The Knot

Friday, December 18, 2009

Celebrating 40-Something Women With Song

Left: Donna and the Dynamos, from the Sydney musical Mamma Mia!

There is a scene in the movie Mamma Mia! that answers the question asked of me by my best friend: which is better - the musical or the movie?

A swarm of 40-something women running along cobblestone streets and dancing on a pier to the tunes of my all-time favourite ABBA song Dancing Queen, is one of the most uplifting movie scenes in years. The Greek Island setting is a visual bonus. There are very few films devoted to the journey of our generation of women. Women coming together to lend a shoulder, and a dance move. As a baby of the sixties, it's difficult not to be moved.

My friend saw the musical first. For me it was the movie. I finally caught up with the musical last night and it was captivating. The lyric Theatre at Star City, where the musical is currently playing until February 7 2010, was filled with the delighted cheering, clapping, singing and dancing of 40-something mothers and their daughters. As a mother of sons, I went along with my mother, sister and her two young daughters. It was a total girl-fest. A completely foreign experience for me.

The clearly timeless songs provided familiar territory. I owned every ABBA album and merchandise available in the seventies when I was a tween and ABBA was at its peak. To be taken back there 30 years later by a musical turned movie phenomenon is truly a gift.

I would love to see it again with the group of girlfriends who shared my memories. Just like Donna and her Dynamos - for one night only.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Spare A Thought For Elin Woods

Left: Tiger Woods with wife Elin

The refers to the Tiger Woods scandal as "the biggest in the history of the world". Although clearly a massive overstatement the story has managed to captivate in most parts of the world.

But what's so special about an elite sportsman cheating on his wife? That old chestnut rolls around every other month with the Hall of Fame including the likes of cricketer Shane Warne, golfer Greg Norman and footballer David Beckham.

So what is it about the golfing world's best that has sent the media into commentary meltdown? Sami Lukis, radio station Triple M's morning news reader, remarked that if Woods' marriage to a gorgeous Swedish model couldn't last then there wasn't much hope for the rest of us. And I figured that her comment may have nailed the reason for our fascination.

Woods and wife Elin were nothing short of the fantasy ideal couple in that old-school Walt Disney fashion. The charming, dashing golfer, worth millions by 21, marries the picture-perfect model with the Barbie-doll looks. We figure it was meant to be and then spend the rest of their lives aspiring to have what they have: outrageous good looks, ridiculous piles of cash and sheer happiness.

So when one of the three pillars of a perfect couple falls apart, we feel it personally and it rocks our world a little too. We now need to examine our ideals. Have we in fact been looking for love and happiness in all the wrong places? Better take that Tiger Woods poster off the wall lest anyone think you're aspiring to have what he can offer. Revelation: perfect people are not always happy.

There will be those who would like to tar and feather Woods - and trust me if I were Elin or her mother I definitely would want to. Others will express relief that the man is human after all. Another group will use the Woods saga to make them feel better about their own lot in life - 'my husband's not perfect but at least he doesn't cheat on me' etc. Then there are those who will be welcoming him to the club. When it comes to cheating partners, Woods is no island.

When the scandal broke last week, a colleague remarked, "what was he thinking?" Clearly he wasn't, otherwise he wouldn't have shagged a bunch of women who seem overly oriented to drop him in it. Did someone say five minutes of fame and fortune? As 10 or more women jump out of seemingly nowhere to claim their part of this sordid tale, I have cause to wonder whatever happened to common decency and dignity?

The image of the world's favourite golfer has taken a beating - and fair enough, I certainly don't condone what he's done - but the women who are going public aren't doing themselves or Elin Woods any favours either. Time for them to all go away so the real victim, his wife, can work through her next steps.

Whether it's one woman or 20 (and it could reach that number this time next week the way this is going), Elin Woods will be suffering inconsolable hurt. Why keep kicking a woman when she's down?

Photo credit


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Freedom of Expression or Just Plain Restrictive?

I've often wondered what would happen if I blogged favorably about an issue that was contrary to the beliefs of the organisation I work for. Or if I was honest about an issue that the company would rather not discuss - certainly not in the public domain.

When I blogged about my fears for a Tony Abbott-led Liberal party last week, I received a phone call from my mother-in-law and a public chastising from Fairfax columnist Miranda Devine, but not a word from the CEO of Independent Digital Media where I'm employed as Publisher. Nor was I the recipient of even a peep from the Chair of the Netball Australia Board, of which I am a Director.

No doubt the situation would be reversed if I were to break rank and criticise an advertiser or an umpire. And that would be fair as it could impact the respective organisation commercially. That's not to say that I can't disagree behind closed doors. That's my role. I can and I have been known to. Its the public airing of disunity that is the issue here.

I've had cause to question a staff member's comments made via the very public Twitter in recent times. Workshopping a business concern in 140 characters or less with a band of anonymous followers wasn't exactly in the best interests of the company at the time, at any time.

It's undoubtedly why Telstra felt it necessary to table a social media policy in April this year. It outlines the rules of engagement for when Telstra staff have their Telstra hats on while blogging and tweeting. It makes perfect practical and commercial sense but is a reminder that in the 21st century our preferred form of communication is a double-edged sword.

Call it the 'always on' strategy. When you're working for Telstra there is an expectation that 24/7 you will abide by the social media rules. No such thing as 'in your own time'.

But what to make of an organisation's decision to ban a blog by a local journalist for criticising something as seemingly irrelevant as a Christmas gift? UK company, Liverpool Direct Limited recently banned the Liverpool Daily Post blog from staff access due to its criticism of the company's Christmas gift to staff.

"It seems that the latest attempt to tell staf (sic) working at the city council's controversial IT joint venture with BT how great their workplace is, has backfired," David Bartlett blogged.

"As you can see by the picture, I have been supplied with the gizmos that were handed out to staff in an attempt to boost morale at Liverpool Direct Limited (LDL)."

Bartlett writes in the follow-up blog post-ban: "If you are reading this blog you are clearly not working at Liverpool Direct Limited (LDL)".

As a journalist it's easy to beat the drum in favour of freedom of expression; the right to be independent. We do and we should continue to do so. But there's also the not-so-insignificant matter of freedom of information. No organisation should be able to restrict or control the news that reaches its staff. Surely we've evolved beyond that. But living in a world where social media means that anyone, anywhere can join the conversation is instead potentially limiting our freedom of expression, ironically - and it appears that information restrictions have dropped their bags at our liberated doorstep too.

According to a report by Kristine Lowe, president of The Norwegian Online News Association (NONA), on, NONA met last month to debate the need for rules for journalists' use of social media. News organisations across the globe are beginning to put rules in place mostly to protect the media organisation, but also at the request from journalists who are uncomfortable with the grey areas.

Jan Omdahl, internet and technology commentator for Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet, pointed out that journalists encounter a whole new set of challenges online. “Even if I as a social media user think we can just continue as we always have done, I do see that we can benefit from raising awareness about these challenges. For instance: should I reply when I get questions on Twitter about why Dagbladet has used five different angles on that sex podcast on Should I confer with my bosses before I reply? Is it appropriate that I share my opinions on one of our most heavily criticised front pages?”

John Einar Sandvand, a digital strategist with Aftenposten, Norway’s newspaper of record, suggested three rules for how journalists should use social media:
1) The media company should be genuinely positive to its staff being active in social media
2) Social media activities must be done in a way which maintains the professional integrity of journalists
3) Stay loyal to your employer.

Illustration credit

Image credit


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Breast Pest

I found another lump in my breast this week and I'm absolutely terrified of what the Breast Clinic will tell me this time.

It's the third big one and although I'm a believer in everything happening in threes (so call me superstitious), I worry that the lumps associated with the previous scares may have felt slightly different to this one.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with lumpy breasts. Essentially, my breasts are made up of ridiculously large cysts - so large that if the clinic drained them all you'd have trouble making me out in a line-up of young boys.

The draining process is particularly uncomfortable. With no anaesthetic to lessen my anxiety (my body tenses which increases the pain quotient considerably), I was forced to grin and bare it as a supersized needle pierced each of my breasts in turn and extracted a whole lot of fluid. My cysts were of the maxi variety so it took a couple of goes per cyst to effectively drain them. My doctor joked that if she removed them all there'd be no breast left so she chose not to drain them all, much to my husband's delight.

I've felt worse pain, I told myself as the needle was forced into my left breast. I've given birth twice and there's nothing more painful than that. The difference is that unless you're a Scientologist, you're allowed to scream and shout obscenities when attempting to force another person out of your body. It's expected of you, almost a surprise if you don't. Whereas in the quiet of a breast clinic, bellowing in agony and threatening to harm your partner unless the pain stops immediately isn't really the done thing.

But as with childbirth you're expected to forget about the pain so that you'll return for an annual checkup. The thing is, the memory of last year's draining is still so very fresh for me. I can see the needle coming toward me as I blog. How do I bring myself to go back for another round - even if that is what I'm praying will be the necessary outcome? The alternative is clearly far worse.

Why does everything to do with female health involve a fair amount of discomfort? Yes, we're clearly the tougher gender but we don't need to be reminded of it every time we do the right thing by our bodies.

Illustration credit


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why Tony Abbott Will Need More Than A Makeover

Today's Liberal leader Tony Abbott is against abortion, same-sex marriage, binge drinking and no-fault divorce. He does, however, believe that paedophiles who have done their time should be allowed to live wherever they want. And he thinks it's funny that he has been accused of flirting with the Deputy PM.

Not surprisingly, today's female twitterverse revolted. With the exception of Fairfax columnist Miranda Devine, who wears her Liberal Party supporter badge on her sleeve, her forehead and as a watermark behind her columns, most female tweeters were outraged that a man with Abbott's beliefs could possibly head up a major political party in Australia in 2009.

Abbott made a point of apologising for any behaviour of the past during his first press conference today. Deputy Julie Bishop stood nervously by his side and lacked any credibility when she took to the microphone to talk up her new leader as "a character". She couldn't say that Abbott has any respect for women, so she didn't.

In case you needed reminding of just what Abbott was apologising for, I've dug up a few examples that have helped to characterise him.

On AM on November 1, 2004, Abbott's views on abortion were exposed.

"TONY ABBOTT: Ah, well, I don't much like abortion full stop, but obviously abortions at a point in the pregnancy when the child to be might otherwise be viable, obviously raise even more serious ethical issues than those much earlier in pregnancy.

MATT BROWN: And is there any way that of those 75,000 abortions that your health system funds, that some of those could be discouraged?

TONY ABBOTT: Well as I said the Government policy hasn't changed, let's see where this debate develops."

In an article about binge drinking on August 13, 2009, the Herald Sun reported that "Mr Abbott said his 18-year-old daughter Frances called him a "lame, gay, churchie loser" the last time he offered her a worthy moral exhortation".

On September 17, The Australian reported: "it was left up to Liberal front bencher Tony Abbott to call for a more rational approach to the issue of where to house someone like Ferguson".

“Everyone has to live somewhere”, Abbot wrote. “The punishment should fit the crime but, once people have served their sentence, it’s generally been thought that they should be allowed to restart their lives with more-or-less a clean slate. Our culture has been profoundly influenced for the good by the injunctions not to judge “lest ye be judged”; and to “love your neighbour as you love yourself”. That is, it seems, until the neighbour happens to be a former pedophile.”

In The Age on July 13, 2009, there was a report on Tony Abbott's plea to strengthen the bedrock of marriage by reintroducing the option of a fault-based system for divorce.

"Although Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said yesterday she was willing to entertain the idea - or at least debate it in the Coalition party room - experts suggest it could provide carte blanche for detectives to once more peer into the nation's bedrooms.

"Yes, really, there was a time - before no-fault divorce was introduced via the Family Law Act in 1975 - when figures in trench coats would scour bins for hotel receipts to produce evidence of adultery, and a spouse's "marital fault".

"This, in turn, could determine the size of a property settlement in court and even who got to keep the kids."

Abbott will certainly require a major makeover if he is to win over the crucial female vote. Without the 51% of the population who have been allowed to vote now for some time, he doesn't have a chance. No aspiring leader in recent times has understood this better than Kevin Rudd.