The New Republic: Australia is bad for celebrity puppies, worse for actual humans

The New Republic: Australia is bad for celebrity puppies, worse for actual humans

My latest at TNR is about Australia’s treatment of refugees, and why they ought to be shamed for it on the world stage:

Australia’s treatment of refugees has been repeatedly criticized by the U.N., with the offshore detention program coming under particular fire recently. In March, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture reported that the Australian government, “by failing to provide adequate detention conditions; end the practice of detention of children; and put a stop to the escalating violence and tension at the regional processing center, has violated the right of the asylum seekers including children to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” The Australian government, the U.N. concluded, is in violation of the Convention Against Torture.

In response, Abbott said that Australians are “sick of being lectured to by the United Nations.”

It’s not just the U.N., though; plenty within Australia have called for an end to the practice of turning away refugees and of imprisoning them for seeking asylum, which is explicitly not a crime. This Easter, Tim Winton, one of the nation’s most renowned living novelists, gave a Palm Sunday address in which he declared “that what has become political common sense in Australia over the past 15 years is actually nonsense. And not just harmless nonsense,” he went on. “It’s vicious, despicable nonsense… Australians have gradually let themselves be convinced that asylum seekers have brought their suffering and persecution and homelessness and poverty on themselves. Our leaders have taught us we need to harden our hearts against them. And how obedient we’ve been, how compliant we are, this free-thinking, high-minded egalitarian people.”

To go along with the “newly manufactured” political common sense that those people represent a threat to Australia’s prosperity, sovereignty, and national identity, Winton said, “is to surrender things that are sacred: our human decency, our moral right, our self-respect, our inner peace.”

But as in the United States, poor treatment of those seeking refuge is framed as necessary to protect the nation’s interest, and Abbott has gone so far as to argue that it’s the humane thing to do, as it will protect refugees from dying at sea or from attempting the dangerous passage in the first place. Which might be true, but it won’t give them a safe place to live, either. As in the U.S., openness to immigrants and the nation’s history, as one of millions of immigrant success stories, is built into Australia’s national self-identity. In practice, though, Australia’s comportment belies the promise of its national anthem, and its claim to being a modern and “fair go” society.

You can read the whole thing here.

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The New Republic: Throw pillows do not make for good therapists

The New Republic: Throw pillows do not make for good therapists

This week at TNR, I wrote about my recent visit home to Sydney, and about the challenges of living (and working, and loving) far from home:

And then it was time to go. Time to leave home, yet again.

The pain of separation, of leaving the place I love—even though it’s for another place I love—hasn’t faded after ten years. I always cry when I leave Sydney. This time, as the plane took off from Kingsford Smith, I wept. We soared into the sky and I couldn’t stop the tears, or stop looking out the window to see the last of my hometown, the green of the parks and the red of the terracotta roofs and the blinding flashes of gold as the sun hit the harbor. We flew east over the beach where Zach and I had sat at a café working the previous day, the beach where I wrote long stretches of my doctoral dissertation and had my first real kiss.

“We’ll be back,” he said, squeezing my hand. 

We doubtlessly will be, though in what capacity, I can’t say. Sydney is where I’m from. New York City is where I live. Home, the cliché goes, is where the heart is, but cross-stitched throw pillows don’t offer advice on where to go when the things dearest to your heart—your given family, your chosen family, your work—are all in different places. For now, my answer to those who ask if I’ll come back is: “I don’t know.”

You can read the whole thing here.

The Sydney Morning Herald: Hillary Clinton presidency would spark a backlash

The Sydney Morning Herald: Hillary Clinton presidency would spark a backlash

I have a piece today in my hometown paper, The Sydney Morning Herald, about the promise and peril of Hillary Clinton – or any other woman – running for President:

My grandmother turned 100 years old this May. Grandma Belle, a New Yorker born and raised, is five feet flat, and she is formidable; she does the New York Times crossword every day, she plays a mean game of Scrabble, and she brooks no nonsense from her five grandchildren, all of them women. Belle was born six years before the 19th Amendment granted American women the right to vote, and the sheer amount of American history that has unfolded in her lifetime boggles the mind.

Earlier this month, Hillary Rodham Clinton went to Iowa, which suggests that a Clinton presidential candidacy in 2016 is all but inevitable. It seems that a Clinton win is highly likely. As a feminist, I yearn for a woman to run for president, and I yearn for a woman to win. Whether or not it happens in 2016, it will happen. And it will, without question, be a watershed moment, and I will shed tears. I will think about my grandmother, born before suffrage, and about my mother, who was among the first women to benefit from the wave of inclusion that swept through  the United States’ most prestigious educational institutions in the 1960s and 1970s. I will marvel at how far the US has come since my grandmother was born, and I will envy the little girls being born on that day, who will grow up having never known a world in which the US hasn’t had a female president. And then I’ll think, “oh God, here come four to eight years of virulent sexism”.

If a female president is all but inevitable, so too is the cultural backlash that will follow her campaign and her victory.

You can read the whole thing here.

Thought Catalog: When you lose your accent, what else do you lose?

Thought Catalog: When you lose your accent, what else do you lose?

My piece for Thought Catalog this week is about accents, adapting, and identity:

Accents are, of course, so many things. A proxy for class status, wealth, education. A marker of immigrant status, for better or worse. A way to signal that you belong, and a way for other people to assume that you don’t. They’re a barrier to communication, or a way to entice people to listen to you more closely than they might to someone without an “exotic” or attractive lilt. People pay good money to learn to eliminate their accents, and performers pay better money to learn to imitate other ones. For most of my time in the US, I’ve thought of my accent as a source of pride. Now, though, the word that comes to mind when I think about my accent, or when I listen to recordings of myself, is “malleable.”

For every Australian who spots me as one of their own, there are many more Americans who fail to notice my accent. Earlier this week I was chatting to a group of women, and when I told them where I was from, they all expressed surprise. They hadn’t heard any trace of an accent — until I said, “I know, it comes and goes.”

“Oh, there it is!”

There it is. Goes. No. The Australian “O” sound is a very distinctive one: it contains at least four vowel sounds, and it’s almost impossible to transcribe here. And if my American friends’ efforts are anything to judge by, it’s almost impossible to imitate, even with extensive drunken practice. Once, when we hadn’t been dating very long, my current beau asked me if I wanted to go to the movies or cook dinner or some such thing I had no desire to do. I answered with a long, stretched out “No.” He stopped and stared, and asked, “How many vowels do you know?!” The Australian O is really something, and it’s the one element of my accent that hasn’t slipped at all in the years I’ve been living in the States.

You can read the whole thing here.

Daily Life: How to destroy the joint

Daily Life: How to destroy the joint

I have a piece at Daily Life today, about the group that’s been voted as one of the most influential women’s voices in Australia in 2012, Destroy the Joint. The group sprung up in response to comments made about the Prime Minister by radio host Alan Jones.

It wasn’t easy to explain “Destroy the joint” to American friends and colleagues. “Wait, what is the joint?” one of them asked me.

To Australian women, though, it made complete sense. The outrage that erupted in response to Alan Jones’s comments about women in leadership was visceral, a gut feeling for a populace who had finally had a gutful. Within hours, the witty and wonderful Jane Caro had coined a Twitter hashtag that had gone viral, and not long after that Jenna Price started the Destroy the Joint Facebook community page.

A few months later and the community has more than 20,000 members, all of whom are “sick of the sexism dished out to women in Australia, whether they be our Prime Minister or any other woman”. It’s a remarkably active Facebook community, with new content – new examples of sexism in the media, new ideas about how to “re-build the joint” in a more equitable way – being posted all day, every day.

You can read the whole thing here.

The Guardian: It’s good to see Julia Gillard tackle sexism

The Guardian: It’s good to see Julia Gillard tackle sexism

Good? It’s great. I have a piece at The Guardian today, about Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s rip-roaring remarks about sexism on the floor of the House of Representatives today:

This morning I woke up to an email that said: “Wow, looks like your prime minister fired her anger translator,” with a link to this video of Australian PM Julia Gillard’s masterful, righteous take-down of opposition leader Tony Abbott.

Abbott had called for the resignation of the embattled speaker of the house, Peter Slipper, who several months ago was accused of sexually harassing a staffer. Abbott called Slipper unfit for office, saying that the language in the sexually explicit text messages Slipper sent to the staffer were offensive. At that point, Gillard decided that she neither wanted nor needed an “anger translator”: she was going to handle this one herself. And handle it she did.

“I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not. And the government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever. The leader of the opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well, I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation. Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the house of representatives, he needs a mirror.”

Gillard went on to list a series of sexist and misogynistic remarks made by Abbott himself – from questioning whether it’s a bad thing that men have more power than women to explaining a new carbon pricing scheme with the words “what the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing …”. Gillard remarked sarcastically: “Thank you for that painting of women’s roles in modern Australia.”

You can read the whole thing here.

The Age: Abortion politics for export

The Age: Abortion politics for export

I have a piece today in The Age, an Australian major daily, about why American abortion politics are one American trend Australia can’t afford to follow:

Personhood amendments. Mandatory ultrasounds. Calls to make it illegal for rape and incest victims to have abortions (Governor McDonnell again). Funding cuts to Planned Parenthood, the organisation that provides low-cost cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and, yes, abortion in a country where 40 million people don’t have health insurance. Legislation that allows employers to decide whether their workers get birth control cover. This is the new political landscape around women’s health in America.

Before you start shaking your head and rolling your eyes at those puritanical Americans and their wish to control women’s bodies, you should know that personhood is for export.

You can read the rest here.