I’m Back!

Well. Hi there.

I know what you’re thinking. Who does this extemporaneous wench think she is?

You come to my blog, you subscribe, I post a few times, and then it’s like you’re involuntarily playing a game of “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” Except I’M Carmen San Diego. And I’ve gone M.I.A on my very own blog. Who does that?

And now, here I am, perched on your immaculate floral sofa in the front room of your blogosphere, like a washed-up, soggy old lover, begging for forgiveness. Holy falafel balls, do I owe you some freshly baked raspberry muffins. Please, take some freshly baked raspberry muffins! Quick! Before I emotionally scoff them, on account of all my embarrassed blogging feels and all.

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But here’s the thing. I’m not ignoring you. I’m not a dodgy Tinder date avoiding your calls after you’ve been waiting at the bar for the past fifty minutes and have already drunk about ten espresso martinis. I’m not. Promise. There’s a reason why I have only posted a handful of times in the past year.

There’s something I need to tell you, you gorgeous blossoms. We might not know each other tremendously well, what with me only posting about as many times as Kim Kardashian’s been married (Too soon? Too late? Too topical? Discuss). Still, we’re a family here at Don’t Tell Mama, and a family shares their feelings, even when they’re not particularly awe-inspiring or fantabulous, and especially when they’re ones you’d rather hastily stuff to the back of your closet, like last season’s crop top micro trend.

So here goes.

I was diagnosed with anxiety this time last year. Talking about it makes most people uncomfortable, because it’s enormously personal information to absorb. I’d imagine telling someone you have anxiety evokes a similar atmosphere to when a weird uncle has just overly TMI-ed something gross about his sex life at a family luncheon. Only, it’s your mental health, so people can’t exclaim and cover their ears or scoff or giggle or change the topic to Tony Abbott eating a raw onion. They’re usually uncomfortable – because, well, it’s not an easy topic to approach- and you can sense that awkwardness immediately. Most people listen in serious silence, and then they spout a supportive pleasantry or concernedly pat a shoulder. You know they care, but you always wonder what goes through their mind afterwards. “Do they think I’m crazy?” “Do they think I’m just being dramatic?” “Do they think I’m going to go full on Charlie Sheen and end up in rehab?” I don’t worry that you dazzling peaches will think any of those dangin’ things for a split second, nor will you jump to any outlandish conclusions by me revealing my mental health battles. Still, having anxiety is magnificently difficult to admit to, so it’s usually easier to pretend you’re fine – to your friends, to your family, to your blog, and above all, to yourself. So I’ve been quiet.

When I’m anxious, I can’t write. This is the cruellest twist of all, because times like those are when I need it most. The joy I get from putting pen to paper is unrivalled by basically anything else in my life (okay, with the exception of Nutella Swirl ice cream, that shit is unbeatable). But once anxiety fastens its icy grip, that precious creative muscle of mine spasms, convulses, writhes in the pain of being alive. Unsurprisingly, immersed in the depths of panic, I am thoroughly uninspired to ramble about my admiration for Angela Merkel, or John Travolta’s antics at the Oscars, or that flared pants are back. And for that, little old Don’t Tell Mama has suffered.

The good news is, I’m getting better, and feeling more and more ready to write. About current affairs, about Girls Season 4, even about my anxiety (in fact, I plan to post an article about that super soon, once my uber-perfectionist tendencies allow me to). Fact is, lots of exciting things happen in my life. I just spent three glorious weeks in Sri Lanka with two of my very best girlfriends, climbing mountains, spotting elephants, swimming in seas, and buying every coconut roti in sight. I am obsessed with a bucketload of new music, the news is more important than ever, and hey, it’s Easter Sunday today and I have scoffed more chocolate eggs than I thought humanly possible.

For those of you who are still here, perched on a delicate picnic chair, Pimms in hand, ready to read my next post- I love you a thousand M&M’s. Thanks for sticking around. I’ll do your dishwashing duties for a month, and make your bed, and take your dog for a walk whenever you like. I promise it won’t be years until you hear my dulcet tones once more. As my family and friends would attest, you can’t shut this gal up for long.

PS- Do you like my new layout? Faaaaancy.

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Sochi 2014

It’s time. Dust off that mink coat, retrieve your finest Russian vodka, and switch on ye olde telly box, because the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have officially begun.

If you’re anything like me, Russian geography isn’t exactly your speciality, so allow me to enlighten you of the Olympics’ whereabouts. Sochi is a city in the Krasnodar Krai territory just north of Georgia, along the border of the Black Sea directly opposite Turkey. This city, which boasts a population of 400,000, is apparently so far removed from the icy throes of winter it is affectionately labelled the “Russian Riviera”, or the Florida of Russia. Famously remembered as the location of Stalin’s summer home, some news sources have even gone so far as to call Sochi “subtropical” and “balmy”. Temperatures rarely drop below 8 degrees Celsius, and at press time, there was no snow to be seen other than in the 500 faux snow guns specially imported from Finland. Yes, a seaside town seems a questionable choice for a Winter Olympics in an otherwise arctic Russia, particularly if it means Speedo’s could be involved.

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Still, who are we to judge? No doubt these Games will be spectacular, if its total expenditure of US$50 billion is anything to go by. President Putin is footing the bill of one of the costliest Olympics of all time, with brand spanking new infrastructure including the Fisht stadium,  rumoured at 14 times over its initial budget, and some highly fascinating double toilets. For the next ten days, we will watch as 6,000 athletes from 85 countries compete in 89 events and, according to CNN, consume 265,000 litres of Russian borscht in their Olympic Village. More importantly, we will see some outrageous uniforms that may make you simultaneously snort and cry (Norway, anyone?), and even the return of another Jamaican bobsled team, “Cool Runnings” style. We’ve already witnessed the Olympic torch being shot into space and completing a space walk, so no doubt future Games antics will be, well, out of this world.

Still, not everything about this Winter Olympics is as pure as the driven snow (oh yes, pun definitely intended). Russia’s recently adopted, draconian legislation banning gay “propaganda” to minors has been internationally criticized, with the global spotlight now shining on Russia’s LGBTQI community. With politically motivated social conservatism at a momentous high, things are unbelievably tough for gay and lesbian people in Russia right now. There are widespread calls for the criminalization of homosexuality, only encouraged by public figures, such as TV anchor Dmitriy Kiselyov, and growing anti-gay violence in city centres. As a result, it seems calls for boycotting the Winter Games have quite literally snowballed. 27 Nobel laureates have signed a letter demanding a repeal of the laws essentially denying homosexuality. A 200,000 signature strong petition headed by Amnesty International has condemned Putin’s new legislation ahead of the Games. Even the International Olympic Committee asked its Russian organizers last week to respect press freedom and freedom of speech during the event, when it comes to athletes speaking out about the controversial legislation.

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When coupled with the country’s already controversial political situation, threats of terrorism, and the 150th anniversary of the Circassian genocide, Putin may have hit a bit of an iceberg. Barack Obama, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and David Cameron, to name a few, have announced they will not be attending the Games as spectators, citing the Kremlin’s anti-gay legislation as highly contrary to the Olympic spirit (China’s leader Xi Jinping will be attending, however- his third trip to Russia in just 12 months). While the United States is not withdrawing their team, Obama has made a statement of sending openly gay LGBTQI sportsmen along to Sochi. “If Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, then that would probably make their team weaker,” he said in August.

None of this seems to be an issue, of course, because Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov has told the BBC in an interview that aside from foreign tourists, there are no homosexuals in his city (and don’t we all believe that?). Luckily, then, it appears no one will have the urge to protest at Sochi. But if they were to, surely any one of the 37,000 security officers deployed for the Winter Olympics could step in and, er, break the ice. Literally.

Thankfully, Russia’s horrific treatment of their gay and lesbian community hasn’t deterred too many athletes from going for gold. “I want to be proud of who I am and be proud of all the work I’ve done to get into the Olympics,” openly gay Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff revealed in a recent interview.  And she’s not too pleased with President Putin. “After I compete, I’m willing to rip on his ass,” she has said.

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This is the first time Russia has held a Winter Olympics, and it seems the event is already sending chills down some international spines. So, the expected global television audience of 3 billion waits with bated (foggy) breath for news of the shenanigans in the snowy city by the sea.

PS- The Russian Police seem a lot less terrifying in their choir’s rendition of Get Lucky. Just sayin’.

Neknomania.

I’m sorry, do we know each other? Uh, this is awkward. Let me reintroduce myself. Bonjour, I’m Phoebe, an absolute dorkface who has not partied it up in the blogosphere since a very mortifying August 2013.

I know what you’re thinking. Did aliens abduct me? Did I finally manoeuvre that life transplant with Beyonce? Did I fall into a newly discovered, Carrie Diaries-induced television coma? No, no, and … no comment. Deplorable excuses aside, I’m baaaack. I’m going to take you to the blogging candy shop. I’m going to let you lick my blogging lollipop (what? Okay, this metaphor needs to stop). Today’s temperature here in Melbourne is a blistering, brain-melting 44 degrees and it seems all my body can manage is to eat its weight in Frosty Fruits and type sweet lil nothings into the Internet’s ear.

Naturally, there have been a billion and two topics to discuss since August 2013: the treatment of asylum seekers, boycotting the Sochi Winter Olympics, our brand spanking new PM, that disturbing fad of pairing Nikes with jeans to name a mere few. Most recently, Lena Dunham’s hipster baby Girls Season 3 was birthed to the world, and while I journo-gasm at the thought of a lengthy discussion about Hannah Horvath’s nudity, the last thing the Internet needs is another opinion on Girls. But what I have noticed as being the flavour of the month is neknomination,. Or, as I should write, #NEKNOM (#badass #yolo #haiboyz #etc).

The highly academic and trustable Urban Dictionary defines neknomination as

“a grand tradition, with origins dating back to Mesopotamian time, in which a neknominator has the honor (after posting a video of themselves sculling/chugging whatever alcoholic beverage the have available to them) of calling out or “#neknominating” in conjunction with a Facebook tag two others to sculling/chugging an alcoholic beverage. Scholars say the first of the modern era neknominations started with a naval officer in a submarine sinking to the bottom of the Mariana trench and with his last means of communication he had, he #neknominated Will Smith and The KFC Colonel. If you’ve got one, scull a BEER ya pussy.”

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine you will know exactly what this is referring to. If not, essentially, people are uploading a video of themselves chugging alcohol as fast as they can onto social media, then proudly tagging two other friends to do the same. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. I found this one quickly on ye olde Tube de You. It’s probably one of the most obtuse ones out there:

Yes, that person really exists. Now, I don’t like to think of myself as the kind of gal who would poop a party by hiding all the pina coladas, smashing an iPod dock pumping Jay-Z, or sitting on the birthday cake. It’s important to be pro stuff, not anti stuff. But I’m putting on the Granny pants for this one. WHY IS THIS A THING? I will fiercely defend my Generation Y co-people until the day I cark it, but this really is an insanely stupid trend that bears zero reason to even vaguely exist. Neknomination is concrete proof that Australia’s binge drinking culture is not just socially acceptable- it’s a social expectation. We can all sheepishly raise our hands and admit we’ve necked a bev or two as part of a drinking game with pals, or skolled the Kings cup one too many times, but boasting about it on social media just takes it to a whole new level where people seek validation for consuming alcohol. By “neknominating” somebody, this game suggests that drinking beer isn’t so much a way to treat or even socially lubricate yourself, it’s a way of showing that you are “man enough”. Chugging a beer no longer means skolling the rest of your glass quickly before the pub closes, or as an ultimate dare- it’s an assertion of masculinity, strength, and that highly-sought-after “cool” factor. What’s more, the process of tagging your friends to join in on this task on social media escalates peer pressure to such a humongous height that if someone resists, they’re not only shunned by their friends, but by the entire online sphere too. It’s not a harmless way to share a bev with your buds- it’s a fully-fledged competition. What did that Urban Dictionary definition say again? Oh yeah. “If you’ve got one, scull a beer ya pussy.”

It’s highly improbable that inhaling one lone beer will kill you, but when we put this game into the scale and context of Australia’s alcohol-worshipping binge drinking culture, it’s really not something that any of us should be endorsing. A couple of bevs after work followed by few hours of drinking games with the lads, then a drunken #neknom dare? That’s the kind of picture Neknomination paints for me here in Australia, not just one standard drink being consumed in lightning speed. In this way, a cheeky #neknom may easily lead to a range of seriously dangerous, drunken situations. Immediate issues of alcohol poisoning, choking on your own vomit, or even just the insanely painful hangover the next morning could make way for more concerning risks- the link between cancer and excessive alcohol consumption being just one of many. Having had to call an ambulance recently myself because a friend of mine got far too wasted and was having trouble staying conscious or communicating, I can tell you personally that getting obscenely drunk isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.

Health issues aside, what also comes to my mind with this neknomination trend is the number of unfortunate future consequences for all these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed beer chuggers. One can only imagine the kind of reactions potential employers might have when they stalk their candidate’s Facebook wall to make sure their lives are vanilla enough to be hired, only to find a year-old viralvideo of them chugging a beer alone in their undies, or while driving, or, as that seriously gross guy above was, to the applause of friends out of a toilet bowl (classy). Let’s just say the likelihood of that unhygienic lad getting that coveted position at KPMG might as well be flushed down the loo along with the Carlton they were trying to skoll.

It’s a pleasure to go out for a night on the turps in a dirty pub every once in a while, but this notion of competing with mates to neck as much alcohol as possible for the “glory” of the internet is just another byproduct of the increasingly destructive binge drinking culture we are immersed in. I’m not trying to be Senior Constable of the Fun Police here, but it doesn’t take a sip of an Asahi to see that this Neknomination trend is an embarrassment to all of us twentysomethings on this alcohol-marinated island we live on.

If that wasn’t convincing enough, how about a video of our former Prime Minister Bob Hawke doing a neknomination too? Yes. For real.

Really, Australia? REALLY?

The moment I fell in love with Tavi Gevinson.

Alright. Let me first address the titanic, bumbling elephant in this metaphorical internet room. I apologise for my lack of posting. It seems the final semester of my degree has squeezed out time like guava juice, and all that’s left of life this month is a weird pulp of freaking out, procrastinating and a few horrified gasps towards my favourite man Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus at the VMA’s. In other news, yesterday I at long last took a giant leap for mankind and upgraded to Gmail. Thus, it appears I have finally entered the 21st century. Ha, clearly my bid to make Hotmail, like Walkmans, a ‘retro’ thing failed pretty spectacularly. But, I digress! To more imperative matters now.

Last Friday, my fabulous friend Hannah and I trotted down to ye olde Athaneum theatre to see the one, the only, Miss Tavi “Style Rookie” Gevinson speak at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. I’ll spare you the details (you can pop on to The Age or any Tavi-obsessed blog for those), but let me just say this. She was phenomenal. How. HOW is this girl 17?! Does she not sleep? Has she actually body transplanted with Anna Wintour? All very legitimate questions when you consider what she has achieved. At 17, I was the freaky drama nerd who still watched Angela Anaconda and was getting over a very traumatic stage of my life, otherwise known as having a gigantic crush on Shannon Noll (No, don’t even. I can’t even discuss it). Tavi Gevinson, on the other hand, is an accomplished writer, editor and style guru. More importantly, she’s a true symbol for feminism and the mystical creature that is the teenage girl. Speaking with such maturity, intelligence and quiet confidence, Tavi is real– no doubt all Rookie readers secretly feel as though they’re her perfect best friend and/or galpal confidante. So much of what she discussed in her “Tavi’s World” speech resonated with me. But that’s not when I fell in love with Tavi Gevinson and her wonderful Rookie world. It was two months ago on the tram.

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There I was, around lunchtime, perched on a grimy side-seat next to a stinky cigarette man and utterly engrossed in Rookie Yearbook One. Although I’d forever pored over her style blog and Rookie’s articles, this was the first time I’d really taken a moment to digest what the magazine had to say. There was heartbreak, masturbation, Stevie Nicks, and unapologetic teenage angst. There was style and schoolwork and nostalgia. It was everything I could’ve hoped for. And then, there was this article. “Midnight Snacks: A Taxonomy.”

Essentially, the piece listed the eight best midnight snacks and how they should be eaten. No detail was spared; sandwich fillings, cold leftovers, potato chips, Halloween candy, ramen noodles, the works. “Bowl-less sundaes!” it exclaimed. “Put a scoop of ice cream in your mouth. Don’t eat it. Spray some whipped cream into your mouth, drizzle chocolate syrup over the whipped cream, eat the mixture, feel awesome and satisfied!” Or, “Cookies!” it read. “Chocolate chip, oatmeal, Oreos, gluten-free, they’re all wonderful!”

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At some point, I looked up. Stinky cigarette man was long gone, and I realised I was sporting this creepy little smile on my face. Yes, gone were the sickly cries of praise for goji berries, chia seeds and kale. Adieu to yogalates, fitting into a sample size and the phenomenon of “clean eating”. Here was a real live magazine, aimed at young impressionable women, actually encouraging me to lash out and feel good about it. Tavi and the Rookie crew didn’t haggle about kilojoules, they were honest and kind and real. We all indulge in a little late night snack from time to time, but unlike all other media, Rookie told me to be proud about it. “Go for that handful of cashews in the pantry!” It screamed. “Don’t do it every single evening, but your body is fine! You’re beautiful and you always will be! Head down to the fridge and treat yo’ self!”

In her speech on Friday, Tavi wisely said, “things don’t get better, but you get better.” And that’s the best advice you could give to a struggling young person. We’re all aiming for this unattainable idea of perfection that the media projects, and ruining ourselves in the process. But nobody is perfect, nor should anybody be. What I love about Rookie is that it vocalises every vulnerable emotion you’ve ever had while sad in your room in the dead of night. Things suck sometimes. We cry and feel depressed and can’t face the world. But there are good days, and there will always be good days. And Jesus Christ, whether we eat one too many Doritos should be the last of our worries. Tavi leads an incredible example, empowering women all around the world by showing that real beauty is found not in our clothing size, but in our intelligence. Okay, and in a couple of midnight snack runs.

So on that tram, for the first time in a very long while, I looked up from reading a magazine and felt gorgeous.

Boom. Cupid’s arrow shot smack bang into my heart.

Why you should boycott “Blurred Lines” on the dancefloor.

“I’m not sure you want it, perhaps I should buy you a drink and ask politely?”

 Not so long ago, Robin Thicke slimed his way onto my TV screen to lip-sync his latest single, Blurred Lines. I’d heard the catchy tune subconsciously while in the shampoo aisle of the supermarket, but this was the first time I’d really been given a chance to suss it out. Or rather, suss the women cavorting around him out. And by sussing, I mean perving on. And by cavorting, I mean gyrating saucily in undies sourced from the throw-out bin of Strippers’R’Us.

Since then, I’ve done some ye olde research into Mr. Thicke and his smashing single. Allow me to enlighten you on the general consensus: He sucks. He sucks, he sucks, he sucks. He is the peel in a hot cross bun. He is the dog poo smushed on your shoe the moment you leave the house.  He is the ginormous bulging pimple sprouted on a perfectly decent forehead the day of the school formal. Yes, much like Dorothy Mantooth, I would like to take Robin Thicke out for a drink and NEVER CALL HIM AGAIN.

Of course, Robin fiercely defends his controversial reputation. “I don’t want to be sleazy, I’m a gentleman… I don’t want to do anything inappropriate,” Robin told E! earlier this month. Because starring in a YouTube-banned video clip where powerless young women, topless and near naked, jiggle around two fully clothed men pouting, posing, making sex eyes, holding lambs, riding bikes, playing banjos, lighting cigarettes and imitating drug use is completely appropriate. Seriously, get Prince Charles and Camilla in on this and film it for The Family Channel. He’s practically Gandhi.

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I know I promised this blog wouldn’t morph into a raving soapbox, but hey, it’s my party and I’ll rant if I want to. So brace yourselves, gorgeous peaches. Herewith lie five reasons why I hate ‘Blurred Lines’.

1) According to the lyrics, apparently every woman on the planet has some intensely insatiable appetite for Robin Thicke. Just one quick Google and I immediately find this hard to believe. He looks like the kind of guy that would stand just a bit too intimately close to you on a crowded train. Like a sleazy Voldemort. Clearly Robin knows this, and therefore made the executive decision to display balloon signs in the background of his video clip that helpfully read, “Robin Thicke has a big dick”. The subtlety astounds me.

“If you can’t hear what I’m trying to say, if you can’t read from the same page, maybe I’m going deaf, maybe I’m going blind, maybe I’m out of my mind.”

So in the opening verse, #Thicke is thrusting his testosterone all around the club and dragging his apparently monstrous penis up to a lady, but shock horror: his feelings aren’t reciprocated. What’s this? A girl isn’t openly interested in his sexual advances? Well flamin’ galah, something must be wrong here, clearly in the form of blindness or insanity. Cue Robin: “How the hell is this smokin’ piece of estrogen not attracted to my humongous genitalia?”

2) It attempts to persuade us Robin genuinely respects women. Who is he trying to kid? Every single aspect of the tune is unbelievably sexist.

Ok now he was close, tried to domesticate you… but you’re an animal, baby it’s in your nature. Just let me liberate you, you don’t need no papers, that man is not your maker.”

Thank you, Robin, for that informative wave of assertions. It’s touching you believe a lady who doesn’t orgasm the moment she sees you needs “liberating”. It’s wonderful you’re a fanboy for Women’s Liberation, although that might raise a few eyebrows seeing as your idea of female freedom means a) reducing her to an “animal” and b) actively responding to sexual objectification. But you’re right, Robin. She’s clearly not a high-functioning human that can think for herself. Because she’s a babin’ lady, she’s suddenly gone all animagus on your ass and morphed into some sexy lion that spits on Suffragettes. Oh, but don’t worry, he defended this in a news article too.

Robin: “People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, “of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman.’”

Robin Thicke, everybody.

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3) ‘Blurred Lines’ completely endorses rape culture.

I’m gon’ take a good girl. I know you want it, you’re a good girl. Can’t let it get past me, you’re far from plastic, talk about getting blasted, I hate these blurred lines, I know you want it. But you’re a good girl, the way you grab me, must wanna get nasty, go ahead, get at me.”

Just so we’re clear here, these blurred lines aren’t, as Robin himself put it, “between men and women and how much we’re the same… and between a good girl and a bad girl, and even very good girls all have little bad sides to them.” There is NO WAY this song is about that. Show me a lyric where he discusses the similarities between genders! HA! I told you so. No, these blurred lines clearly refer to the inner conflict a man struggles with when a lady friend is gyrating against him and he feels he has the right to bang her even though she’s not outwardly suggesting it. Essentially, that ol’ chestnut of when a girl says ‘no’ but you’re sure she means ‘yes’.

By continuously whispering “I know you want it” in the ear of a lady, Robin isn’t exactly the poster boy for sexual consent. There is no such thing as a blurred line of approval- if you’re not sure someone wants it, that’s not unclear, that’s a definite no-go zone. Particularly if a girl is so “blasted” (read: off her face drunk or high) she cannot be responsible for her own decisions. Imagine if a guy came up to you in a bar murmuring that while your actions suggested otherwise, deep down he knew you wanted to party in his pants all night long. I would probably hide in the bathroom for the rest of the night screaming bloody murder and finding a way to escape out the tiny window above the loo. Unwanted attention,  harassment and forcing yourself on a woman is not something to play around with, nor is suggesting “taking” a submissive and unwilling “good girl”.

4) His lyrics are the laziest stinkin’ guts.

Hey, hey, hey you wanna hug me? Hey, hey, hey, what rhymes with hug me?

Erm, Shakespeare called, he wants the entire English language back.

PS- Bug me, tug me, dug me, lug me, drug me, mug me, unplug me.

5) The song openly endorses sexual violence.

One thing I ask of you, let me be the one you back that ass to, yo from Malibu to Paris, boo, yeah had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you. So hit me up when you passing through, I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two… Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you. He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that, so I just watch and wait for you to salute. But you didn’t pick, not many women can refuse this pimpin’, I’m a nice guy, but don’t get it if you get with me.

Nothing about this rap by T. I is okay. It is not okay to joke about ripping somebody’s butt in two. That’s not hot. That’s not suggestive. That’s not funny. That is glamourizing violence against women, be it sexual or otherwise. If a girl is into S&M and enjoys getting her hair pulled or butt smacked, that’s fine. Whatever floats her bedroom boat. But not without consent, which is clearly overlooked in favour of what these men assume a dirty dancer would want, or what every “good girl” must secretly desire. And by these men, I refer of course to “pimpin’” “nice” guy that isn’t actually nice “if you get with me” and collectively refers to his past girlfriends as a “bitch”.

While we’d probably all raise our hands and admit the beat of Blurred Lines is pretty easy to disco to, there is nothing sparkly about its message. Granted, there are more examples of female objectification in music than there are grains of sand in Hawaii. Still, Thicke’s latest tune displays him to be such a ginormous bonehead it seems this one takes the sexism cake, for 2013 at least. Its undertones aren’t so much misogynistic as they are horrifically creepy and, well, “rapey”, as some journalists have previously remarked. Sure, Robin admires the female body. But instead of commenting on a lady’s curves or her brains or her big blue eyes, his song calls for making an unwanted advance on the dance floor and then tearing her ass in two. Lovely. No man should ever assume a woman wants “it”, yet the idea of consent is so far from Blurred Lines it may as well have left the Milky Way and found extra-terrestrial life in another galaxy. So the thought of college boys all ‘round the globe fist pumping to this chorus while impressionable tweens reapply their red lippy with the hopes of a disco pash makes me want to stab myself in the face with a samurai sword. But hey, at least we all can sleep easy knowing Robin Thicke has a big dick.

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I rest my case.

Our Kids Need Mr & Mr Potato Head

Last week, I babysat my two-year-old nephew Matthew. Restless after a tiring day, I switched on ABC Kids to soothe him. The television show Peppa Pig blared. There was a Mummy Pig, a Daddy Pig, and Peppa’s little brother George. Matthew’s eyes were transfixed.

Next came Fairly OddParents, in which fairy godparents Cosmo, Wanda, and baby Poof, granted the wishes of godson Timmy Turner.

Somewhere between feeling like a terrible aunty for encouraging sedentary behaviour and Matthew bawling because I wouldn’t let him suck the remote, it hit me. This activity couldn’t be any more heteronormative if he was wearing a “Ladies’ Man” bib.

Why was television forcing these heterosexual relationships on my nephew? Sure, he’s only two. But who’s to say Matthew won’t grow up gay, bisexual or other? Why does Peppa Pig necessarily have a Mummy and a Daddy?

The intricacies of the LGBTQI community are undeniably too advanced for a young child’s mind, but we can’t keep pretending that same-sex relationships and diverse sexualities are non-existent in their lives. And, as much as we may not like to admit it, television plays a critical role in educating our brood.

Whenever the idea of introducing homosexual characters on children’s TV is brought up, the same repetitive arguments rear their heads. “Shouldn’t all characters be asexual?” “Kids grow up too fast!” “They’re too young to learn about that stuff!”

These points are completely inconsistent. Heterosexuality is at the crux of so many well-loved children’s tales. Where would Aladdin be without Princess Jasmine? There’s nothing wrong with showing innocent affection, so why should the depiction of homosexual relationships be any different?

For older children and teenagers, there is an increasingly diverse scope of sexualities portrayed on television. Glee, True Blood and Skins should be particularly celebrated for representing the LGBTQI community in a positive and realistic manner. But this concurrently sends a message that homosexuality is something you need to be old enough to understand. Surely this is illogical when heterosexuality is deemed appropriate from birth.

A 2010 investigation into the portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people on the BBC encouraged further representation on television, stating that over half of the UK population felt comfortable with the idea. Imaginably, figures would be similar in Australia. Still, kids’ programs shy away from representing any form of homosexuality, bisexuality or transsexuality. If they do, it is likely to be coded or hidden, perhaps as a reference for a more mature audience. This form of social invisibility is a time warp back to the mid-20th century.

There have certainly been previous examples. In 2004, Playschool aired a “Through the Windows” segment showing a young girl with two lesbian mothers. Then Prime Minister John Howard condemned the action, asserting that “…to intrude that into a children’s program is just being politically correct…this is an example of the ABC running an agenda.”

In 1999, various social critics and religious figures worldwide demanded investigation into purple Teletubby Tinky Winky for carrying a red handbag despite his male identity and supposedly symbolising gay pride. “Tinky Winky is simply a sweet, technological baby with a magic bag,” the BBC responded.

Today, many raise an eyebrow at the apparent sexual tension of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie; rumours steady that they’ll tie the knot on screen.

Personally, I adored animated program Sailor Moon as a four-year old. In the original Japanese version, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune are a lesbian couple. But in the English adaptation, they are referred to as cousins. No scenes changed, no plot lines altered, just a different choice of dubbing for English-speaking audiences. I don’t understand why this was necessary. It certainly wouldn’t have hurt me to learn that the two were in love.

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Front cover of the New Yorker, edition July 8 & 15 depicting Bert and Ernie watching the Supreme Court’s landmark DOMA ruling. Slowly restoring my faith in humanity.

 There are so many benefits to introducing a homosexual character into children’s television shows. For one, it would help familiarise young audiences with the concept of same-sex parenting and alternative sexualities, as well as validating older children who may be beginning to identify with a particular sexual orientation.

Moreover, increased representation would encourage tolerance and acceptance from an early age. This would hopefully shape a generation that rejects homophobia and is more mindful of peoples’ differences. Surely the more often Matthew sees same-sex parents and interacts with the LGBTQI community, the more he will consider them normal and okay.

I would be mortified if Matthew never learned about homosexuality and publicly demanded, “Why are those two men holding hands?” In today’s society, that social faux pas is just no longer acceptable.

There’s such a significant proportion of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the community our kids are growing up in. Children are thriving in happy same-sex families, or have gay uncles, aunts, cousins, babysitters or teachers.

Our most important task is to educate young children about the world, and television assists in teaching life lessons. So the last thing I want is for my nephew to grow up ignorant- particularly when it comes to the LGBTQI community.

Most crucially, a 2013 American Academy of Paediatrics study asserted that while same-sex parenting is in no way harmful to a child’s wellbeing, a lack of social support and representation in their community can result in feelings of intense isolation. As GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios commented, “as more and more loving and committed gay and lesbian couples begin families, it’s important that their children seen representations of their families on their favourite shows.”

Non-traditional home lives are increasingly familiar on kids’ screens. For example, the ABC airs Grandpa In My Pocket, where little Jason embarks on adventures with his guardian, Grandpa. Surely introducing a show depicting a child and their same-sex parents is the next step.

Children’s TV shows should never be overtly sexualised, but I just don’t see the harm in integrating a few same-sex parents and relationships here and there. So, are we ready for Mr and Mr Potato Head or a lesbian OddParent?  For sure, we are.

If you have objections, well, just change the channel. But as long as I have a say in my nephew’s education, he won’t be learning that a family with Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig is the only option.

The New Winter Coat: Beards in Melbourne

Originally written for a journalism class, but thought I’d share it with you beautiful peaches.

Move over Don Draper, there’s a new man in town. He’s rugged and raw, unfussed and unshaven, wearing only an op-shopped woolly and the scent of pure testosterone. Keep your cologne at home and give your lotions a demotion. Welcome, gentlemen, to the age of the retrosexual.

Ladies, take a deep breath. It seems facial fluff is no longer reserved for Movember. Beards are latching on to Melburnian men at an epidemical rate, and they’re here to stay. Be it a 5 o’clock shadow, overgrown stubble or a solid chin-hedge, the contemporary beard resembles more of an out-of-work Johnny Depp than a Santa-style face rug. From Burwood to Hollywood, males worldwide are embracing the razor-free lifestyle.

Could this be an instinctive response to insulate the modern man’s jaw in these blustery months? Not so, says Ben Elgar-White, 22, criminology student and self-confessed beard enthusiast. It’s all about the aesthetic.

‘It started in year 12 when I was able to grow a ‘real beard’. Friends were jealous and encouraged me to grow it out into something fun. I get plenty of compliments, which makes me hesitant to shave it. Then again, maybe I just keep it because I like feeling in control of my face, and how I keep my beard likely has an impact on how people see me.’

What about his girlfriend? ‘Jess isn’t a fan,’ he admits. ‘She’s never complained about how it looks, but has protested against whiskers up her nose when kissing and pash rash.’

She’s not alone. A recent New Zealand study published in Behavioural Ecology in January last year found that women not only found beards unattractive, but also believe that they make men seem older and more aggressive. On the other hand, it was concluded that having a beard created a greater level of respect between males by signalling signs of masculinity, with both sexes agreeing that a beard symbolised higher social status.  Conversely, Northumbria University psychologist and researcher, Dr Nicholas Neave, found light stubble was the most popular amongst women. He theorized that ‘it was almost as if women preferred a man who could grow a beard but hadn’t.’

It may come as surprise then that Adelaide band The Beards’ hit ‘You Should Consider Having Sex With A Bearded Man’ was voted by Australians as #99 on Triple J’s coveted ‘Hottest 100’ countdown in January 2012. ‘Perhaps there are women- or men- who hadn’t considered bearded men as a viable sexual option who are now saying “You know, perhaps I should have sex with someone with a beard,”’ band frontman Johann Beardraven mused in a 2011 LiveGuide interview. ‘It’s for the bearded man on the street corner asking for change, we’re saying, “Maybe give him a go.” ’

Such a mentality can only encourage this hairy phenomenon- according to award-winning Professor Steve Jones’ Y: The Descent of Man, a man’s beard grows fastest when he anticipates sexual activity.

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If not just for morphing into an instant chick magnet, this sudden surge of follicle freedom could be a sign of the times. A 2011 Travelodge study published in the UK’s Telegraph found that the average adult’s toiletries bag was worth a staggering $251.55, with men spending approximately 81 minutes on their personal grooming regime each day (that’s 6 more minutes than women). The global financial crisis, economic slump and rising costs of living can be seen as a factor in provoking regular blokes to reject expensive creams and time-consuming styling in favour of sprouting something cheap, fancy-free and low maintenance.

Fashion blogger Hannah Borg, 20, also connects this popular trend to ‘indie’ culture and society’s new appreciation of eccentricity. ‘It’s quite a hipster aesthetic, particularly popular amongst independent artists,’ she commented. ‘Beards create a sense of style and bring an edge of cool and maturity to a guy. They ooze confidence yet mystery… sort of re-claiming the Y-chromosome.’ Style icons definitely do not shy away from the unshaven- everyone from Prince to Prince William embracing their inner bushranger.

But these facial hair vines surely have their limits. ‘While the acceptability has allowed more people to sport interesting facial hair without being labelled as crazy, it’s also encouraged people to grow patchy beards and wispy moustaches which look pretty awful,’ Ben observes. ‘Like wearing skinny jeans, it’s not for everyone.’

Trim the mop on top or else you could end up channelling Chewbacca with more fur than flesh.  Shampoo regularly, unless you want your beard to doubly serve as a visual food diary. Stray too much into dirty goatee territory and you might be asked to stay at least 500 metres away from schools and playgrounds.

Any good at wrestling your whiskers and you could be jet setting off to the biennial World Beard and Moustache Championships next held in Stuttgart in November this year. With categories such as the ‘Alaskan Whaler’, ‘Dali’ and ‘Full Beard Freestyle,’ Melburnian hair connoisseurs have much to strive for.

But at the end of the day, could this all just a quick fad? ‘In many ways, it’s no different to any other trend, from sixties style bangs to greasy grunge nineties hair,’ Hannah observes. ‘Everyone wants to be part of the cool crowd.’

As the Beards so eloquently croon, ‘having a beard is the new not having a beard.’ So there you have it, gentlemen. Let the manes begin.