealand’s Minister of Science and Innovation, Steven Joyce, has no background in science whatsoever. Clearly there was no woman out there who could have done as good a job as him! We clearly have a totally fair system where the best person always gets the job!

The second problem with this argument is how do we measure merit? The characteristics society tends to think of as being merit-worthy in political leaders turn out to be the characteristics we tend to associate with men. A study showed that “gender-based stereotyping persists in the workplace. This stereotyping can misrepresent the true talents of women leaders, potentially undermining women’s leadership and posing serious challenges to their career advancement.”

Also there is no black and white answer for what makes a perfect candidate: people have strengths in different areas. It’s incredibly unlikely that there will be two people with identical backgrounds and qualifications going for the job. Everyone will bring a different set of experiences and qualifications with them.

The guy with a Master’s degree and experience working in politics may not necessarily be a better candidate for Minister of Education than the guy who has been teaching for twenty years but hasn’t worked in politics. If one person gets a job over another, they were likely more skilled in some areas, and less skilled in others. It’s about weighing up where they will fit in best and what skills are needed in the team.

It’s also unlikely that a man with a wonderful reputation, a PHD, and years of political experience is going to miss out on a position to a woman with no experience or qualifications who just walked up off the street and got the job to fill a quota. There are plenty of qualified and capable women out there who will do a great job, and like I said above, the fact that they are women brings advantages in itself. As Deborah Frussell writes: “It seems highly implausible that there is only one potentially good candidate in each electorate, or only one person who could be an excellent representative in parliament. It’s much more likely that there might be several people who could be excellent, and it’s a matter of choosing between several qualified candidates. Once candidates have demonstrated that they are good enough, or excellent enough, then we just need to choose one from among them.” Once we get to this point, why not gain some of the advantages of having gender equality and pick the woman amongst them?

At the end of the day, diversity is a merit.

The third problem with this argument is that in a meritocracy, the privileged are more likely to be in a position where they are considered to have merit. As Ben Bernanke said, “A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate — these are the folks who reap the largest rewards.” Sure, everyone loves the story of the politician who came from nothing and turned their life around, but far more common is the person who never made it because of hardship or a lack of opportunity.

Women have been discouraged from succeeding in politics in sometimes overt and sometimes subtle ways. Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard experienced a lot of sexism. A study showed that, “For women who hold traditional gender values – those who think that women should be modest, place their families before themselves and put a lot of importance in taking care of their home and their physical appearance – being reminded of Julia Gillard’s experiences made them want to avoid politics”.

Men also have the privilege of having many male role models in politics and leadership positions whom they can aspire to be like. From the same study: “International research shows that women in countries with more women politicians display greater interest in politics than women from countries with lower female representation.”

One of the benefits of a quota means more role models for women, and thus more women seeing politics as a viable option. The more women going into politics, the more capable, experienced female candidates we have to choose from when electing cabinet ministers. While there may possibly be a dip in perceived merit in the short term, it will pay off in the long term.

Finally, did you see how awesome the women on Trudeau’s cabinet are?

Clearly having 50% women didn’t stop him putting together a kickass team.

The Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan is a medical geographer and former professor at the University of Windsor and University of Toronto. She served on the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Minister of Health Jane Philpott is a doctor who has worked as chief of the Department of Family Medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital, is an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Family and Community medicine, and has worked in Niger helping develop a training programme for local health workers. She also founded an AID’s foundation which has raised $4 million for people affected by HIV / AIDS in Africa.

The Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould is a former crown prosecutor and former Assembly of First Nations chief who has made numerous appearances before parliament to talk about aboriginal issues.

The Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities Carla Qualtrough is a lawyer by training. She has a background in human rights, inclusion and sport. She has worked as the vice-chair of the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal of B.C. and legal counsel for the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. She competed in the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Paralympic Games, winning three medals in swimming. She remains involved in the world of sport, serving for four years as the president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

The Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland is a former journalist and international trade critic for the Liberal party who has degrees from Oxford and Harvard and speaks five languages.

The Minister of Environment and climate change Catherine McKenna is an International Trade Lawyer and former legal adviser to the negotiator for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor. She is also a board member at the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and has taught at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

The Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef is a graduate of Trent University and has been a member of more than 30 community-based action committees in Peterborough. Her family fled the Taliban in Afghanistan when she was eleven. She co-founded the Red Pashmina Campaign, which raised over $150,000 for women and girls in Afghanistan.

The rest of the women and men are equally awesome by the sound of it. Check them out here:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/justin-trudeau-s-new-liberal-cabinet-full-list-and-bios-1.2642140

To those who say we should fix all the barriers to women entering politics instead of using a quota

In Deborah’s words again: “It will take too long. Women don’t want equal representation in 20 years time, when some fixes have been put in place. It needs to happen now. The long slow fix of using the list and fixing childcare and amending sitting rules in the House is just too damned long. That’s why, much as I would prefer not to, I think that the time has come for quotas.”

The longer we take to get equal representation the longer we are missing out on the innovation a diverse cabinet brings, and the role models for our future leaders.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/

http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx.shtml

https://hbr.org/2013/12/how-diversity-can-drive-innovation

http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/how-we-came-to-misunderstand-meritocracy

http://sydney.edu.au/news/84.html?newsstoryid=14504

http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-take-care-men-take-charge-stereotyping-us-business-leaders-exposed

http://deborahfrussell.net/2013/07/05/on-quotas/

Can we stop normalising groping people in clubs and bars?

indecent assault

So former All Black Mils Muliaina just had charges against him dropped due to insufficient evidence and the comments on the article had me worried for New Zealand society. Here are some of the points I’d like to address.

1) People seem to think it’s acceptable to be groped in a bar. Getting touched without permission in a club is apparently just a normal thing thing that is to be expected and if you don’t want it to happen you should stay home.

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What did you expect, being at a club? What were you even doing there?

It’s the same sort of victim blaming bullshit rape victims have had for years: “Well what did you expect dressed like that and drinking?” Oh I dunno, to not be assaulted and if I am to have the blame put where it belongs – on the attacker?

Besides, indecent assault is indecent assault no matter the venue. Section 135 of the Crimes Act outlines this. It’s illegal. If a stranger gropes a woman’s butt on the bus without her consent then she can call the police and they will do something about it. Why would it be any different in a bar? It’s become such a common thing that happens in bars and clubs that people act like it’s no big deal, when they would probably be pissed off if it happened on a bus.

2) People think groping / slapping / touching someone’s butt in general is no big deal. 

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Firstly, yes it is still indecent assault when a woman does it to a man. No, men are not animals who want sex at all times and will be happy for anyone to touch their butt without permission. Give them more credit than that. If an individual man isn’t bothered by a stranger grabbing his ass that’s up to him and if he doesn’t want to press charges he doesn’t have to. Same if a woman doesn’t care. But just because some people don’t care, does not mean everybody shouldn’t care and that it should be legal to touch strangers butts whenever it takes our fancy. It’s still not okay.

It’s bizarre to me how much people think having your butt touched by a stranger is no big deal.

A stranger puts a hand up a woman’s skirt, under her underwear, and touches her genitals without her consent: “Sexual assault! Gross, creepy, pervert, wrong, that poor woman! Call the cops!” they say.

A stranger puts his hand down the back of a woman’s pants and under her underwear and gropes the skin of her butt cheek: “Gross, creepy, pervert, wrong… if you feel grossed out by it maybe call the cops??”

A stranger grabs a woman’s butt over her pants in a nightclub: “Ha, nothing to see here people. Just a normal day. Why do you care, lady? Stop making a big deal out of nothing. Get over it. What did you expect coming to a club? That clothing layer between his hand and your skin makes all the difference.”

Am I crazy for thinking that’s weird? Like I get it, a butt slap isn’t as traumatising as sexual assault by any means, but it doesn’t mean it’s no big deal and that it should be legal for anyone to touch your butt whenever they want. Butts have become a very sexualised body part in our society so you can’t act like it’s the same as touching someone’s elbow.

If a stranger touched a 10 year old’s butt everyone would be furious with that person, but you turn 18 and suddenly it’s okay to have your butt touched by anyone who feels like it? People should be able to decide who touches them and who doesn’t. Men, women, and children alike.

3) People think it’s only assault if you’ve said “no” first. 

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When something is against the law (which indecent assault is) then you don’t get warnings and chances. It should be pretty obvious that you can’t touch someone’s butt or boobs without their consent. You don’t need to try it once and hear a “no” to know that it’s not okay. Should we apply this warning to all crimes? “It’s okay to punch him once but then if he says no I’ll know not to do it.” or “It’s okay to steal his phone but if he tells me not to do it I won’t do it again.” Just don’t do it in the first place! It’s not that difficult!

I’ve heard people argue, “Well how do you know she won’t like it until you try? Some girls like having their butts grabbed.” To that I say it doesn’t matter that there may be a possibility that they like it. It’s not worth the risk that they won’t like it. You can’t just go around touching people who don’t want it – completely ignoring their right to choose what happens to their own bodies – until after assaulting a bunch of people you eventually find someone who doesn’t mind. Just slow the hell down.

There are less creepy ways to touch butts: Introduce yourself, chat, hang out a bit, flirt, ask her to dance, read her damn body language: If you start lowering your hands down her back and she moves them back up, tells you to stop, or stops dancing with you – take the hint. If you suck at reading body language and signals just straight up ask, “Is this okay?” or “Do you like that?” If asking a question like that is enough to kill the mood and ruin your chances then the mood wasn’t that strong to begin with. Seriously, if you suck at reading signals and body language, and also can’t handle asking for consent, then you shouldn’t go, “hmm my only option is to go up to strangers and touch their butt and hope they like it.” No.

Just assume nobody wants strangers touching them without permission. Not that difficult because most people don’t!

Disclaimers:

  • I mainly used a woman as the victim in my examples because it was a woman they were talking about in the article. I hope I’ve acknowledged in my writing that men can also have this happen to them and not be okay with it. It’s indecent assault no matter the gender, age, or place it happens.
  • This obviously isn’t an article commenting on anything to do with Muliaina himself. The case was dropped because of insufficient evidence. Whether the accuser was groped by someone else and mistook Muliaina as the groper, or whether she is (as many have accused her of) just a liar – none of that is relevant to the fact that many people out there seem to think groping someone in a bar without consent is fine. That’s what I’m taking issue with here.
  • When I say “people think” I obviously don’t mean all people, but it’s far too many. If you understand that grabbing strangers butts without permission is indecent assault and people should stop doing it – congratulations. If you think it’s no big deal and you’re happy for whoever comes along to touch your butt- all the more power to you, but respect that other people may not be so happy about strangers touching them and that they are within their rights to expect people not to get away with doing it.

How to use SayMMM to create meal plans and grocery lists.

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This website has changed my life and saved me so much money. No I am not being paid to say this; I just get really enthusiastic about it.

Why it’s so great:

Before

  • I had to decide every day what I was going to have for dinner and then make a daily supermarket trip.
  • Or, I’d buy a bunch of ingredients and try to put together a meal with it.
  • Or, I’d think I’d gotten everything for some meals but then have to go back and get something.
  • Or, I wouldn’t have the ingredients needed for a healthy meal so I’d have something unhealthy or get takeaways.
  • Or, if I couldn’t be bothered going to the supermarket one night, takeaways would seem like an easier option.
  • Or, I wouldn’t have meat out and defrosted because I didn’t know what I would be eating.

Now

  • I plan out seven meals using SayMMM, make two or three of them vegetarian, and then mix up the meats for the other meals (for example a chicken dish, a pork dish, and a mince dish).
  • I can be more mindful and have more variety by making sure, for example, that I don’t have pasta more than once a week, or mince two nights in a row.
  • Matt and I alternate nights cooking, and we’ll sit down together on a Sunday and pick what we want to eat for the week. When it’s his turn to cook I’ll just look at the meal plan and say, “you’re making crock pot pork chops today”, print out the recipe, put it in our home-made recipe book and he can just get to it.

What is it?

SayMMM is a free website for meal planning and creating grocery lists. It’s awesome because you can copy the URL of a recipe from any website, and SayMMM will pull the ingredients from that recipe into a shopping list. You can also write in your own recipes. Then, when you plan out your meals for the week, SayMMM pulls all the ingredients from all the recipes you’ve chosen, and makes one big shopping list – which you can then organise by the areas of the supermarket (Meat, Fruit and Veg, Dairy, etc.) This makes supermarket shopping so easy. It also separates your ingredients list into “things to buy” and “pantry staples”. Pantry staples are things you may already have (like oil, salt, etc.). This is useful because it means things like flour and oil won’t be added to your shopping list each week when you don’t need them, but you can add them in with a click if you do.

I will walk through how to use the site now.

Signing up.

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Click the “SIGN UP” button. You will then be given a bunch of boxes to fill out your details. Do that.

saymmm2Once you are all signed up and signed in, click on the “Home” tab, then watch the tutorials on Getting Started to give you an overview of how everything works.

Add a ton of recipes

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Click “Cook” then “Add Recipe“.

Here’s the fun part. This can be a bit time consuming, but sit down and spend a couple of hours adding recipes to your list and then you’re set.

In a new tab, find a recipe on one of your favourite websites. I love Budget Bytes.

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Highlight the URL in the address bar of the recipe. Copy it (Control + C).

Go back to your SayMMM tab.

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Click the word “Link”

saymmm6Paste the recipe URL you have copied into the Link box and type in a recipe Name.

Click Continue. 

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This is the cool part. As you can see, it has pulled the picture of the meal from the website and all of the ingredients and put them into a shopping list for you. It has sorted the ingredients into Get and Check (Pantry Items I may need). As you can see, herbs, spices, garlic and olive oil have all gone into the Check list as you may not need to purchase them.

Also, you can see down the right hand side it has organised each ingredient into an area of the supermarket.

saymmm8Think it’s gotten the area wrong? Just click on the area next to the food it has misplaced and a drop down list will appear. Click on the right area. It gets it right 99% of the time, but sometimes it won’t recognise an item and will put it in Other (Old El Paso mexican kits for example) or it will put Spinach under “frozen” when you are planning on getting it fresh – just change it to “fruits and veggies”.

One slightly annoying thing that SayMMM does is that it converts into ounce and pounds. I make the effort to change them back – look at the recipe to see what it is meant to be (tsps and cups for example) or in a new tab Google “oz to ml converter” (or oz to gram) to find out the value you prefer.

saymmm9Click “Edit” 

saymmm10And it will let you type in the box (as I did here) then click “OK”. 

You can also click that little trash can picture when you Edit to delete an ingredient from the list altogether if you don’t want to include it.

As you can see in the picture above, there is also a blank box with an “ADD” button. Want to add cheese to this recipe? Type it in, click “Add”, and SayMMM will categorise it into an Area of the supermarket for you.

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Once you have your recipe looking the way you want it, click “Save Recipe”. 

saymmm12Which will take you to a page that looks like this.

You can click “New Recipe” to add another recipe now.

Want to type in your own recipe rather than get it from a website? You can.

saymmm13Give it a name, type it all in, and click “Continue”. 

saymmm14It doesn’t pull the ingredients into a list when you type it in yourself, so you will need to add the ingredients to the shopping list yourself.

saymmm15I just copied and pasted them from above. As you can see I put the pantry items into the right area. SayMMM sorted them into Areas down the right.

You can also browse recipes on the SayMMM website that other users have added and add them to your own recipe list. I haven’t done this because I found plenty of recipes myself.

Spend some time going through your favourite recipe websites and saving your favourite recipes to your recipe list. Then it’s time to…

Create a meal plan

saymmm16Click on “Plan” at the top of the page.

saymmm17You will be lead to a page that looks like this.

saymmm18Click on “Cook”. 

saymmm19Click on “My Ideas”. 

saymmm20Click on “Recipes”. I haven’t quite figured out this Meals versus Recipes thing. I think a meal is when you take a recipe like “beef roast” and add sides to it to make a meal. Once you have used a recipe it adds it to your meal list too. I tend to just stick with the recipe list as it shows all my options and I tend to always have the stuff for sides (frozen beans or peas, potato to make mash etc.) stocked anyway.

Pick a meal to have for that day of the week.

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Click on the meal and it will write it down the bottom to show you have selected it. Then click “Save.”

saymmm22As you can see, it has added the meal next to Sunday. Repeat for the next day of the week by clicking “Cook” again. Continue for every day of the week.

saymmm23If you are planning and want to move a recipe to a different day of the week, (for example if, like me, you realise you’ve put two chickpea meals in a row and don’t want to be overwhelmed by chickpea goodness) you can do so by clicking on “Move”. 

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This box will pop up and then you can click on the day you want to move it to.

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I selected Friday and it then prompts me to select what meal I am moving it to. Dinner, obviously.

saymmm26Boom, moved.

saymmm27If you want to delete a meal from your plan, you also do it by clicking “Move” but instead of selecting a new day for it, you click “Delete”. 

saymmm28Once you’ve picked out your meals for the week it’s time to create a shopping list for them! Click “Create List” On the left hand side.

saymmm29It’ll show you the meals you want to include. If you’ve done a plan or longer than a week, alter the dates up top. Then click “Create List.” 

saymmm30This is what it will look like. It is separated by recipe with the ingredients you need down the left, and pantry items you may need to add on the right. Go through the list on the right and if you don’t have something and need to buy it, click on it and it will add it to the list.

saymmm31If there are things on the left hand side that you already have and don’t need, hover over the item and then click the little rubbish bin and it will remove it from your shopping list.

Once you’ve got your list looking the way you want it (pantry staples you didn’t have have been added and ingredients you already had have been deleted) add any other items you need that week such as cleaning products, soap, and breakfast and lunch foods.

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SayMMM suggests items you have bought in the past or common items by area. You can click and add them, or on the left you can type something in.

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Got your list complete? Now it’s time to organise it by areas. Click “Area and Stores” on the left.

saymmm33How cool is this! Once I print this bad boy it means it saves me so much time in the supermarket.

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Click “PRINT” On the left hand side.

saymmm36It shows you a print preview and then you click “Print” Up the top right to print your shopping list.

saymmm37Oh and before you print, down the bottom you have the option to include the meal plan in your print or not. I always do because when I’m done shopping I put the meal plan on the fridge so I know what meat to get out each morning.

And you’re done! 

ALSO there is a SayMMM app so you can access your shopping list on your phone instead of printing it off! You can also add recipes to your recipe list using the app.

My overall verdict of the site:

Cons:

  • Converts things into (I assume) USA measurements and you have to change them back manually. However it takes me less than a minute to look up the conversion and change it and once you’ve saved it it’s in the correct format for good.
  • Initially some time needs to be spent adding in all your favourite recipes. Not really a con for me as it saves me so much time in the long run and now I’ve built up about 60 dinner recipes and have tons to pick from when making meal plans now.
  • Isn’t able to pull the ingredients from a typed in recipe so you need to manually create your shopping list. Not a con if you get most of your recipes online anyway.
  • Why do I need to click “Move” to delete a recipe from the plan? A simple trash can icon at the end of each day would save an unnecessary extra step. Very minor thing, but thought I’d mention it.

Pros: 

  • Pulls ingredients from online recipes. Pretty nifty feature. Makes it very quick to make a shopping list from an online recipe you love.
  • You can alter recipes. Don’t like onion? Delete it from the shopping list. Want to add tomato? Add it in and it’ll be saved like that.
  • Once you’ve added the initial recipes, meal planning is SO quick. Just pick what you want to eat each night of the week, create a list, delete or add items, then print it.
  • Organises by Area of the supermarket. Can’t explain how great this is. It means you don’t have to go back to an area you’ve already walked through so it speeds things up.
  • Makes it easy to be mindful with your planning. The layout of the plan means you can order your meals so you don’t have mince two nights in a row or chicken every night. I make sure I am including vegetarian dishes and eating a variety of meats.
  • Saves me money because I am making less trips to the supermarket (less chances to be tempted by stuff I don’t need) and I can plan in vegetarian meals to save money I’d spend on meat. Having a list to stick to stops me grabbing things I don’t need too.
  • It remembers things you buy regularly so you can add them to your list with a click.
  • You can access it on your phone.

Overall, meal planning is a great way to be mindful about what you eat, save money, and save time. This website is a pretty awesome one once you get the hang of it.

I hope this has been helpful for you.

It’s not because you’re “Too Nice”.

girls like jerks

 

Someone on my Facebook feed recently liked the image above and it annoyed me enough to write about it.

Here’s the short summary of my opinion on it: No.

Just no.

No woman ever thinks to herself “You know what I really look for in a guy? Someone who is really mean to me. God, there is nothing worse than being treated nicely and with respect.”

More no.

Nobody actively seeks out someone who treats them like crap. If a woman ends up in an abusive relationship, it is not because that was her dream guy and she hates being treated nicely. No, it is far more complicated than that.

Abusers follow a pretty typical pattern: Find a girl with low self-esteem who desperately wants to feel loved. Treat her like a queen at first and she falls for him. Make her feel as though she can do no better than him and she is better off with him than alone. Subtly lower her self-esteem further. Slowly manipulate her into doing what he wants and punishing her (with words, guilt trips, tears, anger) when she doesn’t do what he wants. Isolate her from her friends by making her think they are bad for her or by making her feel guilty every time she hangs out with them. He will often manipulate her by talking about all his problems or the people who have hurt him before so she feels like she has to go out of her way to be the perfect girlfriend for him, unlike the hurtful people from his past. If she tries to leave, he will often threaten suicide or threaten to harm her so she feels she cannot leave. If he is abusive towards her, he convinces her it is her fault because she did something (or many things) wrong in his eyes… this just makes her try harder to please him, rather than leave him. Often the woman will stick around through the bad times because in his good moments an abuser is the most loving, charming, and kind man she has ever met. He apologises for the bad times and promises it won’t happen again. She sticks around hoping he will change and that if she is supportive enough and loving enough, he will be the man she first fell for. Spoiler alert: He almost definitely won’t.

If you ever find yourself thinking that a woman who stays with an abuser is asking for it, stupid, etc., please try and be more understanding. It is not so black and white. This is a woman who has very low self-worth and needs people to build her up, not bring her down further. This is someone living under a thick layer of manipulation that makes it hard to see the truth.

But abusers aside… saying women don’t like you because you are “too nice” or “not a jerk” is problematic for many reasons.

Firstly – not every woman in the world will like you. That is obvious. You can be attractive, funny, charming, intelligent, kind, interesting, and successful and there will still be thousands of women out there for whom you are simply not what they are looking for. Maybe they are into other things. Maybe they simply don’t feel the spark. Whatever the reason, nobody is obligated to like you. Stop acting entitled to the attention of a woman or women. She is allowed whatever standards she wants, just like men are.

If you ever find yourself complaining that a woman only sees you as a friend, or has, “put you in the friendzone” (ugh, I hate that term) think about what you are really saying: “She should want to date me. The fact that she doesn’t want to date me means that she is being unfair or not giving me a proper chance.” No, she can like or dislike whoever she wants. There is something, or multiple things about you that she isn’t into, and that’s her choice. Hell, it’s probably out of her control; she simply likes what she likes and you aren’t it, sorry. She doesn’t have to explain it to you, she doesn’t have to “give it a try” to see if she changes her mind. The fact that she still sees you as a worthwhile friend despite not being attracted to you or not feeling like you’d work as a couple, shows that she is a nice human being who wants you in her life – great! Men and women can be friends.

I’m not saying it doesn’t suck. Of course liking someone who doesn’t like you back sucks. You have every right to feel gutted about it, and if you choose to no longer be friends with her until you can get over her, that’s fine. You do what you need to do to move on. But don’t put those bad feelings on her. Don’t make her feel guilty for simply exercising her right to say no or wanting to just be friends. Don’t make her feel like her value as a friend is gone the second that dating or sex is off the table. Don’t make her feel as though you were only kind to her in the hopes of it leading to something more. Appreciate a woman’s friendship even if you initially hoped for more.

Secondly, just because you personally cannot see the appeal in a guy you deem a “jerk” or “asshole”, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I once dated a guy who some other guys at his school told me was arrogant. We dated for a year and I never saw it. He never spoke a bad word about anyone, and stopped to talk to guys from his school from all walks of life. He got along with everyone and it never seemed put on or fake to me. He never talked himself up or treated me like I was less than him in any way. Yet a guy told me I was too good for him, and a girl told him he was too good for me. This really annoyed me. You really can’t judge a relationship looking in from the outside. You don’t know what makes a good match. You don’t know how the couple act behind closed doors. That guy you think is an asshole may be a wonderful friend and boyfriend. Maybe you and him just don’t click! Again, not everyone will like everyone else.

Also, if a girl is going for guys you think are terrible and she isn’t in an abusive relationship – that’s her choice! She is perfectly entitled to go for whatever qualities she wants. Just like some men only go for hot airheads who you would never date – so what? If they are both happy with the situation, then all the more power to them. If that is her type, and you are not, then you are not compatible. Would you really want to date a woman whose interests in men are so different from you? Don’t hold it against her or judge her for it, just accept that she is not for you and move on.

Thirdly, being nice is not the only important thing in a relationship. It is not some super rare and wonderful quality. It is the absolute baseline requirement. If “nice” is all you have going for you, you’re going to find it tough to find someone who is into you. Sure, you’re nice – but that guy over there is nice and he’s funny, intelligent, has really interesting hobbies, and volunteers at the SPCA. That other guy may seem like a jerk to you, but he’s nice to her, confident, charming, sexy, dresses well and is very dedicated to his sports teams. He’s Nice-PLUS. You can’t just be nice and nothing else. It’s boring. Would you go for a girl who has nothing else going for her but that she’s nice when there are other girls out there who are Nice-PLUS? I don’t think so.

Fourth: Too-Nice tends to mean “doormat.” Nobody wants to date a doormat – if they do, they probably just want to use someone and so should be avoided. A guy who is too-nice has no opinions of his own. He’ll bend over backwards to please her at all times and doesn’t give her much space. He’ll do whatever she wants, never offering up ideas of his own. He doesn’t challenge any of her opinions. He sucks up to her and always agrees with everything she does or says. He puts her on a pedestal and treats her more like an angel or goddess than an actual human being. He spends all his money on her and is over-the-top with his gooey sentiments. He doesn’t take part in banter or joking around with her. A too-nice guy probably has no distinguishing qualities other than that he is nice. He has nothing going on in his own life so he can spend all his time trying to woo the girl. In short, he’s boring.

In conclusion: Just like men, women can like whoever they want and your opinion on the matter really doesn’t count. If she ends up in an abusive relationship, then she needs supportive friends more than ever, even though it is frustrating.

If she doesn’t like you, big deal, get over it, move on. Not everyone will like you. Nobody is entitled to like you or give you a shot. Appreciate her friendship and it may lead to dates with her friends in the future! If you ask a woman out and treat her “no” with respect, and still remain a friend of hers, she will be more likely to tell her friends to date you. Being rejected sucks, but it’s really not the end of the world.

If you think you may be the Too-Nice doormat type, it isn’t too late to grow a backbone. Focus on your own life, passions, interests, and self-improvement and you will likely be far more successful than pandering to a girl then complaining when she goes for “a jerk” instead.

PS: I know the word “jerk” isn’t common in NZ, but it’s the word in the image that was Liked so I am rolling with it.

PPS: It is not only women who can be victims in an abusive relationship. Men can be controlled, manipulated, and abused too. For the sake of this blog post it was easier to keep it male / female as a response to the image. Women definitely seem to get more flack than men for “going for jerks” and apparently ignoring nice guys, although I guess the male equivalent is women complaining when a guy goes for a “bimbo” over her. Yeah, it can suck when you feel like you are nicer and smarter than a girl who is picked over you, but at the end of the day, that’s his choice – get over it. There are billions more people out there, and if he didn’t like you, he wasn’t right for you.

 

 

 

Roast Busters

roast busters

I didn’t think I would need to write a blog post about the Roast Busters because it has been talked about and written about so much that I figured everyone else had it covered just fine and would be able to articulate their concerns more clearly than I could.

I was also mistaken in thinking that none of my friends and acquaintances would think that what those boys did was in any way acceptable…until I went to a birthday dinner last Friday.

The topic of the Roast Busters came up and it started a conversation between myself, a male friend, and a male acquaintance. I felt like I couldn’t get much of a word in, and after a certain comment about the way women dress, I felt so disappointed, appalled and frankly a little upset, that I said, “I can’t be around you right now” and walked away. When I returned, my friend apologised for poor choice of words and said I had misunderstood him (and perhaps I did). Now that I am more sober, and have a little time to put what I was trying to say then into words, I’ll respond to some of the ideas these men expressed. Disclaimer: These are not direct quotes, and I hope I don’t misrepresent them. They are also views I’ve heard expressed by others, but I didn’t think I’d hear them in my circle of friends. My responses are aimed at the ideas expressed in general; I am not speaking directly to the men I mentioned.

  • Their behaviour isn’t the problem; it’s social media that’s the problem.

I wrote about cyber bullying in an assignment for my teaching diploma. The one thing that I got from that research is that it is not the technology that is the problem. Bullies will be bullies in any way they can, and the internet is just another way for them to hurt others. The internet can also be a way to do good, spread awareness, fundraise, etc. The Roast Busters just used this technology to share their views and actions with lots of people, and now they are getting more attention than they bargained for.

In this case, it is very much the boys’ behaviour that is the problem, not the technology. These are boys who have little respect for women. They think it is okay to get women so drunk they agree (or don’t) to let several guys sleep with them, then shame them for it online. Maybe some of these teenage girls really did think it would be “cool” to take part in this, and wilfully consented. But I have to wonder, what 13-17 year old girls would be up for this? How emotionally mature are they? How stable and secure are their lives? How high is their self-esteem?

I read a great article (which I will try find) about a woman who had a very troubled upbringing. Her father openly hated her, and she didn’t get much love or attention from her mother either. When she was thirteen / fourteen, she craved love and attention, and found it online in chat rooms. She told men how young she was and they flirted with her, told her she was beautiful, said that they wanted to be her boyfriend, and asked to meet up. She wrote that they’d all use her for sex and then leave, and she’d be left thinking that they were going to love her and be her boyfriend. She consented to the sex, but was not emotionally mature enough to see what was really going on and was very hurt and upset by the way these men treated her. Her point was that just because a fourteen year old girl is capable of consenting to sex, it doesn’t mean that men, particularly older men in her case, should be free to take advantage of any girl from a bad background who is looking for love and attention in the wrong places. These girls need help and protection, not a “you are 100% responsible for every decision you make” attitude that ignores their upbringing, age, maturity, and vulnerability to being preyed upon by people who don’t give a shit about them.

I like to think I am open minded about sex, and I know that when I was in high school there were fourteen year olds having sex, but for the most part it was with their boyfriends at the time. Two young people who love each other and care about each other having mutually consensual sex. Maybe I am being naïve in my little middle class bubble when I say that if a young teen thought getting “roasted” by several guys – knowing that it would be talked about online, knowing that they do it to many other women – was a good idea, they aren’t emotionally mature enough to be making those kinds of decisions, and that the boys who roasted them are possibly taking advantage. It took me until I was in my early 20’s to have enough self-esteem and self-confidence to be okay with casual sex, and even then I treaded some murky emotional waters where I got attached or felt a bit used. It takes a strong, confident person with high self-esteem and a “who cares what anyone thinks, I’m going to enjoy myself and have some no-strings fun” attitude to take part in consensual, group, casual sex. I personally don’t think many teenage girls are there yet. And if they are, they’d be mature enough to want to have that casual fun with people who respect them as a person, respect their privacy, and want them to have a great time. Not a group of teenage boys who get girls wasted, brag about their conquests online and treat the women like meat. On that note…

  • The statutory rape laws don’t make sense. Lots of teenagers under sixteen have sex with each other consensually.

Of course they do. There are varying levels of maturity among teenagers. When I look at fourteen year olds now, for the most part they look so young to me. They seem like they are still children. Yet I remember feeling grown up and mature at age fourteen. I remember most of my friends dating at that age (and younger, though intermediate boyfriends weren’t all that serious). But just because fourteen year olds date and sometimes have sex, doesn’t mean every single one of them is emotionally mature and capable of handling all the baggage that can surround sex. Not all of them will make great decisions. Not all of them will be strong enough to say “no” if the pressure is put on (by peers, or by someone they are dating). Not all of them are perfect drinkers who know their limits and know not to let others mix their drinks. Not all of them have high self-esteem, respect for themselves, and high standards for themselves. Not all of them come from loving, supportive backgrounds.

Someone doesn’t turn thirteen and suddenly become totally capable of making great choices. They still need protection and guidance, and they need support when people take advantage of them and prey on them. The law exists to stop people, particularly older people, thinking people below sixteen are okay to take advantage of. The law exists because young teens don’t often know what is best for them. It is not designed to stop two fifteen year olds who are in love from having consensual sex, it is designed to help those who feel wronged or hurt by a situation, or taken advantage of, or raped.

The Roast Busters is a very different situation from two teenagers, in a relationship, having some drinks together and having sex. This is a group of guys who think it is cool to get girls drunk, take turns having sex with them, and shame them online… and girls went to the police over it. It’s two very different situations, and to compare them is pointless. I don’t see how anyone can act like it was just a bunch of guys having fun at parties, when some girls were clearly so upset by what happened that they went to the police.

  • Those radio hosts weren’t out of line for asking if the girls involved actually wanted it. The girls probably did want it.

Firstly, no I don’t think it is some radio hosts’ place to suggest that any potential victim of trauma is lying about it. It’s unnecessarily insensitive. At the time, my response to this was that if the girls were happy about the situation, why had there been three complaints to the police? To which the men replied:

  • They probably regretted it the next day so lied and said it was rape.

This is the one I have the biggest problem with. I did a little research on false rape allegations. Data varies, but the general consensus seems to be that the number of women who falsely accuse someone of rape is between 2% and 10% (which is about the same as false allegations of other crimes), however it is likely to be far less than that because, as studies of false reporting in New Zealand found, police can misapply the “no-crime” or “unfounded” criteria. Some officers have fixed views on what a rape victim should look like and how they should behave, and others interpret lack of evidence or a withdrawal of complaint as proof of a false allegation.

Even if we took out all of those variables, and assumed for a minute that it was the higher end of the spectrum – that 10% of women who go to the police and say they are raped are, in fact, lying about it – that would still mean that 9/10 of the women who say they are raped, are telling the truth. That’s a majority. When a woman says that she has been raped, chances are she is telling the truth. So why on earth do people think it is okay to act as if it is the opposite? Why would these friends of mine hear about three women complaining to the police about the same group of teenage boys – boys who “jokingly” refer to themselves as rapists on their Facebook page and write things like “go ahead, tell the police, they can’t un-rape you” – and assume all three of them must be in that very small percent of women who make false claims?

Besides which, how fucked up would you have to be to regret sex so much that you are willing to ruin a guy’s life over it? That you care about your reputation so much that you’d rather a guy went to jail than have to acknowledge that you had group sex? It can happen, particularly in a culture that shames girls for having sex, but it’s just so unlikely a situation that to accuse these girls of doing it seems wildly against the odds.

  • Some girls draw negative attention and disrespect from men by the way they dress. They attract people who will treat them like shit if they dress that way.

Maybe this is true. Maybe douchebag guys do target girls who dress a certain way. But even if this is true, what is the point of saying it in a conversation about Roast Busters? Are you making this statement in order to show how shitty society / some men can be in their disrespect of women? Or are you bringing it up to blame a girl for bringing on bad treatment by not dressing conservatively? I’m guessing the latter. If you bring this up you are implying that there are certain situations where a girl is to blame for negative treatment from men, simply because of how she looks. You are saying there are certain situations where it is okay for men to treat a woman like shit. You are letting men off the hook. You are giving them a pass. You are saying it is okay for them to treat another human being badly, simply because of what they wear. You are telling a woman: It is your fault, you deserve this, and you asked for this, he is allowed to do it because of what you chose to wear. This, in my book, is never okay.

Where do we draw the line? We live in a country where a girl having to cover from head to toe in a burqa is considered over-the-top and oppressive, and a bikini is considered okay. So where is that in-between area where you are dressed in a way that invites disrespect? What is an appropriate “deserving of respect” outfit? It’s just silly. How about, instead of telling women to cover up, you tell men that no matter how a woman is dressed, she is a human being with thoughts and feelings and choices? Why should a woman be faced with the responsibility of picking an outfit that will stop harassment, instead of the harassers being held accountable? Let’s also remember that women get raped in all sorts of outfits, as seen by the “this is what I was wearing” meme. Outfits don’t cause rape, rapists do. When a seven year old girl is raped, nobody dares suggest her clothes may have attracted “disrespect”. Why does this change when a girl becomes a teenager?

Men are not untameable beasts, chained to their animal natures with no control over themselves. If a woman isn’t wearing much, it doesn’t render a man incapable of rational thought. If a man sees a skimpy outfit and decides the woman wearing it is not worth his respect then that says more about him than her. It shows a man who does not think all humans are worthy of respect, and will find excuses to treat someone badly. And he can get away with it because some people will say it was her fault for not covering up.

Yes, there are things women can do to help keep themselves safe. Watch your drinks, don’t get drunk, stay with friends, don’t walk alone, don’t sleep over at a party, etc. While this can be useful information, at the end of the day you can do all this and still get raped. You can do none of this and be raped. Either way, it is not your fault, it is the rapist’s fault. You wouldn’t tell a guy who had been burgled that it was his own fault for not having better locks. You wouldn’t tell a guy who had been mugged that it was his own fault for walking down the street with money in his pocket. In the end, advising someone to be safe is fine, but putting the responsibility of avoiding rape on a woman is not. Let’s remember who are the bad guys here – those who made the decision to disrespect and rape women. Or burgle houses, or mug people. Let’s not victim-blame.

  • The trial by media isn’t fair.

You know what, I agree with this one. Evidence is needed and investigating needs to happen by trained professionals. I’m not ruling out the idea that the boys didn’t commit any crimes, and perhaps for a lot of it were exaggerating their boasts and joking around, but I still don’t think that that possibility warrants victim blaming of the girls who went to the police, or a culture of disbelief and suspicion of them.

I do think this story is one the public needs to know about. It has sparked many amazing discussions, blog posts and the like, and exposed New Zealand’s rape culture. Whether or not the Roast Busters are rapists, it is still good to see New Zealand (for the most part) making it clear to young people that it is not okay to treat women badly. It is not okay to touch a girl when she is (as one of the Roast Buster’s friends described a girl) so wasted she will probably not remember it in the morning. It is not cool to brag online about sleeping with women as if they are not worthy of respect or privacy. Making rape jokes is insensitive and immature. There has been a big out-pouring of support for victims of rape, including a petition for John Key to do more for rape victims. I hope that this will be a lesson for all young people out there in both how they conduct themselves online, and how they treat their fellow human beings.

Why we shouldn’t hate teenage girls

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mean girls 2

Urban Dictionary is a website where regular people give their more colloquial definitions of words, and the definitions voted for by the most people appear at the top. It’s a good place to go when suddenly everyone is saying how Miley is trying to act “ratchet” and you have no idea what they are talking about, but not so good, as I found, when wanting to find out what people think about teenage girls. Urban Dictionary had nothing nice to say, with the following comments getting hundreds of thumbs up:

“The Teenage Girl is possibly the absolute stupidest, most materialistic, and shallow kind of human there is”

“They have nothing resembling independent thought or character”

“The lowest form of human being on the planet. These are often shallow, pathetic creatures, attempting to be unique and special”

“These are usually stupid, unoriginal, shallow, and self-centered creatures. Some teenage girls break the mold and are extremely smart, unique, and rather clever, but these are rare.”

“A shallow, annoying, selfish, pathetic being whose intelligence is nearly sub-human. These creatures typically dress like total sluts”.

To be fair, the entries for “teenage boy” aren’t all that nice either, but much kinder on boys than the page on teen girls. The second highest voted answer, for example, is satire about how teenage boys are “causing all of society’s problems” which implies they aren’t actually that bad. The other answers revolve around teenage boys being immature, horny, perverts. There is nothing like the level of loathing that seems to exist for teenage girls out there. While people on UD joke that teenage boys only like sex, video games, and doing stupid shit… they actually seem to hate teenage girls. Read those comments above again. It’s pure misogyny.

I looked this up because a class today at E.I.T left me quietly fuming.

First, a classmate was told by a professor that he didn’t think she would suit teaching in a girls’ school because she is “too pragmatic.” Let’s break that down. Some synonyms of the word “pragmatic”: rational, logical, realistic, sensible, and reasonable. So, wait, she is too logical to teach girls? In order to suit teaching at a girls’ school, should one then be irrational, illogical, unrealistic, senseless and unreasonable? Doesn’t sound like great skills for a teacher. Something tells me the professor was instead implying that teenage girls are illogical, and so a logical teacher wouldn’t want to teach them. That couldn’t possibly be right, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he means “dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.” I still don’t get the problem here. Won’t teenage girls benefit from a hands-on approach to teaching?

Another classmate jumped in and said she was also told she would suit teaching boys better. A third smirked and mused, “I wonder who he thinks would suit a girls’ school?” which is where I said, “Me. I’d love to teach in a girls’ school.”

Why? Because people are still having these conversations! People are writing off teenage girls and wanting nothing to do with educating them when they could have the far superior males.

Not only this, but I attended an all girls’ school and believe I received a great education there.

In social studies, I learnt about fundamentalist religions, poverty cycles, prison systems, and more. This instilled in me a sense of social justice, and a high regard for seeking the truth and solving problems. In English, along with reading wonderful texts about acceptance and equality in different cultures (such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Kiss the Dust), I also studied advertising and how the media can manipulate you into buying their product. What I learnt in that unit amazed me, and developed my critical thinking skills. In Drama I experienced stepping into someone else’s shoes and bringing their world to life. I believe I became a more empathetic, tolerant person at that school. They encouraged critical thinking, creativity, and speaking my mind.

Of course, I am not saying that none of this can happen at a boys’ or co-ed school, but that all girls’ schools can be wonderful places for learning to occur too, and I believe teachers there are invaluable.

The second round of hate on female students came when a guest speaker was talking about bullying. A classmate brought up the subtle bullying that can happen amongst girls that can have a lasting effect. Examples given ranged from exclusion to petty things like teasing girls for their clothes or hair choices. Another classmate mentioned that their four year old daughter came home from kindergarten having been teased about her legs.

All of this definitely happens, and it’s sad and should be addressed, no doubt about it.

What left me fuming were the casual comments that followed by my classmates. These boiled down to “girls suck” and “girls are so mean” and “girls are so petty. Guys just have a punch up then move on, girls are more insidious.” I think this is over-simplifying things for one, and making light of male on male bullying.

Saying boys’ fights are somehow better than girls because they “have a punch up then get over it” is not only making violence seem like a better alternative than speaking your mind, but also downplaying the negative effects on boys who are bullied. We have a very high youth suicide rate in New Zealand, and young boys are more likely to commit suicide than girls. In America, there have been instances of teenage boys who were bullied bringing guns to school. Boys can be just as negatively affected by being bullied as girls, and yes, they can be bullied simply for being smaller than the bully or odd in some way (or for no discernable reason at all!) So to act like girls are more horrible as a gender because they laugh at a girl’s outfit, rather than punching her in the face for no reason, is just crazy to me. Bullying is bad no matter the gender and no matter how the attack plays out.

We have to remember that these behaviours don’t exist in a vacuum. Teenagers are the products of the society they grow up in and the ways in which they are socialised. A teenage boy may appear to “get over it” more quickly or not hold a grudge, because he has been taught his whole life that it isn’t manly to be upset. A girl may hold a grudge or get upset over something “small” like a comment on her outfit because she has been raised in a society that tells her being pretty is one of the most important things about you, and you have to look a certain way to fit in.

Girls may seem pettier in the way they bully each other about appearances for the same reason. We are raised in a culture that bombards us with images of perfect women. We grow up watching television shows in which women are under-represented, and those that are seen are either perfect looking or playing a character treated badly for their looks. There are tons of shows with fat or ugly male actors, often dating hot women, but rarely the other way around. Even great comedic actresses like Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson create comedy through fat jokes. It is rare to see fat or less than attractive looking people in the media treated simply as another human being without their looks being mentioned. When it is, I recommend the show to everyone (Orange is the New Black!). Girls read magazines filled with thin, white, beautiful women and tips on how to be beautiful like them. We are raised to compete with each other for male attention, while boys are more likely to compete in other ways – sporting, achievements, and income.

Negative stereotypes about women are everywhere. Girls are crazy! Girls are irrational and over-emotional! Girls talk too much and shop too much! Girls love drama! Girls are illogical! Girls see these stereotypes played out in the media, then any time a girl does something to fit these stereotypes, they use her behaviour to justify the existence of the stereotype. Gross.

All of this can potentially lead teenage girls to want to either distance themselves from other women, or to passively accept the stereotypes as true and own it.

Those who distance themselves from other women are unintentionally being sexist against their own gender. That’s really sad! Girls who say things like, “I prefer hanging with guys because it is less drama”. Or “I’m not like other girls” is a common sight amongst teens on the net. Boys are just great and women are awful, amirite? Lucky I’m a special snowflake who is one of the guys and not one of them! See Lois Griffin in Family Guy, when she rolls her eyes and says, “Ugh, this is why I don’t befriend other women.”

Probably more harmful behaviour is when teenage girls just accept that being “crazy” or “bitchy” is the norm for women, and so it’s totally acceptable for them to be mean to others. They may post things online like: “Yeah I’m a bitch, get over it!” or share the Marilyn Monroe Quote: “if you can’t handle me at my worst you don’t deserve me at my best”, as if that justifies bad behaviour. They might also try and impress boys or break stereotypes by acting “random” or “weird”. I know when I was thirteen some of my friends and I went through a stage of wearing jester hats and/or pyjamas out in public. We thought it was silly, and fun, and wanted people to know we didn’t care what they thought, when really I think we liked the idea of being thought of as odd. This behaviour is looked on with scorn by haters of teenage girls. Why can’t teenage girls just be our definition of normal and act in a perfectly regular way at all times and draw no attention to themselves ever and be quiet and unseen? /sarcasm.

Of course, some teen girls are lucky enough not to be affected by the media’s obsession with looks and the negative stereotypes about women. They don’t feel any need for much validation from others, care more about their own achievements than what they look like, and don’t feel the need to scrutinise other women’s actions and appearances. Contrary to what society will have you believe, this is more common than you think.

My experience in an all girls’ school wasn’t sitting around all day bitching about other women, pretending to be friends with people then talking shit about them as soon as they walked away, and talking about clothes, shoes, and boys. Yes, this happened some of the time, just like men gossip some of the time (I work in a police station bar and overhear many a chat!) But for the most part, my friend circle was a smart bunch who loved to joke around. We had a lot of laughs together, serious chats together, and played games at lunch time like four square. We organised treasure hunts and Secret Santas and adventures. We talked about our school subjects. We joined groups like the student council, the choir, or sports teams. We were supportive of each other in hard times, and most of us are still friends (or at least friendly) to this day. Were there ever any problems? Of course, but that’s life. Not everybody stays happy and content in one friend group forever.

Many of my high school friends have grown up into great, friendly, fun, people who have graduated university and / or are doing cool things with their lives. This wouldn’t be possible if all our teachers had simply written us off as silly, stupid, bitches.

Women need great role models to teach them that they are worth more than their looks, that they can achieve anything they want if they work hard for it, and that they shouldn’t listen to the negative stereotypes or play into them. They need people teaching them how to treat each other with respect and kindness and to stick together in a world that is, frankly, hostile towards them. They need someone to teach them that their personal lives and choices are their own damn business and nobody else’s and to keep any judgemental thoughts in their heads. They need someone to encourage them and inspire them, rather than look down on them.

Teaching girls is something I can’t wait to do because I care about women and their futures, and so it makes me sad when good teachers turn their nose up at all girls’ schools or teenage girls in general. Overall I had a great experience at an all girls’ school, and hope myself and others like me can give a similar experience to teenage girls today.

I want that chubby Communist girl off my show!

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I am overweight.

There, I said it.

My BMI says it. And before you say that a BMI isn’t an accurate measure because it doesn’t take into account muscle weight… I’m almost entirely sure most of my body weight is fat because I am in no way muscular and can’t even remember the last time I exercised.

I have a gut on me that sticks out over the top of my jeans… which are a size 14 by the way. I wear almost exclusively dresses (some size 10, mostly size 12), in particular ones that are fitted in the chest and flow out with no clinging. For a t-shirt to be big enough not to cling to my stomach it ends up way too big everywhere else, so I don’t wear t-shirts. I think I’m pretty good at dressing for my shape.

I’m overweight and it’s my own fault, nobody else’s. I’m lazy. I like food. I have a sweet tooth. I snack when I’m bored. I eat chocolate when I’m feeling down.

I know all this about myself and that’s okay.

The thing is, I’m at kind of an in-between weight. I don’t think someone trying to describe me to someone else would say “Anna’s fat.” They might say chubby or curvy or mention my boobs, but fat? Surely not. I still get hit on in bars by guys I find attractive so that must mean something right? Nobody thinks I’m fat right? But the sad thing is, when I think about this possibility, I really hope nobody would describe me as fat.

But why?

When I was in a musical recently, I was doing pretty well. Lots of great compliments on my voice from other cast members, the director, musical director and vocal coach. I put my all into it and felt confident doing it.

Then talk came of the next musical coming up – Hairspray! And lo and behold I get a bunch of people in the show telling me I’d be great for the lead. Tracy Turnblad. The Fat Girl.

I was upset.

It should have been a compliment, having people think I have the vocal talent to sing all Tracy’s songs and dance all her dances. Tracy is a kickass character in a high energy musical with a lot of really cool songs. She doesn’t let her body size get in the way of going after her dreams and she’s always happy, bubbly, and doesn’t judge others. I should be proud to play her.

But whenever anybody told me I just had to audition for Tracy all I heard was “You’re fat. You are fat enough to play the part of the fat girl in the fat musical.” It especially stung because not a single person said “Obviously you’d need to wear a fat suit.” Or “You’d be great as Tracy if they padded your costumes”.

All it made me think was “Wow. All these people think I’m fat. Time to lose some weight!”

Who knows if this is true, but who cares? What exactly is so terrifying about being considered fat?

A lot of it is the word fat. Sure you can call me curvy, voluptuous, and even chubby – but fat? No way. Society has told us all our lives that fat is bad and shitty people have treated fat people badly. A Tui billboard read “I’ll take the fat chick – yeah right!” Even though not everyone has this mind-set, it’s still prevalent enough to make some fat people, especially women, feel self-hatred and desperately want to change. I know I’ve thought a few times “My life will be better when I lose some weight.” Why am I thinking that when I have an awesome life as it is? I won’t go into the whole “media ideals of beauty are unrealistic and unfair” rant because you’ve heard it all before…

But if you think about it, you’ve probably all met one fat person who is unpleasant. They’re grumpy all the time, they seem miserable; they assume if you’re being nice to them you have ill-intent. They assume that if they’re being hit on it’s for a dare. They’re angry when their thinner friends get hit on, and yet respond coldly if someone approaches them. They’ve let being overweight change their demeanour. Years of snide remarks and being picked on has left them assuming the worst in everyone and hating their body. This makes me pretty sad. And it’s all because of fat-shamers. The ones who point and laugh. The ones who make jokes. The ones who act repulsed if a fat person talks to them because they’re desperate to let that person, and everyone else around, know that fat people don’t have a chance in hell with them and they’re offended by the idea that anyone would think so.

So a message for the fat-shamers out there: What does someone else’s weight have to do with you? It isn’t your body; you don’t get a say.

Yes, there are health issues associated with being overweight but frankly, that has nothing to do with anyone else. Somebody’s weight is nobody’s business but their own and their doctors. Yet some people act like it’s a personal insult to themselves to see a fat person. How dare they be there, looking like that, right in front of me! How gross! How dare they wear something tight fitting, showing off how disgustingly fat they are! How dare they eat a burger rather than a salad! Why don’t they go for a walk? Fat people are all lazy and unhealthy!

The truth is fat people are fat for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it’s health (even mental health), sometimes it’s a lack of motivation but sometimes, maybe sometimes they just don’t give a shit what you think and don’t feel like their body is here for anyone else’s benefit and viewing pleasure. Sometimes maybe they enjoy life more just chilling out eating whatever they want, whenever they want. Maybe they’re exercising and eating all the right foods and still aren’t losing weight. Maybe they like their body when it’s got more meat on it. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

My body is mine. It’s just what I live in. Fat doesn’t define me. It’s simply my body type right now. It’s a lot of people’s body type right now. Fat or thin, I’m still the same person with the same interests, intellect, sense of humour etc.

Yet I don’t like going to the beach because, God forbid, someone might see my chubs. What the hell is that even about? Why does it matter what anyone else thinks? It is literally just enjoying the sunshine, hanging out and going for a swim – you can do that no matter what size you are… so why is it such a stigma for fat people? Why do people worry that they will be made fun of?

Sometimes people’s reactions to other people’s bodies can be depressing though. When I used to go out to clubs with my friends, we would almost always get hit on in order of our clothing size. The thinner friends get talked to first. The bigger girls get ignored. At first this annoyed the plus sized ones. We’d sit around saying “We’re much nicer than her! We’re just as fun as her! It’s not fair that guys automatically go for her over us!”

But you know what, while I don’t think it’s necessarily fair that people might rather get to know a mean person who is thin than a nice person who is fat, I also think it’s not fair to be annoyed at someone for who they happen to be attracted to.

I’ve heard formerly fat people complain that people don’t hit on them when they’re overweight, but do once they’ve lost weight. I think if it’s the same person then yes, they should know better than to be so obvious as to shun the fat-you then hit on you when you’ve lost weight. That’s rude.

But I also feel like we all need to stop blaming other people for who they happen to be attracted to which they can’t help!

Yes, if someone blatantly ignores you when seated next to you at a dinner, or talks to all your friends and ignores you – that is definitely rude. Just because you’re not attracted to someone doesn’t mean it’s okay to exclude them. But I don’t think it’s fair to be annoyed at people for not hitting on you or wanting to date you.

Yes, in an ideal world everyone would look past appearances and get to know your personality and then date you no matter what you look like – and there will be many amazing people who will do just that. But there will also be a lot of people who aren’t attracted to you; perhaps they don’t find fat people attractive. Perhaps they do, but not as much as thinner girls. They can’t help that. I know I personally am attracted to skinny white guys almost exclusively. I would never ignore someone or not bother to get to know them just because I’m not attracted to them, but I also know it’s unlikely I’m going to end up kissing them if there is no spark, no attraction.

I just think we need to be realistic. It sucks that skinnier people get hit on more, but people can’t help that they happen to be more physically / sexually attracted to some body types than others. You could be missing out on someone very nice, but you could also be missing out on a judgmental, image-obsessed asshole who literally hates fat people and won’t even get to know them as a friend. PS: a certain male I was seeing once said he doesn’t like fat people. Seeing that pretty much all of my relatives on both sides of the family are overweight and all awesome, intelligent, hilarious people… this pissed me off. How can you just write someone off because of their weight? How does what their body look like negate all the wonderful things they have to offer? Shit’s sad. Good luck to the woman he marries if she ever becomes overweight! But I’m rambling…

So now the hard part: I know that when I am no longer overweight, more people will likely be attracted to me. Do I go for those people? Do I say “fuck it”, stay the weight I am and hope I find someone who digs it, or do I lose weight to increase the amount of people who will be attracted to me? Losing weight for the benefit of anyone but me isn’t cool… but being single (pretty much) for five years is getting old too. Dilemma!

If you want to only go for people who are attracted to you at any weight – that’s cool, you’ll probably end up with an amazing person. But there are probably just as many amazing people out there who you’re missing out on by being mad at them for not being attracted to fat people.

I think what it comes down to is whether or not you are happy with yourself. I don’t hate my body but there are parts I’d like to change. I’d like to be fitter. I’d like to wear t-shirts and slimmer fitting dresses. I’d like to see my arms in photos and not wish they were hidden. None of these things make me unhappy and none of them make me dislike myself or lose confidence – they’re just minor inconveniences in an otherwise awesome life. Perhaps that’s because I’m in the in-between weight, or perhaps that’s because I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I genuinely don’t care what other people think of me that I feel this way, but either way, there really are only positives to getting healthy, so it’s time to do it!

What I’d like to see is a world where fat is nothing but an adjective used to describe a body type. Where people can say they’re fat without it being a bad thing.

What do you do when a friend who is fat, says they’re fat? It’s just a fact. Yet it’s so hard to find the right words to say. “Yes. Yes you are fat. You’re fat and you’re awesome.” Not “BUT you’re awesome.” That’s what I’d like to say, but we’ve been taught our whole lives that fat is a bad thing. If a friend says they’re fat, the instant response is to say “No you’re not! You’re not fat!” But all that does is reinforce the idea that fat is bad. They know they’re fat, you know they’re fat, yet somehow acknowledging it is like saying there’s something really bad and wrong with them like they’re contagious. Like we have to pretend everyone is skinny. That’s just silly kids.

So to all the fat-shamers out there, just let this sink in: Sometimes people are fat. This does not change who they are as a person. This does not mean they should have to cover up to appease you. If they want to wear short shorts and get their tits (or man-tits) out, all the power to them. This does not necessarily mean they are lazy and even if they are – laziness doesn’t negate all the good qualities they have to bring to the table! You don’t have to be attracted to all people, that is your right, but you do have to be respectful of others no matter what their size. Fat-shaming is bad. It’s mean. It’s useless. Calling someone fat won’t make them say “Woah am I? Shit, you’re right, guess I better go on a diet.” No, it’ll just make them hate you and maybe even hate themselves.

Summer’s coming. Fat bottom girls, it’s yours to enjoy just as much as anyone else!

Why we should ask a Woman her age on her Birthday

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Last night we were celebrating someone’s birthday at my show rehearsal and I asked her how old she was. She said, “You never ask a woman over thirty her age!” I jokingly replied, “I didn’t realise you were over thirty!” (It’s true, she has lovely skin and looks younger than she is) but then I added on a serious note, “Why does it matter? Age is just a number.”

I don’t blame her for saying it; she’s probably heard it plenty of times herself. Sometimes we pass on these old adages without even thinking about what effect they have and how detrimental they really are.

When it’s considered offensive to ask a woman’s age on her birthday we are perpetuating the idea that only youth is beautiful, youth is valuable, and the older we get the less we have to offer the world. If this is true, how bleak the future must seem for women everywhere. It makes it seem as though aging is abnormal and so must be hidden behind makeup, anti-wrinkle creams and perhaps cosmetic surgery or Botox… although only if you’re a woman. Society doesn’t tell men to be ashamed of their age or to try and hide it nearly as often as it does for women (although the shaming of age is definitely there for men too – see all the anti-hair-loss ads they’re faced with). Men are more often seen as becoming more “distinguished” with age. They’re less likely to dye their hair or use anti-wrinkle creams because they aren’t raised to believe that aging is a bad thing and that the older we get the more we should be worried.

We as women need to turn around this way of thinking ourselves and not be sucked in by the media’s youth obsession. We should look at the lines on a woman’s face like roadmaps showing the many paths a woman has been down to get her where she is today, not as something to erase. As you get older your body changes, your skin changes, your hair changes, and this happens to every single person in the world and always has done, so why are we fighting it?

Women are “finding themselves” at later and later ages and doing amazing things. Mothers whose children have moved out of home are going back to study or travelling the world. Women who have worked in one field for years are packing up and trying something new. As technology develops, older women are embracing it and using it to get their thoughts and ideas heard. There is so much to see and do and experience and age is no longer a hindrance, in fact, it can be freeing.

I was wrong to say that age is just a number; it’s much more than that. It is proof we’ve lived, had a ton of experiences, and survived and will continue to do so in an ever-changing world.

Don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed about your age because you aren’t worth any less because of it. If we can all take clichés like “don’t ask a woman her age” out of our vocabularies the future will be a better place for women. Let’s be kind to one another.

Why I Don’t Hate Kim Kardashian

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There is a lot of hate for Kim Kardashian and her family. Even Jon Hamm, star of the wonderful show Mad Men, said, “Whether it’s Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated. Being a fucking idiot is a valuable commodity in this culture because you’re rewarded significantly.”

I think what he was getting at is a dislike for the reality TV genre and how you can get rich and famous without really doing anything or knowing anything. A lot of people hate what they see as pointless: Why would anyone want to watch a bunch of rich people with nice cars and fancy clothes going around travelling, partying, and dating other rich good looking people? But the fact of the matter is people do want to see this. It seems like there always has been, and always will be a fascination with those who are “living the dream”. Those select few beautiful, wealthy people who have enough money to do whatever they want. Look at how crazy people went over the royal wedding.  It’s why there are so many shows like Gossip Girl and the OC… the Kardashians are a real life version. People love to fantasise about what they’d buy and where they’d go if they won lotto, and here are people who won both the genetic lottery and were born into wealth, with cameras following them around so everyone gets a chance to see what it is like to live a life they themselves will likely never be a part of. It’s a life of privilege, where an entire family get to be models and have advertising deals when if they’d tried to do it alone from a more “normal” family they probably would have been another of the many failed attempts.

Then there are those who say that Kim is “only famous because of a sex tape”. People make private sex tapes all the time and it’s their own personal decision that we have no right to judge them for. Whether Kim’s tape’s release was intentional or not is up to speculation, but if Kim is telling the truth about it being leaked (and taking someone to court over it kind of implies this) then shouldn’t we feel sorry for her? She was taken advantage of by someone she trusts and had one of her most private moments put out there for the entire world to see.

Critics decry that you can be stupid and still be successful. But I don’t think Kim Kardashian is stupid. Sure she’s not an intellectual, but she turned a bad thing into a huge money making venture. While the “work” she does would not be considered work to the rest of us, she still has to be on her game constantly to keep the money rolling in. She has to put a ridiculous amount of effort into her appearance as that is what sells. She has to give up all privacy. She can’t ever be “normal” again. She has to be the butt of every “stupid” joke and called a slut all the time. Just because her life isn’t necessarily what you’d choose for yourself, doesn’t mean she should be hated. Not everyone is interested in what you are. She happens to be interested in fashion, beauty and modelling. A lot of people are and an equal amount of people judge them for it. Why can’t we just accept that people like different things to us, and let people do what they want? What’s so bad about liking these things anyway? It just ties in to the idea that women should be “naturally” beautiful and not have to work for it. Yet another standard thrown upon us.

I get the feeling a lot of people who judge Kim Kardashian haven’t actually watched the show. As someone who has, I know not to read too much into it or take it too seriously. It’s not meant to be insightful. I’m not meant to learn anything. It’s designed to be mindless entertainment. I like it because it makes me laugh. The sisters (particularly Khloe) have a really inappropriate sense of humour and make a lot of sexual innuendo jokes which I like. Despite appearance they aren’t too prissy and like to beat each other up and drag each other across the room while dogs chase them. They have sibling quarrels and seem like they have a pretty normal family dynamic underneath the wealth – they remind me of my own family at times. They’re also pretty introspective. In one episode Kim and Khloe were looking at old photos of themselves and reminiscing of the days when they had privacy and “didn’t try so hard. We try way too hard now.” At least they aren’t in denial about it!

As for Kim herself, although she seems a bit high maintenance at times (she’s an extreme neat freak and often overreacts to things like losing a favourite earring or being near a spider) she has never come across as anything other than nice on the show. She doesn’t make scathing comments about others, she isn’t rude to people, and when strangers verbally attack her in public she doesn’t fight back except to ask why they are attacking her when she has done nothing to them.

As for the 72 day wedding, of course people can find that ridiculous. Most of the people we know are in a relationship for years before marrying and it tends to last longer than that. When we see someone married for so short a time it seems crazy and we assume it’s a publicity stunt. Whether it is or not, what Kim does is her decision, not anyone else’s and she cannot be expected to please everyone in the world. That’s the problem with being in the public eye, people expect things of you, hold you up high, and hate you when you fall. I guess what I’m saying is – it’s not your life, so you can’t make any assumptions or expectations on how she should live it.

I guess what I’m getting at is that it seems silly to waste any time or energy “hating” Kim Kardashian, when she as a person isn’t abhorrent. Instead hate that the world has come to a point where the lucky few like Kim can make a lot of money out of showing their lives to the world, and that there are so many people willing to watch this. She’s simply filling a position that people wanted filled and is a product of the society she grew up in. Is now an appropriate time to say “don’t hate the player; hate the game”?

http://khloekardashian.celebuzz.com/wall-street-journal-interview-06-2012

Why should a 70 year old pay for a young woman to be a slut?

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If you haven’t heard about Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut, I suggest you Google it. Basically there was a hearing in Georgetown, USA about government funding for oral contraceptive pills in which a student named Sandra Fluke was denied speaking (making it an all-male panel talking about women’s contraceptives) but was later allowed to have her say. Republican radio host Rush Limbaugh then said, “What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex”

Obviously this is ridiculous. It is not just young women who use contraceptives. People in relationships go on the pill. Married couples use them. People go on the pill to help with a whole range of medical issues that aren’t related to birth control. Limbaugh faced a lot of backlash for it, and many of his advertisers pulled their ads and stopped supporting him.

I was pretty disgusted when all of this happened, and didn’t think anything remotely similar would happen in New Zealand, but then along comes Colin Craig, leader of the Conservative party.

When Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced free long-term contraception would be offered to women on benefits as part of a $287.5 million Budget package for the Government’s welfare reforms, naturally this sparked a bit of controversy.

A lot of people were on the news saying they weren’t happy they were going to be forced to take birth control and how it was horrible to try and stop people on the benefit from reproducing…This made me yell at the television in frustration: “It’s not mandatory! You don’t have to accept the contraceptives! If you don’t want them don’t take them!” I personally think it’s great that the option is there for them if they want it – it’s an extra cost off their back and they don’t have to worry about having kids they can’t yet afford. And if you do decide to have kids on the benefit (why would you, though?) or are against birth control for other reasons, such as health or religion, then sweet, don’t accept it, no big deal. My only issue is that it is only available to beneficiaries. Sure, they are the most in need of financial aid, but if birth control was also covered for all low-income earners (or even better, everyone!) that would be even better.

Anyway, back to Colin Craig (or Limbaugh 2.0 as I think of him). In the wake of this, here is what he had to say about it on Radio NZ: “Until we get back to the principles of personal responsibility and paying our own way, we will not stop the encroachment and continuing cost of a welfare state which we simply cannot afford even now. Why should, say, a 70-year-old who’s had one partner all their life be paying for a young woman to sleep around?”

To which I say why should a 20-year old woman pay for a 70-year-old’s pension? We’re all in this together, and we have to help each other out. If we don’t want young women having babies they can’t afford who won’t have a good life, then we need to spend money on educating them about safe sex and providing them with cheap contraceptives.

However it was his other comment that pissed me off: “We are faced with a reality that the constant changing of partners is a decision young women are making. It’s a destructive decision on a lot of levels.”

Why does he only mention women?! If young New Zealand women are having a lot of sexual partners… then who must those partners be? Men. Yet there is no mention of the slutty men, only the women and once again, no mention of contraceptives being used for health purposes outside birth control. It’s a double standard pure and simple. Besides, the amount of partners a young woman has is irrelevant because she will use the same amount of birth control as a married woman.

Here’s to hoping we aren’t going to end up like America.

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