12 November 2013

The messages we send: thoughts on the Roastbusters and rape culture

The last week or so in New Zealand has been hard. The revelations of the West Auckland "Roastbusters" gang; the apparent inability of the police to bring these boys to justice; and the light it has shed on rape culture and victim blaming; has shocked us all. As a sexual abuse victim myself (not at the more severe end of the spectrum, but devastating nonetheless), and as a mother of a teenage boy and a teenage girl (both of whom it transpires attended the same high school as some of the gang members*), I have been angry, and sad, and scared. And I have spent a lot of time thinking about the messages we have been sending our kids - both boys and girls.

Like many parents of girls I have taught my daughter the requisite lessons in keeping herself safe from sexual abuse. They started when she was a small child with "Stranger Danger", safe touching, and speaking out; lessons also taught to my boy. When she became a teen the lessons were about things like how not to get her drink spiked, and not getting so drunk that somebody could rape her. I have also had discussions with my son about respecting women and about the mixed messages sent by pornography; and hopefully he lives in an environment where respect for each other is role modeled.

As many people have so rightly pointed out we shouldn't have to teach our girls how not to get raped, because we should be teaching our boys NOT to rape.

But in the aftermath of Roastbusters I find myself wondering whether it's more than that. Whether, in our eagerness to teach our girls how not to get raped, we have inadvertently done them, and our boys, a disservice. Could it be that despite our undoubtedly good intentions, in our eagerness to teach our girls that it is their responsibility, we have reinforced victim blaming and this seemingly pervasive mindset that "boys will be boys".

Take for example the young girls, friends of the Roastbusters boys, who spoke out in their defence:

"They are good guys," said one. "They can make really dumb decisions but they are being teenagers.

"People know that they are Roast Busters and they go hang out with them and do stuff [... ] but they're not rapists, they're cool dudes." 

What are we to take from this? It seems as though these girls really believe the Roastbusters did nothing wrong, that perhaps the victims should have known better? Are we really saying that if girls have been taught all the sexual abuse avoidance lessons and yet still find themselves a victim, well on their heads be it because those boys "... are being teenagers"?

This cannot, should not, ever be the case. These boys have the ability to think for themselves, to make decisions, to make moral and ethical judgements. How is it that they are making decisions to do something so abhorrent; something which has such a devastating and lifelong effect on another person, so much so that it is believed at least one of their victims has since attempted suicide?

What are we teaching our boys?

I do not have answers. I do have hope. Hope that in the aftermath of this terrible event there will be more discussion, more openness, and more teaching. Hope that we can change rape culture. Hope that my kids will grow into adulthood in an environment where we respect each other equally.

So please, teach your kids. Boys and girls. Teach them respect for each other and for themselves. Teach them morals. Teach them not just by telling, but by doing. Be the change you want to see. Let's just make this world a better damn place. Please?

* This is the clarification of the boys' attendance at Green Bay High School, from a press release by the Principal Morag Hutchinson:

"None of the people identified as perpetrators by the media still attend this school. One attended for 1 year as a Year 9 student in 2009. Another enrolled in November 2010 and was in Year 11 during 2011. He left May 2012. Another person not yet identified in the media coverage but linked with those above, attended from Year 9 to Year 11, 2009 – 2011."

11 April 2011

ABC of Me

I saw this over at Today is my Birthday and thought it seemed like a fun idea because it combines two of my favourite things: lists and alphabetising stuff:

A. Age: *cough*39*cough*.

B. Bed size: King. I'd like to pretend this is because six foot tall Eccentric English Boyfriend takes up a lot of room, but actually it's because I thrash around so much in my sleep you'd think I was in a World Wrestling Championship. Only without the ridiculous costumes. Unless pink puppy pyjamas count as a ridiculous costume.

C. Chores you dislike: Choooooooooores? Nah, you've lost me.

D. Dogs: This is my dog:

Dogs are awesome.

E. Essential start to your day: Coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee. And more sleep.

F. Favourite colour: Purple.

G. Gold or silver: Either, but if I had to choose probably gold. In ingot form.

H. Height: Five foot tall. Although five foot doesn't really count as tall.

I. Instruments you play(ed): I was awesome on the recorder. I also attempted the cello at high school when participation in the school orchestra was compulsory. Ear plugs should also have been compulsory.

J. Job title: Full-time mum? Homemaker? Domestic Goddess? All of which probably means I should do more of "C".

K. Kids: Yes. 15 Year Old Daughter and 11 Year Old Son. Maybe I should get them to do "C".

L. Live: By "Live" do you mean:
(a) where do I live;
(b) am I alive;
(c) is this blog post going out live or pre-recorded;
(d) do I like the 1990s rock band Live.
Please be more specific, you've made extra work for me. But because I like you I'll answer them all:
(a) West Auckland, New Zealand;
(b) yep, I had one of those tests done where they glue electrode thingamees to your head and monitor your brainwaves. I have brainwaves. I am not a zombie. 11 Year Old Son is disappointed by this.
(c) it's going out live right now. No ad breaks or anything. Please feel free to record and play back later.
(d) ugh. Wank Rock. Hate them.

M. Mum’s name: I have two mums, Colleen and Susan.

N. Nicknames: ManikPixi - normally shortened to Pixi.

O. Overnight hospital stays: Yes, after my two caesarians and also when 15 Year Old Daughter broke her elbow when she was three. She fell off the couch onto a toy. Toys are dangerous.

P. Pet peeves: Oh I have so many:
The noises people make when they eat;
people who stop their trollies in the middle of the supermarket aisle;
the way nobody ever puts stuff back in the right place in the fridge (I have a system, people, a system);
the way people are always un-alphabetising my herbs and spices (a system, people, a system)...
I think we should stop now. You're already thinking I'm a nutjob.

Q. Quote from a movie: I've drawn a blank. I really want to come up with some favourite movie witticism but my head is empty. Except for the shoes. And the unicorns.

R. Righty or lefty: Lefty. Potato peelers are the bane of my life.

S. Siblings: A half-sister, two foster-brothers and a foster-sister.

T. Time you wake up: I try not to.

U: Underwear: Oh love pretty lingerie. Not that you'd know it by the number of black cotton M&S briefs in my underwear drawer.

V. Vegetables you don’t like: Broccoli. Did you know it's a flower? No flower should ever taste that bad.

W. What makes you run late: Sleeping in.

X. X-Rays you’ve had: Lots. I am accident prone. And a hypochondriac.

Y. Yummy food you make: I make an awesome hummus. 15 Year Old Daughter says my Pumpkin Soup is her favourite food. 15 Year Old Daughter is my favourite daughter.

Z. Zoo animal favourites: Otters! And Tarantulas.

I'm probably supposed to tag other bloggers to do this. Just go ahead and do it if you feel so inspired, and don't forget to send me a link!

01 March 2011

In which I defend John Campbell

So, John Campbell has landed himself in a bit of hot water over his interview last night with Ken Ring. Let me start by saying that I there are two things I should be upfront about because I am, in all honesty, biased. First, John Campbell is my favourite current affairs personality. In fact he's my favourite New Zealand celebrity full-stop (it would be safe to say, and Eccentric English Boyfriend would agree, that I have a bit of a schoolgirl crush on him). Second, I have no time at all for Ken Ring - I don't even want to waste space here talking about him. There are some excellent sites out there debunking his theories - a very good post over on SciBlogs does just that.

Rather than going over last night's interview in great detail, I'd like to ask you to stop for a moment and give some thought to this:

Over the last few months John Campbell (and indeed many other members of New Zealand's media) have seen and reported first hand the terrible things that both nature and humanity are capable of. He was there after the first Christchurch earthquake interviewing shaken residents; he was on the West Coast talking to the grieving families, police and Pike River employees who were hoping against hope that they could bring their 29 miners out from the collapsed mine; he spoke to the heartbroken widow of a murdered man while her now fatherless son played around his feet; and this last week he's been back on the ground in Christchurch interviewing the shell-shocked, the grieving, the rescuers and the authorities. All the while he's been calm, he's been compassionate and he has very obviously cared. And bless him, he's even managed to be funny (favourite quote from this last week, in reference to a newly-arrived Australian USAR team: "bloody Aussies, sometimes they just make you smile actually.")

It is in his compassion that I think John Campbell's great strength lies. It's what helps the people he interviews  to open up to him and it's what draws us as viewers in. But it also has me wondering how on earth, at the end of a day when he's been faced with so much tragedy and grief, so much evidence of how truly horrible life can sometimes be, he can still carry on and not just give up in despair.

So at a time when we are all of us heartbroken for Christchurch, is it any wonder that when faced with a snake oil salesman whose "stick in a pin in the calendar, colour in the days either side of it and call it a prediction" schtick is needlessly frightening already-scared and very vulnerable Christchurch residents, John let his anger boil over and his journalistic standards slide?

Sure we hold our celebrities to high standards and we quite rightly ask our media to be impartial. As a general rule I would say we are justified in this. But they are human and under such trying circumstances can we really blame them for just occasionally letting that humanity show?

08 August 2010

In which I feel a bit sorry for myself

Looking back through my ManikPixi posts, I see that the last time I wrote anything for this blog was back in May last year - well over a year ago now. I started my other blog, Pretty Clever, that April and found myself a niche in blogging about, well, pretty things. My readership grew, I scored a couple of guest posts on other blogs and even got sent free stuff to review, and I started to feel that in some small way I was fulfilling my only life-long dream: to write. (Well, that and to be a laser gun-wielding, alien butt-kicking agent for a super secret government department responsible for kicking alien butt. I'm nothing if not imaginative.)

Life was looking pretty good - The Eccentric English Boyfriend and I had moved in together, my kids were growing up gorgeous, my ex-husband and I had a good (if occasionally awkward) friendship and the severe depression and anxiety disorder which I'd battled daily most of my adult life, and particularly since my separation, was mostly under control (even though an aborted attempt to lower my daily dosage of drugs reminded me that it was still there). Things really were looking the best they'd looked for a very long time.

Then one day in December last year my toes went tingly. A relatively innocuous thing at the time - I'd been wearing (very pretty) high heels quite a lot in the previous few days and put it down to the after-effects of the burning ball-of-foot pain that anyone who wears high heels will be familiar with. But then on a Wednesday morning - the day before we were due to fly down to Dunedin for my foster-brother's wedding - I was washing my, erm, delicate bits in the shower and realised that they were numb. Not good. Not good at all.

Scary thoughts pushed themselves into my head, and I pushed them back out again and flew to Dunedin with EEB and the kids.  I threw myself into preparing for the wedding, giving manicures to family members and enjoying being back in the arms of my foster family. And all the time the numbness and tingling spread. Upwards from my toes and downwards from my butt, eventually meeting at my knees, I began to have difficulty placing my feet properly when I walked and had the disturbing sensation that I constantly needed to poop when in reality I couldn't. Not that I had no need to, I just literally couldn't.

The wedding was lovely - utterly utterly lovely. The whole weekend was. But in downtime back at our motel unit I was searching the internet, listing my symptoms and reading the list of possible illnesses and all the time in the back of my mind a voice was saying "I have Multiple Sclerosis". Which of course came up in the search results, but I was determined that would not be the answer. Determined that the disease which had killed two women of my extended acquaintance at a relatively young age* was not what I had.

We returned to Auckland on the Sunday evening, and Monday I saw my GP who looked puzzled, scheduled an appointment with a Neurologist for that Wednesday and told me that if my symptoms worsened before then I was to go straight to A&E. By that night I was terrified - I'd tried as hard as I possibly could for several days to not think too much about it but I could no longer avoid it. I knew there was something wrong with me, so that night I got EEB to take me to A&E where the lovely young doctor (who later told me she'd rushed me through as an urgent case because she was worried that my symptoms indicated a fast growing tumour on my brain or spine) had the MRI machine fired up in the middle of the night. It takes an hour for it to warm up, did you know? I spent an hour and a half lying in that tiny plastic tube having my brain and spine scanned and feeling very, very glad that claustrophobia wasn't amongst my list of mental health issues!

I'd sent EEB home to bed earlier - before I found out they were going to MRI me - having been told by a nurse that I was likely to be there overnight and nothing much would happen until the next morning. So I was alone when the doctor returned with my diagnosis - two lesions on my brain and a lesion on my spine indicative of Multiple Sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis.

The one thing I'd wanted so desperately for it not to be.

She was lovely, the pretty young doctor. She knew she was delivering devastating news, and I felt her empathy. When I told her of my acquaintances, who'd died when they were not much older than I am now, she told me of her friend who was living a healthy and happy life despite her MS, explained that my experience of it wasn't the way it always happened and that medication was improving all the time. And she did help, bless her.

I was given a huge dose of steroid tablets to take, with a few more days' worth to take home with me - the research shows that short, high doses of steroids (rather than longer term lower doses) are most effective in treatment of MS episodes - told I could go home, and to keep my Wednesday appointment with the Neurologist. EEB was slightly irritated to be woken by my phone call in the middle of the night - not at me but at the nurse who had told him I'd be in overnight - and I think I sounded normal on the phone until I said "I've got a diagnosis". "What?" he asked. "Multiple Sclerosis" I said, and burst into tears. There was silence, what seemed like quite a long silence, and then he said - very simply "Oh crap".

By the time he came to pick me up I was a mess, eyes red-rimmed from sobbing. The guy in the cubicle next to me - who was in some serious pain trying to pass a kidney stone - had quietened his moans after hearing the doctor talking to me. Let's face it, nothing is a secret when flimsy hospital curtains are the only barrier between beds. So I guess he'd had to listen to me crying.

Back at home I curled into EEB's arms in bed and sobbed myself to sleep - overcome by grief and fear and only just beginning to grasp what this diagnosis meant.

The appointment with the Neurologist was at its best unhelpful and at its worst distressing. He was offhand with me and made vague noises about how it was most probably MS but I might never have another episode. I came away feeling somehow guilty that I'd made such a big deal about it. Later I read that it's not uncommon for newly diagnosed sufferers to receive this advice from a Neurologist - that there's a school of thought that says it's more helpful and reassuring to the sufferer to think in this manner. Which is of course utter bullshit. The MS patient who convinces themselves they'll never have another episode is only going to be more devastated when the next episode happens. Sure there's a lot to be said for optimism, but not at the expense of medical reality.

After seeing the Neurologist I almost didn't contact the local Multiple Sclerosis Society. I thought that maybe if he was right and I never had another episode I'd be wasting their time. But then I remembered the sight of those three lesions on my MRI - those three white blobs that had no right to be where they were - and I thought of the daily reality I was facing with difficulty walking and constant overwhelming fatigue, and I knew that whatever platitudes he had used I was facing something huge and I needed support right then and there. And so I rang them, and they were wonderful. They sent around the Field Worker for my area who brought me books and pamphlets about MS and sat and chatted and played with the dogs and let me know that there was so much support available. She rings me regularly to check in, and always asks after the dogs.

She also put me in touch with the MS Nurses who work in tandem with the Neurologist and are lovely - supportive and caring and not at all offhand.

The episode passed after about a month and a half. I regained feeling in all the bits where I should have feeling, the fatigue gradually passed and with the exception of some occasional blurry vision problems which have stayed on I started to get my life back.

Except it's a different life now isn't it? Because every day, in everything I do, that thought is in my head: "I have Multiple Sclerosis". I try to keep positive, to live every day to its fullest potential and to not dwell too much on what might happen, and mostly I succeed but that thought and the fear that accompanies it never really goes away. And with it my depression and anxiety returns more often, probably understandably. So I'm less motivated, and finding less joy in the world. I've been finding it hard to get the inspiration to blog over at Pretty Clever - not that I don't want to I just can't summon the creative energy to do it.

So where to from here? Well the old adage "hey I could walk out in front of a bus tomorrow" may be facetious but it is actually true. As is "well it could be worse". Yeah, it could. It could be much, much worse. Still sucks though. But, I have a passion for life that can't be kept down. Won't be kept down. I'll just keep on keeping on. And hopefully find my blogging motivation again. Maybe even start posting here more often - who knows. It's eight months since my diagnosis, and in the last couple of days I've been having some odd little symptoms which I may totally be imagining, or may actually be the onset of another episode. Time will tell, but that's obviously why it's on my mind even more right now, and what prompted this post. It can be really scary thinking about what this often invisible disease, with its wide range of possible symptoms ranging from irritating to incapacitating, could have in store for me next.

But life doesn't just have MS in store for me. My life contains an Eccentric English Boyfriend, two gorgeous children and excessively affectionate pets. And that's just in our house - I step outside our door and there's a a big wide world out there full of cool stuff. So whatever happens from here on out I should just enjoy the cool stuff.

* The lovely MS Society Field Worker who facilitates my newly diagnosed group is quick to point out that MS doesn't, as a rule, kill its sufferers - they die from complications related to MS. They become bed-ridden and develop pneumonia, and unable to move around and clear their lungs they succumb to it. Mostly that's reassuring, except if they hadn't had MS they wouldn't have developed pneumonia, would they?

25 May 2009

This little piggy grilled your meats

Although it's no longer barbeque weather here in New Zealand the EEB and I are thinking about buying a new barbeque in preparation for the day when the house is in a suitable state (ie renovated) to entertain. Up until now I've been leaving window shopping to the EEB, barbeques have never particularly excited me. In fact, I view barbeques in the same way I view cars - as some sort of manhood extension. My motto: the bigger the car/barbeque, the smaller the .... wallet.

But then, I saw this:

That, my dears, is the Lil' Pig grill. Check out her udders! I would presume it's not available here in New Zealand, but if it was I would totally be getting me some of that piggy action! Available from Traeger Wood Pellet Grills. The web site doesn't list the price, which presumably means it's one expensive little piggy!

21 May 2009

Proof I'll never win the Mother of the Year award

10 Year Old Boy is exceptionally mischievous, and loves to wind me up. He knows that a surefire way to do this is to answer every sentence of mine with "why?". He can go on like this for hours, bless him. I finally trumped him the other day though. I don't remember what the conversation was about, but it went on for some time, me saying something, him saying "why", me trying not to pop, until it culminated with this:

10YOB: "why?"
Me: "well then you were born"
10YOB: "why?"
Me: "because your father and I had sex"
10YOB: *blush* ... *squeak* ... *run away*

I've never seen him leave the kitchen so fast!

16 May 2009

Play teh cute!

I'm such a sucker for lolcats. And loldogs for that matter. I mean, cute animals, amusing captions, a way to spend hours avoiding the housework - what's not to love! And now they've gone and introduced another way for me to spend hours avoiding the stuff I'm actually supposed to be doing. In fact, two ways.

Now there are two Nom Nom Nom games. Simple, time-wasting, addictive - pull the cat's (or dog's tail), eat the noms and beat my score* - go on!

* It won't be that hard to beat my score. In fact it will be so easy to beat my score I haven't even bothered publishing it, because it was teh suck! But feel free to tell me yours, so I know just how much better you are than me!

09 April 2009

What I've been doing

It's been a few weeks since my last proper post, so here's a quick recap of what's been happening. I have:
  • Been a bridesmaid in purple, and discovered that my Jurlique Citrus Silk Finishing Powder (bought cheap at Gold Coast Duty Free last year) is worth it's weight in gold for keeping my oily skin shine free during an outdoor wedding on a hot and very humid Auckland day.
  • Survived 13 Year Old Girl's first day at high school, which was more exciting than it should have been when a passing crim attempted to snatch a parent's bag, and the welcoming powhiri was drowned out by the noise of the police helicopter circling overhead searching for the would-be purse snatcher.
  • Had a delightful (and all too brief) visit from EEB's mum and step-father (the Eccentric English In-Laws).
  • Laughed far harder than is possibly polite at the Eccentric English In-Laws' attempts to pronounce Maori words.
  • Introduced the Eccentric English In-Laws to my wonderful Foster Parents on a trip to my home town of Dunedin, and realised that I am a short person surrounded by tall people.
  • Had a delightful dinner with the Foster Parents and the Eccentric English In-Laws at Speights Ale House in Dunedin, where the lamb was lovely.
  • And discovered Speights Pale Ale, a light, crisp brew which has replaced Corona as my beer of choice.
  • Rediscovered the breathtaking majesty that is Central Otago.
  • Dined for the second time at The Bunker in Queenstown, and had it reconfirmed as my favourite restaurant ever.
  • Promised the Eccentric English In-Laws that next year we will visit them - hooray for a trip to England with a stop-over in Hong Kong. 10 Year Old Boy was a little underwhelmed by the possibility, until he realised that because we're going for three weeks he'll get an extra week off school after the school holidays. Now he's positively brimming with excitement!
  • Had a prowler in our street who scared the living daylights out of our neighbours. When I went out to investigate the presence of police cars in the street the policewoman held up a pair of knickers and asked if they were mine - I had to to tell her that none of my knickers are that, well, delicate! Turns out they were stolen off the washing line of a lady a couple of houses round, the next time I saw her I complimented her on her taste in underwear. She only has one child, she may as well wear delicate frillies while she can!
Oh AND, joy of joy of joys, the Eccentric English In-Laws brought over my Christmas present and you will never guess what they got me. Go on, guess ...

Ok, here's a clue. And it's just as awesome on my wrist as it looks in the picture.

06 April 2009

Because one is never enough

The thing to do when you have a blog which you update sporadically is, obviously, to start a second blog. Which you will then update sporadically. So of course that's precisely what I've done ... Ladies and Gentlemen (well, just ladies actually because it's a blog about makeup and clothes and shoes), may I present to you my new blog, Pretty Clever.

21 January 2009

Bully to you

I was humming Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to myself this morning (somewhat out of season I know but bear with me) when a thought occurred to me that I've had a few times before: the lyrics to that carol really annoy me. Think about it, Rudolph was picked on by the other reindeer because he was different, and it was only when he performed an heroic feat that he was elevated in their eyes and they stopped bullying him. Now don't get me wrong, this is not some diatribe about the writers and purveyors of this message, which also turns up in many teen angst-ridden dramas on screen and in print. They're only writing what's already there. How many of us, on the receiving end of bullying, have fantasised about being revealed as the lead singer of a famous rock band, or an ass-kicking laser gun-wielding secret agent for a secret government agency fighting alien invasions (ok so those two particular fantasies are mine) thereby earning the respect and adulation of their former bullies?

I was bullied throughout my school years, and the truth is if I had had the chutzpah to be a rock singer or secret government agent then I wouldn't have been bullied in the first place, because bullies have an innate ability to read people and they can spot the ones like me whose body language and glances say "I have no self esteem, please just ignore me".

There was one particular girl at high school who bullied me mercilessly, both with words and occasionally more physical methods, followed by a gaggle of her friends all eager to join in the fun. I was incredibly lucky that I had a wonderful best friend who stood up for me, and formed herself and the rest of our group into an honour guard of sorts around me whenever they saw her coming across the school field. A trip to the school counsellors office in tears eventually put a stop to her bullying (what methods he used to convince her to cease I don't know, I just know my relief was immeasurable). A couple of years later, after she had left school, I ran into her one day when I was out with my father - she was the checkout operator on our till at the supermarket. My heart sank when I saw her, but she astounded me by apologising, in front of my father, for the way she had treated me. I don't remember my answer (I do remember the interrogation from my father afterwards, I'd never told him about the situation), but to this day I have the utmost respect for that girl. It took some guts to say that, in the presence of my father and the other customers, and it just goes to show that just as victims don't always have to be victims, so too can bullies change their ways - and it doesn't take an heroic act to bring it about.