to be Aquarian.

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In Greek mythology, Ganymede was a young man whose beauty and innocence attracted the eye of Zeus. To consummate his love, Zeus carried Ganymede to Mount Olympus and gave him the sacred duty of bearing water for the gods, as well as being his lover. Hera became enraged with jealousy and so to protect the young man, Zeus cast him into the sky as the constellation Aquarius where he would be immortalised and honoured as a symbol of sacred love between men.

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The age of 27 holds a hush about it. Some of our most treasured – and far more contemporary – idols have not made it past the tender year. Some mark it as the commencement of our Saturn return, an astrological event that stirs unrest and resonant challenge in our lives. My peers begin to think much more critically about the state of their lives as the ominous thirty is suddenly more apparent, and its ever-approaching encroachment becomes an acute component with which we pursue or ambitions, aspirations, desires. I have made a conscious effort in all my years to make each year mean something specific in my growth, ‘cos that’s what hippy dippy Aquarians do. I’ve been sure to mark each year of my life with some sort of interstate move, spiritual quest or grand effort at a creative endeavour. Although I have been of the philosophy that the only thing remarked upon by age is the proof that one comprehends the principles of counting, this one feels like it’s worth really steeping in.

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Aquarians are the hipsters of the zodiac, obsessed with originality and liberation. We’re moody, often a little too self-reflective (read: narcissistic), and often pair hyper-pragmatic ambition with day-dreamy idealism, to infuriating effect. Aquarians are independent, intellectual and focused more on immortality than immediate gratification. An Air sign, they’re fixated on the new, on communication and adventure. The sign’s colour is yellow and planet is Uranus (used to be Saturn).  The most frustrating thing about being an Aquarian is that it makes me predictable in my thirst for unpredictability. I suck at ‘commitment’, completely susceptible to reverse psychology, and yeah being a homosexual with a preference for the older and wiser whilst being inherently cautious of envious women? Often I feel like the very essence of an Aquarian.

To be Aquarian is to consider very deeply the lessons one is on this Earth to learn. In the Orphic cult of Ancient Greece, their belief in reincarnation was tied very closely to astrology, in that souls spent only twelve lifetimes on the planet, in each sign of the zodiac, to learn what they were destined to, and contribute to the knowledge of the universe. In those twelve lifetimes, if they could reconcile their lesson then they spent eternity in the Summerland; if not, in Hades. In the past year, I felt an incredible emergence of deep equations with which I struggled with my sanity to resolve. Being 27 is an exciting time to be working at this level, where I consider how to balance my physical body, awaken my sexual body, understand my blood relationships, and activate my creative practice.

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The pursuit of the Aquarian is rarely beauty, money, or status, at least not for their own sakes. Most Aquarians seek authenticity by impact. In tarot, Aquarius is represented by the 17th card, The Star. A quote by the Carr-Gomms about this card I love is “Inner and outer are connected in perfect harmony. All you need to do is be. Intuition flows like a bright stream”. Life becomes a series of experiments to test resolve, test whether facets of personality are impermeable, test whether interactions are soul-level because that’s what we’re after this time around. I’ve interpreted this as a sifting between what fears can be approached, discovering how to seduce what scares me: exposure, intimacy, failure, success, misinterpretation, missed opportunity. Life to me is a swirling of musing and misusing. And it’s fantastic.

Loving an Aquarian is like a beautiful obscure science. Not to say its complicated, but that its something you either know or don’t. As with all things, it has to come naturally. Aquarians spook easy, their connections are either wildly passionate then swiftly abandoned, or only entered into with the deepest intellectual and inspirational connections, dropped right into deep vulnerability before being able to truly thrive. To love an Aquarian is never to tell them you love them so you can hear it back, but only when it’s so evident that to say it is simply a statement of fact in an endeavour for sincerity.

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Maybe this makes sense to those of you who know me, maybe it makes sense to those of you who know other Aquarians. But as you can see, to be Aquarian isn’t exclusive to Aquarians. It’s a state of mind many of us find we wash in and out of, or search for beneath moonlit crossroads. Many of us try frequently to find parameters by which we might be better understood, easier reached, deeper connected, longer loved.

Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to you. A sign is only as valuable, as what it’s directing to.

B.

 

I do not own the copyright to any of the images featured in this post. Please send any concerns directly.

don’t you know that you’re toxic?

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Some people come into our lives like bombs. Like their love is a threat. While our lives crumble around us, we focus intently on this little device, trying every way we can think of to decode, diffuse, disarm it, all the while knowing how probable it is that it will explode in our faces. Our friends flee, our families are crushed by falling rubble, our enemies shrug, and our future selves weep watching us. But we chip away, clipping wires, buying time. Like lives depend on it.

Imagine how things would be if instead of expending all that energy working/worrying/chasing/negotiating/pleading with that landmine love, we spent it on ourselves? And on the love we know we have? Imagine.

We take to that explosive like there aren’t millions of other people out there who could treat us so much better, when truly there’s no need to lose our youth and innocence when we know it’s only going to burn. So much hope we have for what we do possess, so little faith we have in who we are and what we could have if we believed we deserved it.

But the truth is an explosive too. Compared to that little bomb, the truth rains nuclear throughout our lives when it hits. A dreadful analogy to be sure, but when you know what horror some people have faced, how can you continue to accept the horrific behaviour of someone you owe nothing. Perhaps you owe them the freedom to understand the consequences. Perhaps you owe them the glory of you, fully realised and flourishing, not for them to be bitter about or saddened by, but proud they know when to give a good thing up for it to become the best thing for all involved.

Amanda Palmer wrote about an old adage…
“A farmer is sitting on his porch in a chair, hanging out. A friend walks up to the porch to say hello, and hears an awful yelping, squealing sound coming from inside the house.
“What’s that terrifyin’ sound?” asks the friend.
“It’s my dog,” said the farmer. “He’s sittin’ on a nail.”
“Why doesn’t he just sit up and get off it?” asks the friend.
The farmer deliberates on this and replies:
“Doesn’t hurt enough yet.” 

And this adage was the truth that rocketed through my life, stripping my defences and excuses. And little by little, I am getting up. I am barking back. Because I’ve realised a couple of things:

That there is a big difference between “I am who I am” and “I do what I want”.
That in this big, wide world there is no worse thing than needless pain.
That once really is enough. And sorry is not.
That it’s OK if this time isn’t it. There will be more if you want more.
That it’s OK if this time is it, but you don’t want any.
That the only reason they know how to hurt me, is because I taught them.
That the only reason they continue to hurt me, is because I let them.
And that the reason we love toxic people, is because we think we’re asking a lot in return.

When it comes to love, I genuinely believe that “you can’t love me, until you’ve hated me”. If the love endures past the hatred, or if the love dissolves the hatred, then you know it’s real. If the hatred lingers, if it grows, if it forms into meanness, dismissal, violence or torment, then you know what you need to do. Put the bomb down, suck the poison from the wound, take a shower, forgive, forgive, forgive, and remember you did all of that because you know how to love you. And for all that it may sting, for all that it may sicken, for all that it may scar, isn’t that a good thing?

B.

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Portraits of a Heartbroken Head

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Hell isn’t just real, it’s necessary. And if you don’t want to be in it anymore, then don’t be. Remember that the difference between heaven and hell isn’t sin or faith, it’s simply which of them you have the strength to let your life be part of (and what you’re willing to do to build that strength. Are you contributing to happiness, kindness and choice? Or sorrow, pity and dominance? It’s always much more complicated than that, but for the moment simplify what it takes to resurrect your mind from pain, confusion and fear to, ultimately, love.

Mental illness and instability has been on my mind a lot these past weeks. In order to process some of those thoughts, I drew on my face and offer these seven images of it to you, along with my lyrical and ripe melodrama. In the hope that by doing so I can continue to live heaven, and spur those around me to keep the conversation honest, challenging and special to the journey.

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DIS/ARM
The beginning for me is the ability to distance my mind from my body, confuse the power structure between the two. For the mind to treat the body like its vessel is the most intimate form of domestic abuse. Eating becomes incidental, hatred of flaws intensifies, heart rate becomes rapid, heat floods and self-care eddies away. Some people feel this distance so consumingly they can take a blade to their body, or a rope, or pistol. Some people feel this distance so suppressive they turn those weapons on each other. It’s a simple difference between recovery and ruin: putting the weapon down.

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NOT/HER
It does always come back to blame, and the harder it is to handle the impact of your choices in the present moment, the further you will run to the past to apportion the harm of who you are outside of yourself. But your parents cannot resolve who you feel now, and your past cannot be anything other than how you reacted based on who you were at the time. You can resurrect it and make the past the present so you can reattempt a resolution, but redemption will always come from what you do now to transform the future for what it can offer not torture the past for what it can’t change.

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SYCO/PHANT
Ambition hurts. Dreams, when applied to the present day, can corrode at your sense of self-worth like an acid addiction. This doesn’t mean you should abandon all aspiration; it means who have in your one life a serious decision to make. Do you focus your energy on satisfaction, or gamble everything on getting the goal? Before you cut your path one way or another, better know yourself so you know you can take one road without regretting the mystery of the other. Your decision isn’t irrevocable, you can double back, but wandering between admiration of idols and fighting for survival will exhaust. Remember as well that some people would give their lives to have lived so long as to still be able to choose.

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DISS/EASE
Other generations call mine weak, and selfish. Apparently that will shock us back into a sense of ourselves that can forget our species’ history of corruption and pollution, that can withdraw from the enormity of the world that we’ve been thrust underneath the scrutiny of, completely exposed to. One mistake makes a meme and civilian turns to celebrity turns to suicide. With the connectivity of the modern age, came the anonymity with which people could gleefully and liberally dispense stigma upon each other to distract from the impending destruction of our planet, and our very selves. This waste of time, waste of soul will be the key to regret and the type of barbarous, murderous ignorance that the threat of stretches our brains beyond breaking point.

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FREE/BODY
Sex is as much the enemy as the remedy. No currency is as valuable, no robbery as abhorrent, no plane as politicised by every system from civil to religious. The limitations of our most basic understanding of our own mechanics is not far from personal feudalism, whereby the mind does not respond to the environment, but weaponises it. My explorations of sexuality have led to a diversity and discomfort for which I’m grateful because it is a kind of liberation my heteronormative counterparts cannot name as they struggle with respect for the bodies as elemental, evolving. They can only be swallowed up by fantasy.

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CHOICE/CHANGE
It is scientific fact that we are creatures of two components: chemicals, and storytelling. We can be slaves to the narrative we recite to ourselves which some disguise as prayer, others as pep talk, and as far as our emotions are concerned, the things we tell ourselves become truth. There is a distinct difference between spending our lives writing our own story, owning our own plot highs and lows, and copying out what others wrote about us in their story. Or we might just read other people’s biographies and pay no duty to our own opus. Taking control hurts because we know what we’re gambling. Losing control hurts far more because we don’t know what we’re gambling. Like the man caught between the two cliff faces, our lives depend on our faith in surviving any trial of mind. Regret is the ultimate killer.

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GIVE/LOVE
Bearing in mind that there is only one way to learn, and that for all your hardship is relative to you, incomparable to another person’s pain or suffering, the only driving force away from trauma or fear, is love. I don’t mean romance, or sex, or even friendship. I mean a willingness to fall on your face so hard your nose breaks when your nose is the only thing you like about yourself, and still believe that your relationship within can still be filled with laughter and care and compassion. There’s little more frightening than knowing that of all the love you have, none of it is your own. It is a basic need we must provide for ourselves, however that is calibrated. For me it’s eating, and appetite suppression has long plagued me as a symptom of self-loathing and disappointment in myself. What I didn’t know, is that this refusal to sustain myself in order to get where I wanted to go is precisely what stands in my way.

Thank you. Gratitude is our easiest gift to ourselves, as forgiveness is to others.
Share you. In whatever way that looks like for you, and permits your simplest happiness, and therefore your most remarkable survival of this incredible place.
Love you. I know I do.

B.

I would do anything for love (but I won’t do that)

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I’m mad at you.
I’m mad that you’re back at that square you swore over and over you had left behind, took my love and confidence, my advice and my gambling of our friendship to tell you the harshest truth.
I’m mad that my heart breaks for your pain all the same, to see you march back to the start knowing all you know, believing the lie you tell yourself that you’re doing everything you can.

High school is over, so it’s no longer of any value to inject drama into each other’s lives. As for our own lives, contemporary society provides plenty of drama without any self-amplification. Yet when it comes to the pursuit of true love, we thrive on raw nerves and will stop at nothing short of complete decimation of spirit and stability before we relinquish our partner to rebuilding and searching again. But heartbreak is not compulsory to qualification of a meaningful connection between people.

People who hurt you can change, but not always for you. The capability for a person to hurt you, is a remark on the relationship you have, not just what one person does to another. Very few people set out to be malicious, they just do what comes naturally to them based on how they respond to you. And the longer you let them because they swear they’ll change, the harder it becomes to divert from their nature. They might be different, but you have to be different too so they’ve got some understanding of something else to reflect from.

Making it work should feel like salvation, not suffering. Further to the above, many people succeed in solving their relationship’s problems by making the effort and altering their behaviour. But if you can’t articulate what you really need, or if you’re afraid or ashamed to identify what you need because you know the other person can’t provide it? Then all you’re doing is punishing them, and yourself, and turning a healing journey into scar tissue. Fearing being alone, or unliked, and avoiding that fear by maintaining a manipulative or negative relationship is nothing but selfish.

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Just because it hurts to see them go, doesn’t mean it won’t hurt if they stay or return
. We don’t live in binary world. Nor do we live in one where we don’t understand the value of pain and mistake in our lives. Our willingness to compromise on certain things is bound to change, I know I have had to challenge myself on my pretty harsh views of tattoos, recreational drugs, casual sex, improper workplace conduct because they were isolating me from those around me and from my own empathy for people who had made errors in judgement as I have in other scenarios. That being said, don’t assume that the resolution to the agony of someone leaving your life is to replace them, or bring them back. We call that a Band-Aid. If you cannot find the resolution inside of you, then that’s worth the time finding and experimenting to reach. Elsewise you are bound to repeat history.

Your relationship should improve life, not consume life, and definitely not destroy it. There is a difference between growth and change.  The fulfilment of your relationship, in my mind, should not equate to foregoing previous fulfilment. Is that love, or martyrdom? When you connect with someone of course the most rewarding component is the discovery of how you relate to each other, how you are magnetised. But when other relationships are impacted negatively by that rerouting of energy and commitment, it is worthwhile recalibrating ALL components to achieve balance, accept the losses, and hold fast to the one relationship imperative to survival: the one you have with yourself.

Don’t lie. Don’t lie. That’s it, don’t lie. Just don’t.

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Final note. You can only give so much of yourself to the healing of others, and beyond that it is your power to forgive that matters most. If the actions of others hurts you too much to bear, then that’s on you because their choices are their own to make based on the life they were dealt, just as you want to see the outcomes of your bad choices for yourself. No-one can really tell you, you have to live it. So if you love someone so much that it hurts you to see them saunter right toward suffering? Sort your own struggle, dispense with the drama, and unless it’s going to compromise your very nature, when they need you, be there. Every time. For no other reason than love. Of them, of yourself, of life. Love alone. Love together.

B.

 

All images intellectual property of Marina Abramovic and Ulay. Please report any concerns to brodiejpk@yahoo.com.au

#TBT 10 Things ’10 Things I Hate About You’ taught me about Growing Up

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Knowing how to be self-aware is a lesson some people take until their forties and beyond to learn. Spending the formative part of our lives making every effort to suit to perceived expectations of those around us puts many in a hard place leaving teenage years behind (though not necessarily adolescence). In the interest of improving our growth as humans in the coming year, maybe consider how you’ve gone through the following and how are you making peace with it now? Time for changes?

So here’s a quick guide, delivered in a language any 1999 teenager can understand. Definitely a movie worth checking out:

1. Romance really trumps profit.

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Sometimes one of the most confusing things about being a teenager is how every “know better” figure in our lives is quite emphatic about the fact that we should be focusing on our futures, on prematurely delineating an entire career and professional goal pathway for ourselves. The benefits of this prioritising are evident in mid-life crises, quickie marriages and quickie divorces and lengthy divorce settlements, abrupt career changes, stockbroker suicides and Japanese men who leave for work but sit in park all day ‘cos they’d rather do that than admit being made redundant. To boot, entering teen years guarantees a complete download of sexual drivers and the shocking awareness of the sex we’re attracted to. And at the end of the day, we come across an individual who we let vomit all over our shoes, not because we’re getting money out of it, but because it’s freaken’ endearing!

2. Hurting someone once is more than enough. Second chances are for masochists.

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Now I completely endorse separating behaviour from person in the arena of child-rearing (calling your daughter a “bitch” because she broke something is not going to aid her developing self-worth, nor her decorum). However, when it comes to adults, who have all decision-making faculties at either their disposal or acquisition through education, I don’t believe hurtful behaviour should be allowed to continue if it cannot be understood or physically empathised with. Now sure she got back with the lying guy who was so-not-who-she-thought-he-was when he bought her a really extravagant gift (not sure what message THAT sends!), but I was happy that she maintained right to the very end that she wouldn’t be walked over or mistreated. It is the opinion of this blog that it is far better to be single and true to yourself, than married and destroyed. Don’t let it happen. Don’t let your friends do it. Tell your parents if you think it’s happening. Don’t do it to others. Just don’t.

3. Anger NEVER works alone.

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What I always loved about this film is how the vitriolic sidekick was actually a sweetheart and it was the combined angst that brought out the worst in these two friends. I mean it doesn’t take much to see how much more dangerous the gang is made by sheer numbers, we know when we cross the street to avoid the group of four or more youths, we know when we hush our voices talking about that particular high school clique. But remember that within the individual is always an angry voice taking over control from the past or the potential tense. If faced with anger, it’s usually unlikely it has anything whatsoever to do with you, and all to do with that inner voice of fear, retribution, confusion in the assailant. There’s a reason why in the face of trauma, the victims show far more compassion than the armchair activists. Because they’ve seen the real cause in the villain’s eyes. There’s no excuse for violence, but there’s none for withholding forgiveness either.

4. Parties are great if you don’t have an agenda.

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I shudder to think what would happen if there was a support group for people who’ve experience Blue Light Disco Crises. The teenage party is always the setting for serious drama to unfold, most people even anticipating that by waiting until a party to have a tender conversation or amping up to something drastic where the excuses of underage alcohol consumption or peer pressure serve to back us up. So go to the party, ask your parents permission so they can pick you up when ish goes down, wear the dress, but avoid expectations. Expectation breeds regret, Enjoyment breeds Memories.

5. People lie. Like sometimes even a lot.

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There’s not really much to elaborate on here. The beauty of high school is that within such an enclosed, developing community there is as much hegemony, civil conflict, corruption of authority and isolation from the outside world as we see in the more macroscopic developing communities worldwide. Except, you know, there’s no aid organisations to improve your corner of the education nation. You just get to suffer and hope your domestic life isn’t riddled with manipulation and omission of information, restrictions on your liberties, infighting, micromanagement and entirely conditional support of ventures. Oh wait…

6. It’s not innocence they’re being overprotective about, it’s the transformation of innocence to naiveté.

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So this picture perfectly explains how I feel about being abandoned by my virginity. As per point 4, the most cruel dichotomy of being a teenager is the slut-prude binary system.

For men, this manifests as the pressure to know what you’re doing by having sex as prematurely as possible (made all the easier by mobile-phone-access to pornography), but not being a wanker so you will have no idea what your body is doing the first time you orgasm-here’s a tip, it’s getting someone pregnant or afraid of sitting down. Thankfully, almost all men ignore the peer pressure and masturbate quite freely and frequently, so all they have to fear is the illegitimate and pervading size-based ridicule.

For women, this binary hits them harder because preservation of virginity is pressed on them more harshly than men so they’re afraid to express their burgeoning sexuality with their increasingly-frustrated contemporaries (ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the cougar’s opportunity). For those of you long enough into adulthood to have forgotten, there are NO cues in high school society to inform a young woman if the decision she makes when propositioned for sex, or if she’s gutsy enough to approach an appealing male, whether she will fall on the side of the slut-prude divide that won’t denigrate her. A tragic some-of-the-time she’ll just say yes so she won’t have said no and risk being labelled a prude, or being raped. She’s probably caught on that even if she does say no, her accomplice will say she did it anyway for their own posterity.

For transsexual teenagers, homo- or multi-sexual teenagers, older than average students or exchange students from European cultures? You don’t actually get to choose, you’ll be viewed through the lens of your sexual activity and labelled a slut from the get-go. But it’s probably for the best, you’ll need to get used to it because adult society hasn’t worked this one out yet either.

7. Teachers are people. Students are people. These people treat one another like crap a lot. That should stop, and stuff.

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Like is there any way to secure secondary schools against being the most mentally unsafe places to be? How do we discourage students from ostracising, victimising, assaulting and vandalising each other when it’s so apparent that teachers are a huge part of the process. I went to a school were teachers physically abused students, and each other. Upper management at the school emotionally and mentally abused teachers in front of students and students themselves. Students certainly aren’t unlikely to have started it. I was socially abused by a teacher in primary school because I deprecated a joke he told in class. Now sure, adults should know better not to use adult tactics or nuances to hurt children. But just in general, all of these people in a school setting need to be continually, systemically educated in garden-variety kindness, value of community and given practical skills in mental health aid. Including the parents, oh god when parents put their hand in the pie, everything goes to crap. This is why your kids don’t want you to drop them off, not because they’re embarrassed by you, but because they’re genuinely concerned for what damage you can do to the citizens and culture of the school culture, being an ignorant, unwitting tourist who “means well”.

8. Literacy is sexy. Also, someone’s intellectual appeal will always win out over their looks, good or bad.

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I’ve always understood “cool” to mean “adj. acting in disregard or disinterest of other individual’s thoughts, real or perceived”. People get ugly, but there’s nothing uglier than fearing ugliness. You can never keep up with trends, and those who do find it very exhausting and distressing. If teenagers who go onto being successful early-adults seem to demonstrate anything, it’s usually that they’ve managed to detach their egos well enough to be themselves. It’s a far less taxing process to curate our actual self when operating in the big wide world, than spending our twenties making all the unproductive mistakes just so we can establish enough evidence for a regression into our authentic characters to look like a “I love being thirty, you can just forget all the bullshit” stage of growth. You can forget all the bullshit before you’re 21 if you have the grace, gall, guts, and some god-forsaken self-awareness. Here’s to no more midlife crises, just be your damn self! Unless you’ve coded up an entirely new person by the time you graduate, in which case, here’s to therapists become the fastest-growing profession worldwide.

9. Eroticism shouldn’t be suppressed. Responsibility and Health come from honest, even frank, education.

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I wonder if 50 Shades of Grey would have sold so well if we’d actually bothered to tell kids and teenagers what sex even was. Legit, what kind of farce is sexual education. I don’t have enough space to express my diatribe, nor to refer to other bang-on diatribes out there, nor services working their liberal butts off to fix the cause of these diatribes. So I’ll make it quick: TELL KIDS WHAT SEX IS SO THEY DO IT WITHOUT HURTING EACH OTHER.

Segregating boys from girls for sex education is not only counterproductive, counter-intuitive and counteractive, it’s godawful stupid, especially when we give them access to pornography on a daily basis (yes I think music videos and NSFW buzzfeed articles count). Also, there is a lot more to sex than reproductivity; teaching us what our reproductive systems look like and what they do in the event of a heterosexual emergency is super-valid but completely useless information in lieu of any context. Putting condoms on bananas has no transferable skills for students to learn how to help each other with female condoms. By the time they sent a timid, tight-collared educator to tell my student class what lubricant was, half of us already knew and used through trial and error! Oh and making us do a project on a particular STI didn’t serve as deterrent either, but seemed to increase the instances of anal sex-yet another thing no-one was prepared to engage in (see earlier point on use of lubricant). Anyway, my high horse needs some water. Taking a break.

10. The sacrifice of your pride is the first step to EVERYTHING.

No need to elaborate. See the movie. Work it out.

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Oh and also. If I can throw an eleventh in at the last minute? It’s never Nigel with the brie. Ever.

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NB: There are a stack of wicked and funny 10 Things Life Lessons posts. Check them out. There are no crossovers, and this one’s a little deeper. You’re welcome.

 

 

#TBT The Great Dim Sim Experiment or What I Learned on a Game Show

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Well that was the most bizarre thing that’s ever happened to me. Like seriously.

I have just finished watching myself compete on a general knowledge game show against two other deserving, wonderful individuals for the ultimate goal of $1M and making my Nonna tear up. I didn’t make it to the ultimate as some very kindly enthused to me, but I certainly did not embarrass myself as I think some people secretly wondered.

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My brainwave to try my hand at being on a game show came the same way I’m sure it comes to most: I was watching Million Dollar Minute and decided that my at-home play was sufficient to warrant serious thought into contending. Usually I cast this impulse aside because I’ve lived in Adelaide where not much of anything is filmed. But this time, they even screened an email to contact. So I did. And I got an audition. I told almost no-one, so afraid of how mocked I would be if I was so bold as to big-note myself.

I arrived at the audition to see approximately 120 people milling around, gathering for a chance at the Million Dollar Minute. Fresh-faced, virile young men in suits, deadly-endearing older ladies, mums, couples with matching mullets, entrepreneur-looking millenials with clipboards on conference calls while we waited. One guy without any shoes on, one young woman reciting facts to herself alongside an apparent boyfriend with poor body language and facial expression playing with his phone (I suspected a Trivia app. Or Tinder). All of them had clipboards, and seemed infinitely more qualified and deserving than me. I considered going home. I phoned a friend and asked whether I should.

We were eventually filed in, and that’s when I noticed it. I noticed what was making me feel really unbalanced. As we started sitting down, countless people started calling out greetings to each other, ‘oh my god, Terry?! Haven’t seen you since Temptation in 2010!’, ‘Saw you on the Feud! Goes to show you can’t pick ’em hey?!’, ‘Dave, hard luck on Hot Seat mate, I never asked you, how sweaty was Eddie at your filming?! God he was reeking at mine…’

They all knew each other, this phenomenal community of game-show-gurus. I was entranced by this concept, even though I have a competition-crazy cousin (shout out). I sat down next to a lovely woman named Betty (not even kidding) who was up to her fourth attempt on the show, and had already been on Hot Seat, Temptation AND Contest which she found to be a lucrative way to supplement her retirement- “it’s great, you know you get to go out for the day, get your hair and makeup done, meet some new people and sometimes walk away with a stack of money. Beats sitting at home making jack!”. I couldn’t fault her, although if she hadn’t got in, I mightn’t have Buckleys. I’m embargoed from talking about the ways we get in, but somehow I made it through (Betty sadly did not). We were warned time and time again that we may not be called, we may need to try again, and it was at solely the producer’s discretion if we were M$M material. As it turned out, it would be only a matter of weeks before I was deemed so. FIRST LESSON: personality is not always trumped by genius.

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Betty’s advice was that I make statements about myself that would look hilarious on television. Oddly enough they decided not to go with my moniker of “Hip-Hop Dancer for Jesus. Reformed.” nonetheless I arrived with my fancy blue shirts (OK they were mostly purple) and waited to be called up to play. We we warned again that depending on how things went we may not play all day, we may have taken time off work for naught. Which was OK by me, this was my first rodeo and I was giggling and getting involved like a modern-day Muriel Heslop “I’m going to be on a game show, and I’m going to be a success!”. And then I got called up first. To boot, they decided they liked the outfit I turned up in, scarf and all (“This looks more you, am I right?”-very astute dressing-room-maybe-producer-person). SECOND LESSON: be yourself. You’ll be more recognisable that way.

We had some preamble and dorky promo bits to do, during which my featured answer screened across the nation was “THE DIM SIM!”. Yeah, genius.

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Then they sat us down to get to business. Three trivia rounds, cash prizes along the way. Now here’s the important bit of this whole journey.

There is no clarity like casting off your competitive instinct when in the midst of a competition.

I repeat, there is no clarity like casting off your competitive instinct when in the midst of a competition. Just before the first question was asked on film, I realised that I liked the champion I was against, and the young woman between us, likely had her own reasons for being in the room. I realised that the purpose of the show was not for me to win, but for me to enjoy myself, be real and honest, learn a few things and above all things, choose humility over personal gain. As it turned out, I believe this led to the episode being called “really good television” by the carryover champ, host, producers and friends who watched. I have no regrets about the outcome of the show because for the first time in my anything-but-athletic-twig-legged-life I was credited with “good sportsmanship”. And that was the real win for me.

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Some will choose to take advantage of my small success, some others will choose to look at my experience as nothing more than win, lose, or could’ve done better. I made a conscious decision at the beginning of the show to just make peace and have fun with the two people on the journey. At the final round I decided to put myself first, and go for my own interest alone. And it was at this point that I lost. For whatever reason: maybe I wasn’t smart enough, maybe I panicked, perhaps they asked questions I was bound not to know, or the universe conspired for me to only win that much. Either way, I believe the outcome directly relates to the choices I made. And I’ve seen other people make the choice for glory over namaste and the character value of humility come to rub them on the back.

Check out this amazing kid, Jacob Williamson a spelling bee rain-man. He was born to win it, but he made a choice. And learned. And took it really well. And was made a better person, a better competitor, a better study, a stronger contender in all fields for it.

I love this other story from a more high-profile individual about what an early loss in her career has meant for her strength, her risk-taking, her ability to inspire, and her thirst for success. Not to mention the pseudo-feminist-anthem it has engendered thanks to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her TED-du-force.

When I first considered going on a game show, I aspired no higher than Fran Fine. This episode of jewel-of-my-childhood sitcom The Nanny, was about when she went on Jeopardy and although it pokes fun at her intellect, really you never know what can happen in that environment, and it was her own knowledge and simple desire to have a chance that got it for her in the end. Give the episode a watch. For old times’ sake. Franny and the Professor.

So there’s the action plan. Compete, compete, compete but let the outcome go because the success really is in how present you are as you campaign for whatever success comes your way. And keep close the tools for being humble, you’ll never know when you’ll need to be. Good luck!!

B.

Beauty is the Beast

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This is her. The one who showed me ever so dazed through the door of beauty, and upon my discovery of how tiny, claustrophobic and torturous the room on the other side was, swiftly locked the door and left me there. This is her. She is a crack-team of digital specialists, cosmeticians, marketing sharp-shooters, managers, their managers, their managers, and an innumerable force of people willing and proven to be counted upon to throw money up in defence of the obliteration done to their self-esteem. This is her.

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I have been measuring myself to this standard since I saw this advertisement at the age of twelve. Twelve. While most boys were looking to transform themselves into the Herculean hyper-masculine adored by the opposite sex doing as they were told, I was following suit. Same-sex attraction in the age of well-meaning ignorance, where my educators knew what the word ‘gay’ meant but still weren’t sure how to use it, created a vacuum where pursuit of the heteronormative standards was the surest road to romance. I knew what boys liked, and I could totally see why in this picture. But how on earth was I ever going to achieve it for my own? This question would haunt my posture, weight, gait, mannerisms, gender expression and self-esteem all through adolescence and well into adulthood.

They don’t necessarily call it body dysmorphia when although your perception of your body is inaccurate, you love it all the same. It’s hard to explain that when I look in the mirror, I see her. The reason I see her is because I learned somehow that as much as it was the shape of the body that created the attraction, it was the shape of the spirit and the sensuality that created the confidence. I know I couldn’t make a body like that no matter what I did at the gym, or what I ate- or didn’t. What I could do is invest in the inner parts of myself that believed I was as sensual, as sexual, as proud of my body as the woman in the picture.

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I don’t make a habit of being naked. The body has been politicised and commoditised to the point where thousands of jobs depend on our own dissatisfaction with the body we have. The only one, I might add. We can augment and amend it, but all too rarely we have no idea what it’s doing, what it’s asking of us. Some people think of their body as a bag for their brain. Some people think of it as their summary value proposition. I think of mine as a work of fiction.

To me the key to beauty is the willingness to confront your fears about your body, your comparisons to other bodies and in spite of every single thing telling you your body is insufficient or offensive, you don’t believe it. You better believe that the only thing ugly about you is a magazine, the only thing wrong with your body is a spring fashion show, and the only c-word you should find offensive is cosmetic.

Now don’t mistake me: being healthy, being strong, the best you can be is all incredibly worthwhile. But know the difference between genuinely feeling good about yourself, and feeling good about your appearance. That could be anything from your body, to your diet, to how busy people think you are, or how accomplished. When your whole self, flaws and all, become completely inseparable and you can truly love all of it and feel stronger for it, that to me is true victory. Fucking beautiful.

B.

#TBT: Anti-domestic abuse campaigns aren’t working. It’s probably because they’re crap.

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Sorry. But Australian campaigns to stop domestic violence are ineffective, pussyfooting, and some I’d say are even misogynistic. I’m a man, converted to the cause, haven’t touched anyone in anger ever except my brother and sister when we were kids, and sometimes when they take the last Tim Tam. I see these attempts we’re making to stem the entrenched inequality experienced by women in our society, and I think they’re all but useless. They’re not good enough.

Case in point: what family-abusing man is put off his anger issues and routine beatings by nail polish? What does this even mean? I presume the idea is to create an identifiable community of men to activate some sort of peer pressure to not hit women or children.

Here’s an idea: keep the photo of Matt Cooper or Jarryd Hayne, but instead of the manicure, perhaps offer the phrase “If you beat your child you’re a cunt of a human/imbecile/wantwit and don’t come to my games”? Feature Malcolm Turnbull in there with a “If you hit your wife you’re a cunt of a human/piece of shit/danger to society and if you’re found guilty in court we’re suspending your right to vote”? Chuck the Australian Federal Police Commissioner in there for good measure with the quote “If you murder your ex-partner in breach of a restraining order you’re a cunt of a human/asshat/waste of skin and you’re going to prison, and then you won’t come out again”. Who are we protecting here?

Another case for your submission: definitely more on track, and yet still far more focused on how terrible a boy’s going to feel if he starts his reign of terror over his relationships early. No point showing how things turn out for the victims of domestic violence: the likelihood of unstable employability, serious psychological problems, perpetuation of violent behaviour in children, and the list goes on.

How about you show clips of a kid in juvenile detention, and how seriously uncool life is in there. Show more clips of disappointed family coming to visit. Show uncomfortable situations with future girlfriends having the talk with your concerned mates? Maybe a quick grab of a high security prison, because re-offending is REALLY a thing.

Bizarrely enough, the best advertisement against domestic violence I’ve seen is, is a commercial for better conditions for battery hens. How obscenely ironic.

If you’re looking for satire in my point, you’ll have to look awful hard, because although the tone of this blog is sardonic, I am deadly serious. Get it together. We all need to fight back against the offenders, their friends, the environments in which their prejudice is bred, and any party neutralising the cause with their “PR”. When the blood of women drenches our lives and stains our newspapers, there’s no applause for participation.

For those of you thinking my ideas are a molotov cocktail that might spark more problems, or they haven’t shown enough compassion for what men go through before they become violent, or any other #notallmen-esque evasive maneuver you’ve come up with, at least I thought of some kind of solution. How about you human up?

If you do know of a group spreading positive, proactive and effective messages, PLEASE put their name, hyperlink, initiative below. We need to know where they are.

 Author’s note: this article has been edited to include alternatives to ‘the c word’ at the polite request of some women and women’s support groups, the opinions of which I respected and were affirmed by in my choice to include not replace. Thanks to Mamamia for posting it.

Don’t sweat dying alone

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We sat opposite each other on his floor mattress. He was older, he’d been loved, he’d accomplished things I could only dream of, and he’s listening to me but he’s not hearing. I was telling him that if I died alone, like Jane Austen, then it wouldn’t be a terrible thing and he kept saying how ridiculous it was that someone my age (21) would think it likely they’ll die alone. Needless to say he did not fall in love with me. But I did stop talking about it from that moment, because there’s no easy way to tell someone, ‘I’m all I need, and if I do die alone, I won’t be wishing I wasn’t, I’ll be grateful I spent every moment making my life something else”.

Aside from being an inherently sexist paradigm similar to the ‘clock-is-ticking’ bullshit, designed to guilt women into settling or selling out for a relationship because it’s your primary value-base as a female, dying alone is nothing more than shaming the self. When I see people now, who look teary-eyed into their selfies or slouch across from me at coffee saying they know they’re dying alone, I feel like saying “yeah, so what’re you going to do about it?!”. Trouble is, I know they’ll loathe me for that because there is no way to stop yourself from dying alone unless you meet someone who loves you until-and while- you die, and you can’t control that, you can’t force that.

  • Darling heart, you have no clue when you’re going to die, so there’s never going to be any way of telling if you’ll die outside of a relationship. You could break up with someone who has been emotionally belittling you and physically abusing you for over a year, and when you leave in floods of happy tears that you’re free be hit by a car. Did you die alone?
  • Darling heart, you know as well as I do that no matter how well you think you know someone or how much love you give them, there is no guarantee they’ll be with you until you’re old, until you’re old and for fuck’s sake they still won’t leave you the hell alone and thank goodness for that!
  • Darling heart, even if you could force someone to be with you forever, you know it like a ball of wool sitting under your stomach scratching at your diaphragm that you’re only together because you’re full of fear, not full of love. You stick by each other because you prefer the devil you know than the devil you don’t. But that’s not love, that’s punishment. It’s not trust, it’s dependence. You both deserve better.
  • Darling heart, you know what to me is worse than dying alone? Dying beside someone you don’t love, and who doesn’t love you. You can spend your whole life pretending that’s not true, but I genuinely believe that at the last moment of our lives is when we reach the most clarified and pure truth of our lives. I would rather anything than my last moment feeling that though I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t happy.

That all being said, I think there are ways around this nightmare we continually empower, this obstacle we keep building a skyscraper of then applauding ourselves that we can’t overcome, an unsinkable ship. Here’s three ways you can stop the seemingly inevitable:

  1. Work out what “dying alone” actually means. Does “dying alone” mean never being in a meaningful relationship, does it mean not having any children, or any friends who call you more regularly than once a month? Does it actually mean you never having a fulfilling career, or travel to India, or own a home, or lose that last seven kilos? What do you want to look back on? Once you actually work out what it is, the steps to overcoming it instead of crucifying yourself with an unknown therefore insurmountable regret become easier to break into steps to walk on.
  2. Take a look at the map of your life. How far do you ever travel from home, or from work. We humans are truly creatures of habit, but we’re also creatures of comfort, now more than ever. We frequent the same places, we see the same people, we sit on the same train carriages and stare into our screens, we shop at the same stores. Make an effort to go to one entirely new place a month and not hide in your phone or earbuds the whole way. Take a friend if you feel the need, but just try and observe the undiscovered world around you- if it’s in a small way like a new bar, or a gallery opening, or a big way like a mystery road trip or surprise visit home to your family. You might catch someone’s eye, you might find the best coffee in ever, you might like yourself a little more for growing a vagina and getting the heck out there.
  3. Being sad, or feeling lonely, is never something to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s something to be encouraged by, it’s your soul telling you there’s something you want, something you’d like to change. In the same way our bodies tell us we’re hungry, but we ignore it because we’re busy, or that we’re tired but your ex will be there so we’ll still go and look drop-dead gorgeous, or that we’re in pain but the shoes just look so good. We know intuitively what we need, but are so capable of starving ourselves of for some alternate, usually regrettable purpose. Stop doing that. Eat the food, get the sleep, try the talking, do the changing.

There is no living creature to whom nature has been more generous, but in turn has been most ungrateful to and destructive of. We use our gifts of critical thought, mass production-and reproduction- and ingenuity to squander and destroy our planet’s resources, each other, and ourselves. All the while we hate, we fear the end of our suffering and we admonish those who love, anticipate it. Sometimes I go to bed feeling wasted, like there’s some unfulfilled purpose, some soul-level goal I’ve not even begun walking consciously toward. That means something. That means there’s more to be gained. Sometimes I go to bed feeling like I’ve fallen too far behind, because I’ve never been serious or long-term with anybody, but that has never stopped me, and never will. Whatever it took for me to learn I can only count on myself, I’m grateful for. I think it will make me a better partner someday. But today, I don’t matter any more or less, but I do.

In love and independence,

B.

Also read Augusten Burroughs and Brene Brown. Like now. Not Elizabeth Gilbert, she’s onto it but seriously these people first.

#TBT: An open letter to every guy I just unfollowed on instagram. All 541 of you.

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Dearest,

By the time you’re reading this letter, you may have noticed that I have unfollowed you. Trawl though you might through the countless thousands of people who have hitched their wagon to your sexually-charged star, you will find my name is missing. I only hope you know that my leaving you does not in any way diminish the special nature of our former relationship, nor how much I value our time together. It’s just that I’ve become a different person, and it is time we went our separate ways. I hope this letter gives you some clarity as to why I’ve made this hard decision, and if you still can’t bring yourself to move on, then please snap out of it because you have thousands of other people eating your shit up with a spoon, and thousands more on the way I’ve no doubt.

It occurred to me recently as you flashed by on my phone screen, that the standards for male aesthetics are still very high – much as they are for women – and when it comes to the sexually diverse community, the permission we’re giving you to direct our consciousness by sole virtue of the fact that you’re fine as heck to look at is more than substantial. Men are feeling more and more incompetent, incapable, and unimpressive because of these standards. Further, our society is worshipping the standard more than I believe we ever used to.

The former standards for men’s beauty was shaped by physical labour, which gender equality has somewhat distributed across the sexes more. Now, instead of allowing male beauty to change to reflect the new structure of life for men, we made gyms and kept the old constriction held as idol.

Anyway, I worked out that I’m part of the problem. Our relationship is fuelling this cycle, with you as the Adonis-influence, and me as the lowest-common-denominator-consumer. I can’t be this to you any longer. Your “fitspiration” didn’t get me into a gym, or out for a walk at all. Truth be known, our relationship is purely sexual, stimulative. And you deserve more, for all you may not want more. I definitely deserve more.

Let our breakup not take away from the work you do – it is hard, unrelenting work in a highly competitive industry of social media engagement. I admire what you do, there’s no way I could do it. The fact is though, that in spite of the inspiring quote in your bio, your content is focused almost exclusively on you naked, or at the gym, or naked at the gym. Intermittent depictions of the meals you make, clothes you buy, brands you sell with sex appeal appear as diamonds in the rough.

Somewhere along the way, your particular shape attracted hordes of thumbs double-tapping and following your progress, compelled as I was once by mild arousal, perhaps envy, perhaps encouragement. That number that reigns and ranks you at the top of your profile has got the attention of agencies, product companies etc who then pay you money, ask for your endorsement, and encourage you to increase your activity. In turn, you feel rewarded for your work, and some of those followers will feel the need to push their own physical forms to also become an “opinion leader” as you are.

By this new order, the development of your mind, networking of your thoughts and investment in your sense of self all come secondary to what will place you on a platform to distribute your influence upon the world. Your six-pack makes you credible, which I find incredible. So I set about to end our relationship.

I suppose it’s fair I tell you, ours isn’t the only tryst that I have called time on. I looked over everything you have contributed to our connection, and having discovered that nothing really inspired me creatively, I had to end it. Don’t be mad or jealous if you discover other men that you think deserved the same treatment are still carrying on with me. The truth is that somewhere those men still made me laugh, or made me think, or just interspersed their naked ambition with something, ANYTHING, else. I don’t feel like I asked a lot, and I would’ve appreciated more effort on your part in the past; it became very apparent you took advantage of how unlikely I was to spend the time and battery and brain to check up on you and really evaluate who we are as people, and what impact we make on the collective consciousness. In truth, I feel quite betrayed.

You know, it wouldn’t have been hard to keep your promise to inspire me by throwing in something intellectually, artistically, politically, spiritually interesting. It’s like you don’t even know me, like you couldn’t even take a couple of minutes to give me some credit and try to spice things up. But no, you just kept calling yourself an actor when you’ve shown no interest in the profession, or saying you’re an artist or fashion photographer or beauty blogger when really you just do nude portraiture. That’s OK, just be honest! Worst of all is when you say “welcome to my life” but all I see is the parts of your life when you’re kissing someone else! At least the other guys make the effort to pretend they’re being random!

I’m sorry. You should know this was hard for me. To look over all our delicious moments together and walk away. I even got rid of the one Kardashian I follow because she was guilty of the same crimes you are. Please understand, I had to do this. I need to be needed, and there are smart, creative geniuses, political brains and sustainability causes that need my thumb-work. I’d like to think that I’ll come across you in my Discover feed someday and see you’ve changed, and if you haven’t tagged twenty other aggregate accounts, of course I’ll reconsider our relationship. Until then, go with my blessing, and I wish you all the best.

Before I go, I will say this. For all that I want you to succeed, I hope that you will take my advice. Take responsibility for the unbelievable volume of people willing to be influenced by you, don’t mistreat them as you did me, give them something to be activated by, show them a way forward not just physically but also for the benefit of our communities, our countries, our planet. Sure it may not get as many Likes, but when this whole celebrity-for-no-reason thing comes to an end, you’ll feel like a better person – for all that you’ll likely have retired by then.

Yours no longer,
Brodie

 

NB: Bearing in mind how my relationship with social media has changed in the six months almost to the day since I posted this, seems like a good time to run a throw-back! This piece first appeared on papabayj.com.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Male Feminism

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There are few punchlines quite like the male feminist punchline. Besides the shining examples of Matt McGorry and Justin Trudeau most men who stick up for feminism, and possibly many who stick up for women period are labelled as sissies, pussies, gay, traitors, and ulterior-motived letharios. For those men with the balls to say they’re all about that gender parity and those rights for women, it’s worth noting that feminism isn’t something you just talk out your dick about or casually mention when someone questions your Alanis Morrissette-heavy playlist on Spotify. If you want to really earn your stripes, bear in mind these sins committed by all-too-many blowhard blokes.

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#1 Interruption
I noticed recently a female friend whose sentences have a way of trailing off after a while. They rarely really punctuate, just taper down. However, when we’re in company she’s the wittiest, punchy conversationalist. I realised that the reason I hear the fade out is because I’m unlikely to interrupt her mid-sentence. I imagine many women have mastered the art of getting their point or punchline out straight up before some guy cuts her off to deliver his own opinion, interpretation, agreement, disapproval, or joke of his own. There’s nothing wrong with just listening. Being a feminist doesn’t make it your fight, it makes you backup. Wait for the general to give you her instruction.

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#2 Ignorance
Who’s Gertrude Steinem? What’s the suffragette movement? What did bras do to deserve burning? Why is there a Minister for Women? Here’s a tip, don’t call yourself a feminist unless you know your shit, and the shit you don’t know? Ask. I know it might seem like a vulnerable position to be in when you confess ignorance about issues, people, events, policies key to the feminist movement, but if you’re not willing to show the simple respect of asking women to inform you about feminism, you’re on so many wrong tracks you’re basically Ludacris.

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#3 Martyrdom
We should all by now be in agreement that Masculinism and #notallmen are the devil. When male feminists use their feminism to whine and sulk that they feel tarred with the same brush and it’s not fair – welcome to what “sluts” might feel like, welcome to what it means when “women’s issues” is used to diminish your struggles in society. Far be it from me to school you, but being a feminist when you’re a man is not something you own, it’s something you earn. And until you’re willing to take a hard look at the brotherhood and gamble your place in it to stand up for women being disparaged, dismissed or degraded, no-one will respect your stance. This goes for all men masking their misogyny by asking for forgiveness because “I can empathise with the other side”. There is no other side for rape, abuse, murder or slander.

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#4 Tokenism
I’ve asked men why they became feminists and stood there being told how into Beyoncé they are, how inspiring she is. Now I’m all about the Queen, and her pop-feminism is doing beautiful things for forward motion in the masses, but I’ll be damned if your first response isn’t “because women deserve all rights available to any human being around the world, and deserve to fight for those rights and be regarded”. Feminism isn’t a trend, or a movement from the sixties, it’s a centuries-long battle that we are the latest recruits to take up shield, sword, pen, tongue in. So get to work, and don’t tire out when it suddenly becomes less popular to be the f-word.

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#5 Inaction
Hopefully by this point in the list you’re starting to realise that getting the door doesn’t make you a feminist, neither does following Clementine Ford on twitter, and sharing the domestic duties with your wife isn’t cutting it. When was the last time you asked your work if your pay was comparable with women’s pay in equivalent positions? When was the last time you checked your kid’s school uniform or bullying policy for gender equality? When have you checked for gender equality on the board or executive of your university, your super fund, your political party and allowed that to impact your choice? Don’t get confused between contributing to change and common courtesy. Actually actively do something.

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#6 Grandstanding
In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I searched for women who wrote about what male feminism is and how it’s important to the movement. However there were too many articles written by men. IS THIS THING ON?

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So here instead is a list of women who wrote about what to watch out for where male feminists are concerned. Get to clicking.
Jamie Utt and Jenika McCrayer
Lane Moore
Alicen Grey

#7 Evasion
You know how you’ve subconsciously assumed that doctors, actors, surgeons, lawyers are men sometimes? And you know how you never call a man a bitch unless he’s femme-gay? And when just between you and me, menstruation makes you uncomfortable? And when you surreptitiously don’t see a movie because it’s a chick-flick? It happens, it’s OK. We acknowledge it so we can fix it, and we should be mad about it. Because that’s misogyny impacting your life in the tiniest ways that allow a little more room for the bigger ways to somehow seem somewhat permissible. Being a feminist means being diligent, it doesn’t make you better than anyone else. On the contrary, being a feminist should be status quo. Be honest with yourself, challenge your interpretations and allow yourself to be part of a mass of people standing up against bigotry of all kinds. As a male feminist, just because it’s not about you, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable to you at all.   

B.

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“just another dead fag to you, that’s all” – Wake Up Australia

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I broke out in hives on my thighs. I slowly stopped dressing. I have been shaking with cold and anger for hours now. They are hanging us in Africa. They are imprisoning us for life in Asia. They are throwing us from rooftops in the Middle East. They are luring us on dating apps into cars, then robbing, stripping, beating and leaving us for dead in abandoned parking lots. They’re shooting us down daily. They’re legally allowed to after all in America. It brings into stark contrast how it’s not so bad Down Under, but we’d all be kidding ourselves if we think ourselves fortunate or that we’re not being hoodwinked.

The man swapped-in to lead my country erased me today. He made the massacre of my community, the largest single-event death toll in the States since 9/11, about him and about “us all”. This is the same man who won’t put marriage equality, the same party who wouldn’t amend the gay panic defence’, the same coalition who have stripped young people struggling with their identity of knowledge, safety and community in their schools by taking apart the only program that acknowledged their specific challenges when it comes to bullying and socialising. He tried to erase me, tried to deflect off me, tried to wash me out and assimilate me into his cowardly rhetoric, and he is not alone.

I have been so afraid that this event would be used to prove that marriage equality creates discord and should be avoided. That this event would be used to fuel the fires of xenophobia, and destroy resources for young people who need them to know they’re not alone, and help is within reach. All my fears have been realised by straightsplaining politicians and newreaders, by vicious anonymous twitter handles and facebook pages. We’re not so far removed down here. In Australia we are the last Western first-world nation to put marriage equality, and we only this year dismissed gay panic as a justifiable excuse for assault or murder. We have every reason to support our gay community, but our leadership just won’t. That kind of aversion sends a clear message not just to young people, but to all people – that being anything other than exclusively heterosexually monogamous is wrong and will be contested. It sends that message to me, and I cannot comprehend how anyone purporting to be a leader would see people suffer at the hands of prejudices against their very humanity, and remain completely impotent and manipulative of fact to maintain such a sad status quo.

Something missing from all the anguish and blame, is the simple knowledge that the root of this attack is homophobia, the extreme and ungoverned hatred of gay people. Not Islam, which is circumstantial in this case, nor guns, which are legitimate problems but only the tool here, but unwarranted unchecked murderous rage brought about by the lives of other people. This is not just a hate crime, but a systemic genocidal episode. And for goodness only knows what reason, some people just can’t admit that they’re accountable for the perpetuation and permission of this behaviour.

In a similar way we let misogyny go by and excuse it, using words like ‘gay’ and ‘faggot’ to discriminate and demean is behaviour that frequently goes by without being questioned, challenged or stopped. So it breeds, becomes more hurtful, more hateful. Someone glitter-bombs you a little too roughly. Strangers come up behind you and whisper sexually aggressive or threatening things in your ear. You hear ‘faggot’ yelled out of a car, and watch for brake lights in case they decide to turn around. You have one drink at a bar and within minutes feel suspiciously faint. As every act of violence is sensationalised by the media, the population of people who think it worthwhile to take a few lives as a means to express the exponential anger and disgust they’ve been allowed to feel and act on all their lives grows. When I was ten, I was told to just ignore it. How do you ignore a bullet in your back?

We do have to call out homophobia and hate crimes wherever we see them, and to whatever extent they might offend or frighten. We do have to teach teachers how to put their personal politics aside in favour of saving a child’s life from bullying and self-harm, which LGBT youth are at much higher risk of. Stop attributing homophobia to gay students; you don’t need to be gay to be called a faggot, or to be beaten up for dressing ‘like a leso’ or to be accused of representing a different gender. You can cry all you want about how our kids are doing too much social learning and not enough algebra; there’s no need for arithmetic when you feel worthless, and students struggling with a sense of belonging perform poorly in scholastic environments anyway! And as to the argument about how such education should rest solely with the parents, take a read of the shooter’s father’s statement. Or better yet, Brock Turner’s dad’s about his rapist son. You can’t ask the parents to teach something they’re ignorant of, that you didn’t teach them either. And producing a child does not in any way equate to making a person altruistic or just.

We do have to stamp on workplaces to create anti-homophobia policy and we need to hear and be proved politicians’ stances on these issues before we elect them. Where we shop, what we buy, where we invest, who we encourage, it’s all part and parcel of reaching equality. Think critically about what you do, what you let slip by. They say everyone knows or is related to a gay person. Do they know you’ve got their back today?