It was with shock that I opened my local newspaper this week to find an advertisement for the “NO” campaign by one of the local churches. Priding myself on my open mindeness to different views, I quickly shut down my internal opposition to what was written, on the basis that a well functioning liberal democracy and society requires the expression of different views, no matter how much we find them distasteful or difficult.
However, I heard a woman speak on the radio yesterday which made me revisit this view. She was the mother of a daughter in a single sex relationship and the grandmother to her daughter’s child. She described the pain that her and her family have experienced, as long standing members of her local parish which is supporting the NO campaign. The anguish she felt seeped through her words, as she recounted how she had sat through sermon after sermon supporting the NO campaign. Members of her parish, her community and friends, suffocating her and her daughter with their silence. She then spoke of how finally it all became too much leading her to finally decide to bring the matter up to discuss with her pastor.
What this example brought home so poignantly to me was the heart breaking human cost of the exercise that Australia has just been through with the postal survey. It was exactly what the single sex community feared and what indigenous Australia has always been concerned about in regards to proposals for a referendum on constitutional change. Such processes change the nature of discussions from abstract considerations of values and personal beliefs, morality, ethics and social norms to concrete judgments about how people live. Instead different beliefs about these issues become outwardly expressed through harmful actions against persons whose lives fall into the subject being debated. Asking people in this way to decide how others should live will always be fraught with this danger.
It is one thing to determine these questions in the abstract, and for oneselves and how one wishes to conduct ones own life. This is a right protected by the free democracy in which we live. It is another to expressly seek to condemn and judge others for how they live, affecting innocent people, including children who all experience the rejection of the society into which they were born. This is the type of behaviour we should fight against.
Unfortunately, this campaign, has as such things are want to do, brought out the worst of the religious world and exposed the underlying themes of judgment and intolerance which is often kept behind closed doors. No matter what the argument, a view that not only does not support attempts to lessen human suffering but actually lacks the awareness of its role in causing more suffering, will never be one that I can be a part of. As people feared, we have seen the ugly side of this campaign. Lets hope that as a community we can redeem ourselves to those affected.
Cassie Lane, former girlfriend of (I don’t really know who he is but apparently he is an important football star, who he is doesn’t really matter so just insert “Important Male Star” in here) has released a memoir detailing the reality of being the girlfriend of a football star in Australia. Nothing really that surprising in the article about the book, the usual “life as an object” in the spotlight revelations.
However, this doesn’t mean it isn’t an important story which needs to be told, and told, and told. For it doesn’t just relate to WAGs of sporting heroes. Essentially, pick any male ego-centric industry, add wife or girl friend and the tales will be similar. Women generally don’t know what they are getting into because they believe the fairytale (yes, that’s right – fairytales are not good for you!!). Furthermore, they don’t understand that men who are in some industries will generally not be able to resist the lure of the ego dominated spotlight and as a result, will not be able to resist feeding that ego with the usual stereotypical fare of alcohol, drugs and sex.
However, the problems raised by this behavior do not only relate to the women. The men in this scenario are also victims. Victims of a culture which encourages them to act in this way and refuses to make them take responsibility for their behaviour on the old “boys will be boys” refrain. Toxic masculinity is the term used to describe these social norms and both men and women are suffering at the hands of it.
Cassie Lane is telling a familiar story with a warning, one which all young girls dazzled by the spotlight should heed. However this story also contains a warning for men, men who are losing their lives because they too could not resist the pull of toxic male traditions which normalize self destructive behaviors.
There is not much which is good about waking up on Good Friday without your children. However, one unexpected benefit of this pain has been without a doubt my increased empathy for people who go through extreme suffering in their lives.
Not only am I reminded daily of my privilege as a white, educated woman living in a peaceful country with benefits, but in my experience of a common human suffering, my mind and heart often turns to those who have experienced sufferings far worse than I can ever imagine.
When at times I feel my losses deeply and painfully, I cannot help but think of the families who have been torn apart by war, starvation or the brutalities of an unjust world which has, by an unfortunate roll of the dice of life fallen upon them to endure.
The pain this invokes is more brutal than I ever imagined, not simply because of my own daily pain, but rather because I now feel more connected to the pain of others. There is a part of me that can no longer hide behind my fortunate existence. Although I had awareness before and a strong sense of social justice, this concern was I have to admit, largely on the intellectual side.
It is the touching of this experience that we fail so often to truly teach or communicate. This is why stories are the most powerful method of linking us with this part of human experience, forging an empathy, care and concern for our fellow humans. For it is often not until we experience ourselves the brutality of the fall of the dice, that our gaze then turns to others.
On this day, I recognise the absolute and unwavering love and support I have received from all the women in my life who have pulled me through.
This is a day for remembering all those women in the world who need our protection, advocacy and support. But also, for remembering that behind it all, there is a mother, sister, and friend who will hold you when you fall. It is to these women that I think of today. You caught me when I fell. Thank you.
You caught me when I fell,
with your words of support,
and whispers of shared tales which
connect, to the pain that I felt.
You caught me when I fell,
with your gentle pauses,
your knowing gaze and steady presence.
You gave me space to be,
as time came to pass.
You caught me as I fell,
you wrapped around me,
like a nest to contain my sorrow.
You taught me that life has more to give,
when we are stripped to the bone.
You caught me when I fell.