Before you read any further you have to watch this video. It is vital to understanding part two of this blog. So sit back, relax and listen to this important community announcement courtesy of John Lennon:
Now I’d like to post this wonderful quote from Yoko Ono from the 2011 issue of rolling stone where she talks about her ten favourite John Lennon songs:
“A very intense song that came from primal scream. Women have played a big role in the human race. We created it, actually, between our thighs. John was coming out and saying “Mother, I need you.” He recognised the power and important position of woman in society.”
Yoko Ono – 2011
Now I’d like you to listen to the song “Mother” and listen to what I believe is one of the greatest songs released by John Lennon:
So what does this all mean?
Well I felt this was a perfect introduction to part two of this blog which will help give a bit of light to my journey from boy, to teenager and to man and how my relationship with woman has influenced my life and why I feel that the sentiment of John Lennon’s song “Woman is The Nigger Of The World” is still a true statement in 2013.
So perhaps I better start from the beginning.
I was born in 1983 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and in terms of pop culture I’m referred to as belonging to Generation Y. I was the second child to Brian and Aileen Newton and was baptised appropriately as a Catholic. I belonged to a rather large clan of Irish Catholics on my mother’s side of the family – Mum’s surname was O’Rourke – and I also had an equally large extended family on my Dad’s side. Family was the centre of my existence at that young age and my earliest memories are of the joy and community and love of the family unit, both the core and extended. It was my earliest encounter with love and although it was clouded in the innocence that surrounds you when you’re aged zero to twelve it was a very happy time for the most part. In 1987 my sister Genevieve was born. Unfortunately she passed away three weeks later as a result of the terrible illness known as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Over those three weeks when she was alive I remember being so ecstatic and although I was only very young I can still remember her and the thrill of being the older brother to her. I had so much love for her and would always do my best to help Mum with the daily “new baby” chores. I remember when she would cry and I’d go in and try and comfort her. I felt a connection to my little sister and with adult hindsight I can look fondly on that short moment spent with her. Her passing left a hole in my life and it wasn’t until much later in my life that I saw just what that did to my relationships with woman and my interaction with them. Trying to understand death at such a young age and having your experience of your sister changed from the beautiful baby girl to visits to cemeteries really unlocked my questioning my mind. I surmise that moment as the death of the innocence for me and the moment I started to birth intensity and a habit for deep thinking. We moved to Mackay not long after that (1988) and for me that was something that scared me. Leaving behind all of those secure units of love, the main one being my Nana, and having to re-establish in a place so far away really only did more to extend and remove me from my innocence, this was when my mind was opened up to the terrible curse of fear.
The second thing I was heartbroken about leaving behind was the first in a long line of girls that I had a strong connection with. Her name was Michaela and we had been friends for at least two years. Her mother was friends with my Mum and we did that whole playgroup to kindergarten transition. I don’t know what it was about Michaela but she was my best friend. We did everything together and I think what I loved about it was the notion that it was so different to my interaction with the boys. I always felt alienated from that whole male bonding thing and while all of the boys in those playgroups to kindergarten days were interested in playing sports and other things like that, I was interested in hanging out with Michaela and the girls. I was deeply fascinated with how uncompetitive it was and how they generally would either just talk about things or do something creative. These were two things I would learn to love even more as I grew up, communication and art, and I think for the most part it was the way in which it wasn’t competitive that suited me. I was a larger child so sport was never going to suit me. So Michaela and I spent a lot of time together and they are memories I cherish. One thing I remember strongly was when we announced to our parents that we were going to get “married.” The reason this idea had been planted in our heads was because Michaela’s Uncle got married to my Aunty, so we attended that wedding. As four year olds do, we assumed that when a boy and a girl liked each other they got “married.” So we told people we were “married.” It was a heartbreaking thing to leave Brisbane and leave my best friend behind.
The reason why this early memory is so significant is because it mirrors experiences I’ve had throughout my life and my fascination and the safety felt in the company of woman. Throughout my primary school days I had male friends but it was always my relationship with the girls that I remember and the way they made me feel. It was as I said safety. There was no competition or ego or macho bullshit. It was filled with great conversation and great listening and a lot of imagination. It wasn’t the mindless exercise of sport at lunch time, it was talking about stuff. I loved being a part of that and was always so in awe of the way these girls were so plugged in to what was happening both in pop culture and in life. They seemed to have all of this insight that I never got from my male friends. Because I liked music and movies and basically non-sport things, my interests in the primary school years matched those of the girls I was friends with. I brought the magazines they read and I indulged in all of that. I even kept a diary, because of the way they all talked about keeping a diary. This was my first introduction to writing and collecting my thoughts and allowing the privacy of my mind a place to be expressed. I was in the drama clubs and enjoyed partaking in the school musicals, I was no good but it was an excuse to spend time with all of the amazing minds of these girls. I can’t keep coming back to this point enough, but there was a freedom and an equality and a safety to the girls I had as friends throughout my primary school days. It wouldn’t be until much later in my twenties that I realised that a lot of this was me subconsciously dealing with the hole left by the death of my sister. This makes a lot of sense because I never once participated in these friendships with girls with the mindset of trying to get some kind of intimacy. Not then, not in my teen years and not now. I felt like woman understood me and lot of this comfort with girls / woman came from me yearning for my sister and the lifetime of “what if’s” that her passing birthed.
This brings me to a life changing moment that occurred for me in 1995 when I was in grade seven at Emmanuel College in Mackay. I was 11 going on 12 and like all human beings I was in the throes of the confusing mindfuck of puberty. This was the third primary school that I had attended during my time in Mackay (1988 to 1996) and this was my second year at this particular school. I was very close with two girls in particular, Lisa and Lara. In our class, we sat up the back, all three of our desks in a line with me in the middle and Lisa and Lara either side of me. We were very close friends and shared a lot. This was a time when boys started to notice girls, the whole hormonal change that occurs. So a lot of my male friends saw Lisa and Lara as these interesting new objects that no longer would give them “girl germs” I guess they became desirable objects to the boys. A lot of the conversations amongst my male friends started to change and instead of ignoring the girls, it became almost a sport for them to point out things like breasts and all of that pre-teen fascination with the opposite sex. As a boy moving into a man I could also relate to this but my attraction to these girls was always based on how they made me feel, how our conversations would last for hours and we would talk so deep about anything and everything. I was rather green when it came to the dynamics of puberty. I had heard a little bit about it from my parents and those “education” programs they put us through at school. All in all it made me feel a bit uncomfortable, still to this day I feel like the whole sex thing and a person’s desires should remain private, so I felt confronted by a lot of that talk. Lisa and Lara however were deep in the throes of puberty and I still remember the day that they educated me on the difference between what happens to girls and what happens to boys. When they plugged me into what happens to woman during puberty and the change they go through I remember being incredibly crippled with guilt and remember saying to them, but why does that happen to you, that sounds so cruel and so wrong. It confused me quite a bit and I remember having them tell me how terrifying those changes were for them. It was one of those moments where I started to think long and hard how this is something that all woman go through and just how it was some cruel sick joke courtesy of something higher that they were made to suffer in that way. If my innocence was knocked prior to this, it was shattered to pieces after this chat with Lara and Lisa. As that year wore on and they become more immersed in those changes, both girls would have these code words to signal to me that they were going through the whole “time of the month” experience. Those were days where I did my best to comfort them, I honestly felt helpless by the whole situation. My male instinct was to try and fix it somehow, so I spent a lot of those lunch hours in the library with them just listening to them talk about the intense emotional dramas they were going through. I started a tradition on those days where I would make sure I had the money to buy us all rainbow paddle pops and we’d find the shadiest tree on the oval and just sit underneath it and talk about our emotions. This was also the time when I was given full access to the total imbalance to how some men view this experience. I remember very clearly hearing all of the boys in my class say things like “She’s on her fucking rags” and other such insults. It broke my heart to hear such lack of understanding to what I was viewing as a cruel life experience for these girls to be going through. I had a lot of secrets confided in me during that time and as time wore on I grew closer to Lara who really had a hard time adjusting to this new existence. Lisa and I remained close but she started to get the attention of my male classmates who grew fascinated by her breasts and the fact that she had started shaving her legs, which was another part of this post puberty world that I had no idea about. I still remember having Lisa say to me that she has to shave her legs because that is what the boys like. This again confused me, the amount of pain and emotional anguish that was birthing for the girls around me on a monthly basis now required them to stress and invest in these vanities and society driven expectations of what a post-puberty female must adhere too in order to appear appealing to men. It just all really fucked with me and for a long time made me feel ashamed that males didn’t have the same levels of intensity lumped on them.
From here, my teen years got even more confusing. I mean I grew more comfortable with the idea of what was happening to my female friends but it was only a comfort that existed with the whole idea of “well that is the cycle of life.” In 1997 we moved to Bundaberg and I had to start again. A new school, alienation and of course trying to find out where I fit. Once again it was the friendship of a few select girls that I met through Drama class that helped me feel comfortable and apart of the world again. I won’t walk you through my high school years because I feel it is unimportant to the point I was building too. High School saw me meet my two best friends in the world, Dave and Todd. These were two dudes who felt as alienated me from everything that was happening around them. We remain friends to this day with Todd playing in Galapogos.
So anyway, the point I was trying to illustrate was the way in which I saw the clear divide and change once this post-puberty world kicked in during 1995 and moving into 1996. The way the boys started to treat the girls and how some girls embraced this and others felt uncomfortable with the attention thrown on them. I also witnessed the alienation lumped on some girls I was friendly with because they didn’t develop according to what my Male classmates saw as attractive or “hot.” The way in which some of the boys would treat these girls and the way they would refer to them in conversation were so barbaric and brutal. It broke my heart to witness and it was made all the more confusing when some of the luckier girls (at least in physical appearance) also joined in, some of the same girls who had confided in me earlier about how terrified they were by their changing body. It just all put me into a confused state of being. The conversations between me and the girls changed, they saw me as a confidant and they were now sharing secrets of the risky positions they had put themselves in with both boys in my grade (grade 8) and older boys they had encountered at parties. I was floored by how far these guys would go just to touch some “tit” and I guess that protective big brother vibe kicked in. I saw how so many of these girls didn’t want to put themselves in these situations and how they felt like pieces of meat to the attention being show towards them. I remember how upset and scared they were but also thinking how these guys had such a hold over them. In the schemes and dreams of social hierarchy, by being with these guys it afforded these girls some level of success. If these girls refused these guys in those moments, they would call them fidget or a prude or even worse, a stupid slut. When my world was opened to these private relationships of the girls and boys I was just internally upset by how some people who I thought were good people would act in the pursuit of getting a girl and touching some “tit” (this was a phrase used a lot back in 1996).
This confusion continued to follow me deeper into my teens and into my twenties. I saw some great woman get treated badly by men who faked it until they could touch some “tit” and of course as we got older, a whole lot more. More and more I was confided in by my female friends who were so scared
of these men who were pursuing them. I felt helpless as a man because you see as a man I never presented as a threat to these men that would hunt these women, they didn’t see me as a “cock block” and I saw in my twenties the feverish lengths some Men would go to in order to secure sex from a woman. One particular story that comes to mind is a friend of mine who was an artist. She was incredibly talented and one night she had a fellow turn up to her exhibition to purchase some artwork. He invited her back to his place where she noticed photos on the wall of an ex-partner of hers. From here he seduced her and after the moment occurred he actively told her that the only reason he went to the exhibition was because he knew how “easy” she was. She later found out that a few of her ex-partners in the art world had made this quite apparent to more than a few males who used the same tact when approaching her at art exhibitions, all of them, each one of them stating an interest in her art and then after the sexual favour was done, they would move on and show no interest. This wasn’t a footy club this was the art world and I was floored at how this same macho backslapping and “tap that ass” mentality was polluting the minds of men in the art world. This was another point in my life where I felt so confused and helpless as to how to interpret this behaviour but as I’ve aged I think it became clearer and clearer to me that gender equality in this modern era is extinct and is an argument that needs to be resurrected.
Looking back on my history, I can see that a lot of these gender equality issues start to occur from those early stages of puberty and how males interact with females during this time. On a really basic level, and based on my experience, woman go through both emotional and physical pain and in the spirit of “society” and its expectations they have to groom parts of their body in order to appeal to men. Further to this, they have to put themselves into positions where they become objects of desire for Men who don’t have the emotional maturity to enter into an intimate relationship. I’m not denying how confusing it is for both boys and girls during this time, but I’m still convinced that women have it worse than men in terms of the emotional and physical changes. Instead of interacting with those changes with compassion, Men interact with lust and a hunger that drives a small percentage to do anything possible to get it, from emotional manipulation to physical harm. It is a time when a girl is the most vulnerable but this vulnerability does not mean they are weak. Like all change, it requires someone to issue understanding and instead of chasing “tit” more boys should be encouraged to listen and understand and issue compassion instead of lust. Instead of separating the experience that males and females go through in this puberty stage we need to find the space to communicate openly in order to help each other develop emotional intelligence. We as adults need to set that example and to illustrate to them that the importance of compassion and understanding. Educating young people during these changes about sex is all fine and dandy but what really needs to be taught is for how to conduct a successful and meaningful relationship and the importance of communication and listening. Young people need to be shown how sex is not the important part of the relationship, that the friendship and the connection of two people is what allows for sex to be conducted successfully. That sex is the communication of love, not lust. In hindsight, this is what I think needed to be taught to me and my classmates back in 1995 and 1996. That is a life lesson more important than anything else. Women are not objects and Men are not objects. We are all human beings who deserve compassion, respect and understanding.
This all being said, it is still my experience that Woman is the Nigger of the world and our work is not done in helping to birth full gender equality. I hope part two of my blog has shed some light on my journey. This is only the beginning of the topic and in part three of this five part series I will explore the themes touched on in this blog even deeper.
Time for you to take five.
By Dan Newton