Finding your voice

Would you say that you are brave? Tough question, right? I’m pretty sure I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of spiders, public speaking, heights, being hungry on a long train-ride. I’m even scared of escalators! Though, actually I think that this fear is pretty rational, given that I was knocked unconscious on an escalator in ‘03 when my long, Stevie Nicks-esque cardigan got caught on one at Hurstville station and catapulted me back down to earth and left my back covered in escalator shaped tooth marks.

My partner, Allan is one of those crazy, calm people who doesn’t panic when everything falls apart. He does this really weird thing where he looks for a solution to the problem without attaching emotion to it (like I said; crazy). He’s also one of those mental patients who has jumped out of an aeroplane willingly, bungee jumped for the fun of it and continues to ask me to accompany him swimming with sharks (bless his cotton socks).

I am no thrill seeker, but there is one area where my bravery excelled as a child and returned with a vengeance in my 30’s after an unfortunate disappearing act in my 20’s; speaking my mind. Something that I believe young children and senior citizens are brilliant at. I remember visiting my nan in the nursing home the year of her passing, asking if she liked my new jacket; “not really” she replied. Ahhh, so refreshingly honest. What happens to us in those years in between dummies and dentures? Is it that deadly disease sweeping the globe; ‘caring what others think of us’? Imagine what the human race could accomplish in those wasted hours spent worrying about the judgement of others?

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My greatest flaw and biggest barrier to success has been my ‘people pleasing’ personality. That need for a pat on the head, to be told that I’m doing a good job. Every time I have needed external validation, I have handed over my power to someone else.

I have this theory, from carefully observing those I deem to be successful: that some of the most successful people did not do well in school. I was a straight-A student whom teachers loved. They told me to jump and I asked; “how high”? I then spent my early adult years in unhealthy relationships with basic jobs and financial debt. Could this be because I was a victim of a system that encouraged ‘sheep’ rather than independent thinkers? I’m not suggesting to stop reading or being interested in gaining knowledge, I’m suggesting that perhaps a rebellious streak could have been a little less punished by our superiors.

Richard Branson is a name known around the world, not just for being one hell of a flirt, but for creating a hugely recognisable and successful brand in various industries. In his autobiography ‘Like a Virgin’, Branson talks about his struggles at school due to his dyslexia and poor academic performance. Before dropping out at age 16, the mogul’s headmaster told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. I would like to question; in fear of ending up as the former, how many of us have been prohibited from becoming the latter?

Some may call me argumentative; fair call. I grew up in a family who could have brought home the gold, if arguing was an Olympic Sport. Though I’m learning to pick my battles and walk away from conversations that can’t be won, such as disagreements with people who are more offended by two men holding hands than holding guns. “I could argue with an idiot, but then there’d be two idiots”. There is a fine line between being argumentative and having a voice.  Having a voice is my finest quality and it continues to make me proud of myself. This doesn’t mean that I’m not kind or compassionate, this just means that I value myself and my needs, which in turn, makes me stronger to help others.

Kasey Chambers articulated this brilliantly as she was inducted into the ARIA Hall of fame last month; “being a bitch doesn’t make you strong, and being strong doesn’t make you a bitch”. Amen.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I adore Lady Gaga. Not just for her amazing vocal performances that have inspired me in my own singing career, but because she’s just plain smart. After having back to back success with her first two albums, Gaga felt immense pressure on her from her record label and media scrutiny to continue and expand on this success. Having been a songwriter from a young age, Gaga felt the emphasis moving away from her creativity and onto her being a money-making puppet for people riding the coat tails of her success. After being hospitalised with a broken hip and experiencing constant pain from fibromyalgia, Gaga felt quite simply; depressed. I watch a lot of Lady Gaga footage on YouTube; there are some damn fine performances on there, but my very favourite is of Gaga’s speech at Yale University, encouraging us to SAY NO. The multi award winning singer and songwriter shared with the audience, some of the questions she asked herself to return to a healthier state of mind:

Stephanie/Gaga/hybrid person, why is it that you’re unhappy? Why is it that you want to quit music? Well I really don’t like selling these fragrances. I don’t like wasting my time spending days shaking people’s hands & smiling & taking selfies; it feels shallow to my existence. I have a lot more to offer than my image. I don’t like being used to make people money. I feel SAD when I am overworked and that I just become a money-making machine and that my passion and my creativity take a back seat; that makes me unhappy. So what did I do? I started to say no. “I’m not doin’ that. I don’t wanna do that. I’m not taking that picture, I’m not goin’ to that event, I’m not standing by that ‘cause that’s not what I stand for.” And slowly but surely, I remembered who I am. And then you go home, and you look in the mirror and you’re like; YES, I can go to bed with YOU every night, because I know that person. That person has balls, that person has integrity, that person has an opinion…I check in with myself throughout the day and ask myself, do I really want to do this? And if the answer is no, I don’t do it, and you shouldn’t either.”

I believe this speech to be a very powerful reminder of who is in charge of our own lives. Especially now, that we are living in a society dominated by ‘likes’ and ‘followers’. We may not have the same financial freedom as Gaga to stay at home if we don’t feel like going to work that day. But if you feel stuck in a situation that is sacrificing who you are as a person in the effort to appease another, then only you have the power to say NO. To remove yourself from that situation and then try something different. Once you can do that without looking around for someone to tell you that it’s OK, you have conquered fear. And you will be free.

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When we were children, we all wanted to grow up. Surely it wasn’t for the bills and wrinkles; it was for the freedom.

I’m a work in progress. I know that times will arise throughout the day when I will worry what might happen, what someone might say, or doubt my talent and abilities. But that’s OK. As long as I am aware of this and keep bringing myself back, then I am moving forward. 

I recently did something for my career that the mere thought of years ago would have terrified me to my core (it is ongoing, and I will be divulge more information in the coming months). But no matter the outcome of this huge risk I took, I feel so good inside, knowing that I pushed through the shaking legs and achieved something I never had before. I was brave, and I am so proud of myself. I go to bed each night and look at Steph in the mirror and say; “I can go to bed with you”.

As we draw to the end of the year; my first year writing this blog, I would like to thank you so much for reading words that have meant a lot to me. I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas filled with love, trifle and champagne.

My wish for us all in 2019, is that we say no to situations that make us unhappy, say yes to adventures that help us grow and have balls bigger than a rhino.  

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The real F-word

It was recently suggested to me that men have a higher suicide rate than women because of feminism. Please excuse me whilst I wash this vomit out of my mouth for a moment. If anyone believes this, I implore you to pick up a book or go out of your little box and into the world. These folk need to stop getting their education through over-dramatised social media posts or Trump-esque videos aimed at pitting one group of people against another. This ‘us v them’ culture is truly the demise of us all. Living with a football player, I can tell you that the reason suicide is much higher in men, particularly in the football community, is because they were raised in macho surroundings where you were called ‘wimp’ or ‘pussy’ if you cried or showed emotion. Many psychologists believe that those who internalise are at a higher risk of suicide. I fail to see how me expecting to be given the same rights as my male counterpart encourages suicidal tendencies. If that’s the case, you really are a pussy.

What makes me laugh is when a woman feels the need to preface a smart statement with the line: “I’m not a feminist, but…” It reminds me of when Pauline Hanson says; “I’m not racist, but Asians are taking over”. Ladies, if you’re going to say something in support of your fellow sisters, please don’t feel the need to apologise before it escapes your mouth. That’s only perpetuating the myth of feminism being hateful. This is the exact problem. That feminism is a dirty word to many. This movement has never been about hating men, it’s only ever been about equality. Imagine a world where we weren’t pre-judged on our gender, our race or our religion. Because that’s what prejudice is; pre-judging. You can judge me as much as you would like, but please judge me only on my actions. Because that is all I can control. Everything else was a birthright.

When I was in high school, I was in a group of friends that consisted of  two other girls and about 10 males. My favourite thing to do on a Friday night is have steak and wine at the pub whilst watching Friday night footy. When I am invited to family functions; all of the women sit inside eating cake and talking about celebrities, yet I sit out the back with the men; drinking scotch, smoking cigars and talking about sport. Yet, I am a feminist. I repeat; feminism is not about hating or lowering men, it’s about making everyone recognise we deserve the same rights, whether I can change a tyre or not (I so cannot…NRMA anyone?). Can I also clarify another misconception? You don’t actually have to be a woman to be a feminist. My hot, straight, football playing boyfriend believes whole-heartedly that he and I are equal and that he is not entitled to any more than I due to a difference in gender. He too, is a feminist. Believing in gender equality is what makes you a feminist (and also not an idiot).

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Having been born in the 80’s, I was brought up on movies that led us to believe that our happy ending was standing at the end of the altar in a white dress. What’s interesting, is that very rarely did they explain what we did with our lives after that (presumably barefoot and pregnant). Men saved the world, and women married those men. Gradually, with each generation, you see a shift in entertainment. Disney used to portray Cinderella getting rescued from horrible (and catty towards other women) step-sisters by a handsome prince. Poor old Belle had a bad case of Stockholm syndrome when she fell in love with her captor. But today, Moana is sailing the seven seas to rescue her whole village! She’s warm and wild and brave, and the world fell in love with her (I love her crazy grandmother who dances with Sting-rays; that’s my kinda woman). The big shift arose when I was a teenager, The Spice Girls introduced us to Girl Power and my TV screen was dominated by Buffy, the Charmed ones and Dark Angel. Their ass-kicking moves and sassy retorts will live on in my soul forever.

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Can someone please explain to me why so many believe it acceptable, humorous even, when a man is drunk at a party but inappropriate if a woman is? I wanna have some fun too (right Ms Lauper?) Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t alcohol work its way down to the liver rather than the penis? Hmm, perhaps I need to look at a diagram of anatomy again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning drinking to excess, I just fail to see why it’s socially acceptable for one and not the other. I was not born to be the designated driver with an expensive handbag. I have a voice, and I intend to use it. Plus…I am a fantastic dancer after a few champagnes. I was recently shamed by a wife of my partner’s friend for having been drunk at a party two and a half years ago. I recently walked up to her at a wedding, as I didn’t recognise her, and introduced myself, to which she replied; “oh we have met at that birthday party years ago, but you were too drunk to remember”. I found that very interesting, considering that her husband was drunk at that birthday party, her husband was drunk at this wedding and her husband has been drunk at every occasion in between, as were all the men in that group. I’ve even had my sink clogged by their vomit. But I suppose that’s funny (I can almost hear men chanting “yeah the boys” as I write this). I’ll tell you this much about our lovely friend, I wouldn’t have remembered her even if I was sober. I tend to only remember people with personality.

It’s disappointing to realise that it’s not only men who are fighting our belief in gender equality. We can only succeed if we work together and stop tearing each other down.

No one can be ‘better’ than another based on something they were born with, such as a postcode, a colour of skin or a chromosome. Your actions are the only thing that determine your importance. Graham Long is better than most, because for decades, he provided a safe haven for the lonely and hopeless in Kings Cross. He used his voice to help others find their own. Turia Pitt is better than most because she is breaking down the walls of perceived beauty and continues to rise, despite her setbacks. She is using her strength, to help others find their own.

Allow me to share with you an actual exert from the Woman Anti-Suffrage Association of New York, urging men to vote no on the woman suffrage amendment;

Vote NO because there is no adequate reason why the women of this State should assume this duty in addition to those they already carry.

Vote NO because women are not suffering from any injustice which giving them the ballot would rectify.

Vote NO because man’s service to the State through government is counter-balanced by woman’s service in the home. One service is just as essential to the welfare of the State as the other, but they can never be identical.

    • Housework was actually referred to as a woman’s service to the State.
  • Remember the old saying; “who died and made you boss?”. Who died and put men in charge? Why did we ever have to ask for permission to have a voice? It makes as much sense as black people sitting on one end of the bus, and white people sitting on the other.
  • Inequality is in play when TV executives deem it OK to have a male news anchor who is old and unattractive, but his female co-anchor must be under 55, slim and attractive (I know you all remember Brian Henderson). Inequality is in play when Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence were paid less than their male co-stars for the same film, even though they’re both Oscar winners. And inequality is in play when tampons are taxed as a luxury item but condoms are not.

Once a month, I love to spoil myself with some luxurious indulgence.

    • Feminism is a beautiful word. It might not be as beautiful as my two other favourite F-words; Free Food. But I am damn proud to use it.
    • A woman with a voice is a beautiful creature, not as the lovely Greens member Greg Barber put it;fat, hairy lesbians”, “power pussies” and “hairy-legged feminists”. Sit down Greg; you ain’t no oil painting.
    • Any movement that encourages equality and fairness is a good and necessary movement. It is met with resistance only by the weak who fear losing their strength if others are stronger. True power comes from within, and cannot be taken away by another.
  • FEAR; now that is truly one of the filthiest words.