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.
Powerful words in the right context.
I am lucky enough to have just begun a research career and am experiencing the wonderful stage of ‘flow’, what psychologists term a feeling of “energised focus, full enjoyment and focus on a particular activity”. It is not that I have never had this feeling before, but this is probably the first time I have experienced it in a work context.
This is probably why Piers J. Sellers explanation of his decision to keep researching after receiving a stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis reasonated so strongly with me. (You can read his story Here)
To love what you do is an incredible privilege and nothing reveals that the passion more, than making the decision to continue your life endeavour when you know that your days are numbered.
Would I do the same? It is a question I have posed to myself since reading Sellers’ article. Probably, is the conclusion I have come up with. That realisation has offered me an unmeasurable amount of comfort that I have found my path. “What if this was it?” is now a question I can face, knowing I am no longer searching. To have that is the greatest privilege of all.