Blog - Page 13 of 26
By Kathleen Barry
The work of the US military is to kill, its pretext – defense of the homeland. It has succeeded in training soldiers, mostly young men, to kill without remorse, that is until they leave the military with flare-ups of psychological trauma or PTSD. But neither the military nor the White House has convinced a war weary American public to accept men returning home from war in caskets or deeply wounded physically and psychologically. Americans’ increasing distaste for war presents serious problems for a state committed to on-going, unending war which includes feeding military industries, a mainstay of the American economy. What to do?
Drones to the rescue! With drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, Americans need not worry about their own soldiers being killed. Those who drop the bombs do so from any one of a number of military bases somewhere in the United States. Research and common sense show that the further away soldiers are from those they kill, the less likely they are to feel guilt or remorse. Drones, it seems, solve the PTSD problem.
Since so many Americans now turn off the news of war, they will not know of how, as they do not know about combat on the ground, of the many civilians killed in drone attacks – most are women and children. But those victims are not Americans, specifically, they are not American men. So who cares? As John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism chief, in the cold sociopathy of an increasingly US militarized stated, “Sometimes you have to take lives to save lives,” and I would add, as long as most of the lives you take are of brown people and are not American men. War is, after all, gendered and racist violence.
The day after Brennan announced that the USA is conducting CIA drone warfare, on May 1 President Obama spoke to Americans in what most pundits agreed was a campaign speech from Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan where he and President Karzai had just signed a Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement. So you might wonder what is all the fuss about drones anyway. Aren’t Americans on our way out of Afghanistan? Looking closely at the details of the agreement that Obama did not mention in his television broadcast, we find that it actually “commits Afghanistan to provide U.S. personnel access to and use of Afghan facilities through 2014 and beyond. … for the possibility of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014, for the purposes of training Afghan Forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaeda.” (White House, Office of the Press Secretary. May 1, 2012.)
There is every reason to believe that not only the US war in Afghanistan, but the US policy of ongoing, unending war is, under Obama’s leadership, morphing into a drone war. For years the USA has been launching drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia even though the US Congress has not declared war on those states. Since 2002 the CIA has conducted up to 321 drone strikes in Pakistan, killing up to 3,100 people. In December, 2009 US drones dropped cluster bombs on a village in Yemen and killed 40 people, 21 children and 14 women, 5 of whom were pregnant were killed.
Killing women and children and killing brown people intersects misogyny and racism upon which the military is built. A few weeks ago, a case opened in British courts of a CIA drone strike in Pakistan in March 2011 which killed up to 53 people in an open air meeting of the local jirga (parliament) in that region. US intelligence that directs drone strikes is focusing not on specific people anymore. Rather as journalist Jeremy Schahill exposes, they study the “pattern of life” of groups of people who gather in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. That is exactly how the CIA defended its drone strike: ‘The fact is that a large group of heavily armed men, some of whom were clearly connected to al Qaeda and all of whom acted in a manner consistent with AQ [Al Qaeda] -linked militants, were killed,’ even though Al Qaeda’s not known to hold its meetings in public, open air places.
Drones are a growth industry but the chief companies are familiar in the military industrial complex: Northrupp Grumman, Raytheon, and General Atomics with a powerful lobby in Washington. In February, 2012, Obama, the President most responsible for escalation of drone warfare, brought war home when signed into law a Federal Aviation Reauthorization Bill. Heavily lobbied by the drone industry which stands to gain between $12 and $30 billion in sales, 3,000 drones for surveillance will within a few years be filling the skies of the U.S.A.
For years Americans were told that drones were only used for surveillance, for intelligence gathering, in places like Pakistan, all the while the US military is making enemies they then have to kill and labels them insurgents or Al Qaeda when the CIA drones bomb them to smithereens. Now the CIA turns its drones on us. So Americans (or anyone anywhere on the earth) watch your “patterns of behavior” for on our home ground, ‘we have met the enemy and they are us’.
Kathleen Barry, Sociologist and Professor Emerita of Penn State University is the author of Unmaking War, Remaking Men (2011)
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Mothers’ Day is one of those days that it is easy to warm to and turn away from at the same time.
I adore my own mother and treasure every moment with her. But I don’t need there to be a Mothers’ Day to thank her for the immeasurable meaning she has given to my life. I am delighted to spend time with her on Mothers’ Day, but I am equally delighted to see her every other week of the year too.
As a mother myself, I don’t want my own daughter to feel pressured by commercially driven sickly ads imploring her to ‘make your Mum feel special’ by buying some outrageously priced item that panders to the idea that women belong in the kitchen or the bedroom. Seriously, just how many advertisements for frilly nighties and new saucepans can one handle?
I am also skeptical that the veneration of motherhood is also a thinly veiled disguise for a silent contempt and deep suspicion of women who don’t have children. Women like our own Prime Minister, who attracts enormous vitriol, which is apparently accepted because she is childless. I don’t like that the celebration of Mothers’ Day comes at the expense of dividing the sisterhood.
And while I love being a mother, I don’t necessarily love the pedestal that comes with it; a pedestal that sits on a shaky foundation and is poised ready to topple at the slightest bump. Because motherhood on a pedestal is about motherhood as some kind of perfection, and that is setting oneself up for failure.
It is also setting an impossible standard by which women judge themselves as never good enough. We torture ourselves about being stay-at-home or working mothers, and then try to do both. We pressure ourselves to have clean houses, home-cooked meals and perfectly ironed shirts. We can’t let ourselves go but are forbidden from any form of self-indulgence too. We are supposed to nurture children and partners but also have to make time to cover our grey hairs and wax our legs. Hey, there’s an image of motherhood to uphold!
And while we tread an ever-narrowing line about what we “should” be, we feel like failures 90% of the time for being too much or too little of something. We know too that the only thing worse that being childless for a woman is to be a ‘BAD MOTHER’ so we continue walking that diminishing line and judge others and ourselves far too harshly.
So this Mothers’ Day will be about the simple joys of sharing time and conversation with people. No restaurant meal. Nothing fancy. A gift? Maybe a book or two. Nothing perfect. Just as it should be.
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By: Melbourne feminist, Vera Hartley
It was mother’s day sixteen years ago, the first year that we were without our mother. I remember how I had refused to celebrate this annual event and am choked with guilt.
But mother’s day has never been a particularly favourite celebration for me. My reluctance to enter into society’s celebration of motherhood - contrived or otherwise - was born out of my unhappiness within the patriarchal family both as a child, a wife and mother.
I grew up in the 1950s, the daughter of a very domineering man who ruled the lives of my sisters and our mother. He was a church-going man, but this didn’t stop him from striking me hard across my mouth when I dared to have my own opinions. Not surprisingly I could hardly wait to leave him but unfortunately married a man who dominated me and criticised everything I did, and at the age of 21 I was a mother. After many years of emotional and physical abuse, I managed to leave the unhappy marriage.
My experience within the family, an institution still lauded by society has not been pleasant, and has tainted my picture of marriage and motherhood to such a degree that to enter into society’s commercial celebration of the day has always been very difficult for me and of course my children can’t or won’t understand.
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In parts of Africa, women are tied down and mutilated while in Australia women receive the Medicare rebate for genital surgery
Last week The Age reported that the federal government is expected to target cosmetic genital surgery as it seeks to reduce the cost of Medicare. In Australia, genital surgery is increasing as women seek to improve the shape and size of the vagina and to treat painful or embarrassing conditions. If the surgery, costing about $4500 is considered to be clinically necessary then the patient may be eligible for Medicare payments. But as the Federal Government seeks to reduce its health costs it is expected that qualification for the rebate will soon prove to be more difficult.
The number of Australian women having vaginal ”rejuvenation” surgery has tripled in the past decade. An analysis of Medicare figures reveals almost 1400 women made claims for labiaplasty operations in 2009, a jump from 454 in 2000-01. According to labiaplasty surgeon Dr Stern, many women dislike the large protuberant appearance of their labia minora. He says that these overly large labia can cause severe embarrassment with a sexual partner.
While western women are increasingly turning to the knife and having the size, shape and appearance of their labia enhanced, feminists and activists continue the campaign to end the practice of female genital mutilation affecting millions of women living in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Female genital mutilation is a procedure that intentionally excises genital tissue leading to problems such as frequent bladder infections, childbirth complications and the risk of later surgery. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 100 to 140 million women who have had their lives damaged by FGM.
With the number of Australian women having vaginal "rejuvenation” surgery increasing, doctors are suggesting that pornography may be driving women to have unnecessary genital makeovers in a bid to look more desirable. According to Chief Executive of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons Gaye Phillips, the women are being influenced by pornography which is much more available with the internet.
Phillips is not alone in connecting the way women feel about their bodies, and in this case their genitals to pornography. Gail Dines, author of Pornland –How Porn has Hijacked ourSexuality, claims the mainstreaming of porn has caused women to believe they are sexually empowered by looking and acting like a porn star. Although women know the images they are seeing are not the ‘real thing but are technologically enhanced’, they are still influenced and feel inadequate in comparison. As well as the tripling of genital surgery, Dines reports that over the last decade there has been a 465 percent increase in overall cosmetic procedures with 12 million operations taking place annually in the U.S. for makeovers such as liposuction, face-lifts and breast jobs.
Dines claims that the multibillion-dollar pornography industry must be considered a major public health and social concern. Her assertion is supported by reports that young women are requiring psychiatric treatment after the genital surgery because they still do not like their bodies.
Also raising concerns is the head of psychiatry at St Vincent’s Hospital, Dr Castle who has previously called for legislation requiring pornography producers to declare all airbrushed images, so that women would have a clearer and more realistic idea of normal female genitalia.
But for the countless numbers of young girls and women who are forced to undergo female genital mutilation it is not about choice or dislike of their bodies. The partial or total removal of the external female genitalia is neither chosen nor performed for medical purposes, but for socio-cultural reasons such as the desire to preserve cultural identity, wanting to control a girl’s sexual desire, and a belief that FGM makes a girl more sexually attractive to men.
In an interview with Nadya Khalife, 18 year old student Dalya told the women’s rights researcher that she remembers a lot of blood and was very afraid. ‘This has consequences now for my period. I have emotional and physical pain from the time when I saw the blood,’ she said.
The clitoridectomy performed on Dalya is the total or partial removal of the clitoris and is considered the least severe form of FGM. But all forms have acute and chronic health complications such as risk of death, heavy bleeding, sepsis and acute urinary retention. Infibulation – the cutting and stitching of the labia minora and majora can cause scarring, urinary retention, menstrual disorders and infertility and prolonged labour.
It is distressing that Australian women choose to have unwanted pieces of labia cut away, while the struggle to stop the mutilation of their sisters continues.
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Don't buy into commercialisation this Mother's Day . . .
by: Veronica Sullivan & Danielle Binks
Look around at the advertising for Mother’s day. This celebration honouring mothers has, for some big businesses, become just another money-making scheme: a distortion and commercialization of motherhood.
Some of the advertising is frustratingly clichéd; working on a 1950s assumption that mother’s are content to be given pyjamas, cookbooks and chocolates (all presents that conveniently keep them in the home):
Sometimes the advertising is utterly superficial and empty-hearted, suggesting that a mother’s worth is in the ring on her finger or diamonds in her ears:
And then there’s the down-right sleazy;
Spinifex urges you to avoid the widespread materialistelements of Mother’s Day, and opt for a shared experience with mum, and maybe the rest of the family too.
Here are some sustainable, ethical options which are inexpensive and focus on sharing time together, rather than money. Go out for a meal and a chat together, or try some outdoor activities and excursions.Getting out and about
Go for a bushwalk: There are some stunning bushwalking options located close to the city. Try the George Bass Coast, the Dandenongs or Mt Evelyn.
Compete in the Mother’s Day Classic together: Events are being held in all capital cities and many regional locations across Australia this mother’s day. The event raises money and awareness for Breast Cancer Research. The Melbourne event involves a 4km or 8km walk or run so you can pick and choose according to your ability level.
Or a less strenuous walk: Along Merri Creek, around Port Philip Bay, or the Tan track at the Botanical Gardens. Being together and away from artificial distractions is a calming and rewarding treat for anyone and allows for catch up time.
Or how about a boat trip: A trip along the Yarra gives you a whole new perspective on the city. See it differently and remember it forever.
Visit your local produce market – South Melbourne, Queen Vic, or Prahran: Visit your local market first thing Sunday morning and pick up some fresh fruit. Take it home and juice up a fresh breakfast drink for mum.
Camberwell Market – Camberwell: Visit the Camberwell market from 6am-12pm with your mum. Give her a “voucher” for a suitable amount and tell her she can take her pick from the endless stalls of recycled and preloved clothes, books, arts, ANYTHING.
Rose Street Artists Markets – Fitzroy: A range of lovingly handmade crafts, clothes, jewellery, collectable and vintage items. Open Sat and Sun 11am-5pm, so you can buy a gift beforehand or visit together.
Abbotsford Convent – Abbotsford: Entry to the historic buildings and grounds of the Abbotsford Convent is free. Visit the artist studios, enjoy the gardens and have lunch at one of several cafes within the convent walls. Sunday tours of the convent are available from 2pm. And you can gift 'The Abbotsford Mysteries' as a companion poetry book.
Garden together – Get your hands dirty in your own backyard (weather permitting). May is the month to plant beans, mushrooms, onions, spinach and various herbs.
Japanese Bath House – Collingwood: Single sex communal baths at 41 degrees, followed by shiatsu massage. This traditional onsen is the perfect way to relax together.
Eating and drinking
The Pantry – South Melbourne Commons: Wholesale, locally farmed and grown produce.
Ripe Restaurant – Sassafras: Enjoy the gorgeous drive up to the Dandenong mountains and then an honest, hearty lunch at one of the most underrated restaurants in Melbourne.
Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm – Main Ridge, Mornington Peninsula: Unfortunately the self-pick season, always popular with kids, is closed for winter. But SunnyRidge still have a wide variety of homemade strawberry products for sale, including jams, syrups, ice creams and sorbets, and strawberry wines and champagnes.
Heide Museum of Modern Art – Bulleen: Galleries, the kitchen garden, the outdoor sculpture garden and Café Vue (which cooks with fresh produce from the gardens). A classic special occasion destination.
Lentil As Anything – Abbotsford, Footscray, St Kilda: Still the original and best option for vegetarian food, with vegan and gluten free options available. Payment for meals is done by donation, so you decide the price you feel is fair for your meal. Money raised is put straight back into the local community.
– St Kilda: Slightly fancier and pricier vego fare in generous portions, with anextensive wine list.
Ripe Organic Grocer – Albert Park: Organic and wholefoods fresh. Eat them in the café or take home for later. Including juices squeezed fresh while you wait.
Contrary to popular advertising, mothers do not need chocolates, or another flannel pyjama set. Here are some suggestions for special or slightly unusual gifts which think outside the box a little bit:
1000 Pound Bend – CBD: Support local artists at this small exhibition space in the heart of the city, where you can buy an eclectic range of artworks.
Organic coffee: A range of blends, all organic and fair-trade, available to purchase online.
Oxfam Unwrappedoptions: OxFam have a huge range of donation options, which specify where your money is going so you can feel connected to the charity process. Giftsinclude Support and Essential for Midwives in Laos ($35), Pre-Natal Classes for Cambodian Mothers ($55), and Security and Education for South African Children Orphaned by HIV ($97).
The Guide to Ethical Supermarket Shopping 2012 ($7.00)
Notebook ($9.00) – made locally in Melbourne out of salvaged folders and letterhead
Books are the best presents, but don’t insult your mum’s intelligence with chicklit or a cooking book. Here are some intelligent, literary, questing book suggestions:
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I remember how you were,
not how you are. We were we
until we became you and I.
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