Things that take 20 minutes (or less)

*Trigger warning*

A response to Brock Turner’s father. Click here to read the letter Brock Turner’s father wrote regarding his son’s sentencing.

If you ask anyone about what their most defining moments are; the things that have lifted them up or turned their world upside down or damaged them beyond repair, the things they will mention will likely only have lasted moments, epiphanies that occur from reading something powerful, from seeing their child take their first breath, from seeing a loved one die, from the time they went from feeling safe and happy to feeling afraid for their life and the lives of those around them.Twenty minutes is twelve hundred seconds. A lifetime. You can save someone’s life in 20 minutes. You can listen to six and a half songs. You can go for a walk, cook a meal, read a chapter of a book, drive to work, have a deep and meaningful conversation with someone – well, you probably can’t, but the rest of us can. Your son can swim 2000 metres in twenty minutes! I know that because his swim times were posted with some of the articles written about this case. Because, you know, that matters in a rape case. You can take twenty minutes out of your day (because, to you, apparently, twenty minutes is no time at all) and read the beautiful words written by your son’s victim. I hope you have. I hope you do. If that doesn’t change your mind, then nothing will.

But I’m going to try anyway, just in case you have a spare twenty minutes. You can read this, and I hope that when you do, you hear the voices of all of us in your ear, for a full twelve hundred seconds and maybe, just maybe, begin to comprehend the reprehensibility of your actions.

Here is a list of crimes that take 20 minutes or less, itemised so that your micro brain can comprehend them.

  1. Shoplifting.
  2. Mugging someone.
  3. Breaking into someone’s house or car.
  4. Shooting someone.
  5. Assault and battery – I guarantee you that if someone were beating you for twenty minutes, you would likely be dead.
  6. Raping someone – Yes, I included it! Because you seem not to realise that however long someone is being raped for, whether that be twenty seconds, twenty minutes, twenty hours, twenty years – it is rape.

What has happened in their lives prior to this life altering, devastating, damaging twenty minutes does not count. The twenty minutes is what counts. That’s twenty minutes of him panting in her ear, rubbing himself against her bare legs, shoving his hand inside her, while she lays there, uncovered, unconscious, unable to say no. Twelve hundred seconds of her being pressed into the dirt, gravel and pine needles being pushed into her skin because your son was taking what he wanted; doing what he felt like doing. Twelve hundred seconds of her lying there half naked, without responding. ‘Twenty minutes of action’, as you so charmingly put it, or, ‘the rape of a human being’, as decent people put it.

You know what takes longer than twenty minutes?

  1. Raising a son that believes women are his equals. That he is never, ever to take what he has no right to. That if he does something wrong, he should apologise. That he should mean it. That he should spend the rest of his life making up for those twelve hundred seconds of devaluing, degrading, dishonouring another human being. Of putting his hands where they do not belong. Of taking what he had no earthly right to take. That, my friend, takes a lifetime. One that your son has been granted. Use it. 
  2. Realising that your son is not the victim, and that you are not the hero. This will take more than twenty minutes for you because you have demonstrated no aptitude for introspection. Why would you ever have to?  When you can hire an expensive lawyer and casually watch said lawyer tear apart your son’s victim and then write letters stating your son’s punishment was too harsh, a tendency toward quiet reflection and seeing-things-from-the-other-fellow’s-point-of-view is seldom necessary.*  You probably spent less time on that letter than your son spent assaulting another human being.
  3. It will take the girl your son assaulted much, much longer than twenty minutes to recover from this nightmare.

She will heal, gradually, because she is brave and strong and has the support of millions. She will go on to be a productive member of society. She has already inspired people around the world to stand up and be counted. She has proven herself to be compassionate and intelligent and wise beyond her years.

She has given a voice to anyone whose voice was stolen from them by people like you, with your casual, indifferent dismissal.

With your entitled, arrogant world view.

With your fancy lawyer.

With your silly little letter.

 

 

*Thank you Sir Terry for those words. I trust that you won’t have a problem with me using them here.

 

 

 

My life was women.

My life was women. From a very young age, with very few exceptions – the main one being my excellent father – women were all I knew of the world. It was my mum, my three older sisters, an endless supply of aunts, my grandmothers – both grandfathers having passed away before I was born, and even a great-grandmother. Dad worked a lot and Mum stayed home with the girls. I never had a brother. We did have a male dog but his balls were unceremoniously chopped off one day, so.

I didn’t know that being a girl was considered second-rate, even in the 80’s and 90’s in Australia. That being a girl was considered alright, but. That my parents would get looks of pity every time they had yet another girl.

Are you going to try for a boy then?

Will you just keep going until you get one?

As though my sisters and I were unsatisfactory toys pulled out of an arcade claw game, and they had been aiming for something better.

I didn’t see any of this. It passed me happily by.

Me reading
My first babysitters were female – my grandma Aud or my great Aunt Lola. We’d eat ham and pickle sandwiches and drink lemonade from glasses with orange flowers stamped on them. The bubbles would pop softly in the heat. We would watch Mornings with Kerri-Anne – I had no idea what it had taken for her to succeed in an industry where even the queen of daytime TV herself didn’t get paid the same amount as men doing the same job.

My mother went back to work once I was old enough to go to day-care, then I went on to primary school. My teachers were mostly female – a male anomaly in year 6 but my school Principal was a woman. I was friends with boys; I didn’t view them as some strange ‘other’. I only knew that to me it was more fun making mud pies, skateboarding and hitting each other with our school bags than it was to act like a lady. My oldest sister bit all the heads off any dolls that made it into the house; the bottom of her closet a strange cemetery of tiny plastic limbs and synthetic hair. She also taught me how to write my name and how to spell before I was 6. My second oldest sister would teach me Maths and the importance of standing up for others, and my third oldest sister would make me go with her down storm drains and up trees from dawn till dusk, when we would return home covered in ant bites and dirt. We read books, and if we were ever bored, Mum made us write a story for her. I have a whole folder of my stories, carefully kept for all these years – my favourite is one about a group of spiders who hid in some people’s shoes, then bit them and turned into those people. No unicorns and princesses here; not for me.

Anna & Me

We went to Mass once a week and I would ask why there were no women priests.

Because women can’t be priests. My eyes widened. But it was probably just a one-off, right?

Lunchtimes at primary school were filled with playing Zoombinis on the computers in the library or games of handball on the quadrangle. My friend Joey came up to me once when I was just about to serve and pulled me aside, his face serious.

I think you’re ready to play with the boys.

What?

You’re good enough. You should play with us instead.

When I did play with them and beat them all I was told to go back with the girls where I belonged. Same as when I was the only girl in a swimming race in year 2. I beat them all in the 25 metre freestyle. Dad had come to watch and I’d never been more proud. There were a few crying boys, upset at being beaten by a girl, but I didn’t feel bad. I was just better than they were.

At the age of 12, I was told I needed to start shaving my legs.

Why?

Because you have to start acting like a lady.

But I’m not a lady, I’m 12.

When I did take that step I was praised by the girls around me and I felt better about myself. Felt like I fit in. That boys would see me as a girl rather than their friend, and that was what I wanted, right?

My high school was all girls. My sisters had all been there before me, done that; they were school captain, vice captain, prefect, dux of subjects – the list goes on. They are now a teacher, a doctor and a medical student. They are fierce, they’re the smartest people I know. They’re my stars.

4 Girls

My mother duxed her school. She told me once that her father was completely shocked that she won scholarships to attend university.

Why would you want to go to uni? You’re just going to get married soon.

Because I want to, Dad. I want to learn about the world and get a job and contribute. 

My grandmothers hadn’t finished school. I was gobsmacked when I learned that.

Why not? I asked.

Most women didn’t, was the answer.

But why?

Because we knew all we’d need to know by then. A woman’s place is in the home. You don’t need a fancy degree to know how to cook and sew and clean and raise children.

People ask me why I haven’t changed my last name since I’ve been married. This always puzzles me. Why would I? It’s not my name. I have no connection to it. It’s my husband’s name. He’s welcome to keep it.

But what about when you have kids?

Well, IF I have kids, that decision will be between my husband and me. If they end up with his last name, they might ask me why my name is different to theirs, and if they do I’ll tell them. Because my name is mine. Because being a woman doesn’t mean you have to accept things the way they’ve always been. If you want to change your name, that’s great. If you don’t want to, that’s great too.

My life now is women. It’s nurses on the ward, but usually not doctors. It’s hospital administration, to a certain level; it’s my manager, but not her manager. Why not? Oh I don’t know, lack of ambition, family commitments, too emotional, you know. They hold themselves back really, don’t they?

I read articles about a girl being raped in Croatia by three Australian men who pay her just over $30000 in a rape settlement. They have their one year sentence reduced to five years good behaviour. They buy their freedom, then make jokes on their instagram about joining the mile-high club with the flight attendant on their way back home. I read about Brock Turner, and other college campus rapists who get let off easily, and see how vilified their victims become.

I speak to my sisters of other colours, creeds, abilities – they face things I have never had to experience, thousands of tiny aggressions, again and again and again, and are told they must be twice as good to get half as much.

I see online vitriol sent to feminist pages. I see stomach-churning messages that guys send to my friends if they turn them down for a date. I get yelled at when I walk to the shops. I get into taxis and listen to the driver go on and on about how young women these days don’t act like ladies and they disgust him.

I’m 20, listening to my best friend tell me about a guy who keeps turning up to her place of work, asking her to join in a threesome, all the while insisting his attention is a compliment, while her male manager laughs it off. I’m 18, sitting at a bus stop, and a drunk man sits next to me, and I’m torn between wanting to move to keep myself safe but not wanting to seem rude. Then he turns to me, and starts saying disgusting things. Things that involve what he wants to do to me, how much I’d like it and I can’t move. I can’t believe what I’m hearing, and my face is heating up and my heart is a drum telling me to get out of there and I’m sick and feeling dirty and as though it’s my fault, then my feet can finally move and I start to get up and he pins me down and I start to scream and out of nowhere a security guard is there. I am crying and I run across the bridge, calling my mother to come and get me and the pain and anger in her voice when she hears what happened to me is palpable, and I am scared and sad and feel so wrong inside, like I’m polluted.

What can we do about these things? We’re just girls. And society tells us that it’s okay to be a girl, but.

We can be there for each other. We can be each other’s strongest allies. When we have daughters or meet people with daughters, we don’t smile sadly at them. We beam and congratulate them on their little bundle. And then, you wrap that little bundle up in our hope for their future. We will raise our daughters to believe in themselves. That they are never, ever, to think that they are worth less or worthless because they are a girl. That they are powerful and fierce and that they never, ever have to just shut up and take it, or smile, sweetheart, or that they have to get back in the kitchen. That they don’t have to laugh if they don’t think a joke is funny. That they are funny, despite what people say about female comedians. That they are wise. That they can be pilots or doctors or lawyers or nurses or teachers or firefighters or astronauts or mothers or soldiers or philosophers. You can even tell them what my parents told me. That if you want to be a writer, you should be a writer.

That you are important.

That you can change the world.

That anyone who says or thinks otherwise can suck it.

 

 

Will You Still Love Me When I’m No Longer Young And Dumb?

Image

Yes, Miley’s VMA performance was weird. Strange, even. Unsettling. For some, downright wadafaaaa? She’s clearly doing her darndest to shed her image – she’s had a ratchet makeover and has twerked her way into the twittersphere to prove it – and the performance wasn’t even all that good with shaky vocals and limbs flying about willy (oo-er!) -nilly and the whole thing is rather awkward and train-wreck-y in a “I’m young and dumb and having fun” sort of way, but why is no one talking about Robin Thicke?

He’s 36, married, and a father to a 3-year-old boy. Thicke has been quoted as saying that his son, Julian, “has changed everything — every move I make, I know that it will affect him, his growth and his happiness”, which is really lovely and all, but I would take that more seriously if his only response to the VMA matter wasn’t a tweet that said, ‘that was dope’. Why did he let it get that far? Why didn’t during rehearsals he say something like,

“Hey, Miley, you’re 20, you can’t even drink legally yet, so maybe don’t stick your butt into my crotch, lick my chest and stroke my junk with a big foam finger?” 

The backlash has been full-on Miley-wise, while Robin has escaped with no more than his mother coming out and saying, “Him? Loved it. I love that suit, the black and white suit,” then follows that up with, “I don’t understand what Miley Cyrus is trying to do. I just don’t understand.”

There is something deeply, deeply wrong with this. Not only with the double standards we’re all apparently happy to adhere to by placing the blame entirely on Miley’s shoulders, but also by our willingness to overlook worrying song lyrics because it’s catchy and we like their outfits. Please, mothers, please don’t be proud if your son’s career shoots into hyperspace with a song called ‘Blurred Lines”, featuring such charming lyrics as

“I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two…

and so on and so forth. Of course, it was Miley’s choice to say yes to this collaboration – I am in no way saying that Miley shouldn’t be responsible for her own actions; she is, after all (as she is so fond of reminding us) a woman now and her own person, but she is still in the process of finding out exactly who that person is.

Thicke, on the other hand, is in a drastically different stage of life to Miley and should have enough self-awareness by now to recognize that grinding his junk against a 20-year-old’s backside probably isn’t the best thing to do. Maybe it’s a side effect of being surrounded by naked ladies in his film clips all the time that has warped his brain into saying, “it’s fine, it’s all entertainment, that’s show business baby,” but if so, how sad is that? Not only sad, but dangerous. To be surrounded by those ideas day in day out numbs you not only to the weight your words and actions carry, but also to the disturbing undertones present in this song, the film clip and this performance.

The awful thing is, Miley’s behavior isn’t any worse than what you encounter in any night club on any given Saturday night. Girls think it is okay to dance like that to music like that, because they’re young and dumb and having fun, and they know they shouldn’t enjoy music like that but they do because it’s catchy and it’s dark and there’s alcohol and who’s going to notice anyway? In Miley’s case however, everyone gets to see it– whether we want to or not.

So, yeah, she crossed a line somewhere, or ‘blurred’ it somehow (har har, see what I did there?), but so did he, and his part in this is, for me at least, a little less defensible.

They both did this; all I’m asking is that someone points the (foam) finger at Robin, too.

Blind Spot

ImageWe all know The Bachelorette is awful. It truly is. Anything which manufactures situations in which people actually have no choice but to fall in love and get engaged within 8 weeks of meeting one another has to be awful. Right?

But is it though? I mean, compared to poverty and famine and Mugabe, is it really that bad? Does it have any redeeming qualities? Is it actually, for instance, a searing satire of the harsh realities of dating life, seen through a microscope? Maybe not, but what it might be is the most feminist show on television. Or at least a feminist show on television. If you squint.

Hear me out, quickly, before I think too hard about this because I’m pretty sure this theory is already wilting in my mind-grapes.

One independent girl going out to get what she wants, dating 20 guys at the same time, stating openly and honestly what she is looking for without fear of retribution. In a society where asymmetrical sexual moral standards between men and women are the norm, one could argue that The Bachelorette is, albeit accidentally, leveling the playing field. The casting of a woman in the traditional gender role of the male (complete with his inherit right to sexual liberalization – pah!) seeking out a mate; testing all available options, picking some and throwing away others while female viewers cheer her on shows we’ve come a long way from the kitchen sex bunnies of the past….but only if you overlook the fact that the main goal of the Bachelorette is to find a man to propose to her, marry her, complete her, give her life meaning, etc, etc.

See? I told you you had to squint.

Help me out here guys, I need for this show to be forgivable. I need for it to deserve to exist. Why?

Because I have accidentally been watching it every week for the past 4 seasons.

I don’t just watch it though. You can’t ‘just watch it’ in Australia. I actively seek it out. I do more thank seek it out, I download an app onto my computer which hides my IP address, which means I can go to US-only sites like abc.com and stream it online every week and –

Come to think of it, maybe The Bachelorette is really really Marxist. And, um, postmodern. Socialist? No? You know what? Screw it. It’s actually kind of brave, going on television and telling the world that what you want is to find someone to spend your life with when most people can’t even say that face-to-face to someone they’ve known since they were 2. I have a certain respect for people with that kind of courage, and if that sort of courage means they occasionally do silly things like sign up to be the next Bachelorette then so be it.

Pass the remote, Germaine.