Checking the surf

the first time i heard someone use the word 'rape' in a jokey way i was in year 6. i don't have a very good memory in general at all, but i remember this moment, we were making craft things at christmas time, with cellophane and coloured pencils and had joined up with a year 7 class. it was one of the year 7 boys who said it. i can't remember exactly what he said, but i remember the feeling, the feeling that follows you into the rest of your life as a female - the instantaneous sadness, anger, fear, all mixed into one. it's the feeling you have as you stay quiet in lots of these circumstances, you are paralysed by the combination of these reactions to the reminder that almost no matter where you are there is always that threat of physical and sexual violence.

it was such a shock to year 6 me, that someone would use this worst possible word flippantly. it's a shock thinking back that i knew what the word meant as a tiny person growing up without even the internet and not having suffered in that way in my tiny life. but i knew and could feel what it meant, and knew and could feel it was so wrong for someone to chuck that word about like a piece of cellophane.

last night i went to have pizza with my friends. sally made a cake that tasted like living inside a jaffa, if you were lying on a leather lounge chair with a white sheepskin on top of the lounge chair (not a vegan vision evidently), sipping a teeny glass of cointreau - great cake. because of what's been going on around us, when i left the friends in the pizza place i didn't walk to my car by myself as i usually would. i got my friend matt to come with me, because as we all know, just the presence of another man means you're safer, unless that other man is the one who's going to attack you.

the day before i was checking the surf at the beach in a car park with other people and a man in his car was looking at me, looking at me in the particular way, and doing something weird in the front seat, staring, looking, and then motioning to me. i can't explain to you how this is not an innocuous moment in time, or how i know his intentions, but there are ways that things are done that make you know the threat is there. he was reaching into my space from afar, as we are used to some men doing, and reaching into my consciousness so i had to try and shake it off the next hour - that same feeling - fear, anger, sadness and then the self-recriminations that come "i should have gone up and said something to him". it's near a carpark where a man exposed himself to my friend another time. see these aren't empty carparks at night, it's daytime, other people around, a chill suburb, it's just our day-to-day life.

i saw my friend daniel in the supermarket, also not a safe place from these things. he said that sucks about getting creeped on to at the beach and i told him this is just an every day event for us.

that's a thing that has come from this, at least for the small amount of people around me. that our counterparts and potential allies into a safer version of the world are starting to understand that this is a strange reality we live in, that the best of them are not aware of. they have been part of it though, no doubt, in conversations that feed into the general disrespect for women that leads to these things. as i tried to say to another friend "This is SCIENCE", the idea that what goes in culturally and socially does come out.

we are all part of creating this culture, and we can also dismantle it, replacing attitudes with something better.

it's just a fact, there are ways to make violence and sexual assault less common. in the case of violence against women, from strangers, acquaintances or partners, increasing respect for women in the myriad ways this can be achieved is the main thing. it sounds like i'm writing a pamphlet for the government, but i'm just trying to say, don't let things slide. i remember learning about studies where people's subconscious racism could be dampened just by exposing people for a little while to stories/photos of achievement of black people. this x 1000000000000, or this x 1 can make a difference.

some of my friends might play GTA, where you can (mum don't read this) have sex with a prostitute and then kill her to get your money back. you get points for this. nice guys know they will never do this, never touch someone non-consensually, but as if these things don't feed into our subconscious/conscious. and as if it's fine knowing that your friends would do that in a game, act out misogyny and then come over for dinner. it might be friends who would never harm you or anyone else, but all of us know people who would, and have, and do harm others.

my friend posted on fb last night that he was going to a particular show and that if anyone wanted to be walked to or from the venue he would do it. it is ridiculous he has to say this, but it also made me feel better, made me thank him in my mind, and made me ask a friend to walk me to my own car in another place that night. it might seem patronising but it's not, it's our friends beginning to understand our reality.

of course it's not the only thing on our minds. how much are we all complicit through our general apathy in the death of another young man out on manus island? he had been there for five years, crying out for help and crying out for assistance for the trauma and degradation he was suffering through having his human right of free movement and freely seeking asylum daily denied. he didn't know when he'd leave this place where he was not free and there was not the possibility of a real new life.

in the shops when i told my friend about the daily threat that had been reinforced in the beach carpark i also wondered if the fishes are yelling at me through the ether each time i pick up an item wrapped in plastic, plastic that's likely to end up scattered on that same beach washed in and out of the shore after a journey around the world and finally to be swallowed by one of their own to cause their death. driving our cars around as the planet warms up. all these things.

but for this one thing today, just make changes that will make a difference. talk to your friends, foster deep respect for women, i gotta do this, you gotta do this.

Pink Floyd in a Sweet Country - Warwick Thornton, Best Director the Stars Declare



If someone knows a better contemporary Australian director than WARWICK THORNTON, please can you write and tell me. Then, I'll probably watch one of their movies and tell you you're wrong.

Thornton made the movie Samson and Delilah, following teenagers near Alice Springs - aboriginal teenagers - and when I watched it I wished it could become compulsory viewing for every person in Australia. Watching his new movie Sweet Country I thought the same thing, while I let the tears roll heavy down my face for the whole film, sobbed into my collar, sobbed onto my boyfriend, wept in every direction, inward, outward, across the continent, into the past and the present, for the people represented in the film, for myself, for our land, all of it.

Sweet Country is called an 'Aussie Western' in its media/hype bizzo, but in my mind it's not a western at all. It's just devastating real history of "Australia", in a way at least I had never seen it. It's not funny, it's doesn't end in justice and retribution, and the crime is too significant, horrific and real to be genre entertainment. Maybe calling it a western will help to get some more people in seats though - if so, good.

This movie was the first time I'd seen a representation of one of the awkward, faltering, and then deadly and devastating surprise clashes between Aboriginal people and British invaders. This was one of the less harrowing scenes in the film, a group of white men on horses coming across a group of aboriginal men doing ceremonial activities, and the ensuing violence. The scene is shot from further back, you don't know all the people on both sides already; you can be shocked and educated while still breathing - in much of the rest of the film it's a shame-fest of what the true history of the country is, up close, characters known to you through the closeness of cinematic story-telling - it's not possible to breathe in the same way through the rest of the film. But it was this scene that made me think so clearly "This is the first time I've seen a representation of these conflicts, and they would have happened all over the country for decades." These painful dropping pennies should come as a downpour in the next years, to reverse the whitewashing that's all through our culture, politics, false "history" telling.

Well, yes, Sweet Country is a magnificent, compulsory and devastating movie. Try to watch it and come out unchanged. But I also remember watching part of Rabbit Proof Fence one time with a friend's Russian girlfriend - when I said "Isn't it terrible what happened", she replied "I don't understand what the problem is, of course they should have been taken from their families, they were living as savages." I guess racism and ignorance can't always be shifted through watching a movie, but sometimes they can. If you watch Sweet Country, maybe it'll bring some home truths through, for worse and then for better.  

 Well, another of Warwick Thornton's movies was shown at Luna Outdoor Cinema last week as well, and this time Thornton and his producer Brendan Fletcher were there for a Q and A after. Warwick has a lovely lisp and speaks his mind. The movie - We Don't Need a Map - is kind of playful and informal as it moves through a sweep of representations of the 'Southern Cross', and interrogates how it became a symbol of ignorant and vicious jingoism tattooed on the arms and backs and shoulders of Bra Boy wannabees, and also sweeps across the country to nations of indigenous people whose elders share what they are allowed to of their ancient and continuing understandings and sacred revelations of the Southern Cross's meaning. This movie won't make you cry, but it will fill your heart with pride of our land's long standing sacred heritage and make you just want to know more and more. You could tell by Thornton's direction and then his answers to questions that he knows it's not going to help to just punch racist idiots in the face even if it would feel good, but that the answer is mainly in education, and swift, honest cultural change through a true reappraisal of history and offering culturally impoverished new Australians (esp. men) a better alternative. Well, that's how it seemed to me.

A few seats away from us was Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, come for a casual Saturday night Aussie documentary flick and Q and A under the stars. He asked the first (and second) questions of the Q and A with Thornton and Fletcher, sounding like a pompous, entitled, and annoying Englishman not afraid to hog the mic to people who didn't realise he was ROGER WATERS, and sounding kind of the same but with more leeway and swapping the word 'entertaining' for 'annoying' to those who did. His heckles about Elon Musk fell on sympathetic and eye-rolling audience members alike.

In my mind, Warwick Thornton is the star and hero of this scene, standing up as a Whadjuk elder gave the Welcome to Country that the Luna people had failed to officially organise, and using his casually expressed incredible talents to reveal the course of history, and change the course of history, all in a few 90 min films.