Rereading de Beauvoir 9: History, Ch. 5

Part Two, History. Chapter 5 (128-159):

It’s been nearly a year since the last chapter, partly because I’ve been extra busy, partly because I keep getting side-tracked down other Beauvoirian rabbit holes — and I mean ‘rabbit holes’ in a good way. I’ve just finished reading the three-volume autobiography, which my hoa tane bought me for my birthday. And why has that taken so long? More rabbit holes, of course. For example, I could hardly read SdB writing about the writing of each of her novels without reading them, could I — OK, some of them; and then she ended the second volume (“Force of Circumstance”) of the autobiography with an overwhelmingly sad and/or depressing section on getting old. So that, of course, sent me off to read her book on aging (which I haven’t finished yet, but will definitely write

Alice Duer Miller published this sarcastic column "Why We Oppose Votes for Men, in the National American Woman Suffrage Association around 1915.

Alice Duer Miller published this sarcastic column “Why We Oppose Votes for Men, in the National American Woman Suffrage Association around 1915.

about). Then, at the start of the final volume (“All Said and Done 1962-1972”), she explains that that overwhelmingly sad and/or depressing section was misunderstood by pretty much everyone. Well, I thought, that must include me, and I felt a bit chastened, like I’d been rapped over the knuckles by SdB and told I was stupid. Then I thought, bullshit. We didn’t misunderstand it! Nah, SdB is trying to re-frame it after the fact. Ahem! Yet I remain fascinated by SdB’s ongoing obsession with aging. I want to understand it, and particularly, to understand how and why a woman so smart about so much — especially when it comes to what is ‘essential’ about a person and what isn’t — couldn’t do a better job of transcending (is that the right word? Overcoming? Ignoring? Co-opting?) at least some of the societal mandates around aging. True, aging is an inescapable facticity (fact), but wouldn’t an Existentialist be the best equipped of anybody to respond to it in ways that challenge the status quo. I know, I know, you can’t just overcome facticity…

I digress. Back to Le Deuxieme Sexe!

This is the last of the chapters in the History section of the book, and it traverses how (and to some extent why) women have fared so badly from the time of the French Revolution (1789) until “now” , i.e. the 1950s (with some excursions into other centuries). Obviously, there’s a fair amount of French history, which is a bit of a relief, since lately I’ve had more than enough of miserable Anglophone history and politics.

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I Love a Lager

It is that time of the year again by which I mean craft beer time.  Suddenly pretentious lads of a certain age and plus, one of which is helpful  son, wax lyrical about the delights of craft beers.  Intelligent conversation is discarded as was the case when wineries The-New-Yorker-Beer-mushroomed around the country.   Remember all those damn fruits you had to identify to prove buff status.   I love scoffing a plate of fresh fruit with wine, but competing to identify which ones are in it without looking at the bottle is not a substitute for camaraderie and conversation.  Worse still craft beers brings back a distressing memory of lads pre-Germaine Greer along with their home brew.  At least the latter  frequently distressed them, too.    

Offsider assured me I have been a natural for good plonk, quaff his glass and most of the bottle without fuss or fruit fixation.  Well done me, the perfect guest.  Maybe the craft beer bible study of late is more appropriate to our diminishing income status now that interest rates have nosedived. I like cider, there wasn’t much wayback, it sadly vanished from the shelves.  Now it’s a treat given me by a neighbour for looking after her cat.  I don’t have to recall the type as I’ve liked them all.

I like the mainstream lagers.   And drinking from a bottle.   A minor penchant for reckless hand gestures and dodgy grip doesn’t fully account for this.  I do insist on a cheap wine glass but fatalities are frequent.   A cheap sauvignon blanc on regular special is neighbour’s and my pick for the evening sip provided it is of very recent vintage.  

Christmas goodwill means I will down a craft beer without great angst.   But I think I’ll take along a copy or two of this delightfully derisory Guardian piece on craft beers:  Modern Tribes: The Craft Beer Enthusiast.   The author is a woman.  

In the interest of balance if you are thinking of giving someone a posh bath oil or the like read this:  Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour by Dita Von Teese – digested read.  The author is a man.

Have a happy festive season. 

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Keeping the World Safe for Liberals

“First they came for the Jews…” It’s become a cliché by now, but as I watch the ‘liberal establishment’ (for want of a better slur) twist and squirm at the rise of the fascistic nativism of Donald Trump I can’t help but think of that Niemöller quote, though not in terms of the Jews.

Instead, how about blacks, Iraqis or women?

Imagine if the crimes inflicted on the people of Iraq by that unprovoked war inspired half as much widespread outrage as the rhetoric of Donald Trump? Or the incarceration rates of black Americans? Or the stripping away of women’s rights to control their own bodies?

Feminists and reproductive rights advocates have watched and warned as, year after year, both in rhetoric and reality, a woman’s right to control her own body has become mainstreamed as a political target. Has the liberal establishment given much of a crap? There were a few muted dissenting voices, but, hey it’s about nasty old abortion and that doesn’t really count because it’s – you know – abortion. From the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act” of 2003 (and you know what else happened that year), to endless new mandatory requirements on women seeking abortions, to TRAP laws that close clinics, right up to the more recent political mainstreaming of opposition to contraception – all proving that it was never really about abortion in the first place. Which is what feminists and reproductive rights advocates were saying right at the start.

You can surely make this case about every progressive cause – that they’re largely ignored by the mainstream until someone as unpalatable as Donald Trump comes along and weaves them all into a successful populist platform that threatens the liberal establishment’s fantasy that it lives in a liberal country. It’s a special kind of American Exceptionalism, or perhaps blindness is a better word: We might do a lot of things that aren’t ‘liberal’, like invade other countries and cause the deaths and displacement of millions of people; like incarcerate more citizens than any other country in the world while giving police a license to kill black and brown people; like stand by while the social safety net gets reduced to tatters; like not really bother much about the fact that abortion doctors are terrorised on a daily basis… But, hey, we’re still “the greatest nation on earth”, to quote President Obama.

What is so surprising to me about the liberal freak-out in the U.S. over The Donald is how surprised they seem. This kind of thing is part of America’s DNA, it’s always there – it’s just that it doesn’t usually break out of its “individual cause” ghetto and reach the consciences of the liberal establishment. Writing in The New York Times, columnist Timothy Egan notes that the table for Trump “was set by years of dog whistles and codes”. True! But he continues: “The very ‘un-American’ sentiment that Republican elders now claim to despise has been a mainstay of conservative media for at least a decade”. Um, “Un-American”. Nuh uh! It’s American. That’s the problem. Paul Krugman does something similar in insisting it’s the Republicans (not America-the-exceptional) who are to blame. I agree with him that “this ugliness has been empowered by the very establishments that now act so horrified at the seemingly sudden turn of events”. Except that the establishments he’s talking about are Republican, whereas mine would be much broader and would embrace not just the Republicans, but the republic.

So what happens next? Under this scenario, The Donald will likely end up reinforcing the liberal American fantasy of itself. When he eventually does disappear, they’ll be able to put down their pens in satisfaction – satisfaction that not only is America still exceptional (in that good way), but that they the good liberals of the establishment, did their bit to keep it so.

Meanwhile, back at the abortion clinic, there’ll be another doctor wearing a bullet-proof vest sneaking in the back entrance and another woman ordering abortion meds over the Internet; at the prison, there’ll be another 20 black men in the intake line; for police in cities and towns across the nation, it will still be open season on non-whites; in the Middle East, the dead will keep piling up and the refugees will keep coming up as ever more failed states are created; and everywhere corporates will continue acting in ways that ensure the planet becomes uninhabitable. All because America is the greatest nation on earth, it’s liberals safe, finally, from Donald Trump.




Posted in Abortion, Environment, Feminism, Sexual liberation, Social policy, Wars | 1 Comment

Dinosaur Stole Best Friend’s Wife

A story in the Herald this week was headlined ‘I’m not proud I stole my best friend’s wife’.   What can this mean?  

WWomanDinoDid said bloke just pick her up, sling her across his shoulders, tether her tightly in his compound?   Did she have no choice or initiative in the matter?  Wives are no longer chattels.   In law anyway.   Some men may still hanker for ownership of them.  Let’s hope the celebrity dinosaur’s new partner brings him to his senses smartly, rebuts the passive role he has allocated her and puts him solely in charge of looking after their baby at night.     

Language of this sort is grotesque.  It implies women have no autonomy.  Media outlets prissy about the use of swear words need to accept responsibility for endorsing patriarchal cliches which may have tragic consequences.  

Male narcissism is dangerous and may be on the increase.   Even now too many men, young and old, kill ‘their’ women because they strayed.   The new partner may also be killed.  When the roles are reversed women are found to rarely kill.  I’m not sure what language women use when we make off with a best friend’s mate.   Maybe we show better judgement and remain silent.  

This sort of tale tale is not uncommon.  Ideally we should try to minimise the hurt, humiliation and anger that can follow.  Portraying women as the property of men has seen them treated as loot, degraded, raped and killed in the context of war.  The language and actions of ISIS?    

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McCaw for Monarch!

Why stop at a knighthood for Richie McCaw?   Why not make God’s own a monarchy?  Māori have one.  Tongans have one.  Why are pākehā so mean spirited, Māori might enjoy two monarchs?  Brand new king, brand new flag.  Heaven-sent opportunity for politicians’ infinite flunkying photo opportunities.   Bring back jousting, build some splendid lists across the land and they will come.  Economic salvation!!

McCaw1Across the ditch PM Malcolm Turnbull intends to abolish knights and the like, even announced it before our gallant champions defeated theirs.  Meanwhile, transfixed by rugby, we forgot the plight of New Zealanders being held in detention centres on Christmas Island while awaiting deportation back here.   They had a criminal conviction, served their sentence, lived in Australia for most of their lives and have no family support here.  Refugees on self-governing Nauru where Australian law doesn’t apply attract something more akin to rendition with its accompanying torture and abuse.  We withdrew financial aid to Nauru’s ‘justice’ system.     

Stranger still we also forgot the 1981 Springbok Tour and the much commemorated protest movement.  Many take pride in the belief it helped end apartheid.  Even now, as we celebrate victory, couldn’t something be said ever so diplomatically.  Australia has some heavy lifting to do between now and the next World Cup. They wouldn’t want a boycott sprung on them?

Something very ugly has (re)surfaced in Australia.   Many Aussies are deeply shocked and enraged.  Two ex-flatmates, long since Australian citizens, wrote in anger and distress about the treatment of boat people a year ago.   We have been a bit slow to notice the nastiness and disregard for law but we are sort of onto it now that New Zealanders are involved.  

Come on Labour and Green creepy crawlies slouching to the centre.  SPEAK UP NOW!   Key will still invite you to Richie’s dubbing/coronation.  Hell, what if Richie doesn’t want a decoration or crown that has been slightly sullied by our silence?   Better still as newly anointed monarch he could raise aloft his king’s pennant and lead a flotilla into Sydney Harbour with the demand that Gillian Triggs, Australia’s principled and courageous Commissioner of Human Rights, be installed as their monarch. 

Here’s a link to Russell Brown’s generous homage to the ABs on the Public Address blog:  It also includes a link to a list of AB bad boys in the interest of balance presumably.    

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Labour Parties, and the Search for Neverland

One has to wonder if there isn’t a contagious disease ravaging Labour parties around the world.   Something to do with searching for the centre, fear of lefties, and, down under, fear of women?   In the current UK leadership battle a longtime, hardworking, leftie MP – Jeremy Corbyn – has surged to the lead, signed up new members in droves.   There is concern non-Labour voters are also signing up in droves, small ones happily and hardly Corbyn’s fault.  Rampaging back from the right are Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell freely (yes, no fees)  giving unsolicited advice.  Could there be anything more unreal than those two luminaries offering advice on how to save a nation from a very principled man? 



I’ve followed the drama in The Guardian online.   George Monbiot’s piece ‘Jeremy Corbyn is the curator of the future.  His rivals are chasing an impossible dream’  is excellent, thoughtful.  He argues that Corbyn can’t win the next election but neither can his rivals, and that Corbyn’s task is to pull Labour back to the left. 


Local Labour stalwart Rob Salmond, commenting on his own behalf, popped up on the Public Address blog to rebut Monbiot.   He argues the centre matters.  It’s easily located on his graph!   Eureka!  Monbiot anticipated the Salmond approach and wrote:   ‘dreamers argue that Labour has to recapture the middle ground.  But there is no such place; no fixed political geography.  The middle ground is a magic mountain that retreats as you approach.  The more you chase it from the left, the further to the right it moves’.   Indeed.  Go on, read Monbiot’s article, it is  beautifully crafted.

I can’t say the same for Salmond’s simplistic effort.  There was I weighing up his thesis when halfway through came the hellfire and brimstone words:  MAN BAN.   I’M ASHAMED OF BEING  A MAN.   My highlighting.   It was  a stellar piece of disconnection.  Dogwhistle politics, surely National’s terrain?  Grandsons of brave ANZAC’s sobbed?  Women thought ‘get over it’?  Am I to deduce these words were the defining moment in Labour’s election failure?  Curiously, Salmond overlooked the most serious  stuff up:  a proposed capital gains tax.  It was badly and inadequately explained to unprepared middle NZ.  Which shuddered.  Now, to the detriment of the country,  it is not even up for discussion.  

Women are the wreckers.  Eve and Pandora, creatures of MANmade myths, started the rot.  In the face of regular buckshot from Labour’s anti-identity politics brigade (a right bunch of charmers and arguably advocates of male identity politics but let’s not go down that vortex) Labour women have been regularly silenced, women’s issues sidelined. 

I may have written ‘let’s not go down that vortex’ but I haven’t the slightest intention of obeying this injunction.  In deference to preferred male conduct I’m just copying their hypocrisy and double standards.  Couldn’t some of the above  charmers enlist the help of leftish comedians of all genders to counter National’s lavishly paid for jibes, propaganda.  And point out that identity issues are hip pocket issues.  Clue: they affect work opportunities, pay, promotion etc.  And children’s development, confidence etc.

Labour won the women’s vote when women mobilised around abortion in the 1970s but they have since squandered it.  Accessing abortion, a hip pocket issue if ever there was, can require three days off work, travelling and paying for child care if you live in the wrong locality.  It is banned from Labour’s agenda.  The sex education shambles (also Labour’s legacy) isn’t a man’s issue?  Rape, Roastbusters culture is a rare aberration?  Yeah, right!  


To quote Salmond, albeit at the risk of prolonging a PFJ/JPF situation, some Labour luminary such as Jacinda Ardern’s boss, Andrew Little, should have stood up to geriatric hunk and mischief maker, Graeme Lowe, who described Ardern as ‘a pretty little girl’.  Ideally Little would then have paid tribute to Lowe’s better qualities.  He was a great League player and a very courageous man.

If you didn’t  know what Salmond’s cutey reference to a  PFJ/JPF situation was on about and, like me, couldn’t be bothered checking the link, my helpful son did and recognised the scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian where different factions of various judean peoples’ fronts debated their positions.  It’s very funny, quite apposite.  Rob might care to look in the mirror.  



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On the Bring From a Lack of Drink

I confess I was shocked by the blatant beer and circuses approach adopted by National to the challenge live television coverage of the Rugby World Cup posed to my compatriots.   Open the bars they compassionately cried.  Equality for binge drinking students and the huddled masses!  Hang about here:  how many homes don’t have televisions?  How many zillion replays will there be?   Had they learned nothing from the Northland bye-election?  

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 07.31.44And what about the workers:  the extra staff on call or working in A & E Departments, police and emergency services.   God forbid they are denied coverage.  Another quick law change to allow ambulance, fire service and police drivers to use their mobiles?  Big tv screens in A& E and operating theatres to be included in core hospital services?    

Manboys in the mainstream media lost their balance (not that they have much) and sobbed compassionately, unsabashedly joined forces with Winston Peters and declared  doubters to be wowsers.   Apparently one thing in this land of freedom and democracy you are not allowed to be is a wowser.    Well I’M A WEE WOWSER AND I’M OKAY.  Labour leapt onto National’s beer wagon alongside Winston. The Greens lost their bottle and joined them. Columnists, and at least one cartoonist were more thoughtful.

Is it not enough to do my bit for the beer barons most days now?   Offsider, a rugby fanatic, has done a lot more over the years but also thought opening the bars a silly idea.   Don’t we understand that mankind is on the brink from lack of drink? We’re in a state of emergency! 

The current liquor laws were much debated two years ago, the World Cup problem raised, no accommodation thought necessary apparently.  So what’s going on?  Too many piss-ups at Parliament?   This is not how you make or change laws.  Then there is the mess of the mangled Healthy and Safety legislation.  Are we being softened up for flogging off Parliament’s lawmaking powers to more competent overseas legislatures?   On the basis of National’s performance it mightn’t be bad idea.  

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