Thanks to the wonderful Australian Atheist Foundation, my article has been picked up by The Age newspaper. I wrote about how my Muscular Dystrophy changed my perspective on life, religion and responsibility.
I’d heard a lot about HBO’s ‘Girls’, so I decided to give it a crack. From what people had been raving about, I expected it to be a funny, warm yet realistic representation of life for early 20-something women trying to make their way in the world. I thought ‘Hey, I’m a 21 year old woman I should be able to relate to these women and their stories’. I was bitterly disappointed and a bit frustrated that I’d been promised this great show and was instead stuck with a series I kept watching just in case it got any better.
The series opens with the main character Hannah (played by Lena Dunham) having dinner with her parents. Her parents then have the AUDACITY to tell her that they’re going to stop funding Hannah’s life, which is what they’ve been doing since she graduated college 2 years ago. Hannah promptly throws a hissy fit (remember, she’s in her early 20’s) and tries to explain to her parents that she’s going to be a fabulous writer and the ‘voice of a generation’. I vomited a little bit in my mouth when she said this. She then goes home to bitch and moan to her equally vapid friends about how she needs a job, yet when it’s suggested she work for McDonald’s, she vehemently declines. She is of the mistaken and arrogant mindspace that beggars can be choosers and that she’s ‘too good’ to work at McDonald’s because she has a writing degree. So even from the start, because I’m not a spoilt brat, I had nothing in common with the main character. Sure, I receive some financial support from my parents, but I also pay rent, actively apply for jobs, am completing an Honours degree, and volunteer in my spare time (I know, I’m fantastic).
We’re then introduced to Hannah’s roommate Marnie who is whinging about her boyfriend loving her too much. Then ‘worldly’ Jessa who looks like she googled ‘How to dress bohemian hipster’. Finally, Shoshanna who is Jessa’s cousin, and a neurotic ditzy Sex & the City fan. Don’t you want to totes be BFFs with these girls?!
I watched the first episode, was put off by all the characters, and couldn’t relate to any of their first world, petty, spoilt problems, but I persevered. Maybe it was just finding its feet and the characters would soon blossom to become normal and likeable? By no means do I expect television characters to be gorgeous, witty, charming and all round fabulous, but I do like to feel some sort of connection, I want to root for them.
I finished season 1 last night. It was a relief to say the least. Why did I keep watching? Ironically, because my favourite characters in Girls, were the men.
We’re introduced to Adam in episode 1 as Hannah’s semi boyfriend/friend with benefits. She antagonises over how many times he’s texted her (something I unfortunately can relate to), whilst he is completely unaware of how much distress he’s causing her. He walks around topless, makes useless things in his workshop and is very sexually expressive. He’s your everyday young man. He displays slight autistic qualities such as saying strange things at inappropriate times, but this just makes him more endearing. He doesn’t try hard to be anyone, he doesn’t care. He’s the complete opposite of Hannah. Throughout the series, Hannah explains to him that he’s not treating her well and blah blah blah, so he changes. They turn into a real couple. He cares for her deeply and eventually tells her he is in love with her. Apparently this is too much for Hannah, who if I remember correctly, WANTED EXACTLY THIS. She spills a boring monologue about how insecure she is and how hard her life is. Yeah, it must be really hard having lovely parents who support you all the way through college then for two years after while you live in a nice apartment in New York working on your ‘writing’. Where do I donate to your charity? Adam calls her out on her spoilt white girl shit and then breaks up with her. I wanted to high five him.
Next likeable guy is Marnie’s boyfriend (then ex) Charlie. His problem was that he loved Marnie too much. Now, where did I put my tiny violin?… After 3 years together, she breaks up with him. Fair enough, some relationships can fizzle out. I can understand that. He is heartbroken and finds solace in another girl’s arms a fortnight after their break up. Marnie finds out and gets all mopey and looks through Facebook photos of him and his new girlfriend. An appropriate response in today’s modern age. If anything, this situation is the one in which most women can relate to. But what annoys me is that Marnie is just boring. There’s no spark to her. She has no ambition. Charlie isn’t the most developed character, but I feel sorry for him. I decided I liked him because unlike the other female characters, I don’t cringe when I watch him.
Finally, my favourite character in Girls; Thomas-John. He is played by the adorable and hilarious Chris O’Dowd and only appears in 2 episodes. However, he gave me the first and only genuine laugh in this supposed comedy series. He is introduced as a dapper businessman sitting at a bar, who hits on Marnie and Jessa and asks them to come back to his place for a bottle of wine. Now for anyone with a third of a brain, this can be decoded as ‘I would like to attempt to sleep with you two’. I assumed the girls knew this, and were okay with it. So they went up to his apartment, he turned out to be a wannabe DJ and while the girls lied on his carpet (what?) he tried to initiate a threesome. Marnie and Jessa act offended and indignant. How dare this man who obviously wanted sex suggest we have sex?! Then, because Marnie wants to be more crazy and loose, she starts to passionately kiss Jessa. Yawn. Thomas-John starts to become annoyed as they are ignoring his advances and goes on a hilarious tirade which includes my favourite line of the series ‘WHO WEARS A BOWLER HAT?!’. He rips them to shreds for being try hard rich daddy’s girls and angrily asks them if they’ve ever worked hard in their lives (Enjoy the rant http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWsovTuub8g).
Many might say that Thomas-John is a pig, but I don’t see it that way. It was blaringly obvious that he was interested in sex with Jessa and Marnie. They could have easily said no. But to have led him on, make him believe they liked him, then to laugh in his face, I’d say that’s cruel on their part.
To sum up, don’t watch Girls unless you’re an entitled, arrogant, naïve, spoiled white 20 something year old living in New York. Or watch it if you want to feel better about yourself because you actually strive to achieve in life instead of moping around feeling sorry for yourself.
I’m a big fan of equality. I don’t think exceptions of the rule should be made, or tokenism allowed for anyone, regardless of gender, religion, ability or ethnicity. The idea of ‘equality’ usually evokes feelings of power and fairness, but sometimes equality can mean everyone gets treated the same in shitty situations. Sometimes life is unfair, but occasionally, you just have to suck it up. However, some people think they’re above this occasional unfairness. I recently read an article ‘Muslim women face an uphill battle against prejudice to find work’ (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/10/muslim-women-prejudice-getting-job#start-of-comments) in which Muslim women are sometimes forced to remove their hijabs for work. As I was reading, I experienced all the normal reactions; outrage, sympathy, etc. But then I removed myself from my default emotions regarding discrimination and realised that these women were using their religion to demand special treatment. Now before you yell ‘Muslim hater!’, know that I despise all religions equally. I’m a fair woman, so it wouldn’t matter if this article was about Christian or Hindu or Scientologist (if you can even call them a real ‘religion’) women not being allowed to wear their sacred religious garments.
I personally believe there is no harm in a Muslim woman wearing her hijab to work. However, when you look for and accept work, it usually involves being aware of that particular organisation’s or business’s dress code and expectations of employee’s presentation. I live in the real world. I know that some employers do not like my look. I have facial piercings and visible body tattoos and I’m aware that these are deal-breakers for particular employers. I wouldn’t be offended if I got knocked back to become a waitress for a café that serves high tea, or for a job teaching lady’s etiquette. I understand that by having these body modifications, I am limiting my chances of employment in some areas.
This is where it comes back to equal treatment. In supposedly secular countries, religious people should be treated exactly the same as those who do not identify with any religion. To me, this means that employers should have just as much rights to ask a Muslim to remove her hijab as they do to ask me to remove my nose ring. Both are cosmetic, materialistic items with abstract meanings. A Muslim woman’s hijab may be worn to make her feel more comfortable in herself, but this is the same reason why I had my tattoos done. Once you remove the element of religion, a hijab is simply an accessory. If we are to truly be an equal society, I believe religious garments, beliefs or rules should be up for the same scrutiny as their secular equivalents.
Sometimes beggars can’t be choosers. If you desperately need a job, and the only option includes a position in which you need to forgo or supress some of your values or beliefs, then you bloody take that job. I have applied for positions in all sorts of organisations that I don’t agree with, including; counselling at a private Christian school (in which I would have had to incorporate Jesus’s teachings in my advice), case managing for a Lutheran homeless charity, and volunteering for various different churches. This is the real world. People aren’t always going to pander to your personal values.
At the risk of committing the ‘Slippery Slope’ argument fallacy, where would it end? Under the rules of ‘religious freedom’ and free expression, people could argue that wearing giant blood soaked crosses around your neck is a Christian right, or that wearing a tin foil hat so that the aliens can’t read your thoughts is a Scientology necessity. Of course these are ridiculous examples, but religion is in the business of being ridiculous and nonsensical.
Of course there are exceptions to this opinion. Employment discrimination based on race, gender, disability, etc, is unacceptable. Furthermore, I’d have a problem if an employer suddenly changed his or her mind regarding the dress code and enforced rules that weren’t in place at the time of initial employment. But if I was employed and 6 months into the job my boss said ‘Holly, I’m going to have to ask you to cover your tattoos and piercings’, I would weigh up my options. If I desperately needed this job, I would do it. I might grumble a bit and write an angsty entry into my diary, but I’d realise that I need the money, and I’d have to grit my teeth and get over it. If I didn’t desperately need the job, I’d leave and find a new one where my cosmetic differences were accepted.
No accessory should be given precedence over another, regardless of whether it is religious or not. I’m lucky that I live in a free society in which I can leave my house with my piercings and science tattoos, as can Muslim women with their hijabs or burkas, and Christian women with crosses around their neck. Just don’t tell me one is more sacred than the other.
I am officially free from university commitments for about 3 months, which means I’ll have a lot more time to bang out stuff here on my blog. I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve for possible topics to discuss, but I also thought I’d give my TENS OF READERS the chance to suggest topics.
If you want me to write about anything specific, you have questions you want answered, or you just want to generally mess with me, leave a comment or Contact Me. Same goes for my videos as well. Want to see me rap, knit or prepare a 5 course meal? I won’t do that.
So get cracking and let me know if you want anything special!
Abortion is a difficult issue that ruffles feathers. When disability is an extra variable, it incites all sorts of opinions, ranging from the extreme to the ambivalent. Recently here in Australia, a television program called ‘Insight’ held a forum on ‘Designer Babies’ (the link is available at the end of the post) where prenatal genetic testing was discussed. At first, the idea of choosing a baby’s gender was discussed, with the answers mainly involving sexism, political correctness, and gender ratios. The conversation then progressed to talking about prenatal genetic testing for major disabilities such as Down Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, etc. My ears pricked up, as I’d previously discussed this issue with my mother, and I was interested to see what the speakers on the programme had to say.
The show had experts in genetics, philosophy and ethics, along with community members who had their stories to tell and opinions to share. The philosophers sat on the fence (no surprises there). The main ethicist Professor Julian Savulescu argued that parents have a ‘moral obligation to create the best humans possible’ and would like to see genetically inherited diseases bred out. The opposing argument came from disability advocate Stella Young, who has Osteogenesis Imperfecta and feels that screening foetuses for genetic disabilities sends the message that the lives of those living with disabilities aren’t worth a lot and are of lesser value.
Both sides presented well structured arguments and good points, but from my personal experience, I couldn’t help but side with Professor Savulescu. It may seem strange that someone with a genetic disability (Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy) would side with the position that essentially thinks I should have been aborted and my condition ‘bred out’, but it’s because I was born with it that I agree.
What I have to preface this argument with is that this is solely my opinion, and in no way do I endorse compulsory termination of foetuses with genetic disorders. I’m 100% pro choice and believe that women have to right to do whatever they choose with their bodies and fertility. I’m simply approaching this with the knowledge of what life is like with a debilitating genetic disorder and the conversations I’ve had with my mother regarding her feelings towards my birth and conception.
With a sound mind and acknowledgement of how depressing and shocking it sounds, I believe I should have been aborted. I was my parent’s first born, and they had no idea that they both carried the Muscular Dystrophy recessive gene (making it so that every child they had would have a 25% chance of having the disorder). They then went on to have 3 more children, unaware of the MD genes or even of my diagnosis. In no way do they regret having me, they love me unconditionally regardless of my disability. However, had they’ve known about prenatal testing, and that they were both MD carriers, I wouldn’t have been born. This may upset or anger people, but I completely agree and support this hypothetical decision.
I believe a lot of people have difficulty separating the person who I am now, with the foetus that I was. Obviously, I was born, am alive and am generally a delight to everyone who’s ever met me* (*citation needed). But a foetus is a collection of cells. Sure, that foetus has the potential to form and grow into an amazing human being, but it’s similar to someone feeling upset over eating seeds because the seeds could have been planted and grown into a beautiful tree. Of course human life is very different and more sacred, but the logic still applies. I don’t believe aborting foetuses with genetic disorders is ‘killing’ a person.
As for my reasoning behind this opinion, it’s quite simple; I would never want a child of mine to go through what I have in my life. Without sugar coating it, my MD is quite terrible. It’s the breaking down of my muscles over time, rendering me gradually incapable of day to day activities and actions. I’m actually wasting away. I’m only 21 and I need help with nearly everything. I have no idea what life will be like in 6 months or 10 years. It’s a painful and depressing waiting game. I live life to the best of my capabilities and I’ve been provided with every opportunity under the sun, but it’s a life that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, let alone a child of mine. Of course having MD has taught me many valuable lessons about life, relationships, self esteem, and ambition, but I don’t feel like these have outweighed the negative aspects that come from MD. You can be as philosophically content as you want, but I find not being able to care for your little sister when she scrapes her knee much more important and heartbreaking.
I’m being honest about this because I feel like disability is often misrepresented as something that’s okay as long as you plaster on a smile. I would rather a potential child of mine not be born, than have to live with the pain, frustration, depression and uncertainty that comes with MD. The foetus has no knowledge of its existence, just as every one of us did before we were born. I do have knowledge of my existence, and while I enjoy my life and am surrounded by joy, family, friends, and opportunity, I wouldn’t put myself through it, if I’d had the choice.
Alan Jones recently said on air that women in politics ‘destroy the joint’. I disagree. I talk about some great female politicians Australia has, and how blatant sexism should not be tolerated in the media.
If this is what hell will be like, sign me up!
(I stole this picture from the FaceBook timeline of the fantastic Australian Atheist Foundation)
Most people don’t like being labelled as ‘ists’; sexist, racist, homophobic…ist. Have you ever considered whether you’re an ‘ableist’? That’s right, there’s another word to make you feel guilty about your privileged status. This time, this privilege comes from having been born healthy or not having been involved in a major accident. Statistically, there’s a large chance you are an ableist, and according to the blogger ‘Bitch on Wheels’, you carry an invisible ableist back pack (which you can easily carry because you’re physically healthy enough to). I came across this list of privileges and thought it would be a bit of fun to describe my experiences with some of the items included.
A bit of back story is needed of course. I am ultimately better than you because I am not an ableist. I have a physical disability called Muscular Dystrophy. It basically means the proteins in my muscles deteriorate over time, making my whole body (from the neck down) weaker. This leads to me losing the ability to do normal things such as walking, bending, reaching, and somersaulting. I was diagnosed when I was 12 and currently spend the majority of my time in a wheelchair. It’s become normal for me, I’ve adapted, because I have no other choice. However, there are some things that I shouldn’t HAVE to adapt to, as they are discriminatory and condescending, and this is where the ableist’s back pack comes in.
I’m only going to address the items that most apply to my situation, but if you’d like to see the entire list, check out Bitch on Wheel’s blog here: http://exposingableism.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/the-invisible-backpack-of-able-bodied-privilege-checklist/
I’m guessing that not a lot of you have to worry about whether you’ll be able to fit into a certain venue, unless of course you’re the Hulk, but I think if that’s the case, you’ve got bigger problems. I have to research most venues before I attend social events. This includes ringing restaurants to set up wheelchair accessible tables, ordering specialised seating at concerts, and asking friends to scour their houses for small steps or difficult doorways. I miss out on many social gatherings due to their locations, which I’ve come to accept, but there’s still a bitter stab of disappointment when I realise I’ll be missing out on a fun beach party or bonfire.
Now this might not seem strange or offensive to you, but imagine if you were called upon to represent a group of people because of something you were born with. Would you feel comfortable representing everyone with brown eyes? Or everyone who is left handed? Of course I’m completely in support of anyone who chooses to speak for those with disabilities. Disability advocates have made the world a better place for me, and without them, I wouldn’t have ramps built at my university, or government funded help. However, I have been approached many times to speak on behalf of those with Muscular Dystrophy, wheelchair users, or people with varying disabilities, simply because I was born with it. I don’t feel that I can speak for others. Everyone’s experiences are different, and my story doesn’t represent everyone’s.
This is a major item for me. This is where the condescending nature of people is revealed. Before I continue, I need to say that 99% of people do not mean any harm when they talk to me like a child, they’re simply ignorant of their behaviour. This isn’t a case of people being mean or abusive, it’s a lack of insight into the lives of those disabled people they’re talking to or interacting with. I’ve had people rub the top of my head, pat my shoulder, talk slowly and loudly to me, and completely ignore me and talk to whoever is with me at the time. It even happens with medical professionals. These are people who should know better, yet I’ve still had doctors address my parents with questions about my health whilst I sit there, staring straight at them, mouth agape. Along with the blatant condescending treatment, the amount of times I’ve heard the words ‘inspiration’ ‘proud’ and ‘brave’ be thrown around will make you feel a bit queasy. I am very proud of myself and how far I’ve come, because it would have been much easier for me to curl up in bed and refuse to open the curtains (although there have been periods in which I did this). However, when people congratulate me for doing normal things such as graduating high school, going to university, etc, I feel like pointing to the able bodied student next to me and saying ‘We both had to do the same work and pass the same tests’. I didn’t get where I am today because of my disability. I got here in spite of it. I’ve done nothing out of the ordinary. When I conquer Mount Everest, then you can give me a congratulatory high five.
(For a much better and funnier article about ‘Inspiration Porn’ check out one of my favourite writers, Stella Young: http://www.abc.net.au/rampup/articles/2012/07/02/3537035.htm)
Now that I’ve come to a stage in my life where I’ve completed my degree and I’m comfortable with my skill set, I feel that it’s time to look for a job in which I can utilise these skills, and make a step towards procuring a successful and fulfilling career in my field of interest. In fantasy land, everyone is employed based on their skills, experience, personality and work ethic. Skin colour, gender, background or disability isn’t a factor considered by the employer in fantasy land. Also, there are fairy floss trees and unicorns giving kittens free rides. Unfortunately, this is the real world and I have to be realistic about who will employ me. Even I know, if I was an employer and was presented with two candidates of equal worth and quality with regards to what the company wants, I would pick the able bodied applicant. It’s just easier. Desks don’t have to be altered, ramps don’t have to be installed, and special circumstances don’t have to be considered. So when it comes to employment, I know it’s going to be a tough road with lots of rejection and unfair judgement, but I’m going to have to suck it up and trudge on.
To be honest, this is an issue I still struggle with. I’m often uncomfortable when I see stories in the media about someone having a terrible accident, becoming disabled in some way, and then having their partner described as ‘inspirational’ for staying with them. Surely, if you loved someone enough, you wouldn’t think twice about caring for them in that situation. It makes me feel like if I was to be with anyone, helping me with my condition would be a burden to them because it’s such a big and inspirational task to help someone with a disability. I admit, I have grave doubts and worries about future partners and if I’ll be a burden and whether they’ll resent me, but I feel like these worries will decrease with age and experience.
Contrary to my previous jokes about you all being ableists, I didn’t write this to induce guilt or make you feel bad about complaining about your own lives (although I do have to bite my tongue when people try to sympathise with my situation by saying ‘I know how you feel, I broke my foot once.’). I just thought it was interesting to delve into privileges we don’t know we have. Furthermore, if this can stop just one person from treating those with disabilities in condescending or offensive ways, I feel like I’ve done my good deed for the day. Now I’m off to find those kitten riding unicorns…