Monthly Archives: April 2011

Underwear

I work out in my underwear because it makes me feel sexy. A sports bra and briefs make me feel like those be-hot-pantsed fitness instructors with cut lines from here to there. I don’t have cut lines anywhere but that doesn’t matter. I can see my muscles tensing and contracting, shifting and moving under my skin (and adipose tissue) to make the movements I do.

I feel like super woman when I see that. I have muscles and they do things! A fact I knew intellectually before I started working out at home in my underwear but now I can see it happening for real I see all the little movements it takes just to do a press up or a squat ( I also work out in front of a mirror) and I can revel in the miracle of all the little forces coming together to make it so that I am able to do these things.

In the gym I could feel my muscles moving but I couldn’t see them and so it did not impact upon me in the same visceral way.  I did not have that punch to the gut realisation that I have a body and it is good. That my DOES things many things which I do not actively control.  As a result I am more grateful for it than I ever have been.

NGO funding again

Over time I am becoming more and more frustrated and disgusted when it comes to the funding of NGO’s. Funders seem to have no clue what it takes to actually provide services or achieve outcomes. I strongly believe that it this is in large part due to the lack of value care work has to contemporary society because it has in the past always been done for free by women.

NGO work is in a lot of ways on a macro societal level what a home maker does on a micro individual/familial level. Trying to make sure that everyone one is cared for, that they have clothes and food and are as healthy as they can be, that they get a reasonable education, They they stay out of trouble and away from things that could harm them.

These tasks in contemporary society both on the micro and macro levels have often been considered of little value because they are not related to income generation or economic development.

The only way our capitalist system can fucntion is if there is someone to do this care work. With the advent of the dual income family there has been the rise of cheap domestic labour travelling across borders.  With the advent of governments being unable to provide baisic services to their needy citizens NGO’s have stepped in to fill the gap.

However just because this work is now being paid for does not mean it is valued any more than in the past. In the vast majority of countries domestic work does not count as ‘real’ work and is not covered by labour laws leaving (the almost all female) domestic workers open to exploitation. NGO’s have to fight tooth and nail to get money for actual staff, even programme staff and finding money for support staff is a joke. There is an expectation that these things can just happen without people being paid even a fraction of what they are worth.

This way of thinking is deeply embedded and needs to change, some work is considered important and some is not and it has very little to what you actually in real terms contribute to the world. I challenge you to think about how you view the people in your life that do domestic work, I challenge you to think about all the mundane things that make it possible for you to live the life you do.

SHARK!

I had most of last week off work due to the Thai new year so my partner and I decided to head to the southern islands to soak up some rays while we had the opportunity.

While there I took my fat belly ( I don’t really have a fat ass) snorkeling (in a lovely blue polka dot bikini I might add) I was having a great old time bobbing along with the fishies.  It was very peaceful being in the incredibly beautiful clear blue water seeing all manner of wildlife. Until I saw a shark. For real, an honest to good shark. I’m pretty sure after posting siting googling that what I saw was a grey reef shark and although it is a bit hard to judge size in the water it was roughly around 1.5 meters long.

My reaction went something like this”Oh look a shark!! That is so cool! It is a decent size too! I must tell my partner! So I swam over to my partner to tell him and somehow my excitement turned into blind panic.  I got out “OH MY GOD I JUST SAW A SHARK” and then the panicky breathing started and I had to swim (calmly but I didn’t stop) back to shore.

I knew intellectually that this shark was too small to see me as a meal but that didn’t stop a highly irrational emotional response from kicking in. There is so much emotional conditioning around sharks that just hit me like a punch in the gut.

The fear response was very primal and it made me think more about other forms of social conditioning and the emotions we attach to things.   It really hit home for me that we can internalise things even when we don’t think we are. For example Shark = FEAR, Fat = Disgust, Women = Lesser. All these things seem ridiculous but it is so hard to keep what we really think and feel straight with all the other messages sent to us and so sometimes your emotions default to the shortcut, what we have been told is true even though we know it is not.

I know the next time I see a shark (I really hope there will be a next time sharks are really cool) I will be able to resist that fear much more easily because I have experienced it once and I feel that each day I spend resisting those other proscribed feelings and associations really does make it easier and easier. I’m not sure if I will ever kick the conditioning for good but I will do my damnedest to try!

Sucker Punch The Movie – A Reading

I found this movie really interesting to me. Of course there were some deeply problematic elements (there almost always are in mainstream pop culture) but there was also a lot that spoke to me. This post is going to have a lot of spoilers so don’t read if you haven’t seen it yet and you care about that kind of thing.

I suppose because of my particular experiences and perceptions I read this film very differently from many other people who seem to think it is purely  a male masturbatory fantasy.

The story goes like ths: A young woman known only as babydoll is framed for the murder of her younger sister by her step father who after their mother’s death becomes enraged as she has left all of her money to the two girls. As a result Babydoll is committed to a mental institution. From here in order to cope with the realities of life in the institution Babydoll descends into her mind where the institution becomes a girly bar and brothel and further from there when she dances to please the men she goes deeper into her mind and creates vivid mental pictures of fighting villains with swords and guns in order to complete missions. These missions are linked to retrieving the objects she and her friends require to escape from the asylum.

What I saw that was deeper about this movie than a mere sexy chicks and guns gore fest was this.

The film presents a world that is ruled by men. Even when women are in charge they are not actually, they have some power but they still have to play by the rules which are created by men. This is seen by the character of Dr./Madame Doskey who is meant to be the real authority at the mental asylum but is subverted by the orderly Blue and who is in charge of the girls in the brothel but is ruled over by the pimp Blue. She is an authority figure but her authority is never absolute, she is always either not being taken fully seriously or ignored when what she is doing does not suit the men around her.

At the same time however the movie indicates that subverting male authority is difficult but possible. This is seen when the ‘girls’ (babydoll and the other patients and the asylum) band together in order to find the things they need to to get out. This to me spoke of using the tools of the world order to subvert them – Babydoll would do her sexy dancing to distract men while other stole or copied the items they needed.

At the end of the movie it is made clear that a group of orderlies have been sexually abusing the patients of the asylum and it is likely that this is where Babydoll’s inner fantasy of the brothel comes from – she sees the asylum as a place where men can use women for their pleasure and they do. This speaks to the disturbingly high rates of sexual abuse in institionalised women because society does not value them and their voices are not heard, something I feel is a running theme throughout the movie.

This is not to say that prostitution is always victimisation, just that the particular juxtaposition of the two environments in the film leads to this particular contextual reading.

What I like most about the movie I think is the idea that men are both in the position of opressors but can also be allies. Throughout babydoll’s battles there is an older man present. He reminded me of the Charlie character in  Charlies angels – telling the beautiful young women who’s butt they were meant to kick. I definitely found this off putting. However at the end of the movie his ‘real life’ role turns out to be the bus driver who drives the bus that leaves from the station near the asylum and he helps the one patient that makes it out to get back to her home town.

Of course there are plenty of elements to this movie that were not necessarily pro woman at all, but I did think there was a lot more there than many other people. Perhaps I am reading too much into it but I found it interesting nonetheless.

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