Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Politics of Miscarriage

The other day, I was reading an article around the topic of miscarriage and the fact that working women stay silent on it. To a degree, it resonated with me. Despite about a fifth of pregnancies ending in miscarriage (a conservative estimate), it is still very much a taboo topic. We don't talk about it openly, women going through it rarely discuss it at work and simply put, despite how common it is, it's very much a "secret".

However, that was about where my identification with the article ended. Why? Because if it is taboo to talk about miscarriage in general, it is even more taboo to talk about it in a way which does not involve grief and failure. If women are going to talk about this issue at all, the only acceptable dialogue is one which is framed around their pain of not becoming a mother, of losing a potential child, of having an "angel baby". You don't believe me? A simple Google search quickly shows that while there are endless memes about grief around miscarriage, there are none saying anything else about the complex experiences a woman can have at this time, if she has them at all.

Nearly 8 years ago, I miscarried. Far from feeling grief, I was actually relieved and strangely thankful. I had just, only three weeks earlier, left an abusive partner and doing so had taken almost everything out of me. I took the morning after pill straight away after leaving him because, as is such a common story for so many women, immediately before his actions turned horrible, he had been loving and attentive. So when my boobs started hurting a couple of weeks later, I started to panic. When I took a test and saw the two blue lines, I dissolved into a puddle on the bathroom floor. The thought that someone who I had just left under such circumstances could be in my life forever was just unbearable. When, just three days after taking that test, I started to bleed, I only felt a sense of relief. On going for an ultrasound and being told it looked like I'd had a complete miscarriage, I felt like I was able to close that chapter of my life and move on.

Alas, it was not to be. Just a few weeks after that ultrasound, I started presenting with extreme pain. A second ultrasound revealed that my miscarriage had in fact been incomplete, and my pain was due to a non-viable ectopic pregnancy. For several months, I entered a holding pattern. Doctors were convinced that this ectopic would be absorbed by my body and things would go back to normal. They never did and eventually, I was booked in for surgery to remove the afflicted Fallopian tube.

I recount all this not for sympathy. I don't want sympathy. Sitting in a hospital waiting room for several months feeling utterly helpless and stressed was enough sorrow. I recount this because I wanted to state plainly that there is not a day that goes by where I look on my past miscarriage with devastation at what could have been. I have never done this. I did not pick a date nine months down the track as a potential birth date to grieve on. In fact, the only thing I do wonder is whether I would have successfully left that ex if a medical emergency had not forced me to focus my attention on myself for the first time in years. God knows, I'd taken him back before. But that time, when he came begging for forgiveness and promising to try harder, I had no capacity left for him and his feelings. I had to work through my own.

Which brings me back to miscarriage. As stated, in the moment, I felt relief. I didn't tell work at the time because I was on leave, but as the rest of my saga became apparent, I was left with no choice but to tell them. I required post-operative sick leave after all. Perhaps I felt relief due to my circumstances, but considering that these circumstances were in the confines of a heterosexual relationship, and considering that this relationship had gone the way whereby I ended up a victim of violence, how is this narrative not valid in the discussion of miscarriage?

The ONLY acceptable dialogue around miscarriage, where there is dialogue at all, is the one about the loving mother who lost her baby. Not the teenager who chanced it one night with a boy, got unlucky and then lucky. Not the abused woman who got a second chance at an independent life. Not the woman who just thought she was having a particularly heavy period that month and did not know she was pregnant in the first place. Just the sad grieving mother who wanted so badly to hold her child in her arms. Women who experience miscarriage in any other way clearly lack humanity and do not possess that deep womanly need to nurture another life. And again we are told what our roles in society are supposed to be and how we fail them.

And don't even start me on the claims that miscarriage "hurts men just as much". It doesn't. Men may grieve a miscarriage, sure, but they will never experience that physical pain attached to it. They will never be on a gynaecological table with their feet in stirrups while an internal ultrasound machine probes away inside of them until it eventually hits an angle, impacts on an ectopic and reduces the patient to agony and tears. The narrative of them as the nurturer just is not there so they will not be seen as a failure if a pregnancy does not come to pass. More assistance with handling the emotional grief is needed, but the belittling of women's experience around this because men suffer too is not. 

I wish we saw miscarriage exactly how it is. I wish it was seen as a medical condition as common and unremarkable as a cold because considering how many pregnancies end in it, it's a reasonably realistic take. We shouldn't feel we cannot discuss it at work because the sheer idea of miscarrying is taboo. I wish that better emotional support services were available for those who experience a miscarriage and grieve it, whether this is through mental health services, workplaces or society at large. I wish that we could have open and honest discussions about the various physiological symptoms of miscarriage so that women could not only gain better knowledge of the warning signs, but also might develop some knowledge of the complications and recovery times as these can actually go on for months. It's not as simple as someone bleeding then normal biological function resumes. I really could have done with a lot more knowledge about the complications of miscarriage, that's for sure. This is so damn important.

I also wish though that like everything else, we can recognise that women experience miscarriage in many different ways and this is okay. Because at the moment, I feel silenced by the grief narrative and I cannot imagine how many other women might feel the same. And like me, some of those women may have been leaving similar circumstances when they went through this. Miscarriage is our experience too. Ignoring those stories because the patriarchal society demands we fit into the roles of nurturer and life-giver harms us all. We need to open this conversation right up in the process of demystification.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Preemptive news coverage on tomorrow's protest against Don Dale and brutality in other prisons

I've noticed a trend when it comes to the reporting of rallies to do with matters of race. For example, an incredibly peaceful "Black Lives Matter" rally in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago which was attended by thousands was reported according to its massive and completely unnecessary police presence pretending that they kept things under control. Likewise, a handful of racists who heckled from the sidelines were focused on as if they were ever a threat to the peaceful assembly. Similarly, just a couple of weeks before that, when the True Blue Crew and the UPF decided to stage an absurd flag march, the media again focused on the cops and a couple of isolated altercations between the racists and some anti-racism activists. The fact that the protest and counter-protest groups didn't actually encounter each other for the main part seemed to escape the notice of the reporters.

It seems that the media cannot report peaceful action against racism without inflating and manipulating facts to make out that a race riot occurred. They also cannot report anti-racism actions without deflating the numbers to make it appear that less people care about these issues than they actually do. Peaceful assemblies do not sell subscriptions. Fuelling bigotry does, even as more and more turn out to stand against said bigotry. With that in mind, here is my preemptive article on tomorrow's rally in Melbourne against the (mainly Aboriginal) children tortured in the Don Dale juvenile justice centre as well as other prisons. These rallies are also running across the country and hope to also draw attention to the exorbitant rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people. If the media wishes to use my preemptive report, they are welcome to do so but I expect credit. I also expect any proceeds to be donated to prison rehabilitation programs for Aboriginal children. I am certain what I write below will fit in with their usual angle when it comes to rallies addressing racism in this country...
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About a hundred gathered in Melbourne today to protest the alleged brutality shown by prison officers in the Don Dale juvenile justice centre towards the young inmates following a 4 Corners report earlier this week. 

Blocking off all city traffic across the grid for three hours, it was clear that the vocal and sometimes rowdy crowd were not going to move on until their message was heard. Thankfully, despite there being no evidence of violent intentions from the protesters, thousands of police guarded the protest perimeters to ensure violence was kept to a minimum.


A riot nearly broke out when a couple of proud Australians with '88' tattoos on their necks gathered near the protest stating "you do the crime, you do the time" while holding #alllivesmatter banners. Thankfully, the police were able to separate the patriots from the random dudes wearing all black and face coverings.


Speaking from the screen, Sergeant Plod stated "we are confident that we have alleviated all threats of violence here today. After forming a protective circle around patriot groups, we escorted them back to Melbourne Central Station to ensure that they were able to get their message across without being harmed by the anti-racism extremists. I commend all my fellow officers on their vigilance today".


As the protesters wound through the city chanting "justice for Don Dale children" and "not in my name", several tram services had to be cancelled or rerouted. Disgruntled football fans criticised the selfish rabble and called for an end to all protests. Lord Mayor Doyle has pledged he will work with the Victorian government to ensure such disruptions are minimised or removed in the future and that the MCG has the facilities to keep the Four & Twenties warm just in case.


Protesters finished their protest by standing around a fire and linking hands. Emergency fire service workers were on hand to ensure that the crowds did not burn the city down. 


After finishing their occupation of the CBD, the protesters dispersed quietly to grab soy lattes and vegan meals. The city was declared by officials to be safe once again for nice people with jobs.   


Friday, June 24, 2016

The neutralising of hate

Today, I listened to a Neil Mitchell interview and it pissed me off. Granted, this is not the first time listening to Neil Mitchell has pissed me off, and the time he interviewed Meriki Onus from Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance stands out in my mind. But today, he pissed me off again.

It was an interview he conducted with a Superintendent on Monday (but which I accessed today due to social media shares) about the planned "Flag March" being held this weekend by fascist/nationalist groups, along with the counter rally being organised by the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism. The interview was of course littered with the same old conservative white man observations I've heard time and time again. But it was when he stated "I blame both sides for it" when referring to the race hate on the street that my ire rose.

I've heard this claim trotted out before, and each time it angers me. Today it angered me so much that I wrote the following on my Facebook page:

No, I don't agree with the many media and social media commentators taking the "they're both as bad as one another" line when talking about the actions of nationalist and fascist groups, and those who stand against them. I'm not condoning violence here. Rather, I am stating plainly that there is something fundamentally wrong with a society which will so willingly neutralise the acts and ideologies of those who promote hate and fear based upon the race and religion of others. As this country remains willing to neutralise and tolerate such things, I believe individuals and activist groups taking stands against hate and fear is essential.

It reminded me of when I saw news reports following Coburg referring to the leftist groups as "extreme anti-racism groups". See, apparently now, being anti-racist is an extremist action. The problem here being that it actually is. Anti-racism; thanks to centuries of denying colonial invasion, decades of the White Australia Policy, years of Hansonism and Howardism, Cronulla, Islamophobia (even though the Muslim connection to this land mass predates white invasion by up to an estimated 200 years) and bipartisan practice of despicable asylum seeker policy; is considered a radical act. Racism is so very embedded in the fabric of our society and apathy towards it right now is so high that to take an active stance against it is considered terrifying by many. 

What. The. Fuck. How can so many in this country be so comfortable with this? How can so many just join in the bleating chorus by saying that standing for acceptance and collaboration is as bad as standing for fear, hate and racial purity? Is their "just as bad as one another" response really about them not questioning themselves and how comfortable they are with the existence of racism - violent racism at that - in their society? 

I wish I could say all this is a surprise to me, but it's not. My life has been framed by this experience. Aboriginal people are at the vanguard of racism in this country. Sure, plenty of other groups experience horrific racism here, but everyone who is not Aboriginal is higher up the rungs of the social ladder because they have benefited from the displacement of Aboriginal people. That's the way this country works. The fact that it's 2016 and we're still calling for "treaty" and acknowledgement of sovereignty shows just how reluctant the Australian "powers that be" have been to rectify the situation. Hell, it's still controversial to point out that the Australian flag; a piece of cloth which celebrates invasion while erasing Indigenous existence through its very structure; might be a wee bit racist

An additional point on this: for a while, when it comes to the discussion on the topic of Constitutional Recognition, I have been staunch in highlighting that while the Expert Panel noted in its recommendations an Indigenous community want to remove the racist elements within the Constitution, this is not actually an "Aboriginal issue". It's an anti-racism issue and Aboriginal people would be but one beneficiary group. So why is it that these racist provisions are tied solely to the topic of Indigenous CR and have never been floated separately as a broader anti-racism campaign for a country which wants to move forward on race relations? Why wasn't this a campaign held during the "multiculturalism era" spanned approximately from the time of Malcolm Fraser to Paul Keating? Why was it okay to welcome refugees from Asian countries finally after the last parts of the White Australia Policy had been stripped away without actually dealing with the very racist fabric of our number one legal document?

Perhaps, at the very heart of it, this country is keen to continue the denial. The throwaway comments of "I don't mind as long as they speak English/assimilate/accept our laws" I hear so often here speak to that denial. So do things such as "everyone is entitled to an opinion" because it paints these hate groups essentially as neutral elements every bit as valid and welcome as those who preach peace and acceptance. In Slackbastard's blog, I was introduced to the Bon Scotts who felt the need to write a song celebrating their apathy. I find it utterly disgraceful that anyone can be so comfortable with the existence of racism in this country that they would attempt to neutralise its messengers through a ditty. Yet they're not alone. As long as racism is not a part of their lived experience, most Australians are incredibly comfortable with it continuing on around them knowing that they will not suffer.

Except they do suffer. The racism which permeates this society is poison. It disconnects people from the oldest living cultures in the world purposefully. It promotes monoculturalism, monolingualism and insularity. It reinforces white supremacy despite sovereignty never being ceded and therefore also reinforces disparity. It kills people. Being tolerant of fear and hate groups validates their mission. Through your apathy, you allow them to exist and their poisonous message to gather ground. You become complicit in the fear and hatred.

So if taking an anti-racism stand is a radical act nowadays, then yes, I am a proud radical. I stand for peace, collaboration and understanding. Why the hell don't you? 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Women of Letters - A letter to my security blanket

Today, the 17th of April, I took part in Women of Letters at the Thornbury Theatre. Before an audience of about 400 people, I read out the following letter to my identified "security blanket". I am publishing my letter, complete with links, for those folks interested. 


To my fellow world traveller,

They say silence is golden. My world is rarely completely silent yet when it is, I’ve grown to fear it. For silence means something is wrong. Silence physically is a sign of my fallibility. My entire life has been spent on this precipice, knowing that a common cold can mean significant hearing loss for weeks. Knowing that the refined nature of my voice is the product of speech therapy as a child whose recurrent inner ear infections left her with comprehension issues. Knowing that with each passing year, my hearing dulls and should I be lucky enough to make it to a ripe old age, there is no way I will do so without operations and aids.

Yet this is nothing. For I’d take physical silence over emotional silence any day. Emotional silence means isolation. It means rejection and mind games. It means walking on egg shells waiting for the inevitable shattering. It means being taken for granted. It means nothingness. It’s the battles I’ve fought my entire life, which I’ve survived and which I never want to have to fight again.

There’s nothing which can fix all that is broken, physically or mentally. There’s mainly just the mechanisms for getting through it and ploughing on. Yet placing you on my head has, at times, been what has gotten me out the front door and into the world where I belong. When I’m being driven mad by my incessant tinnitus to the point of where I simply cannot focus on what anyone is saying to me, you’ve been like salve on my frayed nerves, drowning out the ringing. When I’ve been dragging my feet on those unbearable cold winter’s mornings I whinge endlessly about, you have, at times, moved me to a rhythmic strut. When I’ve been healing you have reminded me I’m a continual survivor through some simple notes. You’ve told me that while life is not always easy, my strength lies in the way I continue to live it without limitations and apology. When I was sitting there with whiplash following a high speed, head on car crash, you were telling me I was getting away with it all messed up. When I was ferociously hungover after a night at the pub with the comrades, I was comfortably numb. When I was surrounded by white dude hipsters explaining all my politics to me, you were calling them star-belly sneetches. When I was on my way to a rally, I wasn’t tolerating this so my children won’t be next. When I was in a pile, trying to put the pieces back together bit by bit and wondering why I was continually expected to do this and smile about it for everyone else’s benefit as I am an Aboriginal woman in a world which says we don’t belong, I was doll parts

You’ve delivered, direct from my ears to my very essence, time and time again.

I like the way you engulf my head. Not only do you ensure that sound surrounds me and is unbroken but you have, at times, kept my ears warm. I have been told time and time again that as I woman, I am not supposed to wear you at night, as this is apparently an invitation for men to attack me. If anything though, your presence has made me less fearful of walking around alone, for all it takes is a few strains and I’m relaxed and striding confidently. I remember those angsty and horrible teenage days where I had two parents and three younger siblings to block out in order to get through my homework and move on to uni. You were always there, propelling me toward my inner grunge goddess or confessed 70s throwback. Your presence has comforted me in a crowd when I’m dealing with my consummate introversion and personal space issues. Writers may be extroverts on the page, but we tend to mainly be introverts in real life and you totally get that quandary. I may not wish to talk to, or be touched by, anyone there but a simple hug around the back of my neck reminds me you’re not far away should I wish to cut them out. I’ve been busted on more than one occasion singing along to what is silence in other people’s worlds, or even busting some moves because my feet just cannot stop. Though this must look awfully strange to those people, your ability to get me out of my ever-questioning head where I will show such a lack of inhibition is truly a gift, for there’s few humans in this world that manage that feat.

It’s more than this though. Through your function, you have conveyed the worlds of others to me, showing their beauty, their fallibility, their strength and their extraordinary talent. You’ve shown me that the most astoundingly talented lyricists also seem to be the most tortured souls; wrestling with their demons in ways I know too well. I’ve witnessed a lifelong love journey conveyed via the plucking of just a few strings. They’ve included me and made me proud to be a fellow weirdo, for their journey is aligned with mine. Their anger, conveyed with such beauty and integrity moves my own anger and anguish to a better place. It shows me time and time again that out there, there are some extraordinarily talented and passionate people whom I share the planet with. Who give, so that the rest of us feel a little less isolated, a little more coherent and capable, a little more worthy. Thank you for conveying their messages to me.

My fellow traveller in life; my wonderful stereo headphones; I thank you. I thank you for putting a spring in a step, for comforting me, for creating a safety bubble when I have needed it. I thank you for getting me out of my head on occasion and through some grim times. I thank you for the peace you’ve given me when my ears remind me that their time will be up someday. But most of all, I thank you for breaking the silence. For silence is never golden. Silence is fear, submission, isolation and pain. And when you’re around, silence need not haunt me in the complex ways which it manages to.

I cannot wait to break into a fine stride with you on the footpaths of Berlin in ten days’ time. I only hope that in our exuberance, on our long awaited journey, we remember to stick to the right hand side of the footpath while there. For breaking silence via an angry German person whom I’ve just collided with is not my ideal scenario…

Sincerely, your faithful companion,

Celeste.




Monday, March 28, 2016

Two pictures which do NOT violate Facebook's "Community Standards"

I visited my folks today. My dad was on Facebook and was most perturbed about an image he had seen on a group he's a member of. I showed him how to report it. This was the image:




This image, according to the report Dad got back, did not violate Facebook's "community standards".

While I was helping dad, I scrolled further through the group where he saw that picture and found this image which I also reported:



This image is also perfectly fine according to Facebook's ruling.

So blatant racism and sexism is awesome, yet an Aboriginal woman posting a feminist speech which is accompanied by a picture of women undertaking culture is not. Nor is it okay for a feminist woman to answer online abuse she has received (ping Clementine Ford).

Just for everybody's interest...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Update RE: the Facebook ban

Last night I posted this message on my reinstated Facebook page. Sharing it here for the folks on Twitter as well as to put an update out on my blog to the previous statement:

Yes, I am officially back. My account has been reinstated by Facebook it has been confirmed, so I am not here due to admin error or system error or the like. I am free to post again and while Facebook is yet to catch up with the limitations of their "community standards", I at least know that it is on the agenda thanks to some truly spectacular online activism by you lot. Thank you again.
In addition, this page was deliberately targeted and maliciously attacked. I know there were some discussions of algorithms and shape analysis but that's not what happened. All up, four separate articles led to bannings over the weekend (rather than 4x the same article) so this wasn't about censored content but individual reporting. In addition, my Facebook account was reported as a fake which is why I had to verify it. To those still serving out bans because they reposted this content, I am really sorry you are in this situation. You have my full support and I know these bans are being tracked by the media so please contact via Twitter if you are affected.
I didn't want all this bullshit, and coming off the back of the week of IWD where I somehow managed to work, write two articles, deliver two keynotes and appear on the radio five times all while recovering from complications due to wisdom teeth extractions, this weekend, while a slightly amusing exercise in seeing how many ways I could exploit Facebook's community standards to keep the page up, was also incredibly frustrating and tiring. When it finally hit the mainstream media, it has added to the whole tiresome nature of this as interview demands have been endless and repetitive. In addition, it rapidly deteriorated into "Celeste shared a rude photo" which was never the case. A keynote address which I delivered which, for a number of reasons, had an incredibly appropriate photo attached to it via the process of republication was targeted by trolls. My only aim was to share my speech to those who, for some absurd reason and masochistic need to read 6000-odd words of my rants, wanted to access it.
The fact that image chosen by New Matilda to accompany it; two Aboriginal elders performing ceremony as a public thank you to unionists for their support during the NT Intervention (all topics covered in my speech); was flagged as material of a sexually explicit nature is despicable and offensive. These are women the same generation as my father and considering as a child he was flogged at school for even speaking lingo let alone engaging in ceremony, I know how damn hard it has been for desert mobs to not only hold on to culture, but to continue to practice it proudly in the face of ongoing colonisation. In addition, these women just flat-out deserve respect as elders and women with autonomy and integrity. The fact that they weren't afforded any of this by Facebook and indeed were just seen as an exploitable loophole by scurrilous types - I don't even have words to describe my anger at that. To those who saw the opportunity to use this to run a campaign of hate, please just get lost. You are not wanted on this page. Your type is exactly what is wrong with this country and this is not the space for you. Indeed, you deserve no space at all.
I do just finally want to acknowledge that as mentioned, this page grew well over a 1000 people in the days this was going on. Welcome to all the n00bs and thank you for pitching in with the signal boosting of this issue. Really appreciated, and I hope you enjoy this page!
I will be stepping back for a few days because as mentioned, it has been a fairly chaotic time, and I have to prioritise some things. So it will be a bit quiet around here for a bit. I promise to return to your regularly scheduled ranting again soon though. Thank you!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Statement regarding the Facebook banning

Yes, I have been banned again, this time for seven days. In addition, Facebook are now investigating my account and I was required to provide government-issued ID to verify that I am indeed a human. 

The reason I was banned this time was for sharing the Daily Mail coverage on this. Daily Mail, who have also shared this article on their Facebook page, have not been banned. Nor have the ABC who shared a similar article on their Facebook page.

To recap, my first two bans were for sharing my keynote address, published by New Matilda. I was banned straight up the first time because due to previously posting the clip for 8MMM last year, Facebook have deemed me a repeat offender. I have additionally had another admin account on my Facebook page banned because it shared New Matilda coverage which was still deemed unacceptable despite the header image being pixelated. 

I am therefore deliberately being targeted. By both Facebook, and by malicious people on a campaign to disable my page.

Facebook, at their end, have done nothing. I have sent numerous reports which have gone completely unacknowledged. I have sent emails which have hit dead ends. I have tried, through their systems to seek resolution. They have not acknowledged a single thing. Nor have they made any indication that they will address their systems to stop this happening. They have issued a response to New Matilda today which states as such. They are more than willing to not only allow ceremony to be censored, but also to allow a long time user to be targeted in such a way. At this stage, due to Facebook's complete lack of accessibility for recourse and review, my hands are completely tied.

I gave a speech in good faith on International Women's Day, a day Facebook saw fit to acknowledge with a tacky little welcome image. My only crime has been to share that keynote when it has become available. Through their actions, they have additionally, as well as demeaned culture and women, demeaned my words and turned them into something they are not. My words, while an empowering rallying cry, were never meant to be used in this way. I resent the fact that Facebook, through their lack of cultural knowledge and respect for women, have turned them into this. They fail to provide a safe place for Aboriginal people and for women. Indeed, through the selective applying of their "community standards", they continually allow it to be an unsafe space. 

At this stage, this is all I have to say. 

EDIT: The petition is here

Update: 16/03/16 - I have posted a statement on Facebook regarding a change in the situation as of last night. I have republished that statement here. Additionally, the Facebook link to the Daily Mail page no longer exists. I can only assume this means they have also had this link removed. This really is not the answer, Facebook.